Brad's Nordic Knife Making Instructions

I usually start a knife by picking the blade that I want to use.  
Unless I have a design in mind, I will often surf  the Nordic knife makers sites to get ideas.

I then pick a handle block that compliments the blade.

For this knife, I am going to use a Bjorkman blade, 24x80 mm, stainless San12c27, with a bead blasted side.  I picked a traditional Curly Birch handle block.  The design will consist of a nickel silver guard and a Moose antler spacer with black vulcanized fiber spacers and thin nickel silver spacers on either side of the antler.
Knife Making Supplies

The first step is to cut the guard, vulcanized  fiber, and nickel silver spacers to size.   I use the end of the handle block to lay out the spacer  dimensions before cutting.  Because I am going to put the Moose antler spacer back from the guard about an inch, I also cut the handle block at this time.

Knife Making Layout      Knife Making Layout       KNife Making Layout       Knife Making Layout

The next step is to find the centers of the handle block and spacers.  I think the most important step in getting a good looking knife is the tang hole through the guard.  It must tightly fit the tang where it meets the blade.  I take pains to lay out the tang width and height dimensions accurately on the guard using a caliper.

The third step is to drill the handle block, guard, antler, vulcanized fiber spacers, and nickel silver spacers for the tang.  An advantage of placing the antler spacer back an inch from the guard is that you don't need as long a drill bit as you would otherwise.  It also makes it easier to keep the holes running straight.  I have found that the relatively long and small diameter drill bits (usually an 1/8" diameter or smaller) you use have a tendency to wander off center.

I center punch the guard where the holes will be drilled to prevent the bit from wandering and improve accuracy.  I don't worry too much about the holes drilled in the handle block and spacers.  Because I glue the parts together, I will often oversize these holes to give the glue a little more something to grab on to.

Knife Making Ready for Assembly

The fourth step is to file the holes that you drilled to fit the tang.  Here again, the most important piece is the guard and it is the piece that I start with. If you value your fingers, now is a good time to tape the blade.  Not only does this protect your fingers, it also protects the blade from accidental scratches during the  assembly process.  

Getting the tang to fit the guard accurately requires a lot of trial and error.  A set of needle files is indispensable for this step.  I fit the pieces to the tang in the order that they will be assembled.  I also polish the guard at this time.  It is much easier to do it now than after it has been mounted to the blade.  

Also, you may find that your antler spacer has a porous area running down the core.  After drilling, I saturate this porous area with Crazy Glue.  The antler will soak it up like a sponge.  This helps ensure the strength of the antler once you start sanding it down to its finished size, and if you run into this area while sanding, it will look just like the antler rather than leaving you with grooves running the length of the spacer.

Once you are satisfied with how all the pieces fit together, it is time to start gluing.

Knife Making Glued

The fifth step is to glue up the knife.  I use a polyurethane glue.  I like the way that it expands to fill gaps and grabs on to anything that it touches.  The good old standby is epoxy glue.  I usually do the glue up in two or more stages.  I start with the guard and the piece behind it. Limiting the first stage to these two pieces makes it easier to ensure that they are square to the blade.  Once the glue from this stage has set up, you can usually glue the rest of the pieces together.  To assist in gluing up the knife, I made a gluing jig from mild steel and threaded rod.

Knife Making Gluing        Knife Makinbg Gluing

The sixth step is to shape the handle after the glue has set up.  If you have a good idea of how you want your handle to look, you can use a coping saw to cut it to rough shape.  Because I like to let my handle shape evolve as I make it, I use a belt sander with 80 grit paper.  My method is messy (creates a lot of dust!) so wear a dust mask.  Once you are satisfied with the rough shape of your handle: how does it look with the blade?; how does it fit the hand?; you can start finishing the handle.

Knife Making Rough Shape

The seventh step, finishing the handle, consists of finish sanding and applying a wood finish.  I start with a 100 grit sandpaper and work up to  a 1500 grit sandpaper.  

For a wood finish, I use either tung oil or CCL Knife Handle Oil.  The CCL Knife Handle Oil is a two part finish, consisting of a sanding sealer and a finishing oil.   It has become my finish of choice.

Knife Making Finishing Handle     Knife Making Finishing Handle     Knife Making Finishing Handle

This handle is it's natural color.  You can experiment with staining the handle.  Leather stain works well.  You start with a dark color and then sand most of it off.  You then apply subsequently lighter colors, sanding between each.  

The most important knife making instruction is to have fun!

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