Handles for a marking knife and two violin knives

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Project by tr33surg3on posted 10-24-2011 06:46 AM 4480 views 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I ordered a Ron Hock spear point marking knife and two single-beveled violin knife blades.
These are the handles I made for them.

I picked up an odd-sized cherry board from the bin at Rockler. I cut off a chunk long enough to make a handle and ripped that into three handle-sized blanks using old handsaws I have. I used my hand and the blades to figure out appropriate dimensions.

I then cut the blanks roughly in half down the middle. The first time I used a cheap back saw from a mitre saw, but the saw wandered a lot and I needed to do considerable cleanup. By the third handle I was squaring the blank, cutting deep marking cuts and using a Shark flush-cut saw to make a cleaner and more accurate cut.

On the first (top) knife, I used a paring chisel to cut a shallow groove to hold the knife blade. It wasn’t easy and I made it a little too wide, but I did figure out that I should cut the groove slightly too deep and then plane the handle down to get the correct fit. This knife ended up having the snuggest fit of the three. On the two violin knives I dispensed with the groove. Instead I cut strips of thin walnut stock. I glued (Titebond) the two strips next to the blade using the other half of the blank as a clamping caul and as many spring clamps as I could fit. When the glue dried, I removed the blade and planed the walnut strips to the correct thickness. Then I glued the other half of the blank on. When that glue-up dried, I planed the cherry and walnut on the top and bottom to level.

At this point I had rectangular knife handles in need of shaping. On the first, I simply used a sharp paring chisel to rough out a comfortable shape. At that point, I thought it looked good enough to finish it, so I did. My wife thinks it looks like a turd. I kind of agree, but it is comfortable and works fine. The jury’s out on whether I sand it down and refinish it. On the second blade, I settled on a simple torpedo shape and I learned how fast 60 grit sandpaper can eliminate chisel marks. On the third I saved a lot of chisel work by using a block plane to rough out the shape before using the paring chisel only at the ends. I drew a pattern on the first handle, but by the third I was doing all of the work by eye. I checked for symmetry as a guide, but I stopped carving when the handles felt right.

All three are sanded only with 60 followed by 150 grit using a piece of foam as a sanding block. I then brushed on six coats of 2# cut shellac (Zissner Bullseye) with very light sanding with plastic “steel” wool when necessary.
By the third handle I realized I could stick some bamboo kabob skewers through the blade slot to avoid smearing the finish.

I thought it would be difficult to get the fit correct, but even thought two of the knives aren’t particularly tight, the knives don’t slip in practice. I haven’t tried any real-world carving yet, but if they do slip I’m planning to use violin rosin to increase the friction, or I’ll stick some sandpaper to the blades.

To insert and remove the blades, I clamp the blade in a vise (wood-lined) then I push the handle onto the blade. It goes on and off with moderate hand pressure. I wouldn’t try it without the vise for fear of slipping and cutting myself badly, but it certainly doesn’t need to be forced on. One time I did stupidly just poke the tip of the marking knife into the benchtop and push the handle on. Now I have a date with the grinder to shape a new point.

The goal of making removable handles is to make sharpening easier. I haven’t sharpened the blades yet, but they certainly look to live up to their reputation. I used them along the way for marking chores (they did just fine), but they’ll be a lot easier to control once they’re properly sharpened. When I get the time to try my hand at whittling or chip carving, I’ll certainly order another set of blades and repeat this project. I still have some plane blades from the same shipment, though, so some wooden planes are next up on my to-do list.

I’m still very new at this, and while the first knife handle met all of my expectations, the third exceeded them by far. My work has become much faster and more confident.

-- Tim -- Tools to make tools to's tools all the way down.

2 comments so far

View smitty22's profile


714 posts in 2973 days

#1 posted 10-27-2011 02:06 AM

good looking knives, thanks for the link to Hocking, wasn’t aware the blades are available separately.


-- Smitty

View jjw5858's profile


1135 posts in 2629 days

#2 posted 10-28-2011 05:03 AM

Great work on the handles…...nice job!...thanks so much for sharing it!

-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

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