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beginners advice

Thu Jan 17, 2013 8:18 pm

Hey, I know this isnt exactly pertaining to the site but couldnt think of a better place to ask it.
Ive been considering getting into my own knife making since ive sort of got the "obsession" with knives and sharpening in the past year.
First off.. Where do I even get started? Where can steel be bought from? Can I just buy steel blanks in an approximate length and thickness and grind them to a desired profile? What sort of tools will be needed other than a good quality (2x72) belt sander?

Any and all information would be greatly appreciated.


Re: beginners advice

Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:20 am

I would pick up a couple of knife blanks from a supply house like Jantz, Texas Knife, Knifekits and build up a finished knife by putting a handle on and shaping/polishing it out. Once you have that part of the knife figure out and are used to working with various tools and machinery, go on to making the blades yourself. I would suggest a few hunting style knives or paring/petty knives (3-5" blades) to keep things simple as you learn to shape the profile of the blade out and start to learn to grind the blades, keeping the grinds even and clean, getting the knives thin enough, etc.

For equipment, a drill press to drill the holes in the tang and handle material is a good tool to have. Even the Harbor Freight 5 speed benchtop model will work for this. A bandsaw is nice to have to cut out the handle material or to split down a block of wood. Again, smaller bandsaws will work for this. I dunno, but a jig saw or scroll saw could probably work. A belt sander is a great thing to have. A 2x72 is the most common belt sander for knifemakers and is versatile. You can do blades completely with files and sandpaper, but it takes a long time to do so. I did my first few knives using files and hacksaw to profile and grind the blade and a drill press to drill the holes. I used a Dremel to help shape the handles for my first few knives. Then I got a 1x30 belt sander. From there, I went to a 2x72 Grizzly to profile and grind the blades, but still had to do a lot of hand sanding. Now I have a 6x48 belt sander to flatten materials, a 2x72 variable speed belt sander with 8" contact wheel, Rotary Platen, Small wheel attachment and a Flat Platen, 14" bandsaw with riser block so I can resaw up to around 12" thick material, wood lathe, Harbor Freight 5 spd. drill press, Jet 16 speed 16.5" drill press, a custom Shop press and other stuff like that.

You can find your steel, sanding belts, files, drills, handle materials, pins, etc from places like Jantz and Texas Knife and other similar places. I would get a few books to read up on the stuff to start. Kitchen knives are a bit more difficult to make due to the longer lengths, so you may want to start with smaller blades first.

Where are you located? You may try to find a knifemaker local to you that you can go visit to see how they do things, the equipment they have, etc.

Re: beginners advice

Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:39 am

also got tons of how tos on youtube. knife making isn't really much of a secret, at least the basics aren't.

Re: beginners advice

Tue Jan 29, 2013 5:47 pm

well now i feel a bit overwhelmed. i have a decent amount of saws and tools for working with wood for the handles but when it comes to the metal tools all i have is a basic bench grinder. looks like i need to stop buying knives and stones, and start saving up haha. Im located in northeast PA and as far as i know there arent any knife makers near me but i may be mistaken.

Re: beginners advice

Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:13 pm

There used to be a few knifemakers in PA. Tom Anderson was near York, but he stopped the knives and is now doing some crazy stuff with Titanium. I went to college at York College and went to Tom's shop a few times to see his stuff and how he does his process. I think if you look at a copy of the Knives 2012 books, they used to list Makers by their name and also by their state. Maybe look in NY and NJ as well if you are close. I am in CT, which is probably farther than you want to travel!

You will need to wood working tools for the handle stuff, so that will come in handy. Most drill presses for wood can also handle metal. A Dremel is a great tool to use as well; cut off wheels can help profile the blank out (WEAR A FACE SHIELD!!!) and the sanding drums can help with the handle shaping in tight areas. If you are going to file the bevels on your first blades, look for finer files and metal shaping files versus wood rasps.

I would get some blanks and start with the handles first and see how the knives are ground. Then get some simple carbon steel and start with that. 1/8" thick is plenty thick for what you are doing!
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