A truism is one of those little truths that should be self evident but are not always so. I hope here to share some knowledge with new knife makers, to glean some knowledge from all knife makers and to share a few knowing chuckles in the process.


A 1/4" pin doesn't go in a 1/4" hole.

This seems obvious to me now but at first I went crazy wondering why all my drill bits were obviously faulty. I now know a little clearance is necessary. About .002 - ..007 seems about right. It leaves just a bit of room for the epoxy and still looks like a nice tight fit. There are a few ways to accomplish this. The easiest is to use a slightly oversize drill bit. The second is to enlarge the hole after you realize it was too small. This is nearly impossible after the blade has been heat treated. The last method is to reduce the diameter of the pin stock. This is easily accomplished with soft brass or nickel silver by putting the pin in a drill and using bits of emery paper to sand it down to a perfect fit...

Power tools destroy faster than they create.

A belt sander is many times faster than a file when profiling a blade. For me it was the solution to a problem with carpal tunnel syndrome. Having said that, a tiny touch in the wrong place will destroy your blade. I recall working on a large handled, deep bellied skinner. While Profiling the handle, I touched a hot spot with my bare hand and I flinched. A big gouge was too much to hide so I changed my plans to a medium handled skinner. While grinding the main bevel, I went too far, cutting into the spine and folding over the edge. Not wanting to quit, I ground down both sides to remove the spine damage, re-profiled the blade to eliminate the damaged edge and wound up with a very nice paring knife. It's a good thing too because if the paring knife hadn't worked I was going to start on my first nail file!.

Dull tools are worthless or dangerous.

We are makers of sharp tools so we should know this. Dull files are frustrating and liable to damage your work. Dull drill bits cut poorly, damage stock, heat up and overwork the drill. Dull sanding belts just heat up the stock without removing much and dull saw blades have a tendency to break just when your knuckles are in a vulnerable place..

Knifemakers bleed - often!

You are going to get cut on belts, sanding discs, blades, burrs on stock, wood slivers, tools and those curly little metal chunks off the drill press. Keep a first aid kit handy. A Band-Aid and a bit of Polysporin can make a big difference in the way that cut looks in a couple of days. Don't ask for problems. Always wear safety glasses and a leather apron. You should also wear a filter mask. Even when hand sanding, the air gets full of tiny particles that you don't want in your lungs. Don't permit distractions. Tell others not to enter your shop if power tools are running and leave phone calls to the answering machine till you are done. Your safety and the quality of your work depend on absolute concentration.

Opportunities to learn are unlimited.

Knifemaking courses are offered everywhere. Tool suppliers are (mostly) knowledgeable and helpful. The internet is rich with resources for instruction, materials and technique. You will find that other knifemakers are the most helpful people you will ever meet. They will unselfishly give advice, contacts and hints and are often willing to give you a shop tour or demonstration. Seek them out at seminars, knife shows, instruction courses and by networking with others.

Email Rob