Making a knife involves many steps. This page is still in progress, we will be adding more details and pictures in the near future.
It all starts with pen and paper then a marker on a piece of steel.
The process, stock removal vs forging.
Forging is the process that involves taking a chunk of metal and hammering it into the rough shape of the blade through repeated heating and hammering. Stock removal involves cutting a knife shape out of steel hot rolled between rollers into the the thickness desired for the final blade. The end result is the same. Damascus steel is only able to be made through forging as it is made up of different metals welded together into one in the heat and hammering of forging.
Steel: virgin or repurposed?
It is always nice to repurpose things. We like to use old files when ever we get a chance. The steel is high quality and often the files have interesting and useful patterns you can keep on them. For some jobs though getting a piece of high quality steel that you know the molecular make up of can not be beat. We use mostly 1095 high carbon steel and 52100 high carbon steel.
The virgin steel we buy come annealed which means it is not hardened yet and is easier to cut and shape and drill. Files when used need to be heated up and left to air cool so that they can become annealed or softened enough to work . Files do what they do because they are so hard.
Cutting of steel can be achieved with a torch or cut off wheel or jig saw or band saw or hack saw or plasma cutter or laser or water jet. There are many options.
The rough shaping can either be done on the forge and anvil or in the case of stock removal can be done with grinders belt sanders.
The Grind, types of grinds
There are many types of grinds which we will discuss in some detail each has a purpose and use and cutting characteristic and the type of grind can effect the sharpness and durability of the edge. Prior to the heat treating the shape is defined but the knife is not made too thin to help prevent melting and warping. Types of grinds we use are flat grinds, Scandie grinds, convex and hollow grinds.
Drilling and Cleaning
Before hardening the knife must get holes drilled in the handle. and sanding to get some of the deep scratches out. This is also a time we can add decorative file work down the spine of the blade as well.
Our knives are heat treated in a coal forge. When the knives reach the critical temperature around 1400 degrees where the steel loses it’s magnetic properties (which we check with a welding magnet) it is then quenched in a bath of Canola oil. .
After the quench, the knives have a black coating from the oil and the heat of the forge. They will be placed on a rack in the oven at 400 degrees for several hours. Tempering take the hardened steel which is now so hard the it could break if dropped and softens it enough so that it has some flex and give.
The knife now goes through its final grand to thin out the blade a bit and make it a better cutter. The thinner the blade the sharper it is. The bevel of the blade really starts to take shape here. Care must be taken not to heat the blade up too much as this can effect the temper so it is dipped in water to cool it every few passes
A 3M Scotchbrite belt can help clean up and remove quenching and heat treating buildup as well as large scratches from the blade surface.
Handle and Bolster
The next step is to decide what kind of handle material will be used. Wood, bone, antler or synthetic? The material is cut and fitted to the handle and then a strong two part epoxy as well pins or rivets or screws are used to hold the handle on. These get clamped up and set to cure over night. The handles are then roughly shaped on a sander and then finished by hand. Sometime a knife needs a bolster this is a piece of metal often brass in our shop but sometimes stainless or nickle silver or Damascus. This piece of metal has to be cut out and shaped then pinned and glued to the handle. This is one of the more trying jobs.
Polish Handle and Blade
The blade after heat treating and cleaning is taken through a hand sanding process starting at 60 grit, followed by 80, 120, 220, 400, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, and finally 5,000 grit. The wooden handles also receive the same sanding treatment after they are roughly shaped.
I have to admit I have a bit of a sharpener fetish. I have have about 5 types right now and there are at least 2 others I want. When sharpening a knife the goal is to get the proper angle of blade edge bevel for the type of knife you are designing. Asian knives are typically 15-17 degrees and European kitchen knives are about 20 and hunting knives can go up to about 30. The thinner the blade the sharper it is but also the more fragile it is. The part that cuts can not be seen by the naked eye but if the part you can see is not right it will effect the sharpness and cutting ability of the knife. Once the angle of the bevel is right you need to put the edge on. This is done by persistent and consistent grinding on both sides of the blade until a small burr becomes apparent on the edge of the knife sometimes it is hard to see but you can feel it if you run your finger across the blade from spine to edge. Never run your finger down the length of the blade. Once you have this burr the entire length of the blade you then strop the blade to remove the burr. When the bur is removed you have a sharp edge. Further gentle polishing of the blade can improve the sharpness. Knives are generally referred to as toothy sharp, razor sharp and shiny sharp. Toothy is good for most work knives, shaving is just that will take hairs off and shiny is more like a scalpel in sharpness.
Our logo is etched on with an electro-chemical etcher which uses electricity and a chemical and a template to etch the “Get Stabby” logo on each blade.
We tend to make a dangler sheath which is easy and the best sheath in our experience to wear because it does not get in your way you don’t feel it all the time, it protects the knife and the knife does not fall out. This is the style of sheath used by Finish Lapplanders for hundreds of years. It just works. Leather is wetted and wrapped around the knife then it is stitched and cleaned with acetone then dyed and cleaned off and oiled.
The leather is clamped around the knives and left to dry over night. The result is a form-fitting sheath.
We also occasionally make full wooden sheaths with encased full tang handles of a matching wood.