Knife Handle Replacement | How to Replace a Knife Handle

Kitchen KnifeKnife Handle Replacement

Perhaps you have an older knife that you are fond of, but the handle is cracked or damaged in some way and you would like to replace it. In this article we explain knife handle replacement so you can do the job yourself.

For our method of replacing knife handles, you will need these tools: an ice pick, a fine-toothed wood saw, a hacksaw, a file, a drill, a C-clamp, wire cutters, nails, epoxy glue, and a piece of wood for the handle. The rivets in our new handle will be fashioned from nails.

Knife Handle Replacement – Types

First, we need some basics about knife handles. There are only two main types: full-tang, which extends completely through the knife handle; and half-tang, which extends partially through the handle. The tang is the part of the steel that protrudes into the handle.

Knife Handle Replacement – Full-Tang
Since full-tang knives are perhaps the easiest ones to put handles on, we will explain this method first. You will need two slabs of wood. A piece of hardwood would be nice, but if you cannot obtain any, you can cut the slabs from a piece of 1/4 inch plywood. Before you start, you should wrap the blade of the knife with thick tape to completely cover the cutting edge for safety. Then you can remove the old handles by clamping the knife to a solid object and using a hacksaw to cut into the old handle at an angle near each rivet. Cut so that the rivets are completely sliced loose.

Knife Handle Replacement – Remove Rust & Dirt
After removing the handles, you will probably see rust or dirt or other accumulation on the tang of the blade. You will need to scrape, wash, or sand away this material. After cleaning, place the knife tang on the plywood and trace out two slabs to be cut. Then clamp the plywood to a table or solid object and saw out the slabs being careful to saw outside of the pencil lines. Next, lay the knife tang on each of the slabs and mark where the rivet holes should go with a pencil. Then start a hole in the center of each mark with your ice pick.

If you are using a drill press, you should have no trouble keeping the bit perpendicular to the slabs. But if you are using a hand-held drill this can be a problem. For this reason, you will use rivets made from nails that are a little smaller in diameter than the holes in the knife tang to allow for any misalignment that occurs during drilling. We will make the rivets from nails, so try to select a drill bit of the same diameter (if the bit is slightly larger or smaller it will still work).

After drilling the holes, place the slabs on the tang and the nails through the holes. You may have to enlarge some of the holes by reaming them out with your ice pick. Then cut the nails to proper lengths with wire cutters and file the ends down smooth.

Then set your new rivets aside and remove the slabs. Bevel down the edges by rubbing them with course sandpaper. Use both medium and fine sandpaper to smooth the bevel at the blade end of the slabs since you will not be able to smooth it after the slabs have been attached.

Knife Handle Replacement – Clean the Tang

Make sure the tang is free from any dirt, grease, or rust and that it has been roughened up with sandpaper.

Next, mix the epoxy and apply it to the tang. Dip the rivets in epoxy and insert them. Lightly clamp the slabs with the C-clamp using cardboard pads to prevent the slabs from being dented. After allowing the epoxy to dry thoroughly, smooth the bevels and finish by rubbing the handle with mineral oil.

Knife Handle Replacement – Half-Tang
To replace the handle on a half-tang knife, first we will fashion the new handle from a block of wood about 3/4 inch thick. Think of a handle shape you would like and draw it on the side of the block of wood. Or you may just want to outline your old handle. If so, draw it a little larger to allow for the sanding. (Remember to wrap the knife blade with tape first for safety.) Then draw a line in the middle of the block at the end where the tang will be inserted. Continue to line up each side of the block to the depth that the tang will be inserted. Now place the block in a vise, or clamp it to something solid
and saw carefully down the line.

Take the knife with the handle you want to replace and saw through the rivets with the hacksaw. Remove the handle, then clean and sand the tang as you did with the full-tang knife.

Knife Handle Replacement – Enlarging the Slot

You will probably need to enlarge the slot you have sawn before the tang can be inserted. Simply insert sandpaper into the slot and sand back and forth, stopping periodically to check the tang for proper fit. Work the sandpaper on both sides of the slot to keep it centered in the block. When the tang can fit into the slot snugly, then saw, whittle, and sand the block to the handle shape you want. Sight down the slot as you work to keep everything properly centered.

Remember to smooth the bevel at the blade end of the handle with fine sandpaper before installing the tang, since you will not be able to smooth it afterward.

Knife Handle Replacement – Alignment
Lay the handle on a table and place the tang on top of it, aligning it with the depth of the slot and sides of the handle. Mark the holes for the rivets, then start a hole in the center of each mark with the ice pick, and proceed as you did with the full-tang knife.

Remember to clean all dirt, grease and rust from the tang and roughen it up with sand paper before applying the epoxy.
Knife Handle Replacement

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