There is a vast variety of bowie knives ranging from large-sized blades with a big handle, easy to grip firmly used for hunting or camping purposes, and also small bladed skinner knives formed for kitchen chores like cutting or chopping. Modern hunting knives usually consist of a blade made up of stainless steel or the toughest Damascus steel. The metal used for manufacturing is of great importance to determine the sharpness, toughness, corrosion resistance, and final finishing polishing procedures.
Folding knives, lock-back knives, and specialized skinning and gutting knives are mostly used for hunting or dressing games but the basic straight hunting knife is the ultimate choice for multiple tasks and also the outdoor enthusiast’s standard.
The handle is often made up of exotic woods or animal bones, it may also be wrapped with leather to contour the handle in the final shape. The materials chosen for the blade or handle greatly affect its use, so according to the purpose, knives are customized. For field use, the most durable and utilitarian materials such as leather and nylon are selected.
Now after selecting the best suitable strong stainless steel material, we’ll start the manufacturing process step by step. Read more WHAT IS DAMASCUS STEEL?
1. Design Crafting:
First of all, you need a design best suitable option according to your requirements. The easiest option is to go for sketching a design on paper so try several sketches to accomplish the best outcome. In this way, you will be able to mix and match infinitely and come with a unique result. Don’t be afraid to get creative when using free resources, this is a chance to take out the insider artist and show your vision in steel.
If you don’t like to draw design there is another great option for you, use technology to draw the best possible design with a free CAD program called DraftSight. Then you take a hard copy of this design to correctly determine the dimensions.
2. Heat Treatment Process (Annealing):
Now you have a design in your mind before taking a proper start. You should perform the process of annealing or heating the metal to achieve Bowie knife greatness. Annealing is not the must-to-do step but it will enable you to mold the shape, drill, and ground more easily. And the blade made under these conditions without heating would be very brittle and prone to break easily under hard use conditions.
If you have a heating oven, you must use it for annealing the steel. This procedure is very simple and basic to perform.
- After heating the rasp to nonmagnetic conditions, bury it in a simple metal toolbox that is filled with clean and dry wood ash. This burying will insulate the metal and it will allow cooling slowly. The slow cooling process will soften the steel so it becomes easier to handle the metal.
The cooling process will take several hours so don’t rush; it will be worth it once you start filling, drilling, and grinding.
3. Designing The Knife:
Once the metal has cooled, go for the real work. Cut the rasp according to the hard copy design. After cutting, now grind the teeth off from all the rough sides. This makes a nice, flat surface to work with but the knife is given a distinctive look due to the memory of the rasp left behind.
An angle grinder will work great for smoothening procedures but the basic tools will also be enough to carry on the procedure. After the teeth grind off, you can craft the design by drilling according to your sketch. Spraying the metal with dark-colored paint will work very well.
4. Final Notching And Cleaning:
Now you’re at the stage to give a final shape by notching out with a hacksaw or cutting wheel. This will make the job a bit easier. After the bulk removal of steel from the design drawn, the final profile is shaped by using files or angle grinders.
You will find it easier to remove small pieces of metal from the finalized knife design than trying to make large cuts. This will become difficult and there are chances to damage or alter the shape of the knife. Read More CHOOSE THE BEST BOWIE KNIFE?
5. Drilling Holes And Filling Pins:
At this point, the blade starts to take a shape. The design has been drawn according to the sketch, now it’s a good time for you to decide what material you are going to use for the handle.
There are plenty of choices available now to manufacture durable handles, you can go from mild to wild. If you want to stay on the traditional side, wooden or leather handles will be a good choice. You can elongate the tang for increasing the grip and strength of the handle.
It’s time for drilling holes to fill them with pins for attachment to the handle material. Threads can be added for extra mechanical support, they will act as built-in clamping bolts that will ensure a tight, and solid fit-up.
6. Grinding or Machining:
After the cleaned-up procedure of profile and all required holes drilled, it’s time to start grinding in the rough areas before starting the blade hardening procedure.
For this purpose you can use a trusty 4-inch angle grinder, other than that bench-top grinder or even a good, sharp file can perform the same task.
The purpose is simply to remove the bulk metal from the blade or cutting edge evenly to ensure less work is required after hardening.
Don’t grind and grind, ending up a thin, easily breakable knife edge. Leave the edge at least the thickness of a penny, this will protect the steel durability after the cutting edge formation from overheating and decarburization. This will ensure the edge life to a maximum level.
After the roughened edges formation, use sandpaper or a flap disc for finishing.
- Be sure to remove all the deep, heavy scratches as they will lead to cracks and joints after the process of hardening.
7. Heating And Quenching:
Now it's time for hardening some steel. You can use a forge or torch to heat the blade to a nonmagnetic level by attaining critical temperature.
Heat the blade at a slower pace, bring it to the required temperature and check it with a magnet. When you notice that a nonmagnetic level is reached, dip or quench only the cutting edge for its hardening. Leave the spine of the knife slightly softer for more strength and toughness.
For quenching purposes, you can use oil or water. After submerging in the oil, the blade will leave all the color and turn black. Several things can work as a quenching oil and everyone uses his favorite. Depending on the type of steel you are using, you can try with Canola oil, mineral oil, or ATF transmission fluid.
Be careful while mixing hot steel with oil which will cause a fire, be sure to take appropriate preventive measures. You should consider the following precautions;
- A well-ventilated space
- Space should be free of flammable materials
- Personal protective gear should be present
- A fire extinguisher is a must
8. Hardness Testing:
After the cooling of the blade, take it out from the oil and clean it. For this purpose, a brake cleaner will work well or you can use simple dish soap and warm water for cleaning.
Now you are thinking about how to check for hardness?
Well, you can check this in two simple ways. One is for successful hardening you will notice a clean steel area on the cutting edge where the carbon scale has banged off the blade.
The second easy and simple way to check for hardened blades is possible with a sharp and fresh file. Run the file over the knife's cutting edge, it should slide easily and not bite on the edge. If you are successful in this process, go ahead with tempering.
9. Heating Or Tempering:
Tempering is a basic and simple process of heating the blade again but at a less temperature than the annealing step. This heating process is performed to reduce brittleness and to increase toughness.
Again you can use a heat-treating oven, by all means, use it. However, you can also use a toaster oven or a basic household oven.
You can start by putting your blade into the oven. The clean portion will change its color as the steel oxidizes on heating. This is a simple, basic heat treatment and temper, the color-changing is an indication of the process completion.
As the temperature increases, the color changes from bright gold to a shade of bronze straw, then a light purple to a blue that will finally turn into a dark blue or almost black color. The hardness of the blade should be good enough to hold the cutting edge but also soft enough to not chip or break or during use.
To get more even heat in the regular household oven is to place a sheet pan on the bottom rack. This will keep the heat closer to the element and minimize the temperature fluctuations.
10. Final Finishing And Polishing:
At this last stage of manufacturing high quality, strong, and tough Bowie knife, you have a hardened and tempered blade that is ready for final finishing and a fine cutting edge will result.
Only remove a small amount of steel to get a final edge. Don't rush during the removal of steel, instead go slowly to prevent the overheating of the blade and ruining all your hard work up to now. If the steel stays bright and glossy you are doing well. But any kind of discoloration at this stage means overheating and losing the blade's temper.
For polishing and sharpening purposes you can use a machine or can also be performed by hand. Grinding and filling in the previous steps will also bring the bevels down to the finished edge. Polish at 220 grit minimally. A higher-grit polish will give a more smooth and shining surface and will be less prone to rust with more fluid cuts. Read More BEST BOWIE KNIVES IN 2022.
Manufacturing of a Handle for a Bowie Knife:
After making the blade, now you are ready to handle manufacturing. Let's do this step by step.
Selection of Material:
As we have discussed earlier a variety of materials are used for the handle formation. The handle can be made from exotic wood, animal bone, leather, nylon, or any other material you like to use. Handle's material is chosen carefully for a good grip, durable composition, and aesthetic appeal.
After selecting the material, now it's time to start laying out our scales and tracing the design of the handle.
- For marking the design avoid using permanent markers. For example in the case of natural or unsterilized material, use a pencil to avoid staining or permanent marks.
Drilling The Holes:
Mark the holes you need to drill, maybe according to design considerations or holes for blade attachment.
- To ensure the holes line up, make a light mark with a drill and then finish in a drill press to help to confirm the holes are square and true.
Smooth, Drill, And Bonding:
Never assume that the smooth-looking surface of the handle material is fine and finished. The scales are not flat, a simple light sanding will flatten the surface. And also roughened the surface for better bonding.
By using a drill press, drill the holes in one scale and place glue on the flattened inside surface, and then glue the two scales together.
Shaping Of The Scales:
This is another important step to profile the front of the scales while they are attached by a light glue bond. Since it becomes very difficult to clean the front without scuffing and scratching after attachment with the blade.
Separate The Scales:
After the holes have drilled, rough shaping has completed, now simply place the edge of your everyday carry blade between the scales. A gentle tap will pop them apart easily and now you are ready to add any spacer if so desired.
Trace And Attachment:
Trace the shape of the handle on the spacer material, cut it according to the shape. And now glue this separator to the inside of the scales. Different materials need unique bonding agents.
- Super Glue
Gathering The Assembly:
Once you get the separator and scales ready, it's time for assembly. You can use traditional and simple materials for joining as brass bolts.
You can also add threads on the bolt that will help add an extra mechanical bond to the handle assembly. After checking the fit of the parts, give a good spray with brake cleaner to ensure that they are dust and oil-free and contain a clean bonding surface.
After joining and adding pins, now you can take an angle grinder, a file, or a hacksaw whatever you were using. And clean off the head of the bolt and your pins will flush.
During the pins set, work slowly as the brass heats up very quickly and that can reduce the bond strength of the adhesive if you are using power tools.
Final Cleaning And Shaping:
At this stage, you are almost done. All that is left is to clean up the handle and shape it to fit in your hands with a good grip. Slowly perform this cleaning and take your time.
Perform some cutting and chopping with this knife, this will guide you to what, where, and how the material should be removed. You can use sandpaper for the final finishing and polishing of the handle.
Voila! Your vision of knife perfection is in your hands.
The whole procedure is followed by our manufacturers to build the iconic masterpieces of Bowie knives. All knives are fully hand-made and of great quality with high durability. You can order a customized knife according to your requirements. Save your time and buy these incredible and extraordinary knives.