Introduction: How to Make a Greek Kopis From Recycled Steel
The Greek Kopis was a large, one-handed weapon used by the Greeks as a tool for cutting meat, ritual slaughter, and performing animal sacrifices. I found out about this blade while watching season 6 episode 9 of forged in fire. When I saw this episode, I immediately thought it would be very fun to make. The one thing holding me back though was my lack of skill and knife-making knowledge. I decided to try it though because I figured I could always reuse the steel I to make another knife if it was too difficult.
If your lack of skill or knowledge is preventing you from trying a project, just try it. The worst-case scenario is you just have to reuse the material for another project. Also, if you haven't made any knives before, I do encourage you to try it because they are surprisingly fun and satisfying to make. (ALWAYS always use safety gear while using power tools. For example, use ear protection for loud tools like angle grinders and sanders, and use eye protection and dust masks while grinding and sanding metal and wood.)
I hope you enjoy this project!
High carbon steel (main blade)
Angle iron (guard)
Handle material (handle)
Ammo Can (Quench tank)
Canola or Corn oil (for quenching)
3/16 inch brass rod (handle)
5 minute epoxy
Handheld drill or drill press
3/16 inch drill bit
Cutting and Grinding Angle Grinder Disks
40-120 grit sanding belts
Charcoal or Propane Forge
Step 1: Finding Harden-able Steel
This is The most important Step of knife making. The reason it is so important is that there are a lot of different types of steels, some of which are better for knife making than others. The steel that is best for making strong, durable knives, is high carbon steel. Mild steel, on the other hand, is not as strong, but is cheaper than high carbon, and is less work to make a knife with because it doesn't need to be quenched (I will explain quenching on step 4).
The most common way to determine if a piece of steel is mild or high carbon is by using a method called spark testing. Spark testing is where you grind a piece of steel so it sends off sparks. Mild steel sparks are white, have small forks, and their length will vary more than that of high carbon steel. High carbon steel sparks have a bushy spark pattern (much forking) that starts at the grinding wheel.
Step 2: Drawing Out the General Shape
After you have chosen the steel that you want to use for your knife, I recommend drawing out the shape of the knife on a piece of paper or on the steel itself (Which I did in the picture above). The length of your Greek Kopis can range from 48 cm to 65 cm, although you should keep in mind that the longer your blade is, the heavier it will be. Also, the handle is something that I would always make too small when I first was starting to make knives. I usually make my knife handles 4-5 inches long. (You can use the cover photo as a guideline for the shape if you want, or you could just look up what a greek kopis looks like)
Step 3: Grinding Out the Shape
Remember to always use ear protection, eye protection, and a dust mask while working with metal.
To grind out the shape of the knife, I used an angle grinder with a cutting disk to follow the lines I had drawn on the steel during step 2. Remember to leave a small bit of extra material so you can smooth out any rough edges on the sander. Another reason to leave a small bit of extra material is in case you cut too far into the piece of steel on the angle grinder. If you don't have a belt sander, you can also use a grinding disk on the angle grinder to do the same thing as the belt sander.
Step 4: Quenching
(You can skip this step if you don't have access to a forge)
This is one of the most important parts of the knife making process. This step is important because it is where you put the strength into your blade. The way you quench is by heating the blade, then putting in in oil to cool it down quickly, hardening it. The Heat of the blade before your quench should be between 1050 and 1090 degrees Celsius, (1922 and 1994 degrees Fahrenheit)but if you can't measure the temperature, just heat it until it is a red to orange color. You can heat it using a propane or charcoal forge, or you could use an oxyacetylene or propane torch for an edge quench (Advantages of an edge quench over a full-blade quench include making the blade less brittle, as well as the blade having a reduced risk of bending or cracking, but edge quenches are much more of a hassle and are harder to get right.)
The material of your quench tank is also something you should consider. Do not make your quench tank out of anything flammable like wood, as well as anything that could give off toxic fumes if exposed to heat, like PVC. The ideal kind of quench tank would be an ammo can, because it has a lid that can be closed if the oil catches fire, and it won't burn or give off toxic or harmful fumes if exposed to heat. If you choose not to have an ammo can be your quench tank, just have something you can put a lid on to make the fire burn itself out. (I recommend using corn oil to quench because it smells better than other oils and is not toxic)
Step 5: Sharpening
Sharpening a knife can be very tricky to get right, but is also a very important step in the knife making process. I usually use a belt sander to taper the edge down until the edge is sharp enough to cut through paper. Although this is the easier way to do it in my opinion, you can also use a tool called a sharpening stone. A sharpening stone is harder to use than a belt sander, but produces a sharper edge. I don't know much more about sharpening stones, so I recommend looking up how to use one online if you are interested in using one.
Step 6: Adding the Handle and Guard
Picking a Handle Material
Picking the right handle material while making a knife handle is very important. There are a lot of different types of handle materials to choose from. I usually use walnut because I think it looks good when you finish it, and it is also pretty strong. One of the best materials you can use though is micarta because it is very strong and looks nice. A downside of micarta is the fact that it is expensive.
Assembling the Handle
To assemble the handle you will need your handle material, 3/16 inch brass rod, and 5-minute epoxy. First, you mark out the shape of the tang on you handle material, and mark the holes on the tang. after cutting the handle scales out, drill holes out on the markings that match the holes on the tang. (Make sure to use a 3/16 inch drill bit) Then, cut two pieces of brass rod to about 25 mm each. After that, put the two pieces of the brass rod through the handle scales and tang, and glue it together with 5-minute epoxy. (If you clamp it while the epoxy is drying, it will hold together much better.) After the epoxy hardens, use use a belt sander or an orbital sander to round off all of the uncomfortable edges until it feels good to hold.
Adding the Guard
To be historically accurate, I still needed to add a guard. The material I decided to use for the guard was angle iron because I figured I could just partly flatten it out to be the right size. After I had cut out the guard to the size I needed, I used an angle grinder with a cutting disk to slowly remove material until the cut in the guard matches that of the blades thickness. (10th picture) Then I glued the guard in place using 5 minute epoxy, and sanded the metal down so the edges were rounded off and the edges if the guard were flush with the handle.
Step 7: Finish Work
Finishing your knife is not a required step, but it will make your knife look nicer, and you will be more satisfied with the final product if you finish it.
One way to finish your knife is by polishing it. The way I polish my knives is by starting with about a 120 grit sanding belt, and slowly working my way up until I reach 600 to 1000 grit, which normally achieves a polish that I am happy with. If you do this and are still not happy with the polish, you can hand sand with even higher grit sandpaper. ( If you don't polish your blade, it will also rust easily)
The handle on your knife is another thing that will need finishing. I usually hand sand with high grit sandpaper (120-220 Grit) until it is smooth and there are no spots that are uncomfortable in my hand. I also used olive oil to darken the handle and make it look nicer. Another way you can darken it is by charring, which is essentially where you burn the handle to darken it. (This method can damage the handle if you aren't good at it though, so be careful)
After you finish this step, you are done!
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy this project!
Participated in the
Recycled Speed Challenge