A Do It Yourself Guide to Hunting Knives
Our conversation was interrupted regularly by people stopping to examine his wares, and I couldn't help but notice how many guys expressed an interest in knife making. And why not! It's fun to use things you've made yourself, and puttering in the garage sure beats loafing in front of the television.
Later, I looked at the Websites of a couple of knife making suppliers, but the variety of blade steels and handle materials available was enough to make nay head hurt. Truthfully, I wasn't real sure I could do a good job of grinding out a hunting knife from scratch either. Then I stumbled onto the Website for "Classic Knife Kits." Now this looked a little more, within my abilities.
Project For The Average Guy
These guys offer a number of different kits to make fixed hunting knives and folding blade knives in many different styles. They also post a difficulty rating for each kit, which helps you select a project you can easily complete.
For starters, I selected the SG4 fixed blade hunting knife ($47.95). Several variations are available--standard, drop point, modern Bowie and trailing point. Your options for handles (scales) include flair types of exotic hardwood. Classic Knife Kits rates this as a "Level III" effort, but the construction process was really pretty easy, consuming perhaps six or eight hours of enjoyable tinkering. Clear instructions are provided.
A huge variety of tools are not required. At the minimum, you'll need a ballpeen hammer, a small countersink, a couple of coarse and fine files, some abrasive paper and a block of wood to back it with. A belt sander is nice, but not essential.
Hunting Knives: Getting Started
Construction began by countersinking the holes for the bolster rivets slightly. I also decided to grind a gentle radius on the forward faces or the bolsters before affixing them. Ensuring the bolsters were free of burrs, I mixed up a small amount of the epoxy adhesive provided (using it more as a sealant than as an adhesive), and coated the mating surfaces of the blade tang and bolsters prior to riveting the bolsters into place.
By the way, it's good practice to cover the hunting knife blade in several layers of masking tape both to protect yourself from an accidental cut as well as to keep the blade from picking up scratches.
Trimming off the excess rivet material came next, after which I elected to grind and file a radius on the top and bottom surfaces of the assembled bolsters. Doing so before attaching the scales will reduce the likelihood of taking too much material off the softer wood scales.
Attaching the scales came next, and before cementing them in place a trial fitting without adhesive was made. The fit was really excellent. The scales fit up tight against the bolsters of the hunting knife, and the two stainless pins as well as the "thong tube" were a very close fit to the scales, ensuring there would be no unsightly gaps.
The blade tang was carefully degreased, after which a generous amount of the Devcon two-part epoxy was mixed. The secrets to good epoxy Work are thoroughly cleaning the hating parts and then carefully welting 100 percent of the contacting surfaces with the bonding agent. A huge amount of epoxy is not required, and after assembling and clamping the scales and pins, it's wise to clean off the squeeze out of excess epoxy.
With the adhesive fully cured, it's time to start grinding, filing and sanding off the excess hardwood. A coarse file will rake the wood off in a hurry, but be careful not to make deep scratches in the blade tang you'll have to laboriously polish out later.
Level And True
On the broad sides of the handle, careful use of files and a sanding block will help keep the hardwood from receding below the level of tire pins. If you're not careful it's very easy to cut the relatively soft hardwood faster than the pins and thus leave them "proud" above the surface. It's nothing that would hurt the functionality of the knife, but it's pool workmanship.
As the scales gradually shrink down to the contour of the bolster, you should use your sanding block to carry the abrasive evenly across the bolsters and scales until a uniform pattern of scratches develop (at this point, I was using 220 grit paper). For an absolutely perfect job, don't change to a finer grit until all coarser file and abrasive marks have been removed.
My diligence suffered on this particular hot afternoon, and the knife pictured here shows a few file marks below the sheen of the final 400 grit polish. Perhaps one day I'll polish it out properly.
Now, how to finish off these handsome hardwood scales? I used "Linseed Gold" stock finish from Golden Bore (www.goldenbore.com [link will open new window]). Its use couldn't be simpler. Wipe on a thin coat with a piece of lint free cloth and allow it to dry. Scuff off the surface with 0000 steel wool before re-applying. The number of coats will vary depending upon the porosity of the wood. I applied five coats of finish and then used steel wool to produce a soft, non-reflective luster. The result makes very attractive hunting knives.
A Little Leather Work
What's a sheath knife without a sheath? Classic Hunting Knife Kits offers a very nice sheath lot only $16.95, but I wanted something a bit different. A simple pouch-type sheath holds the blade securely, but requires no straps or flaps. With its simple one-piece construction, such a sheath is easy to make too. A very basic stamped border and simple oil finish made this a one evening project. The end result is a darn good knife that looks pretty nice and has earned a few compliments from my shooting buddies. I was really pleased with myself until I looked further on the knifekits.com Website and noticed the forum where guys post questions and show off their handiwork. These fellows are talented!
Going Back For More
So now I'm anxious to build more hunting knives and to try to do better work. For starters, I have the GPC-1000 kit for a folding knife, and with a little more patience, hope to enjoy taking my time to produce a folding knife to be proud of.
With winter fast approaching, the prospect of tinkering in the garage or basement can hold a lot of appeal. After cleaning and touching up the rifles and shotguns, and after the handloading bench has gotten a little boring, why not make personalized hunting knives for next season? It's fun, it's easy and it sure beats parking your carcass in front of the television.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Classic Knife Kits  250-5650 www.knifekits.com [link will open new window]
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