Shop's Log #1: Chip-Carving Style Knife

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Blog entry by terryR posted 11-05-2013 03:33 PM 2892 reads 3 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shop's Log series Part 2: More marking gauges »

Most of you who already know me, know I like to make knives. No, I LOVE making knives. Every since an ol’ master taught me to refine my flint knapping skills, it’s been a constant addiction in my life!

But, a knife is a such a simple tool with multiple uses…and can be expressed in so many artistic manners…they are easily addictive IMO. Plus, what a great chance to practice gluing techniques, wood shaping, minor joinery, and possibly carving?

Here’s a special one with a knapped blade from Dacite (glassy, volcanic ash), a handle shaped from Leopardwood, and a guard made from cow bone!

Yep, I shaped the piece of cow bone flat, drilled and filed a slot for the blade to fit through, and polished it so far that it resembles ivory in every way. Funny part…the cow bone is a store-bought dog treat forgotten by our doggies and left in the yard for me! LOL. There are also 2 micarta pins slightly over an inch long bored through the guard and into the wooden handle to keep the guard in place for a while. They are nicely hidden underneath the shoulders of the blade…

I’ve also made a knife completely from wood…not very useful for anything except opening letters. And, truthfully, it’s not very well suited for that.

But, sorta pretty, and a ton of fun to make! This one is shaped from 7 layers of 0.009” thin wood (power planer tricks), and pinned with brass. The layers visible in the photo are Blood wood, Poplar, Walnut, Tigerwood, and Osage Orange for the ‘cutting edge’. The other side is similar in colors and has the lovely Blood wood on the outside.

But, I digress…

THIS blog was supposed to be about something completely different.

Recently, in preparation for the LJ's Plane Swap, I ordered a short plane iron from Ron Hock…and decided to spurge on a small carving knife blade as well. I chose the one in the center…

Now, for a meager $10, Mr Hock will gladly ship this fine piece of high-carbon steel WITH a handle, but what self-respecting tool geek and knife maker would consider that option? Dude, just send me the steel! LOL

But, once I received the blade in the post, and realized how short the tang was, I had some figuring to do. I’ve never made a knife with a partial tang which was visible on the top…as chip carving knives are mostly made. Doh! Time to learn something new…

It was obvious what was needed to make a handle, a narrow slot to accept the sweet Hock blade. But, how, by hand? No router or shaper or mill in my shop. I thought of a custom-cut spacer from an old bandsaw blade which would allow me to create the illusion of a full-tang knife, and just use 2 separate ‘scales’ for the handle. Been there, done that…but it wasn’t what I wanted this time.

So, I opted for the marking gauge and sharp knife method…slowly gouging out a slot as straight and square as I could manage. Fail. Slot was too wide, not square, wasted a scrap piece of Wenge.

Time for a jig…

OK, there’s my top secret jig for using the edge of a cabinet scraper to gouge a slot. A straight slot, square to the wood. Feel free to copy it…if you don’t mind spending a few hours and some skin cells on the task! LOL. It certainly wasn’t easy, but once I began to see progress, I stayed motivated. There’s a small block of wood hidden under the right guide to help hold the work piece. The blue tape is mostly to cut down on glare…so I could actually see what the slot looked like.

Eventually, the blade’s tang fit the slot. No big deal…although I wished I had used a depth gauge to pay closer attention to the base of the slot…more later…

Next, I used more blue tape to position the blade relative to the front of the handle, and marked the location of the pin holes. Just eyeballed it, and was a bit off. But, drilling the front hole in the tang a bit larger hid my mistake.

So, after a quick trip to the drill press…oh wait. Maybe I can share a bit of advice here?

My brass pins were 5/32” or whatever, from the store. The way I was taught to deal with pins…forget about the manufacturer’s size. Measure the pin in your hand with calipers, add 0.003”, choose a drill bit that size, or as close as you have. Leave the 5/32” drill bit in the drawer. The extra 0.003” you bore will allow room for epoxy and provide a perfect blend into the handle without gaps if done correctly.

So, after drilling for the pins, and several attempts at dry fitting all 4 pieces together (remember, I had to return to the drill and enlarge one steel hole), I finally mixed some 5 minute epoxy with a bit of black sawdust, and eased the knife parts together.

Actually, that’s another lie, since I was trying to save money and used one BENT brass pin, I had to hammer it home with a bit of force! That’s why the front pin seems so long…I was trying to use the straightest part of it. This is a bad practice. Please, don’t copy this action at home. Why? The bent brass is fairly soft, but has to enlarge the hole it’s being hammered into, and can possible leave a gap between the wood and brass when all is said and done. We’re trying to rise above that level of knife making here…

using the hacksaw to remove most of the extra pins…

And, while I’m at it, here’s another mistake I had to work around…

Here, you can see the blade fitted into the wooden handle, the brass pins already glued in place, BUT someone forgot to size the handle to the correct width BEFORE starting with any of this pin placement business! LOL. Notice my scribe marks which define the intended handle width before finishing. A big, time consuming mistake!

Why? If you simply laid this puppy on the belt sander and tried to remove that much material, the brass would get hot in 30 seconds, melt the epoxy around it, and leave a gap on the finished knife. So, here you see my work around to that problem…the thin edge of a cheap file. Still, I pause frequently to feel the brass and make sure it isn’t getting hot. Taking your time here makes a difference, I promise.

Now, the belt sander…

Notice I still have the super sharp part of the tool covered…Never forget about that sharp end! Especially around a power tool like this one. Obviously, this one isn’t running…when it is, I keep the blue tape away from the blue sandpaper!

Once the wood and brass pins are flush, sand slowly, and feel the temp of the brass frequently. If you sand too slowly, you enjoy more shop time! If you sand too quickly, you burn the epoxy or even the surrounding wood. Been there, done that…

I continued using the belt sander to round the handle into a shape I had in mind…but remember that depth gauge I mentioned earlier?

I should’ve used one to transfer how deep my slot was onto the OUTSIDE of the handle, so I didn’t make the mistake of sanding right into it. Rats! See how important proper layout is? Too late to go back now.
So, more epoxy and sawdust…

Then, began the task of sanding to finish. Yep, sanding. From 80 to 1500 grit by hand…using a small block of wood to keep the brass flush with the wood. A simple coat of fine wax for finish…

Oh yeah, the wood handle is East Indian Rosewood, very dark and dense. And smooth as glass…I’ve already dropped it twice! LOL.

You may notice the small black ring around the front brass pin…don’t use bent pins.

The mistake on the base didn’t hide as well as I wished, but still came out smooth and completely un-noticeable by the hand during use.

Overall, I was pleased with the results. The next one in this style will be better, I hope, from what I learned this time!

This Rosewood Knife is getting boxed up now, and into the post tomorrow to an LJ buddy. I can’t say whom…don’t want to ruin the surprise! LOL. But, I hope you’ll excuse my mistakes, and get the thing scratched up with use…

Comments and suggestions are always welcomed:

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

21 comments so far

View AnthonyReed's profile


9801 posts in 2497 days

#1 posted 11-05-2013 03:53 PM

Beautiful results, superb craftsmanship, excellent and informative blog!! What a great read.

Outstanding display of skill Terry. Thanks for taking the time to share and teach.

That Super Dave marking knife is pretty sweet too.

-- ~Tony

View CFrye's profile


10293 posts in 1897 days

#2 posted 11-05-2013 03:55 PM

Nice knife and blog Terry. I learned a lot from your mistakes! At the same time, I kind off like the black ‘accents’. That’s one fortunate LJer!
Thanks for sharing.
Edit: That knapped knife is gorgeous!! Wow!

-- God bless, Candy

View terryR's profile


7205 posts in 2365 days

#3 posted 11-05-2013 04:22 PM

Thanks, Candy, I’ll keep the mistakes coming…my skills have gotten rusty from swinging a 22oz framing hammer most of the summer! LOL

Tony, ain’t that knife from Dave awesome! In a piece of spam from PW ?yesterday I now know it’s official tool name is a Forged Striking Knife. At first, I thought the tool was sorta bent. But from reading, they’re supposed to have a certain shape such that when laying flat on the bench, the round tip is easy to grab. And this one is easy to reach for! The awl shaped tip was a HSS drill bit he folded over and shaped. Awesome! ...gotta get my forge working…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Don W's profile

Don W

18791 posts in 2624 days

#4 posted 11-05-2013 04:30 PM

Excellent Terry. Well hidden mistakes. The signs of a true woodworker!

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View woodcox's profile


2070 posts in 2069 days

#5 posted 11-05-2013 05:21 PM

Nice one Terry, as always. My ol’man grew up with Steve Johnson here in Utah. He had one of his knives but sadly his home was burglarized and his collection stolen. There are some real gems among us. Your recipient will be stoked I’m sure.

-- "My god has more wood than your god" ... G. Carlin.

View TerryDowning's profile


1079 posts in 2174 days

#6 posted 11-05-2013 05:29 PM

Excellent work on the “design opportunities”. Who ever the lucky LJ is that receives this knife will be proud to have such a fine tool in their inventory.

Great job, great write up!

-- - Terry

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2542 days

#7 posted 11-05-2013 05:34 PM

Cool stuff. I do love a nice knife.

-- Brian Timmons -

View 489tad's profile


3379 posts in 3068 days

#8 posted 11-05-2013 07:28 PM

Well done. Good write up.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3391 days

#9 posted 11-05-2013 09:02 PM

Excellent work on your carving knife and letter opener . I admire your determination to get it the way you wanted it. I also loved the Dacite knife. Very beautiful and well done. I have made some carving knives and I just make the handles with two halves, make a shallow indentation for the tang on both sides and glue it up with the blade in place. On the negative side you get an almost invisible glue line all around, but on the positive side the tang doesn’t show. It’s quicker, and works great, but it might not satisfy everyone’s aesthetic sense.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View terryR's profile


7205 posts in 2365 days

#10 posted 11-06-2013 12:08 AM

Thanks, guys.

Mike, I like your method, too! Much faster. Plus, seperate scales require thinner pieces of wood…opening up more choices from the scrap bin. :)

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View ShaneA's profile


6972 posts in 2655 days

#11 posted 11-06-2013 12:59 AM

Good stuff Terry. I think I saw they have blades for kitchen knives too.

View CFrye's profile


10293 posts in 1897 days

#12 posted 11-06-2013 04:14 AM

I an confused Mike, why is ‘an almost invisible glue line’ a bad thing?

-- God bless, Candy

View Woodknack's profile


12097 posts in 2437 days

#13 posted 11-06-2013 07:32 AM

Handsome knife and I picked up some much needed knife making tips; thanks!

-- Rick M,

View Brit's profile


7397 posts in 2900 days

#14 posted 11-06-2013 01:09 PM

Phenominal display of skill and adaptability Terry. I’m in awe of your talents my friend.

I’m hoping to get a couple of those Hock knives for Christmas, but I think I’ll get mine with the handles. :o)

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View helluvawreck's profile


31749 posts in 2923 days

#15 posted 11-06-2013 01:53 PM

This is an interesting post and it looks like you have a lot of fun. Thanks.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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