BLADE Magazine

Knifemaking 101: The 12-Step Vine Filework Method

Wally Hayes

Learn to file a vine pattern on the spine of a knife from ABS master smith Wally Hayes. (Hayes photo)

Step-By-Step Instructions In Photos

Vine filework is my favorite style of filework. If you break it down into baby steps, it is quite easy to do.

The materials you will need are a Sharpie® marker, a vise, and a 5/32-inch round file and a small triangle file. You can use a bigger round file on thick blade material or a smaller round file when engraving liners or thin blades.

The triangle file is ground safe (sanded) on two sides to produce one corner that is sharper than the other two corners. This provides a left and right safe side for opening up your vine file cuts, and for giving them sharp points as well.


Using your Sharpie® marker, lay out half-round marks approximately 5/16 inch apart down one side of the blade spine. (Though not shown here, be sure to secure the blade in a vise.) (Hayes photo)

Step 2

File the marked side with the round file at a 45-degree angle. File into the spine, stopping just short of the middle of the blade. (Hayes photo)

Step 3

Using the marker, put marks down the other side of the blade spine in-between the notches. (Hayes photo)

Step 4

File in another row of half-round notches on the “new” side. Remember to keep the file at approximately a 45-degree angle and stop filing just short of the center of the blade. (Hayes photo)

Step 5

Next, take your triangle file and place it beside one of the notches. I leave about a sixteenth of an inch between the half-round notch and the triangle I am going to cut.

Before you cut, make sure you have a safe (sanded) side of your file closest to the notch you are cutting beside. Tilt the file so the cut closest to the notch is perpendicular (90 degrees to the blade). This gives you a straight line into your cut and an angle coming back out of the cut.

In other words, you want this “V” notch to be straight on one side and angled on the other. (Hayes photo)

Step 6

Turn the blade around in the vise and cut “V” notches in front of the other half-round notches. (Hayes photo)

Step 7

Take the triangle file and file the corner of each half-round notch, producing a gentle curve opening up one side of the half-round notch. (Hayes photo)

Step 8

Open up the other sides of the half-round notches. In both cases, they are in front of the “V” notches. This is how I remember so I do not get mixed up. (Hayes photo)

Step 9

Now let’s move on to the “V” notches. Open up one side of the blade spine first. File the “V” notch to produce an even arc to the edge of the blade spine. If you do not twist the file in your hand as you file, you will get a flat spot. GO SLOW AND EASY. (Hayes photo)

Step 10

Turn the blade around and open up the “V” notches on the other side of the spine. Remember the “V” notch is opened on one side only, behind the halfround notch. The safe 90-degree side is not touched. (Hayes photo)

Step 11

Take the sharp safe-sided angle of the triangle file and file into each point of the “V” notch. File it to a sharp, crisp point. (Hayes photo)

Step 12 (Final)

For the 12th and final step, go over the entire fileworked area with fine sandpaper. Increase 3-inch strips of 320-grit sandpaper and put the paper over the round file and triangle file to back up the paper. Do not push too hard and tilt the wrap away from the safe sides so you do not round safe (square) the corners of the filework.

Have fun and stay safe.

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