Knife Making Part 1

I’ve had a Brusletto knife kit for a few years now and I never found the time to commit to it. Because of that it’s been buried in cupboard and forgotten about, until a few weeks ago that is. The kit was basically just a blade, collar, piece of leather and a handle blank. The first job was to form the handle from the blank, and rather than jump straight in, I made a foam mock up (GCSE graphic design did teach me something!). I’m a big fan of ergonomics; if you have the opportunity to make something easy and comfortable to use it’s worth spending the time to do so. Plus I spent a lot of time trawling through site after site looking at knife handles that were were simple and symmetrical (and boring). I wanted a handle that I recognised as soon as I picked it up. One that if I picked it up without looking, I would feel confident I had the blade the right way round. Because of this I went through several blanks deciding the best place for the overall shapes, but didn’t spend too much time on finger cutouts, as I figured I wouldn’t get the actual handle exactly the same, so decided to form these as I went along.

Once I was happy with the overall shape, work started on the blank. The handle is sycamore, possibly spalted given the black lining in the grain. Rough shaping was done with rasps to remove large quantities of wood from the blank. Then the hard work started with carving knives to start forming the shaped grip.

With the rough shaping done, it was time to start refining the shape. Carving chisels were used at this point to give a more even surface. The slot at the end of the handle was cut to accommodate a leather strap, which would hold the knife in the sheath.

The cutouts to form the finger grips were marked and cut a little at a time, checking every now and again to adjust the shape.

Once the shaping was complete (image above shows the handle; blade side furthest away, non-palm side up), the tool marks were removed using a succession of 120, 180 and 240 grit sandpaper. Image below shows a comparison of non sanded and roughly sanded sections.

Comparison of the original mock up with the final handle shape shows just how much refinement of the shape occurred during the carving process, but I think it’s quite nice to have something that’s organic and evolves as you progress. With sanding complete, the next step was to fit the blade before finishing the handle with oil. Stay tuned for part two!

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