Knife Shop Of J.S. Johnston

Shop On 3-17-2014


Picture above is were Jon completes detail sanding and file work.    Picture above has lathe used for decorative axe and knife handles.


Picture above has forge on right side along with forge press               Picture of double hollow grinder, Grizzly grinder and scroll saw.

on left. You can also see the anvil and other forging tools.


Picture of Gas welding/cutting setup(a must for knife making)!             Picture above is a Miller Mig Welder 140 Autoset.


Picture above is a drill press, 1 x 30 grinder( for handle making).        Picture above is a  portable bandsaw Jon converted to a stationary bandsaw.


Picture above is other side of converted mini bandsaw.     

Shop Update 7-8-2015     


Picture above of custom heat treat oven designed & built by Jon Himself !





I use two different types of methods to make my knives. First, is the stock removal method. This is were I draw a pattern onto the steel and cut it out with a torch, band-saw, or sometimes angle grinder(this cutting method is my last choice due to the size of mess left to clean up, and it is probably the most dangerous due to hot pieces of metal flying in every direction). After the pattern is cut out you have what we as maker's call a knife blank. I then will clean up all edges, drill holes and etc. At this point I will normalize the blank to line up all the atoms and fibers/ grains in the metal, because this all gets out of whack do to the cutting and grinding so before you hardened the blade you have to fix this by normalizing. In short, this is a process where I heat up the knife blank and let it air cool back to room temperature.

Now, please keep in mind all this changes depending on what type of steel you are using, because different types of steel has different amounts of carbon. Carbon is what makes a great knife making steel, you don't have carbon content, you don't have a good knife making steel. I love to use 0-1 because it heat treats really easy and it will hold a pretty good edge as long as you quench and draw it back correctly. I also use 1075 and 1095 which are both high carbon steels. The difference in these from 0-1 is that they can be very difficult to heat treat if you don't no what you are doing(meaning if you do not take your time they will warp very badly and if you heat them to much they will grow grain like a farmer growing wheat. Grain growth in your steel basically looks like concrete when you break it open and it will not temper properly and to make a long story short the steel becomes actually to hard and brittle. When I hardened a knife I use color and a pyrometer to gauge if my knife blank is in solution ( meaning ready to quench in oil or water depending on what steel you are using.

After the quench I immediately temper my knives at a lower temperature to actually lower the Rockwell hardness and give them that great edge holding property. Oh yea, forgot to mention I also use a special quench method past down to me from a couple of blacksmith's. This method is called differential edge hardening. I basically quench just my cutting edge for about 3 to 4 seconds until the color rises into the back spine of the knife blank and handle then I lower the rest of knife into the quench formula. This gives the knife a softer back but a very hard, durable cutting edge, all in one quench. Then I go for a double temper of 350 to 500 for two hours each session depending on the knife steel. After this I wet grind my bevel to keep the blade from getting hot and then add my custom handle, this sounds easy but on some knives i spend as much time on the custom handle as I do on the blade itself.

Second, is the forge method. This is were I use a piece of 1" x 1" square billet( a piece of square metal) and heat it up in the forge and use my press to flatten it out and then I will hammer the billet into what ever shape of knife i want and then usually quench the blade for hardness after I get the correct shape. So, the main difference is with this process you do not have to cut the grain of the knife you are just shaping or bending the grain which overall will make a whole lot stronger knife. I mean yes you will still have to clean it up on the belt sander/grinder, but no cutting of the grain. after the clean up it is time for the bolster to be added, i sometimes use brass and sometimes nickel-silver. If I feel like something special I will forge up a little Mokumi-gane( copper,brass,and nickel forge welded for a pattern that can be etched) and use that for a bolster. Then on goes the handle and time for final clean up and polish.

I also sometimes use high carbon railroad spikes with the forge method, this makes a cool little knife or tomahawk head. I have to use a special quench solution for these do to the lower carbon content to ensure a proper hardened edge with good retention.


Please enjoy the photos below we have put together of the above stated processes!


(1.)                         (2.)

Picture above of knife sketched onto a piece of steel!                                             Picture above of knife after being cut out!

(3.)                      (4.)                

Picture above of knife from 1095 steel after smoothing edges,                               Picture above of knife ready for handle or cord wrap then sharpening!

chisel grinding pre-bevel and drilling holes. Knife has also been

heat treated and tempered. This is what it looks like directly after tempering.


Picture above is inside forge used for heat treating and forging.                        Picture above of tempering oven used to draw/lower the Rockwell Hardness!

I built a special burner along the top which cause's the heat to spread out

evenly inside the forge. This helps to properly heat the entire knife blank evenly at the

same time instead of just areas were the burner's are. reduces stress and warping

of the steel by 100% in my opinion, tested and proved by myself over many heat treats in the forge.


Picture above is of my mini-forge press I built, has three different dies I made  Picture above is my anvil, I added angle iron around anvil for clamping/sculpting!

from A-2 tool steel. I plan on making a few more before it is over.


Picture above is other dies for my press!                                                   Picture above is my 4" x 6" band-saw I use for cutting metal stock!


Picture above is my powder coating system, i use this to powder coat         Picture above is were I stock different handle and bolster material!

under the cord warped handles for corrosion resistance and durability!


Picture above is the micarta I make right here in shop!                                Picture above is a new metallic platinum micarta I made, cannot wait to use!


Thanks For Looking!