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Recently I made a knife for a young lady called Hannah at the request of her father. You see, Hannah was in the Scouts, and her Dad wanted to get her a special knife for her birthday, now that she was old enough to use one safely. Hannah chose her own woods for the handle (ebony and pink ivory), and her hand measurements (so it could be exactly the right fit. They also asked if it would be possible to document making the knife - this is the story of that knife ...

First steps - create a blank


The blank is the outline of the knife in 3mm high carbon steel. I use a template and a fine point Sharpie to mark it out ...


... and then over to the Knife Grinder to rough out the shape of the knife.


Since the handle is made from two different woods, I need to cut those out on the bandsaw ...


... and then make sure that they all fit properly on the blank before gluing them up to make two scales (sides)


While the glue is setting, I can go back to the blank. Time to put the initial bevels on! 

My knife grinder can tilt the grinding surface very precisely (to within 0.01 of a degree!), which means the jig holding the knife can stay flat - I find it easier to work this way, but there are as many variations on grinder setup as there are knifemakers :D


Here we go - first bevels done.

At this stage, I will also drill the holes for the pins 


Now it's time for the magic ...

This is my gas forge, which is capable of getting up to 1500'C, which is pretty hot!

In goes the knife, held by a pair of tongs.


For heat treating a knife, we're typically looking at getting the knife to an even heat of around 800 - 900', depending on the exact type of steel being treated.

This can be done by eye, but an infra red thermometer is more reliable ;)


Once ready, it is taken out of the forge and quickly plunged (quenched) into oil. This rapid cooling is what makes the steel hard.

I'm not going to talk about why here, but if you're interested Google is your friend - metallurgy is fascinating, but complex!


When it is first out of the quench the steel is very hard, but also brittle and will easily break.

To bring toughness into the blade as well as hardness, the blades are tempered in an oven. I tend to forge in batches - this is a picture of a few sat in the oven at 200'C for 2 hours. Hannah's is on the left.

Back to the grinder. Now that the steel is hardened, the sparks are flying!


Quick tip - hardenable steel contains a large amount of carbon. To test if a piece of steel is high in carbon, get an angle grinder on it and look at the sparks - if they fork yellow like lightning, then the steel is high carbon. If they are just yellow dots, then it is a low carbon steel and will never harden, no matter what you do. 


This video shows the knife is hardened, so we're good to carry on shaping the final bevels and polishing before fitting the handle.


The blade is wrapped in paper towel and tape, both to protect it and me - it's now very sharp.

The scales that I made are glued on one side at a time so that I can make sure I drill the holes in the wood in the right places to match the holes in the metal


Once the glue has dried, the pins are inserted and swelled with a round nosed hammer. While I use industrial strength epoxy, a knife should always be mechanically attached in my book - much safer.

In this image you can also see the brass Hare pin, which is my makers mark. I do not make these - the are made by a great craftsman in the Ukraine called Arca.

From this point it's a lot of sanding on the grinder, sanding by hand with ever finer sandpaper, and finally a coat of hard wax to finish.

Hannah's Knife

Hannah's knife.jpg

And here is the finished knife!

Hannah had asked for her name to be put on the knife, so that is engraved in the handle and then blackened by burning with a pyrograph. Always happy to modify to a customer's request!

Thanks for reading - hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to ask any questions or give feedback via

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