Archive for the Tool Making Category

Making a knifemaking file guide for for two dollars

Posted in Gear Making, knifemaking, metalwork, Tool Making with tags , , on July 29, 2011 by Jim

For my current dagger project, I am worried about getting the plunge lines straight and equal; that and the edges of the ricasso where they meet the guard. I have known about file guides for a while but have a hard time spending fifty dollars to get one. Or even $150 to get the really nice carbide faced one from Uncle Al’s.

Here is one I made last night in the shop.

Knife filing jig made from 0-1 steel

The most expensive parts on this jig were the bolts. Two of them for $0.98. The rest is scrap from around the shop. I spent a couple hours getting it together.

The jaws are O-1. The guide rods were scrap 3/8″ rod stock. I drilled four holes and tapped two opposing holes in each piece.  I checked that everything was ground flat, square, and parallel as I could get by hand. I don’t have a mill. I hardened with straight soybean oil from the grocery store.  I just barely tempered the O-1 (350 for an hour). I wanted to leave the face hard so files will not wear thorough them.

These are not as pretty as store bought but I think they will work just fine.

O-1 hardened knife filing jjg


Reworking a Swiss Army Knife – EDC folder rework

Posted in Blathering, knifemaking, metalwork, Tool Making with tags , , , on June 6, 2011 by Jim

I love the blade on the Victorinox florist knife. It has a great shape for what I need in my EDC. I do wish though, that it was a little more sturdily constructed.

This weekend, I set out to remedy this issue.

Here is my trusty apple slicer:

Victorinox florist Knife

You can see that it is well loved! Well, I loved it so much that I felt the need to grind the pins out and take it apart 😛

This knife is really well thought out and well made but I wanted it to be a bit heavier. Also, I am really surprised that they do not put a half stop in the blade. A half stop makes the blade pause at 90 degrees when you are closing it. A nice thing if your fingers might be in the way!

Here are the new brass liners (to replace the light aluminum ones that came on the knife), red liner material, and micarta scale blanks I planned to put on this lovely knife. I also ground a flat on the end of a blade to make that half stop I was wishing Victorinox would have done for me.


A little time passes (internet magic and epoxy…) and here is the spine:

Spine of Swiss army knife rescaled with Green Micarta and red liners

And here it is, sitting so safely at that hoped for half stop:

Green micarta Swiss army knife rescale

My knife now has the heft and safety features I was hoping for. My lunch apples are very nervous!

Happy Making,


Making a chain mail shirt for a child

Posted in Chain Mail, Gear Making, jewelry making, metalwork, Tool Making on October 30, 2010 by Jim

I casually said to someone that I would make their child a chain mail shirt. I even said that I thought it would be fun. It was fun but turned out to be a bit more work than I expected. Approximately thirty hours of work later, many sore fingers, and about two dozen #1 jewelers saw blades , I had a finished chain mail shirt. This shirt is 18″ tall and 13″ wide. It will fit on a three year old.

I learned some helpful tricks about making chain mail.

A simple jig makes uniform rings easy:

For this jig, I drilled a small hole through a 3/8″ mild steel rod from the hardware store. You can see the aluminum electric fence wire I used going through the small hole. To make the rings, I chucked an electric drill to the rod and turned it slowly in the wooden form you see it sitting in . I found quickly that a leather glove helped my fingers survive.

A jump ring cutting jig

The rings used in making chain mail can be called jump rings. I saw a jig like this at a jewelers bench. They were using it to cut ring bands. Clamped in a vise, it works great for cutting the rings apart like this:

If I were going to make another shirt, I would probably cut the rings apart with snips instead of sawing them. I thought of changing mid-stream on this shirt but the rings looked different from the ones I had already woven together.

When I was working on this, I found a great trick online but cannot find the tutorial again. It makes everything go twice as fast. Briefly, you make chains of rings, two into one, as long as you want the finished section to be. Make many of these, then join them. I see that most tutorials show people adding one ring at a time into a mesh of fabric and that was horrible for me. Making the long chains and joining them made me twice as fast and far less frustrated.

If that doesn’t make sense, email me – jim (at) and I will try and explain or post an example.

Happy making,


A Twelve Dollar Knife Makers Vise

Posted in Blacksmithing, Gear Making, knifemaking, Leather working, metalwork, Tool Making on October 12, 2010 by Jim

It may not be pretty, but it works!

Knife Makers Vise

Two weekends ago, I was lucky enough to attend the American Bladesmith Society’s Heartland Bladesmithing Symposium at Steve Culver’s shop. It was incredible. I learned more than I thought you could learn in two days.

Looking around at all the tools he had, I saw a really cool knife makers vise. It let you clamp a knife in it and rotate the blade to work on all sides while still holding it securely.

I checked online and a store bought vise is around $100.00. I am saving for a propane forge and can’t afford a finished vise so I made this one.

You can put one of these together in a couple of hours if you have access to a small welder. Here are the parts I used:

Parts for the twelve dollar knife vise

The main body (gray pipe) is the top tube of an old swing-set I found in my garage and is 2″ in diameter. The gray pipe in this picture does not become part of my finished vise. It is just to show what the yellow pipe looked like before I started.

I cut a piece of this pipe  6″ long and drilled a 3/8 hole in the side.  For the hole, I came in about 1 1/2″ from the end. Next, I welded a nut over the hole. You can see this on the yellow painted pipe.

For a tightening handle on the inner vise (yellow pipe), I cut a ‘U’ bolt in half. That gives me the L shaped threaded rod that has a little yellow paint on it. That is what you use to tighten the inner wooden jaws that hold your knife.That might be cheating but it made a really comfortable handle for less than a dollar!

Next, I made the outer vise jaws. These allow you to spin the inner vise and clamp it tight where you need it. I made this from a heavy 2″ fence gate clamp that I got at a farm and feed store. At seven dollars, that was the most expensive piece of the entire vise.

To make the outer vise open and close easily, I bought an extension nut and welded a scrap of 3/8″ mild steel rod on it for a handle:

I also added a spring from the hardware store to make that outer clamp jaw want to open easily. I couldn’t find a spring that was exactly the width that I needed, so I cut a longer one down a bit for this.

Lastly, I made some wooden jaws to go inside directly against the knife itself.

Jaws for twelve dollar knife makers vise

Any 1″ x 2″ hardwood scraps should do for the jaws. I used Barge Cement and put leather pads on this set. I believe that I will make several sets of jaws for different work. I will make one pair with a long lower jaw to support the blades while I am filing them.

That’s It.

There really isn’t much too it. You clamp the bottom bit of the silver chain link fence gate hinge into your regular vise and you can hold a knife in any orientation.

While this isn’t nearly as elegant as the one I saw in Steve’s shop, it holds a blade tight while I am working hard on it.

Happy Making,

Knife forged from a leaf spring

Posted in Blacksmithing, knifemaking, Tool Making on September 12, 2010 by Jim

It’s late so I will be brief. I forged this from a leaf spring at my friend Dave’s forge.

Hand forged knife from a leaf spring

I haven’t decided if I will put an antler handle on it or just a para-cord wrap. I had a great time making this knife.

While we had the fire lit, I also made a couple plant hangers for the house:

Hand forged plant hangers

Thanks for everything Dave!

Happy Making,


Blacksmithing, knifemaking, and knife filework

Posted in Blacksmithing, Forging, Gear Making, Hammers, knifemaking, metalwork, Tool Making, Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 by Jim

It was a busy weekend.

I spent a lot of the weekend painting the house but somehow still managed to sneak in forging a new knife. I have made several stock reduction (grind away everything but a knife) knives. I wanted to try making one mostly in the forge.

This is the knife sitting on a piece of the spring that it was made of. In this picture, the knife is shaped but not yet hardened and tempered.

Here is the knife completed. I hardened and tempered it then blued the entire thing with gun blue. I wanted it to keep that blackish look it has right out of the quenching oil.

It’s not a fun project if it doesn’t require making a new tool…

I wanted the knife to look like the steel had been lying on an abandoned barn floor in Montana for 50 years. Unfortunately, the blank my friend roughed out from the spring was smooth and straight. A few minutes with a fifty cent garage sale hammer and a welder came up with this texturing hammer:

Here is a detail of the ‘rustic’ area of the knife…

Here is a closeup of the file work on the spine. I tried to stay pretty simple in accordance with the rustic style of the knife:

Knife Filework on spine

This was a great project and I learned a ton. My blacksmith friend is teaching me more bit by bit. I am trying hard to soak it all in.

I hope you had a great weekend.

Go make something,


Hammered Copper and Stainless Steel Fishing Lure

Posted in Fishing Lures, Forging, jewelry, metalwork, Raising Copper, Tool Making on August 2, 2010 by Jim

Is there such a thing as a Roycroft fishing lure?

I have been making lures like this one for a long time:

Hand carved Spinner Popper Frog fishing lure

It is really enjoyable making these. I can make cooler looking lures than I can buy and I can modify them to suit the places where I fish. My lures work great – they catch a ton of fish. It’s also a kick to open my tackle box around the guys knowing that they don’t have any of the lures that I have.

One thing that has always been annoying to me about lure-making is having to buy the metal hardware.

I usually hate buying something that I can make. Today I realized I could make make the metal parts of my lures. I could even make entire metal lures. I learned what I needed in the metalworking class I just took at the Lawrence Art Center. I guess I can be kind of slow on the uptake some days…

Anyway, here it is, for your perusing pleasure, the first ever, one of a kind, Roycroft style hammered copper fishing lure (click the image to see it larger):

Roycroft style hammered copper spoon lure

This spoon lure looks fantastic in the water. It darts and flashes like a drunk little bait fish on an underwater jet ski! I took it out in a sunny area where the water was murky and got a bite on the second cast. This is a great working lure.

I started all this, like I often do, in my buddy Dave’s steel scrap pile. He pulled out a railroad spike and I ground and polished it into a spoon shaped sheet metal forming stake:

Custom Handmade fishing lure

The copper was supple and simple to form and hammer mark. I cannot say the same about the stainless steel. I have not worked stainless before like this and it was not friendly. I will have to do some research on annealing stainless before I make the next lure. I riveted it all together with brass pins cut from 18ga wire.

All in all, this was a really happy afternoon’s work and it gave me an excuse to go fishing (you know, purely research purposes, so forth, etc…).

If you have any questions, or for goodness sakes, if you have advice about how to anneal stainless, I am all ears.

Happy Making,