The northern Nomad's woodworking tool. All the northern tribes in North America and Asia have their own version of it. My farm relatives use them to trim their horse's hooves. Whatever wave of invaders brought horse culture to Europe must have brought this style of knife with them.

I made this particular knife years ago from plans in the book "Wildwood Wisdom" by Ellsworth Jaeger, C.1945
Continue on to see those plans...

Step 1: Ellsworth's Plans

His drawings are a bit vague about blade shape. When held as seen in the previous photo, the side of the tip is bent toward you. The side of the blade facing away from you is left flat. Don't grind on that side at all. All the grinding is done on the side of the blade toward you.

He says "He then tempers the blade, hard at first, and draws the temper by heating to a yellow color."
By "yellow color" he means a yellow oxide layer, not a yellow heat glow.
In 1945 everyone would have known exactly what he meant from watching blacksmiths at work. Today these words need further explanation. For more details read "The Making of Tools" or any other blacksmithing book from your local library.

Here's the full text of Ellsworth's book, starting on p. 168:
"Crooked Knife: A common wilderness knife found among the northern Indians and Eskimos is their famous "crooked knife", so called because of its shape. With this knnife the Woods Indian can make many things he needs, from noggins and ax handles to canoes and canoe paddles. It is really an aboriginal draw knife, for in using it, the indian draws it doward him.
The Indians trade for files at the Hudson's Bay posts and make these into knives (Plate 88). A flat file is used, cut down to 4 or 5 inches (A). The small end of the file, or "tang", is left on; for this fits into the wooden handle. The file itself is then ground down to a cutting edge (B). The Indian then heats it to a cherry red and bends the front of the blade as (C) shows. The tang is bent in the opposite direction (D).
He then tempers the blade, hard at first, and draws the temper by heating to a yellow color. The handle is made from a bent root or branch. The tang of the file is placed against the handle and its outline traced upon it. This part is cut out deeply (E) so that the file and a wooden plug (F) will rest flush with the handle. When the wooden handle has been smoothed and shaped to the Indian's satisfaction, he places the file in its notch (G), and the plug is hammered home. The handle is then bound with sinew which shrinks as it dries and binds the blade as with an iron band (H).
Eskimo Knives: The Eskimos make a knife of bone or ivory that roughly resembles a cutlass. This is used to cut the snow blocks in fashioning their snow houses or igloos. Plate 99 (bottom) shows its shape. Another knife used by the Eskimos is the strange crescent-shaped knife called the ullo. This is of steel and is used in numerous ways including the scraping of skins."
<p>Very good Work ..</p>
<p>That Crooked Knife = Awesome &lt;3</p>
it looks like an old fashion gutting knife <br>
The Inuits does not like to be called eskimoes! It means: those who eat meat
Actually directly translated, it means &quot;eaters of raw meat&quot;, but, still offensive none the less
Dude that is an awesome knife! Althou it kinda look's Ghetto.
lol capitalize &quot;ghetto&quot;<br>i like it, it implies a pause
lol it looks like he wraped bacon around it. but still its a very cool lookn knife good job on the instructable.
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Fancy I bump into this my dad is into making knifes and he said he might<br /> get working on a crook knife good instructable!
Very nice work ,I bought one of these for a spoon I was making years ago and the cost was very steep for something I used once .........Harder then a gouge to use but it did the job better then a dremel or gouge ........
What is in the background for your photos? It looks very professional.
Thanks! It's a big sheet of white paper. I shot the pictures on an overcast day.
sorry in advance for my naiveity, but how exactly do you get the file from being ridged to smooth so I can sharpen it? is there some sort of tool I need? This summer I am supposed to work on a homestead camp a a blacksmith, but im trying to get a little more experience than I already have (mainly j hooks,and campfire sets) do you know of any thing I could do to help with this?
Toss it in a camp fire and let her get good and hot and let nature take it's course. When you retrieve it form the ashes, it should be hot enough to work with. But then you have to re-temper it again.
They used to heat the files up to bright cherry red and let them cool slowly. That gave them a soft file that could be filed with a good file. Files are not usually good for hot forging with a hammer though. The file manufacturers add a a bit of sulfur to their steel to let it machine easier when cutting the teeth, but the sulfur makes steel crack if you hammer it when it is red hot.
Making a knife involves several steps and certain tools are required. You would need a grinder (bench mounted is best for stability) to grind the rough shape and edge. As a period-accurate blacksmith I don't know what tools you would have access to to remove material. But that's the idea, remove some material. And it is not necessary to remove all the file "ridges" in order to make a good knife. Just remove the file's ridges near the cutting edge using a grinder or sandpaper or dremel perhaps.
Back in the 1970s the Hudson's Bay store in Fort McMurray (northern Alberta)still sold the blades for them. You could buy right or left hand blades. The blade had all of the bevel on the top side of the edge and you only sharpened it from the bevel side, kind of like a chisel that way. They were meant to be used with the tip pointing up and pulled toward you like a draw knife. I never did like the idea of cutting toward myself. It seems like a dangerous move, but they limited the pull by keeping their elbows in front of their body as they pulled. That way if the blade slipped you just hit yourself in the belly (or thigh)with your elbow instead of slashing yourself open like a gutted fish. That was only for the cuts that had to be straight towards you. I found a lot of the cutting could be at right angles in front off you, with the knife held what most people would thik of as upside down. This means the tip pointing down, working on the underside of the piece and with the blade pointed out and your thumb pointing at your chest, working sideways away from you instead of pulling towards yourself. They were meant to take thin shavings off the work piece on each pass, like a plane does. They were also a much more flexible and springy knife than the hoof knives and were not designed to take as heavy of a cut.
You are correct. But beginners, especially, should never draw a knife towards themselves. Even experienced wood carvers who use knives on smaller pieces, always wear leather gloves on both hands.
This project was mentioned in Popular Mechanics's <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/community/10_DIY_Gifts_for_Friends_and_Family/">10 DIY Gifts for Friends and Family</a>.<br/>
THANK YOU! I love these knifes and have been wondering how to make one for quite some time now. Merci!
Pretty sweet!!
Nice crook knives. I found that small "Knife" files were the easiest to work with when making your own. "Warren Tool" has nice high carbon steel crook knives, they call them "Bent knives" as they already had a "crook knife" I guess. It's nice to have both right and left bent blades when carving as they both attack the grain of the wood differently. I found that a longer 12 to 14" handle worked well affording some leverage when using it as a gouge, which is where these knives really come in handy. Warren tool also carries the "Tormek" sharpening machines, considered to be the best by many carvers, " A dull tool is the wrong tool" as well as lots of other great carving tools.
Cool! I've been wanting one of these for quite some time. The ones I've made haven't been all that great.

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Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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