How do you Design a knife?

Mar 17, 2006
There are many methods, But more important than the method is the end result.

After I chose a style ie: drop point hunter I design as I go.
I know by experience what I want for a base line style. But angles attitudes embellishments lengths are all changing after the first swing of a hammer.
I really have a lot of respect for somebody that can conceive the knife from start to finish. Get it on paper than get the knife to match. I have done it but I am weak in that method.
If I find that I really like the out come of a knife I than draw it up.

How do You do it?
Still Loving it,
Feb 5, 2010
Same for me. I let the materials talk to me and tell me how they want top be presented.
Oct 20, 2008
If I am doing a drawing and email back and forth scenario, I'll design the knife in Inkscape, a powerful and easy to use drawing program. Then I can scale it to the size I want, keeping x and y ratios locked or not, and print the drawing. If it's stock removal, glue it to cardboard and cut it out, then scribe. If it's forged, I'll cut out the printing, spray glue it to some thin aluminum sheet, or scribe it onto the sheet, then cut the Al pattern out. Then, I have a template I can check the forging against while hot.

Often I will duplicate the drawing and drag several out onto the same printout sheet- that way I can cut out different parts of the knife, handle, fitting, blade, and work on them independently but accurately.

It's really great for folders, in Inkscape I can drag and rotate parts to make sure I have a working model, then print several blades and handles on a sheet, cut pieces out, and go to work. I can scale the pivot and screw holes, as well as the rest of the drawing exactly by data entry on selected objects. It's like CAD lite, less clunky and all you need. I can even use custom fills to pattern to simulate how the handle will look with a specific piece of wood from AKS, etc., or with a specific pattern of damascus.

And sometimes I just forge something straight out of my head. It all depends.

Daniel Fairly Knives

Full Time Knifemaker
Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
Jan 9, 2011
I do anything from...

grabbing a bar, shaping the handle then making whatever comes to mind


spending a whole year on design, drawing everything up in CAD, making hundreds of templates and a prototype

I go for a few basic handle shapes that are proven, that helps with many knives.

Mitchell Knives

May 21, 2000
I start many of my designs with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.

I'll then refine the sketches, and make a prototype.

Sometimes the prototype will cause me to make minor design changes.

Other times, I'll design the knife in AutoCAD and build a prototype from that.

AutoCAD is probably my favorite method.

Barry Clodfelter

Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider
May 29, 2007
I like to start with a blank piece of paper and start drawing. Then when I can't get it just right I'll grab a piece of steel, heat it up and start hitting it. I'll get the basic blade shape done and tang drawn down then go back to the paper to find just the right lines for a handle. I have drawn up many knives and never had one turn out really close to the drawing. There are things that get changed on the way that seem to make me happier with the finished knife. It could be a problem of not being able to draw a knife well or not interpreting a 2D picture with a 3D object. Either way I enjoy trying to design on paper or just making the knife the steel wants to be.
Nov 24, 2010
Stock removal - drawn up exactly to spec. Usually on graph paper.
Forged - choose a style or make something that "vaguely looks like this".
I've been "cheating" a bit lately with forged, I forge in the bevels/taper to a rough shape and then grind away. It's not the same as "forged to shape"
Jan 27, 2008
I work with two methods:

1. For stock removal blades I draw and cut out a cardboard template with all the various knife features including pin placement, scales-bolsters/handle-guard, grind lines, and any other feature seen or unseen. From there I transfer to the steel, shape, bevel, hand sand, heat treat, finish grind, finish hand sand, attach scales/handle, shape and finish, then sharpen and make a sheath

2. For most of my forged blades I'll make an initial drawing/template and forge to as-near-finished shape as possible. Then I'll take the raw blade to the grinder and clean up the profile. Then I apply the template to the raw blade and re-shape to meet the template profile. Then continue on as in #1 above.
Sep 28, 2005
I have many more started than finished knives, but when I am in a design mood I make an initial drawing or two to approximate scale. I then grab 15-20 knives with some similar features (some for blade, some for handle, some for overall size.....). I then make a few cardboard templates, with different dimentions/features, and bug my wife and daughter to see what smaller hands and a non-knife bias can suggest.

If it is an ordered knife I then either send the pictures to the person I'm making for to verify or just get to work. If it is a design for myself it usually goes into the pile of my knives in various stages. I'm a beginner who usually works between 10:30-1:30 at night on those nights that I have energy or a deadline upcoming!

Although some designs are just a scrap piece of steel that I see a knife in and just start removing metal. My favourite neck knife is one of these, it was scrap steel that I tried my first file work on, and when done I saw a knife and didn't want to waste my efforts, so I made it and wore it at my wedding.
Jun 16, 2012
If I'm sitting bored at work I will design the thing to scale in GIMP (like a free photoshop) and print it to scale, cut it out, dip it in water, lay that on the steel, spray paint it, then peel it off after it dries.

If I'm at home and just want to make a knife, I "might" take the time to design it, but often I just freehand on the steel with a sharpie.
Nov 17, 2012
I look at other designs out on the market like spyderco's, hinderers, tops, ontanios and see if I can do my own versions of them see if I can improve their designs add little features to them and pretty soon I have something entirly diffrent. Aslo sometimes after days of frustration I end up dreaming up designs in my sleep.
But eventually I end up drawing it all on paper and then from their it goes to bar stock and WA LA a blade.
Jul 17, 2011
I start with consideration of intended use, environment and preferences. My rescue swimmer and my whitetail skinner are entirely different in most every way. Then I go into specifics. Then there's the customer that says "I've got this drawing."

james terrio

Sharpest Knife in the Light Socket
Apr 15, 2010
I almost always start with graph paper and a pencil. I'm extremely visually-oriented, and have been drawing since I could hold a crayon. I like to think I've developed a fairly good eye for what's going to work and balance well. A few customers have sent me very detailed scale drawings to work from.

From time to time I'll have an odd cut-off to play with, and that usually leads to a rough sketch on the steel with a Sharpie and just grinding away everything that doesn't feel right. That's fun, too, and a nice break from pretending to be a machinist (which I am certainly not). :D
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