Making NW Carving Knives
with Steve Brown

NW Coast Arts Series Level: Level I


Tool making is an art that goes hand in hand with creating things in wood. The many diverse carving and sculpture traditions of the world are reflected in the kinds of tools that are used to produce them.

NW Coast-style carving tools are adapted to the kinds of sculptural shapes that are characteristic of the woodwork from this area. Many objects are composed of rounded hollows and graceful curves, both convex and concave. The tools employed to create these forms, adzes and curved knives, need to be shaped so that they work with these sculptural forms, not against them.

We offer this as  a beginner's class. It is an easy way to acquire the carving tools you'll need to explore traditional NW style caving. Experienced carvers can take this course to learn more about the history of their tools and how to make and maintain their tools.

Class Description

In this class we will use the techniques of the blacksmith: Forging, grinding, bending, hardening, tempering, etc., to create comfortable hand tools that can be used to carve and detail the large variety of sculptural forms that are typical of Northwest Coast woodwork, or others that range from free-form sculpture to boatbuilding. These tools are widely adaptable,  their ease of handling and effective cutting power can be applied to many different kinds of woodwork.

Carving adzes are the foundation of the NW style of carving doing the heavy work of hogging out the waste and doing the initial shaping. You can make adzes in our Making NW Style Adzes course.

In this class you'll class will be making and sharpening straight and curved (crooked) carving knife blades, using material from commercial mill-type bandsaw blades. The blades will be ground, then heated and bent to shape. Finally you'll  harden and temper to give them a hard cutting edge that is not too difficult to sharpen.

These blades will be mounted in any variety of harder wood for a handle, including some of the more highly figured or beautifully colored species.

You will make up to three bent knives and one classic straight knife. The bent knives will have different lengths, radius and edge orientation for hollowing, creating detail and planing.

At the end of the class Steve will give you a brief introduction to the correct use of these tools.

Tools / What to bring:

  • Personal protection.
    Ear and eye protection. Shop apron/overalls. Heavy shoes or boots, not sneakers.  Plus work gloves if desired. 
  • Knife Handle blank material (Optional): 
    Basic handle blanks will be provided. Bring your own material for this if you have some appropriate pieces on hand! [Handle blanks should be about 1” x 1 ½” x 8” (or more) in length.]
  • Bring your favorite small block plane for shaping and smoothing the handles.

More about this class


Note: You do not need prior metalworking experience to take this course.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $300
Materials Charge: $40

2013 Classes:

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.

May 11-12, 2013 Making NW Carving Knives Register

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Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades Copyright © 2007-2014. All rights reserved.

200 Battery Way | Fort Worden | Port Townsend, WA 98368 | (360) 344-4455 | email

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. Any donations made to the School are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.