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How To Make Knives At Home

Knife making at home is a relatively simple craft to master, subject to the fact that you can source the materials required to make your knife and also the tools to craft your knife.

A knife is one of the earliest man-made tools. They act as an essential tool for almost everybody and are used every day for a variety of uses. With a few basic tools and learning the process, a home-made knife can be made relatively easily. Knives require a steel piece for the blade and some wood or other materials for the handle. Making knife blades at home can usually be crafted by one of two techniques: stock removal or forging.

Stock removal uses sheets or blocks of steel and the process involves removing material to craft the knife into a final shape. The other technique commonly used for home-made knives is forging. This is the process whereby you can use hammering tools and a forge powered by electricity.

 

 

A checklist of equipment for making a knife at home

Equipment can vary dependent on the complexity of your project, but the basic tools are covered below:

  • A workbench
  • Angle Grinder
  • Angle grinder discs
  • A set of files
  • Hacksaw
  • Sandpaper (of varying grits)
  • A small drill press
  • A vice or bench vice
  • A forge or heat treating oven
  • Tongs
  • Wood if adding a wooden handle

 

Knife making at home process

Sketch the knife

The first step in making a home-made knife is to sketch out your design. Try to make your sketch equivalent to the actual size in order to make the translation from paper to knife much easier. You’ll need to consider the size of your knife to see how much steel you are likely to need.

 

Choose tools and knife making steel

The steel is obviously crucial to the type of home-made knife you are looking to make. Try to avoid stainless steel, because it doesn’t always make a nice and tough blade. 1/8” thick carbon steel (01) is perhaps the most suited for a home-made knife project.

Trace the shape of your blade onto the steel with a permanent marker. It will be the guide for cutting the steel.

 

Cutting the steel

Use a hacksaw to cut a rectangle around the blade outline to separate it from the main steel  slab. Once you have removed the main bulk of the blade from the steel, grind it down into the basic shape of the knife using a grinder and then files to grind down further. Place the roughly cut blade into a vice and grind it down further. 

In order to create the sharp edge, use the grinder to finish the blade shape. Form a slope on each side of the blade in order to get the bevelled sharp edge required. For the handle, use the same size drill bit as the rivets that you will later use to attach the handle. 

Next, sand the blade further with sandpaper or finer grits. This can be a long process, but the more that you sand scratches out of the knife, the better finished blade you will have.

 

Heat treating the blade

The ideal way to heat a blade is with a heat treating oven, where the temperature can be controlled and the steel can be evenly heated throughout to ensure that there are no weak spots.

Place the steel into the heat treating oven and wait until it gets to an orange color. The steel will be hot enough when it loses its magnetic properties and at this point you need to let the steel cool by air.

This action needs to be repeated 3 times. On the 4th time, rather than letting the steel cool in the air, douse it in an oil bath. You need to be careful at this point, not only due to the flammable nature of the hot steel and oil but also the fact that the steel can easily break at this stage.

To harden the steel, set the oven at 420° Celsius. Place the blade carefully on the middle rack and cook it for one hour. 

Once this process is completed and the blade has cooled, use finer grits of paper and polish the blade to create a shiny, well polished finished blade.

 

Making the knife handle

There are normally 2 parts to a handle, 1 on each side of the knife. Cut your wooden piece (if this is the material you choose to use) with a hacksaw and then sand the pieces together to ensure that they are the same size and shape.

Next you need to drill holes into each side of the wood in the same places that you earlier drilled holes in the steel. Place the rivets in through the wood, leaving a slight part of the rivet extruding above the surface. Once in position, hammer the rivets and file them down. Finally sand down the finished rivets to create a smooth finish.

Read more: A Mini Guide To Knife Handle Shapes

 

Choose the perfect heat treating oven for making knives at home

Perhaps the most vital piece of equipment when making a home-made knife is the heat treating oven. Without it, your blade won’t have the necessary hardness to do as is required.

At Soul Ceramics, we have a range of high quality heat treating ovens suited to small or large projects. This enables you to control the heat and programme you require and ensure that your finished project is as you had intended.

 If you would like to know more about our range of heat treating ovens or you are looking to invest in a heat treating oven for your home-made knife making project, please do not hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to advise you on the most suited oven for your project.

Additional resources on knife making