USAKnifemakers Stage 1 knife kit Tutorial


Josh thanks for passing out a whole lot of confidence to a whole lot of people. Gives us the confidence to go for it. Home run man . Home run.
mike j.

Bruce Bump

Forum Owner-Moderator
Josh, I too am on my feet with my hat off. That was a tremendous job of step by step instructions and pictures.

You had many "firsts" as will most folks that buy the kit but you have experience and have an eye for quality that many newer makers havent quite developed but with this forum they should be able to instill into their heads to take their time and go through each procedure to do the very best they can.

I think it would be fun to include this in our annual awards. "Best Beginners Kit Knife"

Josh Dabney

Many many thanks for the comments everyone !

I've done the best job I could with the least amount of tools possible :)

Just a heads up though, the tutorial is only NEARLY complete.

I'll have at least one more informative post here to talk about mistakes made in the process and how to go about dealing with them. Along with an unacceptable example of my own error and the correcting of that issue.

Stay tuned for the Final Finale !

Bruce- That's a super idea !!!

I'd also like to invite anyone completing a knife with this KIT to post a pic of the final product here also. I know I'd love to see what folks come up with !


Josh Dabney


The first thing to know about mistakes is that you WILL make them !!!!!!!!!

Mistakes come in any imaginable variety but all of them will fall into one of two catagories-

1. Cosmetic flaw- A cosmetic flaw will ONLY affect the "form" of your product. IE- something looks bad but does NOT have an effect on the function and practical use of your product. The vast majority of errors will fall into this catagory.

To decide how to proceed with a cosmetic flaw ask yourself this question- Can I improve what I've currently got WITHOUT making the problem worse ? If you think you can then fix the problem. If not it's probably best left alone. There is a certain point where you've just got to forgive yourself for any flaws and call the knife done.

2. Functional flaw- a functional flaw is anything that will have a negative impact on the practical use of your knife OR will reduce the structural longevity of the knife- IE shorten the knifes lifespan.

There's no decision to be made with a functional flaw they simply must be fixed. The good news is that these types of flaws are far less common than the cosmetic type. The bad news is that to fix a functional flaw usually means something drastic as a fix like starting over with a cracked blade or completely scrapping handle material that has a structural flaw (using micarta this shouldn't be an issue for us but serious flaws can be found inside natural materials)

The Bottom line on flaws is this- It's not a Bona-fide flaw UNTIL you decide to call it done and a finished product. Before this point in time it's all just part of the knifemaking process.

Just one more thing to point out on the subject. The difference between a GOOD knifemaker and a GREAT knifemaker is their ability to FIX their mistakes. EVERYONE makes them but not everyone deals with them in the same manner. Attempting to fix your own mistakes is fantastic experience that'll take you far in the quest to improve your work.


Josh Dabney

Now that we've talked a little about mistakes in general let's get more specific about my knife and sheath.

I'm very pleased with my knife and she is complete. She looks good and feels good in the hand during use.

My makers mark could be a bit more asthetically pleasing but the fix for that while theoretically possible would be more work than it's worth to me so I can live with it.

The mark itself is functional and etched for life so what I would take from this experience is to practice this technique more before marking my next knife and I'd expect to get a very noticable improvement on knife #2.

Other than the makers mark she's a fine knife IMHO.

My sheath is another matter entirely ! She's a good looking sheath and I'm totally happy with how she LOOKS.

The function of the sheath in practical use is sorely lacking so let's take a look at WHY and what to do about it. REMEMBER- Any functional issues with our knife or sheath MUST be fixed or scrapped completely.

The "fit" that I achieved is exactly the way I want it. My knife is held firm inside the sheath and it passes over the cam with just a little extra effort. With this type of fit though it's imerative that the belt loop is very secure to the sheath body and the belt for proper functioning while on the belt.

The mounting of the belt loop is the source of my issues and it's just too flimsy and floppy to hold the sheath in place on the belt while withdrawing the knife. Put simple IT's NOT WORKING :jawdrop:

I actually have two seperate issues with the loop. The first is that the loop iteslf is not held securely enough to the sheath body.

The second issue is that the loop can open WAY TOO MUCH which allows it to swivel around on the belt.

I'm working at solving issue 2 by stitching both sides of the belt loop and the body all together. This is going to close up my loop so it doesn't have room to swivel around on the belt. You can barely notice I actually have my belt threaded through the loop to be sure I don't stitch too far for the belt to still fit.

Here I've layed out an additional stitch line

Because my loop is already stitched through the welt I need these holes to stay in perfect allignment to the welt holes. To accomplish that I'm going to drill these new holes while my sheath is still fully assembled. To prevent drilling all the way through the front of the sheath by accident I cut this door shim so it'll slide down into the sheath

Now I can go ahead and drill my holes

With my holes drilled I can now cut each individual stitch and pull all the thread out

I pulled off the belt loop so now I can split the welt open to gain access for stitching. I'm starting with a light scoring cut to get between the layers. This first cut is only about 1/8" deep at maximum

Now I can work my way in from the top to split the layers completely

Fully split with a nice "cut" that cleanly split the two layers

Way back at the beginning of this thread I cautioned that scratches, scrapes, and minor cuts are pretty much the norm for us knifemakers. Still true ;)

I also cautioned that it's pretty easy to snap these small diameter drill bits. Weeeeellllllllllllllllllllllllllllll :biggrin:

Even being careful and these thing still happen occasionally. We have a saying among seasoned knifemakers- Without pics it never happened. So here we go in a split second from drilling my holes to a snapped bit and a bleeding finger.

I'm not a medical professional of any kind and never had any medical training whatsoever. This is just my opinion and what I do in my shop with my own injuries and resources. This isn't meant to educate you on what you have to do nor is it a request for advice for what I SHOULD do ;)

I probably should have mentioned this in the first section on safety but it's a very good idea to keep a medical kit handy just in case. Mine is just a sealed container with some band-aid options in different shapes and sizes, some gauze, tape, and hydrogen Peroxide. Just the basics but right here if I need it.

The first thing I do is grab a paper towel and apply pressure to stop the bleeding and asses the carnage. Just a very minor scratch that needs cleaned and bandaged to keep dirt out while I continue working. Nothing more than a 3 minute delay of game.

Soak the cut with peroxide and select a proper sized band-aid for the location so we can get back to work

Here's the two pieces of broken drill bit. I forgot that I had my bit chucked up way out so get through my welt and belt loop area. Had I thought about it I should've moved my bit deeper into the chuck at least to the shank area and that would've most likely prevented the broken bit in the first place. I'm just happy I've got enough left to chuck up the piece and finish the last couple holes :)

This isn't a great pic but whenever you've got stitching inside your sheath body you want them to be recessed slightly below the surface of the leather. Here I've cut a tiny VEE shape over my stitch holes on the inside of the sheath body.

Now I'm ready to reassemble the belt loop. A dab of contact cement to keep things in place while it's getting stitched.

With my sheath opened up I can stitch my loop on without a problem

With the loop stitched I can reassemble the sheath body with my contact cement

My stitch holes must stay in perfect allignment when I stick my welt back together. I used the 3 needles that came in the kit to be certain my sheath goes back together exactly the way it cam apart.

I used the eye of a needle to clear out any contact cement from my holes. Just poke it through each hole to be sure none are buggered up

That has solved issue 2. You can see here I've still got some flop between my loop and body. I've drilled a couple stitch holes through the back of the loop and the body. Stitching this is going to elininate my flop without reducing the amount of belt space in my ly loop.

Now I've got my loop secured to my sheath body and the loop itself closed up to be a better fit to the belt itself and she's now a very functional sheath that stays put when removing or inserting my knife.

I could've avoided all this fixing by doing it right the first time but it is fixed up and I'm not gonna beat myself up over a small error.

I think it would be FAR superior to have a loop thats a couple inches longer so I could've stitched through the sheath body and both layers of the loop from the top of the sheath down to the welt but had I done that I wouldn't be able to fit a belt through the loop.

Working within the confines of the kit has been a challenging and fun experience. I'd like to thank BossDog for the oppertunity to participate in building a Stage 1 kit and encourage anyone interested in making knifes to give it a try.

Here she it ready for life on the belt :)



Josh Dabney

Now we have completed our journey and made our first knife what should we do now ?

USE IT TO CUT STUFF !!!!!!!!! :biggrin:

The greatest oppertunity to learn, improve, and grow as a knife maker is to use your knife. You'll learn both what you like and dislike about it. It's strengths and short commings.

The #1 thing I use knives for is to cut food so thats a good oppertunity to try out your knife. I've used her already to skin and debone some chicken and as a steak knife. Is she the ideal choice for these tasks... NOPE.... but she handles the job

Your most likely aware of the differences between carbon steels and stainless steels. I would suspect that many KIT buyers may not have previous experience with carbon steel knives so let's just talk a little about what to expect as your blade gets some miles on it.

Depending on what you're cutting most things are going to stain the blade. This is perfectly normal and with continued use the knife will develop a patina. This patina will continue as time marches on but the blade will still rust and stain gaining character along the way. All this is nothing to worry about just clean and dry your blade after each use.

Here you can see my patina is getting started with the blue and gold hues and some deep grey staining. While this early development of the patina shows these pretty colors they will fade away and turn to mottled or splotchy looking appearance in shades of grey to black. This is all normal for a carbon steel using knife and nothing to worry about. Clean, dry, and lightly oil the blade for storage.


Take Care Friends :biggrin:


J S Machine

Well-Known Member
Great work josh. I have to admit that going back to doing things with files, handsaws and hand drills would be enough to bore me to sleep...but I realize now that we all started somewhere. This is a good example of how to do it with minimal tools. Bravo, man.

Dwane Oliver

Well-Known Member
I just found this thread this morning and I sat and read through the whole thing. I cant say I read every word, but I did scroll through the whole thing.
I learned some new ways too.

That was AWESOME


BossDog & Owner
It is a great WIP.
watch in this Blade edition for an article on Bushcraft knives. We have a sidebar article on this bushcraft kit and I think one other. That edition is due out today. I am going to refer all questions to this thread as it was so well done.
Great Job Josh!, while Im a lot better off in the tool department, I learned a lot! amazing detail here! the perfect place for any newbie to start!
Thanks for taking the time!


Well-Known Member
Josh, I can't imagine how I missed such a GREAT WIP until now. WOW!!!! You did a GREAT job of documenting how to build a nice knife/sheath with very few tools. I especially like the leather stamp:)

Ken H>
Great Tutorial for a newbie like me. Does anyone have an updated link to order the kit?

EDITED: I just thought of something. The link may be good, but my work computer may not be allowing me to go to the link? I will check the link when I get home on my Laptop. BTW, what is WIP, Work in Progress?
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New Member
I would like to personally thank you as I have wanted to make my first knife for years and this has been my recent push. I am currently in the process of creating my knife and will be proud to show you my creation when it is finished.

Thanks again.