How the knives are designed
1. With a knife design in mind, multiple variations of the knife are sketched onto paper to determine which one would me most pleasing to the eye and hand.
2. Then the knife sketch is transfered onto a piece of cardboard, foam core board. Then the knife outline is cut out and handled to determine the potential feel of the knife. Some modifications may be made at this point to give more comfort in the handle of the knife or usefulness in the blade,
3. Then the knife design is transferred onto wood and carved out to give a more exact feel for the knife. Any discomfort in the handle will be modified at this point. If the knife handle will be made especially to fit a single person's hand, this is when an approximate fitting will be done. For custom orders, this rough sample piece can be sent out to the customer to personally test the feel of the knife and to give feedback before the forging process has begun.
How the knives are made
1. Once the design of a knife has been determined, before a knife is made, the right type of blade steel needs to be chosen, depending on what the knife will be intended for.
2. The steel is forged as close as possible to the final dimensions of the knife, leaving a little extra room in the width and the thickness and length. This is done by placing the steel into the forge to get it to a good working heat, which is determined by the color of the metal (usually orange). Then the hot steel is pounded into the desired shape, using various hammers, specific parts of the anvil, and hardy tools. For knives with a hole in the handle, like the one pictured, a slot punch is used to create a hole through the steel, and then a drifting tool is used to open the hole up larger.
3. Before the blade is ready to be refined to its final shape, it must be annealed. This is done by heating the metal to its critical temperature and then letting it cool very slowly.
4. Once the metal has been annealed, the knife is shaped to its final form using stock removal.
5. Once the stock removal is complete, the knife is ready for heat treating.
Heat Treating Process
The heat treating method is determined by the type of steel that was selected.
6. For a knife that requires a wood handle, first the type of wood is selected. Then it is attached to the blade by glue, pins, screws, or any combination of these. It is then shaped to fit the hand comfortably, and sharp corners are smoothed and rounded. Then the wood is treated with wood oils or finishes.
Or a handle can be wrapped with parachute cord, leather, or Japanese style with a flat cord and stingray skin, or just about anything.
7. Then the sheath is designed. The sheath design depends on the desired carry method of the knife user. Some options are neck knives, belt knives, pocket knives, and the sheath can be leather, kydex, or the combination of the two. Belt options include vertical, horizontal, or diagonal draw.
8. Finally, the blade is sharpened to a shaving edge.
About Michael Kusuda
Michael Kusuda is a bladesmith and blacksmith based in Santa Cruz, California. He received his B.A. in Environmental Studies with a minor in Earth Sciences in 2008 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. For the past five years he has worked under the master blacksmith Kirk McNeill and is a member of the California Blacksmith Association.
He has been making knives since he was nine years old, and has ever since been refining his craft. In his free time he likes to practice survival skills and primitive firemaking techniques.