Introduction: How to Make a Bushcraft Knife
This is how I make my knives. Yes, it is exactly the same as any other knife Instructable on here. Do I care? Nope. And, neither do you, apparently. After all, you're reading it.
I haven't posted much on Instructables yet, but that doesn't mean I haven't made many things. Look on my blog for all my other projects.
Step 1: Design
As I said, this is a bushcraft knife. I could have drawn out the design myself, but instead I printed it off of the internet. This site has a lot of great knife patterns:
Bottom line: get the design, and get it cut out.
Step 2: Get the Design Onto the Steel
This goes along with getting the steel. I used 1080 high carbon steel. It works great and is simple to heat treat.
Trace the design onto the metal with a permanent marker. It can be somewhat challenging, but you can do it. You have been training for this since preschool.
Step 3: Cut Out the Rough Profile
As the title says, it is time to make the hunk of metal look somewhat kinda not really barely like something that might possibly resemble a bushcraft knife. I use an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel for this part. I don't worry about getting it perfect, as I always find it easiest to grind it down with my bench grinder. So, just knock off the parts that are too difficult to do with the bench grinder.
Step 4: Bench Grinder, and Blade Edge Grinding
Now you can make it look like a knife. Grind it to perfection, and make it look better than you possibly can.
Or not, I really don't care.
Bottom line: Make it look like the design you traced out.
Then you need to grind the edge profile, I did a simple, imperfect scandi grind. I didn't get pictures, but you really just need to hold the blade at the proper angle to your belt sander, and grind grind grind.
Step 5: Drill Holes for the Pins
This is my least favorite part of making a knife. For some reason, drilling holes in metal just scares me. Probably because I always end up destroying the bits.
Anyway, get some holes in the tang where you want the pins to go. I also put a lanyard hole in bottom, but you don't have to, depending on the style knife you are doing.
The pins I used were 3/16 nickel silver from an online knife making supplier. You can also use brass rod, which most large hardware stores sell.
Step 6: Heat Treat
Then is my favorite part, the heat treating. What is heat treating? I'll tell you. When you get a piece of steel, it is very soft. That makes it easy to shape, sand, and grind out the shape. The downside is that it is too soft to be a knife. So you have to harden it. The best way to do this is to heat it up to glowing hot in the forge, and then dunk it in oil. The oil cools it down very quickly, the only downside is that it is now so hard it is as brittle as glass, and would break if you dropped it. That is why I then stick it in the oven for a couple hours at 400 degrees. By slowly heating it up again like that, it slowly softens the metal down, until it is the perfect hardness for a knife blade.
So that is what I did. I heated it up to 1500 degrees, then plunged it in vegetable oil, (making lots of awesome flames) and then stuck it in the oven.
If you are wondering, the easiest way to test if it has attained the correct temperature is to touch a magnet to it. If magnet doesn't stick, it has reached 1400 degrees. Stick it in the forge for a few seconds longer, then quench it.
Step 7: Handle Scales
The first step for the handle is to find your wood. I used Dark Walnut, because it looks pretty and I had it on hand, but you can use just about any kind of hardwood, as long as it is very dry. Why very dry? Because if it isn't, it warp and shrink later on and completely ruin your knife.
Anyway, cut yourself some rough scales, just larger than the tang.
Step 8: Drill Handle Scales
I haven't really found a good way to do this yet, because it is difficult to hold the knife onto the wood perfectly still, I usually end up messing it up in some way. Oh well, trial and error.
Somehow get the holes in the scales and make it all fit together.
Step 9: Epoxy!
This is one of the most nerve wrecking steps, for me at least. I don't know why.
You will need a two part epoxy, preferably with a long set time. I can't stand the five minute ones, they add to the stress. I used JB weld, but any two part epoxy glue should work. Sorry I didn't get any more pictures of this, but I was in a hurry at the time and just clean forgot. It is fairly simple, just mix the epoxy together on something separate, like a square of cardboard. Then, using a popsicle stick or something like that, scrape the epoxy onto the scales, the tang, the pins, and all over the rest of your workspace. Then clamp it up, clean up the mess, make sure that the blade of the knife is clean, and wait for the specified drying time. (In my case 24 hours)
Step 10: Rough Handle Shaping
So now we have the handle scales and pins all glued up, now it's time to make it look like a knife handle. I start by using my angle grinder with a sanding flap wheel, it takes off material very fast, so you got to be careful, but it works great for this step. Basically, at this point you are trying to grind the scales down till you can no longer see any epoxy.
Step 11: Rounding and Refining the Handle
I didn't take enough pictures of this step, but it's simple. Using the angle grinder sanding flap wheel, carefully begin to round the handle scales. Then go to the belt sander, and further refine the shape. Once you are satisfied with the shape, hand sand till ya' can't no more, working down to a very fine grit.
Step 12: Finishing the Handle
Sorry I don't have any pictures of this step, but there isn't much to take a picture of.
Cover the handle with the wood finisher of your choice, I used beeswax and boiled linseed oil.
Step 13: Knife!!!!
Congratulations, you just made a knife. Now take some awesome pictures and go use it.
This knife is tough, holds it's edge, and sharpens easily. It works as well as any other knife I have bought.
As you can see in the finished pictures, I also made a kydex sheath for it. I'll eventually make an Instructable about that, but at this point, just look it up on YouTube.
BTW, sorry if the pictures aren't the best, the lighting in my shop stinks.
I am new to knife making, so constructive criticism would be appreciated.