A sermon for newbies (with bibliography)


Well-Known Member
My dad, knife maker Don Cowles, posted this elsewhere;

If you've got the knife bug like the rest of us, we are delighted to have you here, and want to help in any way we can. There are a couple of things you can do for yourselves that will make your way much easier, and smooth the road along the steep learning curve.

When I was a much younger man, I was given the responsibility of uncrating and setting up a new Bell & Howell 16 mm movie projector at a school where I was teaching. When I got it out of the box, I couldn't help but notice a large tag attached to the machine. On it, in big red letters, it said, "PLEASE! BEFORE YOU TRY IT YOUR WAY, TRY IT OUR WAY. READ THE DIRECTIONS."

I have never forgotten that advice, and it has saved me a lot of the potential grief that is involved with learning by trial and error.

BEFORE you build your first knife, read everything you can get your hands on about knives and knifemaking. Print out everything at the Bob Engnath website, and study it until you have it memorized.

THEN start to make your first knife. You are much less likely to have to throw it away if you do things in this order.

Some things, of course, will require some explanation, and some questions will occur to you that are not covered at all in the literature. That, of course, is why we are here!

Happy knifemaking!

This list was taken from the old CKDF board:

How to Make Knives, by Robert Loveless/Richard Barney. *
Great overview of the different knifemaking methods including stock removal, forging, flat grinding, and sheaths.

Step by Step Knifemaking, by David Boye. *

Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects From a Master Craftsman, by Tim McCreight. *

Knifecraft : A Comprehensive Step-By-Step Guide to the Art of Knifemaking, by Sidney Latham. *

Knifemaking: A Complete Guide to Crafting Knives, Handles and Sheaths, by Bo Bergman. *
This book deals exclusively with Scandinavian style knives.

Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop, by Wayne Goddard. *

The Wonder of Knifemaking, by Wayne Goddard. *

Knife Talk: The Art and Science of Knifemaking, by Ed Fowler. *

The Hand Forged Blade: An Introduction to the Working of Modern Tool Steels, by Karl Schroen. *

Introduction to Bladesmithing, by E. Jay Hendrickson @

Basic Forging and Pattern Welded Damascus Steel, by Jerry Fisk @

Notes From Bill Moran's Classes on Knifemaking 1985 and Damascus Steel @

From the Past, by William Moran, Jr. @

The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Master Bladesmith: Advanced Studies in Steel, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Pattern Welded Blade, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Damascus Steel, by Manfred Sachse. *

On Damascus Steel, by Leo Figiel. *

Mokume Gane in the Small Shop: The Complete Guide to Diffusion Welded Mokume, by Steve Midgett. *

The Tactical Folding Knife, by Bob Terzuola. *
Instructs on how to build a locking liner folder.

How to Make Folding Knives: A Step by Step How-to, by Ron Lake, Frank Centofante, and Wayne Clay. *
Instructs on how to make lockback folders.

How to Make Multi-Blade Folding Knives, by Eugene Shadley and Terry Davis.

Practical Heat Treating, by Howard Boyer. *

Heat Treater's Guide, by Unterweiser, Boyer, and Kubbs.

The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening, by John Juranitch. *

How to Scrimshaw and Carve Ivory, by Blackie and Michael Collins. *

The Art of Engraving, by James Meek. *

Build Your Own Hydraulic Forging Press, by James Batson. @

Handbook of Management and Organization for the Knifemaker, by Jerry Fisk. @


Center Cross Video, by Gene Osborn

Loveless Legend, by Robert Loveless. *
Great visual on the Loveless method of making knives.

Hollow Grinding, by Johnny Stout.@

Flat Grinding, by Harvey Dean.@

Forging Damascus: How to Make Pattern Welded Blades, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Mokume Gane in the Small Shop, by Steve Midgett.

Fowler Knife Making Techniques, by Ricky Fowler.

The Design, Construction, and Function of the Using Knife, by Ed Fowler.

The Wire Damascus Hunting Knife, by Wayne Goddard.

Making of a Knife, by William Moran, Jr. @

Damascus, by William Moran, Jr. @

Handles, Guards, and Sheaths, by William Moran, Jr. @

Knife Care, by Jerry Fisk @


Abrasive Comparison Chart


Bob Engnath

Bruce Evans

Don Fogg

Heat Treating

Terry Primos

Supply Index

Bob Warner


Don Cowles' "Knifemaking Technique" CD
Contains over 800 pages of answers to most every question you can imagine.

* Available at www.amazon.com
@ Available from American Bladesmith Society at www.americanbladesmith.com


Don Cowles Custom Knives
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KnifeDogs.com & USAknifemaker.com Owner
Staff member
I remember Don posting this one. It remains a great reference. Terry Primo's got out of knife making some time ago and Bob Warner is getting back into recently have a couple serious accidents he had to recover from. I lost track of the HOURS I spent on Bob Engnath's site.
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Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
PLEASE, all you new newbies out there, get some of the reading material and videos mentioned above. It is SO much easier to help some one who at least has a idea of what they don't know. It can be real frustrating trying to spoon feed every little crumb of knowledge to someone. Doing a little research (work) on your own shows the rest of us that you are willing to put some effort into this and that you're not just some want-a-be.

Doug Lester

Delbert Ealy

Forum Owner-Moderator - Founder
PLEASE, all you new newbies out there, get some of the reading material and videos mentioned above. It is SO much easier to help some one who at least has a idea of what they don't know. It can be real frustrating trying to spoon feed every little crumb of knowledge to someone. Doing a little research (work) on your own shows the rest of us that you are willing to put some effort into this and that you're not just some want-a-be.

Doug Lester

I agree entirely, so much so that I have now made this our first sticky in shoptalk.


Well-Known Member
Have you seen this ?

The Standard Reply to New Knifemakers v12

The answer to a 13 year old student is different than to a 40 year old engineer.
We may recommend a local supplier, or you may have a helpful neighbour; but that depends on where you are. We have members worldwide.
Fill out your profile with your location (Country and State at least), age, education, employment.

Look at the threads stickied at the top; many are expired, but not all.

The basic process in the simplest terms

Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives-Printable PDF
Absolute Cheapskate Way to Start Making Knives-Website

Web Tutorials
Detailed instructions by Stacy E.Apelt

The Things I Advise New Knife Makers Against-Printable PDF

Handle Tutorial - Nick Wheeler-Website



A list of books and videos on the KnifeDogs Forum

BladeForums - E-books or Google books

I like:
David Boye-Step by Step Knifemaking
Tim McCreight-Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects from a Master Craftsman
These are clear, well organized, widely available and inexpensive too.

Knife Design:
On the Google books thread, you can find
Lloyd Harding drawings
the Loveless book with large variety of proven classic styles.
Google books thread

Forging Books:
Lorelei Sims-The Backyard Blacksmith
An excellent modern book with colour photos for forging in general - no knifemaking.

Jim Hrisoulas- has 3 books on forging knives. Check for the cheaper paperback editions.
The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection
The Pattern-Welded Blade: Artistry in Iron
The Master Bladesmith: Advanced Studies in Steel

Machine Shop Basics -Books:
Elementary Machine Shop Practice-Printable PDF

The Complete Practical Machinist-Printable -1885-PDF
It’s being reprinted now, you can get it for $20 ish

The $50 knife Shop
It confused me for a long time.
Forging is NOT necessary; you can just file and grind to create a knife (stock removal)

The goop quench is total Bull, commercial quench oils are available, even grocery store canola oil works much better.

Junkyard steels require skill and experience to identify the steel and heat treat it properly.
You can buy proper steel like 1084FG from Aldo very cheaply.

I like cable damascus, but that advanced project has no place in a beginner’s book.

The home built grinders are the best thing about this book, but there is now a huge amount of info for 2x72” belt grinders on the web, including free plans.


Heat Treating Basics Video-downloadable
Right click and save this. Watch it once a day for 10 days and you will understand it much better.

Many specific how to knifemaking videos are available, some are better than others.

The best overall Knifemaking video I have seen is
“Steve Johnson-Making a Sub-Hilt Fighter”

The best video on leather sheath making I have seen is
“Custom Knife Sheaths -Chuck Burrows - Wild Rose”
-(Paul Long has 2 new videos, his sheath work is fantastic. I hope the videos are too)

You can see a list of videos and reviews at this rental company; some are worth buying, some renting…
They are slow to get new titles and wait times are measured in months,

Green Pete's Free Video
Making a Mora bushcraft knife, stock removal, hand tools, neo tribal / unplugged heat treat.
"Green Pete" posted it free using torrent files.
Be sure to look at the other titles too.

Greenpete Knifemaking Basics-on TPB

Draw Filing Demonstration
YouTube video -Draw Filing-for a flat finish

The “welding steel” at Home Depot / Lowes… is useless for knives.
If you send out for heat treating, you can use O1, A2, D2, CM154, ATS34, s30v, 440C, plus many others.

If you heat treat yourself, find some 1070, 1080, 1084,
1084 FG sold by Aldo Bruno is formulated just for knifemaking.

You can find a list of suppliers here

Aldo is highly rated.
Ph# 862-203-8160

Heat Treating
You can send blades out for heat treating at $10 or $15 per blade for perfect results, and avoid buying the equipment.

This PDF brochure gives a good overview

http://www.knifemaker.ca/ (Canadian)


Grinder / Tools

Hand Tools
You can do it all by hand with files and abrasive cloth like the Green Pete video.

Photo of a nice bevel filing jig .

Entry Level Grinders
Many makers start with the Sears Craftsman 2x42 belt grinder.

Commercial Production 2 x 72” Belt Grinders

Mapp arm – Grinder Toolrest

DIY 2 x 72” Belt Grinders

KMG Clone
Free Plans

NWG No Weld Grinder

EERF Grinder (EERF =“Free” backwards)
Free plans

Buy the kit

Safety Equipment
I have a sign at my shop door, “Eyes, Ears, Fingers, Lungs” as a reminder to take off jewelry and put on my safety gear.


Those paper paint masks are about as effective as using a sock for a condom.

The minimum I would consider are the 3M and North silicone half masks;
even better are the powered positive pressure fresh air systems.

V12 Edited dead links
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Mike Carter

Well-Known Member
I very much agree with reading and watching the videos but nothing, in my opinion, is better than being shown by an experienced knifemaker. Great knifemakers are everywhere and chances are there is one near you. Most are very willing to share their knowledge and experience.

My advice to a newbie is to make a call and ask if you can come by the shop, hang around, watch and learn. When you are done, pick up a broom and sweep up the shop or do something else helpful. It will be appreciated and make you a more welcome visitor. Don't be a pest and interrupt work too much. The knifemaker is trying to make a living. Ask your questions when sparks aren't flying. You can learn so much just by watching someone who has already made and learned from all of the mistakes that you will make doing it on your own.


Well-Known Member
Thanks for the great info, Have been surfing the web for info but this hits the spot for my hungry mind!!