How To Forge Your Own Traditional Sailor’s Knife

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Custom Sailors Rigging Knife. Handcrafted by Walter Sorrells. Photo by Walter Sorrells

An alarming number of shipping companies today are banning knives and even many of the ones who still permit them only allow sailors to carry folding knives. This is a shame because fixed blade knives are stronger, safer (if you know how to use them) and – securely fastened to your belt – are quicker to draw in an emergency at sea. 

A few knife companies make excellent fixed blade knives for sailors including the sharp Spyderco Aqua Salt and the durable Myerchin Fixed but none of them have the classic, time-proven, features of a traditional rigging knife. None are as durable, hairsplittingly sharp, drop dead gorgeous as a custom rigging knife. And none handle modern line (e.g. dyneema and kevlar) as well as steel purpose chosen for the task by a custom knifesmith. 

What makes the traditional rigging knife design perfect for use at sea? First the traditional design has a sheepsfoot blade that gently curves down from the spine to the edge. This curve prevents you from accidentally stabbing yourself on a rolling deck. Second, the blade is flat and set below the handle allowing you to cut line resting flat on deck. Finally a good sailors knife is thick allowing you to hammer through a hawser with the help of a big wood fid. 

Convinced that this is the perfect knife for you? So am I  but only a handful of small shops, like Foremast Jack, sell them! That said, you can do what most sailors of the past did to solve the problem…. you can forge your own!

Walter Sorrells has been making knives and swords for well over a decade and his YouTube channel, which is chock full of instructional videos and advice, has over 300,000 subscribers. Walter’s latest project is a traditional Sailors Knife and he takes you step-by-step through the process of forging your own by hand.

If that’s too much work for you then you can commission Walter to make the blade to fit your hand like a glove…. or…. if you donate any amount of cash to his Patreon page, you can download the AutoCad drawings and have an engineer make one in your ship’s machine shop!

P.S. Walter, if you’re listening, how do we make a Marlinespike and leather sheath for this beautiful knife?

HOW TO MAKE A SAILORS RIGGING KNIFE VIDEO