Knife making - newbie questions

Bob Hubbard

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Aug 4, 2001
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Land of the Free
I'm in the process of 'trying' to make a knife. Goal is something a little bigger than an over the counter boot knife, but all 1 piece. I've got a piece of steel, a bench grinder, and an idea.

Before I start, was wondering if anyone could offer some pointers? (Before I ruin a good piece of steel that is) :)

Not going for a Hibben quality, just a basic training blade.

i would highly suggest buying a kit knife with the blade allready finished but still plenty to do to it. you can work the guard and the handle and such.that way you can get an idea how much work and patience it takes to make a blade. you can always buy blade magazine or knives illustrated they are both good sources of info. it's not rocket science but it does take alot of practice.
good luck you have any questions and im sure you will feel free to ask away
Being a blacksmith I'll offer my suggestions. Go with the kit idea because there are so many ways to screw up a knife. I've attempted to make a dozen knives and failed and I've been smithing for 8 years:D . If you feel an uncontrolled need, when you grind the metal don't let the metal change to a blue color because you'll remove the temper and getting it back is a long process verging on an art, one I have not full mastered. Another good thing about a kit is it includes a guard and you don't have to make one, unless you making throwing knives which I believe traditionally don't have guards. There are a number of bladesmiths in New York, surely there is one near you that you could consult. If you've got the dollars, a custom knife is a real pleasure and a work of art. Check, that Artist Blacksmith Association of North Amercia, for information.

Mountain Sage
I apreciate the tips.

My first attempt went poorly. Without guard or any handle of note, it is still way too heavy for real use. I believe its due in part to the type of steel and the overall thickness. (Its a good 1/4"+ thick). I'm niot certain what 'type' of steel it is either as it was based on a scrap I got from a client who makes pressure vessles. Attempting to grind down the thickness resulted in the blueing noted above.

I did have better luck modifying a poor quality tanto into a trainer.
Definately not 'commercial' quality, but functional for a 2nd attempt.

I may try using some aluminium to play with in the short term due to its being cheeper and softer. Is that a good idea, or should I stick with steel?

From what I've heard, working with aluminum and steel are completely different animals. Making training knives from aluminum is much like working with wood. Steel is a totally different, requiring entirely different tools and techniques.

Kaith don't use aluminium. That alloy is to soft to make a decent knife and will not hold an edge for very long. As a trainer knife it might not be to bad, but there is a danger of if you slip it will act like a real knife and you'll need a new training partner. You really need advice from a bladesmith. These people are very specialized and know all the ins and outs of blades. Most blacksmiths aren't bladesmiths, that how specialized of work it is. There are special kinds of steel used for blades, I can't think of them right now and they are expensive compared to other steel. FIND A BLADESMITH KAITH (not yelling, speaking firmly).

Mountain Sage
Uh, not to be contrary Mountainsage, but aluminum in a common training knife material. Most of the high quality training knives made today are out of aluminum.

That said . . .

Kaith, I'm sure you've seen the pictures of the trainers I mention. Just make sure you you make the tip fat and round and put just the barest suggestion of a "grind" on it. Just enough to visually suggest an "edge". Make sure you don't have any sharp corners and no burrs, wrap the handle in the cord of your choice and train away.

Occasionally check your aluminum trainers for nicks or burrs that may have been raised by banging into your partners blade. If you find one, just take a file or other abrasive to it.

Have fun.

I'm not sure what type of knife you want to make. Is it a live blade or trainer? If its a live blade aluminum won't work, as a others said, its to brittle, won't hold and edge, etc. If its a training blade alloy is better because it allows you to use thicker material for safety and to replicate the propper wieght, steel unsharpened trainers still have an edge because they are too thin.

Practicing making trainers will help in understanding knife design and dynamics, but the process is different. If you want to make a live blade I would suggest starting with light tool steel (lawnmower blade, old files, old machete, etc). I was never one for the "kit" approach. To me those are already done - all your really learning is how to put the handle on, you can get that from doing trainers. One of my favorite utility knives/bolos was one my dad and I made from an old lawn mower blade. It didn't have much shape to it, the only shaping we did was to taper one end smaller for the handle and round out the tip. We ground a very sharp chisel edge an wrapped leather for the handle. Wish i still had it. I guess what i'm trying to say, is don't start out trying to make a maserpiece, you'll be disappointed. Try and make functional tools (like my lawnmower bolo) that you can use, if you mess up, just keep grinding! As you gain experience, take the next step...forging, blowtorch, tempering, whatever.

Arnisandyz, you got a blacksmith or bladesmith background. You have the little detail information that a person usually see in a smith or a crazed knife fighter:D.

Mountain Sage
He's from a "I really like making pointy things to stick into people" background. :D

I guess that makes most of you knife guy under the crazed knife fighter option:D . Didn't you mothers ever tell you not to play with pointy things because you'll poke your eye out.

Mountain Sage
Originally posted by MountainSage
Arnisandyz, you got a blacksmith or bladesmith background. You have the little detail information that a person usually see in a smith or a crazed knife fighter:D.

Mountain Sage

Not a Smith, but I do enjoy knives, know enough and am curious enough to be dangerous to myself! I know a little bit about knife applications in self-defense (offense).

Didn't you mothers ever tell you not to play with pointy things

Funny you should say this, I grew up making dangerous toys, sharpening sticks, crossbows that shoot those bamboo barbeque sticks, etc,,,,and here I am all grown up still playing around!

I apreciate the tips.

I'm hoping to make a good trainer out of aluminium, as well as a personal blade out of steel.

I didn't think of a lawnmower blade, but, it makes sense. Its already 'blade' metal, and it'll hold an edge (somewhat). Time to track one down. :)

As to the Aluminum, Home Depot has some that seems 'right', though a bit softer than I'd like.

Trust me, the trainer will make a butterknife seem like a katana when I do it. :)

thank you! :)

most of the aluminum I have seen at Home Depot is of the aluminum siding variety, not the right kind. Look for a non-ferous metal recycle yard (much cheaper) 1/4" 6061 is what your looking for, its not soft. When you go to grind it, don't use your stone grinder, you'll gum it up quickly, Alloy has a low melting point and is softer than steel. Use a belt sander with 40 grit, and be sure you have good ventalation and safety gear. Good luck and have fun.

Originally posted by Kaith Rustaz
I apreciate the tips.

I didn't think of a lawnmower blade, but, it makes sense. Its already 'blade' metal, and it'll hold an edge (somewhat).

It won't hold an edge as well as other steels, but you can get it pretty sharp, and its really easy to sharpen. Leaf-springs off cars/trucks are really good to, but I think you need to torch them to get them soft enough to work with (I'm not sure on this, maybe MountainSage can give some tips).
If you decide to go the recycle route, be carefull of printed circuit boards even if its the right aluminum. I hear the process of making them is kind of toxic and grinding that stuff off can literally be hazardous to your health.
I'm a bit limited on equipment. Bench grinder, palm sander, angle grinder, and a dremil are the best I currently have to work with.

I had a bad experience with some malachite a while back, so will be very careful on the facial filtering.

I apreciate the warning though....better safe than sorry. heh.

As to leaf springs, I did have a walkthru on making a warsword that used one...can't find it off hand, but I know its around here somewhere.