Making A Wooden Pocket Knife Fun & Interesting
I have been playing with a design for a pocket knife in SketchUp, an all metal folding lock-back with a 3-1/4″ blade. SketchUp is good for this, in that the parts can be rotated just like they would be in real life to check for clearance and alignment issues, but doesn’t tell the whole story. The best way is to take the design as far as you can in CAD, then make a prototype based on it, and tweak it from there. In the prototype stage the size of the knife and how it feels to handle would be assessed.
The ideal is to build the mock-up from a similar material as the final project, but in this case that would be just the same as going ahead and building the knife. Since I will only be making one of these, I didn’t want to invest a lot of time in a metal prototype, so I thought I would make it from wood instead.
First, here is the design:
Like many of my other knife projects (as seen on my YouTube channel), I will be using material that I already have to make the final knife. That will be mild stainless steel for the handles and lock parts, and high carbon steel for the blade. Before committing to the considerable effort required to machine these metal parts by hand, I want to make sure that everything works and feels good.
I made a video showing the knife and quickly goes through the pictures that are below:
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To start, I cut a strip of hardwood 1/8″ thick:
This is actually maple that was discoloured by some environmental condition and looks quite different from normal maple.
I then printed the templates from my SketchUp model:
And cut out and pasted these to the strip.
The first operation is to drill the holes for the pins as accurately as possible. I’m using brad point drill bits for this and going slow. Part of the mock-up process is to verify these hole placements and the only way is to be precise with the drilling:
Afterwards, the parts are roughly cut out on the band saw. A scroll saw would be a better tool, but I don’t have one (yet).
I used my carving knife to trim the parts closer to the line:
Then use a few different files to make it perfect. Here, I’m using my wooden drill press vise to hold the parts while I fine tune the shape.
The end piece needs a short slot for the flat spring that pushes on the lock bar, and to make it the right width, I used two hacksaw blades side by side:
All of the parts finished.
The locking bar has to fit exactly into the notch in the blade:
A great fit.
Using the right size drill bits to check the parts alignment:
When closed, the blade may be a bit too close to the locking bar, but that is the primary purpose of doing a mock-up: to find these potential problems. Looking at it in SketchUp, the distance looks bigger. This is the deceptive part of CAD – it can be difficult to accurately judge the size.
With both handles on, the alignment looks good:
The spring is just a short, thin piece of hardwood and here it has been glued into the end piece and the end piece has be glued to the handle:
There are two pin sizes, 1/8″ and 3/16″, and to make these, I made a mini dowel maker.
Cutting the pins with the dowel maker is easy, although they could have been smoother if I had put a bit more effort into making the cutters:
They will do the job well enough.
The pins glued in with super glue and trimmed off:
I then sanded the pins smooth and added the thumb stud to the blade.
And it’s finished:
Not bad looking, if I do say so.
A fun project, and now I have the confidence to go ahead with the final version, knowing that it will work out the way I want it.