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!
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!
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.)
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!
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.
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.
Some examples of the knives produced during these courses
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.
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.