First off the questions for The Make to Learn contest.
What did you make? I made a western or “French” style kitchen knife, It’s an all around design that does everything from chop veggies to slice beef (or in my house, venison). The blade is made of 52100 ball bearing steel, the handle Mexican Cocobolo, and the bolster are salvaged copper stock. To make it I use a homemade 2X72” grinder, a homemade propane forge, and a milling machine that my dad and I bought as scrap and rewired.
How did you make it? I did a speech on knife making in one of my classes, the teacher used to be a chef and after hearing the speech and seeing one of my past knives wanted to buy a chef knife. I’d learned to make knives through books (Murray Carter and Wayne Goddard have some great books out if your interested in getting into knife making), watching demos from Master Smiths like Ray Rybar and Jerry Fisk, and the school of hard knocks.
Where did you make it? I made this knife in my dad's shop. I’ve been making knives there since I was eleven. Knife making ties into my life fairly well because I use them so much, I love to hunt, fish, camp and cook, eat, etc. Where some people see a weapon, I just see a tool that’s necessary for daily life.
What did you learn? The knife turned out almost just as planned, despite the blade warping a bit during the heat treat. Next time I’m going to leave the edge thicker before the quench and that should solve the problem. Also I think if I dome the pins before putting the handle on, it might not chip around the pin holes. As far as what I’m the most proud of, I think the copper bolster with brass pins look awesome.
Step 1: Shaping
To start making this knife I drew out the rough shape of the chef"s knife to the dimensions I wanted, a 9” blade, 2 ½” at the widest, and the handle to be about 5” long. When I design knives, I keep 3 things in mind from most important to least. Function first, shape second, and looks last. When I have the blade shaped out, I start shaping the handle to fit my hand.
Step 2: Drilling the Handle
I mark where I want the holes in my handle with a center punch, I want 2 pins in the handle, and 2 pins for the bolsters, then I use the mill to drill the holes out. Once the holes are drilled I use a bigger drill bit to remove the burr.
Step 3: Bolsters
To make the bolster I cut out 2 pieces of copper a little wider than where they fit on the knife. The copper is sanded as flat as possible so that the two pieces fit flush together. Then one bolster is super glued to one side of the knife, and I start to drill through the earlier made holes. I pop the bolster off and do the same with the other side. Then I drill out the bolsters the rest of the way.
After the bolsters are drilled I run two pins (in this case a pair of broken drill bits) through the holes and grind the bolsters till there identical on the top and the bottom. Then I attach them to the knife and shape them to fit the handle.
Step 4: Grinding the Bevels
The next step is to grind the bevels. This is the hardest part of knifemaking and I've ruined more than one knife while trying to do this. For a Western chef"s knife, the bevel needs to go all the way to the top of the blade. I start with 36 grit till the edge is about .060" then I switch to 120 grit till its about .040" and then I use 320 grit till all the 120 grit scratches are gone. To grind the bevel, the blade is held verticaly with the edge faceing up and almost flat to the grinding platelet on the belt sander then pressure is put on the top of the blade. I've found that by locking my elbows to my side and rocking from one foot to the next is the best way to keep the bevels consitantly straight and even.
Step 5: Heat Treating
Once the bevels are ground and all the holes are drilled, its time for the heat treat. The blade is heated to nonmagnetic (a magnet won't stick to it) in a forge and let cool till all the red runs out of the blade, then the process is repeated twice more, this part of the heat treat is what is called "normalizing" and it makes the steels grain uniform.
After normalizing it's time to harden the blade. The blade is heated to just above nonmagnetic again and just the edge is quenched in peanut oil. This paticular way of hardening is called "edge quenching" and makes a blade similar to a Japanese sword, with a hard edge but a flexible spine.
From here the knife is put into an oven at 450 degrees for an hour, This part is called "tempering". When the edge was quenched it became hard but brittle, by tempering the steel, the brittleness is removed but the hardness is left.
After the first heat treat, the hardening and tempering processes is repeated two more times.
Step 6: Fitting the Handle
After heat treament, the scale (that black coating on the blade) is sanded off and the edge is ground down till it's .010" thick. Now it's time to attach the handle. This part is almost identical to making the bolsters. First the bolsters are pinned to the blade, then the wood thats going to be made into the handle is laid flush with the bolster and the drill bit is run through the 2 holes for the pins in the handle. The process is repeated again on the other side.
Step 7: Attaching the Handle
Once the handle fits the knife's shape in "2D", it's contoured to "3D" to fit the hand. It's sanded down to about 120 grit and then the handle is removed and blade gets a "satin finish" by clamping it to a piece of wood and sanding it with continually finer grit sand paper by hand till its at 600 grit and all the scratches are pointing towards the tip instead of the edge.
Once the blade has been polished, the bolsters are secured by peening (swelling by hammering) the pins (I switched the broken drill bit guide pins for brass pins). Then two part black epoxy is mixed up and used to glue the two wood blocks and the pins to the handle. When the glues hardend the handle is sanded again till all the showing glue is gone, then it's finished with 400 grit sandpaper, stained, and the whole knife is oiled.
Step 8: Final Fit and Finish
Well, your almost there, the only thing left to do is use a fresh 600 grit belt to sharpen the edge of the knife. Then it's ready to chop, slice, and carve your dinner.
If you have any questions contact me at
nqbadger 123(ignore the 123, I'm trying not to get spammed) @gmail.com
Grand Prize in the
Make-to-Learn Youth Contest