How to Make Your Own Knife

There are tons of articles about EDC gear and BOB equipment, and one of the most crucial items on those lists a knife. Now as we all know (you do now), knives come in many shapes, sizes, and, of course, prices.

You can spend as little as ten dollars on a knife that will be a serviceable blade, or up to several hundred dollars on a knife that will supposedly be a cut above the rest. Oh, I just HAD to say it. I guess I’m just a sharp fellow.

home-made DIY knife
home-made DIY knife

There are more than enough survival knives to choose from on the market, but there is something to be said for making your own. Yes, I am talking about forging or crafting your very own survival knife.

Though it seems like a mystical process to the uninitiated, with just a little practice, some raw materials and a few tools you can create a knife that will serve you well in a survival situation. One you can truly be proud of!

Preppers should also consider that knowing how to forge or craft a knife is a useful survival skill unto itself, and in a long-term survival scenario making your own tools to replace lost or broken ones might well become a facet of life!

The Riddle of Steel

One of my all-time favorite movies was Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In that movie, James Earl Jones played the evil character, Thulsa Doom. In one of the scenes in the movie, Jones mentions the “Riddle of Steel”.

You have to keep in mind that 1000s of years ago, steel was like a magical thing constructed in fire while the swordsmith most likely muttered a prayer over it.

Forging your own survival knife has many advantages. For some, the main advantage will be the satisfaction that comes from making something with your own two hands. For others, it will be the significant cost savings over purchasing a comparable quality knife.

But forging your own blade also has functional advantages as well. When you make a knife yourself, you can customize it to fit your specific needs and preferences. This might include features such as:

  • The length of the blade
  • The shape of the blade
  • Serrations or no serrations
  • Point style; clip point, spear point, etc.
  • The style and material of handle
  • Adding a lanyard hole
  • Attaching a ferrocerium rod for fire-starting
  • Much more!

Of course, not everyone has access to a forge or the necessary tools to get started. But even if you don’t have access to a forge, you can still make a knife with some common tools and materials that are readily available.

In this article, I will walk you through the process of forging your own knife from start to finish.
So, if you are interested in learning this age-old skill, read on!

Good Steel is as Common as the Cold

Thankfully, today steel is really not that big of a deal to come across in countless common everyday items. The biggest problem with using “found” steel to construct a knife is that a lot of the times you won’t really know the quality of the steel you are using.

You won’t know if it will properly temper until you do it. Then at that time it either did, or it didn’t, and that’s it.

Of course, being careful in your selection of steel is very important.  You can identify good, quality steel (like axles for example), that can be forged into a high quality weapon.

The biggest problem with that is, what if you don’t have a forge or even know how to forge steel into tools and weapons? What do you do then?

Crafting a Knife Without a Forge

If you can’t forge a knife, whether because you don’t know how or because you don’t have a forge, you can still make a knife.

A forge is the blacksmith shop containing an anvil, various hammers, various tongs and pliers, etc. However, there is another way that you can make a knife.

Tools and Materials

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  • A piece of steel (to make the blade from)
  • A hacksaw (or jig saw, or band saw would be even better but I used a hacksaw to cut out the blade)
  • A file or grinder (for refining the edges)
  • A belt sander (not a must but a huge help, to polish the blade and bevel the edge)
  • Drill/bits (to drill rivet holes through the tang and handle scales)
  • Sandpaper (for sanding the parts)
  • Handle material (wood scales, plastic, etc., I used genuine bone)
  • Brass or softer steel rivets (I used brass rivets to attach the handle scales)
  • Gorilla glue or two part 15 minute epoxy (I glued and riveted the handle scales for extra strength and durability)
  • A gallon or so of oil (new or used, vegetable or petroleum, whatever you have. This is for quenching the blade to temper it. I used used motor oil, that’s why my blade turned so black. It was a pain to clean all of that carbon off of the blade)
  • Piece of brass or aluminum for the hilt (you can use the same steel as the blade if you have to, I used a piece of brass)
  • Heavy leather gloves

Getting Started

Even without a forge, you can still make a decent knife. If you can get your hands on some flat steel-like bar stock, or something similar, that you can cut a piece from, you can make a knife.

Start by drawing the shape on a piece of paper, or cardboard. When you have the shape refined to your satisfaction in paper, then all you need do is follow the steps below.

Step #1

Tape the paper onto a piece of steel, then using a black marker, some chalk, a crayon, a pencil, or a scribe to trace the pattern (a scribe scratches the surface so it won’t wear off like the others can):

piece of metal marked out with a marker to make a DIY knife
piece of metal marked out with a marker to make a DIY knife

Step #2

Cut the shape out with a hacksaw, or whatever you have to do it with. I used a hacksaw.

Cut close to the line, but leave a little so that you can final grind it to the line. If you try to cut it perfect, you are bound to cut through the line and mess it up.

Drill the holes in the tang for the handle scales NOW before you harden the steel, as it will be MUCH easier to do so now.

rough cutout of DIY knife blade
rough cutout of DIY knife blade

Step #3

Using a grinder or a file, grind the edges down to the line and refine the shape of your blade. I used a grinder to get within 1mm or so, and then switched to the file. For the final pass, I used the belt sander on all edges.

Step #4

Create a fuller (blood groove) in the blade by using a fuller tool when you heat the blade to temper it. If you don’t have a fuller tool, you can make one.

You may opt to grind the fuller in the blade with a small stone. Grinding goes easier if you make some type of a guide to keep the line straight:

DIY knife blade cleaned with partial fuller and handle holes drilled
blade cleaned with partial fuller and handle holes drilled

Step #5

The next step is to put a bevel on the edge of the blade, so that it can be sharpened easily once hardened. This step goes best if you have a belt sander.

Clamp the belt sander in a table vice to hold it still and steady. You can use a stick as a guide to maintain an even angle.

Here’s a video using a belt sander to sharpen a knife:

Patron Saint of Knives Sharpening 101

Grind the bevel holding the blade nearly flat onto the belt sander to get a steep angle. This will give you a sharper finished edge.

Start with 200 grit, then use 400, then 600, then 800, then finally 1000 grit. Sand the entire blade, as well as create a bevel.

Step #6

Once you have the shape cut out, the holes drilled in the tang for the handle scales, and a bevel ground on it for an edge, you are going to heat treat it to temper the blade. To heat treat the blade you will need a heat source.

I used a small electric kiln but you can build a fire to do it, whatever it takes.

The blade should be glowing cherry red and a magnet will NOT stick to it, this is ready for the quench. To quench the blade in a tube, hold it by the tang and insert it straight down into the tube of oil.

There is likely to be fire, so wear heavy gloves. To quench the blade in a tray, hold the blade by the tang and hold it beveled edge down. Insert it into the oil evenly.

Fire will likely come up from the oil. After the blade has cooled, take it back to the belt sander for cleanup and final sharpening.

Step #7

The blade is now ready for the hilt. Wrap the blade in paper, and tape it up so you don’t damage the edge or finish, and to minimize risks of cuts from the sharp blade.

Step #8

Cut out the shape of the hilt the same as the blade. Close to the line but not to it, then finish grind to the line.

Mark the center, then drill a series of holes then finish the slot with files to slide over the tang. The slot should fit tight enough that you must tap the hilt on with a wood block.

Step #9

Rough cut the material you plan to use for the handle. Cut the piece larger than the tang. Make a good, square cut against the hilt. Then clamp one side to the tang. Drill the rivet holes. Repeat with the opposite handle scale.

Now using a larger bit, countersink the rivet holes on the outside of the handle scale, so that when you smash the brass rivet it can expand and create a head in the countersunk hole.

Now use some Gorilla glue on the scales, and put the brass rivets through the handle scales to line everything up. Then wrap with cord, or use a quick grip clamp, or similar, to hole the scales tight. Let the glue dry.

Step #10

Finally, hammer set the brass rivets using great care to not break the handle scales.

Step #11

Grind the handle scales to fit the tang. Shape the handle to your hand as desired. You can cut finger grooves if you like. Finally, sand the handles. If you used wood material, a final stain and sealant will finish it off.

Creating a Knife with a Forge

If you have access to a forge or are willing to make a simple one, the process of forging a knife is relatively simple.

knife with oil scale on it
knife with oil scale on it

Keep in mind that your forge can be used for making and repairing all kinds of other metal goods, so the investment will easily pay for itself!

The Materials You Will Need

The materials you will need for making your own knife vary depending on the method you choose. However, there are some basic materials that are necessary for all methods. These include:

  • A piece of steel (carbon steel or stainless steel) that is at least 6 inches long by 1 inch wide by 1/8 inch thick
  • A hammer
  • An anvil
  • A pair of tongs
  • A pair of pliers
  • A file
  • A vise
  • A set of grinders (optional)

If you are planning to forge your knife the old-fashioned way, you will also need:

  • A forge
  • Coal or charcoal
  • An air blower or bellows

Once you have gathered all of the necessary materials, you can begin making your knife!

The Steps for Forging a Knife

There are a few different ways that you can go about forging a knife. In this section, I will describe the process for forging a knife using a coal forge and the simplest procedure.

However, if you do not have access to a coal forge, don’t worry! I will also describe how to make a knife using a simple propane forge.

Start forging TODAY in your own backyard - no special tools required

Step #1a – Coal Forge

If you are using a coal forge, the first step is to build a fire in the forge. Once the fire is going, use the tongs to place your piece of steel in the forge. Allow the steel to heat until it is glowing red.

This process can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of your piece of steel and the intensity of your fire.

Step #1b – Propane

If you are using a propane forge, the process is a bit simpler. The first step is to heat your steel until it is glowing red. This can be done with a simple propane torch. Once the steel is heated, use the tongs to remove it from the forge and place it on the anvil.

Step #2

Once the steel is heated, use the tongs to remove it from the forge and place it on the anvil.

Use your hammer to strike the steel and shape it into the desired blade shape. Remember to leave enough steel at the end of the blade for the handle.

Step #3

Once you have forged the blade, use the file to smooth out any rough edges. Be sure to also sharpen the blade to your desired sharpness.

Step #4

The next step is to attach the handle. There are a few different ways that you can do this, but one of the simplest is to use a vise and some epoxy glue.

First, clamp the blade in the vise with the handle pointing up. Next, mix together some epoxy glue and apply it to the end of the handle. Insert the handle into the hole in the blade and allow it to dry for 24 hours.

Step #5

Once the glue has dried, you can remove the knife from the vise. The last step is to add a lanyard hole. This can be done with a simple drill and a 1/8 inch drill bit. Drill a hole through the handle near the end of the blade.

Your knife is now complete! But, if you want to take your knife one step further…

Step #6

You can attach a ferrocerium rod to the end of the handle by tying it into the lanyard, or by keeping it in a pouch on the sheath. This will allow you to use your knife for firestarting in addition to everyday tasks.

That’s truly all there is to it! Now you know how to forge your own knife from start to finish. Give it a try and see what you can create!

Last Cut

You now have a handmade DYI knife. A knife that you have made by hand and you can be proud of.

This method of knife making is more simplistic than forging a knife, but it requires fewer tools and still produces a quality product at the end.

DIY knife Pinterest

5 thoughts on “How to Make Your Own Knife”

  1. Good knife making is an extremely intricate art form, that most preppers will never be able to master. Having said that, to have a rudimentary understanding of how to put an edge on metal, is a wonderful skill to know. The possibilities are endless, as to how you can use such a skill and so this article could be invaluable to those understanding the process and techniques shown.

    I’d like to offer a very simple metal working video, to possibly stay any fears the reader might have in attempting the above project. A larger spoon would also work to make a spear head. My point is to entice the reader to try working metal in a way that might be less intimidating, than the above projects? Then maybe it (the knife making) might not seem at all, overwhelming?

    1. Hmmm, did the article make it seem overwhelming to make a knife? I tried to explain it succinctly, to let people know that they are capable of this, and more really, if they just try and put their mind to it. To me it’s not really that big of a deal. Thanks for your input, and sure, adding a video link to provide more information to help people is great. Turning a large spoon into a spear head would fall into the articles on making weapons from household items that are on here. I suggested using a garden trowel for a spear head in my article. It already has the basic shape, and it’s usually made from decent steel that can be hardened. but sure, a spoon would work in a pinch, why not? Prison shanks were made from spoons for decades, that’s why they don’t get metal utensils any more.

  2. “Hmmm, did the article make it seem overwhelming to make a knife?”

    To one who has never attempted such a task, the answer is yes.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to make the video., very informative. I;m going to try it, will keep you posted, keep up the great info.

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