Carl Sagan once said: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” In other words, the term “scratch” is really a relative sort of thing. Did you grow the apples? Did you plant the wheat to make the flour? Where do you keep your windmill, incidentally? With Carl’s words in mind, we suppose we can’t say that [Flannagill] truly built this incredible knife from scratch, after all, he ordered the sheet steel on Amazon. But we think it’s close enough.
He was kind enough to document the epic build in fantastic detail, including (crucially), the missteps he made along the way. While none of the mistakes were big enough to derail the project, he mentions a few instances where he wasted time and money trying to take shortcuts. Even if making your own knives at home isn’t on your short list of summer projects, we’d wager there’s something in this build log you can learn from regardless.
So how does one build a knife? Slowly and methodically, if what [Flannagill] has written up is any indication. It started with a sketch of the knife on a piece of paper, the outline of which was then transferred to a piece of tool steel with nothing more exotic than a permanent marker. An angle grinder was then used to follow the outline and create the rough shape of the final knife.
From there, the process is done almost entirely with hand files. Here [Flannagill] gives one of his most important pieces of advice: don’t cheap out on the tools. He bought the cheapest set of files he could, and paid the price: he says it took up to 14 hours to complete just one side of the knife. Once he switched over to higher quality files, the rest of the work went much faster.
After filing and sanding the knife blank, it went into a charcoal fire to be hardened, followed by a total of 4 hours in a 200 C (~400 F) oven to heat temper it. Finally the handle pieces (which are officially known as “scales”) were attached, and finished with considerably less labor intensive woodworking methods. The final result is a gorgeous one of a kind specimen that [Flannagill] is rightly very proud of.
If you’re worried this process looks a bit too quick and easy for you, don’t worry. You can always go the [Bil Herd] route and make a forge out of your old sink if you’d rather start your apple pie a bit closer to the tree.