How to make your first knife Part 2
Updated: Oct 9, 2020
So now that your blade is all cleaned up it is time to stick a handle on it. eBay is great for finding handle material. You can buy pre-cut wooden scales meaning that you do not have to cut a block yourself. You will also be able to find micarta and G10 scales meaning that you do not need to buy a whole sheet.
If you want to use a knife liner in between the tang of the blade and your handle you need to glue this up first. Make sure that both surfaces are flat, and keyed to accept the glue. Clamp these securely to a flat surface and allow to cure for 24 hours. You can purchase G10 liner sheets or cut into scale sizes depending on your requirements. They come in range of colours and really add something to your finished knife.
You now need to drill your pin holes. I never do this with a sharp blade, in fact sharpening is my very last process. If you are using a pillar drill it is worth making a blade stop. I have a bolt going through my table, so if the drill bit does catch a burr and grab the blade it will not spin like a helicopter blade. I have seen so many injuries in knife makers where the drill had grabbed the blade and spun it into the makers hand. Do not become a statistic.
So drill your first pin hole. Drop a pin through the knife and into the handle material, and drill the second hole. Repeat drilling and dropping in a pin until you have drilled the last hole. This will ensure that all holes line up. Now flip the blade over, on to the other piece of handle material and drill your holes in that side.
Once all holes are drilled, pop a pin in each hole and fit the blade to one scale. Draw around the blade onto the handle material, and you now have the outline of the blade to cut to. I always remove excess material before I glue up to save having to grind it off afterwards. Do this on both sides, and then with a saw remove the handle material just outside of this line you have drawn.
You also need to ensure that your handle material is completely flat. My method for this is to stick a sheet of 120g sandpaper to a granite chopping board. I draw in pencil a cross pattern on the handle material and use a circular motion on the sand paper to remove material. The criss cross pattern in pencil shows you where you are removing material and you can keep an eye on when you are getting to flat.
Steady pressure and a circular motion helps not round off the corners of the scales.
You can see in the photo below where the scale is now nearly flat. There is just that shiny section with the pencil lines remaining under the top hole.
You now need to work out how you want the front of the scale to look. Do you want it straight or in an arc? Do you want it slanted from the top to the bottom? Mark your decision and remove the material up to this line. You now want to clean this up and sand to its final finish as you cannot tidy this area up once you have glued your knife together. Keep putting the scales onto the knife to make sure you are happy with how they are fitting.
Once you are happy drill small diverts onto the handle material on the side of the scales that will touch the tang of the blade. Make sure that you drill these not too close to the edge, as if you sand through them they look unsightly on a finished blade. These diverts help the glue secure the handle material to the blade.
When you have drilled these holes, a few quick circular rounds on your sand paper will ensure that your scales are flat again.
Then go over the tang of the knife with a low grit sandpaper to key the steel. This again helps the glue to have something to really grip to, however make sure that you do not sand areas of the knife that the handle material will not cover.
To glue up use a good 2 part epoxy, I use West Systems G-Flex but you should be able to pick up something from your local hardware store. Epoxy is a skin irritant, so latex or nitrile gloves should always be worn.
Make sure that your knife, your scales and your pins are all clean. Nail polish remover does a great job of this. Use a piece of old t-shirt to clean up every surface of dust and debris to ensure you get a good fit up without any contaminates. Mix up equal parts of the epoxy and spread a thin layer over one of the scales. Next coat the pins and pop them in. Put a thin layer on the tang of the knife and press this over the pins onto the bottom scale. Finally a coat of glue over the inside of the top tang and push this over the pins. You now want to clamp your knife together. You can do this is a bench vice, with G clamps, with hand clamps, with a work bench, whatever is at your disposal. Don't over tighten and squeeze all the glue out, but tight enough that you don't end up with gaps or a visible glue line. Again you need to clean up the front of the scales at this point, removing any squeeze out of glue. Remove this with a cotton bud, or a piece of old cloth. Once the majority has gone a light wipe with some nail polish remover or acetone will clean that last bit of glue from the blade.
Now patiently wait at least a day before moving onto the next step. Even fast cure glue really needs a day before you start working on it.
Read the final part here