Knifemaking: On the Cheap. Neoprene Handles!

Well, after landing a killer deal on a new grinder ($75-craigslist, SCORE!), I was also given a couple knife blanks in the deal. DOUBLE SCORE! The guy had thought about getting into knifemaking but never got anything going. So even though I had scoffed at the idea of starting with a pre-made blank….I figured I couldn’t let these go to waste.

Side-note: After going through with this experiment, that notion of me never using pre-made blanks is long gone. There is no reason you should limit yourself to ONLY fully custom blades. This was fun and I learned a bit from it. Also, these blades come sharp as hell, properly heat treated, AND cryo’d…..for $15. Awesome deal.

Anyways, I ordered some neoprene rubber pieces from (you can get these blade blanks there, too!). This material is not very popular and, in fact, I didn’t find a single maker that had used the stuff on one of their knives. So this was an experiment to say the least. Here is a basic run down of how things went.

First, a pic of the new grinder. She’s my baby. =)

So I ordered 2 sets of 2 scales (handle material). As it turned out, cutting 1 of the 4 in half, was enough handle material for this knife.

I drew out a basic profile on the rubber and then cut it out. I actually used the blade I was tracing to do the cutting. This stuff is a perfect combination of being soft yet tough. You don’t have to be perfect and you actually WANT it over-sized for sanding down flush later.

Now, I missed the photo op for the actual epoxying. It started setting up faster than expected and I got rushed putting it together. First, surface prep by roughing up the knife handle with coarse sandpaper then cleaning/drying it. Make sure to use the machined side of the neoprene against the knife. Basically you mix up a typical 30minute epoxy, spread it over the knife handle, attach one side of neoprene, flip it over and spread epoxy this time filling in the holes in the handle to create ‘epoxy pins’, then clamp it in between something flat. I used 2 of the un-used neoprene scales. Again, be liberal with the epoxy. If some squirts out the sides, don’t worry, it will be sanded off later. Let this sit overnight.

After it has cured you can begin to file, grind, or sand (60-100 grit will work fine) the basic outside profile, of the rubber, down to the metal of the knife. I used my brand spankin’ new grinder but in reality, it was overkill. This stuff can easily be formed by hand with regular sandpaper.

Yes, beer makes everything better. Even knifemaking. It’s common to cut, scrape, burn, or set yourself on fire while making knives. Beer tends to lessen the pain somewhat. =D

From there just knock off the square edges and start making some ergonomic contours to your liking. I finished up with 400-grit sandpaper but as long as its over 300 and under 600, it should look good. The site says NOT to polish so I would just take their word.

Here are a few finished pics. I really love the feel of this stuff. It stays ‘grippy’ even in wet or cold conditions. Perfect for diving, skinner, kayaking, and camping knives. I don’t understand why more people don’t use this stuff!? Maybe it’s because it doesn’t look AS nice as the other materials, but I think it looks great.

Let me know if you have any questions and feel free to comment!