The interest in making knives has in recent years skyrocketed with the popularity of Forged In Fire (History Channel). For those of us in South Africa, access to the internet (Youtube, forum sites, Instagram) has been a strong facilitating factor for growth in the craft within the country recently.
For the more experienced knifemaker who started making knives way back in the day, the path to this knowledge and skills was hard to come by. Stories of traveling hours to the nearest knifemaker to spend a few days with them were not uncommon and in many ways were the only way.
Even with access to knifemakers all around the world, physical hands-on experience is still one of the best teachers. Luckily there are more knifemakers around these days, so traveling halfway across the country, may not be necessary. Joining a local knifemaking club is a great way of meeting other makers, networking, and learning technical skills.
My experience has taught me that there’s nothing like digging in and getting started. I have some strong opinions about how a new knifemaker should get started. I recommend the ﬁrst knives be made with simple and even makeshift tools. That’s the kind of thing that lets you ease into knifemaking without spending a lot of money.
The art and science of making knives are one of man’s oldest crafts. Anyone with a few shop tools, the skills to use them, desire, and time can create their own knife. Knives can be made from “scratch” using a metal blank for the blade and wood or other materials for the handle. Knives can also be made from purchased kits. “Made from scratch” knife blades are made by one of two methods: stock removal (filing and grinding); or forging, also called “bladesmithing.”
Stock removal is the easiest to do in a hobby shop and can be done with a few hand and power tools. Forging requires much more experience and tools.
Below are some recommended knifemaking books for those wanting to learn more or even have literature to hand when working on new projects.
- Simple Knifemaking: A Beginner’s Guide To Building Knives With Basic Tools
- Blade’s Guide to Making Knives
- Making Full Tang Knives For Beginners: Step-by-Step Manual from Design to the Finished Knife by Stefan Steigerwald and Peter Fronteddu
- Step by Step Knifemaking: You Can Do It Paperback by David Boye
- How to Make Knives by Richard W. Barney (Author), Robert W. Loveless (Author)
- Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects from a Master Craftsman by Tim McCreight
- Next Level Knifemaking by by Salem Straub (Author), Tracy Mickley (Author), Jason Fry (Editor)
- Knife Engineering: Steel, Heat Treating, and Geometry by Dr. Larrin Thomas
- Hardening, Tempering and Heat Treatment (Workshop Practice) by George Gently
Forging and Bladesmithing:
- A Modern Guide to Knifemaking: Step-by-step instruction for forging your own knife from expert bladesmiths, including making your own handle, sheath and sharpening
- The Backyard Blacksmith Hardcover by Lorelei Sims
- The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection
- The Pattern-Welded Blade: Artistry in Iron Paperback by Jim Hrisoulas
- The Master Bladesmith: Advanced Studies in Steel by Jim Hrisoulas
- Forged a Guide to Becoming a Blacksmith by Liam Hoffman