At this point I decided I wanted to stabilize the wood I used for handles. Stabilizing Scales (and handles) helps eliminate the possibility of the handle going bad because of moisture causing expansion or contraction if it dries out. It minimizes or eliminates warping, cracking and other issues that can occur with wood when used under extreme circumstances. It also would allow me to use some spalted wood that wouldn’t normally be a good handle.
The equipment required for Stabilizing Scales is a bit expensive, so if you’re only going to make a few knives, and have no other use, it’s may be best to just buy scales or use wood that’s dry and stable. You may also want to focus more on making knives. Either way using stabilized scales is a great way to get some interesting figured scales.
If you want to stabilize your own however, you’ll need a vacuum
pump, a vacuum chamber, a scale and stabilizing liquid. You’ll also be using
the toaster oven. I chose Cactus Juice (it’s a brand name, not real Cactus
Juice) for the stabilizer. This process also allows you to dye the wood in
multiple colors, although it will add expense for each color.
I dry the blanks in the oven. I built a rack so they would stay separated. I weigh one and put it in for a couple of hours at about 210 degrees. Some documentation says to use 220 degrees, but I’ve had scales start to burn at 220 degrees. Other documentation says to leave it for 24 hours, but I refuse to leave wood roasting in my shop when I’m not there.
After a couple hours I start weighing one piece and tracking
the weight. When it stops losing weight, I give it one more 30 minute cycle and
stop it there. I immediately put it in a zip lock bag, wrap it in plastic wrap
or put it in an airtight container to keep it from sucking up the moisture from
From here follow the manufacturer’s instructions to stabilize it.
I found the scalloped finishing belts very helpful on the handle of this Full Tang Puukko.
Finding the right belts can be a bit of a learning curve. Here is a little of what I’ve picked up so far. Here is some information that may be helpful for the steel grinding.
You want ceramic belts for rough grinding
they last longer (a lot longer) than aluminum oxide.
they cut better
the cut cooler
120 grit is about as high as they go
They do not work as well in wood and other handle materials.
Use and old belt to get the corners and rough edges off, then switch to a newer belt. It makes them last longer.
Grinding Nice Plunge Lines.
I’ve said this before, but Grinding even plunge lines is one of the hardest things for the beginner to do well. It is also one of the first things a buyer will likely check on your knives.
Using J Flex belts. J Flex Belts are about as flexible as abrasive belts get. It’s often recommended to starting with a 120 grit belt tracked slightly over the edge of the platen, but I start higher, like 220 grit. Experience may drop me back to 120, but not yet. The plunge line is ground on one side of the knife, If free hand grinding, normally the first grind is done on the off hand. The belt is then tracked over the other side of the platen and the other side of the knife is ground by eye to match. This method requires only a few dollars worth of belts but takes some practice. It is not uncommon to radius the platen for a better result, but with practice this is not necessary.
I will also Clamp the knife in a file guide and grind up the guide with the radiused edge of a Trizact Gator belt. Trizact Gators have an exceptionally deep coating of structured abrasive. Abrasive that has been laid down precisely on the backing. This can allow the user to grind up to the guide and leave a nice finish, even on both sides.
Finishing get a little trickier
Different finished require a different belt and a different technique.
I recently tried the Surface Conditioning (Non-Woven) Belts. They work very well for a non polished finish.
I still haven found anything that eliminates hand sanding for a finer finish, but slowing the belt down and working to higher grits in 3M 2X72 307EA TRIZACT works pretty well for me. They have a very flexible cloth. Used for metals only. Not used for wood because it will load up the pores. It’s a little slower but helps reduce hand sanding.
A patina is a protective layer on your blade. It prevents further oxidation of your Carbon Steel and can make your knife more resistant to other forms of corrosion……… If you intend on forcing a patina onto your blade, just remember one thing. Appearance. A properly-done patina can look great, and you can actually customize it into special design and colors.
I let the knife sit in the vinegar for several hours. Every
once in a while, I took it out for inspection. After a few hours I took the
knife out, buffed it with a clean shop rag, wiped it clean with denatured alcohol.
I put the vinegar back in the microwave and ran through the
When it was dark enough, I wiped it clean. I cleaned it well
to neutralize the acid. (I didn’t wash
it with baking soda, but I would recommend it to be safe)
I then finished the knife.
From the work on the handle there were some scuff marks, so
I taped the bolster and handle and ran the knife through one cycle with the
vinegar. As I put the knife in the vinegar, I tried to get the vinegar to a level
that it hit all the blade but not on the bolster. Error ever so slightly on the
side of the blade. It’s already etched, and you shouldn’t need to leave it in
to long for this touchup.
I then dried the knife, neutralized the blade, and buffed with some polish being careful not to buff the patina off. I then buffed the blade with oil.
Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine – Cold Blued
Notes: cross peen or rounding hammer would be used
forge the point first
keep it straight as you go
keep refining the profile within each section as you go
for the entire blade profile (we’ll do the tang after)
after the profile is formed forge the edge
forge one section at a time
Remember to use the right side of the hammer to pull the steel (round side or cross peen side)
rough profile the length a section at a time
go back and smooth it after
Keep the knife bigger than the patter
Blade is 5 1/2″
Overall Length is 9 3/4″
The blade was blued with gun blue (cold blue)
This knife was forged from an implement tine. This should be close to 5150 if the information
on the internet is correct. I found it to be a little harder to forge than the 108x.
I drew out the blade first, shaping it as I went. From a
forging perspective it was much different than the last knife I forged except
this was to be a full tang.
Wetting the anvil and hammer helps get rid of the scale. Just
dip your hammer in your water bucket a few times and throw the water on the
anvil and continue as normal.
After forging, I started with a 36-grit ceramic belt and
worked my way up to 220. I think I’m starting to hit the other end of the
learning curve. Grinding is getting easier. I still did some hand sanding, I
only sanded to 180 grit then hit it with a course finishing belt.
There are times when I get closer and into finish sanding, I have the
belt going as slow as it will go. It allows better control and mistakes become
much smaller and easier to overcome. At this stage taking your time and
constant focus is the best advice I can give.
This time I didn’t forget to normalize. I almost forgot my makers mark, but added it in between the first and second normalizing cycle.
Normalizing Your Knife
When a knife is forged it needs to be normalized. Forging adds stress to the steel. If you research this, you will find it has to do with the grain structure of the steel. But for now, just know it needs to be done.
Normalizing is a pretty simple process. Heat the metal to nonmagnetic then let it air cool. For most metals we’ll talk about in this book, doing this three times should do the trick. After annealing you can go straight to heat treatment.
Typically normalizing is not required with stock removal but I recommend you normalize recycled steel. If in doubt, normalize.
Adding the Jimping
I marked out and drilled the tang holes and added the Jimping to “Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine – Cold Blued”.
I marked the tang for the spline embellishment. I marked
about every quarter inch and marked the center line. I drilled holes at each
intersection. Then using the corner of a square file, I cut a V in-between each
hole on both sides of the spline.
Knife 39 – Hunting – Larger Skinner – Etching with Ferric Chloride is still one of my favorite designs. It’s a simple yet elegant. It a great looking knife in a very simplistic way. A traditional old style knife.
This one was made from 3/16” 1095 steel.
The handle is Cocobolo with an aluminum added spacer and firework.
I did this knife with all hand grinding (except for final hand sanding). I finally figured out how to grind straight and completely horizontal. As the knife curves, pull the handle end away from the belt ever so slightly. It only takes a little practice to get this right.
I made an aluminum spacer for this knife. After some fussing
around I wound up epoxying the aluminum spacer to the blade. After the epoxy
had cured, I was sanding it back flush and one side popped off. I found the
other side easy to remove. I decided not to use the aluminum spacers for this
knife because of this.
I wanted a dark etch on this knife so I set up with some
Ferric Chloride. I used the Ferric chloride straight. After a 15-minute soak it
came out with an even light gray color.
Etching with Ferric Chloride
To make the containers for the ferric acid I took 2 pieces
of 3” PVC and plugged one end and added a cap on the top. I found this sand
blast medium barrel perfect for a base for a bit more stability. Clamping it to
the wall or a post will work as well. You just do not want it to be tipped
I have Used it full strength. Some knife makers suggest
diluting it. It will take some experimenting to determine which works best for
The second container is for a baking soda mix to neutralize
the acid after etching is complete.
Even though I did very little to this before heat treating,
I still wound up with a small warp. I clamped two pieces of metal to provide a
very slight over bend and tempered. It came back straight.
Because of its size, it took some hand sanding. I used the grinder with an attachment for hook and loop pads (like Knife 30 – Cleaver). It helped a little, but it tore up disk pretty quick. Projects like this make you want a surface grinder.
The Knife 33 – Hidden Tang Antler Handled Hunter knife was made from a file using the stock removal technique.
I typically anneal the files buy heating them to nonmagnetic then just shutting down the forge and sitting some firebrick to close of the doors. I leave them over night. Another process I have used with success is heating the files to nonmagnetic then putting them in a container with wood ashes. Again, just leave them overnight.
Day 1 started at 12pm, done at 4pm
Layout. I designed based on the file size and what I was trying to achieve.
Hand sanded the knife. I started with 100 grit and went to 600 grit I found a piece of brass to make the finger guard. I used the milling machine to cut out the finger guard but drilling a couple holes and filing with a round or needle nose file works as well.
I fitted the finger guard. Final fitting was completed by hand filing.
You can burn the antler in. Like burning in a wood handle. You drill a hole smaller than the tang. Heat the tang and push the handle down on the tang so it burns in. You repeat the process until the handle is in place. You’d want to do this before heat treating or wrap the blade with a wet cloth. I tried this process, but it didn’t work very well on this antler so I decided to file it out.
You can also boil the antler then push the antler on the tang. You repeat this process until the antler is all the way on. Try to push straight with no side to side movement. Once in place hold it until the antler cools. The material will cool and bond like glue and hold the handle in place like it was epoxied on.
I filed the hole until I was able to get the antler in
place. I then filled the void with epoxy and clamped it to dry. I wiped any
excess epoxy with a rag and denatured alcohol.
I had played around trying to build a cleaver type utensil out of
some salvaged steel and it kept warping badly when I heat treated it. I tried
several things to straighten and normalize the knife several times, but nothing
seemed to work, so I was a little nervous when I started this one.
This cleaver is made from 3/16″ 1080. This knife was
made with the stock removal process. I copied the pattern of a vintage Dunlap
Because of the issues with warping I decided to cut a rough shape and
heat treat before grinding the bevel. I
knew I would need to be a little extra careful grinding the bevel, but with the
ceramic belts and the practice
Since I wanted a traditional finish on this cleaver, I was a little intimidated on sanding it, so I purchased an attachment for my grinder to make it a hook and loop sander. I did help a little, but it tore up disk pretty quick. This is another tool that variable speed is required to perform really well.
To grind the bevel I clamped a straight edge to the grinder table to use as a guide and just slide the cleaver back and forth. This worked very well for me and I continue to use this technique on this style of knife.