Looking Sharp: How to Make Your Own Knife in 8 Steps

Learn how to build a utility knife, including a homemade knife handle, with these step-by-step instructions.

| April/May 2016

  • Hank’s Knives
    Knife making enthusiast Hank Will crafted these beautiful models in his farm shop.
    Photo by Hannah Kincaid
  • Blade Blanks
    When you purchase blade blanks, look for rivet holes, and features such as bolsters and edge-finishing, which will determine the complexity of your knife build.
    Photo by Hannah Kincaid
  • Utility Knife
    This finished utility knife is the perfect size for day-to-day farm and garden tasks.
    Photo by Hannah Kincaid
  • Tracing Tang
    Trace the full tang, including rivet holes, onto a sheet of cardboard or paper.
    Photo by Karen K. Will
  • Butt-end Template
    The finished, butt-end template should indicate all knife features and the knife's overall orientation.
    Photo by Karen K. Will
  • Wood
    Consider your wood source's availability, grain pattern and hardness.
    Photo by Karen K. Will
  • Template Tracing
    When tracing the template outline onto the wood, mark the holes, and label the top.
    Photo by Karen K. Will
  • Rivet Holes
    Carefully drill your rivet holes with an appropriately sized bit.
    Photo by Karen K. Will
  • Sanding Handles
    Sand your handle-scales from a stable surface like a vice-mounted sander.
    Photo by Karen K. Will
  • Knife Handle Assembly
    Assemble the knife handle with epoxy and rivets from a flat, stable surface.
    Photo by Karen K. Will
  • Handle Contours
    Use a combination of rasps, files, power sanders and sandpaper to bring the handle contours flush with the edge of the tang.
    Photo by Karen K. Will

  • Hank’s Knives
  • Blade Blanks
  • Utility Knife
  • Tracing Tang
  • Butt-end Template
  • Wood
  • Template Tracing
  • Rivet Holes
  • Sanding Handles
  • Knife Handle Assembly
  • Handle Contours

The indispensable utility knife is, without argument, the most useful implement for tooling about a farm, homestead or shop. Whether you’re cutting baling twine or slicing an apple, you’re simply not equipped without a sharp knife.

To build your own beautiful utility knife, you’ll need a full-tang blade blank without a bolster or finger guard, wood for your handle scales (the halves of the handle that you’ll rivet to each side of the tang), some epoxy glue, and a handful of brass pins or cutlery rivets. You can source all the materials for the knife featured in this article, including the tools and handle material, from Jantz Supply.

Tracing the Template

1. Trace the handle area of the knife’s tang onto a piece of paper or light cardboard. Extend your mark to the blade and indicate where the sharpened area begins. Cut out your traced template, leaving 1/8-inch margins for your outline. To finish the handle’s mock-up, trace any rivet holes from the blade blank onto the template.

2. While the knife’s tang will determine the butt end of the template, you’ll have to commit a bit more thought and care into crafting a symmetrical, eye-pleasing blade end design. Start by measuring from the center of the rivet hole nearest the handle’s butt end to the bottom of the handle. That measurement will also mark the distance from the center of the hole adjacent to the blade to the blade end of the handle. Position the bottom of a glass or bottle against the blade end mark, with the outside of the curve pointing toward the blade, and trace the outline. This will define the blade template. Finally, punch out the centers of the rivet holes you traced onto the template.



Handle Work

3. To select a wood source for your handle, consider availability, grain pattern and hardness. Because I work in northeastern Kansas, I prefer species such as Eastern black walnut, black locust and Osage orange.

4. Trace the outline of the template onto the wood, mark the holes, and label the top. Next, cut out the handle-shaped piece with a bandsaw. If you don’t have access to a bandsaw, use a coping saw, jigsaw or other handsaw with rasps to form the shape. Finally, cut the wood in half — again, preferably with a handsaw — to create two identical scales, one for each side of the handle.






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