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How to make custom knives

Written by:
Aleks Nemtcev
Updated:
February 16, 2024
making simple knife

Welcome to our “How to Make Custom Knives” guide. Within these pages, we embark on a journey through the intricate world of knife making, offering insights into the selection of materials, the tools required, and the multifaceted stages of crafting a knife from its initial design to the final sharpening process. Whether you’re a seasoned artisan or a curious beginner, this guide aims to illuminate the art and science behind creating a custom knife, providing detailed explorations of each step to help you craft a piece that’s functional and a true reflection of personal craftsmanship and aesthetic. Join us as we delve into the fascinating process that transforms raw materials into your handmade knife, guiding you through the nuanced craft of knifemaking.

how to make custom knives

A custom knife is a type of knife that is handcrafted by skilled craftsmen. They are made from high-quality materials and are designed to be unique and personalized to the owner’s preferences. Adding one of these knives to your collection is the best way to show appreciation for the work of your favorite craftsman, as each custom-made knife is an extension of the maker’s personality and philosophy.

Collectors since the 19th century and the formation of collection organizations beginning in the 1940s have collected knives. In the late 1960s, a boom in collecting custom knives began and continues to this day. Some kinds and types of cutting tools that have been made and used have existed since the very beginning of humanity. All of these tools were made from various kinds of materials, such as wood, bone, stone, brass, flint, and of course steel. All these were done by hand and very crude-looking just to help survive at that time.

What makes custom knives unique?

Custom knives are unique because they are made to order and are designed to meet the specific needs of the user. They are often made from high-quality materials and are designed to be durable and long-lasting. Custom knives can be designed for a variety of purposes including hunting, fishing, camping, and survival. They can also be designed for everyday use such as pocketknives and kitchen knives. Custom knives are often more expensive than mass-produced knives because they are made by hand and require a lot of time and skill to create.

Designing the Knife

The first step in creating a custom knife is designing it. This involves deciding on the type of knife, the purpose it will serve, and the aesthetics. Knifemakers often sketch their designs, considering the blade’s shape, size, and the type of handle that will complement it. This phase is crucial as it lays down the foundation for the knife’s functionality and beauty.

What are some popular designs for custom knives?

There are many popular designs for custom knives. Some of the most popular designs include the drop point, clip point, and tanto blade designs. The drop point blade design is one of the most popular designs for hunting knives because it is strong and versatile. The clip-point blade design is another popular design that is commonly used in pocket knives because it is easy to control and has a sharp point. The tanto blade design is a popular design for tactical knives because it is strong and has a sharp point.

Selecting Materials

Once the design is finalized, the next step is to select the appropriate materials. The choice of steel for the blade is vital, with options ranging from high carbon steel to stainless steel, each offering different qualities in terms of edge retention, corrosion resistance, and ease of sharpening. The handle materials can vary widely, from traditional woods to modern composites and metals, allowing for personalization and functionality.

Types of steel used

Custom knives are made from a variety of materials such as titanium and steel. The types of steel used in custom knives include stainless steel, carbon steel, tool steel, and Damascus steel. 

Stainless steel is the most common type of steel used in custom knives because it is resistant to rust and corrosion. 

Due to its ease of sharpening and ability to hold an edge well, carbon steel is another popular choice. For example, 1095, 1075, and 1055 are popular high-carbon steel knives.

stainless steel vs carbon steel

Tool steel is used in custom knives that are designed for heavy use because it is very durable. For example, A2 tool steel is renowned for toughness and is used for combat knives and bush crafting knives.

Damascus steel is known for the beauty of its pattern and is often used by knifemakers in the manufacture of knives.

mosaic damascus blades

 

Titanium blades combine unique characteristics. They do not rust, remain sharp for a long time, are very durable, flexible, light in weight, and have disinfecting properties.

Guide to Making Custom Knives

Handle materials

Custom knife handles can be made from a variety of materials including wood, bone, horn, mammoth tusk, and synthetic materials such as G-10 and Micarta. Wood is one of the most popular materials used for custom knife handles because it is durable and has a natural look and feel. Bone and horn are also popular choices because they are easy to work with and can be shaped into intricate designs. Mammoth tusk is a rare and expensive material that is sometimes used for custom knife handles. Synthetic materials such as G-10 and Micarta are popular because they are lightweight and durable.

Types of wood used for knife handles

Three main categories of wood can be used in the manufacture of handles: hardwood the most preferred softwood and stabilized wood. Hardwood is denser and harder than most softwoods, according to the Janka hardness scale. Some examples of hardwoods that are commonly used for knife handles include oak, rosewood, ebony, and cocobolo. Softwood, is not as dense, and very easily damaged by bumping and scraping. Stabilized wood is named because it is wood that has been treated with a stabilizing agent. This allows the wood to be more durable and resistant to moisture. 

wood for knife making

Lastly, wood is the material of choice and is used to make almost all types of knife handles. It is durable and can be carved and shaped to create not only aesthetic appeal but also an ergonomic handle design, also it offers resistance and durability that makes the knife user feel confident in their work. However, along with this, it should be noted that it can be less dense than other materials, and it can be more easily damaged by bumping and scraping.

Bone and horn for knife handles

Bone and horn are two materials that have been used for knife handles for centuries. They are both natural materials that are durable and long-lasting. Bone is a popular choice because it is easy to work with and can be carved into intricate designs. Horn is also a popular choice because it is strong and has a unique texture. Both bone and horn can be polished to a high shine, which makes them visually appealing.

horn knife handle

Several types of bone and horn are used to make knife handles. Some of the most popular types are antler, camel bone, and buffalo horn, and also can be made from a variety of animals including deer, elk, and moose.

However, the disadvantages of using bone and horn for handles should be noted, which is that they can be more expensive than other materials and may require more maintenance.

Types of micarta used for knife handles

Micarta is a popular material for knife handles because it is strong, durable, and lightweight. It is a composite material that is made from layers of fabric or paper that are impregnated with resin. It is also resistant to moisture and chemicals, which makes it ideal for use in outdoor environments. Some of the benefits of using micarta for knife handles include its aesthetic appeal, comfortability when holding the handle and its long-lasting nature. Several types of micarta are used to make knife handles, including canvas micarta, linen micarta, and paper micarta. Accordingly, canvas micarta is made from layers of canvas, linen micarta from layers of linen, and paper micarta is made from layers of paper, all layers are impregnated with resin. 

micarta knife handle

G10 for knife handles

G10 is a composite material that is made from layers of fiberglass that are impregnated with resin.

In essence, we can say that G-10 is a special kind of Micarta made from fiberglass instead of conventional cloth. The impregnated epoxy resin layers of fiberglass are stacked on top of each other to achieve the required thickness, and then this is dried under pressure. G-10 is water and moisture-resistant, which means you don’t have to worry about getting wet. This material is extremely durable, but at the same time, it is easy to shape and grind. This allows manufacturers to provide customers with a huge selection of handles in all aspects; from pattern and color to size and shape. The Fiberglass can be found in almost any color. In addition, because the mesh can be woven in different ways, it allows for creative textures.

G10 knife handles

 

Custom knife handles can be designed in a variety of shapes to meet the specific needs of the user. Some popular handle shapes include the straight handle, curved handle, and ergonomic handle designs. custom knives

A straight knife handle is a type of knife handle that is straight and does not have any curves or angles. It is a simple design that is easy to use and comfortable to hold. Straight knife handles are often used on hunting knives and other types of outdoor knives.

straight knife handle

A curved knife handle is a type of knife handle that has a curve or angle to it. It is designed to fit the natural shape of the hand and provide a comfortable grip. Curved knife handles are often used knives that require precision cutting.

curved knife handle

Ergonomic handle designs are knife handle designs that are specifically designed to fit the natural shape of the hand and provide a comfortable grip. They are often used on tactical knives and other types of knives that require precision cutting. 

ergonomic knife handle

Custom knives can be designed to meet the specific needs of the user. Customization options for custom knives can include blade length, blade thickness, handle material, and blade finish. The blade length can be customized to meet the user’s needs and preferences. The blade thickness can also be customized to meet the user’s needs and preferences. Handle material can be customized to meet the user’s preferences for look and feel. Blade finish can also be customized to meet the user’s preferences.

The Process of Making a Custom Knife

Shaping the Blade

The blade is then shaped from the selected steel. This can be done through forging, where the metal is heated and hammered into shape, or stock removal, where the blade shape is cut out from a steel sheet and then ground to the final shape. Each method has its own set of skills and techniques, with forging allowing for more customized shapes and stock removal offering precision and consistency.

Forging

Forging is a manufacturing process used to create custom knives. Forging involves heating the metal to a high temperature and then hammering it into shape. This process creates a strong and durable blade that is resistant to wear and tear. Forging also allows for the creation of intricate designs and patterns in the blade. The forging process can be time-consuming and requires a lot of skill and experience to get right.

 making custom knives - forging

Grinding

Grinding is another manufacturing process used to create custom knives. Grinding involves removing material from the blade to create the desired shape and sharpness. This process can be carried out both by hand and by machine. Hand grinding allows for more control and precision but can be time-consuming. Machine grinding is faster but can be less precise. Grinding can also be used to create patterns and designs on the blade.

custom knife making - blade grinding

Heat treatment

Heat treatment is a manufacturing process used to create custom knives. Heat treatment involves heating the blade to a high temperature and then cooling it rapidly to create a hard and durable blade. This process can be done in different ways depending on the desired properties of the blade. For example, quenching involves cooling the blade rapidly in water or oil to create a hard and durable blade. Tempering involves heating the blade to a lower temperature to reduce its hardness and increase its toughness.

 knife making - heat treatment

Finishing touches: Polishing

Polishing is a finishing touch used to create custom knives. Polishing involves removing any scratches or blemishes from the blade and creating a smooth and shiny surface. This process can be carried out both by hand and by machine. Hand polishing allows for more control and precision but can be time-consuming. Machine polishing is faster but can be less precise. 

knife making - polishing

Crafting the Handle

The handle is crafted to fit comfortably in the hand, using the chosen materials. This stage requires careful shaping and fitting to ensure a secure grip and balance. The handle not only adds to the knife’s aesthetics but also its ergonomics, making the knife efficient and comfortable to use.

Assembly and Finishing

The final step is assembling the knife, and attaching the handle to the blade securely. This may involve using adhesives, pins, or bolts, depending on the design. The knife is then finished by sharpening the blade to a razor edge and polishing the handle and blade to highlight the materials’ beauty and craftsmanship.

Sharpening

Sharpening is another finishing touch used to create custom knives. Sharpening involves creating a sharp edge on the blade. This process can be carried out both by hand and by machine. Hand sharpening allows for more control and precision but can be time-consuming. Machine sharpening is faster but can be less precise. 

making a custom knife - sharpening

Customization and Personalization

Throughout the process, customization options such as engraving, inlays, and unique finishes can be added to personalize the knife further. This step reflects the owner’s personality and preferences, making each custom knife truly one-of-a-kind.

Conclusion

So there you have it! Now you possess the foundational knowledge to embark on your custom knifemaking journey. Remember, creating your own blade isn’t just about function; it’s about forging a personal legacy. It’s a journey of learning, patience, and ultimately, immense satisfaction. As you progress, remember the core principles: prioritize high-quality materials, appreciate skilled craftsmanship, value durability, and functionality, and never lose sight of your unique vision.

If you crave a truly personalized blade, don’t hesitate to invest in a custom-made masterpiece. While store-bought knives abound, none can match the distinction and soul of a blade crafted specifically for you. It’s an expression of your individuality, a testament to your appreciation for quality, and a heirloom you can proudly pass down for generations to come.

Ready to start crafting your story, one meticulous cut at a time? Remember, Noblie Custom Knives awaits with a wealth of shapes, materials, and designs to fuel your inspiration. Embrace the adventure, and may your custom blade become a cherished companion for years to come!

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn

References:

Knife making Wikipedia

Materials Jantz Supply

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