• Matt - Selfe Made Knives

How to make your first knife Part 3

Updated: Mar 1

So now to shape your handle

This for me is the really fun part, this brings your knife to life. I now use my grinder to shape my handles to more or less their final size, and hand sand them to remove all scratches ensuring both sides are even. However, in the early days, I did this with rasps, files and sandpaper. The results can be the same, it just takes longer.

To do this you are going to need to clamp the knife by its blade to something to secure it. Before you clamp it, make sure to wrap the blade in layers of masking tape to protect the blade from being scratched. Then use something soft on either side of the blade and the clamp. This could be some leather from an old belt or some rubber matting for example.

Knife ready for handle shaping

Knife clamped in a vice

First remove the material from all around the tang of the knife, down to the metal. Go easy as you approach the tang, and in the final stages move to sandpaper rather than a rasp or file so you don't get any deep scratches. Once you have this shape you can begin to visualise how your knife will look. Do you want a handle that is of the same profile the whole length of the handle? Do you want the coke bottle profile? Do you want a flared butt such as that of a parang? Have this picture in your mind before you start.

Go slowly with your rasps removing material from both sides. From time to time take your knife out of the clamp and test it in your hands to see how it is beginning to feel. Once the bulk of the material has been removed move to a finer cut file to remove the deep scratches. From this move to sandpaper. Cut strips no more than an inch wide and hold each end of the strip pulling this back and forth over the length of the handle to remove the previous grit scratch pattern. I would recommend starting at 120g, then 240g, 320g and then 400g. Sticking duck tape to the back of your sandpaper sheets before cutting your strips will also stop them from tearing when you are using them.

Duck tape and sandpaper

Once you have finished it is time to add your final edge. Do this with bench stones, sandpaper clamped to a flat board or your favourite sharpening method. And finally, apply a coat of oil to the handle. This brings out the life of the materials you have used.

Finished handmade knife

Make sure you use your knife, only through use will you find out what in your design is good, and what needs to change.