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.  

Knife 22 – 7″ Chef’s Knife Forged from a File

Knife 22 – 7″ Chef’s Knife Forged from a File is a kitchen knife. It was the first one I’ve made with a forging technique. This started life as a worn-out file. When you plan to forge a knife, there is no reason to anneal it. Bringing the piece to forging temperature makes the steel as soft as it will get.

All that was formed from forging on this knife was the bevel. Working from one end of the blade (tip first) to the other while alternating from one side of the blade to the other end (tang end) to keep the bevel as even as my skill level allowed.

The rest was done by stock removal . As was mentioned in Forging a Custom Made Knife, No matter how much you forge, or how good you get at it, there will always be stock removal involved. So, you can forge and file, or forge and grind, either way, you’ll need to remove some stock to finish your knife and you can stop forging and You can stop the forging process and move to stock removal at any point in the process. Starting with just a little forging as you learn and develop, will help add another tool set to your abilities.

Design note: Contoured and formed handles are great if they fit to the users hand, but the more form fit the grip, the fewer folks it will fit. Finger grooves are a matter of personal preference and I really do not like them. They must fit the fingers to feel well and will feel terrible if they don’t fit. Grips with a single finger groove for the index finger are more versatile and capable of fitting many hand sizes. In a natural power grip, the fingers press together, enhancing grip security and stability. Grooves that separate the fingers overpower the natural gripping strength of the grip.

Knife 22 - 7" Chef’s Knife Forged from a File
Knife 22 - 7" Chef’s Knife Forged from a File
Knife 22 - 7" Chef’s Knife Forged from a File - Finished Handle

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




Knife 20 – Santoku Chef’s Knife

A Santoku is a multipurpose kitchen knife of Japanese origin that has a lightweight blade with a straight or slightly curved cutting edge and a spine that curves downward to the tip.

This knife is made from 3/32” 1095 Steel.

Cocobolo scales. Cocobolo is a hard, dense, oily wood, making it a good choice for a kitchen knife.  The wood has natural oils to resist the moist environment. Anything in the Rosewood family is a classic material for wood handles.

1/8” Brass pins

A Saya is a wooden sheath or case. This one is made from spalted beech. The wood was cooked for 2 hours at 140 degrees to ensure any residences still in the wood were taken care of.

Knife 19 – Small Hunter or Everyday Carry Hophornbeam scales

Another hunting type knife made with 1080 Steel and Hophornbeam scales. Again, I’ve chosen a design easy to make. I Begin grinding the blade by running it in long, even, full length passes.

By choosing a design with a short blade, these passes are short, so go slow, with even  and light pressure. Be careful not to pause or stop in any one place (if you do you will grind deeper in that spot).

Unless your hand is steadier than mine, however, you will, no matter how hard you try, grind both high and low spots into the blade as you go along. Don’t worry about it and just keep practicing. More Grinding a custom knife talk here!

Knife 19 - Small Hunter or Everyday Carry
Knife 19 - Small Hunter or Everyday Carry
Knife 19 - Small Hunter or Everyday Carry
Knife 19 - Small Hunter or Everyday Carry
Knife 19 - Small Hunter or Everyday Carry

Knife 18 – Small Skinner with Cocobolo Scales

Knife 18 – Small Skinner with Cocobolo Scales was made from a left-over piece of 1084 steel. The Cocobolo scales were scraps sent to me from a woodworker who was going to throw them away.

  • The Blade is 2 3/4″” long. Over all it’s 5 3/4″.
  • Weight 4.4 ozs
  • Hand rubbed Tru-oil finish

This is a great small game knife and as a detail knife for larger game.

Design Note: A Skinning  knife is designed mainly for skinning but can perform the jobs of the clip point and drop point as well.

A skinning knife is a knife used to skin game. Typically a skinning knife has wide, short blade. The edge is strong and does not have much flexibility or spring. Skinning knives are more a hunting tool than a weapon.

Knife 17 – Hunting-Skinning Knife with Wenge Scales

This was made as a hunting and skinning knife. The style was chosen for a couple of reasons. The bevel of the knife makes it easy to make. The curves could be easy made with my grinder, making the hand sanding to a minimum.

1084 steel

Wenge scales

Steel pins

Brass lanyard liner

Design Note: A Drop Point is the preferred knife blade for big game hunters. Drop Point blades are: durable, versatile, and effective at stabbing strikes. The Drop Point is easy to identify with a convex curve from the spine of the blade to the tip. This knife blade style is a great all-around design. A clip point knife is similar except the point has a dip in the drop.


Knife 17 - Hunting-Skinning Knife with Wenge Scales
Knife 17 - Hunting-Skinning Knife with Wenge Scales
Knife 17 - Hunting-Skinning Knife with Wenge Scales
Knife 17 - Hunting-Skinning Knife with Wenge Scales

Knife 13, 14, 15 and 16 – Kiridashi

A Kiridashi is a Japanese style knife usually used as a woodworking marking knife or carving knife. The name ‘Kiridashi’ means ‘to carve out’ in Japanese.

This first one was made at the request of a friend. These are made from 1/8” 1080 steel. Since they are typically made as left or right-handed, the bevel is on one side, sometimes the Kiridashi is amde in a set.

I beveled these with the jig. Finial sanding was done by hand and sharpened after heat treating.

They have a somewhat simple design and are a good knife for a beginner to make. They are small and portable and a great knife for any toolbox.

To make these knives I used the grinding jig for the bevel. The large choil (I’m not sure this term is being used technically correct, but it’s close) was done on the belt grinder. I try to design my knives based on the equipment I have to simplify the builds.

A few added holes in the tang are topically done to lighten the knife, help the epoxy grab, and even the balance, but in this case its for looks and add some grip to the handle.

knife 14 15 082219 2 kiridashi
knife 14 15 082219 2 kiridashi

Knife 16 – With Cocobolo Scales – Kiridashi

Same as 13, 14 and 15, with the exception of having scales added. These scales are made from cocobolo. The nice thing about this is the size. A small piece of wood can be used for the scales. This was also made at a request. The cocobolo scales with ¼” brass pins made a very nice looking knife that is fairly easy to make. Adding the Knife handle — Option 1 was used to add the scales with a minor difference. Because the tang is reveled all the way around, the edged of the scales were completed and the scales were sanded to about 90%. Final sanding was done after the pins were ground down.

The cocobolo scales were made from a few small scraps sent to me from a fellow woodworker.

Knife 12 – Kitchen Knife Hophornbeam Handle

Blade – 1080 steel

Scales – Hophornbeam with Steel pins

Hophornbeam has a Janka Hardness of 1,860 lbf making it one of the hardest wood native to the north east (white oak is 1,350 lbf and locus is 1,700 lbf). It has a nice texture and is a decent looking wood. I have used this knife as a kitchen knife for over a year . It is still working very well.

The Janka scale is used to determine the relative hardness of particular domestic or exotic wood species. The Janka test measures the amount of force required to embed a 0.444″ steel ball into the wood to half of its diameter. Woods with a higher rating are harder than woods with a lower rating.

Design Note: A satin finish is typically considered best for kitchen knives. It’s easier to maintain. Just a 120 grit even surface is fine. Scotch brite belts and pads do well on finishing kitchen blades.

Knife 12 Kitchen knife hardhack handle
Knife 12 Kitchen knife hardhack handle

Grinding is here.

This Knife 11 – Leather handled EDC is a simple design and fairly easy to make. Using leather, rope or paracord for a handle saves a lot of time and can be removed and used for another purpose in a pinch. You will see some survival type knives made like this.

Adding additional holes in the tang helps reduce weight, it gives epoxy additional places to grab when holding the scales in place and may help balance the knife. In this case it adds some grip should the knife be used without the wrap.