View Full Version : A sermon for newbies

Don Cowles
04-29-2003, 01:28 PM
If you've got the knife bug like the rest of us, we are delighted to have you here, and want to help in any way we can. There are a couple of things you can do for yourselves that will make your way much easier, and smooth the road along the steep learning curve.

When I was a much younger man, I was given the responsibility of uncrating and setting up a new Bell & Howell 16 mm movie projector at a school where I was teaching. When I got it out of the box, I couldn't help but notice a large tag attached to the machine. On it, in big red letters, it said, "PLEASE! BEFORE YOU TRY IT YOUR WAY, TRY IT OUR WAY. READ THE DIRECTIONS."

I have never forgotten that advice, and it has saved me a lot of the potential grief that is involved with learning by trial and error.

BEFORE you build your first knife, read everything you can get your hands on about knives and knifemaking. Print out everything at the Bob Engnath ( website, and study it until you have it memorized.

THEN start to make your first knife. You are much less likely to have to throw it away if you do things in this order.

Some things, of course, will require some explanation, and some questions will occur to you that are not covered at all in the literature. That, of course, is why we are here!

Happy knifemaking!

This list was taken from the old CKDF board:

How to Make Knives, by Robert Loveless/Richard Barney. *
Great overview of the different knifemaking methods including stock removal, forging, flat grinding, and sheaths.

Step by Step Knifemaking, by David Boye. *

Custom Knifemaking: 10 Projects From a Master Craftsman, by Tim McCreight. *

Knifecraft : A Comprehensive Step-By-Step Guide to the Art of Knifemaking, by Sidney Latham. *

Knifemaking: A Complete Guide to Crafting Knives, Handles and Sheaths, by Bo Bergman. *
This book deals exclusively with Scandinavian style knives.

Wayne Goddard's $50 Knife Shop, by Wayne Goddard. *

The Wonder of Knifemaking, by Wayne Goddard. *

Knife Talk: The Art and Science of Knifemaking, by Ed Fowler. *

The Hand Forged Blade: An Introduction to the Working of Modern Tool Steels, by Karl Schroen. *

Introduction to Bladesmithing, by E. Jay Hendrickson @

Basic Forging and Pattern Welded Damascus Steel, by Jerry Fisk @

Notes From Bill Moran's Classes on Knifemaking 1985 and Damascus Steel @

From the Past, by William Moran, Jr. @

The Complete Bladesmith: Forging Your Way to Perfection, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Master Bladesmith: Advanced Studies in Steel, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Pattern Welded Blade, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Damascus Steel, by Manfred Sachse. *

On Damascus Steel, by Leo Figiel. *

Mokume Gane in the Small Shop: The Complete Guide to Diffusion Welded Mokume, by Steve Midgett. *

The Tactical Folding Knife, by Bob Terzuola. *
Instructs on how to build a locking liner folder.

How to Make Folding Knives: A Step by Step How-to, by Ron Lake, Frank Centofante, and Wayne Clay. *
Instructs on how to make lockback folders.

How to Make Multi-Blade Folding Knives, by Eugene Shadley and Terry Davis.

Practical Heat Treating, by Howard Boyer. *

Heat Treater's Guide, by Unterweiser, Boyer, and Kubbs.

The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening, by John Juranitch. *

How to Scrimshaw and Carve Ivory, by Blackie and Michael Collins. *

The Art of Engraving, by James Meek. *

Build Your Own Hydraulic Forging Press, by James Batson. @

Handbook of Management and Organization for the Knifemaker, by Jerry Fisk. @


Center Cross Video, by Gene Osborn

Loveless Legend, by Robert Loveless. *
Great visual on the Loveless method of making knives.

Hollow Grinding, by Johnny Stout.@

Flat Grinding, by Harvey Dean.@

Forging Damascus: How to Make Pattern Welded Blades, by Jim Hrisoulas. *

Mokume Gane in the Small Shop, by Steve Midgett.

Fowler Knife Making Techniques, by Ricky Fowler.

The Design, Construction, and Function of the Using Knife, by Ed Fowler.

The Wire Damascus Hunting Knife, by Wayne Goddard.

Making of a Knife, by William Moran, Jr. @

Damascus, by William Moran, Jr. @

Handles, Guards, and Sheaths, by William Moran, Jr. @

Knife Care, by Jerry Fisk @


Abrasive Comparison Chart


Bob Engnath

Bruce Evans

Don Fogg

Heat Treating

Terry Primos

Supply Index

Bob Warner


Don Cowles' "Knifemaking Technique" CD
Contains over 800 pages of answers to most every question you can imagine.

* Available at
@ Available from American Bladesmith Society at

04-29-2003, 04:07 PM
Thanks Don, I had throw my first away, well in the scrap bucket. Another member told me to hang on to it because it will more than likely evovle into something else later. I can really see how a little information can save a lot of time in the long rub. Thanks again.


04-29-2003, 04:56 PM

There use to be a thread:

that had a list of recommended reading as a sticky, but when the forum shifted to the new format all stickies were lost.

Could someone make it sticky?


Don Cowles
04-29-2003, 06:07 PM
Yup. All done.

05-03-2003, 09:24 AM
Don, fantastic list on educational materials.

I have every video listed, studied (several times) every web site listed and have all but two of the books you mentioned. I have read all of the books at least twice and some of them several times. Certainly some are better than others but I learned something from each of them and they were well worth the price paid. The book(s) I would add would be the annual Knives 2003, etc, by Krause publications. While they only have a few tutorials they do have pictures of hundreds of different styles to study. When I design a new knife, I almost always find myself browsing the last three editions for ideas. Naturally Blade, Knives Illustrated and Tactical Knives magazines should be tossed in for good measure.

Jan Dox
06-03-2003, 02:00 PM
Thanks for the list, Don.
For me it's a wishing list on wich I can mark what I want next for any occasion like birthdays... Or order it because I "need" it.
I already have several of them.
Too bad the video's have another system in the US compared to Europe, we can't play them on our VHS players.
But the new generation DVD's will overcome that problem.


Jette Bybjerg
06-04-2003, 02:51 AM
Hi Jan,

I do look forward to the DVDs as well - although my VCR (a Grundig) can play the NTSC videos. (I just found out two days ago and immediately ordered Gene Osborn's video :D ).

- And concerning the list: It's great! I also use it as a wishing list - very practical, but diffucult to act surprised when you've ordered the books yourself... ;) I know everything about "needing" some more books etc.

Jette Bybjerg

06-10-2003, 03:57 PM
I am so obessed with wondering about trying my hand at it, I will get some books and study first, thanks for the advice! Paul

Kevin Hagan
07-26-2003, 08:12 AM
Truly a great wish list, also, I refrence my relatives to it when they say, "You are so hard to buy for!". Just another way y'all simplify my life! Thanks!

09-25-2003, 01:44 PM
Thanks Don,
This is my first post, and I am DE-lighted to find this forum and hook up with people who know what they are doing. I am a definite newbie to "informed" knifemaking. I have made several knives, not all of which have been exactly uhhhhhhmmm great (yeah thats a good word for it) . Although they were ok, I am hoping to progress and learn how to make a good workable product.
I have many of the books on your list, and as others have already stated this will be the basis of many B'day/Christmas lists in the future.
Thank you for the list, this forum, and a chance to learn an art I have loved for years.

Are there regional meetings/get togethers (hammer-ins(?)).
How do I become a member of the NC Knifemakers Guild?
I and my son would both be interested.
Is there a Buy/Sell & trade section here?

09-25-2003, 08:43 PM
I couldnt agree more Don.I am new to forging.I made the decision a year ago to start making knives in the neo tribal way.i have many of the books on your list and have probably spent several hundread hours reading everything on line i could find over the last year prior to firing up my forge and ruining my gear.thax for all the help the forums here have provided me and others.thank you thank you

tim pion
12-07-2003, 10:44 AM
I will first say hello,

i am new here
thx for the list, I am for now building on the forge.
I will get some of the books right away