Sources of Material

Start Simple!  As with everything you do.  To do it well takes practice, practice, practice. (Where have you heard that before?)  

So, begin by making your blades out of something that will already cut.  My first knife was made from a straight razor.  Broken and rusty razor blades can be found at flea markets and antique stores.  Just ask for any that are in too bad a shape to sell, without a handle, rusty and even broken. You will find some for a dollar or two. One table at the Belleville Show had them almost ready to sharpen.  

I then progressed to scissors, putty knifes, power hack saw blades and metal engraving tools. Almost anything that cuts will still cut after you form it into a blade if you don't over heat the metal.

There are many other items to make the blade from that does not require heat treating. They should be high carbon steel or suitable stainless steel.  However, not all stainless steel makes a good knife.  Since I am not a metallurgist, I generally steer clear of them. Files have a high carbon content, but are very hard to work with and unless you heat treat, are very brittle. 

If you want to make other tools, there are many items available that turn into wonderful tools without heat treating.  I love gouges made out of old spade wood bits.  I like the old ones because they are generally forged out of good carbon steel.  The new ones are sometimes questionable and may be hardened on the tip only.  The older ones can be found at flea markets and garage sales.  Rusty and dull bits are good candidates and usually cost less than a dollar.

Here are three good bits.  On all three, you have to carefully grind back to get away from the tip notches and holes.  On the third, you must make the concave side of the gouge on the side with the deep size stamp.  It makes a neat little #3 or #5 sweep 1/2 inch gouge.  The fourth bit is an example of the newer cheep bits to steer clear of.  

Two of my favorite tools are made from a 7/8 and 1/2 inch bit.  The first one is a modified skew.  It is handy for relief carving and getting into places like under or next to hair or other raised places.  

The last one is a handy gouge for fast wood removal.  It is a #3 sweep.  Obviously 1/2 inch wide.


Chisels make excellent gouges.  The top two were my most recent purchases at the Belleville club White Elephant sale,  at $1 each.  They will turn into a great #2 - 1" gouge and a #5 - 3/4 inch gouge respectively with about an hours work each.

The other two are a couple of my real work horses.  They are gouges made from chisels:  a 1.25" - # 3 sweep and a 1/2" - #5 sweep.  I'm aware these tools aren't as pretty as a full set of  Swiss made gouges.  But then, they only cost $2.

Furthermore, making these kinds of tools let you decide what you need, and make a tool that is suited to doing that.  If you need something a little different for a special task, just grind a little different shape and you are set.

I have chisels made into carving tools all the way up a 2" Keene Kutter with a #0 sweep.  That, by the way, is just a straight chisel sharpened to carving standards.  All good quality chisels make good #0 carving tools if properly sharpened.

All these tools were made from existing junk with nothing more than careful grinding followed by standard tool sharpening techniques.  The careful grinding applies to all tool work.  It is more important here, because you are removing more metal and subject to creating more heat.  Any time you make your tool turn blue, you have bought the farm.  Grind back to new metal and start over.  The key words, slow and easy.