Introduction: How I Made My First Knife, Bushcraft Style.
This is all new for me, a few times over. This will be my first Instructable and the first knife I've made. Hope all turns out well. ;-)
First of all, I have read many things on the internet, in books, and seen many more videos on the subject of knife making. I doubt I will do any justice to naming all of the sources of my inspiration for this knife but I will try to name a few. GreenPete on YouTube, Purgatoryironworks on YouTube, The Backyard Bushman (Makes beautiful knives), and the books "Wayne Goddard's $50 knife shop" (This is a great book to start with.) and the "Step-by-Step Knifemaking You Can Do It!" by David Boye.
I decided that the first couple of knives I make will be made from some old files, that I bought at the pawn shop for a buck each, and some wood I found at work from a pallet (Oak I think)
I plan to make some more knives soon but I will be using O-1 tool steel for those. Ha ha, O-1 is a bit more expensive than old files so maybe just a few more practice runs before that.
Step 1: Annealing the Files.
The first thing I started with is a couple of old files bought from the pawn shop in town.
You have to make the files softer to be able to shape them as you wish. I learned how to do this by watching some videos posted on YouTube by GreenPete.co.uk. While Pete made a fire in the woods to anneal his file, I needed to cook some hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner....so use what you've got. ;-)
I started the coals, raked them around, added the files on top of the coals, and then added a few more new coals on top of the files. After grilling some great burgers and dogs we ate dinner....but that's another story. I pulled the files out of the coal ash the next morning. It's important to let the steel cool slowly, after getting it red hot, for it to soften nicely.
Test your file to see if you can cut and grind it easily. To do this: try cutting it with a hack saw, another file (A normal one, not annealed), or your grinder. Using your normal file, you should be able to shave off the edge grooves of your annealed file fairly easy.
A good vice is very helpful also. You can use some standard C-clamps to hold your work if that's all you have.
Step 2: Shaping the Blade.
The first thing I did was get a rough idea of the knife I wanted to make. I used grid type paper, a pencil, and most of an eraser to plan a blade shape I liked. Guess what, it was wider than the file I was going to use. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
I did all of my cutting and rough shaping with a standard grinding wheel in my angle grinder. Go slow, use a can of water to cool the steel often. It's easier to grind more off later then to add more steel to the file if you cut it to deep.
I then used my new file to smooth the spine of the blade and to cut the notch at the beginning of the blade edge. The notch is important to keep you from chipping the edges of your sharpening stones later.
Step 3: Starting the Edge.
First, I used my carbide tipped scribe to scratch a center line on the edge of my blade. The scribe I have, if laid flat on the table, has a tip that is 1/8" high. As that is the thickness of my steel I needed to shim my blade hight up a 1/16" to get a center line. I used the metal ruler of my combination square to do this. Flip the blade over, after scratching the center line, and try it again. This will make sure you have the center of the thickness of the blade. You only need to do this where the cutting edge will be.
At this point, I used my grinder to take some more metal off the edge and drilled a few holes for pins (3/16"). You'll notice later that I didn't like the original hole placement so I added two more. It's OK to drill a few holes through your handle area, this will help the epoxy hold the handle material together better and lose some of the weight also (As to balance the knife a bit).
I made two clamps. One with a long handle to hold a file and the other with a short handle to hold the knife blade in the vice. Using a protractor I set the angle of the knife blade to about 20 deg. The file is held level with the block of wood.
The edge I used on this blade is called a single bevel edge, a flat grind edge, or a scandi edge (For the Finnish blades known for their beauty and usefulness) and it is common on Bushcraft style knives.
You will need to flip the blade over a few times to make sure the angle is equal on both sides. Cut lightly at first, with the file, to make sure you have the angle correct each time you flip the blade over.
Step 4: Sharpening and Heat Treating.
The next step is to heat treat the blade so you can make it hard again. To do this I used a mini forge I made. I got the idea for this forge by watching a video by purgatoryironworks on YouTube.
I made mine a little bit different. For one thing I bolted my flange on in the inside of the drum. Three bolts with large washers work well. I made a screen out of a flat piece of sheet steel, I cut slots through it with a cutting torch. The legs are angle iron. I might weld a piece of steel around the top to give it more of a table surface.
Once I got the coals lit and going.....I added my blade, some more coals, and then turned on the makeshift blower to get it going even hotter. I don't have any standard coal to use for this right now so I used the briquettes I had. They worked OK. Made a lot of ash, might not get as hot as standard coal.
You'll need a magnet for this next step. As the steel heats up slowly, I turned the blade over from one side to the other to get an even heat through it. When the steel turns a cherry red color, check it with your magnet. Steel at the correct temp. will be non-magnetic and ready to quench in the oil. I got some used oil from work and had it ready in the bucket. When you quench the blade, submerge it completely, tip first. You don't want the blade to cool faster on one side than the other. I would suggest that you use a metal container that has a lid. This way, if you have a large flare up of fire, you can put it out with the lid.
I used a wire wheel, on my bench grinder, to remove most of the burnt on oil and then used some oiled up wet/dry sandpaper.
Now this is a point in which I messed up with my knife. I wanted to get it finished. At this point you should temper the blade. I forgot. One of the best ways I've heard of on how to do this would be to use a toaster oven at 300-500 deg, depending on how hard you want your finished blade, for two hours. Tempering at 500 deg. leaves the blade a little softer than tempering at 300 deg.
Step 5: The Handle.
The next step was to put the handle on my blade. I found a heavy chunk of wood at work from a pallet. I think it's oak. After using a bandsaw to make some handle slabs (You'll want to make them a little larger than the surface area of your knife handle), I used a piece of 40 grit sandpaper to make them flat on one side each. Place the sandpaper on a flat surface to do this.
I wanted to add a touch of color to my knife, so I put some handle liners on it. The liner material I used was plastic from a coolant jug. This plastic needs to be roughed up good for the epoxy to be able to hold it. Use sandpaper for that too.
Use a good amount of masking tape to cover your blade.
I made pins out of some 3/16" brass rod. Stack the handle material onto the blade to get a measurement for your pins. Make them a bit longer, chamfer the ends a little, and rough them up some too.
The GreenPete.co.uk video on YouTube (Part 4) shows this process nicely.
Step 6: Shaping the Handle.
A belt sander makes this next step quite a bit easier to do. I'm still working on making one of those at the time, so I used a couple of drum sanders. They fit in a standard drill chuck. I clamped the drill in my vice and locked the trigger to the on position to use it.
Using a pencil, I sketched out a rough idea of the areas that I wanted to sand down. The drums I bought came with two different grits each. 85 grit and 120 grit. I used the largest drum with a 85 grit first to get the shape I wanted and the smallest drum to do the finger grip spots.
I hand sanded the handle with a few different sheets of sandpaper (120, 220, 400). I wet the handle down with a damp rag and let it dry before hand sanding it again with the 400 grit one last time.
After using a tack cloth, I clamped the blade in my vice and started a first coat of Tung Oil. I repeated the coats of Tung Oil three times and let dry for a day. I did a lite sanding of the finished handle with 0000 steel wool to shine it up a bit more.
Step 7: The Last Step.
The last thing to do is give it a final sharpening. Same as before, using the same angle as the flat grind edge.
I'm still trying to find some leather to make a sheath with so I haven't made one yet.
My knife turned out OK, it would have been better if I hadn't forgot to temper the blade. Live and learn. It takes a fair edge as it is but I don't think it will last long. I think the micro edge will be to brittle to last long and will chip off.
This is a high carbon steel knife. As such, you have to keep it oiled up from time to time.