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how to forge a knife – The Perfect Guide

Form a real knife for life with the right metallurgy!

We are talking about knives here and for forging, some good quality steel needs to be treated.

Trying out with some steel of high carbon, we will be detailing you with some easy step by step methods to shape your piece of steel on the anvil. Even without an anvil you can do some great work to make a wonderful knife.

The stock material method is we are trying to demonstrate to you. With an easy procedure and by using common tools you can shape to form your brilliant knife.

Let us plunge in the entire process of forging and forming a real knife.

This is knife we are talking about.

The knife measures 11 ½ inches and features more depth than the first one we made as a part of our project. The handle along with the blade is a curved one and we have used pins of brass in place of wood bolts (dowels).

The handle is constructed with mahogany and we have used an ebony bolster too. The knife forging is done in fire obviously and then the steel is worked out in the anvil for best results.

It leads to something great when we plan and sketch in the right way. So, you can see a drawing that matches to the exact size of the of the actual knife and this is to scale before-hand. Henceforth, you can have a complete view of what you knife will look like prior, as the knowing the shape is extremely important.

The piece of steel is also shown in the pic for your convenience to observe and move further.

Making just a simple and plain knife is the easiest thing on earth. But we have carved the one with some serious curves and designed it uniquely. The upper part is the knife while the lower part is the handle, are we are referring to the curves here before the final product is obtained. This has to be later on addressed on an anvil.

Furthermore, the drop holds a very important place and it needs to be done properly using a specific technique. As certain difference lies between the handle and the blade, the drop is also referred as the choil, that needs to be done perfectly.

Getting Started

Now the work of hammering the knife starts and the upsetting and squashing of the metal is done. While you hammer, after some time you will witness that the edges get thicker. The centre thickness is maintained the same way and the edges tend to get thicker.

This process should be carried out on a continuous basis and made to lie flat on an anvil. There is something called off-set hammering that helps in developing a curve. This is possible by striking towards the left and a bit away from the anvil’s horn. You will get a perfect curve this way.

This should be kept in mind that this will affect the side also of the anvil and both should be treated at the same time. Working continuously and consistently will help you to make the curves with perfection.

Dropping the Choil

Half-face hammering is the next step that should be carried on. The choil needs to be dropped half way, of the anvil and the handle part should remain on the anvil. The blade hangs out while this process is carried. The drop brings a difference and the half of the handle gets compressed while the end of the blade doesn’t change.

This will be pretty clear for you that how metal or your piece of steel is compressed by hammering continuously. The part of the piece of steel that is hanging away from the anvil will not get compressed.

Till you are near to the correct configuration of what you desire the process of hammering should be carried seriously.

When you are done with the off-set hammering (on horn) and the half-face hammering (on flat surface). The flattening of the blade surface should be excellent so that the thicker sections should not be left leaving unevenness on the surface. Everything depends on hammering on the anvil and making the surface flatter.

The tip of the blade

The work of the blade tip should be left unfinished before the accrual knife is made. As the thinning is done the edge of the blade or the tip should be left for easy burning or melting later. Curved blades like the one we are working on should be worked less for future forging.

Now a small hammer can be used when the final detailing is supposed to be carried on. The next part we are moving to is the beveling of the knife blade.

Use of a Cut-off Tool

Since the hammering makes the treated surfaces larger so excess material tends to turn up. A hard tool can be used to remove the excess part before the final shape is reached. Some hot cutting is required at this moment.

You should keep on working seriously till you reach near to the final shape of the knife. The bevelling of the blade is done when the blade is worked upon to taper down (towards cutting edge).

Whole blade or a part of it, depends on you when you are beveling it.

Beveling the blade

Angled and glancing blows can be done to give the blade a final shape. The hammering is done on both the sides in order to thin it outward (to the edge), which is further sharpened.

You can do a bit of tilting if you feel so while beveling. Making a nice wedge shape is your concern and this time toward the blade spine the steel is pushed upward.


The next step is the annealing where the softening of the blade is done by using sand paper, hand tools, grinders or files.

In this process the knife is completely turned orange and red (heated up to a Curie temperature) and even the magnet stops attracting it, this is the moment you know that annealing is done properly. After this it needs to be cooled down by taking it into the sand and away from any fire increments.

After the cooling is done, forging is not needed as we are near to the work completion.

The Handle

A simple handle is made by the stock removal method. The dark wood (bolster) or the light wood make the handle complete. In total the wood pieces are in a count of four.

Brass rods are used to pin them up and the four pieces (2 each side) are fixed with glue. Bolster measures 1/16 inch and the handle will measure 1/8 inch.

Drilling of holes in the handle is done and you can do it the way you desire. The holes can be of 1/16 of an inch and for the actual handle 1/8inch holes are enough.

The wooden pieces are drilled and cut according to the size of handle pieces and bolster (approximately). Attachment can be done by using dowels and the temporary pinning will suffice.

Now you can make the desired use of the rasp or a belt sander for the ultimate shape and design. Tools can be used to shape the handle and the bolster. After obtaining the right shape the handle and bolster pieces can be removed.

The emory paper is used to give a smooth finish to the blade. The blade polishing is done with grits of 600 and moving on to the increments of 100 grits.

A buffing wheel is the final thing you can use after the emory paper, but it is advised to buff cautiously as the knife may fling.

Hardening and Blade Tempering

The knife should not remain brittle and for that hardening and tempering is required.

Crank the forge and this has to be done by using a bucket of oil. Any kind of oil from motor, vegetable or even transmission can be utilized. Later on, a piece of metal should be put in the bucket. Any extra piece after heating up should be put in the same bucket of oil, in order to harden and temper properly.

Hardening the blade

After heating at a particular Curie temperature, the hardening and softening can be done. The blade and the point should turn to orange or red color and the point when the magnet doesn’t stick should be achieved. After achieving this non-stick point submerge the blade completely in the oil.

The file-test

After hardening and cooling if the file is made to run on the blade, a glassy sound may appear and if any part is left the sound will make you know after comparing.

Clean the blade

Again, the emory paper will prove of great help and the blade can be cleaned from both the sides. Sand paper can also be used if you don’t have emory paper.

Tempering the Blade

The temperature has to be brought as high as 450-500 gradually and the blade spine will soften up. Spine is the area of the blade that doesn’t cut and along with this the cutting edge also needs to be softened up.

The heated-up steel will make you know as the color will show. The spine should turn into a plum color and the cutting edge should obtain color of wheat.

Temper in the forge

The edge that is at the back of the knife should face the fire and after the desired color is got after the proper heating is done. The gradual transmission of heat from the spine to the blade will be done slowly while you heat. The monitoring should be done properly and then it should be put in the bucket containing oil.

The final cleaning with the emory paper should be done and then the handle should be mounted

Sand the knife handle insides

The inside of the pieces of handle should made fine with a sand or an emory paper. The inside is supposed to be glued to the knife.
Cutting the brass rods

The pins need to be cut from a rod of brass and this can be done by using a jack saw. After installing the pins, they should be filed and cut two 1/8 inch and the other two into 1/16 inch.

Before applying the glue, test them by giving a trail and sand them if you need an easier fit. Because after putting the glue things may be struggling. Brass or wooden dowels is your choice completely.

Mix the epoxy

You can make use of the Gorilla glue or an epoxy glue of 20 minutes can be applied. The epoxy should be applied in a liberal manner and all the four pieces of the handle should be covered.

Assembling the Handle

All the pins should be inserted and a hammer or a mallet should be used for tapping them in.

Carefully apply all four pieces to the knife and insert all the pins. Use a small hammer or mallet to tap them in.

After clamping the knife should be dried up and at least a handling time of 90 minutes and for a complete cure 24 hours are required.

The pins shouldn’t be clamped now and in case of any extra wood then a small piece vcan be put in order to have a same size.

File the Brass rods

Now after everything is set the cleaning can be done using acetone. Filing should be done of the brass pins and especially in the conjunctions.

Polish handle with Tung oil

Polishing the handle using a Tung oil is the best and several coats can be put.

Final sharpening and re-sharpening and your blade are completely ready!

A few points to be kept in mind while forging a knife

Protect your eyes! While doing any kind of firework and keep safe.

Cut metal is HOT! Be careful then, as the sparks may harm. Using an angle grinder is recommended.

Cut metal is SHARP! The burrs can be risky even if a flat surface is treated.

Forge a knife and feel proud!