Knife 56 – A Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke cold forging

  • Blade – 4 3/4″
  • Overall – 9 1/4″
  • Scales – Stabilized Spalted Beech
  • Handle Finish – Hand rubbed Tru-oil

I forged Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke from another tine as shown in knife 36. I sound up breaking it. I knew I was not finished forging it but I ran out of time, so I just left it sitting on the anvil. The next day I only had a few minutes in the shop. I picked up the knife and noticed a slight warp. Sure, I should have known better but my experience working with mild steel sort of kicked in and I gave it a couple good whacks with the hammer. Boom! A duh moment.

You will often hear this kind of finish described as “Brut de Forge” or  “Brute de Forge” – meaning “rough and unfinished”. Part of the blade is left in an “as forged” or partial “as forged” state.

I asked if this would have happened if it was already normalized. Thermocycling will help with the coarseness of the grain.

Tempering will give it bend without the break and leave an edge that will hold its sharpness.

And Lesson learned, do not forge below forging temps.

Fortunately, there was enough left of this Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke to turn it into a hidden tang.

Thermal cycling is a process in which material is cooled and heated in cycles.

Normalizing is to bring or return a substance to a standard or normal condition or state.

As knife makers we thermal cycle our steel to return it to a normalized state, so we call it normalizing or normalization.

I needed to make sure this metal would normalize correctly. After straightening the tines, I found just a light hammer blow would cause the metal to break as shown in the photo to the right. So, I ran a test.

To normalize it, I brought it to nonmagnetic three times, and let it cool in the vise. After normalizing a tried several times to break it and it did not break after several hammer blows.

It was then heat treated as described earlier. The normal test all passed after tempering as well.

Stabilized beech handle

Hand crafted, hand stitched 7-9 oz veggie tanned leather sheath

My Knife 34 came out of the quench with a small warp.

Here is how I fixed it. I’ve used this several times since and it has worked fine every time.

I clamped it to a solid straight piece of metal.

I tempered it at 450 degrees for 2 hours. The warp was slightly diminished but still there.

I added a finish nail behind the knife to provide a slight over bend and tempered for another cycle of 450 degrees for two more hours.

This time it came out straight.

Another option when Straightening a Custom Made Knife after Heat Treating is to use a leaf spring with the curve sill in it. Heat the knife and spring in the oven to tempering temperature and place the knife against the concave side of the piece of spring. apply a small (1″) C clamp to the blade and spring at the place where it warped and tighten till the blade is straight (ware gloves as everything will be hot) temper for 1-2 hours, cool, check and if not straight, do it again this time going a little past the straight point when you clamp.

Straightening Immediately After Quench. Immediately after hardening, while the blade is still warm to the touch, it is remarkably flexible. After a while that goes away and you have a hard, brittle blade.

Being prepared ahead of time with a couple lengths of angle iron in the vise, you can squeeze the knife back to straight. Jason Knight has a video showing how he does it with two pieces of 2 x 4. You only have a short period of time after the quench, so be ready ahead of time.

I’ve also used a leaf spring. The natural curve will sometime help with the over bend. Also keep in mind that additional tempering cycles when Straightening a Custom Made Knife after Heat Treating doesn’t have a whole lot of affect on the hardness.

Steel is  1080            Scales are Mahogany

As with other stock removal knives of mine, the profile was marked out with a maker. The basic shape was uncomplicated and that of a typical hunting knife.

The U shaped brass finger guard was fitted buy cutting the slot, then slowly filing it until it fit. The blade was also filed slightly to create a very shallow shoulder for the brass to slide up to. It was then drilled for 2 brass 1/8” rods which were peened on (after heat treating).

The cap was fitted in the same manner, but it was held in place by peening the tang.

Knife 45 - U shaped Brass Finger Guard

Both the cap and finger guard were fitted prior to the bevel being ground.

I made a small mistake on the scales when I put it together. I didn’t make the scales flush with the top of the cut out for the cap. My thought was peeing would tighten the whole thing. What I didn’t anticipate was the small gap. It’s not a terrible gap, but I know it’s there.

So, the lesson learned is dry fit your design and inspect it very carefully. I should have caught the mistake, but I did not.

Knife 45 - U shaped Brass Finger Guard
Knife 45 - U shaped Brass Finger Guard
Knife 45 - U shaped Brass Finger Guard
Knife 45 - U shaped Brass Finger Guard
Knife 45 - U shaped Brass Finger Guard

Although not completely necessary, i slightly taper the holes from each side to help the peening action hold the guard in place.

Knife 45 - U shaped Brass Finger Guard

The Knife that has been remade

The Knife that has been remade – Lots of Mistakes and really could have been earlier in the lineup, but it has actually been in and out of the lineup, so to speak. I’m trying to keep this line up to pieces that came out successfully or at least close with a strong learning experience. This knife definitely qualifies in the “strong learning” category.

This Knife “The Knife that has been remade” certainly helped with my knife making education. I made a lot of mistakes and most of this Knife is a transition of those mistakes from trial and error and fix this and try that.

The first mistake has to do with the thickness. When I started making this knife, it was meant as a throwing knife. Kind of a remake of the knives I made when I was young. I obviously knew nothing about throwing knives then or at this time.

I didn’t do any research on how thick the knife should be. Now, when I start to design a knife, I research what the traditional thickness is for the style of knife I’m going to make. You’ll obviously find a lot of variations, but you’ll want to define a reason for yourself if you’re hitting the outer edge of the extreme or beyond. With your parameters.

My next mistake was not stopping to redesign. I just kept grinding. I was grinding with an angle grinder (I hadn’t built the belt grinder or the stand for my belt sander yet) and I was designing on the fly.

I soon determined it was starting to look like a hunting knife. Yes, I thought, a Bushcraft style hunting knife.

After getting the holes drilled and the knife heat treated, I made some hophornbeam scales and got them attached. What transformed was one of the ugliest example of knife work I’ve seen. So, into a pile of scrap it went.

Every once in a while, it would come out of the scrap pile for a test of a process. I tried doing some forced patina with coffee. I would save left over coffee in the morning and soaked the knife in it. That didn’t work. I guess my coffee wasn’t strong enough. It did stain the handle though. Lesson learned.  Be careful of the handle when forcing patina.

I also soaked it in vinegar. I didn’t like the outcome. It was not very dark but very blotchy. It also stained the end of the handle. Lessons learned.

Sooner or later it dawned on me that I could turn the handle into one with a hidden tang. I dug up an old wood chisel and commence to removing the handle. This is where I discovered how hard it would be for a handle to separate. It came off in little pieces. After cutting the brass pins flush, I still had to beat them out with a punch.

Rather than risk ruining the temper buy trying to burn the tang into the handle, I decided on a two piece. This worked out fairly well buy simply marking out the two scales and using a chisel to carve out the tang on both sides. As an afterthought, I could have gone with a framed tang as well. The framed tang would probably have looked better.

And yet, it still did not look very good. I just didn’t like it so it again, sat on the bench until motivation struck again. This time I decided to build up a handle. I went to the leather scrap box, cut some squares, punched the center holes for the tang. I dug up some mahogany and drilled for the tang for a front and bit piece. I epoxied them together and clamped them right.

I’m not sure the story has ended for this knife.

Knife 32 – Mini Cleaver is a small chopper or mini cleaver.

  • Made from 3/32” 1095 steel
  • Laminated Rosewood and maple scales with G10 spacers
  • Blade is 4”
  • Overall length is 8 ¾”

This mini cleaver or herb chopper was a trial and error kind of learning exercise.

The tang was a little too narrow, but I figured that would be acceptable for a herb chopper. As it turned out I was right

This was made from a left-over piece of 1095. The shape of the piece of steel inspired the knife. I also wanted to try grinding after heat treating before I did it on a full-size cleaver like Knife 30 – Cleaver and Knife 35 – Serbian Cleaver

I discovered with a good ceramic belt, and submerging in the water bucket every stroke, it didn’t take long at all. I keep the belt running about half speed. This worked out well and grinding after helps eliminate a potential for warping during heat treatment.

Knife 32 – Mini Cleaver

The other lesson learned on this knife has to do with carefully choosing the scales. There are some blemishes in the scales I didn’t notice before I put them on. It won’t hurt the performance of the knife, but if I wanted to sell the knife, it would be a harder sell and would definitely warrant a price reduction.

I now inspect the scales much more closely. Other than the minor imperfect in the scales, it came out well. The knife turned out to be an exceptional kitchen knife.

Because of the small blemish on the bottom of the handle, I thought about removing the handle and starting over, but it’s unnoticeable enough that I decided to offer it as it. I obviously had to point it out clearly in the description and priced it accordingly so someone got a great knife at a great price.

See more on this style of grinding on Knife 30 – Cleaver

Knife 31 – Santoku – With Hand Sanding Details

The Santoku is a general-purpose kitchen knife originating in Japan. Its blade is typically between 5 and 8 in long, and has a flat edge and a sheepsfoot blade that curves in an angle approaching 60 degrees at the point.

 Knife 31 – Santoku – has purpleheart and maple scales with G10 spacers.

3/32” 1095 steel. 7″ blade.

The next pictures show some hand sanding. When hand sanding all you need is a piece of scrap hardwood or metal about 12” long and 1 ½” to 2” wide. Wrap the sandpaper around the wood and hold the sandpaper tight with you thumb and finger. I typically begin sanding with 80 or 100 grit, but this will also depend on the finish as it comes off the grinder. As your grinding technique gets better, and you find the right combination of belts for your metal, style and finish desires, you will find hand sanding gets easier and shorter. Progress through the grits. At 600 grit you’ll start to see some “polish”. You can sand through 3000 grit if that is the desired look or you can stop at any point you think you’ve reached what you like.

There are so many ways and so many opinions on how a knife should be finished. Typically however you can stop sanding somewhere between 320 and 600 grit. You can also use conditioning belts. The conditioning belts will save you a bunch of hand sanding work. There are trade offs and it is mostly personal preferences. You will need to try different techniques to see what YOU like.

Knife 31 - Santoku - With Hand Sanding Details
Knife 31 - Santoku - With Hand Sanding Details

Notice here i had not build the knife vise yet. That’s really not much of a problem. The knife vise just adds a Little more convenience.

Knife 31 - Santoku
Knife 31 - Santoku
Knife 31 - Santoku
A belt”ding”

Ideally you want a kitchen knife of this style to have a blade that starts 1/8” thick by the spine, and tapers down linearly so that the width goes to zero at the edge. That means removing metal in a consistent fashion on both sides of the knife.

The first few times you do this you may wind up with the spline being about 1/8” thick part way down, then it started tapering to an edge. The closer to the spline this taper stats, the better the knife will work.

This is where grinding experience helps, and it will come in time. You can help your odds but going slow and checking your work often. As you grind, use pressure to “push the grind line in the direction you need it to go. Use a sharp belt if you are using a belt grinder.

And remember, if you sharpen all the way to a crisp sharp edge before heat treating, it could be (probably will be) ruined when you heat treat your knife and will increase the likelihood that the blade will warp.  

Knives 23-30 – Kitchen Knife Set

This Knives 23-30 – Kitchen Knife Set was made at the request of my son Francis and Daughter-in-law Marla. The ask was, “We are also looking for a new butcher/kitchen knife set. A combo of the 2 sets to replace the old junk set we’ve had for 15 years. Something like 4 steak knives, a large size kitchen knife or chef’s knife, essentially what comes in a kitchen/butcher knife set combo. So, it’s really up to you. “

This set was also made from the same lumber as their kitchen counter, kitchen island and a few other kitchen cabinets made.

Shelving made from the same tree as the scales and knife block
kitchen Island top made from the same tree as the knife scales and knife block

So, the learning continues and making this many knives at once made me focus on my mistakes. Most of these mistakes simply took the form of extra work.

For these knives when grinding the bevel, I found the best approach was starting at 36 grit, then going to 80 grit, then 120, 220 and 320. At that point I found it best to switch to hand sanding.

Hand sanding started at 100 grit, then 180, then 220 and up to 320 was pretty easy and took very little time.

All this before heat treating.

After heat treating and tempering, I discovered going straight to hand sanding worked best. I just do not have the muscle control yet to not wind up with some dig marks that are hard to sand out and I’m beginning to believe it’s best to do the final sanding by hand.

Update: Finding better belts has helped a lot. After get past 220 grit i find I do better with belts that are more flexible.

Being able to slow the belt grinder down to a very slow speed helped my control so if when hand sanding I discover a very bad spot, I’ll go back to the belt to sand it out. I switched back and force from hand sanding and the belt, trying to keep most of my work to hand sanding at this point. I sanded up to 2000 grit.

The biggest lesson I learned with this set of knives has to do with materials.  I decided I wanted to try some nickel rod for pins. The pins came out hard enough that finishing them on anything but a flat surface a problem because the wood would sand quicker than the pin, leaving a hollow. Even using a dowel or other material as a sandpaper backing, it was difficult. This isn’t a shot against the rod, but some advice. If you’re going to try something new, try it on a single knife first, not a complete set. From now on this type of rod will only be used when the surface will be flat.

If you’re counting the knives in the first two pictures, the last knife is shown as bare metal. I ran out of steel for the fourth steak knife. The smaller paring knife wasn’t actually planned, but it was what was left of a bar of steel. I had to place an order for the fourth steak knife of the set.

I also found that making all the knives exactly alike was extremely difficult. Bottom line is I will not make a set like this until my skill level has risen. Take out the steak knives though, and everything else is different anyhow. Keep that in mind if you’re going to make your first “set”.

The block is made from spalted maple (again, same as the kitchen remodel lumber)

Knife 21 – Hidden Tang From a File – Stacked Leather Handle

Knife 21 – Hidden Tang From a File – Stacked Leather Handle was made from a worn-out file, this would have been a great knife had I stopped and thought about the design before I built it. There are several design mistakes in this knife. The handle is too short. Not that a longer handle is a must, but for this knife style, it just doesn’t fit.

I made the finger guard stop in the same place top and bottom (see the image) so it left an unsightly gap in the blade. I then tried to fix that gap by grinding, but that only made it slightly better.

Design Note: Round handles do not provide natural indexing for the blade edge. Oval will provide an index of the edge in relationship to the grip and will also deliver the ability to apply twisting force if needed.

Short handles are very undesirable for knives that will be worked hard. They should be long enough for all fingers to squeeze the handle comfortably and securely.

Although a person with small hands could use this knife comfortably. And for short task the knife works well. A short profile also makes it easier to carry and lessens the weight. As always there are trade offs.

Knife Design

After doing a little research and looking at a lot of knives, I’ve come to the conclusion that a length of 4 1/2 inches is a good size for an average comfortable knife handle. So as rule all blades would be about 7 3/8” long. So, at times we need to skew the results of the golden ration when we want a 4” blade. The point being is a shorter blade may look better with a shorter handle, however it will not function as well, so the trade offs need to be made.

Handles will be designed longer or shorter depending on the type of knife, it’s intended use, and also possibly the size of the user’s hands. This can be a personal preference as well on a custom knife. In general, a handle a little too long is better and more comfortable than a knife handle to short.

Blade lengths will be longer or shorter depending on the kind of knife, the intended use, and so forth.

As with most physical design functions, a paper draft can look much different than when the knife is built. It’s always a good idea to make a wood or cardboard mockup. I have gotten into the habit of making a template as part of the build. This helps in two areas. It allows it to be seen in physical form, and it allows it to be duplicated or modified if another one is to be made.

  • Design the knife based on its function.
  • Test your design
  • Use prototypes

Here Knife 21 – Hidden Tang From a File – Stacked Leather Handle is fully profiled. The bevel was ground on the belt grinder. Note the notches in the tang to help the epoxy grip.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File - profile
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

The Knife guard was cut from a piece of steel I found laying around the shop.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File Ready for hand sanding
Ready for some hand sanding

Next up is cutting and stacking the handle leather. I save all my scrap leather just for this purpose. I cut the pieces in squares and punch a center slot for the tang.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Then after putting the finger guard on I coat each piece with epoxy (using slow curing) and stack and clamp it.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

After the epoxy cures it’s time to profile the handle. I cut to basic shape on the band saw

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Taping the blade not only protects the blade from epoxy and being scratched, it also helps protect me from the sharp edge.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
After profiling and sanding
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File
Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Here is the design flaw. It was a foolish mistake and a poorly executed build. I’ll chalk it up to inexperience.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File

Next is a half-hearted attempt to fix it by grinding the back down. It looked better, but I’m still not very happy with myself on this one.

Knife 21 - Hidden Tang From a File




Straightening a Custom Made Knife after Heat Treating

As you can see, this knife didn’t work out so well. I certainly should have known better, but you simply cannot bend a knife like this after it’s been heat treated.

Lesson learned!

It’s possible to Straightening After Quench. Immediately after hardening, while the blade is still warm to the touch, it is remarkably flexible. After a while that goes away and you have a hard, brittle blade.  See page 48 for more straightening tips.

See Straightening a Custom Made Knife after Heat Treating

Design Note: The clip point blade and the drop point blade are the common types of hunting knives other than the skinner. The clip point knife is versatile enough to be used for general camp chores and specialized hunting jobs, including field dressing and skinning. This is a good all-around knife. The drop point knife is often considered a specialized hunting knife. It’s used to dress the animal and skin it, but shouldn’t be used to cut rope or twigs, or do other general camping-related chores. The drop point is designed to use the entire blade when skinning. Using the entire blade not only speeds up the process but reduces the risk of damaging the meat. Because it doesn’t have a distinct point, you’re less likely to tear into the meat while you’re skinning the animal.

As a hunting knife, A Clip Point style of knife is great for the occasional hunter. It has a defined point on the end and will perform all the tasks needed for the occasional hunter. The clip point style blade will do everything that the drop point will do but it may just take you longer to do it with the clip point as the point is not as strong as the drop point.

Why I let this happen I’m not sure. It would have been an easy fix before it was epoxied into the handle