attaching a knife handle

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Project by Danpaddles posted 05-29-2012 01:13 PM 5256 views 12 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is an old project, I am posting for the possible benefit of the fellow who just made a machete out of a lawnmower blade.

Sorry to say, I did not take a picture of the finished knife. The last picture is a knife of similar construction. But this gives an idea of how I clamp a handle while waiting for the epoxy to set. Notice the paper on the plywood, without it you might glue the clamp jig to the handle permanently.

That was a mostly finished blade, it was sharp, I always wrap them well, I have launched them off the belt sander. Whoops. I also use a router (in table) to round over the handle edges, very very carefully!

-- Dan V. in Indy

18 comments so far

View Woodbridge's profile


3724 posts in 3305 days

#1 posted 05-29-2012 01:23 PM

My wife has a knife that needs a new handle. Thanks for the posting.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View PurpLev's profile


8598 posts in 4535 days

#2 posted 05-29-2012 01:29 PM

thanks for the post – so, is the wood epoxied to the metal blade? or is it encasing the blade and just pinned to it?

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Kevin's profile


575 posts in 3186 days

#3 posted 05-29-2012 01:33 PM

Thanks a lot Dan, this really helped. I’m probably going to redo my handle sometime and I already have brass rod and epoxy. BTW the knives look great.

-- Measure twice, cut once, then sand a whole bunch

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4221 days

#4 posted 05-29-2012 01:47 PM

I have saved a few of my wife’s favorite kitchen knives by putting on new handles. I’ve always used rivets and in one case a wooden dowel (quite a few years ago, but luckily still holding strong). Are you using rivets besides the epoxy Dan? The epoxy sounds like a fairly easy solution, especially if it eliminates the need for rivets.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View RalphCompton's profile


91 posts in 3536 days

#5 posted 05-29-2012 03:52 PM

I’m going to try this but I think I’d rather do the round-over on the router table before I actually attach the scales to the knife. The idea of a sharp knife being thrown about by the router doesn’t sound like something I’d want to witness.

Thanks for the pictures,


View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3501 days

#6 posted 05-29-2012 06:52 PM

need this, thanks for postin

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View Danpaddles's profile


588 posts in 3199 days

#7 posted 05-29-2012 08:07 PM

Wow, didn’t think my knife trick would be all that interesting! I’ll try to answer questions…..

PurpLev- I smear the epoxy all over, it holds the scales to the blades, and also holds the pins in the pin holes. That is why I need the sacrificial plywood and paper to clamp it, it can get pretty messy. Probably could find a neater way to do it- but well, that is what I do. I am seldom tidy when epoxy is around, that is why I am afraid to build a canoe.

Mike, I use brass rod, not actually rivets. I suppose the handle would stay on without the brass, but it helps to line things up, and looks good when you are done. Also, I sometimes use brass tube at the butt end, to give me a way to put a lanyard on the knife.

Ralph, you are absolutely right, but if you want to round it before it is glued, it will be very hard to keep the scales positioned right. The messy knife above, will get sanded with drum sanders on the sides, then towards the end I do the round over. The exception to that is the front of the scale, where the blade some away from the scale. I try to finish that first, them mask it from the epoxy squeeze out.

I was asked several times to teach this as a class for a Retailer I used to work for. I kept putting them off, I hated to say NO, but then I would think about people holding knives right next to a spinning router bit. I even made a jig for one knife, to make holding it a little easier, but then I had trouble with it wobbling. I never did teach that class, and I still use that method for the one or three knives I do every year.

But when my 16 y.o. made his latest hunting knife, I would not let him use the router table. He instead used a one inch wide strip of emery cloth to just gently round the edges of the handle. He was using resin impregnated plywood (pakkawood? Dymond wood?) so it took him a while. Sorry, kid, but double standards apply, I’ll let him risk his fingers when he has his own health insurance policy.

There are a couple more oldies. The top knife is carbon fiber over a layer of blue micarta, sorta the same stuff you use on your bandsaw blocks. When soaked with epoxy, it is very tough stuff. That was actually a Gerber blade, I cut off the crappy plastic handle it came with, and did some shaping to suit myself. That is presently my favorite working knife, I would not hesitate to take it deer hunting.

The second one, I think is the same knife posted above. I can’t remember what I did to sheath that. Sheaths are my downfall, I do not work leather, and have had mixed results with wood sheaths, and Kydex sheeting. Sometimes I just make a pretty presentation box, and give them as a gift, that is what I did with that pretty black/ brass knife in this pict.

The last knife, was an experiment, not sure I want to try it again. I removed the plastic scales from a Swiss Army knife, and replaced them with carbon fiber. BTW- my source for carbon sheets has dried up, I will only do one or two more carbon handles. Besides, I hated to think what that dust was doing to me, one of the few times I wore a dust mask. and I always kept the vacuum sucking off the dust from the sanding. Oh- I did not rout over the edge on the carbon knife- I just used abrasives.

-- Dan V. in Indy

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 4472 days

#8 posted 05-29-2012 08:17 PM

Wow beautiful could you explain in more detail how you make the brass rod fit ? Presumably you have to pien it over but then wouldn’t that leave it with ugly ends ? I really would like to know how you get the finish so good or does it rely on glue alone and are the brass rods just for show ? Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4221 days

#9 posted 05-29-2012 09:17 PM

thanks Dan, the brass rod sounds like a good idea if I can find some.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View kiefer's profile


5802 posts in 3554 days

#10 posted 05-30-2012 01:26 AM

Thanks for the post DAN and further explanation of the process .
I will pass this on to a buddy who makes knifes as a hobby .
I may use this on some handles I need for a project to dress it up a bit .


-- Kiefer

View Kevin's profile


575 posts in 3186 days

#11 posted 05-30-2012 02:30 AM

Dan thanks again for the information, you do amazing work. I’m glad so many other people also found your post so interesting.

-- Measure twice, cut once, then sand a whole bunch

View Danpaddles's profile


588 posts in 3199 days

#12 posted 05-30-2012 02:57 AM

Scotsman- the brass rod is really just held in by the epoxy. Look at the second pict- see the stubs hanging out of the scales? The brass will sand down just like wood. Just don’t let it get too hot, the epoxy is not real heat resistant.

The process goes like this:

Tape the blade really really good and thick.

take the blade, lay it on the two scales (cut way oversized) and the two plywood hunks. remember, you can not drill the blade, at this point, it is just as hard as your drill bits. But you will (hopefully) already have holes in it.

So use those holes like a drill bushing. Drill ONE hole thru the layers. Hammer a short piece of brass in, to hold all 5 pieces. (You will take that brass out later).

Now, drill the second hole, insert a second brass rod. Now drill the rest of the holes, you do not need to insert any more rods at this stage.

trace the outline of the knife on the scales, as best you can, before pulling out the rods.

pull the rods (toss them, they will get nicked and bent a little, you do not want to use them in the final product)

Cut the scales on your jig saw, cut about 1/16 inch larger than what you traced. You will have to sand back to that line later, so try to keep it tight.

prepare all your brass rod pieces, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch longer than needed. clean up the burrs, even make a tiny chamfer on one end. Do a dry fit on the whole sheebang, layer plywood/ scale/ blade/ scale/ plywood. If the holes do not line up perfectly on the plywood, you can just drill the hole bigger. Allow for some slop. But the holes in the scales need to be spot on. Hint- use a brass rod a hair smaller than the holes in your blade. put a layer of paper (waxed?) between the scales and the plywood.

might want to finish sand the front of the scale at this point, then mask it.

Mix some 60 minute epoxy, say a short prayer to the glue gods, and start shmearing that stuff all over. Pay special attention to the rod holes in the scales. Try not to get much epoxy on the plywood.

Clamp hell out of it. Open beer, browse the web, check for new lumberjock posts. go to bed. Next morning, run out to the shop in your PJ’s to see how it turned out.

Spend the next two days sanding everything that isn’t blade. Rout the edges, if you dare, or just round them with a file. Then make friends with the shoe repair guy, he can make you a sheath for way more money then this blade is worth.

Only now may you remove the tape you put on the blade.

There are other ways, I’m just trying to tell you my usual M.O.. sometimes I skip the outer plywood, just wrap in wax paper and clamp direct. Sometimes I use knife screws, little stepped brass screws make for the purpose. Then I don’t feel the need to clamp as much. for supplies, or those fancy screws. I have also used nickle rod to hold the scales, you just have to be very careful sanding with that. Never push the epoxy, it will just gum up your sandpaper. DAMHIKT. I meant that part about waiting overnight. It takes that long.

They are fun to make, but until you learn how to make your own blades, you are really just making show pieces, toys, for display, not for hard work. Later you can buy better blades, or try your own forging.

-- Dan V. in Indy

View Karson's profile


35227 posts in 5287 days

#13 posted 05-30-2012 04:25 AM

Thanks for the info. Great job.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 3501 days

#14 posted 05-30-2012 05:48 AM

thanks Dan that info was a big help

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View Danpaddles's profile


588 posts in 3199 days

#15 posted 05-30-2012 12:46 PM

As I look back through all that- I think if you cut the brass rod to just a hair less then the thickness of your blade plus the scales, you could skip the outside plywood, and just clamp right on the scales, with as many C-clamps as you can fit. Then, just sand the scales down to the rods.

There is always a better way! I may be stuck in my groove, but hey, at lease I am groovin’!

-- Dan V. in Indy

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