Pin layout on full tang knives

Ty Adams

This morning I was laying out some knives for pins. This takes me longer then it should. So I am here to ask your​ opinion. Am I over thinking a simple process or is this how everyone does it.

First I layout where the top of the scales should go with French curves and a dental pick.

After that I go roughly 7/16" down and scribe a mark. Then I measure the tang and find center.

From the bottom roughly 1/2" and find center.

Now I measure the distance between the top pin and bottom pin. The center of that will be the center pin. Here is where I change the pin placement. If I go on center the pin is inline or just below the other pins. I want it to follow the curve of the knife. So I scribe a line based off of the first pin and add a 1/16".

I know this is a simple process, but laying out four knives was over an hour. Any input would be appreciated. Thanks


"The Montana Bladesmith"
After all that, I'm sort of ashamed of how I do it.... Eyeball it, spot it with a sharpie, then if it looks good, drill em. :what!:

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Last edited:

Wayne Bensinger

Well-Known Member
I certainly don't have near the credentials of Ed, but I'm with him, if it looks good then I'll buy so to speak. In the beginning I was guilty of overthinking things a it always came back to "if it looks good to my eye" go with it like Ed said.


Ty Adams

So I'm being trying to hard on pin layout. I'll start trying to eyeball them and if I'm not happy. Start taking half a day just laying out pins again.:rolleyes:

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
i draw it on paper to see how the pin placement looks (eyeball). Then I do measure for top/bottom center.

then i make the knife, and without fail, once i contour the handle i realize the front pin needs to move some.

Once I get a design to come out just right, that's when i measure it six ways from Sunday and draw it up so that I can reproduce it forever without reinventing the wheel every time.

On a one off, I make sure to move the front pin rearward a tad bit more than my drawing. A little extra room to play with the geometry of the scales never hurts. Having your front pin a tiny bit farther back from the ricasso than you pictured it looks fine. Having it too close looks goofy.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Last edited:

Ty Adams

I have been using the same layout for awhile. 7/16" is more then it seems once the scales are attached.

I hate big ricassos. If the layout does look off I'll change it. I am open to criticism good or bad. All these knives are sold so making what people like is more important than what I like.( Well other than I already drilled all these ones.) Each of these knives are different based on people's hand size. The handles vary from 4-1/8" to 4-5/8". Making a pattern for each one is not really something I want to do. A custom knife in my mind is just that fit to you.

McClellan Made Blades

Well-Known Member
Pin layout on full tang knives

I too have spent way too long planning pin placement!
I've tried several different methods!! But the way I've always
wanted my pins, is so they are placed in a balanced way.
I've had uniformity drilled in my head from my time in the Marines!
Anytime I wanted to try to be a little more artistic
or maybe try something different so that the pins would have a
placement that would be an attempt to convey a message that
I wanted to pass on, for the person that got it, would
have something to discover about a tool that they've held & used many times,
it's very difficult to do, which is an understatement. I know one
I was trying to make work was laying out the pins in the shape of the Big Dipper,
yeah. not too original, so I started looking at other stars that had a specific layout,
I really thought Orin's belt would be a good choice, BUT! It's a lot more to it than
just the 3 stars we can see on good nights far out in the country, with little
light pollution, In Alabama! But when I looked it up, it too was not a good choice.
I looked at several more that I thought might work, but it always ended up having to
use the Thong hole in the pattern, and once I got done with it laid out, with all the stars
included that was supposed to be there, it was a freakin' NIGHTMARE!!

So, I came up with this, if it has bolsters or not I figured that I can use the handles scales
to figure this out, I measure the handle scales,<AFTER THEY HAVE BEEN SHAPED TO THE
WIDTH & LENGTH OF THE HANDLE>, then I measure the width the same way you did,
then I divide by 2 for a 2 pin handle, I rarely ever use 3 pins unless I'm using thong holes for pins.
Once I figure out the length of the handle scales, divide by 2, this will give you a good idea where to
start as that measurement will give you the center point of the handle, great for a single pin placement!
If you like the placement, good, if you don't and want pins, then by dividing by 2 you will find
the center point between the center mark and the end of the scales. This is what I do that's kinda
different if it has 3 pins like with the Thong Holes, I take the number I came up with from dividing
the first number (length of the handles after shaping) and divide it by 2 again, this will give me the
half way point between the end of the scales and center mark, place a mark there, that number should be the same for the
top pin, now measure the length of that number and place a mark at that point, then erase the center mark or cover it,
then stand back and take a look at, if it works, GREAT! If not try adjusting one pin at a time, if uniformity is what you are after,
then either take out the center pin, if you haven't and check it out or remove the top and bottom pin and take a look at it again, I usually do that once I've placed the center mark, give it a look and put it down for a few minutes and do something else and then with a 5-minute break,
for me, it seems like it gives me somewhat of a fresh perspective. If I like it still or if I don't like it, I make small measured adjustments, of equal sizes on both the top and bottom pins, (for a 2 pin handle), and with a single pin,
I tend to go with it, a single pin to me has a classic look to it that is just cool looking, and if I do pein it, and dome it,
it's an even better look, even with pins the size of 1/8", it's just cool looking! One thing I've found about a single pim placement, it mujst be centered!

I know there is nothing revolutionary here, but we are talking about pin placement, and you are RIGHT!
I think most makers fret over the smallest features a knife may have, but that is what defines you as a Knife
Maker! The little things are the most incredible details that, you may think no one will ever see or notice, BUT!
If you are selling a knife to a "Knife Guy", Or "Knife Girl", they will see the added attention to detail and they will
appreciate it! That I assure you, but if it's someone with the attitude of, 'I can get a great knife at Wal-Mart',
then it may be lost on them! But the ones that truly appreciate the little extra attention to detail,
they will see the extra effort, and know you are working at mastering your craft!

This is just my thoughts on the subject, I'm sure they are not the right way or the best way to do it, but it is my way, and it seems to work.

I was curious if Ed or Bruce or some of the others with way more experience than I have, if they have a way of determining how many pins a given knife handle should have, whether it be dependant on the length of the handle, or materials maybe, I know I put a lot of trust in my epoxy, with the Glue Wars, on a while back and Ed's suggestion on using Acra Glass, I've found an Epoxy I feel is as good, if not better than Acra Glass! In fact, the guy who makes this stuff sells it to Space X, to keep some items they attach to their Rockets with Epoxy, as well as some of the items they make from scratch out of Carbon Fiber, this stuff really holds tight, I was impressed by the incredible amount of data they have amassed, including the sheer strengths, and what it takes to break the items epoxied down to, to break off the parent item it was attached to, I don't recall the actual numbers, what I do recall is that they were impressive!!
OK, that was off topic, but it is an important aspect to keeping handles on the knife!
Oh, one more LITTLE detail, it's a heck of a lot MORE AFFORDABLE, than AcraGlass!
Sorry for the off-topic questions there, but this is something I have thought about a lot, and any kind of answer would be appreciated!
Thanks, Rex

BTW, GREAT QUESTION JOHN! I've never considered if the way I decided to place my pins were right or wrong, I just knew they had to be uniformly spaced apart, now you will run into a few problems with handles with an extreme curve or bend to it, but with a little thought, it was easy to figure out the best place to place it, just remember to put your centerline down the middle, no matter where the top of the scales are, if there is a curve in the handle the center line must flow with the curve, if you keep it on the line and give it time to sink in, I'm sure you'll see what mean! Good Luck!
Last edited:

Ty Adams

John you might be on to something with placing the pins further back. Last night and this morning I looked at other knives. It would seem that I am the only one placing them that far forward. So it's time to look at different layouts. Thank you.

John Wilson

Well-Known Member
Don't overthink it. If it looks good to you, it looks awesome to the customer.

In the beginning I used to sweat a lot over the pins. Then the best accident ever happened to me: I had to remove the handle I just put on. I tried everything, and I mean everything, to get those scales off. Then morbid curiosity got the better of me and it became an exercise in destructive testing. Using a vise and gigantic channel-loks I attempted to break the scales off. Nothing. With a big hammer and punch I attempted to drive the pins out. Nothing. Until that day I had nightmares that every knife I made was out there in the process of failing and the handle falling off because I didn't get good epoxy in the pin hole- and what I discovered is that with modern epoxies and good application technique- those pins aren't doing jack. I had to grind the handle off down the surface of the steel tang and even then any scratch I left in the tang was still filled with epoxy. The handle and liners had become a monolith of solid material.

I suppose the pins will come into play under extreme shear forces or repeated shock. The knives I make should never experience any such thing. But in the end I realized that for the pins to ever come into play from a structural standpoint the root cause would be epoxy failure first. If the epoxy holds, the pins should never be a factor. However, in true belt and suspenders fashion I can't bring myself to make a knife without pins.


Dealer - Purveyor
i drill tang holes once i have cut rough size. i use these holes to mount blank to grinding jigs. as Ed said, don't over think.

Ty Adams

That's about how I do it except that I measure back about the width of the tang and it only takes about 2 min. Per knife.

Yes I realize that everything I do as far as knife making goes is painfully slow. It's almost embarrassing how long it takes me to make a simple knife.

Dennis Morland

Ty - I have made over 100 knives and I still use a very similar technique. It takes a little time, but it worth getting the pins in the right place. Keep at it. You are doing just fine.


Ty Adams

John I feel ya on the worry about scales coming off. I worried about it so much that I ran a test with 3 different epoxies. I made 5 blanks out of hot roll material for each epoxy. 1 had no pins with just epoxy and very little prep. Then 2 with just epoxy and proper prep. 1 the same way I make my knives, pins, rough texture on the tang, and dimples on the scales. 1 with the same treatment as my normal prep but with peened pins.

The ones with peened pins were impossible to get off. Almost the same result with my normal prep. Cheap 5 ton epoxy came off with a chisel and a hammer. Acra glass and gflex I had to use a torch and get them hot. The one's with little prep work came off with some side torque. The ones with good prep and no pins did eventually fail but it did take some work.

Here in Montana it can easily be in the negatives during hunting season. So I made a set with proper prep with no pins. These were put in my upright freezer over night. The freezer is at a chilly -2. Guess what all of the epoxies failed when I dropped them on the floor in the garage. The scales just popped right off. So all of my knives will have pins.

Thanks Dennis for the good words.


Well-Known Member
I've found an Epoxy I feel is as good, if not better than Acra Glass! In fact, the guy who makes this stuff sells it to Space X,

Just what is this epoxy you're using?

Ty: Your experience is why I use pins (normally corby) as well as epoxy for my handles. While I've removed scales in past - and it broke scales removing just epoxied scales, over time there can be weakening due to cold extremes, etc. I've read where folks say the epoxy should only be sealing the space because good pins do all the holding. I like both - only costs $3 or so for the corby screws.... cheap insurance.