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Thread: Knife making without a shop

  1. #1
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    Knife making without a shop


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    Hey guys! I'm new here and to knife making in general (beyond premade kits that is). I am in the military and as such do not have access to many of the tools needed to make a knife (forge/ somewhere to HT steel, anvil, grinder, etc) it's pretty much just me, my room and elbow grease. I read in a post somewhere about a man making a knife out of files and steel that his buddy had sent him in Iraq. Is it possible to make a knife without these things available to me or am I pretty much out of luck for now? And if it is possible what do I need? Thanks!

  2. #2
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    What you need is irrelevant, the question is what can you get or have available. I am sure with determination you could make a knife with a leatherman file.
    But obviously a big Nicholson file is preferred over a Leatherman file. Obviously good knife steel or high carbon steel is important. As is the ability to harden and temper it after shaping.
    CW
    Chris Williams from Fayetteville, NC
    WWW.Wilmontgrinders.com
    WWW.Wilmontknives.com

  3. #3
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    Tool are not a problem, I have files and things like that, and I can access steel (I have to order it only but that's not an issue) Is there a simple way to heat treat and temper without a large forge, etc?

  4. #4
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    You can make knives with fairly minimal equipment but you will have to figure out a way to get them heat treated. You can send your blades to a commercial heat treater to have this done, but you have to start with a steel type that they will heat treat, some of them will not do oil hardening alloys.
    Opinions will vary, but assuming that you can send out for heat treating, the absolute minumum for equipment would probably be a hacksaw, files, sandpaper, a drill (a small drill press would be the first power tool on my list), a sturdy workbench and a decent vise/clamps.
    I would suggest doing some research to get a good idea of the processes involved and the order in which they are done, before making any plans. If you are in the military then it's likely that some of the makers here would be willing to help you out. Filling out your profile and reading through some of the stickies so you can ask more specific questions would be a good way to get started.

  5. #5
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    I've been reading for the past few weeks on it, and I have the basics down. My issue is more of space. I have to work out of my barracks room since I am stationed overseas (Germany) meaning I can't use power tools, except a hand drill. The most I can really do is a vice on my desk. I's all elbow grease from there. I guess my question is really starting point for steel type. Do you recommend finding a heat treating place and then going off their steel types? The way I understand it is (in very very crude terms): file a blank, start bevels, heat treat and temper, start polish/ final sanding, handle, sharpen. (More or less I know that's a terrible explanation though)

  6. #6
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    Hi Lagoen,
    Thx for your service in the military.
    As you mentioned you are on base, I would think one of the repair/fab/machine facilities might have a small heat treat furnace? If so A6 or A2 would be nice. No oil quenching required like simpler tool steels, nor any subsequent cryo like more complex ones. Perhaps a six pack of beer could get you access to the furnace, or get it heat treated for you?

  7. #7
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    You have the basic processes right, but the amount of finish work done before/after heat treat varies quite a bit depending on the steel chosen and the heat treat that it is given.

    If you are using stainless or air hardening alloy and sending out for heat treat then you can and should take your blades to final dimensions and near to the final finish before sending them, the vaccum furnaces that they use leave the surface with just a light layer of oxidation, and no decarb. Without a grinder, this is definitely worth considering. Oil hardened blades generally need the decarb and scale ground off after heat treat, without a grinder you are stuck doing this part with sandpaper because files will not work on hardened steel.

    Peter's has a list of alloys that they will treat, they are one of the few who will do oil quenching alloys- http://www.petersheattreat.com/cutlery.html
    One of your biggest drawbacks to using them will be the cost, if you are only able to send 1 or 2 blades at a time, they are geared towards doing larger batches and the cost goes down considerably if you send 10-12 blades or more at a time. I use Peter's regularly for the alloys that I don't like to do myself.

  8. #8
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    Stevo, I've checking into the one "shop" (car care center) we have on post and it doesn't have anything I need. Unfortunately I am on a very small post, by very small I mean we have next to nothing.

    Justin, I think that sounds like my best option for now. It sounds like stainless and air hardening, A-2 or A-6 as Stevo mentioned, will be good choices. Do you guys have any recommendations on what files to work with? I have the files you would see in any basic home (rasp, mill) but no large variety. After reading bladsmth's instructions on how to make a knife it seems like a variety of files should be used. Thank you again for all your help.

  9. #9
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    Stevo, I've checking into the one "shop" (car care center) we have on post and it doesn't have anything I need. Unfortunately I am on a very small post, by very small I mean we have next to nothing.

    Justin, I think that sounds like my best option for now. It sounds like stainless and air hardening, A-2 or A-6 as Stevo mentioned, will be good choices. Do you guys have any recommendations on what files to work with? I have the files you would see in any basic home (rasp, mill) but no large variety. After reading bladsmth's instructions on how to make a knife it seems like a variety of files should be used. Thank you again for all your help.

  10. #10
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    The short answer is yes, you can make a knife with minimal tools and elbow grease. I think you correctly defined the first steps... find a means of getting the heat treatment done, find out what kinds of steel they process, and go from there. Most of the knives I've made were done using mostly hand tools, and the steps where I used power tools (bandsaw, bench grinder, belt sanders) could well have been done using hand tools (high tension hack saw, files, sanding blocks).

    Being in Germany is a problem, as I understand knives are largely illegal there, so you may also need to check into what kinds of knives are permitted and limit your work to those types.

  11. #11
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    Files...I probably have more than a hundred. For filing bevels and other heavy work I would get a 10" or 12" double cut and the same size single cut, probably a couple of chainsaw files to clean up plunges, and at least one 8" or 10" double cut half-round for handle work. Those should get you started, you will probably want to add other types as you find a need for them.

  12. #12
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    Timberlea, Nova Scotia, Canada
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    Since you wont be sending anything back to North America for HT, do you have a mechanics bay on or nearby your station? I recommend logging onto the British Blades forums and asking around there. There are members from all over Europe on that site and they will be able to better give you answers to your questions. Us telling you to get A2 or O1 is fine but overseas they are sometimes called something different. As to knife laws, this is an old link but it gives you an idea http://www.britishblades.com/forums/...fe-Laws-update Good luck.

  13. #13
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    Get to know the mechanics that work in the motor pool/ vehicle maintenance shop and see if they can help you. When I was in Deutscheland 40 yrs ago we had some access to the motor pool shop when off duty to work on some of our projects.--KV

  14. #14
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    Lagoen


    First of all let me say thanks for your service. I have been in your shoes. I was stationed at Keflavic Iceland and wanted to make knives more than just about anything, other than getting back home to my family. They did have a nice hobby-shop set-up but I did not want to spend most of my time there. I built a bench in my room with a small vice and a place to hang a flex shaft tool. I made many knives with files and sandpaper. I did set up a disc grinder at the hobby shop eventually and I did the torch method heat treating at the hobby shop. Are you close to town there? I found that many of the civilians were very interested in my hobby and offered to help out. I actually found the materials and built a propane forge there. Did some forging and made enough knives to pay for my plane tickets home for leave.

    If you need some help getting supplies please let me know. I will happily send you what you might need if it fits in a flat rate box. If you want to get some HTing done send it to me and I will do it for you so long as it is carbon steel, don't do SS. Take care and please update your profile esp let us know you are serving this great country.

    Take Care

    http://www.acrichardscustomknives.com
    Avatar Scott Taylor Memorial Scholarship Knife
    Photo by Bob Glassman
    Chuck Richards ABS J.S.
    OTAC USN Retired

    Email woodchuckforge@gmail.com

  15. #15
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    Justin, thank you for the file information, exactly what I needed.

    I'm not worried about the shipping, knife laws, etc. I can ship through USPS and the knife laws do not pertain to me on post (as long as I don't bring them off post which isn't a problem). I have many knives in my room that are "illegal" in Germany, but completely acceptable on post.

    A C Richards, thank you for your service as well, I know exactly what you mean about that one hobby and getting back to family. And very much for your offer I will most likely take you up on it. I was planning to order steel online (as well as the files, etc) and only have some basic knowledge on steel (from what I've read here). Whatever type of carbon steel is easiest for you and can be hand made just let me know and that is what I'll get. Obviously I would be more than happy to receive any supplies and help (especially HT) that you can offer me. I would like to compensate you for everything as well so if you let me know the best way for you to do that as well. By PM preferably.
    And unfortunately the nearest town with anything other than farm is quite a distance. And the knife laws on the economy are strict so I don't foresee that as a viable option as good as it sounds.

    As a side note, I feel like this post is a ramble and apologize. I just got off a long day of work and have a big field week coming up so my brain is flying right now. Hopefully tonight I will have hashed out my thoughts better haha

  16. #16
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    Dutchman living in Germany
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    The law here in Germany differs between owning an knife and carying one.
    Only knuckle knives, 'spernaz spring knives' and other more exotic knives are prohibited.
    It is legal to cary a single edge, fixed blade up to 12cm.
    On folders it can be either a one hand opening or locking blade without a size restriction. Both one hand opening AND locking is prohibited.

    There are many good HT companies around here as there are good knife suply companies that can sell you anything you need.
    If you don't speak German, most speak English.

    End of April there's a big knife show in Solingen with high range contestants

  17. #17
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    Apr 2006
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    Just outside Tucson, AZ
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    Don't try it!

    (Oh! never mind,... at first glance I thought it said "knife making without soap".)

    You'll need some soap to get the elbow grease off.
    Last edited by Tai Goo; 04-16-2012 at 01:15 PM.

  18. #18
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    Apr 2012
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    Hengelo, I don't think I even own a knife that small haha. That great information though, do you have any more specifics on where and when, shops festival etc?

    Tai Goo, how did you figure out my secret weapon to knife making? No soap!

    I'll be out of the loop until Friday evening or so everyone, I'll be back this weekend though. Thanks for all the help so far! You guys are great.

  19. #19
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    Or you can use a fire to anneal and heat treat 1084 steel. Probably wouldn't be perfect, but it would be close. And just files, time, drill, and saw.

  20. #20
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    LAGOEN.

    If you have any questions feel free to pm or email me. You can post in the shop talk section also. Take care and stay safe on your maneuvers.

    http://www.acrichardscustomknives.com
    Avatar Scott Taylor Memorial Scholarship Knife
    Photo by Bob Glassman
    Chuck Richards ABS J.S.
    OTAC USN Retired

    Email woodchuckforge@gmail.com

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