In this video, I show how I made my steak knives. I’ve made a couple of knives in the past, but this time I wanted to set myself a new challenge. This is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and in return, quite possibly the thing I’m proudest of.
I wanted to make a steak knife with serrations and to make it more complicated, I wanted a matching pair. The serrations on a steak knife are there to protect the edge from going dull too quickly when cutting against your plate.
For this build you will need;
- O1 Tool Steel – 2mm (UK)
- O1 Tool Steel (USA)
- 3mm Copper Sheet (UK)
- Copper Sheet (USA)
- Copper Pins (UK)
- Copper Pins (USA)
- Epoxy (UK)
- Epoxy (USA)
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Step 1: It’s a Steel
For this project, same as my other knives, I’m using O1 Tool Steel. It’s relatively cheap compared to other steels, and easy enough to heat treat in a basic forge. There are loads of different steels out there you can use, look into it and find out what you feel comfortable with. In the UK there are not a lot of places you can locally go collect steel like this from, I’m quite lucky that I’m close to one so that’s why I go with O1.
I started by looking at loads of different steak knives and designs and sketching one out. I then took this into Illustrator so I could get a final image to work off. I printed this out on a sheet of printable label paper. This made it a bit easier to put on the steel, but you can just use a standard print out and spray glue. I’m using 2mm thick steel.
Step 2: Get in Shape
I used an angle grinder with a 1mm cut off disc to try and waste as little steel as possible. Once I had the rough-shaped out blades, I took them to the bench grinder with a stone to smooth out the cut marks. The angle grinder leaves some pretty rough and sharp edges, and this just knocks them all off. Also you don’t want these on your belts later as they can rip the belts.
Step 3: Sticking Together
So one of the many challenges of this project, I wanted a matching pair. Matching being the key word here. Any of my other knives I’ve been able to change the design on the fly, and as any maker would know ‘changing the design’ is basically ‘fixing mistakes’.
So I took some very strong double-sided tape to hold the two blades together. The idea being that during all stages of shaping and putting in the serrations they will match up perfectly.
Step 4: Grinding I
I took these over to my belt grinder and started to get them down to the final outside shape. I took it nice and slow as I was a bit worried about melting the glue on the double-sided tape. In the end, it wasn’t a problem and this held up really well.
Step 5: Holes
I used a centre punch to mark out where I needed to drill the holes for the pins. The knives are still stuck together, and on the template, I had marked out exactly where the holes needed to be. The centre punch makes a tiny little hole and gives the drill bit a fighting chance of going in where I wanted it. I’m using a 4mm Cobalt Drill bit to get through the steel. It’s annealed at the moment, so not hard so should be fine with standard HSS. But I like to be safe!
Step 6: Let Get Things Serrate
This was the bit I was most worried about. There seems to be two schools of thought here.
1. Small tight shallow serrations
2. Large spaced deep serrations
I wasn’t sure which one to go for. So I picked up the file and went to work. In the end I was route 2! I think If I’d have a triangle file to hand, I could have got some tighter ones, but I’m pretty happy with the big ones, I think they look pretty cool! This took quite a bit of work, and I worked my way along the blade trying to keep them as evenly spaced as possible. If I made more of these, I think I would actually mark on where I needed to do the serrations to try and keep them as even as possible.
Step 7: Grind II
Finally, it was time to split the blades. I was surprised how long the double sided tape had lasted, and quite impressed. It was quite hard work to peel them apart, as they kept wanting to snap back together. Eventually, I managed to prise them apart with another knife.
Then it was back to the grinder. I cleaned off as much of the glue with some white spirits and got to work grinding. I made a quick little grinding jig from some angle iron. There’s loads of videos online on how to make your own. But I went the super simple route, angle iron, nut and bolt through the bottom to make the angle. It worked out great. Made beautiful uniform bevels along the knives. Next project I’m definitely going to spend some time and make a proper one.
Step 8: Heat and Treat
Now for the fire. Heat Treat. I made this basic forge, you can check the Instructables HERE. I plan to upgrade this little forge as I do more and more knife projects, but for now, it works absolutely fine! I use a small propane torch to get the steel up to temperature. I got it to a nice cherry red, and check if it was still magnetic. With O1, when it’s up to temp it becomes no longer magnetic. Once happy it, I let them soak in this heat for around 5mins, careful not to overheat.
Then had the quench. I use Vegetable Oil for this. It’s super cheap, works well and doesn’t smell bad. I temper these knives in my home oven, sometimes at the same time as baked potatoes, so the smell is pretty important to me, and my wife. I took the blades one at a time straight from the forge and quenched into the oil, left them here until stopped smoking. Gently moving backwards and forwards.
Step 9: Grind III
After the heat treat it was back to the grinder. I ground off any of the fire scale and continued to sort out the bevels. I was using my jig again to make sure they were uniform.
Step 10: Handsand
Alec Steele, I don’t know how you do it? I hand sanded these all the way up to 2000 grit, after my last video I got a few people point out the sanding looks much nicer with the marks going along the length of the blade, rather than top to bottom. They are right, it’s definitely worth the effort of hand sanding. But it takes a long time. A very long time. And it’s hard work. Very hard work.
Step 11: Can You Handle It?
For the handles/scales, I wanted a dark wood. I got a beautiful block of Wenge wood. It has a dark rich colour, often with interesting grain patterns. I used my band saw and cut down the block to useable sizes for the scales.
Next, I used the mitre fence on the band saw to add a 30 degree cut down the middle of them. I wanted to inlay some copper in the handle here. I had to use an extra block of wood to support the piece. This was a little sketchy, so if you’re going to copy be careful. Or just use a mitre saw? But my blade on mitre saw is quite a bit wider and i didn’t want to waste that much wood. I taped the two scales together to ensure this cut lined up perfectly.
Step 12: Copper
For the copper inlay, I used some 3mm thick copper sheeting. I bought this online relatively cheaply and looks really nice. I marked out the thickness of the scales and cut off two pieces from the copper, so they would sit flush in between the wood. I started with the angle grinder and moved over to a hacksaw which was actually much quicker, and easier to get a neat straight line.
Step 13: Glue + Fail
Once I had one set fully ready to go I got out my 5min epoxy, mixed up a small batch and spread on the wood and copper. It was now I went to clamp this together I realised how little I had thought the design through. The angle of the copper and wenge meant that I couldn’t just clamp it from the ends, as it would just slip down along the diagonal line. So I held it together for as long as I could, then tightly wrapped some masking tape around the ends to hold them together.
I’ve used this technique in woodworking with wood glue quite a lot, and it works fine then. I left for a few hours to cure and it seemed to have worked. But as soon as I started to tidy up the block it fell apart. So I cleaned off the pieces and quickly whipped up a little clamping jig. Basically took some scrap plywood, and made some little blocks to stop the pieces sliding. I put more masking tape on the underside to stop the handle glueing to the jig. I Glued up again, clamped it down and… and it didn’t work again.
Not sure if I’m just not getting enough pressure, or what. But it just didn’t work. So Plan B.
I started again with some fresh wood and cut the handles down the middle vertically so get a single bit of copper at a 90-degree angle. Still, think it looks great and happy, but a bit gutted I couldn’t get the angled stripes to work.
Step 14: Glue + Sucess
Vertical stripes for the win.
Step 15: Give Me Some Spacer.
There’s not enough copper in this yet, so I also added a very thin piece of 0.7mm thick copper as a spacer. A spacer sits between the wood handle material and the steel of the blade itself. It also adds a beautiful detail which I think looks really cool. I used the hacksaw to cut this down to the size of the wood. This also worked well for ensuring that wood and copper from the previous step held together. I was a bit dubious that it would actually hold together!
I used more 5min epoxy to glue the handle to this. Then, after a few hours of curing, I took them over to the grinder and cleaned off any excess glue and made all the copper sit flush.
Step 16: Drill It, Pin It
I used the actual knife itself to mark where to put the drill holes. I think taped the two halves of handles together and drilled out the holes. I took this super slow as remember I was going through 2 bits of wood, and 2 bits of copper.
The second time I actually left the knife in situ also taped to the handles, this worked out better and I would recommend doing that. Just makes it slightly more accurate that all the holes line up.
For the pins I decided to use some brass… only joking. MORE COPPER. I used some 4mm copper pins.
I then used the very last of my 5min epoxy and glued all pieces together, the handles, pins and blade itself.
Step 17: Sanding II
I shaped the bulk of the handle on the grinder again. But the copper sucked up heat like nothing else and made it very hard to work with. I tried to cool down the copper as much as possible but still took a long time. Again, I didn’t want to overheat the epoxy else it can just let go.
I then hand sanded the whole thing smooth up to around 800 grit. And finished both handles with a couple of coats of oil, and of course my beeswax polish.
Step 18: Final Images
Wow. That was a lot of work. These are the final images, super happy with them. They were a lot of work, lots of handwork as well. But I think they look stunning. And work really well as well.