Instructables
Picture of How to make your own Machete
        Hello Do It Yourself-ers!  This is my first instructable, and I thought I would give documenting my machete build a shot and turn it into a How-To for the site!  

        Now, we all know that a nice, big axe/knife comes in handy during camping trips or in survival packs.  In my case, I will be using this hefty, sharp piece of metal for camping trips.  It will serve the purpose of cutting down firewood or building small shelters, and boy, will i look cool doing it!  





Materials needed:

1/8" x 3" x 3' steel or metal of choice (size, material and thickness depend on what you are looking for out of your machete)
Steel rod or dowels (to hold the handle to the steel)
Lumber
Epoxy

Tools needed:
jigsaw or cutting tool of choice
Sharpie
Tape measure
Grinding wheel and sharpening stone
Vice and clamps
Belt sander or disk sander
Rasp or file
Safety glasses
Sharpening tool of some sort
 
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Step 1: Make your design and START HACKING!

      To start off, you may want to have a design or shape for your blade in mind.  For this blade I chose to keep it simple and have a larger section for weight towards the tip of the blade, and had it taper off into the handle.  NOTE: the blade will be built right into the handle so don't cut it short!  I cut about a 1/2" shy of the bottom of the steel for the bout at the tip, and tapered it down to 1 1/4" where the blade meets the handle, then continued on at 1 1/4" for five inches or so for the handle.


    Make the outline of your blade shape on the steel, and start cuttin'!  You want to make sure the steel is secured properly or it will just jump around on you and cutting will be a pain.  And please wear safety glasses!  
seagrape331 year ago
When using a machete, you want to use your whole arm to swing the machete, with a snap of the wrist delivered just before contact. For more power introduce a bit of waist motion. This technique is useful for cutting down small trees and large branches. On the job I often use a machete to cut up palm fronds and branches. That wrist motion does help a lot. Finally (and you probably already know this), never use a dull machete! With a sharp machete and proper technique you'll get the job done faster and use less energy. Which means you'll be less tired and less likely to get into an accident involving a body part.
seagrape331 year ago
For starters, this is a nice instructable. Easy method for making a machete. I'll try it out myself. However, if you are serious about putting your machete through the ropes, you want to find a way to make the steel at the edge really hard; a harder steel will keep its edge longer, thus reducing the need for frequent sharpening. You'll know the steel is hard enough when even a Nicholson file won't bite into it.

One way to do this - and you'll need a forge that can accommodate the entire machete blade length - is to spread some moist clay all over the area behind the edge up to ½" from it, at a thickness of about ¼". This will prevent the steel from heating up too fast. (You'll know why in just a bit.) Then you put the blade in the forge until it's orange-yellow hot. Take it out of the forge and quench it in icy salt water. The clay-covered area will cool more slowly, so leave the clay on for an hour or two; clay tends to trap heat, so it will take time for the steel to cool down enough for it to be handled safely. Once you remove the clay, the steel in the back part of the blade will be rather soft, but the edge will be so hard that you cannot file it. You'll need a stone or carbide sandpaper on a wooden block to sharpen it. Also, do any beveling of the edge BEFORE putting the blade in the fire. Filing/grinding down to an edge thickness of about 1 mm is good enough; you want to do the shaping when the steel is soft and the sharpening when the steel is hard.

When you get to the sharpening stage, you can use either a belt sander, motorized grinder, carbide sandpaper, or rough whetstone to do the rough work. Usually a 220 grit abrasive does the job. When the side view shows the bevel comes to a tip, follow up with 400 grit. After about a minute of the 400 grit, do a minute on 800 grit. Finally, a minute on 1200 grit and a minute on 2500 or 3000 grit. At this point the edge will be sharp enough that you can shave hairs off your skin with it. You can use it just like that. If you want it even sharper, go with a 4000 or 6000 grit stone (this is overkill already) and finish off with 30 seconds on a strop + stropping compound. Usually such high-grit abrasives are for sharpening tools made from high speed steel or other really hard steels; these can keep a razor-sharp edge for a while. Even katana (samurai swords) are sharpened to such a keen edge; sometimes 8000 or even 10,000 grit stones are used to polish the edge. The result is a blade that is more than sharp enough for shaving.

If you do not choose to temper your blades, 1200 grit or 1500 grit is as high as you should go, since soft steel (steel that can be filed down) will not hold a very keen edge for long. Even so, a blade finished at 1200 or 1500 grit can still give good service. If you are interested in making scary sharp edges, look up "Japanese sharpening stone set" on Google. Different sellers sell sets of sharpening stones. For example, Highland Woodworking sells a 5-stone set for $169.99. http://www.highlandwoodworking.com/standardwaterstone5stoneset.aspx

If you cannot afford stones, you can get a piece of carbide sandpaper and put it on a glass surface or tape it to a wooden block.. Most hardware stores carry up to 2500 grit. The 3000 grit and higher ones are a bit harder to get. Even so, you can get a more than serviceable edge with just 2000 or 2500 grit, especially after tempering.

Tempering steel to the desired hardness consistently does take a good deal of playing around with the temperature, but usually just heating to a good cherry red and then quenching in icy-cold salt water yields a hard steel, good enough for cutting tools. If the piece of steel is small enough, you can just use a MAPP gas torch. If you're making, for example, small chisels from concrete nails, a MAPP torch is easier to use and obtain.
skimmo2 years ago
great instructable bro, but its not wise to use gloves when using grinding stones or belt sanders, if you scrap your skin on the sander it may hurt a little but if your glove gets caught, you can lose a finger.

but still really good job!
BJMN skimmo2 years ago
Good thinking - but, having worked in safety for a large multinational manufacturing firm, I must point out that statistics show that wearing gloves while using a sanders or polishers do reduce injuries. The likelihood of the glove catching on the rotating belt or disc exists, but most hand/lower arm injuries with this type of equipment is not from the belt/disc - they are from pieces of material being caught and flipped back, or shattering, etc.

Standard industrial practise is to insist on gloves at all times even when using this type of equipment.

:)
AR10NZ2 years ago
Nice Instructible. As a 14 y'old Canadian, I made a machete out of an old 2 man cross cutting saw. Excellent steel, with spine thinner than cutting edge. Shaped & ground cold, no need to heat treat. The blade tip could be bent to 90 degrees, excellent spring back.
Moose horn grip, and rawhide sheath. Had it for 37 years, then a low life stole it from my camp site, in Australia. Cheers
Trike Lover2 years ago
When I was a child my father made two machete-type blades, one using a broken lawn mower blade, the other with a piece of car or truck leaf spring. I got to help with the "safe" jobs. He said he had learned the process while stationed in India in WWII. He had been a night-fighter pilot, and a blacksmith near the field used to make knives for the pilots, as there were no service-issue ones for aircrew. Since they flew at night, he watched the smith during the day.

I may have some of this mixed up - it was 45 years ago. Our forge was a thick steel bowl, the bellows made with fence boards and canvas. One of my jobs was pumping the bellows.

To start with, the blade outline was cut using a hacksaw. (I got to do this-a slow job). Then Dad heated the blank in the forge and, alternating sides, gradually hammered the "business" edge thin all down its length. This took much re-heating and hammer-and-anvil work. When he was satisfied he heated the blade very red, then quenched it in old motor oil.

I got to polish the pieces using Emery cloth, which took quite a while. The shiny piece was then heated until different colours rippled across the shiny surface - he called this "drawing the colours". When the edge turned the right shade of blue it was quenched - I think in oil. The edge was finished on an elderly hand-cranked grindstone with a water-drip. Another long job - I was grindstone-cranker.. Handles were cut from the seat of a wooden office chair - Oak, I think, and leather lace wrapped tight on the grip.

As I said, I may have details wrong, memory being what it is. I do remember that the finished blades held a very good edge. One was a machete profile, and the smaller more like a Malay parang. Both were stolen from my campsite some years back by some low-life scum.

Very interesting Instructable, and it brought back a lot of memories.
State502 years ago
Was watching a subtitled Japanese travelogue and they had an old gentleman who used one loop from a big ship's scrapped anchor chain to forge a blade. I guess high-hardness steel is wherever you find it.
ottist352 years ago
Great instructable! Will be looking forward to your guitar post.
EmcySquare2 years ago
Nice piece of work. It started to get addictive after a short while.

Advices:
- There are not "Metals of choice" : a good job is done only with carbon steel
- You NEED to heat treat it right: it's not simply a forge&magnet thing

You might also consider having it HT-ed by a company

Waiting for the next one ;-)
well, that depends on the steel you use... stainless = forget any diy heat-treatment; cheap carbon steel, you probably could get away with it;) it's the tempering that'll have to be more controlled, but even so, it can be done with dthe back-draw method (blowtorch heating the spine). greenpete over on youtube has an series of vids on making a knife out of a file. quite interesting.

and kudos to Trollinwater for doing this, my first knife still needs tang-holes and HT
Trollinwater (author)  flamesami2 years ago
could i use a sheet of thin spring steel?
assuming it was the right size and shape, and not too thin, yup!
no problem as long as you can get it hot enough (non magnetic) all the way through (you might need quite a large forge) and then quickly cool it
make sure you know how to quench it - if you bought it, ask if it is air-quench, oil-quench or water-quench, if it is just a random lump of spring (say, a landrover leaf-spring) see what you can find on google, and if unsure, use oil (slowest quenchant). Like I said, tempering is the hardest part... most knife-makers have an electric oven with a thermostat, but it can be done with a blowtorch. Do your research on the steel if you know what it is, and ask around if you don't: britishblades is an online knifey-place, with very nice members, who know their stuff.
 feel free to pm me if want to know something - if I don't know, the people on britishblades do
You can usually use propane torch (or for a machete you may need 2 and a buddy) to get the heat you need. the big thing is cutting a few small "slivers" (like 1/4" square and 2"long) off and practice heat treating with them making sure to write down exactly what you did.
1) heat them up to different temps (past magnetic) and dunk them in the oil then see if a file can remove anything. if it cuts like before try using brine (see below) else go to next step.
2) clean em off and throw them in the oven at about 350-400 F until they have a straw color (if you don't want to anger eveyone who cooks with that oven be sure to clean the metal with soap and water and dry thoroughly)
3) turn oven off and let sit until cold (usually overnight).
4)Do the file test it should just barely cut the metal
5)Wearing safety gear clamp them in a vise about 1/2 way put a pipe on it and bent until breaking. (remember to write everything down)
If you did a good job keeping notes and remembering colors you can recreate the properties on the real deal. Most spring steel is 5160 so quenching with cooking oil is probably your best bet. for mild steel (1018 ish) is to use brine which is water and salt (heat water then add salt until it doesn't dissolve any more) with maybe a touch of dish soap.
Sometimes i forge tools out of mystery steel and this is what i have to do to get the properties in steel that i want. all the precision gear in the world doesn't help you if you don't know what steel your working with (aka junkyard gold)
ViperSniper2 years ago
thanx dude im going to use this instructable but for making a knife.
ViperSniper2 years ago
thanx dude im going to use this instructable but for making a knife.
menahunie2 years ago
I get my steel from truck salvage yards from the aping packs for the suspension.
way cheaper and you can make allot of knives from one
Before you apply the handle you might consider roughing out the edge, and then bring the blade to cherry red, or use the magnet method then quench it in used motor oil. Used motor oil is impregnated with carbon. When quenching the blade the carbon will enter the steel. It will not penetrate all the way through but you will have a tougher outer layer and it will hold an edge until you wear through the carbon enriched edge from use. As stated above you will need to temper in an oven to the desired hardness for the type of cutting edge you desire.
It must be sharp enough - there's a plaster on your thumb!

Much respect for building your own machete aged 15. Over here (UK) they're so paranoid about children and knives that even Boy Scouts don't carry penknives any more...
Trollinwater (author)  Grahamwithimps2 years ago
haha! unfortunately, that wound was from picking lobster meat at work.... those hard shells are a pain to pick.
this came out great! id like to see one out of tool steel now!
Trollinwater (author)  desertsniper2 years ago
tool steel? what do you mean by that?
It is just a higher grade steel with a lot of carbon in it. this way you can heat treat it and it will maintain an edge better .
Trollinwater (author)  desertsniper2 years ago
Interesting...... i think i will have to pick some up!
I just started a little bladesmithing myself, and if you have the time I recommend picking up a copy of "The Complete Bladesmith" by Jim Hrisoulas, I found it to be extremely helpful if you find this is something you really enjoy!
i suggest starting with A2 or getting some 1018 carbon steel. just remember this stuff has to be heated and quenched in oil., then baked at about 400 for a few hours and let to air cool. do your own research on this subject. i have no doubt you can accomplish it.
which is alot more then .2 content of the steel used in this instructable.
Splus2 years ago
I made one of these a year or two ago, but I used a salvaged butt end of an axe handle for a grip, and it came out beautifully in case anyone has one laying around.
Splus Splus2 years ago
And also, well documented ible. Keep it up!
lopeznora2 years ago
Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your post and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your post. I hope you post again soon.
mbreukel2 years ago
nice machete!

i have 1 advice for you.

if you want your machete to stay sharper a lot longer, and less "bendy" you should consider heat treatment. by doing this(internet has all the information) you will strengthen your blade making it harder. this way it wont bend as much, wont get nicks in soon(unless smashing it on nails) and keeping it sharp longer.

you do need to make the bevel before hardening(not sharpen yet that can be done later on) otherwise the metal is way harder so it will take more time