Questions which will lead to more questions which naturally with result in yet more q

Discussion in 'New to Knifemaking' started by Jjbarney, Feb 1, 2017.

  1. Jjbarney

    Jjbarney Member

    Im designing my first knife. For me it's an artistic outlet not necessarily a venture in making a living. I have yet to get tools I'm starting slow and have no background I may have to make a go with hand tools. Till I can afford some machines and such. I may splurge and get grinder l, band saw and vice as that seems to be essential and something needed. I'm pretty sure I'll need other things just not sure what is essential.

    My first will be a slippy.

    First question: what hand tools could be used to make a sellable slippy?

    Second: I have a design and I'm curious as to thicknesses I should consider for blade and scales?

    Third: what would a preferred Steel be for the blade for a newb in the knife world?

    I'm sure I'll have more ?'s as this thread goes.

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  2. J. Doyle

    J. Doyle Dealer - Purveyor

    First off....I'm curious about one thing. You state that this is an artistic venture and not necessarily one for making a living. You have no tools, no experience with making knives and no background that might give you a good foundation for skills already. But then you ask about making a 'saleable' slip joint.

    For someone in your position, it doesn't seem like a slip joint folder is the best place to start. Unless you are a prodigy with an over abundance of God-given talent, it is unlikely that any first knife will be one where folks are waving cash at you to own it, much less any type of folder.

    Folders, especially slipjoints, require a few specialized skill sets (and some specialized tools are a HUGE advantage too) and a fair amount of precision. Not typically a venture for the greenest of beginners, but I guess anything IS possible.

    I would start off with a basic, well designed simple drop point hunter/utility/edc type blade with nice lines and pleasing proportions and really focus on the basics, nice profiles, good lines, quality fit and finish and practical style and utilitarian function. These are the foundation of any saleable knife and are essential for moving on to anything more advanced.

    For tools, I'd definitely invest in a grinder personally. I'd trade a bandsaw for a drill press if budget restraints forced me that way. A vice is almost a necessity. Good ones can often be had very reasonably at yard sales or off craigslist. Pretty nice knives have been made with a vice, files, hacksaw and sandpaper.

    It's more an attitude of putting in whatever time is required to improve each step over the previous one versus what tools were used. Making knives look pretty and saleable is mostly about time and elbow grease. But knowledge and experience play a HUGE important role in selling a knife. You have to have the experience in making some to have the knowledge to know how to fix and improve mistakes that you're inevitably going to make.

    If you're dead set on making a slipjoint folder, I'd use blade material around the 3/32" thickness range with liners in the .030"- .040" range. And for steel type, that's going to depend a lot on what you deem most important for the qualities and intended purpose of the finished knife. It's also going to depend a lot on what you are going to do for heat treating, i.e.....will you be doing that yourself or sending it out.
  3. EdCaffreyMS

    EdCaffreyMS Forum Owner - Moderator

    We're not at all trying to deter you, but I have to echo what John said. I totally understand the aspirations, and while that is all well and good, at this point I think they are pretty unrealistic. There are MANY skills required in knifemaking, that take time and repetition to acquire, more so then most other crafts. I would advise to do exactly what John mentioned to start.... a simple drop point design. Basically you can look at like this.... when building a "straight" knife, most makers deal in fractions of an inch when it comes to accuracy. When you step into the world of building folders of any type, you're going to be required to think in fractions of a THOUSANDTH of an inch, and be able to build to that type of accuracy. That can be pretty overwhelming for a beginner.

    Start with something more realistic, give yourself the best chances for success, and then build upon it. IF you want to do it "right", it takes time, dedication, and effort.
  4. Sleestack

    Sleestack Well-Known Member

    As a brand new maker I don't have the experience or knowledge of John and Ed but I can tell you how it worked for me.

    My very first knife was a folder and as I've found out this is quite unusual. But I worked in Tool & Die for a few years. Not that long but long enough to learn some basics of machining and surface grinding and how to hold tolerances. This was absolutely critical when I attempted to make a folder.

    I am also 50 years old, no kids and my wife and I have decent jobs. So I have a couple bucks stashed away. This allowed me to buy some very nice machinery. I bought a high end grinder, a mini mill and a surface grinder before I even started on my first knife. I also have lots of precision tools left over from my Tool & Die days. All of this was also critical for me to make a folding knife.

    In addition, I did tons of research including, books, articles and lots and lots of videos.

    Before I even tuned on one of my machines I taught myself some basic CAD and designed working folder.

    I think all of this combined gave me a leg up on making a folder as my first knife and absent any of these I don't think I could have made a functional knife. Still, it was A LOT of work, time and effort. I knew it would be difficult but it exceeded my expectations.

    So can you make a slip joint as your first knife? Sure, I suppose but you'll be much better off taking the advice of makers that have been down this road and are willing to shared their experience.
  5. Dennis Morland

    Dennis Morland KNIFE MAKER

    I agree with John and Ed. They really know their stuff.

    Here is a website link to Master Smith Steve Culver. He has made several extremely helpful tutorials for creating a slip joint folder. Great pictures and explanations. From design to creation. Take a look and determine whether you are capable of completing this task. It is hard to get one to work. Only you will know if you can do it.

  6. Jjbarney

    Jjbarney Member

    Well that's frustrating. Thanks for the input. I appreciate the it and the links.

    At some point all theses grand knife makers were knew and dare I say made some pretty ratty knives. That being said they all started somewhere. Just because I'm not worried about making a living in it doesn't invalidate my desire and ability learn.

    I learned to play the violin a half hour at a time. The guitar also. Some say oh what does that have to do with knives. Well lets have you all come over and play for me and see if you have what it takes to learn it. There is no end to the ability we as people have. And guess what I could teach all of you how to play the violin. I've learned many skills that I've had many tell me I could not do.

    So as I make my foray in creating knives I'll try to keep it real and post pics when I have them. As I'm not a huge social media person. So they will probably be far and few between

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  7. Jjbarney

    Jjbarney Member

    Please don't take my comments as bad. I'm learning and I have an end goal and vision and I will get there. And I will do it with help from here on knife dogs or anywhere and any knife maker willing to take a newborn under his wing and teach me.
    If it doesn't work out I'll resort to making moonshine as a hobby.

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  8. Jjbarney

    Jjbarney Member

    See more questions. Why would you choose a drill press over band saw if budget pressed?

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  9. EdCaffreyMS

    EdCaffreyMS Forum Owner - Moderator

    With all due respect, you asked the question, and we gave you honest answers, backed up by a LOT of experience. Nobody said you can't do it, we're simply giving you the best advice we can. Please don't come off on us with an "entitled" attitude.
  10. Jjbarney

    Jjbarney Member

    I think your taking it wrong eEd. Entitlement is demanding someone give you something for nothing. I'm not entitled never have been!I've had to bust my ass to get to where I'm at and I'm not afraid to bust my ass to get to where I want to be with regards to my hobbies. But thanks for the insult. There was no expectation of making a perfect knife the first time. Never has been.

    The truth is you all started somewhere and my somewhere happens to be where many of you have already been so the input is and always will be greatly appreciated. I have nothing but respect for all on here and all people willing to work hard and love what they do. And I have more respect for those willing to share there experiences knowledge tips and tricks.

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  11. jaxxas

    jaxxas Well-Known Member

    As a new wannabe I can tell you frustrating is just the beginning. It took me near 6 weeks to learn how to heat treat 1084 successfully. So I suggest think violin and put in the hours of practice.

    There is no one perfect way to make knives or anything for anybody. The people here at Knifedogs are most helpful and they go the extra mile to share their knowledge. Understand they are just offering their suggestions, hard earned over many years in the trade, a veritable gold mine, act on it as you will!

    If you go the moonshine route I'd be most interested, I once built a ethanol (fuel) still for a customer, it was pretty cool and very interesting!

    As for drill press or band saw I'd have to go with drill press first. To start with they are less expensive, a metal cutting bandsaw can get a bit expensive. Secondly drilling your holes square is more important than cutting your stock square, you can always grind stock square.

    Anyway good luck and keep on grinding!
  12. Jjbarney

    Jjbarney Member

    Thank you. That's good to know on the drill press idea. And I really do appreciate all the input I can't say it enough!!!

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  13. Smallshop

    Smallshop KNIFE MAKER

    Just an idea.....when two TOP knifemakers (one who probably just won a best educator award on this site for his willing spirit to share quality info) suggest something very basic for a first attempt, they are not trying to be dream killers. They are sharing years of accumulated wisdom. This is to allow you to learn in the small bites that every human does best in. Your guitar and violin analogy are proof of that.

    I have many years of machining experience both manual and CNC. In fact I currently own and operate a contract machine shop (albeit a small but I am new to knife making. No one here told me what I should do first but after reading many of the posts geared towards new makers I am working with fixed blades made from simple/cheap steel.

    Why would I ask advise then not apply it? Most of us at the beginner level don't even know what we don't know. Biting the hands that feed us personalized information seems a sure way to have the well dry up.

    I'm sure you probably did not mean it but your reply to Ed was somewhat reactionary. His comment prefaced by a "Please...." should probably have given you pause for thought.....he may not have read you correctly but certainly was not trying to insult you.

    Anyway, this site is a real gold mine of info from real, kind, down to earth people. I hope you enjoy your visits here and learn a bunch. I look forward to seeing your journey through the pics you post.

  14. CAJones

    CAJones Well-Known Member

    So when you were learning to play the violin, did you start out by playing "Twinkle, twinkle little star" or did you start right off the bat with "Locatelli's Caprice"? No one said you won't ever make a slipjoint, they are just trying to point you in the most practical way to learn the needed skills. You know a walk before you run type concept.

  15. J. Doyle

    J. Doyle Dealer - Purveyor

    If you want to start with a slipjoint, that's totally fine. I just thought you should know what you're in for. They are NOT easy to make and they're even harder to make RIGHT.

    My advice would still be to start with an easier design to see what it's like grinding a blade and hand finishing a blade and getting things polished and smooth. If you've never ground a blade (probably the biggest reason new makers struggle or fail) and you find grinding a 4" hunter blade difficult or frustrating, how do you think it will be to grind a tiny, thin slip joint blade? If you struggle with getting a flat even polish on a basic hunter, how do you think it will be to polish the pivot area of a folder and keep it flat, two things that are DEAD CRITICAL to a folder? Those are just two of the finishing aspects to consider, saying nothing yet of the mechanics of getting a folder to work properly.

    No one is saying you can't or won't do those things. It is, however, highly unlikely that you will do those things well enough on your very first try to produce a slip joint that most anyone would consider 'saleable'.

    Wanting to make a slip joint as a very first knife with no experience and no background is a tough row to hoe and ambitious for sure, but if you're determined....then go for it. Just have reasonable expectations and go into it with some knowledge. Do some reading on the subject from various sites around the net.

    The real red flag for me was the idea that you wanted to instantly, and with minimal and mostly hand tools, make a proper saleable slip joint. Why the rush, I guess? Anything at all worth doing is worth doing right. The custom slip joint market is competitive with a LOT of makers turning out first class, exquisite work and the collectors of these knives are educated, with a keen eye and a knowledge of what's right and what's not, from a mechanical perspective and looking at fit and finish. They are very demanding and want the best and many makers have risen to the challenge.

    If you whip one out quick(or over a long period, for that matter) with hand tools that has sloppy fit, poor finish, poor grinds rough and improper grinds and sub par materials, you might sell one or two to the average joe off the street who knows NOTHING about knives......but that's gonna be it for sales for you. You won't last long at all doing that. And I get the feeling that that's not your end goal when you started this thread. I highly doubt you thought to yourself, "Self....I think what I want to do is turn out one or two really crappy folders and call it good." You want to make really nice, quality knives. Everyone who makes a knife wants that. So the point is......go about it the right way. Your first one, or two, or three or four likely will be quite rough with lots of mistakes. But learn from that and make each one better. That's how you achieve your goal.

    Coming into a makers forum and saying, "Hey, I have no tools, no experience, no background but how can I use a few basic hand tools to make one of the more difficult knives out there and then sell it for money?" is the best way to guarantee that you'll just be another 'flash-in-the-pan', 'gone before anyone even knew who you were' attempt at a knifemaker. Don't be that guy. answer your other question....if I were forced to choose either a drill press or a bandsaw, I'd go with the drill press because no matter what knife you make, straight holes perpendicular to your tang, liners and/or scales is critical and you'll never achieve that with a hand drill. And if a slip joint is where you want to start, forget about it. If you try to drill holes without a drill press on a folder, you're off in the weeds from the get-go and done before you start.

    I use my bandsaw everyday and I wouldn't want to be without it....ever. But what the bandsaw will do, you COULD do with other methods...if forced to. You could cut out blades with an angle grinder and cut stuff with hand saws. You could profile blades out of raw barstock with a decent grinder. But you'll never replace a drill press with any hand tools and a drilling true holes is critical an almost every knife type.

    Look at craigslist for decent used tools and you can probably get both with a little looking and a little patience for the price of either one new.
  16. Jjbarney

    Jjbarney Member

    First and foremost I appreciate all the advice and info on a this forum and this thread in particular on a beginning point. John Doyle I'm familiar with your work I creep on your Instagram posts. you have a sweet folding knife I drool over.

    I appreciate the perspectives brought to the table. And I want to set the record straight here and clarify. I don't expect a perfect knife next week next month or even next year. if it doesn't meet my standard then it's not good enough for someone else. I don't expect it to happen over night. I expect to have failures to launch and mistakes.

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  17. ARCustomKnives

    ARCustomKnives Well-Known Member

    I remember my first attempt at a slipjoint. I had some very good plans from a well known maker (Don Robinson), and had made (and sold) several fixed blade knives already. I had also done a fair amount of research on slipjoint folders. I wish I could say it came out at least usable, but I made so many mistakes on first go round, that I never did even finish it. I later attempted a handful of other designs that more closely resembled a working model, but even they were not even remotely close to what I would consider a mediocre, working slip joint, much less one that I could sell. At the time, I had a decent array of tools, and much experience using them.
    At the end of the day, it just boiled down to not knowing what I didn't know, and having to work out certain problems that reading text on a forum couldn't really solve, without the hands on experience.

    Presently, I've now made several slip joints and sold an even smaller amount, but it took quite a while and a LOT of experience to get here.

    All that said, do I think somebody CAN start by making slipjoints? I suppose. There are a very few select makers who started with folders of one kind or another and made it work. Granted, most of them had very specialized backgrounds (i.e., machining experience), as far as I know.

    Now, do I think somebody SHOULD start with slipjoints? Not so much, or at least not without some reasonable expectations.

    As for tools, I suppose it wouldn't be impossible to make a working slipjoint with minimal tools. I agree that a decent drill press should be on the top of the list. For a folder to work well, all holes need to be perpedicular and round. Reamers should be used to ensure holes are accurate. Any stock/material should be perfectly flat and parallel as well. If I didn't have a surface grinder, I'd start with some precision ground stock. A surface plate or a flat piece of glass with some sandpaper laid on top can function as a poor man's surface grinder. This can also be used to CHECK for flatness. Calipers are a good way to check material specs, make sure pieces are parallel, and the same thickness.

    Stock removal and shaping can all be done with hand tools as well, though I personally would rather use a grinder. Get some quality files and sandpaper. A lot of beginning makers use a drill press to drill around the periphery of the pattern they want to cut out, and then use a hack saw to "connect the dots".

    Taking apart some existing, working slip joints will help understand a little about how how the parts fit together and need to be made.

    I'd wager that your first attempt may not come out anything like you'd hoped or planned, but stick with it. After about a dozen tries or so, you should be seeing some noticeable improvement. :)
    The main fear is that, by starting with such high aspirations, you'll burn yourself out with disappointment before you've even really started. Personally, I would set the bar for my first knife as low as possible. Make something dead simple with the tools you have, and learn what you need to make the next one better. Let yourself taste a little bit of success first, no matter how small, and then start working your way into a slipjoint folder.

    When it comes time to start your first folder, eliminate as many variables as you can: Start with a known pattern or plans, use precision stock, keep it simple. We all start somewhere, and if you keep at it, you'll get there eventually.
  18. Smallshop

    Smallshop KNIFE MAKER

    I'm on my 7th knife in two months. Here's a short list of what seems to be basics skills needed to make knives:

    1) learn about heatreating and tempering (of one good simple steel)
    2) learn to grind
    3) learn to grind
    4) learn to grind
    5) learn to grind

    Five simple steps that I have been working on. I'm on step 3....:biggrin:

    A second mortgage on the house might help cover sandpaper costs. I expect that expense to go down when I master step 5.....
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2017
  19. EdCaffreyMS

    EdCaffreyMS Forum Owner - Moderator

    I LOVE it! :) Even after all these years, there are times when that list seriously applies to me! :)
  20. Freds Edge

    Freds Edge Well-Known Member

    The first knife I made was a fixed blade, actually a Bowie made with files and a grinder .My thought was that the bigger the knife the easier it would be to see what I was doing wrong .Well I learned that this would be a slow learning curve , there are quite a few chunks of unrecognizable steel in my reject pile. This is the best place to gain the knowledge from the best of the best the people here are always willing to give great advise.

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