Tutorials

At Folts Knives we want you to learn about the processes that go into the making of a superior knife. In doing so, we hope that you will be able to more readily identify quality craftsmanship from the more run-of-the-mill blades on the market today.

You'll also find that working with us is far easier as we show you the process for making top quality blades and explain to you what we need in order to exceed your expectations when ordering your own custom creation from Alan Folts.



 

Waste Not Want Not!

Knife supplies can be expensive things, especially when you are talking about something like the bar of twist-carbon Damascus I just used to make a blade out of. So, I always make sure I make as much use of the scrap pieces as I can. In this case, I created a couple of skull beads. These are a little smaller than a nickel and are nice and thick, since it was 5/32 inch Damascus stock. These will likely be used as new lanyard beads in the future.

 

The Making of a Kydex Sheath

Step 1

This is the knife we are going to sheath. You need to use a blank piece of kydex that is at least twice as long as the finished sheath will be.

Step 2

The sheath body has been molded by folding the sheet of Kydex at the top of the knife. I fold it this way because if it's folded over the back of the knife, the knife tip can still be forced through the sheath. But, if you put the fold over the tip, it gives extra protection from the tip going through.

Step 3

This is the piece of equipment I use to do the molding that you saw in step 2. This is a quick release wood worker's vice with two 3/4 inch wood plates and 1 inch of PVC foam on each side.

Step 4

This is my high tech Kydex molding oven

Step 5

This is my eyelet setter which is just a half-ton arbor press that has been adapted to flaring dies.

Step 6

I lay out the eyelets (upside down) around the knife to line up the spacing. Then I use a white pencil to reach through the eyelets to dot the center so I can get them set out properly.

Step 7

The holes have been drilled, in this case a 3/16 drill bit was used, and I trace out the appropraite shape I want the sheath to be when it's finished.

Step 8

I remove the knife from the sheath and trim the excess with a pair of offset snips.

Step 9

The sheath is then ground down to the final profile.

Step 10

I take the ground profile sheath body and use a type B swivel deburring tool to round the corners.

Step 11

Then I sand all the edges with 220 and 400 grit sandpaper and shine the edges up with a cotton rag.

Step 12

As I set the eyelets I always lubricate the dies so the eyelets don't crack.

Step 13

I then set the eyelets in the sheath body.

Step 14

This is the finished sheath body which is ready for a clip, cord or whatever else you wish to add for the way you want to attach or carry it.

   

 

 

 

Making a Carved and Anodized Ti Baby Bear

I am a fan of new ideas and looks to similar items. As of late this love of exploration has been focused on carving and anodizing Titanium. So,II thought i would share the process and show you the making of one of these carved Ti pieces.

Step 1

Cut the blank blade shape out of titanium. This is the blank band sawed, drilled and then ground to shape and surfaced with a sander.

Step 2

The design is now drawn, shrunk and transferred onto a blade in a size that will fit. The way I do this is to use spray glue to attach the smaller drawing to the blade. This makes the eventual transfer of the lines more precise and keeps the paper from moving.

Step 3

Next, the image is carved through the paper to transfer the initial design onto the blade. I use a turbine engraver for this task.

 

Step 4

Now I remove the remaining paper with acetone so I can see the design clearly.

Step 5

The main outlines are now carved with a wider bit and then the piece is anodized and the entire surface sanded off. This will leave anodization only in the carved areas and clearly show the lines that have been made so far as well as any spaces where lines did not show up where I need to make corrections in the design.

Step 6

Now it's time to draw the final details with a marker or pencil and carve those in with a finer bit

Step 7

I then anodize the entire piece to the desired color.

Step 8

Finally, the background is masked with enamel to retain the color while I etch the primary image in a different color.

 

Proper Care For Your Minimalist

The minimalist is the most popular of my knife designs, so how about a few tips on how best to care for yours?

The minimalist is often worn around the neck as a convenient knife and utility blade. While this is the way it is meant to be used, there are a few things you can do to lengthen the life and look of your blade.

1. Clean the blade before you re-sheath it. Dirt or debris that is on the blade and makes it's way into the kydex sheath will scratch and abuse your knife every time you put it away. You don't have to wash and fully clean it after every use, a quick wipe of both sides on your pant leg should be enough to get the bulk of the dirt and debris off the blade before you put it away.

2. Most Minimalists are made of stainless steel, but that literally means stain-less not stain-never. Try to keep it clean, dry and away from harsh chemicals to keep it looking like it did the day you got it.

 

A Knife Comes To Live - Step By Step

Ever want to see a knife made - start to finish? Here is the process accompanied by lots of pictures.

I just wanted to give everybody a little insight into the shop. I did not show the parts being made (that will come later) but did show the condition of the knives through each step of the process.

Click on any of the images to take a closer look.

Step 1

Here, the blades are laid out on a piece of Damascus steel that is2 inches wide and 5/32 inches thick. I make a Plexiglas pattern and frost the back side with sandpaper, so I can draw ON it. Then drill at least one hole through the pattern and the steel and use that to line up the pattern. Here you see one pattern already scribed out onto the steel and some holes drilled to reduce its final weight.

Step 2

Here are both knives laid out on the one piece of steel and all holes drilled.

Step 3

Here is the start of band sawing out the scribed blanks.

Step 4

Here all blanks are cut and as you can see there isn't a lot of waste I will not put SOME use to.

Step 5

Here are the 2 rough-cut blanks, profiled with an 80-grit belt to the scribe lines. Then put on my horizontal grinder to bring the edges up to 220 grit at least.

Step 6

Here are the blades, hollow ground from 60 to 120, to 220 grit belts, then etched quickly in some Ferric Chloride solution to show the pattern a bit.

Step 7

In this picture we have the 2 little pieces of "scrap" that came out from between both blades. I will use them for little kiridashi blades to be finished later. At this point all the blades are ready for heat treatment. The blades will be heated to 1500 degrees F and quenched in warm oil (I use mineral oil) then tempered to make the blades tougher and less fragile.

Step 8

Here the blanks are laid back out to show what little waste can be had if things are laid out properly. Every little savings can help!

Step 9

In this picture the blades have been heat treated and re-ground to make the edges thinner AND to take the finish up high enough for the desired final product. You can see that the steel looks like normal steel, and you can't see the layers in the Damascus well at all.

Step 10

In this picture the blades have been etched in a ferric chloride solution, and neutralized with ammonia, then washed, dried and oiled. NOW you can see the Damascus pattern well. I also go over the highlights with 2000 grit sandpaper just to highlight the high spots a little.

Step 11

Here I have used contact cement to adhere a piece of black dyed ray skin to each side of each blade. I use a special set of cutters that I reground to cut the ray skin even with the edges of the tang of the blade.

Step 12

Here the holes are cut back through the ray skin. I use these big holes to end the cord wrap I use over the ray skin. The cutout is done with a carbide burr so that the thin ray skin is not twisted back off the blades.

Step 13

Here the handles have been wrapped and the ends knotted. It's one of the more "fun" steps in the process for me... I just relax and watch TV and wrap the cord as tight as I can get it. Alas, cord still absorbs lots of nasty liquids, so I choose to resin impregnate the cord, it's not traditional but it's the way I choose to make a knife.

Step 14

The last picture is the ALMOST finished knives. They have been resin impregnated, and blotted off the surface so the resin will harden the cord but NOT look shiny on the surface... I put the resin on with a short bristled cut off brush so I can keep it OFF the ray skin as much as possible. The only thing left is to etch my mark on them, and to sharpen! Then DONE!

 

 

From Design to Finished Product

If you are thinking of purchasing a custom knife, you may not know where to start in the process of getting just what you want. This article is meant to serve as a basic tutorial to help you in the preliminary steps of the process.

Know What You Want

The first thing you need is to have an idea in mind of just what type of knife you want. The more you can tell me up front relating to what you want, the easier it will be to design and create a knife you will love.

Do you want a fixed blade or folder? Do you want a sword?

What is the purpose of the purchase? Do you want an every day carry or tactical knife or are you looking for a show piece to add to your collection?

What type of materials do you want used in your knife? If you know of specific materials that you want used in your knife let me know. Or if you just have ideas in mind for how you want the knife to look or feel, I can help you choose the right materials to achieve that purpose.

How much care do you give things? If you are a rough and tumble type of person who is not a fan of maintaining knives you may not want a knife made of materials that need a little more care and attention. You want a knife more suited to your lifestyle.

The design process for each knife is completely different so the more that is known about the blade type you have in mind up front, the more quickly I can get on the right design track.

Blade Shape

Know your basic style requirements. Whether you want it to look modern, historical or classical, let me know. Not sure? Look through the gallery for ideas of some of the options available to you. Or if you have an image in your mind that you are not seeing, ask me about it and I will be able to create a drawing to make sure we are on the same page.

Handle Shape and Details

From bolsters to liners and ergonomics, there are a lot of details that go into making the perfect handle for your knife. Again, the more you can tell me about the use of the knife and your preferences, the easier it will be for me to design a handle that suits your wants and will be able to stand up to your needs.

There Are No Dumb Questions

It's better to ask lots of questions and get all of the clarification you need up front so I can quickly home in on the design that will suit your desires and use.

The Drawing

Once you have sent in all of your specifications, I will create a line drawing of your knife. This can be one or more drawings of products that meet your specifications. You will also be given a list of the specs on the knife so you can begin to better picture the finished piece.

At this point you can make changes to the design. Sometimes you will notice that what you thought you wanted wasn't really the case once you see it on paper. This is your chance to alter the design before the knife is made.

Once approval is given to move forward on your custom creation, the process can take anywhere from three weeks to months or more depending on how detailed your design and how exotic the materials you want incorporated into it. You will be given an estimate during the drawing process. A non-refundable deposit for the acquisition of exotic materials will also be required at this time.


 

 

 

 



2009, Alan Folts. All rights reserved, including the right to use imagery on this site.