Basic and cheap equipment for (stock removal) blade making

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Apr 8, 2009
1,115
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Ashdown Forest
Just looking to try my hand at a little blade making. Can anyone recommend some cheap power tools to use? I’ve got a drill press (in place of a pillar drill) already, but I assume that a belt sander/bench grinder is the way to go for stock removal and handle shaping?

If I’m to be realistic with the amount of time I’m likely to have, this isn’t going to become a production line of hundreds of knives, but rather a blade or so per year – so the kit doesn’t need to be too high end (and in any respect, I can’t justify spending a lot!). In terms of a heat treat, I’ve read that success can be achieved with a blow torch to heat the blade rather than a forge – is this true, and if so any recommendations for a suitable torch?

Any suggestions for inexpensive but adequate kit would be very much appreciated!
 

greencloud

Forager
Oct 10, 2015
117
30
Newcastle
Hi. I'm certainly no expert but basic and inexpensive is up my street!

If you're handy with an angle grinder it can save an awful lot of time (but possibly screw your work beyond recovery in a split second). Belt sanders are just the job, but only really speed up what can be done with files.

Look up Aaron gough on youtube. His filing jig is a staple among new knifemakers.
 
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greencloud

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Oct 10, 2015
117
30
Newcastle
Oops- forgot to add. Heat treat requires a bbq, hairdrier, magnet, metal container of oil and the kitchen oven. Basic carbon toolsteels are pretty easy to get decent results.

I've never properly tested mine but they hold an edge better than anything in the kitchen!
 
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Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,587
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Mid Wales
I would suggest working from one of the many books on the subject; for example 'Custom Knife Making' by Tim McCreight ( https://www.amazon.co.uk/Custom-Kni...811721752/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 ). There are plenty of YouTube how-to's but you can more easily keep referring to a printed page in the workshop.

To be honest a good set of quality files is the most controlled way of getting the edge on a knife before hardening in my opinion. A belt sander and a bench mounted grinder are useful. I remove most of the material to profile the blade and the tang using the grinder. An angle grinder will give fast results as long as you're careful.

I used to use the blowtorch method to heat the blade before quenching and had reasonable results but I now use a thermostatically controlled kiln which gives much more consitency. They're not cheap (around £600) but ask around to see if anyone you know has one; they could be using it for jewellery making or glass enamelling etc. You need to be able to heat 01 tool steel to 800C to oil quench. For tempering use a modern domestic oven which will be far more accurate than any flame method especially if it has a temperature read-out.
 
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Janne

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Feb 10, 2016
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Grand Cayman, Norway, Sweden
I find a Dremel is a very useful tool.
If you want to go cheap, clones exist at a much lower price point.
But, if you buy a clone, make sure that they make plenty of attachments, or that the spindle accepts the original Dremel stuff.
 
Jul 24, 2017
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somerset
Go down the scrappers and get a big brake drum, mount this on 3 ft of scaffold tube weld this to a base plate to act as a stand and weld or bolt the drum to this, cut a hole in the tube for hair dryer, you now have a free standing forge for I would say less than £50
 

Dave Budd

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Jan 8, 2006
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I would say that an angle grinder is by far the most useful power tool that you can buy: it cuts, grinds and polishes. Cheap belt/disc sanders are useful but mostly for tidying things up and handle shaping, though everything that you can do with those can be done with files (good files!). A cheap pillar drill is useful for all sorts besides drilling (and a hand electr drill is a bit fast for steel anyway), such as drum sanders, flap wheels, buffing mops, etc; not a good plan for a precision drill as it does a number on the quill and bearings.

As for heat treating, a forge is a hole in the ground with some charcoal and a hairdryer; or a soft fire brick and blowtorch, or send it away to be done professionally.

Tim Mccreights book is probably one of the best out there for a beginner :)
 

greencloud

Forager
Oct 10, 2015
117
30
Newcastle
Check out Mr Budd using said hole in the ground, iron age style... if the link works


Seen this one years ago and have fancied hitting hot stuff ever since. Inspirational!
 

Nice65

Full Member
Apr 16, 2009
5,045
1,586
W.Sussex
For your requirements of a few blades a year, maybe use someone who offers heat treat services. EdgeMatters forum will help you along, I think Shing will still heat treat a blade for you as part of his batch, but there are plenty of others. It’ll save a lot of mucking about with forges, oil, Rockwell hardness files, and using the kitchen oven for the slow cool down process.

As for tools, you have a decent drill, so angle grinder and belt grinder are the most useful.
 
Apr 8, 2009
1,115
93
Ashdown Forest
Oh wow - I've just read through the posts above - and there is some terrific advice there - thank you all so much! Clearly tapping into a lot of hard won knowledge. Some great book and video recommendations - i'll get working through them.

Getting quite excited by this prospect now!
 

mikehill

Settler
Nov 25, 2014
721
165
Wigan
1" x 30" Machine Mart grinder is the standard way to start with stock removal ... just about every UK maker went that way ;-)
 

Buckshot

Mod
Mod
Jan 19, 2004
6,290
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having just made one small knife and now working on a bigger one i would say do some small stuff first.
it's much easier, or rather less difficult, to work on a small knife and get the ideas techniques sorted before going onto bigger things if you wish
 

gonzo_the_great

Forager
Nov 17, 2014
203
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Poole, Dorset. UK
Just confirming with others have said.
I use 01 tool steel blanks. Rough out with the angle grinder. Then onto the (cheap) belt sander.
I heat treat with a furnace made from a propane blow torch and some vermiculite blocks. And temper in the kitchen oven.
Then back on to the belt sander for the final grind.
I brought a very cheap bench grinder ages ago. Was too weak for grinding (only something like 350watt?), but works fine with a polishing mop.

For stabilising wood scales, I used to use a heavy duty jar (spaghetti jar?) with a compressor pump from a fridge. But I had a length of plastic waste pipe over the jar and sat it in a washing bowl, in case it shattered. Later replaced with a proper pressure container, originally from an industrial Loctite glue applicator, I found in the work's bin.

Though I will admit that my heat treating needs more practice. The knives come out looking great, but I tend to get the cutting edges breaking up on heavy use. I may be burning the cutting edge?

Also, I'll mention that a belt sander is a surprisingly useful tool. I originally was going to just deploy it on the workbench as needed. But it ended up being used so often, it had to have it's own bench. It's one of those tools that once you have it, you will not understand how you ever lived without.

Jules
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,587
3,845
Mid Wales
Though I will admit that my heat treating needs more practice. The knives come out looking great, but I tend to get the cutting edges breaking up on heavy use. I may be burning the cutting edge?
Jules

I suspect you're right. It's the problem with producing the edge before the heat treating when using a blow torch; who knows what temperature the fine edge reaches by the time the rest of the metal is up to temp. I get away with producing a fine edge when the knife is still soft because I use a temperature controlled kiln; the edge can't rise above the kiln temperature no matter how long it's in. You could switch to leaving more material on the edge then using the belt sander with frequent water cooling to get the edge. I'm not overly keen on this because if the edge goes above your tempering temperature (which is very easy to do on a belt sander) you ruin the tempering.
 

greencloud

Forager
Oct 10, 2015
117
30
Newcastle
I really need to make some test blades and destruction test to see how they hold up under my 'rustic' heat treat. Under normal use they're great. I tend to leave 1mm or so at the edge and profile the edge a little over size prior to HT, then skim down and finish grinding the bevels after.

It does mean dunking almost every pass though.
 

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