[2 Key Facts] Everything You Should Know About Stock Removal for Knives (Knife Knowledge)
I have covered how to create blades using the traditional method but there is another method you can use to create a knife without having to forge your blade. This method of creating knives is called the stock removal method.
The difference between the stock removal method and the traditional way of making a knife is that stock removal, from the name itself, is the removal of material until you get your desired blade while forging is bending metal until your blade is formed. Stock removal is highly similar to how statues are made. You take a chunk of rock or any other material you use, and within the chunk of rock is your statue.
Stock Removal vs. Forging
Forging has been around for thousands of years now and has a fair amount of elitism to this method. Stock removal is a relatively modern technique that has become available due to modernization and invention. Stock removal wastes too much material compared to forging, where very little steel is wasted during the knife-making process. Since stock removal was discovered, the tools used for it have changed so much that grinders will be able to remove materials much easier, making blades out of small material to be feasible, making less waste compared to the earlier stock removal methods.
Forging can produce incredible blades with high durability and strength however, not all knifemakers are gifted with the talent of forging their own blades. Forging, as mentioned before, requires a lot of skill and practice to fully master. A lot of mistakes can be made during forging but when done right, a forged blade is something to admire. Forged blades are the essence of pure craftsmanship.
Having said that, stock removal is still no easy feat. Much like forging, stock removal requires patience and skill to bring a knife to life with the use of a grinder. However, a lot of knifemakers would agree that making a decent knife by using the stock removal method is a lot easier compared to forging your own blade in fact, knife-making companies often employ the stock removal method to create mass-produced knives.
Most knifemakers would agree that forging produces much stronger blades compared to stock removal. This is due to the milling process that fully reinforces the grain of the metal. Stock removal maintains the uniformity of steel no matter how you shape your material, making it relatively weaker compared to forged blades.
Regardless, both methods are still acceptable in making knives. It really depends on the knifemaker on what method they will use to make their blades. The bottom line is, creating blades is an art no matter what method you use to make one. For a knifemaker, their knives are their pride and joy.
Stock Removal Steps
Before starting, choose all the materials that you will need for the knifemaking process. You can use any kind of steel that you want from the list mentioned above. You can even use the hard to use Damascus steel for this process if you want to. Aside from your steel, choose an appropriate handle material for your handle too. You can choose from wood, bones, or even synthetic materials like G10 and micarta. Same with the forged knife earlier, this chapter will focus on making a full-tang bushcraft knife. Make sure that the steel that you will use is flat and wide enough to accommodate your pattern. Once you have your steel, it’s time to draw your knife pattern the same way that you did on a piece of plywood. Another alternative if you’re skilled enough is to draw the pattern itself on the steel that you are about to cut.
Once your pattern is ready, you can start cutting the rough shape of your knife from your steel stock. You can use a steel cutting bandsaw as well as a saw that’s big enough for the job. If you have a drill, you can use the drill press method by drilling holes along the edges of your pattern and cutting your steel out with the use of a hacksaw. Since the steel has not been heat treated yet, it can be easy to cut with just a regular saw.
Once you’ve cut out your blank, you can start grinding your blade with your belt grinder or your files. Shape out your knife until you are satisfied with how your knife looks. Drill out the holes in your tang where you will insert your pins later. Same as with what you did with your forged knife, you can make at least two holes for your pins. Make sure that your pins are of the same size and if you will be using rivets or fasteners, make sure that the drilled holes are the same size as them.
It’s now time to form your bevel. You can use the same method that you did with your forged blade. Remove around 80% of your material during grinding and the rest will be removed after hardening and tempering. Use sandpaper after grinding to keep your blade flat.
After your grinds, it’s now time to heat-treat your blade. You can employ the same method that you did to your forged blade. Since the stock removal process does not involve a forge, you can use the fire pit method to heat treat your blade. As a refresher, prepare your pit fire and place a good amount of coal in your pit and start your fire. Keep an eye on your pit and if the fire begins to dwindle, add charcoal immediately so that the fire won’t die. Place the blade on the hottest area of your fire, preferably the area where the air meets with the charcoal. Align the tip of your blade outside the hot spot area so that it won’t overheat.
Move the blade around the fire while observing the color consistency of your steel. This helps in spreading the heat evenly throughout your blade. Monitor the temperature of your blade constantly. Use a magnet and check if the steel begins to lose its magnetism, indicating that you are nearing your desired heat. Keep heating the blade for around twenty more seconds after it begins to lose its magnetism and remove the blade from your fire. Immediately submerge the whole blade to your oil quench tip first.
Move the blade around the oil to cool it immediately and, at the same time, prevent insufficient hardening. To reduce the chance of deforming your blade, move it from the spine to the edge compared to moving it from any other direction. Once the blade has cooled down, remove the blade from the quench.
After hardening, you will now need to temper your blade. Preheat the oven at 204°C for around fifteen to twenty minutes. Place the blade inside the oven, preferably on the rack, and leave it there for around 2 hours. After heating your blade, remove it and let it cool down. Once cooled, bring the knife back to the oven and heat it again. Once finished, pull the blade out of the oven, and let it cool again.
After the heat treatment process, you’re ready for the second part of your grind. Continue forming your bevels and get your blade to its final level of grinding to remove the crud from the tempering cycle off of the steel. Next up is creating your handles. Ensure that your scales will be perfectly flat. Mark the sides of your wood to determine which part will be inside and outside and which will be the top and bottom.
Position one of your materials on your tang and tape the blade and the material together to keep them in place. Drill the hole in your tang through your wood. Insert one of your pins through the hole to secure them. Drill the second hole of your tang and insert your second pin. You can make a lanyard hole during this time, but it is optional. After this, remove everything attached to your blade and repeat the same process for your second scale.
Next, cut out the rough shape of your handle using a band saw or wood saw. Attach the scales to your knife and sand down your handles to match your tang type. Draw a line where your hand will end since the handle will cover parts of your knife bolster. Remove the scales, pin them together, remove excess wood around the bolster, and sand it to your designated position.
Sand down the inside surface of your scales and the outside surface of the tang. Prepare your epoxy and spread the epoxy to the sanded surfaces of your scales using a stick. Make sure that enough epoxy is applied to both surfaces.
Insert the pins on your first scale, then attach both the pins and the scale to the blade. Attach the second scale gently, ensuring that the scales are in the proper position. Grab some clamps and clamp the handle to squeeze everything together as securely as possible. Remove excess epoxy that comes out using a rag and let it dry overnight while still being clamped. Once the epoxy has dried, it’s time to bring your knife back to the grinder. Shape your handle as you want it while cleaning up its edges. Use a finer grit for your belts if you are content with your grip. Use sandpaper with fine grits for polishing until you get the grip that you desire.
Lastly, apply a coat of oil to your wooden handle as a finishing touch. Any wood finishing oil would do the trick. There you have it, your very first stock removal knife.