Saw Blade Knife & PVC Water Pipe Sheath


Junior Doughty

I had a little kitchen paring knife that I liked. Its 3" x 5/8" drop-point blade was perfect for kitchen work, and the small-diameter handle was easy to hold. But the handle was way too short for my hand, and I did not like the width of the blade because it left room for only a tiny guard due to the 1/2" haft. I had to be careful using the little knife or I'd cut my index finger. After I read a Buckskinner forum about making knives from saw blades, I'd look at the little paring knife and mentally redesign it, especially since it seemed about the same thickness as a circle saw blade.

My mental design had a blade like the paring knife but wider, allowing a bigger guard. The handle was much longer than the handle on the paring knife. Around the time I was thinking about knife making, I noticed that the wooden handle on the paring knife was split, stayed damp, and probably made a wonderful home for all kinds of bacteria. I decided to replace the handle and maybe learn something in the process.

To anyone thinking of making a knife, I recommend that they do as I did and gain experience by replacing the handle on a simple kitchen knife. It's the most difficult part of making a knife.

My paring knife handle was a simple piece of hardwood with a saw-cut down the middle in which the haft fit. Two cutler rivets firmly attached it to the haft via two counter-sunk holes drilled through the handle and the haft. For hardwood, I could use a piece of one of the heart cedar limbs I keep in a corner of the yard. All I needed were cutler rivets. But they were hard to find. I finally ordered a package online from Texas Knifemaker's Supply. Since I wouldn't spend the plastic for a counter-sink drill, I repaired the knife with non-counter-sunk cutler rivets. It looked and worked just fine. In fact, the exposed rivet heads made it easier to hold.

Here's what I learned after making that paring knife handle, all of which came in handy when I made the handle for my super-cool Junior-made squirrel skinnin', tater cuttin' sheath knife:

  • A hacksaw makes a ragged, ugly cut through the middle of a cedar limb. Next time use my saber saw.

  • Make the next handle a little longer, 4" vs 3 3/4".

  • Put a swell on the butt like the distinctive swell on the butt of a Paterson Colt pistol. Drill a lanyard hole through the butt.

  • Use a piece of cedar with a slight natural curve and install the blade so that the convex side of the curve is toward the palm of my right hand.

In other words, the next knife handle I made would fit my hand perfectly.

There's nothing wrong with talking to yourself. The problem comes when you start answering yourself.
Lo and behold a friend gave me some leather. Well, Junior, I said to myself, there's sheath material, and you have a worn out circle saw blade. Get busy.

I decided to make my super-cool Junior-made knife and sheath using tools and material available to anyone. A person living in an apartment could make the knife and the sheath in that apartment using tools and material on hand or easily borrowed or scrounged. Everything should be readily and locally available—free or cheap.



  • Saw blade, used or new
  • Epoxy (make sure it will bond both wood and metal)
  • 12" or so section of a dried hardwood limb about 1" in diameter
  • 3/32" bronze brazing rod or three short pieces of same
  • Fired .22 rimfire magnum case
To find a brazing rod for use as haft pins, buy a welder a beer or look in the phone book under "Welding" or "Welding Supply." Mine cost a dollar and contains enough material for about 20 knives. If you make a large knife, use a 1/8" brazing rod.

Tools & equipment:

  • Dremel® tool with a sanding wheel, a grinding wheel, and about three cutting wheels
  • Safety glasses
  • Hacksaw
  • Saber saw or table saw
  • Sheet of fine sandpaper or emery cloth
  • File
  • 1/4" electric drill with assorted small bits
  • Pliers
Click thumbnails for full size photos. Use your "Back" button to return.

The saw blade On the right, see the saw blade which became a knife blade. On the far side of it you can see where I used a felt tip marker and drew the rough outline of a knife blade.

There's a story behind that saw blade. We recently repaired the roof on our fishing camp, and we were forced to use that hopelessly dull saw blade because the nearest hardware store—20 miles away—was closed. So that saw blade received some cussings that would curl the ears of a sailor.

The saw blade Here we see the Dremel® tool doing its thing with a cutting wheel on the edge side of the unborn blade. As the tool's instructions say, let the tool's speed do the work As the tool's instructions hint and as Junior says, If you don't wear safety glasses you're a damn fool.

That cheap cutting wheel worked like a charm on the hardened steel saw blade. It took me no more than 15 minutes to cut the knife blade from the saw blade. And I used only one cutting wheel.

The circular black metal thing below the Dremel® tool is the burner for my propane fired fish cooker. I should have moved it for the photo, but I didn't. Notice my fancy work bench. It's a dead air conditioner sitting on a metal garbage can while it awaits a ride to the dump. Notice my fancy vise. It's a sledge hammer. If you'll remember, I said a guy living in an apartment could make this knife.

Rough knife blade


That roughed-out blade looks like a piece of junk, but hang on and see what happened to it after I installed a grinding wheel in the Dremel® tool. I held the roughed-out blade in pliers and let the tool do its thing.


A knife blade The blade finally looked as you see it here. After shaping it with the grinding wheel, I used a file on the edges so they would be pertfectly flat or round. A grinding wheel doesn't grind symmetrically. It tends to leave surfaces like tiny rolling hills.

The blade/haft measures exactly 5" in length. That's 3" for the blade and 2" for the haft. At its widest point, across the guard, it measures 13/16". About 1/8" past the guard it narrows slightly to a width of 3/4" and remains that width until it starts the curve toward the point. I've included those exact measurements for reference but none of them are important.

The edge of the blade from about the top of my thumb to the guard was left un-sharpened, dull, in order to give a margin of safety for my index finger. That's important.

Notice that the haft contains slots instead of holes. I tried to drill holes. I ruined two expensive 3/32" high speed drill bits. I tried to grind holes and ruined an expensive tungsten-carbide engraving tool. No need to worry about whether or not that blade would hold an edge!

I finally reinstalled the almost worn out cutting wheel in the Dremel® tool and cut holes for the pins—well, slots for the pins.

I figured, correctly, as it turned out, that slots instead of holes would make seating the brass pins easier, and that epoxy would fill the gaps between the pins and the edges of the slots. Besides, I wasn't about to hire a gunsmith or a machinist to drill holes in my Junior-made knife blade. It wouldn't be Junior-made if I did that.

Now that the blade was finished except for final sharpening and polishing, the time came to mate metal to wood.

Mating metal to wood I carefully marked a cutting line on the end of my cedar limb section, orientating the line and the limb so the natural curve of the limb fit my palm with the line straight up and down. Then my brother-in-law stood on the limb to keep it from moving, and I eased a saber saw blade into the line and 2" through the center of the limb. It was easy cutting.

This photo shows the edge side of the blade and the bottom of the handle, which is still part of the cedar limb and which has been carved with a Dremel® tool sandpaper wheel. On wood, a sandpaper wheel works better than a grinding wheel.

The knife blade is a just-snug fit in the saw cut. A snug fit is too tight, and so of course is a tight fit. Either will eventually cause the handle to split. So err on the side of slightly loose. Epoxy will fill the gap. If your fit is too tight, use a hacksaw blade and ream the sides of the cut.

Installing the haft pinsThe photo on the right shows the haft pins and the blade ready to be epoxied to the handle.

I began installing the haft pins by cutting three 1"or so pieces from the brazing rod. I then slightly pointed one end of each piece/pin to ease their passage through handle and haft. I then used the cutting wheel again and reamed each slot in the haft so the pins were sloppy fits. Epoxy, remember?

Carefully placing the haft atop the handle above its future permanent position, I used a small felt tip marker and marked each slot's location on the handle. I then installed a 3/32" drill in the Dremel® tool and drilled a hole through the handle at each mark, trying my best to keep the tool perpendicular to the handle.

I was either in luck or good at eyeballing perpendicular drill paths. Pointing the pins and making them a sloppy fit through the haft were good ideas. With firm finger pressure, each pin went completely through the knife handle. I removed them and reamed the holes slightly, making each pin a slightly loose fit so as not to stress the handle. Epoxy would fill the gaps.

It was time to glue everything together.

Almost a knife With a toothpick, I filled the handle holes and the cut with epoxy. I coated the haft with epoxy and eased it into the cut, making sure the slots filled with epoxy as they disappeared inside the handle. Then, one by one I coated the pins with epoxy and pushed them through the holes, making sure that when each pin stopped each end was surrounded by a tiny hill of epoxy.

The photo on the right shows the knife the next day after the Dremel® tool grinding wheel did its thing to the protruding pins.

One more step, and we can cut the knife from the cedar limb. It was time to drill the lanyard hole and install a liner.

Installing a lanyard hole liner Here you see the knife separated from the cedar limb and with a fired .22 magnum hull/liner inserted through the drilled lanyard hole.

The lanyard hole took a while to drill because of the danger of splitting the edges of the hole. Using a hand-held 1/4" electric drill, I drilled it first with a 1/8" bit. I followed that bit with an 11/64", then a 3/16", then a 13/64", then a 7/32", and then finally with a 15/64" bit. After a little reaming, the .22 magnum hull was a slightly loose fit. I then epoxied it in the hole and let it dry.

A few minutes work with the Dremel® tool grinding wheel on the protruding ends of the .22 magnum hull and another few minutes work with sandpaper, and I held in my hand the world's only Junior-made knife.

Composite image of the Junior-made knife Here we see a four-photo composite image of the world's only Junior-made knife. From left to right, we see the top, the bottom, the right side, then the left side of the knife.

The top and bottom images show the hand-fitting natural curve of the original cedar limb. The right and left side images show the hand-filling swell of a Paterson Colt pistol butt.

All the images show, IMHO, one super-cool Junior-made squirrel skinnin', tater cuttin' sheath knife.

But what good is a super-cool knife without a sheath?



  • Enough scrap leather to make a knife sheath
  • Epoxy (make sure it will bond both leather and PVC plastic)
  • 6" to 8" section of 1"O.D. PVC cold water pipe
  • Copper rivets or aluminum pop rivets in sizes 1/8" x 3/8" and 1/8" x 7/16" and with backing plates (washers)
Pop rivets are dirt cheap compared to copper rivets, and they are much easier to use on leather than regular rivets. Get them at your local Ace Hardware or NAPA store. They come in several different sizes and in plastic, aluminum, steel, and in stainless steel. I used aluminum. If you know of a source for copper pop rivets, please inform me.

Tools & equipment:

  • Dremel® tool with a grinding wheel and a cutting wheel
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Pot of boiling water
  • A 10 penny nail
  • Two hammers
  • Pliers
  • Pop rivet gun
  • Scissors
  • Two flat scraps of wood
If you don't own a pop rivet gun, borrow one from your local body shop, air conditioner repairman or whomever does duct work in your area. Ace Hardware sells a new one for about $12.

If you've read this far, you're probably curious as to just how in hell you can make a knife sheath out of PVC water pipe. Well, the answer is, You don't. The PVC pipe is a liner for the sheath. It prevents the blade edge from contacting leather and thereby cutting it, and, properly modified, it serves as a duckbill-like spring to keep the knife in the sheath. I designed my sheath so that I could wear it horizontally. I could wear it upside down if I wanted—without tying the knife to the sheath.

I ruined three pieces of PVC pipe before I made one that worked. It also took me about two hours to do that. If you pay attention—and learn from my mistakes—you should make one on your first try and take only fifteen minutes to do it.

First, see what size PVC pipe you need by seeing if your knife fits inside it. I used 1". If your knife is bigger, you may need 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" pipe.

Cut your PVC pipe section about 1" to 2" longer than you think you need. You can remove material from the ends but you sure can't add material.

The objective is to boil the PVC pipe until it becomes soft, pliable. That's why we're using cold water PVC instead of hot water PVC. After just a few seconds in boiling water, cold water PVC pipe becomes pliable. When our section of cold water PVC becomes pliable, we flatten one end. Simple. No? Keep reading and study the photos below.

Mark your PVC pipe section so that the flattened part will be about 1/2" longer than your knife blade. Boil a large pot of water. Drop your section of pipe in the boiling water. After about twenty seconds, remove it with pliers and quickly press it between two flat boards at the mark. I placed my hot section between two boards and stood on the top board. This step would go faster and easier if someone helped you.

When the section cools a little, make sure the two flat halves touch or almost touch each other at both ends of the flattened section. If they don't, just drop the PVC section back in the boiling water and it quickly resumes its original shape. Then try again. Also, make sure the section isn't bent at an angle.

If the two halves do touch or almost touch, it's time to make them think they're a duckbill-like spring. You do that by using the Dremel® tool cutoff wheel and slicing the two sharp edges, separating them.

NOTE: The cutoff wheel binds in soft plastic. A cutter going 40,000 rpm and capable of slicing through hardened steel might suddenly decide to zip sideways and slice in the direction of your favorite finger. Make sure that the "pull" of the cutoff wheel is in a safe direction. Wear safety glasses and gloves.

Starting the sheath This photo shows the mark on my PVC section. The edges are sliced to maybe 1/8" above the mark. The objective is to make the spring tension on the blade heavy enough so that you can sling the blade free with difficulty yet light enough so that you can pull the blade free without difficulty. It sounds hard to do, but it isn't. Simply slicing both edges gave me the perfect tension.

I trimmed the big end enough so that some leather could overlap it and hide the white PVC pipe. I then trimmed the flattened end just enough so that the blade point didn't protrude. NOTE: Trim the big end first. The shorter the big end gets, the more back and forth movement the blade gets.

If I insert the knife fully into the PVC section and wiggle it up and down, the blade does not protrude past the flattened PVC edges where it might possibly cut the leather, which I later attached to the PVC section.

As you can see, especially in the full size photo, I rounded the sharp corners.

Gluing leather to plastic Here we see the handle inserted in the PVC section and the section being epoxied to leather. I wanted just enough of the handle exposed to allow grasping it with two fingers. The leather at the top is folded down and in, making a double layer of leather at the top. It ends beneath the middle clothes pin.

The PVC section starts 1" below the top of the leather, at about the position of the top clothes pin. I wanted the PVC section far enough below the top of the leather to prevent anyone from seeing it. After all, it's white.

I simply smeared a little epoxy on the PVC section, staying away from the cut edges, and wrapped the leather around the section. The clothes pins and pants hangers held it all in place while the epoxy dried.

Aligning the pop rivet positions The epoxy dry, it was time to install pop rivets and make a knife sheath.

I aligned pop rivet washers on the leather in order to (1) symmetrically space the rivets and (2) decide which rivets would hold the belt straps. Spacing ok and decision made, #3 and #6, I then marked the center of each washer. I then drove a 10 penny nail through each mark.

I then installed a pop rivet with a washer on each side in every nail hole but #3 and #6.

Finished knife and sheath Deciding the length of the belt straps was tricky. I wanted the knife to hang horizontally or slightly upwards, and I wanted the loops to fit both a 1" and a 2" wide belt. Decision made, I cut the straps and, carefully positioning the straps vertically and the sheath in the desired nearly horizontal position you see in the photo, riveted them to holes #3 and #6. The photo shows the results after also riveting the straps directly above the sheath.

The sheath almost finished, I flattened the protruding side of each pop rivet by placing the smooth side on a hammer head and tapping the other, protruding side with another hammer. I then trimmed the excess leather with scissors. I put colorful beads coded with my initials—JLD—on a short leather thong and installed the thong through the lanyard hole. If I drop the knife in leaves, the colorful beads help me find it. I soon held in my hands the world's only Junior-made knife and sheath.

It was very cool, and I was a very proud fellow. I put it on my belt.

Something was wrong. The handle hung down, not at a slight upward angle. What tha hell?

I removed the sheath from my belt. Everything looked ok. I put it back on my belt. The damned thing still hung down!

Then realization struck me. It wasn't the sheath; it was my belt. In the last couple of years I've developed a little round belly. As the belly developed, my belt in front moved downward in a less than horizontal position.

So with a sigh of sorrow for the loss of the flat-bellied days of my youth, I put a pop rivet 1" down from the top of the front strap. Now the loop won't take a 2" belt, but the sheath hangs horizontally.

The horizontal position of the sheath works great. It doesn't get in the way when I sit in a chair, and in the car it doesn't interfere with buckling the seat belt. In the woods, the handle of the knife is easy to find just to the side of my coat opening. No having to reach back and unbuckle a sheath and then fumble with a knife. Just stick my hand through my coat opening at the bottom, grasp the knife's handle between thumb and index finger, then give it a quick tug. Out it pops.

Try it. You'll like it.


Copyright 2001 by Junior Doughty

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