This page was last updated on: March 26, 2018
I offer knifemaking courses for individuals (or pairs) in my main workshop, or as part of a small group using my Ancient Forges. Courses can be as long or short as you like and can cover every element of knifemaking, basically if I can do it then I can teach YOU to do it! All courses are run from my woodland in Cheriton Bishop, about 10 miles west of Exeter

Private courses offer the widest scope of what you can do, since it allows us to use modern tools and techniques. Whereas the group courses are a great joint experience that allows you to create a unique knife using the most basic of equipment

One-to-One courses are £300 per day or £250 per head per day if two of you come together. Group courses mostly work out at £150 per day, but are dedicated 1, 2 or 3 day courses 

Take a look at the information below to see which type of course would suit you best! 

Individuals and pairs work in my Main Workshop
A look at what small groups make during a knifemaking course
 Knifemaking Courses
Basics of knife making
shiny things
Whichever type of course you decide upon, the time frame and processes are broadly the same. For an idea of what to expect when making a simple forged finished knife (blade, handle and sheath), read on.

Any extra complexities will take more time, but that can be factored in. These extras could include laminated (or even Pattern Welded) blades, ground and polished blades (including hamons), complex handles with fitted metal guards, inlays, decorative filework, complex or multiple sheathes, etc.
Day 1 (or a one day course)

Starting with a suitable piece of virgin tool or spring steel (no recyclying of suspect materials here!). Using the traditional Blacksmiths' tool kit of forge, hammer and anvil, to shape the blade.Once forged, a little tidying up with a file or grinder can be done prior to heat treating. 

If you intend to make a forged finished blade, then you will be able to forge the blade, heat treat and sharpen it in a single day. The heat treating with my modern set up takes several hours to accomplish due to the time that the furnace takes to come up to temperature for each step of the process. The heat treating methods used during a group course are more traditional and much faster (if not so precise), but the blade making process takes that little bit longer. Either way, this is a LONG day and often runs over the 5pm mark!

Day 2

Select a handle material, prepare and glue it onto the blade. I have a wide range of woods on offer (mostly native hardwoods), but antler, bone, horn and micarta are also available. Normally we use modern toughened epoxies, but traditional glues are available upon request.

Shape the handle to fit your hand and design, then finish it to a fine satin finish with hand abrasives and oil the wood to protect it. 

(If your blade has also been ground, then today you will spend a while polishing it to the level that you desire, and possibly etching to reveal any hamon present. You will then be able to fit the handle and begin shaping, but it is unlikely that you will finish it.)

Day 3

Unless you have a particularly complex design, this is a sheath making day.

The sheath is made to fit your knife exactly, so we start by making a template of your sheath. Once a design and paper template are made we transfer it to British Vegetable tanned cow hide.

Next dye the leather, wet form it around your knife and once the sheath is dry it can be glued and stitched together. If time allows, you can also decorate the sheath using any number of techniques ranging from dying, carving, molding and inlays.

However many days you stay for, the last act will be to sharpen the blade. Unless I really have to, I never fit a handle or make a sheath for a sharp blade. I did this once when I started making knives and I still have the scar to remind me why I don't do it anymore!
Group courses
at the
Ancient Forge School
Groups of between 3 and 6 people are taught using historical forges and the hand tools that have been used in knifemaking for over 2000 years! Simple tools and ancient techniques, doesn't mean that you have to make a a poor quality tool. We use EN45 spring steel for these knives and the only limits on your design are that it should have a blade of no more than 5", can be forged from a 1/2" round bar and is a stick tang.  Also, due to day light hours, these courses can only be run between March and September. Other than that, the world is your oyster! Even within those limitations, you could make 70% of the knives on this website ;-)

Scroll through the gallery below for a step-by-step guide of a typcial group knifemaking weekend. 
I demonstrate the first step as the group watch carefully. At each step of the process they will stop and watch me before copying what I do.
Here is the Iron Age forge. an anvil is either side and the students begin the knifemaking process...
And here is the more modern Roman/Saxon forge set up. No better than the Iron Age version in many ways, but easier to use if you have back or leg troubles
Get it hot and HIT IT!
Decide how long your blade will be. Apparently that is 6" !!
A well oiled team getting into the rythm of the forge
Seems counter-intuative, but the bend really will come good in the end
forging the bevels of the blade
Cutting the blade from the parent bar
Final shapings and straightening
Before heat treating, the edges are filed true and some other cosmetic tidying to the blade can be done. remember though, files only cut on the PUSH stroke!
Once the blades are forged they need to be heat treated. After relieving stress, the next step is to harden the blades in tallow
the blades are then cleaned up prior to tempering
The blades are tempered over the coals to achieve the desired balance of toughness and edge retention.
Three finished blades ready for handles....
A block of wood is selected and a pilot hole drilled to receive the tang...
Using a bar of hot steel we burn fit the tangs before gluiing everything together.
The front of the handle is shaped and finished before there is a blade glued in the way
The blades are glued in place using toughened epoxy.
once the blades are in place, the knives-to-be are set aside for the glue to set. Time for lunch!
Handles are shaped using a variety of tools, primarily drawknives and rasps.
after shaping, a bit of sanding is in order. How long this takes will depend on how fastideous you are about scratches!
When the handle is finished, a good coat of oil is applied to bring out the colour of the wood and to nourish it.
My one concession to power tools on this course is the use of a foot-powered grinder for the first stage of sharpening. But it is not allowed out before this stage!
Finally the knives are sharpened and they are truely finished!
Day 3. Sheathes. Once a pattern is made, it is transferred to the cowhide
After dying  and moulding a welt is glued in place
All glued together and stitching holes made with an awl
Private Courses 
in my
Main Workshop
Individuals and pairs are normally taught in my main workshop, where I have more 'toys' and we can make better quality (as well as more ambitious) knives. These courses can be arranged for any dates that we are mutually available and at any time of year. 

If you already make knives from bought in blades, then this is the best way to learn to make your own special blades. Maybe come for a few days to make a batch of blades to keep you going for a while at home?

Scroll through the gallery below for a step-by-step guide of a typcial private knifemaking courses.   Much of the process is the same as if using primitive kit, so its worth scrolling through the group knifemaking pics too.
This lucky group were the first to use the Iron Age forge set up. That time it was in a field! 

They booked the course as a Stag Party for the big fella in the back row.
The knives that they produced next to the raw materials.
No group shot of these guys, but they are all in this picture.
The knives made buy the men in the smoke
A rare occasion where I took the teaching forge on the road. Never again, but these three enjoyed the weekend!
And their work...
This young man wanted to use the Iron Age forge for his one-to-one course. Normally I wouldn't do this as it means I have to bellow for the student, but at the time I had no workshop!
Another private group booking showing off their fabulous knives.  It was a great weekend in the woods!
And their knives up close
Father, daughter and son-in-law came for a private group course in the woods and made a fine selection of knives.
The knives. Boris (the lady on the left) folled my advice and made a small but useful knife; the others went for two of the most difficult knives to forge outside: long blades and hooked blades! 

Well done though!
On a three day weekend in 2008 this group made a fine range of useful knives. Though we did need to retreat indoors for some of the work thanks to the weather
The knives and their sheathes
The last group knifemaking course of 2008 saw this merry group in the woods.
Our knives, minus one which was in the middle of being sharpened at the time.
James arranged for himself and two friends to have a weekend away
and the knives. mine to the left.
A great group from July 2009. sadly I didn't get a close up of the knives :-(
Last group for 2009.
And our knives. One had already been buried in a rucksack, so is missing from the shot. Mine is at the top
March 2010, first group of the year. Great bunch and they did very well!
and our knives.  mine top left
A small group for the mid summer course.
Our knives. The handles are a bit dirty from the sharpening, but will clen up ok. mine at bottom
Another group of lads came down as a private party. a great weekend was had and by golly can these northerners drink tea!
our knives, mine at bottom
Last group of 2010 and a very capable group to finish the year on
our knives, mine at centre bottom
Some examples of the knives produced during these courses
Get it HOT! Then hit it.
A couple's weekend away, getting hot and sweaty together in the woods.
I said HIT IT!
now that the bar of tool steel is flat, it's time to pre-bend it ready for the bevels to be forged in.
The flat bar is now forged into something resembling a knife with a V-shaped cross section.
Ok, have a tea break if you must!

(actually there is liquid refreshment and biscuits flowing throughout the day)
John didn't tell me until he arrived that he is almost totally BLIND!  I found a solution to foring the blade: place the glowing red splodge in the middle of the round greay splodge and hit it. Check out the gallery to see how he did...
Gradually coaxing a lump of steel into a blade
sever the blade from the parent stock
the tang is drawn out. In this case, it was a lot of steel, so Andy used the flypress to help it along
Once forged out it needs to straightened
check straightness from every angle
Once cool enough to handle, the true blade shape can be drawn on.
A bit of pre-heat treating grinding to remove any unsightly bulges. Pins holes are drilled at the same time
Bridget flattens her tang
Matt wanted to do some decorative filework
here the blades are sat in the heat treating furnace. They are normalised 3 times and brought to hardening emperature in this one, before quenching in oil and tempering in a second oven
Once the blade is done, the handle can be worked on. Here the tang is being burnt into a pilot hole in a piece of wood
Multiple piecesof wood can be used
Once the glue is set, the handle can be shaped using the belt grinders and hand rasps
snading the handle until its smooooooth!
come on, a bit more. I did say smooooth!
The sheath is an important part of any handmade knife. Here the pattern is cut from a thick piece of cowhide
the leather is dyed and glued together...
Sewiing the sheath needn't be hard work, but sometimes  it feels like it!
Sewing a sheath takes time, so it's wise to sit down and enjoy the sunshine. Don't forget a cup of tea!
Assumiong that you are staying to make a sheath, then sharpening is the final thing to do. If, however you can't stay a 3rd day, then this will be done once the handle is finished.
Sean came found me at UK knife show and a few months later was working hard at my forge. He was an able student who worked so fast he even had time for an afternoon nap! (though he blamed his age, he's a spritely 73)
the small utility knives that we made both had oak handles and copper guards.
Dave and Michal made a couple of fine knives in a long weekend. 

Saxen didn't seem so impressed!
Dave and Michael's knives. Mine at bottom.
Chris with his day's work: two blades
Chris' blades. Both EN45 steel, one a mighty chopper the other a small whittler. My blades are the two at the top of the picture.
Marie Clare came for a couple of days to my new workshop and turned out this fine knife...
As I had a lady in the workshop, i thought I would try something a little ladylike with my handle. So I used my own Floral Micarta :-)
Doug was a very able student indeed. One of only two in 4 years to manage a knife and sheath completely in only two days!
And here are our knives. Mine is the one on the left. Our handles are Oak and Yew
Jeff and dan, father and son, came for a single day to forge a blade to take home and finish.
OUr blades. Son went for a small general purpose blade and dad went for a rather large (11" !) butchers knife.
This young man came along for a course and went away with two small knives.
our knives from top to bottom: antler tyne, London Plane and lebanon cedar (later replaced with red/black micarta)
John-Jack came for couple of days and produced a very nice little knife
John's knife with a stylish blue sheath and blackmpalm handle
Nick wanted a small bushcraft knife and that's exactly what we made. The knife I made alongside was the inspiration for my Woodsprite knife
Dave was my first ever student and lulled me into a false sence of how easy knifemaking can be. He was the other student who managed to finish a knife and sheath in only two days!
Dave's knife. Very well made with an exotic Muhuhu handle
Nigel came ofr a day and managed to get this lovely made.
My former Austrailian housemate, Joe, made his knife over bit by bit during his last weeks in the country
Joe's knife. the handle is Bubinga wood.
Martin came to learn how to make a blade by stock removal rather than forging. It took me back as I've not made a knife this way for years!
Martin's blade at bottom and mine top, both 5mm O1 steel
As for most of those who come to make a knife, Geoff came to make a good general purpose knife.
Our knives (Geoff's at top) have oak handles, brass and red epoxy pins and a little bit of decorative filework alng the spines.
Mark came for two days and wanted to make an all steel kitchen knife. So we made some extra bits with the spare time on day 2
3 days of hard beating. Steve made a bearded axe head and a huge bowie blade!
John and Alex looking suitably pleased with themselves. 3 days and they have knife blades and complete axes (they did cut the handles down!)
Rob came for 2 days and made himself a skeleton handled knife so that he was able to make a sheath (a 3rd day would be needed for a fitted handle). He also picked up a kitchen knife from me whilst visiting :-)
Big Andy by name, Big Knive by design!  A forged finished kukri no less
since the handles were a little too complex for a single day, we had to leave them in place but to be shaped later.
Clever Rich here produced a very nice set in just 3 days!
Rich's knife of left
An extra pic showing off Rich's lovely filework
15 year old Beaux and his first bit of work. Very good I think you will agree
Dan came for a single day to make a blade
Our blades with the original inspiration
There's always one!  In fairness, Joe did a great job and was a lot of fun to have around for a few days
Ade came for a day to make a blade...
Ade's filework (bottom) was very good indeed
Harry and Peter, Son and father. Ona  couple of days out...
Normally I prefer  a pair of students to work on similar projects, since it makes teaching much easier. In this case I didn't and had to make two knives alongside to demonstrate
Ramin came for two days to make a posh blade with a hamon. Day one forging and heat treating. Day two grinding, polishing, etching and more polishing
Two lovely blades with visible Hamon. Mine at top and Ramin's at bottom
Paul came for a couple of days to make an axe and a blade. He took to it so well that he managed two blades!
Paul's fine works.
and my attempts
Some of the folk who have booked private courses in my workshop
Terms and Conditions

Unfortunately, due to the poor conduct of a small number of people, I have to lay out some rules. Most of these should fall into the realms of common courtesy.

1) As space on some courses is limited a deposit is required for all courses except the sharpening course (in which case I ask for the whole cost to paid upfront). Deposits are priced thus: £30 for a one day course, £50 for a two day course. Deposits are required at the time of booking, with the balance to be paid at or before the start of the class. Deposits are non-refundable within two weeks of a course commencing unless the cancellation has occured at my end. 

2) Should a course need to be cancelled for any reason, a full refund (or transfer to another course if preferred) will be given. I will also give as much notice of this as possible.

3) Should a course have to be cut short (eg. the Great British weather makes it unsafe), then a proportional refund or postponement of course will be granted at the discretion of the organiser. So far this has not happened, as I try to have back up plans ;-)

4) Although everything possible has been done to ensure that these courses are safe, there are inherent dangers with activities of this nature. You will be briefed as to any particular health and safety precautions. The organiser and instructors take no responsibility for injury or loss caused. 

5) Participants under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult. Adults wishing to leave their youngsters in the care of the organiser are welcome to do so but are asked to fill out a consent form. By booking an under 16 onto a course, the parent/guardian is promising that they are mature and sensible enough to follow the tuition without disruption of the class. 

6) Conduct. 
All participants are expected to conduct themselves in a reasonable and adult manner at all times. Please respect and follow instructions given by the tutors and organisers, these instructions are given for good reasons. 

I will NOT tolerate antisocial, offensive or dangerous behaviour. Should this behaviour be observed, you will be given a single warning only. If the behaviour continues then you will be asked to leave and forfeit your fee. No excuses and No exceptions.