Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide – Where Should I Start?

When it comes to knifemaking, there are two main paths you can take: forging your blade or buying a prefabricated one. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the basics of knife making for beginners, and will assume that you’re starting from scratch with no prior experience. So what do you need to get started? Let’s take a. look!

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

The first step in starting your knifemaking journey is to get the right equipment. You’ll need a forge, anvil, hammers, chisels and other tools for manual forging. If you’re looking for something simpler and easier to use, you can opt for electric or gas-powered grinders and belt sanders. Additionally, you’ll need the right materials for the blade and handle, such as wood, metal or plastic.

Assembling a knife is no easy task and requires patience and dedication to get it just right. You’ll need to use a variety of tools to create the different parts of the knife – from sawing off pieces of metal and grinding them down to size, to crafting the handle. It’s important to use the right tools for the specific task at hand – a sharpening stone or electric grinder won’t be effective for sawing off pieces of metal.

To complete your knife, you’ll also need polishing stones and other materials to give it that perfect finish. You can find kits with all the necessary tools and materials, or you can pick and choose from individual pieces of equipment and supplies.

No matter what path you choose for knifemaking, it’s important to take your time and learn about the correct methods of forging a blade before attempting it yourself. With patience, practice and expert guidance, you’ll soon be able to create the perfect knife for all your needs.

Materials Needed For Knife Making

  • Forge, anvil and hammers
  • Chisels and other tools for manual forging
  • Electric or gas powered grinders and belt sanders
  • Materials for the blade and handle – wood, metal or plastic.
  • Sawing equipment for cutting metals
  • Grinders or sharpening stones for grinding down
  • Rivet, Pins, & Glue

In this guide we give you 3 types knifemaking kits.

  1. Starter Kits – This kit contains all the basic tools and supplies you need to get started with knife making.
  2. Advanced Kits – This kit contains additional materials and tools for more intricate and complicated knifemaking projects.
  3. Professional Kits – For experienced knife makers, this kit contains a variety of specialized tools and materials

Starter Kit ($500)

To make basic knives through stock removal without the aid of tools, here is what you will need.

  • Workbench
  • 5″ Angle Grinder (cutting and shaping blanks)
  • 1mm Angle Grinder discs (great for cutting out shapes)
  • Good set of Files (shaping bevels)
  • Sandpaper 180, 320, and 600 Grit
  • Small Drill Press (difficult to make straight holes without one)
  • Bench Vice (buy one or make your own)
  • Pre Cut Blade Blanks (ideal for your first few knives)
  • 3mm 1075 Steel (easy to work with, easy to heat treat)

Workbench

A workbench is an essential tool for knifemaking, as it provides a sturdy surface on which to securely clamp parts and tools during the knifemaking process. Workbenches can be made from a variety of materials and come in many different sizes and styles, depending on the needs of the individual knife maker. It is important to select a workbench that is the right size and can handle the weight of larger tools and materials.

5″ Angle Grinder

An angle grinder is an essential tool for knife making, as it can be used to cut and shape metal pieces into the desired shape. When choosing an angle grinder, it is important to make sure it is powerful enough for the task. Additionally, angle grinders come with different sized discs, so it is important to select the right size disc for the job. We recommend to start with 5″ angle grinder.

For a budget-friendly way to cut steel into knives shapes, an angle grinder and a cutoff wheel are the perfect combination. Angle grinders can also be used with flap sanding wheels for bolsters and even rough shaping scales. However, it is essential to wear protective eyewear when using these tools due to the large number of sparks they generate while grinding metal.

Files and Sandpaper

Good quality files and sandpaper are must-haves for knife making. Files can be used to shape and smooth metal pieces and sandpaper is important for sanding down the blade and handle. It is important to choose files and sandpaper that are of good quality and suitable to the task, as they will make a huge difference in the finished product. We recommend starting with 180, 320, and 600 grit sandpapers.

Small Drill Press

A small drill press is a key tool for knifemaking, as it allows the knife maker to make holes in metals accurately and quickly.

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

With a drill press, you certainly get what you pay for. It may be tempting to purchase the more affordable smaller models available at nearby hardware stores; however, it’s critical that they can reduce their revolutions enough to pierce metal. When starting out on projects with steel components many discover themselves investing hours upon hours of effort drilling tiny holes with an electric drill – only to end up burning through drill bits or hardening the blade material. The advantage of having a reliable and sturdy drill press is undeniable: its capacity to apply ample downward force whilst turning slowly makes piercing steel easy as pie!

Bench Vice

The bench vice will help secure your materials in place while you are working with them. It is important to purchase a quality vice as it will ensure that your materials stay in place during the grinding and filing processes, as well as reduce risk of injury due to accidental slipping.

Pre Cut Blade Blanks

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

For those just starting out in knifemaking, pre-cut blade blanks are ideal as they provide the knifemaker with an easy to work material that is already cut into the desired shape. Pre-cut blade blanks save time and effort, as well as help to ensure that the blade is of an even thickness.

3mm 1075 Steel

When starting out with knifemaking, it is important to select a steel that is easy to work with and relatively inexpensive. 3mm 1075 steel is a great option for beginners, as it is relatively easy to shape and heat treat.

Heat Treating Oven

In order to create a strong and durable knife, the knifemaker must heat treat the steel in an oven. As such, a good quality heat treating oven is essential for any serious knifemaker. It is important to purchase a heat treating oven that is capable of reaching the desired temperatures and can also maintain an even temperature. Additionally, it is important to select a heat treating oven with adequate safety features, such as a fan system.

Working Gloves

A good pair of working gloves will protect your hands from potential burns and cuts while you are working with metals. It is important to select gloves that are comfortable and provide enough grip when working with tools and hot metals.

Safety Glasses

Safety glasses will protect your eyes from flying sparks and metal shards, which can be a common occurrence during grinding, sanding, and cutting processes. It is essential to wear safety glasses at all times when knifemaking to avoid potential eye injuries.

Intermediate Kit ($2,000-$4,000)

With this setup, you’ll be able to expedite your knifemaking journey as well as gain access to more complex techniques.

  • Starter Kit, plus:
  • Variable Speed Belt Grinder ($1600 – $3200)
  • Disc Sander ($1000)

Forging Kit ($2,500-$3,000)

Not only can a forging setup give you the power to transport hot metal, but it also presents versatile capabilities such as heat treating and welding.

  • Starter Kit, plus
  • (optional) Intermediate Kit, plus
  • Forge ($600)
  • Anvil ($900+)
  • Flypress ($300 – $800)
  • Tongs ($200 for 5 pairs)
  • Hammers ($200)

Additional info about knifemakins tools for serious projects

It takes a good amount of money to acquire the tools necessary for knifemaking. Each person must decide how much they feel comfortable spending on this art form, as some may choose to use less costly items such as hack saws or files in order to shape and bevel their blades.

Beginners may choose to invest in an angle grinder for most of the profiling work, while those that develop a fondness for knife making will eventually acquire three or four key pieces of equipment.

In order of importance they would be a 2×72 belt grinder, drill press, forge and band saw.

You can certainly accomplish the task without these tools, yet having the appropriate tool for a specific job makes your work incredibly gratifying and leaves you with more time to focus on its artistic elements.

The knife smith will also require a selection of more ordinary tools like pliers, hammers, vises, and various clamps to go along with the equipment listed. Please keep this in mind before beginning!

Anvil

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

An Anvil is essential for those who are forging blades by hand. It must be firmly fastened to a solid base that’s at an ideal height, allowing you to comfortably craft your creations. That being said, if all you intend on making are stock removal blades then it may not be necessary in this instance.

Band Saw

If you’re planning to invest in a band saw, ensure it is specifically designed for metal cutting so that each of your knives can be precisely cut out. Don’t go with the general type of wood-cutting band saws; purchase one crafted exclusively for metals.

Seeking to save money? Portaband is a budget-friendly solution that can be set up as a table mounted saw. Alternatively, you may consider buying a Vertical/Horizontal band saw and use it in an upright or vertical position for optimal results.

Both possibilities are viable, however it’s advised to get a reliable blade right away. Alternatively, you can hunt for second-hand machine shop equipment. Industrial band saws cost thousands but sometimes used ones can be quite economical if you look hard enough.

Belt Grinder

As every knifemaker knows, the most essential tool in their kit is a 2×72” grinder or sander. Although they can both do double-duty when it comes to wood and steel, these multifaceted machines are generally referred to as belt grinders because of their primary purpose – forming blades and grinding bevels.

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

Main mistakes

  1. Many people make the mistake of buying an economical 4″ belt sander from Home Depot without realizing that it is incredibly hard to achieve perfect bevels without adjustments. The issue lies in the fact that most 4” sanders do not have a side-open flat platen, which is necessary for creating double beveling with deep lines.
  2. Newbie blade smiths may opt for 1” belt sanders with a flat platen and the necessary space on each side; however, these machines are usually not sufficiently potent. Although they can still accomplish the job at hand, it will likely take hours rather than minutes to grind bevels.
  3. Manufactured by a wide range of companies, Standard 2×72 grinders offer an array of features to choose from. With options such as variable speed, tool rests and the capacity to flip into a horizontal grinder – these machines are sure to keep you grinding with ease!
  4. If you’re committed to making knives, the best option is a 2hp grinder with a variable speed controller. Prices and delivery times will vary depending on your selection.
  5. If you’re a beginner, it can be tempting to buy the cheapest belt sander or 1″ grinder from Home Depot. Don’t fall into that trap – instead save your money for an affordable 2×72 machine offered by several manufacturers and get the performance that you need right away. You’ll thank yourself later!

Maximize your savings and create a custom-made machine by starting off with the essential chassis, including drive wheels, contact wheels, and flat platen. You can buy the motor separately without having to invest in variable speed if you cannot manage it at this time. Constructing a stand to hold your new belt grinder is easy! You have two options – put together one out of wood or steel according to your preference.

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

If you’re a novice in grinding blades, piecing it together like this will enable you to obtain an excellent 2×72 grinder for roughly $800. This is all that’s needed to begin making some beautiful blades and as your progress, further options such as large contact wheels for hollowing out bevels, small wheel attachments with which to access tight spaces easily, Tilt Tables for more straightforward bevel grinding and surface grinding add-ons may also be included.

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

Complementing your belt grinder will be an array of specialized belts with varying grits. To efficiently reduce the bulk of material, a 36 or 60 grit is recommended for rough grinding. As you progress towards final polishing and finishing touches, opt for finer-grit belts to avoid generating excessive heat on the metal surface; coarse grinders generate less warmth than those with more granular composition.

Belt Types

Ceramic Belts

Ceramic Belts have been engineered to be both efficient and long-lasting. Whether used wet or dry, they are exceptionally resilient while pressure grinding which helps keep the belts grain sharp. Moreover, ceramic belts are not just fast for stock removal but also last much longer compared with other abrasive products in similar categories – unfortunately though these benefits come at the cost of being unavailable in finer grits.

Aluminum Oxide

Aluminum Oxide is an invaluable tool for general purpose abrasive needs, as it can be used both wet and dry. Furthermore, if you’re looking for a finer grit in your belt sanding process, Aluminum Oxide is the way to go!

Zirconia

Zirconia is the way to go for grinding stainless steel due to its versatility in both wet and dry applications, plus it can stand up against heavy pressure. Although more costly than aluminum oxides belts, you’ll get your money’s worth with Zirconia as it will last much longer!

Scotch Brite

Scotch Brite polishing belts are perfect for finishing projects and creating beautiful beveled edges. You can find this essential tool under several different names, making it easier than ever to get your hands on the supplies needed for a successful project!

Felt belts

Whether you use compound or not, felt belts are a great tool for polishing.

Leather stropping belts

If you want to achieve an optimal level of sharpness, consider investing in a leather belt or stropping belts made from leather – the perfect tool for polishing your micro bevel.

Cork belts

Crafted with a thick cork backing and aluminum oxide for added durability, cork belts are designed to last through any task.

Buffing Wheel

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

 

A bench grinder with buffing wheels will prove to be a powerful ally for any knife shop. By combining the appropriate compound with these buffing wheels, you can effortlessly polish brass bolsters and pins, acrylics, allumilyte scales – and much more!

To ensure the highest level of buffing efficacy, it is best to assign each wheel a specific material. For instance, do not use one wheel for both brass and plastic objects. Combining different substances on the same wheel will dilute their individual effects; additionally, small amounts of leftover brass particles left on the surface can cause scratches in soft plastics during polishing processes.

Center Line Scribe

If you’re aiming to grind some beautiful bevels, this tiny tool is an invaluable asset. On the market are a variety of models that let you adjust its height for scribing two parallel lines on your blade – known as “railroad tracks” – which ultimately act like guiding beams when grinding your desired shapes. Don’t miss out on picking up one of these valuable contraptions!

Self-centering scribes are not ideal if you need a precise, centered line. Instead, use bolsters and profiling scales for more accurate results. You can also opt to utilize disc grinders with interchangeable plates featuring finer grit wheels that will make it possible to polish flat surfaces perfectly.

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

Dremel Grinder

Oftentimes underestimated, these miniature handheld grinders are absolute lifesavers for creating knife handles and cleaning up small internal radii of the blade blank when no small wheel attachment is available for the 2×72 grinder. Furthermore, they can be used to construct Choil Notches and Jimping with ease.

Disc Grinder

When it comes to Disc Grinders, you are spoiled for choice. Whether bench-mounted, free-standing or horizontal/vertical – these grinders provide the perfect flat surface when placed in conjunction with an adjustable tool rest resulting in impeccable grinding results!

Knife Vise

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

If you’re looking for a tool to securely hold your knife blade without causing any unsightly scratches or damage, then look no further than the handy Knife Vise. It’s designed to rotate freely, making it particularly useful when sanding handles or performing other tasks with precision and ease. A must-have item for anyone who takes their knives seriously!

Milling Machine

Although owning a milling machine is not absolutely necessary in the knife shop, it does make creating small Choil notches and Jimping incredibly simple.

Oil Quench Tank

For heat treating purposes, this tank is designed to securely retain quenching oil. Its steel structure must be sturdy enough not to topple and it should come with a lid that can quickly extinguish any flame if necessary. Depending on the needs of your business, these tanks may appear in vertical or horizontal configurations and they are typically crafted from either steel tubing or pipe for maximum durability.

 

Pin Chop Saw

Get the job done quickly and precisely with this miniature chop saw! It is not a mandatory piece of equipment for your knife shop, but it certainly makes cutting brass pins effortless. Not only that, there’s hardly any burr left behind – much easier than using a hacksaw, bandsaw or angle grinder. Get this tool now to make sure you finish each project on time without compromising quality.

Plunge Jig

Plunge jigs are crafted from two metal pieces with holes drilled and tapped, enabling them to interlock securely around the blade like a clamp. They serve as an effective safeguard against accidental grinding beyond the flat edge of the jig.

Perfectly symmetrical bevel plunge lines can easily and quickly be forged by blade smiths using a Plunge Jig. When used in combination with a Sliding Jig, if it was constructed to work specifically with the Plunge Jig, or even when grinding without any special tooling – this amazing device will guarantee excellent results!

Quench Bucket and Stand

For any knifemaker, a bucket of water should always be within reach whenever they are at the belt grinder. To make grinding more comfortable and easier, we suggest creating a stand made from wood or metal to rest the bucket on – that way you don’t have to constantly hunch over when it comes time for quenching hot blades.

Scroll Saw

Trimming scale material to size is a breeze with the help of a scroll or pin saw! We use the scroll saw when we need to trim off any excess from each side after it’s securely mounted onto the blade. This reliable tool makes short work of what could have been an arduous task, making it easy for us to achieve perfect results every time.

Sliding Bevel Jigs

There exists a wide variety of bevel jigs, with the most common being sliding jigs. These fasten the blade to the apparatus and include an adjustment for accurately setting up the angle of tilt. You simply slide it along your grinder’s 90-degree work table guided by simple use instructions—gain consistent bevels on both sides of your blade with ease! Moreover, certain designs are intended to pair well with a plunge jig. The only downside we can think of is that sometimes achieving curvature in line with your blade may prove difficult when using this type of jig; however, if you require accuracy in such areas then there exist alternative models available too!

Tilt Table

Our custom-designed tilt table is a practical and efficient bevel jig that fastens to almost any 1 1⁄2 inch tooling arm. It was created specifically for our OBM 2×72 grinders, yet it can also accommodate various other makers’ machines due to its adjustable features–it’s able to move horizontally, vertically and it aligns perfectly with the platen’s flat edge. This remarkable work rest offers comfortability as well as convenience!

By offering the knifemaker flexibility in bevel grinding, the tilt table is a must-have tool. It’s one of few jigs that can produce flat bevels and hollow grinds with ease. To begin, simply adjust the table to your desired angle and hold it firmly against the blade before slowly bringing it up into contact with a belt grinder or similar device. As you slide horizontally along prescribed center lines you’ll create an even line for consistent results every time!

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

The beauty of this system lies in its ability to give the knifemaker complete control over the blade. By simply observing the scribed lines, they can precisely grind down areas where more depth is needed. If done correctly and with consistency along a pre-scribed centerline, it will result in forming an optimized bevel that follows the curvature of your knife flawlessly! For added precision, take advantage of a tilt table and angle meter for accurate readings.

With these meters available for just $20 online, you can create bevel angles and reset the table consistently. This is great if you’re grinding different thickness materials or switching from a flat platen to larger wheels – especially when it comes to final post-heat treating finish grinds! It’s easy; all you have to do is record your angle and then set the same one in future use.

Knifemaking Beginners Tools Guide

With the tilt table, bladesmiths can create precise rough bevels with a coarse grit grinding belt more quickly than ever before. It not only saves time, but it ensures that both sides of the blade have an identical bevel angle for perfect symmetry and balance. Not to mention free hand or when learning to freehand grind will also become much simpler!

The coarse grit belt of the tilt table allows you to set a rough bevel in minutes. After heat treating, switch over to hand grinding with a finer grit belt and rest the pre-established bevel directly onto the grinder’s platen or contact wheel for your finishing touches. This combination provides an efficient blend of speed and accuracy – perfect for any blade smith!

Final Words

So there you have it, the top equipment needed for knifemaking beginners! With this list of tools and materials in hand, you are now well equipped to get started on your knife making journey!

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