Tools for a beginner

Doug Lester

Well-Known Member
The most important tool you can have is a good library, both books and videos. Get a good set of hand tools. Even with a belt grinder you will still need them. I would have to disagree about the 4X36" sander used as a make shift grinder. If you have one already you might as well get some grinding belts and give it a try but they are poor substitues for a real grinder and the $100 or so could be better spent elsewhere. From my experience, draw filing is not much slower than the 4X36 sander and a lot more flexable.

For grinding, O-1 is fine but I wouldn't start out with it for forging, though there are those who did start out with it and like it. Besides the higher end of the 10XX steels, there are steels like 5160, 9260, and L-6 that can be had in flat stock. Leave the A and D series steels and stainless steels, all air quenching, for later. They are more expensive and can pose some heat treating problems.

It's just as good to start out with pure stock removal even if you think that you could eventually move on into forging. Forging involves stock removal, we just call it grinding, to go from a roughed out blade to the finished product.

Doug Lester


Well-Known Member
OK so far I have a belt grinder(with a variety of belts),a vise,and a brand new Drill press I just finished putting together today! But for Cutting It seems the only option I can find locally is either a Dremel, or an angle Grinder. What are y'alls suggestions? The Band saw they had would not work on metal (table top band saw). What else do I need?

If you have a Harbor Freight near by get a 4x6 metal cutting bandsaw. They are usually on sale for $189.00 and most people have good luck with them. I have one and it works great for cutting out all my blanks. I have cut D-2, A-2, and 440C on it with no problems.


Well-Known Member
Well I guess I should have been a little clearer (again LOL). The belt grinder is a 1x so the belts are a little narrow,but I tried one of those little "altoids tin knives" from a jig saw blade. It was quicker than I could have done with a file, but that's just me I think. Another knife maker I know Gave it to me just to get it out of his shop,so the price was right!! For me a drill press is a MUST! I could never drill straight without it, I just know it! LOL

I have the $50 knife shop in pdf if I can remember which disk it is on.

I don't know if I will be good enough to ever sell one, but I really want to learn how to do it. I plan to start with just plain stock removal. Forging is a long way off yet. I'm just learning to "crawl", a Real knife making virgin. Never even done a "kit knife", although I have one I plan on putting the handle on. A Coffin handle bowie that looks really sweet. That is undoubtedly my first project. Lack of a drill press was my main hold up on it. There are some makers in the next town over,that thanks to this Forum is how I found out about them!! I probably need to get in touch with them and see if I could "visit" and see what a shop set-up looks like. Maybe (hopefully) watch them make one.
I know I need some files, hacksaw and/or Dremel, and clamps. (Remember my shop is TOTALLY bare,except for what I said I have above) Oh and some sandpaper and epoxy. Oh and How could I forget...some steel!! LOL Be kinda' hard making a knife without that!! 2thumbs

Tod Lowe

Well-Known Member
Heres some thoughts from a noob of just over a year of making.

Nwg(No weld grinder) was absolutely the best knifemaking tool I have so far. It takes most of the work out knifemaking and really made making knives more enjoyable and fun. It is the main tool of knifemaking.

2ND Was the drill press. This is just a must have in my book. This tool also made knifemaking even more enjoyable. The frustration of trying to hand drill is just not worth it when you can get a drill press so cheap.

3rd is the disc sander. I havent seen this mentioned but using this instead of hand sanding scales flat is a huge benifit to me. These are also relatively cheap. I also use this on the flats of my hollow ground knives which has eliminated hours of hand sanding.

I just bought a bandsaw.
The bandsaw is sweet but not needed starting out especially if you have a big grinder and a blaze orange belt. I just VERY rough cut the profile out with the angle grinder and hogged the rest with the grinder.

If I were you I would spend most of the cash on a motor, nwg grinder plans, 8 inch contact wheel from, and the rest of the wheels and parts from

The harbor freight bandsaw is on sale for 189.99 right now. If you do the nwg u might get it also unless you have a way to cut your tubing.
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Well-Known Member
OK I got started anyway. Last night I sat down and tried to stick to a basic design. This is what I drew. Each square on the graph paper is 1/4". OAL is @ 10", BL 6". This is the design.

This is the knife not quite finished profiling. (Had some family obligations before I could finish) But some progress is better than no progress.

I still have a little more to do before I move on to the next step. One thing at a time.
Having trouble getting the right pictures loaded. let me try again.
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Well-Known Member
Okay, I have a little more work done to show. I would really appreciate some constructive criticism. If you see something that I have done (or not done) that I could improve on, Please let me know. This is after my first "session" with the grinder.

Next "Session"on the Grinder....................

I did have to thin down the width (Not the thickness, it's still 3/16" thick) of the Handle, as I realized that the handle would have been too large for my hand, once the scales would be put on. My hands just aren't that large.

Thank you all with putting up with this Rank amateur, But it is Fun and I am enjoying it so far. I just want to get better, I would like to have knives that look as good as some of y'all's! I realize full well that is a ways off in coming, but it is something to strive for!!


Well-Known Member
Looking good so far, the only thing that I see, is that your plunge lines are moving a little far into the ricasso area, and are washed out and not defined, unless that is your intention, then that is fine. What type of grind is it going to be? Looks like a convex. It is good to see that you have been doing some serious thinking and research. Keep up the hard work.


Well-Known Member
OK this is the knife, as I am hoping to send it off to Pete's Heat treat this week. It ain't the best looking knife on this Forum I can promise you that!!! But for a first attempt, it ain't all that bad. Not as good as I hoped/wanted, but I am trying to give myself a break.(Maybe my expectations are too high?)

The scales are lacewood, which I cut so brutally. But that will be corrected in shaping.

By the way, if you critique it, please be Honest. If you see something bad, tell me.If you see something good, comment please. I just want to improve,and try to keep Ego out of the way. My other half has already told people at work "that I am making knives" and already getting requests. A little soon I think, and I won't make one for someone else if it "Ain't up to snuff". It's just that they know how I am about knives,and already coming in with requests. Once this one is completed I will have her take some pics in, and see if they still want one. That is one reason I am sending it off to be heat treated. I want it to be as good of quality as I possibly can get it. Thank you for looking, and hopefully some good constructive criticism.

Sean Cochran

Well-Known Member
First of all let me say Im glad to see you put some planning in to what you are doing. I think so many guys just grab a piece of steel and start grinding.
I think you have done well so far, I would like to see the spine of the handle not as straight but that is my personal preference. Also, what does your plunge cut look like? Is it even on both sides?

I say great job overall! Looks like it has the makin's of a good chopper.

On a side note, be careful with that lacewood. I have a nasty rash right now from that stuff. Make sure you wear a mask when shaping it.

Keep up the good work!



Well-Known Member
Instead of telling you, that I think I have it right, I thought I would take some pics that hopefully will allow you to see it. This will probably take a couple of "Posts" so if you read this before I get the 2nd post up wait just a minute or so while I load the second post with pics.

A shot of the spine first..................

Now a shot of the edge, looking straight on....................

Same shot slightly different angle......................

My "Lovely Assistant in her "Barn clothes" holding it the tip toward you.........

Same shot, slightly different angle.............................

Again, this time tip up,edge toward the viewer....................

I hope this helps clear up any questions....


Well-Known Member
Not real clear shots.......... Let's see if I got any that are better..............

Hopefully these are well enough to help you see more clearly. I think that it looks pretty even. But you might be able to tell more.


Well-Known Member
:eek:That knife looks HUGE , One of the first things you will learn is small knives are easier to learn than larger ones. and my 2 cents is I wouldnt buy a benchgrinder if you are going to buy a 2"x72" belt grinder because I never use the bench grinder anymore. and if you dont have much room like me the harbor frieght portaband mounted verticly for $55 bucks with a coupon just simply cant be beat for the price.


Well-Known Member
:eek:That knife looks HUGE , One of the first things you will learn is small knives are easier to learn than larger ones. and my 2 cents is I wouldnt buy a benchgrinder if you are going to buy a 2"x72" belt grinder because I never use the bench grinder anymore. and if you dont have much room like me the harbor frieght portaband mounted verticly for $55 bucks with a coupon just simply cant be beat for the price.

That could be deceptive due to the photo. OAL 10 1/4", 3/16" stock, actual blade length(cutting edge) 6". Handle is @4".
I can see what you are saying about a smaller knife. But There is a LOT I still don't know about the process,as some (I feel) is learned only by hands on, getting the "Feel" of the process. The thing I think is easier with a largish knife, is that if you make a small mistake,it gives you a chance to recover and correct the mistake. I think with a smaller blade that would be harder to do. True there is more area to have a chance to make a mistake. I think my best learning, is from making a mistake and recovering from it. There were a few on this project.

I scattered the work over several days, and only worked incrementally. My first concern, was with having the cutting edge centered on the blade. So what I did was make my initial grind short and steeply angled, just to Center the edge. Even this was done in increments, constantly checking the progress(after each pass). From this point(once it was centered) I Moved my grind further up the blade, towards the spine. Then I worked on the tip/point, or clip. It is actually sort of a cross between a drop and a clip. The very tip is slightly rounded away from the Clip,toward the edge. This is only in the last 1/2" toward the tip. Personally I would class it as a drop point more than a clip. Even though it is not as pronounced as most Drop points. There is more of a "roundness" to the clip. The most time consuming part of the work IMO was in keeping the sides ground as evenly as possible. MUCH eyeballing is /was done here.

My advice to anyone making there first blade? Go slow, work in increments. CONSTANTLY check your work! But two things I would say are really important. Go easy on yourself, don't be too critical of your work, you are just learning after all. Still try and do the best you possibly can. The other thing? Have FUN!! Enjoy what you are doing! I think you will make better progress if you have fun with it. Just my 2¢ worth, and what do I know? I'm just starting!!

Dwane Oliver

Well-Known Member
Looks great , finish it up , be proud of it. Keep it around on the bench , and use it for general cutting/chopping of all sorts. You will look at it from time to time and remember the work and passion you put into it and be better because of it.

When you decide on a 2X72 grinder , be it a NWG or KMG or whatever , try and save the money for a variable speed DC motor for it. It just makes it so much easier when you can slow that bad boy down and feel the steel being ground away and FEEL the hollow forming in the blade. It's a hell of a lot safer too.
A bench grinder is handy too because you can put a buffing wheel on one side of it.
Drill press , get a cheap one from HF , they are great. I have two of the small benchtop models and they are still going , 6 yrs.
Craftsman 6X36?? belt grinder with a 6" disc on the side , works great for flatening scales and all kinds of other stuff , 6 yrs on that too.
As said before , you can HT your own 10XX steels with a torch and a can of oil , then you could use a torch to cut out your blanks and rough them in on the bench grinder.

You obviously you have the desire. You cant buy that. Keep grinding , filing and most of all enjoying.



Well-Known Member
First off let me say I am new at this too. When I post WIP photos I like something more than "looks good" So with that in mind...

I was looking at your grinds and thought I would give a little newbie advice.

On both blades there is no real defined plunge line. The grind just kind of washes out and goes on back into the handle area.

I have edited your photo with a black line where I think the grind should end and be defined. I also blocked an area in red where I think the grind goes back to far in the handle area.

A good way to define these areas when grinding is to have some type of device like the one in the picture below. You can also hand file the plunge in and then grind forward from there.

I hope this is helpful to you. If any of you more experianced guys see anything wrong in my advice please comment. I'm still learning too.



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Well-Known Member
Thanks CD!! I know more now, than I did before you posted!!2thumbs

Anyway, it may be "Imperfect", it has flaws. But these 2 knives were meant for me to have. They won't be sold OR given away. They were quite simply "Learning Projects". They were meant for nothing more, than for me to learn how to make a knife. While they are far from Perfect, I am Fairly pleased with them (yeah, there's all kinds of stuff I see now, that Could have been done better) But I learned and THAT was my ultimate goal with these two knives. I broke the Lacewood scales,(another learning point) Trying to pin tem to the Bowie. By far, I prefer Stabilized scales. They are Much easier to work with, for me. So I had to re-do the Bowie,that is why I have no pics of it right now. Maybe tomorrow, or Friday. Without anything further, here is my first Completed knife, the Nessie............