How I make a Knife, Pt. 4

Once the epoxy had cured, I clipped off as much of the protruding pin as I could with wire cutters then used the belt grinder to grind it flush with the wood.

I then wrapped the entire knife tightly with Saran wrap, and wrapped electrical around that to hold it in place. This was to keep the knife from getting wet.

The Saran wrap and tape keeps the blade from getting wet, which could ruin the wood at this stage

I took the leather and soaked it in water, making sure it was thoroughly wet inside and out. Leather is interesting that when dry, retains it’s shape, but when wet, becomes malleable and easily formable. I folded the leather over the knife, which due to the Saran wrap kept dry, and pressed the leather over the blade and the front of the handle using several wood boards and clamps.

The boards press the leather down on the blade, and due to the angle pinch the excess around the handle together to form a snug cocoon.

I left it to dry overnight. This type of sheath not only covers the blade, but part of the handle as well, so the knife stays securely in the sheath with active movement, yet is easy to remove when you want it.

The next day, I removed the knife from the sheath and took of the Saran wrap, and put some tape around the bolster to protect it, and began hand sanding the handle. The tape kept the sandpaper from marking the bolster should I accidentally touch it.

The tape protects the bolster from sandpaper

I put the blade in the vise, using wooden jaws so as not to mark it, and sanded the blade well, starting with 320 grit and moving up to 1500. When sanding the blade, I use a flat stick so I can get flat and even pressure, but for the handle I use my fingers, which one must note are perfect for the job, as the handle has many curves and is round. After sanding the blade to 320, I wiped the blade in a diluted cedarwood oil mix, cleaned it off, sanded to 400, wiped again, and so on. This is so I can well saturate the surface of the wood without drenching it; on many woods if I wait until I get to 1500,  the oil doesn’t sink in using the sandpaper scratches.

Once I was done sanding, I placed a few bits of beeswax on the handle and used a heat gun to melt them over the blade, and then used scrap leather to rub it in, both sealing the wood and simultaneously polishing it.

Now the beauty of the wood is shown

With the knife completely finished save for sharpening, I returned again to the sheath.  I used the slack section of the belt grinder to grind flush the edges.

I used the grinder to perfectly true up the edges

With the edges of the leather true, I opened the sheath up, placed in the knife, and used a pencil to make a guideline along the edge of the blade onto the leather. I then dabbed in a generous amount of epoxy on the outside of this line, from throat (where the blade enters the sheath) to tip.

I make sure not to go over the line, as that is where the blade will be

I then used a number of bricks to press the edges together, and waited for it to dry. While I waited, I began preparing the rivets for the sheath. Leather sheaths are generally held by rivets or by thread, and as I did not have the right thread and also quite bad skills at sewing, I went with rivets. I cut off a long section of copper wire, and placed it end up in the clamp, about half a centimeter protruding, using one wooden jaw and one steel jaw. The wood jaw squished around the wire, holding it on all sides, so it would be less likely to bend over one way or another. I used the back of a ball peen hammer, and lightly began tapping, using the weight of the hammer rather than exerting any force myself. A mis-strike bends the wire over, sometimes too much, so I have to clip the end off and start again. Using the convex side of the hammer mushrooms the copper out, into a nail head shape.

I then clip off the excess wire, so the rod of the “nail” is a little more than a centimeter long. Epoxy hardens relatively quickly, so by the time I was done with the six rivets, it had cured. I drilled holes in possible stress points in the leather, at the tip, top of each side, and evenly in between. I put a rivet into a hole, and the sheath on the vise anvil, rivet head up. Then I used the same technique as I had earlier, (called peening) to mushroom the ends of the rivets into flat heads, firmly holding both sides of leather together. This video shows the full work of the peening.

Once all the rivets were in place and peened, I used a leather conditioner to clean and color the leather.

Then for the final step, I began sharpening. First step in sharpening is always establishing the edge, grinding down both sides until they meet. All knives have two bevels, the secondary bevel, which stretches from or nearly from the spine, until almost to the cutting edge. The primary bevel goes from the end of the secondary bevel to the very edge of the knife, the part that makes first contact when cutting.

In the far right diagram, the primary bevel are the two slopes that start at the point, and go until a corner. The secondary bevel is corner where the primary bevel ends, and extends back until the spine of the knife. In an almost completed but not yet sharpened knife, there is the secondary bevel, but no primary bevel, it’s just a flat surface

In establishing the edge, I’m making the two edges meet in the center, using a coarse stone, so I use a vigorous back and forth motion, shown here.

Establishing the bevel is just making the two sides meet and eliminating the surface that is 90 degrees to the blade. I always sharpen with the knife raised above the stone at about 20 degrees, or less if I can. Once the bevel is established, I hone the blade, making sure there is a very sharp and exact corner. This is by single motions, drawing the blade from tip to heel (end of the cutting edge) five times, running the edge along wood to knock off any tiny bits of steel (burrs) left on the edge, then flipping the blade over and drawing the blade from tip to heel five more times, and de-burr it again. Then I switch to a finer stone and repeat. The trick to making the blade razor sharp (literally), is keeping the blade at the same angle throughout, so the edge is not rounded over. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

After a quick cleaning, the knife is now completed.



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