TO: NRA School Participants
FROM: Lassen Community College NRA Gunsmithing School
SUBJECT: GSS 112B Introduction to Knifemaking

Welcome to the NRA Gunsmithing Summer Program here at Lassen College.

Thank you for your interest in the Summer Program Knifemaking Course. In this course each student will have the opportunity to make a full-tang (fixed blade) knife and time permitting, a leather sheath.

The objective of the introductory class is to make a fixed knife blade using the stock removal method. This is done with files, emery paper and hand tools. Most of the tools needed are found in your shop or garage tool box. Because we will be using hand tools and because of the short duration of the course, it is necessary to restrict the size and style of the knife you will be building.

Live ammo is not permitted in the classrooms or Lab.

- Fixed blade
- Blade length of no more than 4”
- Pinned bolsters
- Slab handles – Dymondwood, Natural Wood or Micarta
- Brass bolster and handle pins
- Overall length of your knife no more than 8” (including handle)
- Width of blade or handle no wider than 1 1/2”
I have no problems with a large knife. I impose the restrictions in the interest of student success. If you design and make a rather small blade, you will have time to make a nice leather sheath and gloat a bit while the guy with the large design is struggling to finish. When it comes to a first knife, smaller is better!

I am enclosing a few designs of knives for your consideration. These are by no means mandatory. Rather, they are a place to start. If you have no real idea in mind for a knife, I have many patterns I have designed and made over the years. You are welcome to copy any of my designs. Also, if you have a knife you would like to duplicate or a picture of a knife you like, we can probably make it happen. It is not necessary to finalize your design before class begins, but it helps if you have a general idea of what you would like to make.

Remember the limitations – Smaller is Better!

The following list of tools is a fairly short list as far as knifemaking is concerned. Obviously, if you continue to make knives as a hobby or part time source of income, you will run across many special tools that will make knifemaking easier and faster than the methods we will use in the beginning class.


Files: When creating a knife blade by the metal removal method, files in good condition are a must. If your files are quality files in good condition by all means bring them. If you are going to purchase files for this class, buy the best. Don’t bring cheap, old or worn files – good quality files are necessary for good, quality knives. Both Nicholson or Dissiton make excellent files.

1ea. – 8” Flat Bastard File
1ea. – 8” Second Cut Mill Bastard File
1ea. – 6” Second Cut Half Round File
1ea. – 8” Round File
1 set of needle files
1 file handle for each file


1pr. -- Safety glasses or goggles
1ea. -- Dust mask
1ea. -- 6” steel rule
1ea. -- Carbide tipped scribe
1ea. -- Small bottle of layout fluid (Dykem)
1ea. -- 3” C Clamp
1pr. -- 3/4 ” Kant Twist Clamps (in your knifemaker’s catalog or MSC)
1ea. -- Small ball pein hammer
1ea. -- Small countersink
1ea. -- Set of assorted drifts
1ea. -- Package of 2-part 5 minute epoxy glue – Devcon
1ea. -- 1/8, 3/16 and 1/4 Twist bits in “new condition”
1ea. -- small can of Acetone
2ea. -- Pieces of hardwood (maple, oak, cherry, etc.) 3/4”x 2”x 12”

Sandpaper: Don’t buy cheap or imported sandpaper; it won’t last. Don’t buy tan woodworkers production paper – it won’t cut stainless steel.
3ea. - Sheets of 100, 150, 220, 320, 400 wet-or-dry aluminum oxide
abrasive sheets (buy Norton or 3M)
1ea. – Sheet of 600, 800, 1000 wet-or-dry aluminum oxide abrasive sheets.
It can be purchased in Susanville if you can’t find any in your area.


Bring them if you have them or plan to use them in knifemaking or gun work at some later date. Don’t spend any large sum of money on special tools unless you see a use for them in the future:

Dremel or Foredom Tool
Dremel accessories – burrs, sand drums and sand papers
“Mighty Mag” magnet (for holding blades against the sandbelt)
Diemakers polishing stones – 1/4”x 1/2”x 6” – 1ea. 150, 240, 320, 400 grits
4” hermaphrodite caliper (L.S. Starrett makes the best)
10’ea. – Abrasive cloth rolls – 1 1/2” wide – 180 and 320 grit
Small machinist square

As with most classes at Lassen College, the student is responsible to furnish the basic tools and materials to be used to complete his project. The college, of course, will have a bandsaw (to cut the knife pattern), various sanding machines to profile the knife shape, drill presses and the heat treating oven to harden the steel to the correct hardness to hold the edge.

The student will need to furnish the following materials to build his or her knife:

1. 440 C stainless steel barstock – 1/8”x 1¼”x 12” (light weight blade) or
5/32”x 1½”x 12” (medium weight blade) or
3/16”x 1½”x 12” (heavy weight blade)
You will need one piece of any of the above to make one knife. If the blade is small you might get two blades from one piece of barstock. 5/32” material is the most common for custom knives that are not too big.

2. Handle Materials – There are several types of materials to make the handles (scales) for your knife. You will need a pair (2) of scales for each knife. Scales are usually cut to a size of 1½” wide by 3/8” thick by 5” long. Scales are attached oversized and then profiled to fit the knife. The following are types of handle material available.

Laminated “Dymondwood” – made in the same manner as the laminated rifle stocks seen on many of the new rifles being manufactured today. It is cheap to buy, comes in many colors and is easy to finish.

Micarta – paper, linen or canvas – made from multiple layers of paper or cloth with color added to the layers and then glued together under pressure. Micarta is cheap to buy, has limited colors and is easy to buff and finish.

Natural Hardwoods – All kinds of trees and bushes are used for handle materials. Usually, hardwood scales have interesting grain patterns. Also, some have very unusual colors. Hardwoods are expensive to buy, have unlimited colors and patterns and are harder to buff and finish (lots of sanding to prep the wood for finish).

Animal Horn and Bone Materials – bones and antlers have been used for hundreds of years as handle materials. Each knife is as unique as the handle materials. Generally, bone and antler are harder to work with. Scales are less of a headache to fit than round antler. Cost is generally high, similar to exotic hardwoods. Bone and antler are somewhat easy to finish once mounted to the blade. Horn and bone materials are not to be used in the beginning class.

3. Bolsters and pins – Bolsters are metal pieces attached in front of the scales on either side of the handle tang. Not all knives have bolsters. The bolster separates the blade from the handle. Pins hold the bolsters and scales on to the knife. For your first knife I recommend using brass for your bolsters and pins.

Bolster material comes in 12” pieces. You will need a 3/4”x 1/4”x 12” piece. You will also need a 12” piece of 1/8” pin material to attach the bolsters and a 1/4” piece to attach the scales to the knife. If you want a thong hole, you will need 1/4” thong hole material.

4. Leather Sheath – In order to build a leather sheath for your custom knife you will need the following leather materials:

1 sq. ft. of 7-8oz. shoulder leather
1 spool of waxed linen thread – black, brown or natural (white)
1 pkg. easy thread needles
Small bottle of leather dye – black, brown or any shade you like (remember your sheath may be left natural)
Small can or tube of contact rubber cement (Barge brand is the best)

If finances are not a problem, and/or you plan on making knives as an active hobby or sideline business the following items will prove to be useful:

Craftool Overstitcher - #6 (to lay outstitching pattern)
Exacto craft knife with blades
Edge beveler - #2 or #3 (to round edges of sheath)
Adjustable “V” gouge (for gouging fold lines)

If you have additional leather tools and can bring them with you, by all means do so.

5. You will need a piece of plastic or plexi-glass to make your knife pattern. You may also want to copy another students pattern or some of mine for future knifemaking. Scrap plastic can be found at the hardware store or “Tap Plastic” (if one is near).


1. Texas Knifemaker’s Supply – Houston, Texas, (713) 461-8632, (888) 461-8632

2. K&G Finishing Supply – Lakeside, Arizona, (520) 537-8877, (800) 972-1192

3. Jantz Supply – Davis, Oklahoma, (580) 369-3082, (800) 351-8900

4. Koval Knives – New Albany, Ohio, (614) 855-0777, (800) 556-4837

Leather Supplies:

1. Tandy Leather Co., Sacramento, CA, (866) 817-3135; Fountain Valley, CA, (800) 571-8648
Reno, NV, (800) 450-2440

2. The Leather Factory, (877) 532-8437 for closest sales center to you

To reach me if you have any questions about the class:

Tom Hunt, 2181 Moonstone Circle, El Dorado Hills, California 95762, (916) 941-6789