How to Carve a Scottish Dirk Handle


Traditionally made from such natural materials as wood, bone and antler, hand-carved Scottish dirk handles date back to the oldest incarnation of the weapon. Though most dirks on the market arrive made from mass-produced steel, plastic or machine-carved wood handles, a traditional dirk handle made from scratch can be a key component for the Celtic reenactor.

Step 1

Decide on the length and width of your desired handle. On a traditional Scottish dirk the handle is typically half the size of the total blade length. Place your blade on a sheet of paper and draw outlines of potential handle sizes to visualize your desired handle length.

Step 2

Measure the length out on the center of your wood block, being sure to leave an extra half-inch on either side for spare, and mark the two points with a pencil and ruler. Use a mitre-box saw to cut the block at these two points.

Step 3

Hold the block in your hand as if it were the handle of a dagger. Decide on how slim or thick you want your handle to be. Traditional dirk handle widths come in 1¼" grips with a thickness of ¾"-1". Decide on your desired handle thickness and add ¼" for whittling space to both measurements and mark them on your block of wood with pencil and ruler. Use a mitre-box saw to make these cuts as well.

Step 4

Round off the corners of your block with a dremel tool. Measure a half-inch in at each end of the wood long-ways. Using your dremel tool, cut a groove at these points of the handle to fulfill the traditional Celtic hilt pattern.

Step 5

Pencil in your desired design on the wood between the grooves, the most traditional being a Celtic knot work of interlacing strands. Draw with you pencil the spaces around and in between your desired knot work, choosing as complicated or simple a design as you prefer, and ensuring symmetry in the design. For skilled craftsman, a carved face or set of antlers in the center can provide an additional decoration element.

Step 6

Dremel your penciled grooves along the hilt, making stark or rounded indentions as per your preference. Take your time and avoid the urge to rush through the job: if you grow tired, put the task down for a period of time. It is always better to do the job well in many sessions rather than rush through it.

Step 7

Carve a slit at the pommel-end of your handle where the blade tang should be inserted. Make your cut just wide enough to accommodate the metal, but not too wide for the blade to move freely in.

Tips and Warnings

  • Always use safety goggles when working with wood: especially when a dremel tool or saw is involved.

Things You'll Need

  • High-grade whittling knife
  • 6"x2"x2" block of desired wood
  • Mitre-box saw
  • Dremel tool with carbide burr
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Safety goggles


  • Wooden-Handled Dirk (design sample)

Who Can Help

  • "The Scottish Dirk"
Keywords: knife handle, scottish dirk, carve, wood handle

About this Author

Based in the Appalachian Mountains, Brian Connolly is a certified nutritionist and has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a licensed yoga and martial arts instructor whose work regularly appears in “Metabolism,” “Verve” and publications throughout the East Coast. Connolly holds a Master of Arts in liberal arts from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

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