How to Make a Dagger

by John Albers
A dagger design used based on that used by Plains Indians

A dagger design used based on that used by Plains Indians

Possibly one of the most effective knives for all around use, both as a projectile and for self defense is the dagger. It’s a simple double edged straight blade that tapers slowly to create a leaf shape, with a plain handle and cross guard. Since most people don’t have access to a complete blacksmith’s forge, there is a way to make them using tools commonly found in most workshops. To that end here is a guide on how to make a dagger.

Designing The Dagger

  1. Begin designing your dagger by sketching out what you intend to make on a piece of cardboard. Use your ruler to ensure that the hilt and midline of the blade in your design are straight and the edges of the blade will be even.

  2. Cut out the shape of the knife from the cardboard and try to find the dagger design’s center of balance. Lay it crosswise on your finger and try to balance it, the point where it does not fall off is the center of balance. A well made dagger will have a center of balance within no more than a half inch from the crossguard.

  3. Place the design on your steel blank and trace the pattern onto the steel with a piece of chalk. Trace the complete design including the handle and cross piece. Find the point of the dagger where the blade gives way to the crossguard, from that point draw a simple line down the center all the way to the end of the handle. This is meant to signify the tang of the blade which will nestle inside the crossguard and handle and connect the three pieces to make the dagger.

Making The Blade

  1. Fit the steel blank into the bench vice and fire up your plasma torch. Slowly cut out the blade’s design, being extremely careful to cut smoothly. You will have to reposition the blank in the vice several times to cut out the design completely.

  2. Fit the granite wheel attachment into your bench grinder and use it to smooth all the edges of the blade blank. Form the blade’s edge by running each side at a roughly 45 degree angle against the granite. Turn the blade after each pass to grind each of the four surfaces evenly. As the edges begin to take shape increase the angle at which you hold the metal against the wheel to shape more and more of the width of the blade until you eventually reach the blade’s midline. Stop at this point.

  3. Use the buffer attachment to brighten the blade to a mirror finish.

  4. Either fit the blade back into the vice or hold it carefully, and hone the edge with your diamond file. This is a very important step that many people don’t get right as it takes a great deal of time and patience. Run the file from the point to the tang, never in the other direction. You will have to do this over 500 times on each of the four surfaces, being careful to maintain a constant sharp angle against the edge of the metal at all times.

Making The Crossguard

  1. Use the cardboard design to stencil the crossguard only onto another steel blank. This will give you’re the general idea of how wide it should be. From there use your chalk and ruler to draw the rest of the crossguard directly onto the blank. For a basic dagger an oval design is simplest.

  2. Fit the blank into the vice and use the plasma torch to cut out the basic shape of the crossguard. Also take the time to bore a hole through the very center of the crossguard through which the tang will pass.

  3. Use the granite wheel of the bench grinder to smooth out the crossguard and shape it in finer detail.

  4. Connect the copper abrasive brush wheel to the bench grinder and work every portion of the crossguard surface to remove the outer layer of uneven particulate that many blanks tend to have when you purchase them.

  5. Place the crossguard back into the vise and smooth the interior hole’s edges with the file so the tang of the blade won’t catch on it. From there you can either leave the steel blank dark and burnished looking or buff it to a reflective shine with the buffer attachment of the bench grinder.

Making The Dagger

  1. Take your piece of antler or bone which you intend to use as a handle. Wood can work as well but will require carpentry tools to be shaped, which will take a great deal of unnecessary effort for someone just starting making knives. Use the Chop Saw to cut it to the appropriate length. Make sure to brace the antler firmly when cutting and to go slowly so as not to overburden the saw.

  2. Place the antler in a vice and bore a hole slightly larger in diameter than the tang of your blade down the antler’s length. With the way you designed the dagger on cardboard you shouldn’t have any problems with the handle being too short or the tang being too long.

  3. Use the bench grinder’s buffer to clean up the antler and give it a good polish before assembly.

  4. Dip the whole length of the blade’s tang in smithing glue, then slot the crossguard and antler handle into place. Let the glue dry for a full 24 hours before using the dagger for anything.

Items you will need

  • Protective Gloves
  • Protective Goggles
  • Welding Mask
  • Plasma Torch
  • Cardboard
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Pen
  • Antler or Bone
  • Bench Grinder With Granite Wheel, Buffer Wheel, and Copper Abrasive Brush Wheel
  • Smithing Glue
  • Diamond Grain File
  • 440 Stainless Steel Blanks 1/16 inch thick
  • Chop Saw
  • Drill
  • Bench Vice
  • Chalk


  • Be careful when using the plasma torch, if it can cut cleanly through sheet metal it can cut through flesh and bone just as easily. Make sure to always use a welding mask when your torch is lit to avoid damaging your eyes. Use thick and well fitting gloves when working with the bench grinder to keep your fingers protected, loose gloves can get caught by the wheel and may rip of a finger. Also make sure to wear old and sturdy fully protective clothing because the bench grinder kicks up copious sparks which can burn you.

About the Author

John Albers has been a freelance writer since 2007. He's successfully published articles in the "American Psychological Association Journal" and online at Garden Guides, Title Goes Here, Mindflights Magazine and many others. He's currently expanding into creative writing and quickly gaining ground. John holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Central Florida in English literature and psychology.

Photo Credits

  • www.survivalist-knife-and-tool.com