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Feb 20, 2013 01:45 PM

My next knife will be ....

.... my own?? :-D

So, it's been a little over 3 yrs since I first found Chowhound & started asking knife-related questions:

Since that time, I've shared a few experiences & opinions about my own, personal knife life. These discussions have been incredibly helpful in maintaining the maximum performance of my knives, & have allowed a greater level of enjoyment in the use of my equipment. Along the way, I feel the comaraderie & share the laughter of those who are silly enough to tolerate my fondness for 'waxing poetic'. (Although, there are a few early contributors who no longer participate in in our 'pointed' discussions, & I'd just like to say that I miss their continued input.)

But the 'next step' for me has come, & I fear I may have walked down the Road Of Madness, & now knock upon the Door Of Bedlam for admittance. And I cannot look back ....

Basically, I'm going to make my own, next kitchen knife! Of course, my wife thinks I'm crazy. (So, really, no change there...) I familiarized myself with the feel of working with wood & steel by repairing beat up knives from food services & modifying old finds from thrift stores. Then, since I don't have unlimited financial resources (or friends with workshops full of metalworking equipment), I decided to start the knifemaking process by building my own knifemaker's grinder. (Did I mention that this was going to be one of those longer, more drawn-out procedures?) Then, I got some scrap steel from the recycle yard & scrap oak flooring & made a 'practice' kitchen knife. (I didn't want to spend lots of money on expensive materials & make mistakes with it.)

And that's as far as I've got. It's been a nice experience to learn the intricacies of what it takes to shape steel & wood into something that looks like a knife. The next step is to repeat the process using 'real' steel. I'll update everyone as I move farther along in the process.

So -- here are a few pics of where my journey has brought me to, at this stage. I wanted to share these with the friends that have encouraged my habits ....

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  1. <my wife thinks I'm crazy. (So, really, no change there...)>

    That is funny. Wait till she reads this.

    Very nice photos. Love them. The finished santoku knife looks beautiful. The profile looks very straight (not sure if it is very straight or just the photo). Do you use the same grinder for your blade and for your handle? I will love to read more about your continuous process. Thanks for the update.

    4 Replies
      1. re: JavaBean

        :) I always like my petty. I just didn't get a huge boost from using a petty vs a paring, but that may has to do with the fact that I don't use my paring knife all that often to begin with. Recently, I was using my petty to peel and to cut up my rather large Korean pears. It was nice that I can both peel and partition the pears. Previously, I would peel with a paring knife, and then cut it up with a Chef's knife or a Chinese cleaver. A paring knife is a bit too small for cutting it up.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Way to go! Doing the peeling of a paring knife and not having to switch to something bigger to finish the job is why I like petties. I rarely ever reach for a paring knife.

      2. re: Chemicalkinetics

        Thanks Chem! The 'shaped blank' pic shows the curve of the blade (not a lot of curve, but not straight like a nakiri). No, I'm using two different grinders, & I could really use a third! :-D But really, I think a metal-cutting bandsaw is going to be needed. I'm trying to figger out if I can easily modify a wood-cutting bandsaw, 'cuz they're lots cheaper!

      3. What is that a 2X72 setup with a Norton ceramic belt?

        Now you will e drooling over knifemaking supply catalogs. :)

        I just got some belts from Jantz and dogeared about 4 pages of doodads in their catalog to order next time.


        2 Replies
        1. re: knifesavers

          Jim, yes, 2x72 with a Blaze 50 grit. No drooling yet.... I've decided to make my own pins, & I like the belt prices from Tru-Grit. What sort of doodads?

          1. re: Eiron

            Cutlery anvil, various rivet tools and other things that are slipping my mind.

            I wish I had the space for a 2X72 sander since the belt selection is far broader than 1X42. I prefer Cubitron 80 grit over Blaze 80 but don't have many other choices in 1X42.

            True grit does have excellent pricing but not all options.


        2. Way cool!
          I'd love to hear more about the grinder/ sander equipment.
          Was this just a straight grind - no heat treatment effort?
          How did you do / plan on doing the heat treatment for the next ones?

          5 Replies
          1. re: JavaBean

            Thanks JavaBean! It's been a longer process getting to this point than I expected. (What's this "work/life balance" thing I keep hearing about?)

            A few years ago I bought a small grinder & have been doing knife repairs & modifications with it. It's great for that, but it's really too small to do complete shaping from raw steel stock. This bigger grinder was made from plans I bought. I had to purchase all of the steel & hardware bits & cut/drill/tap everything myself. Of course, not everything fit together the way it was supposed to, & I ended up redesigning some of the parts & layout myself. I also had to learn more about the electrical side of things when I burned out a switch due to inadequately wiring the motor. I'm happy to share any info on the eqpt, just ask!

            Yes, this first piece was solely to understand what I was up against for grinding & shaping, as well as a first-time handle attachment. The steel was junk & not worth the time to heat treat. (It would only take a surface harden anyway.)

            I don't have the necessary eqpt to properly control heat treating, so that's the one process I'll have someone else do.

            1. re: Eiron

              <What's this "work/life balance" thing I keep hearing about?>

              Not related to knives, but I hear that thing all the time, and have problems achieving it. :)

              1. re: Eiron

                I'm kind of close to completing a major thinning project, but I spent over three hours total, spread over several weekends using just stones. It took way longer than I had planned, and wouldn't want to do again unpowered.  I'm thinking some sort of adjustable speed belt sander, or wet grinder to handle the initial coarse work would have made things much easier.  

                For future references, what did yours cost (ballpark)? How hard was it to DIY, did it need any welding?

                1. re: JavaBean

                  Wow, that sounds like a lot of work to do on stones! (I know CBAD has done similar projects on stones.) I'm not sure you'd need anything with variable speeds to do what you want. Most of the wet grinders I've seen look too small (to me) to do thinning on. I'd want something with the stone positioned horizontally, to give me a surface like flat stones, so that I didn't introduce a hollow grind into the knife. Maybe something like these:

                  Otherwise, I think a simple 1"x??" belt machine would be enough. If you're only going to use it occasionally, then Hobo Freight's 1"x30" model is the best deal: $50 normal price, $40 on sale, & $32 after their 20%-off coupons.

                  Fun 1x30 link here:

                  If you think you'll want to use it often, then I'd suggest going with a 1"x42" model instead. The motors are better, the belts last longer, & you have a wider selection of grits & finishing belts. The best deal I found was Viel Tool's DIY kit for $90, but that assumes you already have a motor to use with it:

                  If not, I'd recommend Kalamazoo's 1SM model:

                  This is what I bought. It's got a much better motor (for the same price) than what I would've put on the Viel, & it came ready to run. However, the Viel has more sharpening accessories made for it, so that may be more important to you.

                  My 2x72 DIY grinder cost me about $600 total (giving me the slack belt, platen, & tool rest attachments), & I can expand the system with other attachments for relatively little money. Oh, & it took me over a year to build. :-) (In all fairness, the plans say you can do this in a weekend. I think that's possible, as long as you have everything you need to cut/drill/tap/grind/deburr/clean all of the steel, & all of the electrical components to wire everything together, & an entire uninterrupted weekend to work with. I didn't...)

                  But, this DIY model replaces a $2,000-$2,500 "Knife Maker's Grinder" from Beaumont Metal Works. There's no welding required, & you can get away cheaper than what I did if you're willing to make your own drive/tracking/idler wheels. Or if you make fewer attachments.

                  Nothing was very difficult about it, but if you've only got an hour here or there it can be a frustrating project. Also, since I don't have a workshop, I had to use some space at a friend's house. That meant setting everything up every time I went over, & then cleaning up & putting everything away every time I was done. That added lots of extra hours compared to having your own place to work & being able to simply leave everything & pick back up where you left off.

                  The way I figger it, when I finally get my first 'real' knife made, it will have only cost me about $1,200 & 2 yrs of 'free' project/hobby hours.

                  1. re: Eiron

                    Yeah, it was time that I ever tried grinding away so much metal. Kinda like moving a pile of dirt with a spoon. Doable, but takes forever.

                    Thanks for the equipment tips, something like that harbor freight belt grinder should be a good fit. I just need something cheap and decent.

            2. Eiron - she's looking very promising. I've always been impressed with your woodwork. Any knife in particular giving you your inspiration for the profile, shape, grind, etc, you're aiming for? Is the grind assymetrical?

              Reading this makes me happy.

              Also, since I haven't been posting, I just wanted to say hi to all my old knife mafia friends and let you guys know I'm alive and well.

              5 Replies
              1. re: cowboyardee

                <I've always been impressed with your woodwork. >

                I am more impressive with his photo skill. :D

                Good to hear from you. I almost emailed you to check up on you. :)

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  I think I'm most impressed that I made the grinder that I'm now using to make the knives! :-P

                  Of course, I hope that changes once I hold that first finished knife in my hands....

                  1. re: Eiron

                    <I think I'm most impressed that I made the grinder that I'm now using to make the knives! >

                    That too. That is very impressive to me.

                    Of course, I am also very impressive with your sense of humor as well.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      LOL, too many years of 'class clown' in me, I guess!

                      I blame my dad! :-D

                      (Thanks Dad!!)

                2. re: cowboyardee

                  Hey CBAD, thanks! This first practice knife wasn't anything more than just "How am I gonna do this?" As for the future, I've been keeping a mental list of things I want in a knife, but I have limited hands-on experience with very many 'ultimate' examples. The past several years of sharpening & repairing have given me a close look at what makes different knives 'work' for different applications, so that helps me determine what I do & don't want.

                  Shape: I'll probably end up with one of everything! :-D But seriously, I have a 'generic' shape for several styles & I'll probably modify each one to my tastes.
                  Profile: I'll shoot for a slight convex profile from spine to edge for easier food release.
                  Grind: Either scandi or convex, I haven't decided. (Any votes?) And most likely symmetrical.
                  Woodwork: Thanks again! So far, everyone who's handled the practice knife has said, "That feels really good!" And that's been very encouraging to me, since I've always complained about knife handles.

                  How's the baby? And everyone else?

                  1. re: taos


                    Surely, there must be something...


                    1. re: Eiron

                      I'm lost and why are calling him Shirley?

                    2. re: taos

                      But is "nothing" really " nothing or is it something"?

                      Are you implying that Eiron has finally achieved the enlightenment of Taoism (given your name) or Zen?

                      "Philosophical vacuity is a common theme among Asian wisdom traditions including Taoism (especially Wu wei "effortless action"), Buddhism, and some aspects of Confucianism. One could interpret the Tao Te Ching as a suite of variations on the "Powers of Nothingness". This predates the Buddhist Shunyata philosophy of "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" by half a millennium."