your own carving
knives is a relatively simple
process. All you need are a few scraps
of hardwood and a couple of hardened
steel knife blanks. Most of the
work is in the blade preparation.
You’ll have to cut the steel to length and shape
and hone it – all without
losing the steel’s temper. However, if
you work with a cup of water close
at hand and continually quench the
blade, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Lately I’ve started to do my
grinding on a Tormek wet grinder.
While it’s a little slower, I have greater
control over the grinding process and
the blade never blues.
to make these detail pencil
knives because I couldn’t find a tool
that was comfortable to use when I
wanted something more than an Xacto
blade but less than a standard
Begin with the blade
Let’s start with the blade. I’m using a 1/4"
violin maker’s knife that can be broken
into three pieces for three different
blades. Similar steel from other sources can also be used; just modify the size
of your blade slot to match your stock.
I marked the 6" blade at 2" intervals,
locked it in a vise grip and ground a
those marks (Fig. 1).
Clamp the blade in a bench vise and
snap the blade at those marks (wear
your safety glasses) (Fig. 2). You could
use a piece of unhardened steel and
heat-treat it yourself, but because my
blades are so small, I find it easier and
less complicated to start with hardened
With a blade in the vise grips, go
ahead and rough-grind the blade
shape that you want for
knife. Remember the
shop adage: “Keep a
tool and you won’t lose
your hardness.” If you blue
the blade, toss it and start
over. When finished, wrap
the cutting end of the
with duct tape. It
be sharp yet, but
just in case you have