Making “Ruby’s Knife” from Supernatural
My daughters Savannah and Charlotte had always been craftsy and artistic, but they rarely spent time in my shop. One day in 2016, Charlotte, who was 15 at the time, asked me if she could make a knife. It was to be based on a knife from a TV show she was watching called Supernatural. A character on the show named Ruby used the knife to kill “demons.” It is a very unusual design.
I like teaching so I told her, “Sure, let’s do it!”
A Daughter’s First Knifemaking Project
For her first knife I thought grinding it out would be easier than forging it. To get started I had her practice grinding wood to learn how to use the 2×72 belt sander. Grinding the bevels of the blade in wood to practice gives you very fast feedback and speeds up the learning process. I don’t use jigs, so it can be tricky to get hollow grinds the same height up the blade on both sides. Flat grinding is an easier technique to start with compared to hollow grinding, so we began with that.
Charlotte cut out and ground the blade, getting it ready for heat treating. We heated the blade until it reached critical temperature (when a magnet will not stick to the steel), then took the blade out of the fire and quickly quenched it in oil. Next we tempered the blade and sanded it to a high polish.
Charlotte carved the markings on the blade, and we found a piece of deer antler very similar to the TV knife to use as the handle.
As I taught each step I also taught her about knife shop safety, as so many of the tools and machines can be dangerous.
For instance, it’s important to know how to safely clamp a blade on a table for sanding and how to hold a blade against a buffer—the latter which I think is the most dangerous machine in the shop.
I showed her how to drill holes and gave her a safety tip on how to make sure a blade does not get away from you and spin around and cut you. She had her hair tied back and wore safety glasses, as well as Kevlar® gloves and hearing protection.
A Fantastic Finish
Charlotte’s first knife turned out great and it was so cool to see how fast she learned and progressed. It also surprised me that she did not experience all the challenges I had when I started.
The knife’s fit and finish was great, and the blade was straight. She decided to keep her first knife for herself. Each subsequent knife she made was different and she had to learn new skills for each new model.
Making the Game of Thrones Obsidian Dagger
The next knife Charlotte made was a copy of the obsidian dagger from the TV series Game of Thrones. In the show the dagger was made from “dragon glass” and was used to kill “night walkers.”
Charlotte employed O1 tool steel for the blade so she could gun blue it black like the TV dagger. She ground the blade and then textured it with the small half-inch-wheel attachment to look like obsidian. She polished it with a Dremel® tool. My brother Ted loved the knife so much he bought it.
Next Up: Sting from The Hobbit
Next up was a mini letter opener modeled after Bilbo’s sword “Sting” from The Hobbit. The new model required her to grind a dagger blade with a straight line down the center. She used a flat grind and, after heat treating, polished the blade by hand. She also learned how to carve with my high-speed/hand-held grinding tool.
She made the mini sword as a gift for her best friend, Morgan.
Hooked on Knifemaking
Charlotte wants to make knives for fun and as a part-time job, so she decided to make a kitchen knife to sell. It was a Japanese-style model and when it was done, I posted it on Facebook. It sold in no time.
With this new model she learned about Japanese kitchen knives and how thin they are. She also was introduced to forging by texturing the blade, which was later ground off to make the knife thinner.
Moreover, she learned a new skill making a multi-part octagon handle for the knife. Excited by her new part-time job, she decided to make a tanto. Again, the new style required learning many new skills. Her tactical-style tanto has a hollow grind, so we started with wood again to teach her how to hollow grind, ensuring the grind was even on both sides. She learned how to grind in a tanto tip and how to make the angle the same on both sides.
To make Japanese-style tantos, she had to learn how to create temper lines and put a high polish on the blade. She learned how to tie a Japanese wrap and etch the blades to make the temper line really stand out. She also learned how to make the mune (the blade spine). I posted a picture of the knife on social media and she quickly sold it and received another tanto order.
This past March break she forged out a bushcraft-style knife and will continue to work on it in my shop. She is not taking orders as she has a heavy school year finishing the 12th grade. She has been accepted to the University of Windsor in the forensic science program next fall.
She does have a waiting list and loves working with her hands. Knifemaking fills her need for creativity, just like it did for me. Charlotte intends to make one order at a time and she is getting comfortable using all the equipment. Making leather sheaths is the next skill she wants to learn.
What Better Way to Spend Quality Time with Family?
There are so many branches to the tree of knifemaking and I look forward to seeing where she takes her knifemaking in the future Charlotte is a unique 17-year-old who wants to make knives and can do so just as well as boys. Her favorite part of knifemaking is watching the progress of polishing the blade. She takes her time with each step and really is a perfectionist. I am so proud of both my girls and it has been so much fun to show Charlotte what I have been doing for 32 years.
* All images by Wally Hayes unless otherwise noted.
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