My First Knife




About: I'm an actor/tech/IT/graphics/editor/writer kind of guy. I do a fair share of voice over work and have the full time gig at Bard College at Simon's Rock. While waiting for machines to do things, I hit the ...

First read this instructable.

Seriously. If I hadn't I would have never tried this.


Grinder with cut off wheel

Belt sander with 60 and 80 grit

Sand paper

Band Saw


Dremel tool






Finishing oil

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Step 1: So I Had This Chunk of Steel...

I read that instructable, and knew what I had to do. This piece of steel had been hanging around my office for 5 years. It was thick on one edge, thinner on the other, and made a nice metallic ring when you struck it. Nothing flimsy.

The first step is to make a mockup. I took some paper, drew a knife. Glued it to a small scrap of Luan plywood and cut it out.

And I rested.

I played with this design for a day or so. See how it looked. And decided it was ok. I was limited by the width of the steel I had, so it couldn't be some sort of monster blade. The goal was to be a new sgian-dubh for my formal kilt.

Step 2: I Drew Out the Design on the Steel...

I traced the design onto the steel and cut it out with the help of the cutoff wheel, then a grinding wheel. Then over to the belt sander and spent some time on it.

Have a cup of water nearby to cool it off so you can keep holding it.

Wear safety glasses and hearing protection. Don't be an idiot.

You'll notice that the knife is smaller than the design. Yes, this was a mistake. Sort of. The blade felt to long, so I shortened it. Mainly because the handle came out short. Hey, it's my first knife...

Step 3: Grind, Grind, Grind, Sand, Sand, Sand...

This is the time to really get things right.

When I do my second knife, and that's going to happen. I'm going to start with a piece of steel that is flat. The angle on the steel was a lot of work.

A benchtop belt sander is my friend.

The knife should look right, it should have a nice visual balance.

Step 4: That Looks About Right

So far so good.

Before you move on to heat treating, be 100% happy with it. Remove all scratches and gouges.

Step 5: Heat Treating

I have a fireplace. So this was easy and it took no time at all.

I got the fire going with a good bed of coals and stuck the knife in the coals. I left the door open a crack to create a good draft and high heat.

The blade heated to a bright orange in minutes. I tested it with a magnet, and it was non-magnetic as it was orange. I took the blade out and quenched it in a to-go cup full of vegetable oil. The to-go cup was stainless steel, and I secured it in the ash bucket to keep it from tipping.

I let it cool in the oil.

Then to the oven. I put the blade in the cold oven and brought the oven up to 375 degrees. Let it sit there for an hour then turned the oven off.

The next day, I repeated that, let it sit in the oven for an hour at 375, turned the oven off, and left it there till it cooled.

Step 6: Handle

I'm lucky, there's a place nearby that has all kinds of specialty woods.

For $10 I got this piece of wood for the knife handle scales. I believe it was red oak.

I traced the handle onto the wood, cut them out on the bandsaw and drilled through the knife into the handle to get the holes to align. Go ahead and oversize the handles at this point. The belt sander will make quick work of the wood and make it flush.

Using 30 minute epoxy, and tapped in the brass rod, and lightly clamped it overnight in the vice. Don't clamp to hard, you don't want to split the wood.

Step 7: Sand and Shape

Starting with the belt sander, then hand sanding with 150 grit, to 200 then 400.

Notice the tape on the edge. No hands were injured in the making of this knife.

Step 8: Finishing Oil

I used boiled linseed oil. It's what I have around.

The wood was VERY dry, it soaked up a lot of oil. I did a final finish with some butchers wax.

Step 9: Finished!

This was a fun and satisfying project, again huge thanks to Phiske and his instructable.

Some final notes. Take your time with the shaping. Don't rush.

When making the handle, go the extra mile to really sand it smooth, it makes a difference.

Don't stop at one knife. Once you make one, go ahead and get some more steel and make the second one better..

I did a final polish of the blade with 1500 grit sandpaper and it looks amazing. Seriously, this was a great project.

I have some scrap leather to make a blade sheath, so it will tuck in nicely to my kilt hose. Pictures upon request lassies... ;)



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    53 Discussions


    Prof. John Milewski nearing the end of his government contract, discovered how to use gold nickel eutectic with super heated co2 gas to coat anything capable of withstanding 1800f for a few moments with diamond, as thick as you need it. One could produce swords far superior to the best folded Japanese swords in existence using this technology. It doesn't naturally add the gold nickel, but I suppose it can if the process is done differently, which would allow the sword to bend some. The same guy found how to get $180 of gold from a beer bottle in a microwave. Most glass contains lots of monoatomic gold. It's just a matter of getting it out in making the eutectic alloy can be cheap after all. I think the process of refinement takes just a few cents of energy and a few hundred bucks to buy all the materials used to modify a microwave oven for the controlled process.

    4 replies

    Yes. Youtube "John Milewski microwave gold".
    John shared this in 2007 but was already growing weak, old. His kids take care of him now and he's had to move out of his home in NM to a small apartment out east in Jersey or something so he has no space to continue the work. I contacted Martin Burgess of Blue Eagle Mining Co. out of B.C. who eventually refused to speak with me after I explained how I'd be making lots of gold (he's nuts and wants no competition) , but before he did he explained his secrets to fine tuning Milewski's process. Most of all you need to run the temp up to 2700F after the regular run so the gold forms larger beads/wires.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I, too, would like to see a source for the process. Shoot, I'd like to see how to DO the process. I have a nephew who works in steel, and LOVES Katana's, and he'd use this process in a heartbeat.

    So would I. Gotta be SOME good use for the beer bottles kids around here keep throwing out alongside the road. And we don't have a bottle tax, or deposit, so they have no incentive. But this process would sure help mine!


    3 years ago

    So id like to ask a question on anyone that knows about black smithing, and forge welding, I have looked around on google and such and have only found vague answers from people that weren't totally sure, so here goes its pretty simple, does anyone know if I can forge weld stainless to any other type of metal, I know its sort of a vague question, but I just want to know if it is possible, thank you for any info you can give me =)

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I'm no expert. So to be honest, I don't know. Stainless steel is softer than high carbon steel but I would be curious to know the answer as well.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Well I have some stainless if I discover the answer I will let you know =)

    Bohemia Rustica

    3 years ago

    Wow! That's impressive. I came into the Knives area just to see some nice work and (besides not being disappointed) I think I might be even a little inspired to try some day.

    1 reply
    monkeyworkBohemia Rustica

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you! It was a lot easier than I expected, just some time on the grinder and sander.

    It's now my sgian dubh for my hunting tartan kilt.

    Bohemia Rustica

    3 years ago

    Wow! That's impressive. I came into the Knives area just to see some nice work and (besides not being disappointed) I think I might be even a little inspired to try some day.

    In depth? There's really not much to it. I started a fire in the fireplace, got a bed of coals going, added more wood, stuck the knife in the coals, then kept the door to the fireplace open a crack to create a good draft.

    The knife got glowing to a bright orange within 5 minutes, I took it out with the fireplace poker, and tried to pick up a magnet. It wouldn't. So I doused it in the vegetable oil.

    Then two sessions in the oven at 375F, an hour each time, then let it cool on its own. Simple.

    Could you heat the oil to further lengthen the cooling process, I am a chef and different oils have different smoke points, that is the point that oil will combust, and smoke on the surface. So like butter burns at the lowest temp. Olive and nut oils at like 300 F or something, and deep fryer canola and the like has chemical additives and can go to like 375 or more. I'm sure motor oils have an even higher point.

    That's a darn good question. I'm no expert on forging blades by any stretch. I have always believed that the quench was to quickly cool the blade without stressing it. So you wouldn't want ice water, the oil absorbs the heat without creating dangerous steam that could burn your hands.

    I simply used some old past date canola oil, and so far so good!


    Reply 4 years ago

    from a metallurgical standpoint quenching with water is the best way to make your work brittle