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Advice for the Knife Making Beginner

If you're a knife making beginner, you should probably start with a simple round-tanged Bowie knife. This consists of a blade with a round tang to insert into the handle; a pommel and a guard; a handle; and whatever fixative you use to hold it together. Knife making beginners can't go wrong with this combination.

Each part of a knife has a name. Click here for Anatomy of a Fixed Blade Knife.

The first thing a knife making beginner needs to learn is safety. Wrap your sharp blade in masking tape. Knife making beginners are more likely to cut themselves than old pros, so you should take every precaution not to do this. Remember that a knife is a dangerous weapon, and you want to live from knife making beginner into old pro status.

Knife making beginners should be certain to always wear safety glasses or goggles when working with a knife, whether you're sharpening it, drilling it, or sliding it into the handle. Knives do shatter. And as a knife making beginner, you should be aware that some carbon steel alloys have dust that is hazardous to your health when you sharpen the blade. You should have a breathing filter available for the times you must work with these.

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Never force the tang into the handle; if it won't go, you're not removing the burs properly. Knife making beginners often make the mistake of not filing off the little spiky protrusions left on the tang end of a knife blade before sliding it into the handle. If your handle is pre-made (which is appropriate for knife making beginners) and the tang is not going in, it's almost certainly the burs.

Knife making beginners should purchase starter kits rather than trying to match the different components of a knife themselves. There are plenty of knife making beginner starter kits, from the simplest Bowie knife kits to more complex folding knives. By using a starter kit, you'll learn how knives are supposed to go together, and later your own custom knives will be more solidly designed.

There are several tools you should have as a knife making beginner. A soldering iron will make a much more solid join between your blade and the guard than epoxy, but it does require some finesse. Knife making beginners should have some sort of vise; you only have two hands, and some of the procedures you will be performing require an extra hand. Your vise is your extra hand. Knife making beginners should always have files on hand, a whetstone, and sandpaper of differing grains.

Prepare a workspace just for knife making. Beginners often try to work on the kitchen table or another inappropriate place; but since you're going to be clamping things down, generating dust, and otherwise polluting and damaging your workspace, in the interests of continuing on good terms with your wife or parents you should work somewhere it's safe to damage and/or pollute. Knife making beginners should start with a sturdy table, preferably with a strip of steel bolted down or clamped to it; if the steel strip is thick and extends over the edge of the table, knife making beginners can use this to clamp knives to while they use both hands to work with the blade, handle, or tang.

Knife making beginners have access to a vast variety of resources online. From online stores selling prefabricated knife making kits to books, videos, and internet how-to instructions on knife making, knife making beginners should be able to easily locate information they need. Knife making beginners should read widely. Don't just read the how-to websites, either. Go to the different supply websites, and look at the different materials available, and the different knives people have designed. You will learn as much from reading about knife making equipment and materials as you will from a knife making beginners book, and maybe more.

Don't limit yourself to just reading about modern knives, either. Knife making beginners are participating in a long and venerable tradition, dating back to pre-human times, of tool making. As a knife making beginner, you should read about the history of knives, learn about important knives like the Damascus steel blades of the Crusades-era Saracens, and the Jim Bowie knife that helped tame the American West. These ancient and historical knives can teach you a lot about design; and as a knife making beginner, you should keep an open mind about what kinds of knives you're going to make.

Knife making is a great hobby, and eventually, if you master the skills, you could even make money doing it. But as a knife making beginner, start small and slow. Learn your basics. Later, when you are no longer a knife making beginner but a respected pro, you can try the really fancy stuff.

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