With Independence Day here again, it’s time to look at a beautiful blade that was forged right here in our country. A staff member of TACTICAL-LIFE.com commissioned custom knifemaker Steve Woods to produce just such a work of art for her family. It has turned out to be a gift of a lifetime!
Steve is one of those true renaissance men many of us can only wish we were as good as. Along with being on the short list of top commercial photographers in the country, he is an IPSC (International Practical Shooting Conference) Grand Master shooter. In fact, few people are as at home with just about any kind of firearm as Steve. A decade or so ago, he became passionately devoted to yet another pastime, custom knife making. Like everything Steve does, he refuses to compromise on any part of the process and each blade he turns out is first-class in materials and workmanship from the ground up.
In 2005, he received his American Bladesmith Society Journeyman blade stamp and he is actively working toward his Mastersmith stamp. As a proud American, he has donated many of his own knives to the “Knives for Soldiers” program and his blades have been carried in combat on both the Iraq and Afghanistan fronts. One of his best buddies died in the fight for our country, and Steve’s done a lot in his world of photography, and personally, to recognize U.S. veterans and law enforcement personnel whenever possible.
We had asked Steve to use his camera skills to do a step-by-step photo essay on the creation of this one-of-a-kind masterpiece; it occurred to Steve that he also had the makings of an excellent instructional DVD for the aspiring knifemaker. So the following series of photos is actually more of a preview of the new how-to video the maker will be releasing in the very near future. We should probably also point out, though, that Steve told me he has accumulated something like $50,000 worth of shop equipment. Needless to say, it is going to take a little more than simply watching his DVD to produce a knife of the same quality as he does.
Click through the following pages for special behind-the-scenes look at how a custom knife is built.
Steve’s first step is to sketch out the proposed knife on a CAD machine. This allows him to check if the parts will actual fit together and function as intended.
Next comes cutting out the frame patterns from the drawing and gluing them to titanium bar stock.
Basically, the same process is then repeated with the blade pattern. In this case, the cut-out is being glued to a bar of 154CM stainless steel.
The excess material is ground away from the outline of the drawing to create a basic, unfinished blade blank.
These are the small parts required to assemble the knife, pivot pins and washers, thumb-opening studs, and handle screws. The drill bits will be used to bore the pivot pinhole.
After coating the back spacer material with blue Dykem, the handle frame is traced onto it for accurate grinding.
The back spacer material is left oversized just enough so that it can be ground down flush with the handle frame rather than risk it being too small.
As with the back spacer, the bolsters are traced on to Damasteel stainless Damascus bar stock coated with Dykem.
A photo of the bar stock after the bolsters have been traced onto it.
Next comes cutting out the handle scales from the carbon fiber sheets.
The carbon fiber is clamped to the handle frame sections, drilled and the screws are installed. Once in place, the outline of the frame can be traced onto the handle scale material.
The pieces can now start being fitted together for final assembly.
Time to drill and install the top and bottom stop pins on the handle frame. A properly fitted lower stop-pin prevents the knife edge from “bottoming out” on the back spring, thus creating a dull spot.
The unfinished handle frame is now assembled.
Steve believes that all parts of the handle should then be contoured for both a more attractive appearance and to make the finished product fit the user’s hand like a glove.
Time to finish the blade blank, bolsters and titanium back spacer. Steve used 154CM stainless for the blade on this particular knife.
The bolsters and back spacer are heat-treated to bring out their pattern and color on the finished knife.
The partially finished blade with the liner for the pivot pin installed.
The blade must now be fitted to the handle frame.
A close look at the bolsters and back spacer after heat-treating and etching. Obviously, this is something you are not going to find on the average factory-made knife.
All of the parts assembled in one place for this one-of-a-kind knife before final assembly.
Steve can include the custom initials of the knife’s owner on the blade should anyone forget just how unique this knife is!
The final product, a very special, hand-crafted tool you can both treasure and use for the rest of your life.
For those who would like more information on either Steve Woods’ own knives or to obtain a copy of his new DVD detailing the creation of this folder please visit Rockriveriron.com or contact Steve.