Knife #2 Begun

Jan 09 2015

When we last saw our hero, he had finished knife #1 and got some new steel for the next project.


The first step is design. With my other knife, I tried to get creative and realized that I don’t know anything about what makes a good knife design. This time I went with someone else’s design.


This is from the book Custom Knifemaking by Tim McCreight. Fantastic book that walks you through each step of the process.

I copied the drawing onto some graph paper, cut it out and glued it onto the steel.


Then used a hacksaw to cut out the rough shape.

I picked up a cheap belt grinder, which saved me lots of time in refining the profile here. Just ground down to the lines on the template. What you see in the next few photos represents all of about 2 hours work. Not horrible.

Next I drilled some holes in the handle. These are just to allow the epoxy to flow through when I glue the handle on, giving it more strength. There will be more holes later. I also started grinding the bevel on the aforementioned belt grinder. Here, I went in at about a 10 degree angle, which is too steep for this size blade. The bevel needs to extend further up the side of the blade. A short bevel like this is what they all a “scandi grind”. Not what I was going for.

Adjusted to about a 5 degree angle and this is much better.

Next comes the guard. This is a 3/16″ piece of brass. I cut out a small piece and cut a groove in it so it slots right into place.

A bit of preliminary shaping with files.

Mmmm… brass filings.


And I’ll start working on the handle. I have some 1/2″ walnut. Rough cut some pieces and planed them down a bit closer to 3/8″. They’ll need to be thinner, but that will come later.


And that’s about all I can do for now. I’m waiting on a few mailorder items. Some cutlery rivets and brass tubing for a hole for a thong. I need the exact size of the rivets and tubing to drill the rest of the holes in the blade. After that, I can heat treat and temper the blade. Then solder on the guard, epoxy the handle on, shape the handle, and install the rivets and tube.


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Knife #1 complete

Jan 09 2015

Well, I finished the first knife. Over a week ago, actually, but just getting around to posting this.

Filed and sanded down the handle, polished everything up, applied a couple coats of danish oil to the wood and sharpened and honed the blade. Here’s a bunch of shots of the finished product.

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It’s decent enough for a first knife, but it was more of a learning experience, as you’d expect from your first anything. Some takeaways:

1. Design. If I were doing this knife again, I’d make the blade a bit shorter and the handle a bit longer. The butt of the handle fits nicely inside the palm of my hand, which would be fine for a small carving blade. But with a longer blade like this, you tend to want to do some more beefy cutting, for which you’d need a fuller grip on the handle.

2. The choice of wood for the handle didn’t come out as awesome as I’d hoped. The spalted maple is rather soft, so as I sanded it into shape, particles just kept getting embedded in the wood, giving it a dirty look. More sanding just exacerbated the problem. I’ve since learned about stabilizing wood with resin in a vacuum chamber, and understand why this is done. But I doubt I’ll be going there any time soon.

3. The bevel on the blade was hand filed, without the use of any jig. So it came out convex. Not horrible structurally, but not as pretty as a flat grind. I’ve since picked up a cheap belt grinder, which will solve that problem in the future.

Lots of other stuff learned, and a whole lot went right on this. It’s a decent knife, sturdy enough, and it honed up nice and sharp. Been using it for this and that around the shop, and it feels good to use a tool that I made from scratch.

On to the next projects. Got some 1 1/2″ and 2″ wide, 1/8″ thick steel. I’m going to make a wooden plane and some more knives.


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Making a Knife, Part IV

Dec 23 2014

Here’s the spalted maple I’ve had sitting around for months. Actually, I have a couple of large chunks of this. I sliced off a half inch thick piece for this knife.


Planed down to a bit under 3/8″, cut, drilled, pegged.


And epoxied.


Potential problem. The hole for the front dowel is way too close to the bolster. It’s something I had a little attention on earlier and probably just should have drilled a new hole. If you look closely on the next photo, you can see that the wood split a bit when I put the dowel in. Looks about the same on the other side as well. Here, there even appears to be a little chunk of wood that blew out down by the brass. Argh. I’ll be filing and sanding most of that particular edge away to get it flush with the brass, so I won’t really know how bad it is until I get down there. My guess (hope) is that the epoxy will pretty much keep things together, but there may be a visible crack there. If it’s worse down there, I think I can just force some epoxy – maybe mixed with some sawdust – into any gap to fill it up and stabilize it. Oh well, things have gone remarkably well on this knife otherwise. Mistakes are learning opportunities. Lesson learned.


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Making a Knife, Part III

Dec 22 2014

Made a bit of progress this weekend. Had other projects going on too, but I managed to get the bolsters attached. I countersunk the outer holes with a slightly larger bit, then cleaned all the surfaces and put the bolsters on with a thin layer of epoxy between them and the knife body, pins in place, clamped up and let that harden. ThenĀ  cut off the pins and used a jewelers cross-peen hammer to mushroom them down into the countersunk recesses.


I was super happy with how this came out. I’d actually done several test runs on a spare piece of brass, with different amounts of countersinking and different lengths of pin sticking out. They all turned out abysmally. I’m not sure why I felt the real deal might go ok, but it did, 4 for 4.

Then I followed this up with some sanding. This took off the high points of the pins and in a perfect world you wouldn’t be able to see the pins at all. Mine’s not perfect, but damn close for a first attempt. I’ll take it.

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Next task is to make the handles. I’ve got some beautiful spalted maple that’s been sitting around for months waiting to be used for something special. I think it’s found its new home.

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Making a Knife, Part II

Dec 20 2014

Made some good progress over the last few days. First I did a lot more filing and got the shape of the knife pretty well fleshed out.


Next, I filed down most of the bevel of the blade and drilled a couple of holes in the handle. Dowels will hold things together. I also sanded the whole knife and then polished the blade with abrasive paper up to 1500 grit. In retrospect, this was a waste of time since I’ll have to do it all over again after the heat treatment, which leaves lots of oxidation all over the blade which needs to be sanded off.

Note that there is not really an edge on this yet. I filed the bevel down to leave about a millimeter of width on the knife edge. This is because you don’t want to have a super thin edge during heat treatment, as this will heat up too quickly and start to oxidize. After the rest of the knife is done, I’ll put the final edge on it.


Next came some brass pieces for bolsters. I drilled a couple of smaller holes in the knife and cut off two pieces of 1/8″ brass. Lining those up with the blade, drilled matching holes in those and held everything in place with some 16 gauge brass wire.


Next came shaping the brass, first, filing it in place on the knife so it is even with the top and bottom edges.


I then took the brass off and filed the front and back edges even with each other.


And finally the heat treatment. First, I used a MAPP torch to heat the whole blade to a cherry red, then quenched it in oil to fully harden it. I see now that I’m at about the limit in terms of size that I can do with a plain torch. It was really hard to get the entire blade to stay red. If I moved the flame towards the back, the tip would cool down. When I went back to the tip, the back part would go black.

I wasn’t happy with the first attempt. So I used a few bricks to create a makeshift torch kiln to concentrate the heat. This was barely adequate. I think I got it solidly red long enough before quenching. I don’t have any photos of this part because 1. I was holding a torch, and 2. I needed to move fast. I need a photographer.

After hardening, I needed to temper the blade, otherwise it would be too hard and brittle. This involves bringing it up to a lower heat and letting it cool again. This is best done by color. You look for a “straw” color, particularly along the edge of the blade. You can go up to blue or purple on the back. Earlier, I’d done this in toaster oven, but since then I’ve read that you can just do it with a torch. I like this method much better. So much quicker. First I had to sand all the carbon off the blade from the hardening, to get it nice and shiny. Then I set the torch to a lower flame and played it over the back of the blade. Before long, the whole thing was straw colored and then the purple and blue showed up, right on schedule. Pretty impressed by how this part went.


And that’s where I’m at. I re-sanded and polished the blade. So it looks just like it did in the earlier photos.

From here, I need to attach the brass, cut some wood for the handle, drill that and attach that. Then shape, sand and polish the handle and bolsters. Then I’ll be ready to put a final edge on the blade and hone it.

All this sounds like it’s a lot of work, but honestly I’ve spent a surprisingly few number of hours on this so far. And if I pick up a belt grinder, that will cut huge amounts of time out of the process, compared to hand filing.

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Making a Knife, Part 1

Dec 18 2014

Inspired by my success in making a nicker blade for a plane, I decided to have a go at creating a knife. I got some 3/4″ x 1/8″ O1 tool steel. This is surprisingly cheap. I paid around $8 for an 18″ piece, which should give me at least two knives.

Then I spent some time creating and refining a design. It probably sucks, but you need to start somewhere. Graph paper with 1/4″ grids is a good drawing medium for this step.

I cut out the final shape and sprayed it with some adhesive.


And glued that to the steel.


Cut it to rough length.


Then used an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel to do some rough shaping.




And a good old fashioned file to refine it.

Still lots of shaping left to go on the blade itself, not to mention the shape of the handle. I’ll go back and forth between the grinder for roughing it out and the file for refining it, I think. Eventually, if I get more into this, I’ll pick up a belt grinder, which should make things a lot easier. But I’m willing to put some elbow grease in it for this first time. More updates to follow.

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Hardening a Blade

Dec 06 2014

Following up from my last post on making the nicker iron

I got prepared for hardening the steel. I bought a Bernzomatic TS8000 Map Pro torch. These were highly recommended, and burn hotter than propane torches. Got a can and a quart of peanut oil to quench in, and with some bricks, built a little oven. If I were heating up something larger, I’d have to get a little more intricate to let the heat build up, and use bricks designed for the purpose. This was mainly just to prevent me from setting my bench on fire.


I don’t have any photos of the heating itself, as I only have two hands. I will say that it went disappointingly fast. With such a small piece of metal, and a powerful torch, it was cherry red in under a minute. I kept a magnet nearby to test it with. When you hit the right temperature for hardening O1 steel, it loses its attraction to magnets. Fascinating. And it worked. After the color was right and it passed the magnet test, I put it back in the flame to revert any temperature loss during the test, and then plunged it into the oil.

Again, the oil quench was sadly uneventful as well. No hissing or flames like you see on the knife forging videos. I mean, this iron is the size of a large nail, so not very dramatic at all. But honestly, that’s probably great for a first project of this type.

Here’s the blade after the quench and cleaning up the oil.


Next step, I sanded it down to remove all the carbon from the heat treatment.

When you harden steel like this, it gets very hard. And very brittle. Too hard for practical use. So you have to temper it by bringing it up to a lower temperature for a while. I think this is the more finicky step. Overheat it at this point, and it will be too soft and won’t hold an edge. Don’t heat it enough and it will be too hard and fragile and tough to sharpen.

The step is easily done in a toaster oven set somewhere between 300-400F depending on what you read. I think these toaster ovens have an accuracy range of plus-or-minus 75 degrees anyway, so this is best done by other indicators. As the steel heats up at this point, it will go through various color changes.

You’re looking for a “light straw” color. Indeed, it turned a light straw, then a dark straw, and before I could react, a bronze/gold color, and then the tip started going purple and blue. You might just be able to see the blue in this next photo.

Once I got it out of the oven and cooled down, the whole first inch was a beautiful (and useless) purple and blue. At that point, you’ve ruined any hardness you just created in the first step. Luckily, all is not lost. You just go back and do step one again.

The next time around, I was much more conservative on step two, and watched it like a hawk. You should just be able to see in the next couple of photos that it has a very light brownish tint (light straw, as we say in the metal working biz). I feel like I could have maybe gone a little bit further here, but didn’t want to risk going into the blue area again. I’m not sure how many times you can run through this process before something starts to break down.

Once again, clean up the surface with sandpaper and then over to the diamond sharpening plates for final honing and shaping. In this phase, I got a pretty good feel for how I had done. The steel was definitely hard. A lot harder than when I was shaping it with the file yesterday. But it wasn’t so hard that I couldn’t sharpen and shape it the the diamond plates. So, I think I did pretty good.

Here it is in its new home.

To use it, you pull the plane backwards one or two strokes, to pre-cut the fibers. Then start planing.

In the above two photos, you can see some so-so results. I think I need to adjust the shape of the nicker a bit, give it more of a cutting edge along the sides, as it’s ripping the fibers in some spots, rather than slicing them. And in general, I need some more practice and experience using and adjusting this particular type of plane. But all in all, this whole project has been a blast. Learned some new skills that open up all kinds of possible new projects.

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Making a Blade

Dec 06 2014

Last week I went out the the Grafton Flea Market and in a box of wooden planes, I found this beauty.


It’s an H. Wells wooden moving fillister plane, designed for making rebates in the edges of boards. The bottom is adjustable to change the width of the rebate. There’s a brass depth stop there to set the depth of the rebate. This works fine when going along the grain, but when going across the grain, you’ll get a lot of tearout along the edge. The solution is a small blade that goes into the empty slot there right behind the depth stop. It’s called a nicker. It sticks out just a bit deeper than the main blade and scores the wood before the blade scrapes out the rebate, so you get a nice clean edge. Unfortunately, the nicker on this plane is missing.


I saw that it was missing when I bought it and dug through the box the plane was in, to no avail. Still, for $10, I couldn’t pass up the plane and figured I’d have a go of making a nicker myself. The first thing I did was to go on line and purchase a piece of O1 tool steel. Based on the measurement of the slot, I bought a piece that was 1/8″ x 5/16″ and 18″ long. Since the nicker itself only needs to be about 3″ long, I have plenty of material and can afford to make a few mistakes and learn.


The slot itself is basically a tapered sliding dovetail. About 5/16″ wide on the top and 3/16″ on the bottom. I blackened the steel with a sharpie and used an awl to scribe the shape 3″ from one of the ends.



Then I got to work making that shape. I started with a grinder, which got me the general taper, then turned to a metal file to refine it and slant the edges to make the dovetail shape as well.


A test fit. It’s going about 3/4 of the way down.


After about an hour of grinding and filing, testing and filing some more, bingo! Just right! Actually it’s sticking out a bit far, but that’s fine as the tip will be undergoing some more shaping and sharpening later and will lose some length. I can also shim the slot with some paper to make it a tighter fit, which will reduce how far the edge sticks out. At this point, better to be too far out than not far enough.


I filed a notch near the top of the nicker as well. This will allow me to fit a screwdriver or one of my good chisels (joking) in there to knock it loose and remove it.


Then I roughed out a point on the tip. I’ll be coming back to refine this later.


The finished shape as seen from above and the side.



When I was happy with the shape, I used a hacksaw to cut it to length and filed the end smooth.


I’m pretty proud of how this came out.


The next step will be to harden the steel. Tomorrow I’ll heat it up to around 1400F with a torch, and quench it in some oil, then anneal it in a toaster oven I plan on stealing from my wife. After that I’ll be able to do the final sharpening and honing on the cutting tip.

Then, of course, I’ll need to make a second one so I can talk about making a pair of nickers.

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Phone Stand

Nov 24 2014

Just a quick one. Wife asked me to make her a phone stand. Lots of different designs out there. I just grabbed some scrap 1/2″ walnut and 1/4″ maple, put a couple of grooves in the walnut, cut some strips from the maple, glued it up, shellaced it, and bang, a phone stand. She loves it. I think I’ll make some more of these.






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Scratch Stock

Nov 24 2014

A scratch stock is simply a block of wood designed to hold a small piece of specially cut metal. The metal has a certain shape on it and when you scrape it against some wood, it carves that shape into the wood. Good for making various mouldings or beads on the edges of pieces.

I’d seen this particular scratch stock on the Lumberjocks forum. The user who made it referenced an old Shop Notes magazine article. I dug up the plans and made my own.




In this one, there is a sliding bar that allows you to position the cutter wherever you need to. The bar is cut down the center and the cutter fits into that slot and is held in place with some screws.



The handle has a flat edge and a rounded side so it can be used against a flat piece of wood or a curve.





I bought a set of blank cutters, though any pieces of steel could be used. Using a file, I cut a multiple bead shape in one. And here it is in action on a scrap of pine. This could use some smoothing out with some sandpaper, but overall it works pretty well.



I haven’t found a use for this one just yet, but it was fun to build nevertheless.

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