How to make a knife handle

This post will answer how to make a carving knife handle, more specifically how to make a northwest coast style handle. Making a knife handle is not very complicate but there are a number of ways to do it and a large number of different designs.


The northwest coast style handle is designed to hold the knife blade as close to the work as possible as this allows maximum access to the work and near flush cutting. As such the blades are mounted flush to the side of handles as opposed to in the center like most knives.


The basic idea is a rounded square, I aim for 1" x 3/4" and 11" long. The end for the blade is tapered down on one side. For a double edged single bevel knife I mount it on the tapered side causing the blade to be slightly offset in angle allowing better access to the work piece, while for single edge knifes I mount them in line with the handle for precise v cuts.


Handles can be carved with knives, but I prefer to belt sand them on a slack belt sander to save time and leave a smooth finish. this is a belt sander without a platen behind it allowing the belt to conform to the work. I start with a 60 or 80 grit belt for shaping and then move to 220 grit for finishing. Usually a cheap aluminum oxide belt but I have experimented with using a Norton blaze ceramic belt for the 80 grit with good results.

I recommend having a sandpaper cleaner bar to clean your sandpaper, especially if using high quality sandpaper. One small bar cleans tons of sandpaper if you do it before it gets too caked on. It can't restore the sharpness however so you will still have to replace the sandpaper occasionally especially if using cheap aluminum oxide sandpaper. I generally replace my aluminum oxide 1x30 belts every 30 to 60 minutes of sanding, or whenever the wood gets burned whatever occurs first. High grade ceramic belts... tend not to need replacing for an extremely long time if you don't clog them with resinous wood.

I prefer to wait till I notch the handle to fit the blade before tapering the sides of the handle and rounding around the blade mount. as such the heads of my finished handles still look rough and are missing some features. For more on the final step of the process see how to attach a knife blade to a handle