When I was at my local hard wood dealer, I ran across leopard wood and thought that it would look great on a knife handle. A quick google images searched confirmed that it would look great, so I bought some and then started looking at tutorials on the web. So ya I guess you could say I put the cart in front of the horse, or the handle in front of the knife.
My instructable will show you how I made this knife with no special knife making tools as this is a very simple (crappy) knife. I didn't even feel the need to heat treat as the material was plenty tougher than regular mild steel, as evidenced by the number of drill bits i burned through (before i bought a cobalt bit) to get the wholes for the brass pins in.
Check out my video of this build: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWyXoJKumE8
A Saw - I had a spare 14" metal cutting saw, so ya, plenty strong for what i was going to use it for.
Tools - Angle Grinder, Disc Sander, 1x30 Harbor freight belt sander, and files. You can actually use files for the whole project but that would require more time and effort.
Step 1: Find/Create a Template and Then Cut It Out.
Create/Find a Template
If you google "Knife template" you will find hundreds of different knife templates.
1) Choose your favorite
2) Print it out
3) Transfer it to your saw blade.
I chose 3 different templates because i originally wanted to build 3 knives. I was a bit over zealous.
Cut It Out
Pretty self-explanitory. I used a grinder to get this done. I do have a metal cutting bandsaw, but the metal was too tough and i didn't want to burn through a band saw blade. Come close to the line as possible as it will save you with sanding/grinding.
Step 2: Shape the Blade. the Bevel and Drilling the Blade
Shaping the Blade
I used a few different tools to get this done.
1. Angle grinder - I started with this tool as it took off the most material the quickest.
2. Then I did some fine tuning with the disc sander to get as close to the line as possible.
3. I used a few different files to get the final shape down. This was time consuming but worth it. For me, files have more precision than the previous 2 tools.
For me, the most difficult/disappoint part of the build was setting the bevel. The bevel is where the knife comes to an edge. This part requires lots of skills and patience, both of which I didn't have. I still managed to use my belt sander to get a semblance of a bevel, but going forward I know i can do better.
Drilling the Blade
My build required that I drilled 2 holes to pin the handle with brass pins. The brass pins I had laying around in the shop were 3/16s in diameter. I used a 3/16 bit originally a "normal" bit from my dewalt set. Given that the material of the saw (knife) was harder than the bit, i burned through a couple of bits before getting smart and buying a cobalt drill bit. http://amzn.to/2u6tHqN
Step 3: The Handle and Epoxy
This whole instructable could have been about this handle. I really am happy with how leopard wood looks and feels on a knife handle. I started by cutting the leopard wood into a couple of slabs (one for each side). I drew a template and then used a band saw to cut the slabs. I left lots of extra material as I know the final shaping would be done after it was epoxied to the knife. After the slabs were cut, I sanded 1 side from each slab to get a smooth and even surface to epoxy to the knife.
I used Devcon 2 ton epoxy. I didn't do a ton of research, but all the research I did do, lead to using a "1 hour" epoxy over "5 min" epoxy. Devcon is also used by other knife makers I watched on youtube. So far it has held up great on this knife that I use to open amazon boxes.
During the epoxy stage, I also hammered in the brass pins, then I clamped everything together for 2 hours. I figured I would double the "1 hour" epoxy cure time and it turned out great.
Step 4: Finishing the Handle
Finish Shaping the Handle
After removing from the clamps, it was time to shape the handle.
1) I started with the disc sander and removed as wood material until it was even with the metal tang of the knife. The disc sander removes material quickly. Be careful not to get to carried away and ruin the shape of the tang.
2) I used my band saw to cut off the excess brass pins.
3) Then used the belt sander to continue shaping the knife. In particular, rounding off the edges. Be careful not to take off too much material. You obviously can un-do what you take off with a sander.
4) I used a file/rasp to continue to fine tune the shape. The file/rasp is more precise so don't get carried away with the belt/disc sander as they remove material very quickly.
5) Sanding, I cut some sand paper into 1x12" strips to sand the handle smooth. I placed the knife in a vice and worked the paper over the handle until I was happy with how it felt and looked. I started with 120 grit then 220 grit.
I use oil based polyurethane to finish the handle.
First, with a wipe-on-poly mixture (80% poly, 20% mineral spirits). This ensures a nice and even first coat.
Then, I used spray on gloss sheen spar polyurethane.
I am very impressed with the handle, but do need some work on my knife building. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Please check out the youtube video I made of this build to see me build it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWyXoJKumE8