How to Design and Make a Wood Carving Knife




I will show you how to make a wood carving knife with a minimum of tools.

This knife is perfect for carving the shrink cup in my last instructable

Step 1: Tools Needed

To make this instrucable you only need simple hand tools that most of you already have.
You need a hammer, a saw, a file, a vice, an ax and a knife.
I also use a froe and a metal ruler that is nice to have but you can do with out them.

If you don't have a froe use a big knife or a ax to split the wood.
And as a substituted for a metal ruler use the backside of a saw.

Step 2: The Knifeblade

Of course you need a good knifeblade, I like the ones from Frosts Mora. They are cheap and very sharp. The ones I use in this instructable are KB120 and KB106. They are laminated blades with a very hard center and soft iron on the sides. Making the edge durable without making the blade fragile.
The blades are slim, making them ideal for any kind of carving.

Step 3: The Wood for the Handle

I use green cherry wood for the handle. By using fresh/green wood I can hammer the blade directly into the handle. That way I don't need to drill holes for the blade, and there is no need for glue.

Other suitable wood for this ; Birch, Red Alder, Linden, Apple, Pear
Red Alder can even be used when dry, but the others need to be green.

Step 4: Prepering the Knifeblade

To be able to hammer the blade into the handle you first need to file the tang. The tang needs to be straight like a nail, not wedge shaped like it is from the maker. It you leave the tang wedge shaped the handle will split.

I use a hand file to do the job. But if you have a bench grinder you can use that. Just watch your fingers and that the blade don't get to hot.

Also cut the tang into length, it needs to be 5-6cm long. When you have cut the tang file the end so it is flat.

Step 5: Prepering the Wood

Cut a 15cm thick slice of your log. Split it a few times, and with the ax roughly cut the handle into shape.
Now fine shape the end that you plan to hammer the blade into. When the blade first sits into the wood it is very hard to work that area without damaging the blade and the edge of the carving knife.

Step 6: Hammer the Blade Into the Handle

This part are a little difficult so take it easy and don't rush it. With care and patience you will be able to do it.
First clamp the blade very tight in the vice. Use soft jaws made from rubber, copper or other soft metals so you don't damage the blade.
Now place the handle on top of the tang, and with firm and controlled strokes drive the tang into the handle. All the time you need to be sure that the tang gos straight into the handle. To start with, when the tang's not to long into the handle you are able to correct the angle. But then it gets in deeper it is stuck. If the blade gets in wrong there are noting else to do than split the handle, remove it and start all over.

When the tang are all gone into the handle this step is over. The blade now sits firm in the handle and you will not be able for remove it again without breaking the handle.

Step 7: Designing the Handle

Now take some paper and draw the shape of the blade and the handle.

When you design a handle you need to think of it as a fish. The fish have 3 parts, the head, the stomach and the tail.
1: start by dividing your handle into 3 parts.
2: Now draw a fish in it.
3: Can you see the handle inside the fish?
4: Continue until you have converted your drawing of a fish into a handle.
5; draw the handle from the side and from the top.
6: glue the drawing onto the handle.

Step 8: Shaping the Handle

Before you start for shape the handle you shall cover the blade with tape. To protect the blade and your fingers. I use masking tape that is easy to get of when the knife is finished.

Now start cutting away the wood outside the drawing. If your skilled enough you can start with an ax to do the rough shaping, and then using the knife for the final carving.
When your have cut all the way to the line of your drawing start to round the edges. When your cutting away, specially when rounding the edges you still have to think about a fish. The handle needs to be round and smooth like a small trout in the water.

Here is a film showing how to shape the handle with the ax. Sorry about the camera angle, maybe I need a tripod :-)

Step 9: The Finished Knife

Now the knife is finished and ready to use. If you don't like the rough expression from the carving knife you can sand the handle as smooth as you like. It is best to leave the greenwood to dry before sanding.

But no mater if you want to sand or not, you leave the handle to dry 1-2 weeks. Don't leave it in the sun or in a very dry or hot place that can make it crack.

When the handle is dry, sanded or not, apply oil. I use linseed oil or danish oil depending on have fast I want to finish the knife. If I use danish oil the knife will be usable in a day, with the linseed oil it has to dry for 2-3 weeks. But I like to use linseed oil because it is a natural product without any adjectives, so it is more safe for me and the environment.

Step 10: Oiling the Handle

To protect the handle against stains and dirty fingers I treat the wood with oil. I take the easy way out and just dips the handle into my drum of linseedoil.

Step 11: Bark for the Sheath

This simple sheath are only used to protect the knife and the owner, it has no belt strop. It is woven from birch bark. It is very fast and simple to make but yet durable. The bark I use here are purchased but if you have access to trees in the right size you can just collect the bark your self.

Step 12: Making the Sheath

Start by cutting a big strip of bark. It needs to be 3 times wider than the blade and 4.5 times longer than the blade.
Then cut 2-3 thin strips of bark, cut them 3-5mm width. Trim the strips from lose moss and lose outer bark.
Bend the wide strip of bark and weave the thin strips around it. Continue until there's no more room and cut the end.

Here is a film showing how I weave the sheath.

Step 13: The Finished Knifes.

After a day or two the oil have dryed and the knifes don't feel greasy. The oil isn't all hardend but if you want the knifes are ready to use.

Now you can enjoy your carving knifes, and they will be your faithful companions for many years.

I hope you enjoyed reading this instructable just as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Step 14: Other Handcarved Knifehandles

The end of the handle is ideal for carving. It you like to make your knife very special you can carve some thing in the end of the handle. Here you can see some examples that I have made.



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69 Discussions


9 years ago on Step 14

Very Nice!! One of the best Instructables I have read so far. Thanks :-)


3 years ago on Introduction

The blades are available on amazon. River birch canbe used where it is native.


6 years ago on Step 2

I have also seen blades made from old straight razors. Usually german made steel is the best. I just don't have the time and buy blades from Warren Cutlery in the U.S.


7 years ago on Step 9

Excellent how-to. I have never seen anyone so skilled with a hand axe doing carving-impressive.


9 years ago on Step 9

Pic #3: "Twin Sisters" :-) ... I like that!

RE: "adjectives" ... THEY know what you mean. Some people just can't stand to just watch, read, listen, learn- and ENJOY. They want to be the main attraction...
They really know that you owned them by making this great series and they could never do what you have done here. They're called "Trolls", because they 'fish' (troll) around comment sections trying to cause mayhem with their wtf, omfg, lmao, and other acrid acronyms and inserting mean and vicious comments. They are the "boils on the backsides of the Internet"!

1 reply

Reply 8 years ago on Step 9

and you sir are a very very devious troll ^_^

Love the guide I hope to make one of these soon, I have been using a china folder for carving and now that im getting more into it it would be nice to have one of these.


8 years ago on Step 14

I believe that my favorite part of this project is that apart from the blade being steel, it could have been done any time in the last quarter of a million years. It's very timeless.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

I buy them from here

or here



8 years ago on Step 8

I notice a lot of bouncing of the workbench when you are chopping away at your knife handle. If you can stiffen your bench, your cutting strokes will be more effective and you won't have to worry about tools and other stuff on your bench jumping around and falling off. In regards to the danger of cutting towards your hand, eventually you might slip and do yourself some nasty damage. One thing you can do to make the job safer: thin the sides of the handle before making the undercut. Then you don't have to chop so hard to clear it. I notice that when you cut towards you, you still have some of the handle in the way as a guard, so it's not as dangerous as it seems.


8 years ago on Step 8

I love how you just left the camera tilted. You were in the zone, man. I could see it just fine that way anyway. Nice skills.

1 reply

Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

Hi. I had the camera clamped in my vice :-) And didn't want to break it by tightening it to much. Now I have bought a tripod for future films. /Thomas


Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

Thanks. I made the hammerhead ny self. It was a project in my workshop teacher education.



Reply 9 years ago on Step 6

Nice one! I've never seen a hand forged(?) hammer head before, but why not? People make beautiful yet utilitarian handmade knives, axes and the like. Why not hammers.
I congratulate you sir.

you really shouldn't shape the handle with your "small and sharp hatchet" while you swing it toward you, you could easily lose a finger or worse, just a warning.


9 years ago on Introduction

 How can I do this without splitting the wood when you hammer the blade in?