HackSpace magazine

A two-hour knife

By Ben Everard. Posted

There are times when you need to take your time and do something right. There are also other times when you just need to get something done. I've got a plan to make a kitchen knife to replace our current old, worn knife. I'd like to do this with damascus steel and a good piece of wood for the handle. However, I've never made a knife before so rather than ruining some expensive materials, I thought I'd have a dry run.

The idea of a dry run came to me one morning and I decided to do it there and then with whatever materials and hardware I had. A quick trip to the shed revealed an off-cut of some 2mm mild steel sheet and some 2 x 1 inch white pine. Now, neither of these materials are particularly suited to knife making. Infact, they're incredably badly suited to knife making. They are, however, very well suited to prototyping a knife.

I didn't want to waste a lot of time on this as I only really wanted to see what it was like to go through the process, so I thought I'd see how quickly I could make a knife.

I cut out the blank using a Dremel and a cutting disk: not ideal tools, but doing it quickly meant using what I had, not what I could get. This wore through a few cutting blades, but did the job fast enough. Step two was to cut out two bits of wood for the handle. Some glue and two heavily sunk screws later and the knife was basically all in one piece. The final steps were just removing the bits I didn't want: shaping the handle and putting an edge on the steel.

This was just a quick whittle, grind and sand. All in, I had a knife in about two hours, and that's starting without any experience of knife making. No, I didn't heat treat the steel. That's something I plan to experiment with separately (and not with mild steel). The knife's not a great, long-lasting knife, but it's given me enough insight into the process to start planning my next piece that I'll take a bit more care over.

Don't be dissuaded if you don't have a lot of time or money for making – sometimes the best first step is to make something quickly with whatever you've got lying around. It might not be perfect, but it's a useful process to get a finished product and then set about doing a better job next time using what you learned the first time.

In this build, I learned the capabilities and limits of my tools, the bits that I personally find enjoyable, and that I really want an interestingly shaped blade. Fortunately, I didn't waste a high-quality knife blank learning this – in fact, I didn't waste anything since this was made from bits of scrap lying around my workshop.