The stiletto is a dagger 6 to 8 inches in blade length with a triangular or diamond-shaped cross section and a narrow (typically ½ inch or less) blade width. It is used as a stabbing weapon, with the cutting edge as a secondary consideration, and was usually built small for concealment. Stilettos are fairly easy blades to make and are often a hobby knife maker's first project.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Carbon steel bar stock, ¼ inch thick, at least ¾ inch wide
- White glue
- Pencil or pen
- Grinding wheel and clamps
- Drill press
- Split wood dowelling
- Rivets and riveting press
- Brass wire
Clamp down the metal blank and glue cardboard to the blank, then draw your stiletto pattern on the cardboard with a pen. A typical stiletto is designed to be narrow and thin, both to increase penetration and to reduce weight; a taper ratio of ½ inch down to the point at 8 inches is normal. Leave 6 inches past the base of the blade for the tang, the part of the blade that fits inside the handle.
Mark the metal with a Sharpie marker, matching the design on the cardboard.
Cut the excess metal away from the blade with a hacksaw, then use a grinder to put a finished edge on the blade. Be patient while doing this, and go slowly. Most knife-making projects are ruined by being overly rushed during the grinding process.
Drill three holes through the tang, at 1 1/2, 3 and 4 1/2 inches from the base of the blade. The holes should be a little bit larger than the diameter of your rivets.
Place your split wooden dowelling on either side of the tang. Grip the loose dowelling and tang together and get a feel for the balance of the blade. If the blade feels a little tip heavy, thread brass wire through the second hole and the third one and wrap around a few times, repeating the grip test. Brass wire is about 30 per cent heavier per unit volume than steel is, and is good for counterbalancing a knife blade inside the hilt of the blade.
Measure the length of the dowelling to match the length of the tang, and cut it to fit with a hacksaw. Put one half of the dowelling on the tang and mark through the mounting holes with a pen; repeat on the other piece of split dowelling, then drill those holes with a drill press. The holes should be close to the outer diameter of your rivets. If you added brass wire to counterweight the blade, use a file to create a space inside the dowelling for the wire to rest without causing the wood to deform.
Slide both halves of the dowelling over the tang of the blade, then rivet them on. Use a file (or a router) to shave down the wood to fit your hand; a traditional stiletto has a spiral groove on the handle for a good grip.
Use a file to smooth down the sides of the blade. Stilettos do not need the edges bevelled or ground down to be functional. Like the grinding step, this step takes a great deal of time to get right. Be patient; this is the knife-making equivalent of knitting and gets easier as you have more experience.
Tips and warnings
- You can buy many premade knife blanks for stilettos from knife vendors. Some come with tanks with threaded bolts on the end, making it easier to adjust counterweight. Premade blanks make assembling the blade much simpler.
- While the term stiletto also refers to a 1950s style of switchblade, those knives have severe restrictions that vary from state to state and municipality to municipality. They are also considerably more complex to assemble as a first-time knife making project.
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