TINKER KNIVES – Customized Carving Knives

   Posted by: woodbeecarver   in Knives

The fine art of “tinkering” is one of those activities that travels down another path of creativity often trying to make something with a hands-on trial and error experimentation of making something useful. Some may consider “tinkering” as a waste of time for old geezers “to putter” at their work bench. But for the honest to goodness “tinkerer” there is nothing that is ever a waste of time as there is also the slim chance of making something better even if it is in the “mind of one who tinkers.” Every “tinkerer” is a genius incognito waiting for the acceptance of normal people and a little appreciation for being more than eccentric.

Now the truth can be told, the WOOD BEE CARVER has been a “tinkerer”ever since boy hood while growing up on a farm three miles south of Poneto, Indiana and making many of his toys which often occupied using a pocket knife to whittle something out of nothing. Ever since those formative years the urge “to tinker” has always been there which contributed to collecting and accumulating all the kind of stuff one who “tinkers” needs or will need one day when it will come in handy. Being a whittler with pocket knives it became a sickness to rescue a lot of old, worn out, in need of repair pocket knives in order to have a supply “to tinker” over to make them better than they were.

Some of these accumulated pocket knives housed a suitable blade that could be sharpened into a carving knife but the handle was too small or thin to comfortably hold in the carving hand. So they sit there in the drawer awaiting that eventual day when they would come into their own at the hand and mind of the optimistic “tinkerer.” Well, that day has finally arrived as this “tinkerer” tinkered around and came up with a way to make a customized carving knife.

TINKER KNIVESHere are three customized carving knives made from pocket knives whose handles were too small or too thin to be comfortable to hold in the carving hand. The wooden handles are made from red oak with an inner spacer of walnut, epoxied to the frame of the knife. Once the epoxy had cured, the wooden handles were whittled to a comfortable shape, sanded smooth and then finished with two applications of Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil Gun Stock Finish.

BEFORE AND AFTERThis photo is a “Before and After” example with a small handled pocket knife being an example of the “Before” and the Tinker Knife with the customized oak wooden handle as an example of the “After.” Both the Tinker Knife and the pocket knife have a blade that when shaped and sharpened will be functional as a carving blade.

PARTS TO ASSEMBLEThis photo shows the Tinker Knife alongside the small handled knife and its handle parts. The pocket knife has been stripped of its handle down to its main metal body. A thin walnut strip of wood (1/8 inch thick) has been whittled to slide in between the side liners of the knife body and to match the thickness of the knife body so that when the two thin red oak strips of wood (1/4 inch thick) sandwich together with five minute epoxy all the pieces will fit together. Once the epoxy has started to cure (fifteen to twenty minutes but still soft enough to carve off excess) the wooden handle is whittled to a comfortable shape and then sanded smooth. Apply Gun Stock Oil to the handle, let dry over night and apply a second coat.

BEFORE AND AFTER AGAINThis photo shows the makings of yet a third Tinker Knife along with the two previous Tinker Knives. The one to receive a customized handle has a long, narrow and thin body with the original handle removed down to the metal frame. The metal frame is sanded to remove dirt and grim so that the epoxy with adhere to it. The thin walnut wood strip (1/8 inch thick) has been whittled so that part of it will slide in between the side liners of the knife body while the rest of its thickness is the same as the body of the knife so that when the red oak wood strips (1/4 inch thick) sandwich the knife body with five minute epoxy it will all fit together evenly. Like the previous description, the handle is whittled and sanded to a comfortable shape and receives two applications of Gun Stock Oil.

THREE TINKER KNIVESThese are the three Tinker Knives used for this posting on how to customize a handle for small handled and thin pocket knives so that they can become carving knives comfortable to hold in the carving hand. Since they are customized, the shape of the handle is designed by the “tinkerer” who by nature will want to experiment with other shapes and designs. That is what it means “to tinker,” by making something useful out of the “stuff that dreams are made of.”

STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OFThese are the “stuff that dreams are made of,” for the “tinkerer” to have a supply “to tinker” into customized Tinker Knives. All of the single bladed knives can be prepared to receive wooden handles by removing the existing handles, cleaning the metal side of knife body and cut the wooden parts. Knives with more than one blade will require additional work of removing all but one blade and inserting a wooden wedge between the pivot pin and the back spring (where the removed blade once was located) in order to put tension on the existing blade. When the wooden insert is epoxied between the liners the blade will be permanently held in its open position and a little super glue applied where the blade and knife body are held together will also help strengthen the blade to stay firm.

MORE TINKER KNIVESFour more Tinker Knives that continues the tradition of  “tinkering” by making something out of what could be considered nothing, but now is something of use by becoming a functioning carving knife.  Often I have said, “Woodcarving is more the journey than the destination,” and “tinkering” is a part of that journey because it is still “whittling away time,” at something enjoyable to do.


KNIFE IN CHUCKED HANDLE MORE TINKERING: These are early version of “tinkering” by making carving knives by using a small blade from a broken pocket knife and inserting it into a chucked wooden handle that came from an awl. An awl is like an ice pick, but was used in leather work like harness making to make holes for a needle and thread to pass through. In the right hand bottom corner of the photo is a leather worker’s awl. In order for the blade to fit into the chuck, it is necessary to file the tang end of the blade to have a diamond shape when looking at the end or cross section of the tang or to have the two side edges of the tang shaped to almost a knife edge with a thickness in the middle to maintain strength. The inner part of the chuck is like a threaded bolt that has a hole drilled in its center and then the bolt was cut in such a way that the circle of the hole and threaded area was divided into four pie shapes to create “four fingers” that are squeezed together when the nut part of the chuck is tightened around the chuck and what it is holding in the hole and fingers. This will become clear to any “tinkerer” upon looking at the awl chucked handle because every “tinkerer” knows how to find a way to make it work.

This has been a tour of the wonderful world of the “tinker,” and all “tinkerers” are always welcome.


DISCLAIMER: The term “Tinker Knives” or “Tinker Knife”refers to the process of bringing new life to an old pocket knife by encasing its metal body within a wooden handle.  In no way does the term “Tinker Knives” or “Tinker Knife” refer to a name brand nor name of any kind of knife existing now, in history or in fiction.  It simply refers to the process of “tinkering.”



“Tinker  Knives” are not for sale by the author.  They are presented here as a “how to” description of recycling an old pocket knife into a custom made carving knife at the hand and imagination of the “tinkerer” in all of us.  I pay my self twenty dollars an hour to “tinker” and “tinkering” is such a S – L – O – W process that prohibits putting a price on a “Tinker Knife.” The real fun is for the “tinkerer” to have the  experience of trial and error “tinkering” to make one’s own “Tinker Knife.”


This entry was posted on Sunday, May 25th, 2008 at 8:58 pm and is filed under Knives. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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