The Count's Standard Reply to New Knifemakers

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I post this quite often on another forum and hope it's helpful to some here too.

I've put this together to answer most of a new maker’s questions on how to make a knife. I'm sure it will help you too. How to Instructions for making a Knife.

The Count's Standard Reply to New Knifemakers V22

The answer to a 13 year old student is different than to a 40 year old engineer.
We may recommend a local supplier, you may have a helpful neighbour, or local Hammerin; but that depends on where you are. We have members worldwide.
Please fill out your profile with your location (Country, State, City), age, education, employment, hobbies.

Look at the threads stickied at the top; many are expired, but not all.

The basic process in the simplest terms
Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives-Printable PDF-Right Click and Save
Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives-Website

Web Tutorials
Detailed instructions by Stacy E. Apelt

The Things I Advise New Knife Makers Against-Printable PDF

Handle Tutorial - Nick Wheeler-PDF


A list of books and videos

BladeForums - E-books or Google books

I like:
David Boye-Step by Step Knifemaking
Tim McCreight-Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects from a Master Craftsman
These are clear, well organized, widely available and inexpensive too.

Knife Design:

Think thin. A paring knife slices, an axe doesn't.
Forget swords, Saw-tooth spines, guthooks, crazy grinds and folders for your first knife.

Start with a drawing.
Show it to us, we love to see and comment on photos.
Then make a cardboard cutout template & draw in handles, pins and such
Then make it in wood, paint sticks are free & close to the right size.
Play with that and see if it “feels right”. If it feels right it usually “looks right“

See the Google books thread for Lloyd Harding drawings, the Loveless book & Bob Engnath Patterns. Google books thread

Bob Engnath Patterns compiled into a PDF

Forging Books:
Lorelei Sims-The Backyard Blacksmith
An excellent modern book with colour photos for forging in general - no knifemaking.

Jim Hrisoulas- has 3 books on forging knives. Check for the cheaper paperback editions.
The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection
The Pattern-Welded Blade: Artistry in Iron
The Master Bladesmith: Advanced Studies in Steel

Machine Shop Basics -Books:
Elementary Machine Shop Practice-Printable PDF

The Complete Practical Machinist-Printable -1885-PDF
Right Click and save link as.
It’s being reprinted now; you can get it for $20 ish

The $50 knife Shop
It confused me for a long time.
Forging is NOT necessary; you can just file and grind to create a knife (stock removal)

Forget the Goop Quench.
Use commercial quench oil & match oil speed to the steel type; even grocery store canola oil works much better for some steels.

Junkyard steels require skill and experience to identify the steel and heat treat it properly.
Forget about Lawnmower blades and start with a new known steel type.
Good heat treating needs accurate temperature control and full quench.
You can buy proper steel like 1084FG from Aldo very cheaply.

I like cable damascus, but that advanced project has no place in a beginner’s book.

The grinders are the best thing about this book, but there is a huge amount of info for 2x72” belt grinders on the web, including free plans.


Heat Treating Basics Video-downloadable
Right click and save this. Watch it once a day for 10 days.

Right click and save this. Watch it once a day for 10 days.

Many specific how to knifemaking videos are available, some are better than others.

The best overall Knifemaking video I have seen is
“Steve Johnson-Making a Sub-Hilt Fighter”

Basic Bladesmithing
"Ed Caffrey - Basic Bladesmithing-Full DVD-ISO"

The best video on leather sheath making for beginners that I have seen is
“Custom Knife Sheaths -Chuck Burrows - Wild Rose”
-(Paul Long has 2 videos, his sheath work & videos are fantastic, but more advanced-with inlays, machine stitchers..)

Green Pete's Free Video
Making a Mora bushcraft knife, stock removal, hand tools, neo tribal / unplugged heat treat.
Use a piece of known steel, not a file. I just post this as an example of doing it by hand with few tools.
"Green Pete" posted it free using torrent files.
Be sure to look at the other titles too-The account index has disappeared, but search for LOTS of info. Use the keywords “LurkerLurker torrent” “knifemakerC torrent” and others
Greenpete Knifemaking Basics-on TPB

How to download that video

You can see a list of videos and reviews at this rental company; some are worth buying, some renting…

Draw Filing Demonstration
YouTube video -Draw Filing-for a flat finish

The “welding steel” at Home Depot / Lowes… is useless for knives.
Forget about lawnmower blades ,files and other unknown junkyard steels.
For all the work involved, it is very cheap to buy and use a known good steel.

If you send out for heat treating, you can use
Oil quenched O1, 1095, 1084
Or air quenched A2, CM154, ATS34, CPM154, 440C, plus many others.

For heat treating yourself with minimal equipment, find some Eutectoid steel.
1084FG sold by Aldo Bruno is formulated for Knifemaking, Cheapest & made for DIY heat-treat.
Phone # 862-203-8160

1095 is a good carbon steel, but a bad choice for a beginner with limited equipment.
1095 is "Hypereutectioid" and needs very precise temperature control and proper fast quench oil Like Parks 50 or Houghton K
Kevin Cashen - 1095 - hypereutectoid steel

If you are sending one or 2 knives out for heat treatment, use 154-CM or CPM-154 and ship it out to TKS -Texas Knifemaker Supply
It's the cheapest way to do 1 or 2 because of HT minimum charges.

You can find a list of suppliers here

Heat Treating

You can send blades out for heat treating at $10 or $15 per blade for perfect results, and avoid buying the equipment.

Air Hardening Stainless Steel Only
Buck Pau Bos -Be sure to check the Shipping and Price tabs.

Oil Hardening Carbon Steels and Air Hardening Stainless Steel
http://www.knifemaker.ca/ (Canadian)

Quenchants for Oil hardening steel
Forget the Goop Quench.
Forget used motor oil, it's toxic and doesn't work that well.

Use commercial quench oil & match oil speed to the steel type;

Even grocery store canola oil works well enough for your first knife-if you use the right steel.

Brine and water are almost free, and technically correct for W1 and "water hardening" steels but a fast oil like Parks 50 and Houghton Houghto Quench K are less likely to give you broken blades.
If you use water or brine, expect to have a cracked or broken blade.
Search the work "tink" for more info

Glue – Epoxy

Use a Fresh package of slow setting, high strength epoxy to attach blades to handles and well as seal out moisture.
Surface Prep is vital, drill tang holes/ grind a hollow, roughen the surfaces with abrasive, blasting is best.
Ensure the surface is clean & no oil including fingerprints. Soap, Acetone & Alcohol, Blasting.
Clamp with moderate pressure= avoid a “glue starved joint” when all the adhesive is squeezed out.
These are well proven.
Brownell's Acraglas
West Systems G Flex
JB Weld

Grinder / Tools

Hand Tools
You can do it all by hand with files and abrasive cloth like the Green Pete video.
Files can be made from unhardenable steel, or steel similar to 1095 that needs a difficult HT
Just use 1084 instead of a file.

Photo of a nice bevel filing jig

Entry Level Grinders
Many makers start with the Sears Craftsman 2x42 belt grinder

Low Speed Modification Craftsman 2x42 belt grinder

Commercial Production 2 x 72” Belt Grinder Reviews

In my opinion, variable speed and a small wheel attachment are essential on a good grinder.
You can almost always improve tracking with more belt tension. It needs to be way tighter than you first think.


Mapp arm – Grinder Toolrest

DIY 2 x 72” Belt Grinders

KMG Clone Free Plans

NWG No Weld Grinder

EERF Grinder (EERF =“Free” backwards)

Buy the kit

What Belts to buy?

Safety Equipment
Protect your -Eyes, Ears, Fingers, and Lungs – remove jewellery and put on safety gear.

Chronic lung disease and cancer really suck the joy out of life.
Don't believe me? google "Ed Caffrey lung cancer" and see what he has to say about it.

The minimum I would consider are the 3M 7500 and North 7700 silicone half masks with a P100 Filter.
Use a VOC & P100 combo cartridge for protection against acetone and solvents.
There are also prefilters that snap over the main filter for longer life.

For beards, pick one of these
3m Breathe Easy
Trend Airshield Pro
Air Cap II

V22 Jan 11 2012 for IFI

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Very helpful stuff. Lots and lots of information there.

My only concern is information overload can be intimidating for a newbie.

I will be following and reading most of the attached material over the next couple days. Thank you for putting it together.


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I agree Phil, Info overload can stall out the enthusiasm when they don't know where to go next.  Instead of just referring someone to the stickies, which they never seem to read anyway...

I post this in the threads they start & hopefully they can find it again go back to it as often as they need to.

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