small paring knife

Recently, my friend Nick gave me a knife blade that he forged. Here’s what he said about that process:

“the knife is rather experimental.  the steel is from a Timken bearing race.  one side is ground hollow.  quenched from an orange heat in motor oil.  tempered over a hot block to a straw color.”

Seems like the best way to test the blade is to make a handle for it so I can put it to use.

blade from Nick. Notice the hollow ground bits, I think from the inside of the bearing race

blade from Nick. Notice the hollow ground bits, I think from the inside of the bearing race

Similar to my last homemade knife, I wanted to have a brass ‘hilt plate’ since I like the clean transition it provides between the handle and the blade. In order to have the brass piece fit snuggly around the tang, I needed to sand the tang down to a taper so that the largest cross section of the tang is right under the blade. I guess I could have gone with a two piece handle that sandwiches the blade, but for such a small tang, I think its nice to have it hidden in the handle.

tapered tang

tapered tang

Just like before, I sand down an arcade coin to have a small piece of brass plate. Its just a matter of taping a coin to my fingers, holding it against a belt sander, and dipping in water periodically so that my fingers don’t over heat.

my favorite hilt plate materials are arcade coins

my favorite hilt plate materials are arcade coins

I start the hole for the tang with some small holes

I start the hole for the tang with some small holes

I finish the hole with a lot of careful filing

I finish the hole with a lot of careful filing

there are some gaps between the coin and the blade, but I'm calling it close enough. Maybe there is a way to solder the two together?

there are some gaps between the coin and the blade, but I’m calling it close enough. Maybe there is a way to solder the two together?

the finished sub assembly

the finished sub assembly

In the spirit of Nick’s experimental knife-making, I decided to embark on some experimental handle making. I’ve been reading online that making micarta (a composite material commonly used for knife handles) is just a matter of mixing epoxy with your fabric of choice. From my limited forays into homemade micarta, I would say this is true.

I cut up a white and turquoise T-shirt

I cut strips from two old T-shirts and stacked them with alternating colors

I mixed up some 2-part epoxy. It took me about 90g of total epoxy.

I mixed up some 2-part epoxy. It took me about 90g of total epoxy.

I found the easiest way to make the layup was to crumple up each layer of cloth in the epoxy and massage the resin into the cloth. Then I stacked each layer of resin-soaked cloth on top of each other. The stack is clamped directly between two pieces of wood (and ends up being glued to the wood. This gave me some flat surfaces that were later useful for trimming the micarta.

clamp the stack, watch epoxy ooze out the side

clamp the stack, watch epoxy ooze out the side, wait a day for curing

trimmed the end on the compound miter saw - looks so cool!

trimmed the end on the compound miter saw – looks so cool!

trimming a long edge on the bandsaw to prep for the table saw

trimming a long edge on the bandsaw to prep for the table saw

its amazing how much the layered colors look like regular wood grain

its amazing how much the layered colors look like regular wood grain

I decided it would be nice for the brass coin to be at an angle, instead of perpendicular to the length of the knife.

tracing out where the tang will sit in the handle

tracing out where the tang will sit in the handle

Drilling out the hole for the tang is by far the most tedious step. Maybe one day I’ll get something like a really skinny, long end mill. Until then, I’ll just waste a lot of time and abuse drill bits by trying to use them like long skinny end mills. I started by drilling two holes that make up the two ends of the slot. Then I just work the drill bit back and forth until I’ve removed all the material between the two initial holes. It takes a lot of patience not to break the bit, and the slot definitely ends up wider than the original drill bit diameter… Oh well, its all going to get filled with epoxy anyway.

drilling a really deep, narrow, slot for the tang

drilling a really deep, narrow, slot for the tang

finally, the tang fits all the way!!

finally, the tang fits all the way!!

rough handle shaping on the bandsaw

rough handle shaping on the bandsaw

clamping fixture for gluing the blade into the handle

clamping fixture for gluing the blade into the handle

more handle shaping with a belt sander

more handle shaping with a belt sander

finer handle shaping with a rasp

even finer shaping with sand paper

even finer shaping with sand paper

bring out the color with mineral oil

bring out the color with mineral oil

finished and ready for use!

finished and ready for use!

You may have noticed that the knife blade shape has changed slightly since I received the blade. The blade started out as a pure flat grind, which made for very low force cutting, but made it too easy to damage the blade edge. Instead, I reground it on a diamond sharpening stone to have more of a sabre grind at the edge.

Can’t wait to put it to use!

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3 thoughts on “small paring knife

  1. Nice work Amy! The handle looks very ergonomic, the large handle relative to the size of the blade makes it look somewhat line a whittling knife along the lines of the ones made by Mora in Sweden, albeit with a different handle.

    Just a minor correction, the original blade is what you would call a zero grind, meaning that the primary bevels start at the spine and meet to form an edge. What you did was add a secondary bevel, which strengthens the edge, so it’s still a flat grind, but it has some extra meat behind the edge for strength. A saber grind has a thicker cross section and a primary bevel starting midway down the blade along with a secondary bevel where the cutting edge is ( so it would be like what you’d see on a sword or bayonet).

    No biggie though – show us some action shots to see how the knife performs, looks like it’ll do great as a paring blade!

  2. Pingback: Homemade small paring knife « adafruit industries blog

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