First Custom Knife

The process of making my first knife from start to finish was a quite a long but rewarding process. Even though grinding and shaping the knives may have felt like an eternity, the real reason for the months it took to finish my first knife was my apathy for getting this project completed and my plethora or other projects and time-consuming activities.

So to get things started, the first step of this project, as with the majority of my projects, was to get a piece of paper and sketch out what I wanted.

Camping Knife SketchInstead of sketching my ideas directly on the steel bar stock, I first traced the edge of the steel stock onto a piece of paper. Within these boundaries I began sketching. For this knife, I really only had two main concerns. First, I wanted to have an edge that was easy to sharpen. Second, I wanted a good finger notch for fine control of the knife. A straight knife is easiest to sharpen, so I opted for a slightly curved sheepsfoot-style edge. In addition, a choil makes the heel of the knife easier to sharpen, so I decided on using a particularly large choil that would double as a finger notch. In order to get a feel for the knife, I first cut a rough sample out of cardboard. Once modifications to the sketched design were made, I moved onto working the steel bar stock.

Camping Knife RightCamping Knife Left

After many hours of grinding, I finally had the knife roughed out and the primary bevels set. Instead of using a hollow grind for the primary bevel, I decided to use a near full flat grind, because I only had access to a basic belt sander. The thicker spine helps to prevent excessive flex of the blade.

Post Heat-Treatment Camping Knife

Prior to heat treatment, I added two more holes in the handle of the knife. This allowed me to raise and lower the knife from the kiln with a piece of wire. The holes also allow the epoxy to pass through the handle of the knife and provide better adhesion. I was actually pretty satisfied with the surface finish of the knife before heat treatment, but that was ruined with the black scaly buildup on the knife that comes with heat treatment. Instead of totally cleaning the knife, however, I decided to leave some of the imperfections to serve as a reminder that the knife was hand-made.

Preparing Knife for Gluing

Here is the knife just before gluing. In order to prevent damage to the knife, the leading edges of the handles have to be pretty close to finished before gluing. I probably should have cleaned the steel under the handles a little better, because the black scaly buildup from heat treatment has a tendency to flake off.

Kydex Sheath Preparation

After the handles were glued and completed, I moved onto forming the Kydex sheath. Kydex is a proprietary thermoform PVC that many knife makers like using for making durable custom sheaths. To protect the blade and to limit the Kydex shrinkage, I used masking tape to cover the surface of the blade. The small dowel attached to the end of the knife is used to form the drainage hole in the sheath, as inspired by Aaron Gough’s design.

Knife in Kydex Mold

Once the Kydex sheets were heated in the oven, I sandwiched the knife between the sheets and placed everything in the press that I built (maybe another post on this later). I left the stack in the Kydex forming tool for about an hour before removing the blade and sheath.

Removed from Press

Once the the Kydex had sufficiently cooled, I sketched out the design on the Kydex directly, drilled holes, placed rivets, removed the knife, and sanded it to shape. Unfortunately, I did not get pictures of this process.

Finished Knife and Sheath Right SideFinished Knife and Sheath Left SideFinished Knife Spine

These last couple pictures are of the completed knife. Hopefully I’ll get to go camping with this knife soon! If you guys have any questions, let me know. Thanks for checking out this lengthy post.