Yes you can make a knife! It’s not that difficult and it’s a lot of fun too. With a few tips you can make a knife out of a file and be totally satisfied with the end result. *If you'd rather watch my knife making videos, or would rather see a more current process, click here for Making a Neck Knife Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.*
For my first homemade knife, I used all hand tools.
1. Get your barstock. This is the one I used.
2. Heat it up. Get your coals going and throw in your file. Use your blowdryer to stoke it and get the whole thing red hot (once I was ready to upgrade from a blowdryer, I got and still use this forge).
3. Cool It Slowly. Put your file in a pile of sand (I use this vermiculite). The slower it cools, the softer it will be when you’re ready to work it. Do not skip this step when using a file. In its original form, the file is too hard and it’ll either break or wear out your blades and bits during the whole process.
4. Shape It. Cut out your profile using a hacksaw (I love this one) or angle grinder (I'm saving up for this one) and drill your handle holes. If you chose to use a file for your knife material, this is where you can knock down the groves a little. Or if you prefer, sand them off completely. Personally, I like the look of the lines myself.
5. Grind the Primary Bevel. There are a lot of bevels to choose from. Once you’ve made your choice, take off a little at a time and keep the file cool. Leave about a dime's thickness at the cutting edge and don’t sharpen an edge on it yet.
6. Reheat your blade. Back it goes into the fire. Have a can of canola oil ready for the hardening process. I heat a piece of barstock and stick it in the oil to warm it up first. This is very important. Now get the blade red hot again. If a magnet wont stick it’s ready (I use this to test).
7. Quench your blade. While it’s red hot, stick it right into the warm oil. You might see flames. Don’t pull it out again unless you want to start a fire. Leave it there until the flames are out and move the blade around in the oil a bit.
8. Sanding. Get the gunk off of it. I started with 200 grit (this is the pack I get). Move up the grit scale to the desired finish, but don’t yet sharpen it.
9. Tempering. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees (this is why I use canola oil to quench). Put the blade directly on the rack for an hour. If your blade turns a golden straw color, it’s done. Put it in cold water to stop the tempering. If it’s blue or purple, it’s ruined. Try the process again.
10. Glue the handle scales. Drill and glue your handles. Clean off any glue from the blade portion with rubbing alcohol and a Q-Tip. Sometimes I opt out of handle scales (seen here), sometimes I make my own, sometimes I purchase scales and hand carve them. It's your call. Here are some scales I like and will probably purchase in the near future...
11. Shape and finish. Contour the handle and sand it to the desired look and feel. Check out my blog post on handle-making here.
Optional – I dunk the knife in white vinegar. High carbon steel is prone to rust if not protected. Putting it in vinegar will force a patina to help protect it. I like the way it looks too.
12. Sharpen. This is what you’ve been waiting for. Choose your own method, but when you’re finished you will feel relieved. Add a thin coat of 3 in 1 oil and this blade should last a lifetime.
I hope you will enjoy the whole process as much as your knife. Check out my blog post on maintaing your high carbon knives here.
I'll write a DIY on leather sheaths soon.
Be safe. Use wisdom. God bless.
Not ready to make your own knife but still want one? Check out my available handmade knives for sale below. Check out my entire gallery here.