Knives from knife merchant Rapid River Knifeworks
Rapid River Knifeworks Fixed Blade Knives
Rapid River Knifeworks Fixed Blades
Rapid River Knifeworks Fixed Blades
Rapid River Knifeworks Fixed Blades
Rapid River Knifeworks Fixed Blades
Rapid River Knifeworks Fixed Blades
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How to Create a Damascus Knife

My name is Kris Duerson, I”m the owner and founder of Rapid River Knifeworks. I started 20 years ago basically in a barn with 1 grinder, 1 buffer, and a really big dream. And this is a great example of the American Dream.

The Upper Peninsula is like the wild west to a lot of people. They even live below the Mackinaw Bridge. It is in a way but it's just a special place that a lot of people have never been to. It’s kind of a hidden gem up here, actually. It’s just a great place to live and raise children. I wanted to do that here and I was determined to do that here. In the last two years, we have seen a tremendous amount, a huge increase in traffic. It’s primarily tied into the tourism industry with pictured rocks, and camping in the outdoors. People want to be outside now, they want to be outdoors and want to be a little further away from people. And they want to experience the outdoors more and not be packed into a city so I think that’s why we are starting to see so many people heading to the Upper Peninsula because it has been a hidden gem and it is still somewhat remote but it is a beautiful place to visit.

Once you come to the UP you’ll never forget it and you’ll definitely be coming back.

Turning an Elk Antler into a handle

All right, we have one of our elk antler skinners here. I’m going to give you a quick detail on how we hog them down and shape them and get them looking how they look. We’re starting them with a 40-grit belt. Get it down to its rough state. Then we put an 80-grit belt on after that. This will give you the final shape of the knife. After that, it goes through a 320 grit for general polishing.

Here are Some Videos on Making Knife Handles out of Other Materials

Laser Engraving the Knife

We have over 300 different laser engraving settings that we can use in the shop.

Instructions on the Knife Creation

Basically, we are going to show you how we start. Everything is raw material. Piece of sheet stock steel. This is made to a ¼ inch thick. The blanks are cut out with a water jet and the brass thumb guards are machined on a CNC.

This is a little piece of deer antler pre-cut, a block of wood, and some washer material we glue them all together and it looks like that. Very rough, it’s all handwork and there is nothing coming off of the end of an assembly line. So we are going to take you in the back and show you now how we get this knife to look like this knife.

Now Matt is going to put it on a 40-grit belt and he is going to get it to about the shape that we need before he takes it to the 80-grit belt and gives it its final shape. We get a lot of people that ask us, “Good Lord! What happened to your fingers!”. This 40-grit belt is responsible for 90% of that. It’s very unforgiving. So that’s the knife on a 40-grit made basically into the shape that we are looking for and now Matt will take that and put it on an 80-grit belt he’ll get it its final shape.

Right now he is on an 80-grit. He’s basically giving this knife its final shape. Now Matt makes it look really easy. He’s had his hand on over a ¼ of million knives in his life. He’s making it look easy but it's actually extremely difficult to do what he is doing right now.

A really neat thing about the Coco Bola and the other wood we work with is that you don’t know what it will look like until you get into the grain. Now that was a real dark piece of wood that did not look really nice but you can see as he is going the purple, yellow, and other colors are really coming out in the wood and this is going to be a really beautiful cut. Each knife is made by hand so Matt will put that knife in his hand every time and if there is a lump or something that does not feel right it goes back on the 80 grit belt and it's finished to feel perfect every time so that there aren’t any defects in it.

Making a Damascus Knife Blade

Damascus Blade Image

Although this is not a complete guide on how to make a Damascus knife it will give you an idea of the process of it and show you how much of an art it is.

The tools used to do this usually involve a grinder, a hydraulic press, an anvil, and a forge.

The process involves heating up the metal and using the tools above to help shape the knife. Drawing out the knife (lengthening the piece of metal you are working with) and folding it onto itself is the key to building up layers that bring out the Damascus design on the blade. It is not uncommon to have well over 100 layers created to make a Damascus knife. Knifemakers also use different layers of metal to weld and forge together and often cut the metal and restack them to create interesting-looking layers.

The metal is heated up, checked for the critical temperature (the point when the steel becomes non-magnetic), and quickly dipped into the oil to harden it. Once all of the colors have disappeared from the metal blade it is then placed in an oven at about 450 degrees Fahrenheit to temper.

At one point the metal is grounded from using coarser sandpaper (50 grit) to a finer polishing grit (600 grit). In order to get the Damascus pattern to show you need to etch the blade. This is done by first washing the blade with soap and water to make sure you get all of the oil off it. Then place the blade tip down into an etch liquid-like ferric chloride and hold it there for a few minutes. You will begin to see the Damascus layers appear.

You then remove the blade and clean it with steel wool to get the black oxide off then return it to the etching liquid and repeat until you get the desired look that you want. Once you achieve the look you want you then wash the blade with baking soda to neutralize the acid etch then rub the blade with an oiled, soft cloth. After that is done you sharpen the blade on a belt grinder using 600 grit sandpaper.

Blacksmiths have different techniques and orders on how to make the intricate designs that you see so enjoy our gallery!

You can view these videos and more videos on our YouTube Channel.

Would you like to see more Damascus blades that we created? Just visit our Damascus Gallery Page!

Contact us if you would like us to custom-create a knife for you.

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Custom Knives Gallery | Rapid River Knifeworks

That is one big knife!
That is one big knife!

Knife Articles

Rapid River Knifeworks in the News An image of a custom knife with the words Knife Shows written over the top of it.