How to attach a knife blade to a handle

This post will answer how to attach a knife blade to a handle. There are many ways to do this but I will focus on the northwest coast native style of mounting a knife blade to a handle and my modern adaptation of that style.

Introduction

In the northwest coast style a handle is notched for the blade. Then string is wrapped around the blade and handle to secure the blade, with the ends hidden under the wrap so no unsightly knot is visible.

Preparing the handle

To notch the handle for the blade, first sand the mounting area flat on a belt sander. Place the blade tang onto the handle and trace the tang with a sharp pencil, I prefer a mechanical pencil for its super sharp lines.

Make a cut 1/8" deep along the inside of the lines and remove the wood with a chisel. Test fit the blade often to make sure you achieve a tight fit as a loose fit will let the blade rock in use and wear out the pocket.

Next a groove all around the tip of the handle must be carved to keep the twine binding from sliding off the handle. I prefer a 1/2" air powered belt sander for this job as it offers amazing accuracy and control.

Completed knife handle

Gluing the blade into the handle

Now the traditional method depends on a tight fitting notch and tighter string binding to take all the force. But it can always be made stronger by applying glue to fill any gaps and provide extra strength to the wood. As such instead of slightly recessing the blade in the notch, I recess the blade 1/16" deeper then the blade thickness and cover the tang and handle notch with epoxy. I also put a thin coat of epoxy over the handle near the notch with epoxy to further strengthen to handle and blade fitting. By using a thin epoxy and careful application it dries very smooth.

Knife Glued into handle

Binding the knife into the handle

To bind the knife into the handle first you make a small tail of string and tightly wrap over it several times till covered.

Next take a loop of string with the ends tied together and wrap the end of the loop under the string. Continue wrapping the string around the handle, blade and loop till the blade is covered. Wrap 3 to 5 more wraps and cut the string with 2 inch long tail. Put the tail through the loop and then pull the loop back under the wraps of string to secure and hide the tail.

Cut the tail if it pokes out from the middle of the wrap with flush cut pliers and poke the end back in with a flat head screw driver.