A knife can be made in the comforts of your home or mass manufactured. For a more custom made knife, a process called forging is used, and for mass production, a process called blanking is used. Both processes include stock removal which is cutting the blade from a sheet material, grinding the edge, and drilling the rivet or pin holes for attaching the handle.
Common Blade Materials
1: Alloy steel which is popular for swords and large knives due to its toughness and wear resistance.
2: Chrome steel which is used for bearings.
3: Semi-stainless steels that do not contain enough of certain elements to be classified as stainless steel.
4: Stainless steel is popular for knife blades due to its corrosion resistance.\
5: Stain-proof steels which has a higher resistance to corrosion.
6: Carbon steel is also popular due to its toughness and durability, and sharpens easier than stainless steel. However, it is more susceptible to rust and corrosion since it lacks the chromium of stainless steel.
7: Ceramic blades are harder than metal but more brittle.
Making the Blade
For lower production, many methods can be used for cutting the blade from the raw material. This includes using a cutting torch, band saws, hacksaws, files, and grinders. The blade is then shaped by a process called forging. High heat is used for shaping steel by the use of a hammer or anvil.
For higher production, a different process for cutting and shaping steel is used. The process is called blanking and it is used for making blade blanks. The blank is cut from a flat soft material that has not been treated with heat.
For mass production blade blanks are stamped to the correct outline in a punch press, and for custom knives, water jet cutters, laser cutters, and band saws are used. Any decorative details for the blade are stamped while the blade is still in the soft condition.
After the blank has been cut, holes for the handle are cut into the tang, and rough shaping for the blade edge is done by grinding or machining.
After the shaping of the blade edge, it is preserved and hardened by heat treatment. The blade is placed on a ceramic tray and inserted into a heat treating oven. After the heating process, the tray is removed and placed into oil or water for rapid cooling. This process is called quenching. However, the quenching process causes the blade to become brittle. The blade is then reheated at a lower temperature and allowed to cool in a process called tempering. This process toughens the metal but allows some brittleness needed for sharpening.
After the heating and cooling process, the blade is polished and sharpened. Polishing can be by hand or machine using a belt sander and grinder.
Making the Handle
The knife handle or stock can be designed to fit a full tang or a partial tang. A tang (also referred to as a shank) is the portion of the blade that extends for connection to a handle.
A full tang extends the full length of the handle. The handle is made by using scales or slabs made of wood or other material. These are either, pinned, riveted, or screwed on to each side of the tang itself. For this reason, the handle will have the same profile as the tang.
A Partial tang will be inserted and hidden inside a solid one piece handle and then attached in one of the previously stated methods.
The handle is then buffed by hand or use of a buffing wheel to blend the rivets or screws for a beautiful polished look.