Knife making 101 - Lesson 2...Preparing the Steel

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bird and trout knife with stag handle

    Ok, you've got a piece of  steel - now what?  For our first knife we'll make a fixed blade drop point hunter with a 4 & 1/2" blade. So our piece of steel needs to be about 10 inches long and 1 & 1/4" inches wide. 3/32" - 3/16" thick.  If your piece of steel is not this size, guess what, we have to make it that size.  

    Be sure to wear gloves, eye protection, stout boots while cutting and grinding on the steel.

    There are many ways to cut the steel,  I use an oxygen-acetylene torch, if you have access to one and know how to use it or (even better) get someone to cut it out for you. When you layout the knife allow about 1/2" on each edge to allow for the cut. If  you don't have a torch, go down to the corner welding shop and they'll do it for ten bucks or so.

    A chop saw, with metal cutting blade will do it too. If your piece of steel is pretty close to the desired size, we can grind it down to the right size without too much effort.

    After it's cut, look at the piece carefully along it's length. Is it straight? If  not,  put the piece on the flat of an anvil or railroad bar and whack it with a hammer until it is straight. Cushion the piece of steel with leather on both sides to avoid winding up with hammer marks on the knife.  If the piece of steel is twisted, clamp one end in the vise (you gotta have a vise) and use a big crescent wrench on the other end to twist it straight.

    Now let's layout the knife. Grab your favorite knife, knife catalog, or knife magazine ( like Tactical Knives )  and feel free to borrow any design you like, because there is basically nothing new in knife design for about the last ten thousand years. Our ancestors designed and used every kind of knife there ever was and discarded the ones that were impractical.

    Now draw the shape of your knife on the steel. I use a hardened steel pin ( a scribe ) to layout the design. A set of "French curves" (available where drawing supplies are sold) is useful to layout the curves of the knife.  I'm drawing a picture of the knife I'm making will post later. Now for Lesson 3 - grinding the steel to shape.

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