Watching Forged in Fire or workshop of some professional knifemaker can you easily force to conclude that you need thousands of dollars to get into knife making. This is far from the truth, you don’t need that amount of tools and equipment to start making knives. In this article, we will discuss the exact tools you need to begin your knife making journey.
These are the 8 tools you need to start knife making:
- Drill Press
- The Bench Vise
- Sharpening Stone
Keep in mind that there are many more handy tools which are not mentioned here. This list is composed of only essential tools for beginners.
A hacksaw is an essential tool for knife making. Without it, making a knife would be almost impossible. A hacksaw is a tool for cutting everything from plastic to metal. It has a U or C metal shaped bow frame. Some of them have adjustable frames for better accommodation. Depending on which type of material you want to cut, a hacksaw varies in the size of the blades.
It usually consists of one handle but some types have two for better comfort during work. The handle is also called a closed pistol grip handle. There are many different types of a hacksaw. Most popular are sawing machine, circular saw, band saw, panel hacksaw, small or junior hacksaw, power hacksaw
When it comes to hacksaws, you can choose between 3 different blade types, which are regular blade, raker blade, and wavy blade. Regular blades are constructed in a way where their teeth touching each other. These are not recommended for knife making bur rather for cutting soft materials.
Raker blades are commonly used for cutting very thick materials like metal because of their teeth composition. Wavy blades have a teeth pattern where they are placed from left to right to make fine cuts. Wavy blades are used for cutting hard and thin materials. This type of blades is the most commonly used for knife making purposes.
Junior hacksaw is the most popular type used in knife making. Basically, it is just a smaller version of a regular hacksaw. On this type, the length of the blades is usually around 150 mm (6 inches). The blade is smaller compared to a typical one. Because of that, a junior hacksaw (affiliate link) is way more precise for projects that require a neater finish. Because of its size, it is also convenient to work in more confined spaces.
This type of hacksaw usually has two pins on both ends of the blade which allow the blade to be tightly held in the frame. It cuts on the push stroke so blades must always be placed with the teeth pointing away from the handle.
The cutting with a junior hacksaw is usually slower because it has tiny teeth with shallow gullets. The positive thing is that you have more control and direction for each cut. This will allow you a more precise and neater finish.
Junior hacksaw is composed of wavy blades which are excellent for this purpose. Blade’s teeth are set in a way to prevent it from stucking in the material. Like most other hacksaws, junior hacksaw has usually somewhere between 14 and 32 TPI (Teeth Per Inch). Blades with more than 20 TPI are a better option for knife making purposes. The more TPI a blade has, the slower cutting is achieved but on the other hand, the finish will be more precise.
Most of them will usually have a straight handle. It can be moved freely with great control over the cuts. Note that junior hacksaws are not recommended for aggressive and fast cutting because it is harder to apply strong force.
The file is considered as the foundational tool of all precision metalwork, including knife making. It will allow doing anything you want with the metal, except drilling a hole. You can profile the shape of the blade, bevel the blade, making a piece of metal into a cutting tool, clean out holes, profile the handle, and many other things. If you are willing to sweat enough, you can even make an entire knife from a file.
Don’t save your money when it comes to buying a file. You should not buy some cheap low-quality file but a rather fresh, properly heat-treated file that will serve you well. Also, don’t afraid to modify them to accomplish specialized tasks.
You can use all the power tools but at a certain point you will need a file. There are many different kinds of files, but for knife making purposes, the most popular is the bastard file. The bastard file is used for moderate removal of material.
For a smoother finish, you can use the single-cut file. You should be very careful when working with the single-cut files. They tend to grab tiny pieces of metal during filing. To avoid that, put some chalk in the file.
Round and half-round files are also important types that often come handy. Round files have a circular cross-section. It is generally used for enlarging round holes and filling profiles with fillets. Half-round files have a wider radius to the curve and also allow you to switch from curved to round without changing the file.
Needle files are mostly used for small work and decorative purposes. They can also be found in many different shapes including round edge, flat edge, flat taper, half-round, triangular, square, round, and many other. The needle file is also available in bastard and smooth grade.
This is a motorized tool design to drill holes in various materials, including metal, wood, plastic, etc. It uses many types of bits for making different hole sizes. If you are serious about knife making, a drill press will make your work much easier.
There are various types of the drill press. Like all tools, the larger it is, the heavier it is. Therefore, a larger drill press is usually more stable and when the drill press has great stability, it also has great accuracy. This is very important for making folding knives. If you are making stock removal knives, you will be using a drill press non-stop.
If you are planning to use a large drill press, keep in mind that they are heavy, most expensive, and takes much space in your workshop. The biggest downside of all drill presses is the lack of portability. You can’t just grab it and move it elsewhere.
Compared to the hand drill, the drill press has a rotating handle that controls the spindle which can only move up and down. This mechanism makes drilling holes a much easier and more precise process. All drill presses have a depth stop to create consistent holes with the same depth.
You have two primary types of drill presses: stationary and benchtop. Stationary models are heavier but also have more power and features. On the other hand, benchtop models are usually smaller and lighter. They are also easier to move.
Another important factor to consider is the size of the spindle travel and swing. Swing is referring to a distance between the spindle and the machine’s central column, multiplied by 2. It determines the width of the material you can place on the drill press.
Spindle travel means how much you can move spindle downward using your rotating handle. For example, benchtop modes usually move only 2-3 inches while the large drill presses are able to move 5-6 inches.
Power is one of the most important factors when it comes to drill presses. To know the power of your drill press, you have to calculate watts. All models display volt and amp numbers. To calculate watts, simply multiply the two. The higher the wattage amount the more powerful drill press is. I have personally worked on a drill press that has 1,000 watts of power. That was a very pleasant experience.
Rotation speed is an important factor to consider when buying drill press. The harder is the material you are drilling, the lower speed you need. Many drill presses usually have various rotation speeds. This allows user-efficient drilling for different kinds of materials. Never models mostly offer more speeds. Benchtop models have 5-6 speeds while stationary types offer more.
Generally, the smaller the drill press, the more range of speed it usually has. For example, my smaller drill press runs between 570 to 3050 rpm whereas my large drill press runs between 340 to 2800 rpm.
Also, most of them contain a light that is mounted somewhere in the frame. All gearing on top of the drill press will block some of the light so having this feature is incredibly useful. Even if you have a well-lit workshop, having that additional light will make your work so much easier, especially when you are doing some fine work.
Drill press contains the table on which you place your material. Almost all models can move the table up and down, while some of them can also move side to side, or even tilting it. For knife making purposes this is not necessary because you need the table to be as straight as possible.
We also recommend getting a drill vise that will allow you to secure your knife to the table for making even more precise holes.
Drill press containing 3 handles can sometimes confuse the user. What happens is that you can easily forget which handle you used a minute ago so removing 2 handles will remove that confusion, leaving you with one and only handle.
The price of a drill press can vary from 70$ to 2000$, but for knife making purposes, you can find a good quality drill press for 200$. This one is an excellent example of a good-quality drill press that will serve you well for a long time.
The Bench Vise
Knives are all about precision, and precision comes from stability. That’s where bench vise comes in. It allows you to hold your material nice and tight without moving or sliding. Vises come in many different shapes and sizes, but bench vise (affiliate link) is ideal for knife making. We recommend buying the biggest vice you can afford.
They don’t need to be attached to your working bench. Any surface which is stable enough can be attached to a bench vise directly on its surface or the side. Lining the vice’s jaws with wood or leather protects your knife, so keep that in mind. Jaws can also be replaced when they became worn enough over time. Some models can also include an anvil part, which often comes in handy.
When it comes to choosing a bench vice, the most important factors are durability, strength, and application.
When using a bench vise, you should be aware of some warnings. For example, you should never try to widen the jaws more than they are designed for. If you notice any stress fractures on some part of the vise, you should change it as quickly as you can. Also, don’t tighten the vise more than it is necessary.
Calipers are tools used for precisely measuring the dimensions of various objects. They are commonly used for knife making. Calipers are excellent at measuring objects which cant be easily measured with a ruler. They consist of two legs attached to a hinge, which allows them precise movement to reach a precise measurement.
Some calipers, like spring calipers, require a ruler to calculate the measurement between the legs. Other calipers, such as vernier and digital, feature a scale. It allows a user to read straight from the display on the tool. We recommend using digital calipers (affiliate link) for knife making purposes because of their accuracy and simplicity.
Instead of a rack and pinion mechanism, digital calipers contain an internal microprocessor that calculates legs position and shows measurement on display.
Another option for knife making is vernier calipers. These types have dual scales which are placed along the bottom and the top. They show metric and imperial measurements. Also, they can measure up to 0.01 mm.
One more thing, to evaluate the flatness of your knife, you can use a simple ruler. You don’t need a caliper for that purpose.
When it comes to knife making, it is impossible to own too many clamps. The number of clamps required to make a knife can be large. Any knifemaker will use clamps every day for various tasks.
They are versatile tools that hold your working material safely in place. Other than knife making, they are used for various applications such as woodworking, carpentry, welding, and many more. You have many great clamps on the market, but only a few are commonly used for knife making.
C-clamps are excellent for holding Damascus steel. Compared to welder clamps, they are slower but their jaws open wider. Also, C-clamps can usually take a lot of heat without getting ruined. Make sure you don’t pull or hoist anything with them.
If you have some large blade or something that requires a tight squeeze then bar clamps are the ideal choice. A bar clamp consists of a long, metal bar designed to resist the pressure of holding some large materials. Depending on a task, you may need to use more than only one. You can place them across the width or along the length of a material. There are cases when they may need to cross over each other.
One downside of bar clamps is that they are not ideal for smaller materials. So if you are working on some small blade, these types of clamps will not be of much use. They are simply too long.
Sharpening is usually the last step in knife making. The term „sharpening stone“ is referred to a collective of all stones you can use to sharpen a knife. There are sharpening stones which are natural stones found in nature, and some artificial stones that are made in a factory.
The best sharpening stones are made in Japan. After all, when it comes to knife sharpening, the Japanese are one of the biggest experts. These types of stones are also called Waterstones. As its name suggests, they are used in combination with water. The benefit is that the sharpening process is much faster and easier.
Also, removed material immediately drains out because of the water. Therefore, there are no leftover metal particles in the stone which could cause scratches on your blade.
When choosing a sharpening stone, you should always keep your goals and needs in mind. For example, if you need to polish your knives, the diamond sharpening stone is not recommended. Instead, you can use a water stone with a higher grain size.
A lot of knife makers report that sandpapers are the biggest cost among consumable materials, including steel. The sandpaper consists of abrasive material and paper. Abrasive material usually comes in small grains which are measured in grit size. The larger the grit size sandpaper has, the smaller are grains.
Simply speaking, sandpapers are usually divided into two categories, normal and wet-dry sandpaper. Normal sandpaper is primarily used for softer materials, like wood and plastic while wet-dry sandpaper is used for metals.
Wet and dry sandpapers are using fast-cutting material called Silicon Carbide. Because of that, they benefit from being lubricated. Also, wet and dry sandpapers are typically found in higher grit sizes than normal sandpaper.
When using wet and dry sandpapers on your wooden handle, try using water in combination. It will dramatically increase the longevity of your sandpaper.