Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose recently had 13 custom knives created by knife maker Rod Watts. Zac Brown has also purchased a custom knife from Watts.
Watts’ knives range from $450 to $1,000 in costs. Here are the steps taken in creating the custom knives like Rose’s, from Rapid City Journal.
Using 6-foot long bars of stainless steel CPM 154 stock, Watts cuts this knife stock to the appropriate length, and scribes the blade design on to the metal stock. The blade designs are all Watts’s own creations, and they include shapes for fighting, spear points, daggers. Currently, he only makes fixed blade knives because folders, slip-joints are more limited in knife shape, because this blade must fit into the handle.
Watts then grinds the knife’s shape out of the metal stock using a variety of grinders: Most are belt-run disk grinders, some horizontal, some vertical; others are other types of grinders. The belts used are everything from 50 grits – this is used to literally cut the basic shape of a knife from the bar stock, and it tears through metal very quickly — down to micron grits, essentially high degree polishers. Watts also does filing work, to create intricate designs on the knife’s handle during this step.
When the knife is shaped to its almost finished form Watts heat-treats the metal in a 1900 degree kiln to create a Rockwell 60-61 hardness metal blade. This level of hardness is chosen as a balance point between being so hard it becomes brittle and so soft it doesn’t hold the edge.