Making your own fillet knife is a great hobby to spend quality time with. Not only will you learn new things, but you’ll have a new handmade knife that you can use anywhere. Making a great knife requires experience with the tools, but almost anyone can participate in knife making by starting with a kit.
Jantz Supply is a popular knife component company that offers everything from starter kits to materials that will produce quality knives. I wanted to make my own fillet knife a couple of months ago, so I chose Jantz’s Trout Fillet Kit with a 5 3/4 inch blade.
In the kit they offer multiple pieces of wood to make handles, you can also change its look by adding canvas Micarta handle material of your own choice. Jantz has several colors of canvas Micarta as well as several other handle materials, my favorite being G10, which makes it easy to give your knife the touch you want.
For safety, first cover the blade well with tape to protect the blade and your fingers from scratches and cuts.
Micarta comes in one piece so split it into two pieces with a chop saw or hacksaw to use it evenly on both sides of the handle.
Place the blade tang into the handle material, pin the two together, and use a fine felt tip marker to trace the shape.
Repeat for the other side of the handle, making sure to flip the blade over to get the side that fits the material.
Now cut the handle pieces with a jigsaw, you can also use another option like an extra course belt on a straight belt sander to roughen the handle pieces. It removes material very quickly.
Wear a respirator, and be careful not to step on the line. You may want to save some material after installing the handle pieces so they can be flush on the tang.
Sand the tang and the inside of a piece to provide a rough surface for gluing, and clean the pieces and tang with acetone.
Mix some epoxy. Most brands will work fine, such as Devcon 2-Ton epoxy sold by Jantz in 8 1/2-ounce bottles. I’ve had good experience with it, it’s easy to work with, and will last through many projects.
Coat one side of the tang with epoxy, place the handle piece on the tang and clamp. It is better to tie in more than one place.
Make sure that the handle material extends beyond the edge of the tang in all places and that the front edge of the handle piece is properly aligned.
Trout fillet knives have three pins that help secure the handle pieces to the tang.
Once the epoxy is dry, drill holes in the piece for the pins.
There are holes in the tang to use as a guide. Drill with a bit that is slightly larger than the diameter of the pin.
Now Align the other piece on the tang and hold it in position.
Using the holes you just drilled as a guide, drill corresponding holes in the other piece.
After drilling, put a pin in each hole to hold the piece in position as you go.
Recheck the adjustment of the pins. They must pass through both the pieces and the tang.
Sand and clean the mating surfaces of the other piece and the tang, and epoxy the entire tang. Roll in epoxy to cover the pins.
Add this piece to the tang, making sure its front edge meets the first piece already in place.
Insert pins to keep everything organized and well tied.
Now it’s time to shape the handle. You can do this in a number of ways including hand files, sandpaper, and even a Dremel tool, but the most preferred method is to use a belt sander on a bench.
Start with a 60-grit belt and work up to finer grits, ending with 120.
Leave the back plate on the belt sander for initial shaping and sand the metal around the stem so the stem and stem pieces slide together.
Professionals use a long, unsupported sanding belt to shape handles.
I removed the back plate from my sander and found that I have an 11 inch unsupported belt, which works fine.
A slight bow on the belt helps give it shape.
Always keep the knife handle moving. Stopping will introduce flat spots.
Roll the handle to round its edges and shape the material.
Finish the handle by hand polishing with tapered fine grit sandpaper and steel wool.
At the end, I applied a few coats of Johnson’s Paste Wax. It sealed the handle and made the colors of the Micarta canvas really pop.
Apart from sharpening the blade, the knife is also ready.
I recommend getting sheaths for their knives, and Gentz Supply offers them raw. They need to be fitted and finished, but the sheath is not difficult to complete and is a nice addition to your custom knife.
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