Learning to Make Knives

Published by emilyatspecklefarm on

      Check out the Custom Knife Shop Page for more details! 

  Forging hot steel is unlike some would think it to be before committing to the act. I imagined it to be slightly different myself. Personally I figured it to be more difficult, not to mislead you the reader, it is tough work even with a power hammer to assist the work load of hand hammering. 

The first knife

     The steel when heated to forging or welding temperature looks to be soft, and technically it is softer than it’s original state, but not soft like pounding on playdough. It takes a heavy hammer blow to move the steel, and several maybe even hundreds of those same blows to forge out a knife blade or billet of steel to make a knife. 

chainsaw knives. top mine, three twist & fold. Bottom, Travis’ three fold

       Although I only forged two knives, one chainsaw chain billet, and one cable knife, in the 7 days making knives with my cousin Travis Swezey, I will say the forging process is the most rewarding. To take a bundle of chainsaw chains, heated, twisted, folded and then to cut and shape a blade out of that bundle of chains is amazing. To do that in a day is even more of an excitement. I for one, am the sort that has a limit in patience and when I have the ability to see what I have made, finished in the day-through hard work-it puts a massive smile on my face.

Third and best knife I made; fathers day gift for my Dad.

         The first day was more of a family reunion than knife making. The weeks we were there half of what we actual did was make knives; the other half was talk. Stories and stories, that Travis had tons of, lots of him and his father and the slaughter truck they ran. What made the whole experience of learning so much easier was that I was learning and working along side family. Even though I had not seen Travis since I was in diapers, and then I wouldn’t remember him anyway, it felt just like any other family encounter.

            Travis started out by showing us the knifeshop, all the ins and outs, a brief run through the processes of building a quality custom knife. Then he cut out a simple knife shaped piece of wood and we got to work on the belt grinder. Travis had explained to me that he has never had a knifesmith show him how to hollow grind and he couldn’t get it right on steel, so he played around with grinding and shaping on wood and figured it out on his own. And most of what Travis has learned is just working in the shop trying new things.

Left to right: CTS XHP stainless steel, 1095 high carbon, micarta handles on first two. Far right knife used as template.


 There is three basic grinds to a knife. Flat grind is kind of like the standard just a straight grind from ricasso to tip at an angle from the back of the blade to the blade edge. This is done on a flat belt. Then you have the hollow grind, which is the primary grind used on the knives we made. Take a look at a straight razor, they are a very extreme hollow grind. You make a hollow grind on a wheel, and depending on the wheel size you will have a deep hollowed out grind or a much shallower one that almost looks like a flat grind. Then you have a convex grind which is what a hatch or axe usual has for an edge, basically opposite of the hollow grind.

            I started out hollow grinding a piece of wood to get the hang of it. There is some what of a technique to it, and it would be hard to explain. So one of these days I might put together a video or something for those of you who are really interested, or you could come by and see it first hand when I get my own shop up and running. Grinding on wood goes pretty fast and since the piece of wood I was working on was much thicker then the steels used to make knives it was much easier to see the hollow grind and how it shaped the blade. After the wood knife I went straight into some actual steel.

Second go at forging chainsaw billets.

We started with some 1095 high carbon steel. Cut out a blade profile and went to grinding, Travis had me take my time and work slow the first couple of knives, but it didn’t take long-a couple of days- to get into the grove and by the time I had finish the grind on the skinner I made from the chainsaw billet, it was like riding a bike.

Travis Swezey’s twice-fold chainsaw chain knife, camel bone handle.
I really could go into some more detail on all of this, but in all reality a person really has to see it first hand to really get it. For now I will just post a bunch of pictures, if you have questions throw some comments below or something, and I’ll answer with what I got. 
AJ has a Facebook page for his knives and you now order your own custom knife. Check him out at Swezey Knife & Tool on Facebook!
AJ has some great videos as well. They were too large to email/text off his phone and our USB cord is being cantankerous, but we should have them or some his father took in another post eventually.

This post is participating in the 117th Homestead Barn Hop and The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways Wednesday Blog Hop check it out for many great homesteading blogs! 

I hope you found information and inspiration, come back soon!
Kindest regards,


Anonymous · July 1, 2013 at 4:43 am

Beautiful knives!!Sis Gale

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *