Thursday, November 25, 2010

The birth of an old classic (knife making project)

Well its not actually an old classic but my goal was to make a useable bushcrafter that resembled something that you might see in an old western movie.  I have an afinity for antiquities especially of the sharp bladed variety.  So this Thanksgiving project I set out to make my very first knife from scratch.  The only thing that I had for usable stock was a piece of S30v carbon steel, or more accuratly a broken cold steel kukri blade.  I sketched out the basic design and cut it out with a three inch angle grinder.  Then I cleaned up the basic shape on the belt sander and bench grinder.  My plan was to stay out of the kitchen so my wife could cook and complete this project in one day.  Keep in mind that this is the first knife that I have made from start to finish, although I have completed most of the steps on other projects. 

The first thing that had to be done was to anneal the metal so that I could drill the holes for the pins and work the metal a little easier.  I dont have the proper equipment so I just tossed it into the wood stove and got a cup of coffee. 

When I was pretty sure that it had been heated enough I removed the stock from the stove and set it on top of the stove to cool slowly.  When it reached the temp of the stove I removed it and put it in the vice to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled I tested it with a scribe to ensure that the metal had been softened.  It worked well and was remakable how different the hardness actually was when annealed.

I carefuly layed out the marks for the holes and viced the stock on my Smithy.  Using the drill press I first made a starter hole with a center drill then drilled it to the final size .25 inch. to match the brass rods that I intend to use as handle pins.

All drilled with the pins in place to check their size and alignment.

I used a transfer punch to transfer the exact holes to the handle scales then carefully drilled the scales and pinned them in place to do some finer work on the handle scales and shaping.  The wood that I used for the scales was a piece of scrap African Zebra Wood that I had lying around. 

After the basic shape was completed I disasembled the knife and did some fine sanding on the scales.

With everything rolling along at a good pace I started the hardenenig process for the blank.  Before hardening I ground the single bevel scandi grind into the stock.  I did not sharpen it I just got the grind close to what I wanted.

I heated the metal to critical temperature (non magnetic) three times placing it back into the wood stove each time it regained its magnetic properties.  The third time that it reached critical temp I quenched it into a bath of warm water that had been sitting on the stove.  I dunked it in with the tip and cutting edge first then slowly submerging the rest of the blade.

I tested the hardness by trying to cut the edge with a file, the file would not cut.  All hardned and ready for tempering.  I simply placed the bade into my large shop vice clamping the actual cutting edge all the way through the tip.  I did this so that the vice would absorb any heat before it could be transfered to the hardned edge.  I used a small propane torch to apply controlled heat to the spine of the blade until I could see the slight straw color moving through the steel.  Then I let the blank cool naturally to room temperature.  When it was cool I cleaned it up with sand paper down to a 600 grit polish.  Then I put the stock in the kitchen sink and degreased it with dishsoap and warm water.  The next step is to apply a petina and basically force it to rust.  I used a solution of Hydrogen peroxide and salt. 

With the two large bottles of peroxide and a container of table salt.  I poured all the peroxide into a stainless steel pot and brought them to a boil.  Once boiling I added about 3/4 the container of salt to the mix and tossed in the clean and grease free metal.  (use tongs)

It started to oxadize immediatly and began to turn the solution a rusty brown color.  It is actually an amazing process to watch.

After a couple of minutes I removed the stock and cleaned it in the sink with warm water and a tooth bush.  after this I put it back into the pot and repeated the above step multiple times until the stock recieved the desired ammount of rust.

Next I cleaned the piece throughly and sanded the tang lightly to remove enough scale to allow the epoxy to form a good bond.  Then I mixed up the epoxy and applied a smooth even coat to both handle scales and the tang of the knife and re-assembled the project. 

I clamped the work with a pair of vice grip clamps and gave the 5min epoxy about an hour to cure (that was one long hour to wait.)

After about an hour I cleaned it up sharpened it on my wetstone grinder, stroped it to a razor finish and cleaned up the excess epoxy on the handle and the tang.  I dug up an old sheath that I had wet formed for another knife but it never fit quite right so it fell out of use.  It fits this new knife like a condom. 

So there you have it all oiled up, a brand new classic trappers blade, perfectly suited for bushcraft about 3/16 thick S30v rusted to perfection and weighing in at exactly 6 oz.  The entire project was completed in about a 12 hour Thanksgiving day.   Want to know what I am thankful for? TIME, TOOLS, TALENT, and INSPIRATION. 




  1. Damn brother.... that was pretty freakin' impressive! You are just so talented, it amazes me.

  2. That is sweet Norseman really sweet...shows what you can do if you have the will and the know how.

  3. Very nice work. You inspire us all with yet another talent. That knife would be a treasure to any woodsman.

  4. Damn brother....
    I just say it in swedish: JÃĪkligt snyggt jobbat(Very nice work)
    North part of Sweden