Knife Making – Tools and Skills

One aspect of knife making that is really attractive for me is the number of different skills and tool sets you need to accomplish the entire process.

Using the material removal method, you’ll use some or all of: a hacksaw, jewelers saw, band saw, drills, files, sand paper, angle grinder and belt grinder. All of these remove chunks or small bits of metal that don’t look like a knife and start to make the knife sharp.

Then for your various heat treating processes, you’ll need a torch or coal forge or kiln or heat treating oven, maybe a toaster oven for tempering, oil or something for quenching, and possibly other supplies depending on what kind of steel you’re dealing with.

You might be doing some soldering if you’re putting a guard on. More torch work, with solder and flux and more abrasive work to clean up afterwards.

The handle requires some more material removal skills – cutting, drilling, grinding, filing, sanding of wood, micarta, bone, antler or some other material. Making an attractively shaped and comfortable handle is an art in itself. And then you’ll need to know about fastening methods – prepping and application of epoxy as well as the use of pins, rivets, bolts or other fasteners.

Then finishing – the handle will need to be sanded down smooth and probably have some oil or other finish applied. The blade and any other exposed metal will need to have all scratch marks removed and sanded and buffed down to a satin or mirrored or stonewashed or other finish.

Sharpening and honing is its own skill with as many schools of thought and favorite techniques as any other technology.

Then, of course, you want something to carry your knife in. So there’s sheath making – leather work, which involves cutting, gluing, punching, stitching, dying and finishing leather, or maybe you want a Kydex sheath, which has its own techniques.

So generally speaking, you’ll be dealing with at least three different materials – blade, handle, sheath – each with it’s own technology and techniques. All that can be daunting at first, but take it one step at a time and pick up what you can. Each new knife you make, you’ll level up on several skills. And all those skills can be used for other things. I now have lots of other ideas of things to make with metal. I already do plenty with wood, and leather work opens a world of cool possibilities.

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