Alain Miville-Deschênes, Coutelier d'art  
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La fabrication d'un couteau  

These are the principal stages of the making of one of my knives.
Obviously, the process contains many more stages and manipulations, despite this, it should give you a good idea of the different stages in custom knifemaking and also the amount of time it takes to make a knife. Other pictures will soon be available...

Le dessin
Everything starts with the knife conception. In general, I draw different designs, until I find a shape that will be pleasing to the eye, and will fuction best for the use of the knife (artistic, hunting, kitchen, general use, etc.)
Once I have a general idea, I redesign the knife with a computer which permits me to correct and perfect the design but also to try different modifications until I obtain a final model. Sometimes a prototype is made of wood or plexiglass to get an idea of the look and handling of the knife before making it.
Dessin à l'ordinateur
Ajustement ordinateur
With a computer, it's possible to quickly modify or change the design of the knife. I can therefore try different versions and alter small details until I find the ideal design.

The final design is traced on a piece of steel. The type of steel is very important in the making of the knife because it's the choice of steel which permits one to have a knife that cuts well, is resistant and above all keeps its cutting edge for a long time.

Découpage de l'acier

The piece of steel is cut and sanded with different tools (metal cutting bandsaw, files, grinders and other abrasives) until the right profile is obtained.

The piece of steel is then ground and sanded to remove the scales and grime of the original piece of steel, and the contours are ajustd and finalised.
Lignes guides

Guidelines are then traced on the blades so as to grind the shape. Guidelines are also traced on the part that sill became the handle.

The cutting edge is hand shaped with a belt grinder. This is a critical stage ! In effect, this stage is delicate and requires extreme manual dexterity to obtain an effective and sharpe edge and also be symetrical on both sides.


Sanding belts of different grits (from 50 to 1000 which ever is needed) are used to get a smooth and scratch free finish. The contours and different parts of the knife are also sanded.

Holes are also drilled in the handle part of the knife to lighten the weight and also help the epoxy glue to stick. Other holes are drilled for the rivets. Each hole has to be countersunk to lighten the stress on the steel during heat treatment.


The blade is then hand sanded to remove any scratches that might exist.

At this stage, the blade is not hard enough to retain its cutting edge, therefore it must be hardened by thermo treatment. This procedure is done in two stages; the first consists of heating the blade to a certain temperature (varing between 1500 to 2000 degrees F depending on the type of steel) then cooling it rapidly in oil, water or air, depending on the steel.

The second step in the thermo treatment is called tempering and consists of reheating the steel to a certain temperature (lower than for the heat treatment) until the desired hardness is achieved. After the thermo heat treatment, the steel is very hard but also quite brittle, tempering makes it more supple and also determines the final hardness of the blade (mesured in rockwell degrees). Beside thermo treatment, it's also possible to subject the blades to cryogenic treatment (generally in liquid nitrogen) which also adds to the hardness.


The thermo treatment leaves the blade with a thin coat of oxyde which must be removed. This is when the final sanding and polishing begins. The blade is hand sanded using finer and finer sandpaper (1000-2000 sometimes). The satin finish is obtained in this final stage.

To obtain a mirror finish, the blade is sanded with very fine sandpaper then polished with a cotton wheel and abrasive pastes.
Limage garde

To make the guard, two small holes are drilled and are joined with a small file. It's a delicate and time consuming operation as it has to be perfectly rectangular so the blade can be inserted tightly.

Once the blade is finished, it's possible to add the guard or bolster. These pieces are made seperatly from stainless steel or other metal. Bolsters riveted on the knife.
Soudure de la garde

Guards can be riveted or welded. Welding the guard is a delicate operation as the heat can affect the heat treating of the blade. Therefore, the blade is immersed in water during this operation to prevent any damage.

Once the guard welded, the weld must be cleaned before it can be polished and buffed.
Nettoyage de la garde

It's now time to sign my work. An electro-chimical process is used to engrave my name and logo in the steel. This is done with an electrolyte and electric current.

Collage manche
With a full tang knife, the wood or other material used for the handle is cut and shaped ready to be fixed on the knife. This is a precise operation as both halves of the handle must line up perfectly. A strong glue (generally an epoxy with 2 ton holding power) is used to attach the handle and also reinforced with rivets, bolts or screw.

With a hidden tang knife, the handle can be a single block with a hole for the tang or a block split in two where room for the tang has been carved out of both pieces. Then carefully assembled and glued together.

Montage sur soie

One the glue has dried, excess glue is removed from the handle and the rivets, and with the use of different tools and abrasives, it's sanded to obtain the final shape desired. As with the blade, the handle is sanded and blished to the desired finished product. Depending on the materials used, different products can be used to seal and finish the handle (tung oil, danish oil, linseed oil, canuba wax, cyano-acrylate, etc.)

Fabrication de l'étuis

It's just about finished ! All that remains is a final inspection, the inevitable touch ups and ajustments, and finish by making the sheath (leather, kydex or concealex) and then comes the final sharpening of the blade.

The knife is now finished and I can now take a picture of it.

Last but not least, it remains to sell it...

© 2003 Alain Miville-Deschênes, all rights reserved.



La fabrication d'un couteau
What is interesting in knifemaking is that it allows us to discover many different fields, such as :

  • Metal work, drilling, cutting, countersinking, tapping, etc.

  • Working with wood and other materials

  • Sculpture and engraving

  • Soldering

  • Working with leather and thermo plastics (for making the sheaths)

  • Astistic aspect (creating knives is visualy interesting)

  • Metallurgy (heat treating, composition and behavior of the metals)

  • Sales and Marketing
Consult the pictures on this page to see some of the steps of my knifemaking.