Make a Bowie Knife From Table Saw Insert





Introduction: Make a Bowie Knife From Table Saw Insert

About: I like to build and make things with my hands. Think it, Build it, and repeat.

I had a few metal table saw inserts kicking around my shop to an old saw I no longer had. A friend of mine starting collecting knives for display so I decided I wanted to turn one of the old inserts into a Bowie knife. Build Video HERE

Step 1: Layout & Cutting It to Shape

I began by drawing in a generic shape I wanted the knife to be. Using an abrasive cut-off wheel in my rotary tool I cut the knife blank out from the table saw insert. I also made a pommel and blade guard from the same material and refined its shape on a belt sander.

Step 2: Refining the Cutting Edge

To give the knife an edge, I ground both sides of the metal to a point on the grinding wheel. It wasn't very sharp at this point because I didn't want to work on it further with it being sharp enough to cut me. It is worth noting this knife was going to be a display piece so I didn't heat treat the cutting edge being the knife wasn't going to be used to cut.

Step 3: Peening the Pommel

Before I began peening the pommel into place I made sure the blade guard was slid over the tang and in place. Had I forgot to do that, there would have been no way of getting it on there after the fact. With the blade tightly in a vise I heated the end of the tang with a mapp gas torch until it was cherry hot. Being the knife blank was cut from an old table saw insert, I had a large hole in the tang. While hammering and peening the tang onto the pommel the handle bent slightly. Once all done I could just hammer the handle back to straight.

Step 4: Making the Handle

I used a scrap piece of pine to make a two piece handle that I epoxied into place. The grooves to accommodate the tang were cut on the table saw. Some generic shaping was done on the bandsaw and refined on a 1" wide belt sander.

Step 5: Wrapping the Handle

As a design element I wanted to wrap the handle in cotton string. I wanted the finished handle to be jet black so I had to color the string. I used a scrap piece of 1/4" MDF that I filed a groove into to submerge the natural string in a small container filled with india ink. This worked out really well. After taking my time to wrap the handle nicely in the string, I went back over the string and brushed on some more india ink. Once that had fully cured I rubbed on some paste wax and melted it into the handle with a heat gun.

Step 6: Polishing & Sharpening

After sanding the entire blade to 600 grit I ran it past the polishing wheel to give it an almost mirror-like shine. To sharpen it I just used a carbide kitchen knife sharpener. It took maybe 50 or so passes and it was razor sharp.

Step 7: Finished Knife

Here are just some close-up pictures of the completed knife. I was extremely pleased on how it turned out and my friend thought it was a really cool gift. Thanks For Checking It Out!!


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    43 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I'm not very experienced but could I use a single vise instead of many clamps for gluing the handle?

    1 reply

    sure that would work great as well

    A very nicely done project, but always exercise extreme caution when using a cutting wheel with a rotary tool, particularly when cutting metal. Always wear

    goggles or eye protection. Always!

    1 reply

    I think you are fine with your handle material, as you say its a display piece, and it looks good. As far as leather ringed Bowie knives being the original, I do not believe that is true, I have seen some with that style, but the most popular material back then was, antlers / horns / wood

    Jim Bowie's knife, 1830,

    with a simple riveted wood scale handle

    Nice build!

    Him Too!


    1 reply

    Nice knife, but not Bowie knife. Bowie knife must have a grip made of many o-shaped layers of rawhide tighened by a screw. This is what make a difference between just a knife and Bowie knife.

    3 replies

    thank you - I've seen many variations to the Bowie knife including wood handles - being the history of it is uncertain I would say it classifies as close enough to be Bowie-esque

    That's true. You needn't leather grip, if you aren't planning to throw your knife, like Bowie :-) Wooden grip seems to be a bit fragile ..

    many of the inserts are aluminum, which would work for a display knife, and easy to work.

    It is no damascus steel but it was a gift that was going to be a display piece so I didn't even bother heat treating it.

    Thanks much Andrea - that is a really good idea - I will have to give my friend the insert too

    Johnny Toast would love this.