I've been thinking about this knife for a while. Most Kiridashi knives don't usually have handles or scales and while I really like that bare metal look I always liked the idea of having a really good grip. Leather was a natural choice but I didn't know how to attach it to the steel and I didn't want to make a stacked leather handle. The stacked leather handle I don't think would fit the aesthetic I was after. I also feel it would be too bulky and take away from the lean look of the blade.
Eventually I got the idea to just apply a leather wrap, of sorts, and secure the leather using a cross stitch on the seam. I am not a leather worker so I wasn't sure it would work but the tapered shape of the handle in to the blade helps keep the leather from slipping up in to the blade and the small nub at the end of the handle keeps the leather from sliding off the handle. The leather handle feels very secure and adds a nice grip. The following is how I made the knife and the handle.
I am fortunate enough to live near Knife Supply store so that's where I buy my knife making steel. I used 3/16 inch thick 1095 steel for the blade. I made a template out of backerboard quite some time ago since I figured I would be making more of this style knife. I use a sharpie marker to trace out the shape on to the steel.
I used my angle grinder fitted with a cutoff wheel to cutout the rough shape. I will make a small cut and then unclamp and reposition the blade to cut off another piece until I have removed the majority of the unnecessary stock.
Next its time to clean up and refine the shape of the blade. I recently got a bench top grinder and decided to use the stone wheel to clean up the blade shape. It was fast and worked quite well. If you don't have a bench grinder you can do this with a set of files and do it by hand. A blade this small won't take too long to clean up so don't let not having power tools discourage you from making this knife.
This part is kind of optional but it makes for a nicer finished product. I attach the blade to a welding magnet and sand the face flat on my 4x36 inch belt grinder. I start with 120 grit and then finish with 400 grit.
Here again this can be done by hand with a piece of sand paper wrapped around a flat piece of hardwood or a flat piece of metal bar stock. I have done it that way in the past, it takes longer but it can be done. You will see an example of this later when I clean up the blade some more.
WARNING! The blade will got hot quickly so make sure to cool it down in a bucket of water as you sand.
I tried to use the bench grinder to put the chisel edge on it but I wasn't getting good results, I'm just not used to doing it that way. So instead I used my 1x30 belt sander to make the edge.
Kiridashi knives have what's called a "chisel edge" this is were the edge is only made on one side of the blade and the other side remains flat just like a chisel hence the name.
I want to tidy up the finish of the blade before heat treating so I took a piece of 400 grit sand paper and wrapped it around a flat piece of brass bar and sprayed the blade with some Windex and sanded the imperfections out. I use Windex because it evaporates with time and prefer it over just water. Water is fine I just prefer to use Windex.
Once both sides where sanded I also took the time to clean up the edge and sanded it up to 400 grit. The idea here is to get the blade as close to finished as possible before heat treating. It makes the post heat treatment clean up a lot easier, at least in my opinion.
I made a small forge Mini Forge Build a while back and that along with a propane torch is what I use to heat treat. my knives. I heat the blade until it is no longer magnetic and then quench the hot blade in oil. I use peanut oil because that's what I have but you can use motor oil as well.
Since this blade is so small you could heat the blade up to temp just using the torch and no forge.
This is what the blade looks like after quenching I always preform a file test on the edge. If the file skates right off the edge with out removing any material then I know I have a harden blade. If the file digs in to the edge then I know I didn't get the blade hard enough. In this case I got a good heat treat.
Now that the blade is hard we have to temper it. At this stage the blade is very hard and brittle and could not take much lateral pressure as it would snap. But before I put it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour I hand sand it again to bare metal. I use 400 grit sandpaper for this. Once its all nice and shiny I place it in a 400 degree preheated oven for one hour. After the one hour is up I leave the blade in the oven to cool down until it is cool enough to handle by hand.
Tempering the blade will allow it to retain some of the hardness, which means it will hold an edge but also regain some of its elasticity, which means that it won't be brittle and break like a piece of glass.
One of the reasons you have to clean up the blade before tempering it is so that you can see the temper color. You are looking for the blade to turn a straw yellow color sort of like a light bronze color once it comes out of the oven. Here again I sand the entire blade to remove the temper color and clean up any imperfections. I also add the final edge and sharpen the knife. I don't show my sharpening process but sometimes I use sandpaper that's attached to flat surface or sharpening stones to add the edge.
Now its time for the handle. I use the handle blade as a reference for the paper template. I can use the paper template to figure out any angles I want to add or change.
Once I was happy with the paper template I use it to trace the shape on to the leather. I use a razor to cut out the shape and then test fit it on the blade. I had to make some adjustments to the paper template to account for the thickness of the leather and had to make another template which was slightly larger on the sides.
I used a set of calipers to mark the edge of the leather. I use that line as a reference to punch my stitch holes. I purchased a couple of leather making tools for this project. The stitch punch gives me clean holes for my needles to pass through. In the past I have used a drill bit and drill to make the holes, while that works I was never able to get nice straight lines with that method.
I used a cross stitch pattern for the handle. This is basically how most people lace their shoes. It is a repetitive pattern where you cross the needles left over right or right over left to make the cross stitch.
I use two leather stitching needles that have blunt tips which means I don't have to worry about pricking myself with them. I take a 20 inch length of Tan Waxed Thread and thread each end through one of the needles so I end up with one thread and a needle on either end. I don't not tie the thread on to the needle as this will make a knot that will make sewing more difficult. Once I get to the end of the handle I tie a knot, cut off the excess and use a match to burn off the excess thread. I use the brass bar to press down on the melted thread, it smooshes the thread down for a cleaner look.
I am pleased with how it turned out but if I were to make this again I would make sure to decrease the width of the handle where the leather will wrap around to account for the thickness of the leather. This way the leather handle will follow the lines of the blade. Thanks for reading!
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