Making a Knife

About: Hi, I'm stephen, I'm a certified welder, working on my machinists cert, and working part time at a hardware store. Mixing in all of that with my hobbies of blacksmithing and knifemaking, only makes for more...

Okay, I promised it, and here it is. This is more of a walkthrough than instructions, but here it is.

I'm making my sister a knife out of 1080 carbon steel, to be handled with pink and purple denim twist micarta (made using this method, but rolling and twisting before flattening).

Visit my blog - to see more of my projects (mainly knives).

Let's burn it!

Step 1: Testing Steel

When using a new steel, you need to test it, either do it yourself, or have a competent assistant help. Here, the new shop assisant boots is testing my 1080 steel. :)

Step 2: Forging

This is forging the knife, I took a handful of photos, so just follow them. They explain better than me.

Step 3: Rough Grinding Part 1

this part is where I use an angle grinder to rough grind the knife. The pics only show the work done on one side, but it's implied that you do the same on the other side.

Pic 1 - I don't like the transition of the handle to blade.

pic 2 - cleaned up with bench grinder.

pic 3 - my awesome clamping setup

pic 4 - use the angel grinder with 36 grit flapper to clean handle area

pic 5 - get the blade area as well
pic 6 - get the spine and blade areas

pic 7 - better

pic 8 - bevel still needs work

pic 9 - there ya go!

Now that we've rough ground it witht the angle grinder, we move on to rough grinding step 2.

Step 4: Rough Grinding Part 2

First I use a file to even out the areas i ground with the angle grinder. Then I use my belt sander set-up to clean everything. Then I flatten even, and smooth with handsanding to 120 grit. (use a hard backing on the sand paper).

Step 5: Handle Prepping

I take a block of home made micarta, flatten one side some to see the pattern, then cut out my scales.

Then I use the sander, then sandpaper, to flatten one side.

Go ahead and drill the holes in the tang, and then the handle scales (match the holes on the scales up to the holes on the tang.

Then I pin just the scales together lightly, so that I can shape the front some ahead of time.

Step 6: HT

Okay, heat treating. I'm not going to explain this much, as I hardly understand it as well as I should. But I will tell you what I did.

First, I triple normalize. Heating above non magnetic and air cooling, with descending heat each time (my last one was actually just below non magnetic).  Then I heat it above non magnetic and quench in preheated oil (peanut I believe).

Then I tempered it in the oven at 375, and then 400. Do some tests for yourself and decide what you like.

pic 1    - knife cooling from a normalizing heat
pic 2-4 - heating
pic 5-6 - preheating oil
pic 7    - the quenched blade (as you can see I edge quenched it, you'll see why).  

Step 7: Test Etch

If you remember in the HT step, I edge quenched it. I did that because 1084 is a shallow hardening steel, so I was hoping to get a quench line by doing that. To check and see what I got, I sanded it to 220 grit and dipped it in ferric chloride for a minute. After rubbing off the oxides with a paste polish, I could see a faint hamon. If you do not want a hamon to show, or you did not edge quench, you can skip this step and step 9.

Step 8: Polishing

Now that I knew I had a hamon, I decided to polish it to a mirror shine. (if I didn't have a hamon, I would have given it a satin finish). I worked from 220 grit to 1000 grit, using an oil with the sandpaper. After 1000 grit, I buffed it with my dremel and some green buffing compound.

pics 1-2 -  sanding progress

pics 3-4 - knife at 1000 grit

pics 5-6 - mirror polished knife.

Step 9: Etching

To get my hamon to show really well, after it was polished I needed to etch it. I didn't go with ferric like in the test etch, but with hot lemon juice.

Clean the blade with soap and water. Dry it, wipe it down with acetone, wipe down again, wipe down again. DO NOT TOUCH THE BLADE NOW. Whatever you do, you don't want a trace of oil, buffing compound, fingerprints, or anything else in there that will mess up the etch.

Then I heated up lemon juice, and rubbed a cotton ball soaked in along the blade, keeping the blade wet with hot lemon juice. Do this for at least 15 minutes. Spray with windex (diffuses the acid, or else it can continue to eat at the steel and cause flash rust). Wash the blade, and rub off the oxides with a paste polish. For better results, repeat. (do not repolish to mirror, just etch from where you left off at the last etch).

pic 1 - things for etching. Plastic tray, knife, hot lemon juice, and cotton ball in a small clamp for holding it.

pic 2 - after first etch, oxides not removed

pic 3-4 - first etch, oxides removed

pic 5-6 - second etch, oxides removed.

Step 10: Handling

Prep your scales and tang by cleaning with acetone, drilling some divots on the inside (avoid doing near the edge where they could be unsightly), cleaning again, then epoxying, pinning, and clamping till cured. Bout all I can say, as for method, you just gotta kind of figure it out for yourself.

Step 11: Handle Shaping

Now that your handle is finished, go ahead and shape it into your desired profile. I used the afore mentioned rasp to rough out a shape, then I finished the shape with my sander.

Step 12: Handle Finishing

I finish the handle by hand sanding to 320 grit, and then running my dremel chucked with scotchbrite over it really well. I start with the green scotchbrite, and then finish with the white scotch brite (pics 2-3). Now, that finish looks really nice and smooth, but it's not quite right (pic 4).

So, to make it look quite right I coat it with 6 coats of thin superglue, letting it dry between each coat, then sand it to 600 grit, and buff it to a nice shine. That brings out the true colors, and makes it nice and shiny (last pic).

Step 13: Photos

Now you take good photos to show off your creation. Take lots of photos, outside on a sunny day. I took 27 photos to get 6 good ones. Try different backgrounds and props to get something good.



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    30 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Fabulous job!

    I'm not a lover of Micarta but these scales are fab!!

    Well done :)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I like it. Really good blade shape it will be very useful. Micarta turned out good. Well done.

    Paracord Ninja

    4 years ago

    Nice knife, but why next to mnms


    5 years ago on Step 10

    Great job! Your handle to blade ratio is excellent, and the design is a good one. One thing to keep in mind when using glue/epoxy for affixing handles: don't clamp too hard or you will get 'squeeze out'. From the picture, it appears that you clamped too hard. I now use medium duty spring clamps for setting my handles after I experienced the problem with 'squeeze-out'. Devcon makes a great 2Ton epoxy that I use on most of my knives.
    Keep up the great work.


    6 years ago on Step 3

    in the third pic, I could be wrong, but it (the wood) looks like the shaft off of an old (REALLY OLD) sickle mower that went from the blade to the flywheel.


    6 years ago on Step 3

    in the third pic, I could be wrong, but it (the wood) looks like the shaft off of an old (REALLY OLD) sickle mower that went from the blade to the flywheel.

    smith n gamer

    7 years ago on Step 6

    have you tried just using room temp water for heat treating? I usually end up using that, and it works 90 percent of the time even for the relatively unknown recycled springs that i make my knives and tools out of. Lots of guys i know swear by oil, but i've never really tried it! Curious to know what you think. Also- kudos as a fellow young blacksmith/bladesmith! just about everyone I learned from was twice my age at least! my knife making was always looked on somewhat askance, so its good to know there's others out there learning about it too. cheers

    1 reply

    Water is a bit fast for the steel I'm using. Good hot oil is almost as fast a quenchant, but less violent, which also means less cracked blades.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    And the brother-of-the-decade award goes to...

    Nice job! I bet your sister appreciated that a ton!

    I purchase my steel from Aldo. Go to

    Great guy, great prices, and great shipping. If you want a great beginner steel, I would suggest getting some 1084 from him, similar to 1080, but a little simpler HT.

    Yeah, you'll need to HT. All of Aldo's steel comes well annealed so that you can work it easily. The 1084 is fairly simple to HT if you have a forge or even an oxy-acet kit. If you don't have a forge you can easily get it hot enough by making a dirt forge, and using wood or charcoal for your fuel.

    For my knives I like to normalize the blade 3 times, then do a quench in preheated frying oil (canola and peanut are both good). Then follow that with a temper, the tempering temperature I use depends on the blade dimensions and intended use (i.e. a small kitchen knife will be harder than a large belt knife).

    If your really interested in knifemaking, go join these forums (below) , read all of the beginner posts you can, and then start asking questions.

    I can also recommend you get Tim Livelys dvd "knifemaking unplugged". And some books "$50 knife shop", "step by step knifemaking", and many others will help you out.

    Thanks a lot! :) And being a beginner in knife-making, should I heat treat it and temper it? Or is it necessary? And what is the easiest way? Thanks!


    its a great idea for a handle! i have read your instructable on making it but im just here to clarify. when you rolled it was it just like wringing out a cloth really tightly before you clamped ? how did you apply the super glue also ? its such a great result !


    7 years ago on Step 13

    Awesome smith, awesome knife, awesome cat, awesome instructable.


    7 years ago on Step 13

    ok so i feel really stupid asking this but in what step did the blade actually get "sharpened?"

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Step 13

    umm, I don't think I mentioned that. You're the first one to notice that.

    I sharpened it after finishing the other steps, I used a dull 120 belt to bring it down to an edge, than a progression of stones to bring it to a nice keen almost razor edge, than a leather strop to bring it to razor. Eventually I might do an ible about it.


    7 years ago on Step 13

    nice handle now you can do an instructables for the handle cues i would like to know how to make one with that material . thanks

    2 replies