Commonly Asked Questions about Knife Making
Throughout my journey I've run into several questions that people ask about knife making so I thought it would be a good idea to try to answer some of these questions that the budding knife maker may have.
Can I make my own Knife?
Of course you can! You don't need tons of tools to make a knife. If you have the following you can get started right away.
- The most important thing you'll need is Patience. The process takes time and is a marathon not a sprint.
- Files - You will want at minimum a flat file but if you have a half round as well it will make your life a whole lot easier.
- Steel - You can pick up leaf springs as a good starter steel but for beginners some quality 1084 flat bar stock works great. The quality of your heat treat and steel make all the difference.
- A metal saw - You can do this with a hacksaw which can be bought pretty cheaply almost anywhere but a portable or benchtop band saw make the cutting process much more enjoyable.
- Heat - if you don't have a forge you can do this with a trench cut into the ground, charcoal and forced air. You will need whatever you are using to get to a minimum of 1500 degrees.
If you have the ability to procure the above you can certainly make a basic knife and we would be happy to help guide you along the way!
Is it Hard to make Knives?
It is not Hard , per se but it is time consuming. Making knives requires a great deal of patience, a few tools, and the ability to adapt. You will come across problems in your journey that you will need to find a solution to. I suppose that skill is applicable in all walks of life.
Is Knife Making an Expensive Hobby?
Knife making can be an expensive hobby if you are looking for the biggest and best tools. The best tools can certainly make your process a bit more efficient and enjoyable but they aren't strictly needed to make a knife. Effort trumps the expense part of the journey every time.
Are Hand made Knives worth it?
That depends on whether you are going to use them consistently or hang them on the wall. I've taken a knife that I made and placed the edge to the edge of a store-bought knife and gently persuaded my blade to pass through with a hammer. I was still able to shave with my knife with nary a mark. The store bought blade was in two. If you are looking to use something for years to come, yes they are worth it.
Can you forge a knife at home?
You can forge a knife anywhere as long as you have a few basic tools and the patience and desire to learn. Blacksmiths used rudimentary tools for thousands of years to make incredible works of art that are still around today. If they could do it without access to the tools of this era, you can crush it!
What is the sharpest angle for a knife?
The sharpest angle is 1 degree. Its ridiculously impractical however since the blade would break under any use. For context, a razor blade is commonly a 7- or 8- degree angle. For most steel and usage, a 20 degree angle is a decent sharpness angle.
How many hours does it take to forge a knife?
Forging a knife can take as long as is needed for the complexity of the knife. Since you are forging the profile to shape versus removing the stock, the complexity of the profile adds to the time spent forging. Another factor to consider is the experience of the person forging. An ABS Mastersmith is going to forge a complex profile knife MUCH faster than an inexperienced person that does this as a hobby on the weekend.
Can you make knives out of railroad spikes?
You can make knives out of railroad spikes easily but due to the carbon content they are not ideal for heavy use. The steel in the railroad spikes are lower carbon content than common knife making steels. This means that the knife will not hold an edge as long and will be prone to bending more than any higher carbon steel.
Can you make a knife without a forge?
You can make a knife without a forge. You can cut the profile to shape on a knife and find someone to do the heat treating for you. Just be careful to not remove too much material from the blade before the heat treat process. If you grind the bevel to the fullest extent on both sides of the knife, the blade will likely warp during the heat treat process.
Do lawnmower blades make good knives?
The short answer is no. They do not make good knives, but they do make decent machetes or choppers. The difference is perhaps semantic but in my mind a knife is a small tool for slicing. Lawn mower blades are usually made from mild steel. The reason for that is so when you are mowing and hit a rock you don't shear the blade and send it across the street into your neighbors yard. A flying piece of steel always has the right of way. Since they are composed of more mild steel they work decent as machetes in my experience.
What do you need to start forging?
If you are forging then you will need a heat source that is capable of reaching 1500 degrees minimum. This can be accomplished by digging a trench and forcing air through the fire or by similar methods that can be found on a plethora of DIY videos on youtube like this one:
Next you will need a hammer and something to beat the steel on. Many people have started using a section of railroad track as their anvil but you can find cheap anvils and everything else you need to get started on amazon. I've created a list of everything you need to get started here:
- Forge - I am always trying to find more manufacturers in the us but lieu of that you can Shop for forges on Amazon
- Anvil - We don't carry Anvils yet but you can find them here.
- Hammer - You can use almost any type of hammer but I recommend at least starting with a cross pein or 3lb sledge.
- Tongs - You will eventually be able to make these but its nice to start out with some instead of fishing in the fire with a piece of rebar and holding your work with pliers. Shop for some of those here.
- Steel - Leaf springs are found easily and in abundance for very cheap at any auto salvage place but 1084 steel is great for a beginner since it has a very easy heat treat. You can find good quality steel at New Jersey Steel Baron here.
Note: Some of these are affiliate links so we may receive a small commission if you purchase through these links.