Introduction: My First Knife Made Out of a Saw Blade With a Fancy Leopard Wood Handle

Picture of My First Knife Made Out of a Saw Blade With a Fancy Leopard Wood Handle

When I was at my local hard wood dealer, I ran across leopard wood and thought that it would look great on a knife handle. A quick google images searched confirmed that it would look great, so I bought some and then started looking at tutorials on the web. So ya I guess you could say I put the cart in front of the horse, or the handle in front of the knife.

My instructable will show you how I made this knife with no special knife making tools as this is a very simple (crappy) knife. I didn't even feel the need to heat treat as the material was plenty tougher than regular mild steel, as evidenced by the number of drill bits i burned through (before i bought a cobalt bit) to get the wholes for the brass pins in.

Check out my video of this build: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWyXoJKumE8

Material List

A Saw - I had a spare 14" metal cutting saw, so ya, plenty strong for what i was going to use it for.

Tools - Angle Grinder, Disc Sander, 1x30 Harbor freight belt sander, and files. You can actually use files for the whole project but that would require more time and effort.

Step 1: Find/Create a Template and Then Cut It Out.

Picture of Find/Create a Template and Then Cut It Out.

Create/Find a Template

If you google "Knife template" you will find hundreds of different knife templates.

1) Choose your favorite

2) Print it out

3) Transfer it to your saw blade.

I chose 3 different templates because i originally wanted to build 3 knives. I was a bit over zealous.

Cut It Out

Pretty self-explanitory. I used a grinder to get this done. I do have a metal cutting bandsaw, but the metal was too tough and i didn't want to burn through a band saw blade. Come close to the line as possible as it will save you with sanding/grinding.

Step 2: Shape the Blade. the Bevel and Drilling the Blade

Picture of Shape the Blade. the Bevel and Drilling the Blade

Shaping the Blade

I used a few different tools to get this done.

1. Angle grinder - I started with this tool as it took off the most material the quickest.

2. Then I did some fine tuning with the disc sander to get as close to the line as possible.

3. I used a few different files to get the final shape down. This was time consuming but worth it. For me, files have more precision than the previous 2 tools.

The Bevel

For me, the most difficult/disappoint part of the build was setting the bevel. The bevel is where the knife comes to an edge. This part requires lots of skills and patience, both of which I didn't have. I still managed to use my belt sander to get a semblance of a bevel, but going forward I know i can do better.

Drilling the Blade

My build required that I drilled 2 holes to pin the handle with brass pins. The brass pins I had laying around in the shop were 3/16s in diameter. I used a 3/16 bit originally a "normal" bit from my dewalt set. Given that the material of the saw (knife) was harder than the bit, i burned through a couple of bits before getting smart and buying a cobalt drill bit. http://amzn.to/2u6tHqN

Step 3: The Handle and Epoxy

Picture of The Handle and Epoxy

The Handle

This whole instructable could have been about this handle. I really am happy with how leopard wood looks and feels on a knife handle. I started by cutting the leopard wood into a couple of slabs (one for each side). I drew a template and then used a band saw to cut the slabs. I left lots of extra material as I know the final shaping would be done after it was epoxied to the knife. After the slabs were cut, I sanded 1 side from each slab to get a smooth and even surface to epoxy to the knife.

Epoxy

I used Devcon 2 ton epoxy. I didn't do a ton of research, but all the research I did do, lead to using a "1 hour" epoxy over "5 min" epoxy. Devcon is also used by other knife makers I watched on youtube. So far it has held up great on this knife that I use to open amazon boxes.

During the epoxy stage, I also hammered in the brass pins, then I clamped everything together for 2 hours. I figured I would double the "1 hour" epoxy cure time and it turned out great.

Step 4: Finishing the Handle

Picture of Finishing the Handle

Finish Shaping the Handle

After removing from the clamps, it was time to shape the handle.

1) I started with the disc sander and removed as wood material until it was even with the metal tang of the knife. The disc sander removes material quickly. Be careful not to get to carried away and ruin the shape of the tang.

2) I used my band saw to cut off the excess brass pins.

3) Then used the belt sander to continue shaping the knife. In particular, rounding off the edges. Be careful not to take off too much material. You obviously can un-do what you take off with a sander.

4) I used a file/rasp to continue to fine tune the shape. The file/rasp is more precise so don't get carried away with the belt/disc sander as they remove material very quickly.

5) Sanding, I cut some sand paper into 1x12" strips to sand the handle smooth. I placed the knife in a vice and worked the paper over the handle until I was happy with how it felt and looked. I started with 120 grit then 220 grit.

Handle Finish

I use oil based polyurethane to finish the handle.

First, with a wipe-on-poly mixture (80% poly, 20% mineral spirits). This ensures a nice and even first coat.

Then, I used spray on gloss sheen spar polyurethane.

I am very impressed with the handle, but do need some work on my knife building. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Please check out the youtube video I made of this build to see me build it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWyXoJKumE8

Comments

Jake_Makes (author)2017-07-13

First of all, that is a great first knife. It looks WAY better than my first. Great job.

As the people in the other comments have said, and which you've probably realized by now, that sawblade is not made of hard enough steel to make a knife blade that will hold an edge (that is also probably the reason you are having trouble sharpening it). Not sure how much research you've done on knife making, so I'll overdo the explanation. Hopefully you catch a bug and want to do your own research to make a ton more knives :-)

Knives depend on the hardness of the steel they are made of to hold an edge. There are many different kinds of steel, as I'm sure you know. Knives are made of many kinds, but they can be broken down to two main categories; stainless and high carbon steel. Your kitchen knives are made out of stainless steel. Great-grandpa's machete is high carbon steel. The difference is what the alloy contains. Steel by its simplest definition is highly purified iron, with certain added metals, depending on the type of steel and its intended use. High carbon steels are as simple as steel gets, consisting only of Iron and little bit of carbon (around 0.95%), and sometimes some manganese. Stainless steels are little bit more complicated, but put simply generally contain a bit of chromium, (which makes them resistant to rust), vanadium, manganese, and more stuff than I am going to go into know. Knife makers call those more complicated steels "super steels".

Obviously, some steel is harder than others. Your hammer is harder than a piece of rebar, and a file is harder than the hammer. Steel can also be hardened. Most knife makers buy steels made for knife making from suppliers online, make their knives, and then harden them. The steel comes soft, so that it is easy to grind a drill, but it is too soft for a knife. They harden the steel by a process known as heat treating. (for lack of space i'll have to let you do your own research on specific methods) The heat treat method depends on the type of steel you are using, however. You cannot harden a stainless razor blade the same way you harden high carbon sword.

Now, about that sawblade you used, certain sawblades can be turned into knives without much work, because the sawblade itself is already heat treated to cut through wood, and is hard enough to make a knife. Certain sawblades, not all sawblades. I can tell from the pictures that the sawblade you used is one with the carbide teeth. Unfortunately for knife makers, sawblades with carbide teeth are not heat treating to be hard enough for knives. Why? Because it is the carbide teeth that do all the cutting, not the steel blade itself. It is not necessary for the saw blade to be hardened. I don't know the steel used in that blade, (the guy below said L6), but I have a gut feeling its not one that could be HT-ed without expensive equipment. Bummer.

Certain saw blades can be made into knives though. Older circular sawblades without the carbide teeth can be, as well as sawzall blades. (provided they don't have the carbide teeth) However, if you are trying to make a knife out of sawblade without heat treating, you need be sure to keep the blade cool as you are working on it. If it gets too hot, you will mess up the heat treat and the steel will get too soft to hold an edge. You can tell if the steel is getting too hot by the color of the metal. If it starts changing color it is getting too hot. I just dunk it water to cool it down when it gets hot to touch.

Okay, better stop writing now. Hopefully I didn't just come across as a crazy knife nerd. (which i am)

Hope that info will help if you ever make another knife. (which I hope you do!) Great work, and very nice ible. I'll be looking forward to more projects from you in the future.

next_project (author)Jake_Makes2017-07-13

wow! thank for you the info and taking the time to write that out. Yes, I definitely plan on making another knife especially with the new knowledge I've obtained. The community here continues to surprise me (in a good way). Everyone seems so helpful. Thanks again!

tytower (author)2017-07-12

I'd agree with the comments made so far but thats the wrong steel saw blade . It should be a large steel hacksaw blade . The steel is different and will keep an edge 10 times longer . If you are getting sparks off the steel its the wrong type and you are getting it too hot anyway.

The timber looks great . In Australia we call that "Silky Oak". Well it looks like that anyway .Can't be sure

gm280 (author)2017-07-12

Not bad for your first knife. I too have made knifes out of interesting metals laying around. I would offer one idea as a precaution for your next knife. When sanding the handle, wrap tape around the blade to keep from getting cut. That way you will not spill blood on your wood. I see more knifes coming from you now. It get addicting. Good project.

next_project (author)gm2802017-07-12

thanks for the advice and the compliment!

Xexos (author)2017-07-12

Nice instructable, that wood really is beautiful!

I'm sorry for the unsolicited advice, but here's a couple of tips that may help you if you ever try your hand at making a knife again:

1) Just in general, if you can file metal, it isn't hard enough for a good edge. Like you said, it'll definitely perform a lot better than mild steel, but heat treating it will help you to maximize it's properties. I think most saw blades are L6 steel, so you can look up heat treating information on L6

2) Try looking up how to make a ricasso on a knife blade. The part that looks most off about your bevel is the fact that the handle transitions smoothly into the edge. Adding something like a ricasso will greatly improve the flow and aesthetics of the knife

3) Try to avoid putting your pin holes in weak spots of the blade. Putting a pin hole in the middle of a finger divot can potentially make areas that are prone to fracture under high stress. Here, the pin should probably sit just a little bit further back, right in between the two finger divots where the handle is widest.

As for the handle... Really great work, the finish and the wood look amazing. :)

Thanks again for sharing!

next_project (author)Xexos2017-07-12

thanks for the advice, I really did learn a lot while building this knife and continue to do so with feedback like yours. I will definitely apply your advice on my next build. Thanks!

About This Instructable

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Bio:Techie by trade, but hobbyist woodworker and metal fabricator to the core. I document my projects on my youtube channel.
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