Deer antler (handle) knives

The process of building an antler handled knife is the same as usual for making the blade,

the only difference is instead of making a tang for the handle, you make a spike about a 2 inches long and a 1/2 inch tall( approximately). once you have designed and cut out your knife shape boil the antler for about a 20 minutes, then take a drill or drill press and drill holes into the antler where you want your blade to go into. Once you push in your tang/spike the antler will dry out and re-harden around your tang an it will be rock solid. Physically.

This process is more for show knives but it can definitely be used for working knives as well.

This method will probably take a couple knives to practice on before you can really make a good knife, however you might get it right away. I just had to experiment but I hope you don’t have to,  thanks to this post.

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making your first knife

First of all I’m not here to discourage you from making a knife, actually this whole blog is here to encourage you.

However, before you start you will need a few tools. For starters you will need an angle grinder (from Rona’s or Canadian Tire), with blades for cutting as well as grinding. Also if you have a belt grinder definitely use it, but if you don’t that’s fine too. You probably will need a vice for when you are gluing your handle. And also need some clamps.

For the actual knife materials you will (of course) need steel, preferably high carbon, there is a store you near me called the metal supermarket, I haven’t been there but I hear that it is all right.     You will also need wood, you can use wood from home hardware or something but you might have a specialty wood store around you, and brass pins or a rod,from the hobby shop (unless you can find it cheaper) .

Read my post on knife design before you start, and don’t try making a machete or katana at first, you would get disappointed and annoyed.

This probably seems obvious but make sure to cut out the “tang” of the knife exactly how you want your handle to be shaped, you can’t change it later.

Once you have cut out your basic knife shape with a grinder switch to a grinding wheel (on the grinder) and do the more detailed shaping.

Then grind your edge of the blade down with the grinder, if your metal is thick enough you will be able to have a clear line of where you ground down your edge, which almost always looks nicer.

Do not bother to sharpen your blade yet, that will be your last step.

Now your knife should look something like this (but, this is a wacky experiment knife that is not much good, it’s a work in progress.)

first knife

To put on a handle you will need wood, hardwood is best because it is most durable.

Cut your wood in half. (so that a 1 inch thick board becomes two 1/2 inch thick boards).

Take the two pieces of wood and put your tang in between them, then find a drill press and drill 3 holes the diameter of nails into your tang and wood.(I go over to my friends for this step.)

Now fit nails into the holes to keep the wood in place and cut and sand your handle shape out of the wood.

I then go back to the drill press and re-drill the holes to the diameter of the permanent brass pins.

Then go get your epoxy or some such glue and glue the handles on, and fit your brass pins through the holes.

The pins should fit snugly into the holes.

Cut off the pins so that they stick out a tiny bit.

File and sand the edges so that they are not sharp on your hand.

Hammer the ends of the pins so that they flare out a very small amount, yet are flush with the handle.

Then sand your blade to the desired finish, this takes a long time and I usually leave some grinding marks on for a Hand-Made look(and I just don’t have the patience).

Your new knife might not come out like you thought but it is a learning experience and you will still have a very usable if not amazingly pretty knife.

This knife is my first ever attempt at knife making and it worked out OK;


So just try making a knife, it’s really not that hard.

And remember safety third. (just kidding.)

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Knife design-what works best for you

The first thing to ask yourself when you are about to design a knife is the obvious question “what will I use this thing for?” just asking that question will tell you whether you should make a big knife, a small knife, a useful knife or a show knife, whether you will make a deer antler handle, or wood, whether it will be for skinning or bushwhacking.

That way you will make the knife for the job not the job for the knife. Then figure out the details, if you are making a machete you will probably want a large handle for two handed chops and to get more leverage. If you like using(or making) a small knife you will want a short handle most likely, you don’t need it long, as it will be a waste of materials.

One other thing you have to figure out is what type of blade you want to have, look up nessmuk for butchering, or a clip blade for woodworking and camp knives, to really any design you think will be useful. Feel free to experiment with new custom designs too.

I like to use a program called keynote, use the make shapes tool, and go from there.

What I am trying to get at is really just experiment and replicate designs from the internet, modify them for your purposes, and try them, use them, bend them, dull them, snap them, and make another, better than that one.

So get out to your garage, barn or workshop and start experimenting.

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