Are you ready to start repairing and restoring knives for yourself?
When you have the right tools the job is easy and incredibly rewarding. After years of collecting vintage pocket knives I’ve had the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of knife restoration and the hand tools needed to do the job right.
Here are all the hand tools you need to successfully repair any knife you have.
Hand Tools You Need For Knife Repair And Restoration
Also known as a Steady, the cutlers anvil is one of the most important and used tools you will own. This small anvil has a flat top with a step down section ground out on the top. It should be made of hardened tool grade steel.
A cutlers anvil also has a hole in the rear for getting pins out of bolters and scales. The cut out on the step down allows you to grasp pins and pull them out as well.
The thin lip of the step down can be used for tightening rivets by placing by setting the knife blade laid out on the lip.
You can find cutlers anvils on the secondary market or purchased new. Many old school knife makers use a piece of railroad track machined into the necessary shape.
Hammers are going to be your new best friend. You will be using them for nearly every step of the repair and restoration process.
You will want to have a couple different hammers. The first is a 7 oz. cutlers hammer. This hammer has a flat end on the rear which will be used to bend blades. It is also my go to for peening bolsters, springs, and blades.
The second hammer is a 7 oz. tack hammer or cut face hammer. This is another hammer needed for peening bolster pins and rivets.
Vice and Vice Grips
You will need at least on 4 or 6 inch table vice. It should have removeable jaws with smooth faces. A textured jaw will damage your knives. If your vice is not smooth you can put tape on them to prevent harming your knives.
You can never have too many vice grips. They come in incredibly handy when holding knife pieces together during assembly. New vice grips are not that expensive so get as many as your budget affords.
A Dremel will handle many steps of the knife repair process. They can be used for grinding, drilling and cutting. There are an endless number of attachments that can be used to speed up your projects and it’s much more cost effective than large specialty tools.
I particularly like using a Dremel for drilling small holes over using a drill press.
A wire gage will make sizing pin holes and drill bits quick and easy.
For knife repair you will need drill sizes from 1/8″ down. The most common sizes you will use are .125, .092, .086, .082, .073, .063, .054.
Pin punches are needed in the following sizes, .080, .070, .060, .050. You will need these to start pins for bolsters.
You can get standard 1/8″ punches and grind them down to the necessary size. If you go this route, use your wire gage to get your punches to the right size.
A pair of 4″ or 6″ end nippers is perfect for knife restoration. Be sure that the face of the nippers are flush with the lips for close cutting of pins or rivets.
A slacking tool allows you to keep the necessary space between the knife blade and bolster scales. If you do not make this space the bolster scales will block the blade from moving freely.
You will peen bolster pins with your slacking tool in place.
A slacking tool is simply a shim that is made of metal and is between .010 and .015 inches thick. It should measure a half inch wide by three inches long.
When restoring a multi blade knife you will need a blade spreader to keep the blades apart while assembling. Without a spreader your blades will crowd each other and no open and close freely.
A spreader is also used to level your knife. This will allow you to keep the back and front side even for both scales.
Old school knife makers made their own blade spreaders out of unused backspring and a file handle. To do this you will grind down one end of the backspring into a flat chisel shape. Then round the edges and sharpen the other end and place the sharp end into the chisel handle.
There will be times when you need to bend or crink a blade and a crinkng block will make this much easier. Traditionally a piece of key stock is used for a crinking block. The most common size used is a half inch wide and one and a half inches long. Then one side of the block is ground down allowing for a low and high side.
To crink a blade it is placed so part of the blade is on the high side and the low. You then strike the blade with your hammer, which will bend your blade.
While there are tons of specialty tools out there for the modern knife maker, these simple handle tools will allow you to handle most repair and restoration jobs. It is best to start out with just the tools you need and as you progress in knife work invest in more specialty tools.
It is good to invest in the best quality tools your budget allows as a high quality tool will perform better and last longer. This will save you money in the long run and make your projects much more enjoyable. Buying new is always a good way to go, but many of these tools can be found on the cheap at yard sales, auctions and online.
For more knife repair tips check out these articles