Friday, June 17, 2016

My 4 meters squared workshop

Just to give you an idea where all these articles started and why there are always cardboard boxes in the background.

Since we live in an apartment the only viable place for a workshop was on of our basement rooms (yep, we have 2 :) ) each of which is about 2x4 m large. Since we collected quite a collection of cardboard boxes that while taking a lot of space proved very helpful when moving from place to place (something we did several times in past 10 years) , so we decided to keep them. That also means that the space I was able to claim is only about 2x2 m for the knifemaking activities.

Here is a short video just to give you an idea how small a 4 m2 workshop is.

When I decided to start making knives I only had a small box of common tools (hammer, a few low quality files, set of screwdrivers, some allen keys, etc.), Lio-ion powered Metabo hand drill (which is surprisingly powerful) and a smaller (100mm jaws) vise which I originally bought for some smaller/lighter woodworking (activity that did not quite take off) and had it mounted on a piece of wooden board so that I could attach it to a counter in our kitchen (yes, my wife did allow me to do that with some smaller reservations). That basically meant that I had to buy all tools I was going to need for the knifemaking. This proved a little more expensive than I though it will, but hey, that is the case with every hobby :)

This is where it all happens.

The workshop is located inside out basement among with all others.
Obviously the very first thing I needed was a workbench. I got one 92cm tall, 60cm wide and 150cm long (the longest I could fit inside the cellar). It turned out it was not stable enough (for 200€ !?) and had to do some DIY stabilisation on sides. Once attached the workbench became rock solid. Powertools - take it as something to improve.

Lot's of stuff, but you can see the crossed stabilisation bars on the far side of the workbench.

I have then got all the parts for the bevel grinding jig (see my article on that topic for more details), a hack saw, some more files and needle files, safety equipment (3M half mask, gloves, googles).

I soon realised that while not a complete must, a drill press is going to be VERY helpful - what proved to be 100% true. After long consideration I took the plunge for Bosch PBD 40 which turned out to be a great machine for this purpose. It is stable enough to stand without moving around, but still lightweight  enough to move aside if necessary.

The most essential power tool in a knifemaking workshop - the drill press.

What followed was a cutting pad, French curves, small wise for the drill press, rotating base for the bench vise, workshop scissors (robust), drill bits, a log book (a VERY important tool - I find that keeping notes is essential to the process of learning), aluminium jaws (inlays) for the vise so that I do not scratch or damage some materials I will be working on.

Bevel grinding jig made according to the design by Aaron Gough.

The amount of larger and smaller tools kept growing (and I did not even mention materials yet) my workbench was covered with stuff and the amount of cardboard boxes used for storage was growing and I was never able to find what I was looking for.

To at least partially solve this situation I got some small perforated wall whith attachable hooks and holders for some of the tools (files, saws, hammer, grinding belts, etc) and a set of small 'drawers' attached to a wall to keep the smaller items sorted and findable.

The tool wall - facing the workbench.

I also got a metal multi-case (that is mostly used for tools) where I keep my stock of wood for handles, smaller blades and smaller pieces of steel, together with leather working tools. (which are still waiting to be used)

Large metal toolbox that I mostly use to keep handle material, steel and ready-made blades.

Still - large tools and cases are stored under the bench - together with that large vacuum cleaner that helps a LOT to keep the dust from sanding (in particular from wood) to spread across the whole workshop.

Part of the boxes are kept on a small 4 wheel cart which stands outside the cellar when I am working (I store there also all my stuff for my darkroom activities as my other hobby is analogue photograpy). That 3 gren flat plastic cases are used to store metal material for pins and bolsters, fibre mats and leader for sheaths and finally, the sanding paper.

The cart occupies the only free space in the workshop and thus must be removed if one wants to enter :)


As a proper beginner I have quickly collected a lot more material that I can use in a year. Without the intention to become a steel junkie I have some O1, D2, A2, 80CrV2, 52100, 1.2519, 1.2442 and SC125.  But I just want to play and test. For the future I will probably settle on 2-4 different steels for different purposes.

My 1.2442 steel stock in 3.3 x 60 x 660 mm. I keep it for when I get better in grinding.
It would be a waste to start to use it now.
And the situation is not much better when it comes to handle material. I got about 15 blocks of all possible kind of woods, some scales in wood, micarta and G10 and few more are on the way.

Just a part of my handle material collection.

And of course than there are fibre spacer sheets in different colors, brass and nickel silver for bolsters and pins, leather for sheaths, etc.

The future

I hope to manage to claim the whole room of 8m2 and get more workbench and storage space, so that basic tools have their fixed position and are ready to use. I would also like to get some more tools - in particular a full size belt grinder and full size disc grinder and maybe a buffer - and as of now I have no place for them.

Ideally - a workshop with size of some 20+ m2 would be ideal, but it is not a must.

The king of the workshop :)

Questions ? :)


  1. Wow, that's a small space, you must spend a significant amount of time just setting up and breaking down. Looks wonderfully organized and clean. I love a clean workspace. Time to recycle some cardboard and claim some more workbench area!

    1. Yes, keeping the place organised does take some time. I am trying to tidy up after every session. For the video I took some extra effort. I do hope to expand a little in the future - up to whooping 8 m2 :)