Introduction: Knife Making Without Tools

Picture of Knife Making Without Tools

Here's how to make a hunting knife from a butter knife by rubbing it on wet pavement and wrapping the handle with cord. It looks and feels good in the hand.

This project was inspired by a family I stayed with in Kenya. The only utensil they had was a sharpened butterknife shared by about twenty people.

Select your "blank":
Test your butterknives by bending the blade with your fingers. The farther you can bend it without it staying bent, the better it is.
Instead of a butter knife, you could use a saw blade or any piece of metal.

WARNING: I will be showing a bunch of OPTIONAL steps using tools.
For purist "no-tool" knifemaking, just skip all the steps using tools.
Or just substitute "with a rock" for the name of the tool.
Your knife will be fine.

Step 1: Optional: Drill Holes in Each End of the Handle

Picture of Optional: Drill Holes in Each End of the Handle

These are to tuck the ends of wrapping cord through.
Skip this and the wrapping is the same and 95% as good.

Step 2: Optional: Countersink and Smooth the Holes

Picture of Optional: Countersink and Smooth the Holes

I'm using a countersink and some sandpaper to do that.
This will keep the burr on the edge of the hole from biting the cord or your hand.

Step 3: Optional: Melt and Taper the Cord End

Picture of Optional: Melt and Taper the Cord End

This will make it easier to poke through the hole. Unnecessary if you skipped the holes.
Get your fingers wet so the melted plastic won't stick and burn you like napalm.

This is 1/8" nylon "parachute" cord. 1/8" Polyester is better because it doesn't get loose when wet. Get it at a chandler. (marine supply)

Step 4: Start Wrapping

Picture of Start Wrapping

If your cord is nylon get it wet first.
If it's cotton or other cellulose fiber, make sure it's dry first.
Nylon shrinks when it dries, cotton shrinks when it's wet.

You don't really need the hole, that's just something to make it look less like a butter knife.
If you drilled holes poke the cord through one of the holes.
Leave a tail a few inches long.
If you skipped the hole just lay down the tail and wrap over it.
Wrap over the tail until you get halfway up the handle.

Step 5: Lay Down a Loop

Picture of Lay Down a Loop

Eventually we'll need a way to pull the far tail back under the wrapping.
To do that we'll lay down a loop of thin cord and wrap over that.

Step 6: Put the Tail in the Loop

Picture of Put the Tail in the Loop

We've gotten to the end.
If you drilled a hole poke the end of the cord through it.
Put the end of your cord through the loop.

Step 7: Pull!

Picture of Pull!

Wrap the thin cord around something you can pull on, and pull hard.
Pull the tail of the wrap cord under the turns of wrapping.

Step 8: Pull the Tails Tight

Picture of Pull the Tails Tight

Use needlenose pliers if you have them.
Otherwise use a stick.
Twist and pry on the tails to tighten them.

Step 9: Handle Is Finished

Picture of Handle Is Finished

Cut the tails as short as you can and poke what remains under the wrappings.
It looks and feels good.

Step 10: Design Your Blade

Picture of Design Your Blade

I like a knife blade about the same length as my pinky finger.

Decide what you want and first mark, and then scratch that shape in your blade.
I'm going for an asymmetrical bonsai-utility tip.

Step 11: Shape and Rough Sharpen the Blade

Picture of Shape and Rough Sharpen the Blade

Fortunately it's drizzling a bit and the pavement is wet.
I rubbed the blade on the edge of a curb til it was cut through enough to break off at the length I wanted.
Then I rubbed the rest of it on wet pavement til it was sharp and there was a bit of a burr on the edge.
It goes pretty quick. Cement is a good abrasive.

Look for smoother concrete if you want a better finish on your knife.
Or rub a rock or piece of cement on your working abrasive surface to smooth it first.
A rock, brick, broken flower pot, or any other rough ceramic item make good abrasives.
Hard wet beach sand can be a miraculously good abrasive.

The blade got a bit hot even though the pavement was wet.
I dipped it in a puddle from time to time to cool it off.

Step 12: You Have a Knife!

Picture of You Have a Knife!

It's ready for finish sharpening as demonstrated here.
Here's how to make a paper sheath so you can carry it safely in your pocket.

That was quick!
It took less than an hour according to my photo EXIF timestamps in spite of interruptions such as rain and repeatedly hitting my camera with a hammer (canon s30 "E18 error").

Use your knife safely!
As my Granddad used to say, "Don't cut toward yourself and you'll never get cut!"


JesusG33k (author)2016-07-19

reinforce this with rolled up news paper or wood rods and you got a prison-spear.

lonely short guy (author)2016-05-11

that part was optional @viacin

viacin (author)2012-03-10


STEP 1. Get a Drill Press.

WTF........I feel lied to.

Rmays526 (author)viacin2016-04-28


Givver112 (author)viacin2012-11-01

Lol, right

ValScott (author)viacin2012-03-19

Umm... optional, I think, was the key word in the intro that you possibly ought to have read. Yeah.

Gcamper (author)ValScott2012-07-20

If you are going to advertise the knife making process as being without tools, then you should actually go through the process of making the knife without tools. Saying to skip all of your steps and to use a rock instead of the tools that you are using is lying. Anyone can rub a knife on a rock.

tincanz (author)Gcamper2012-10-10

A rock would be a tool in that case.

Ouhyeh (author)2016-03-28

Tim,how do i cut off the part of the blade? I see you are using scissors.

madbull (author)2015-04-12

How long does it takes to sharpen? Cause mine doesn't get heat up

TheKnifeMakerz (author)2015-03-11

i make small knives so be shure to look at these pics.

TheKnifeMakerz (author)2015-03-11

this is great! if you heat it in a forge first then temper it again(becuase it will loose its temper in the forge) then Quench it sevral times, you can get a super strong knife it just takes tme. if you wrap the handel in wax string, you get a sweet grip and its hold a edge werry well.

ninja46 (author)2014-09-20


jokerp69 (author)2014-09-18

nice i use it like a throwing knife

Ivhan Von Douglas (author)2014-05-31

I made it and I enjoy it.

clewis41 (author)2014-03-16

use nylon #550 cord. put it in boiling water for about 25-30 seconds. it will shrink and tighten if you wrapped to tight to start.

Captain MacTavish (author)2014-02-20

just use a wetstone!

BDjackofalltrades (author)2014-01-10

awesome instructible! works great, made a couple variations too. thank you

CHaD4HiM (author)2013-12-31

Your my hero!

Mince_ (author)2013-11-17

hunting knife, prison shank, potato, pottoe

the ringer (author)2013-08-28

ok I like the idea but there is no freakin way a sharpened butter knife would serve as a reliable knife

SKATERPRO (author)2013-08-02

This looks easy and fun

nonposter2014 (author)2013-07-30

Lol can't wait to try it!

coolkiller00007 (author)2013-07-24

I made one and it is awesome I also made a duck tape sheath with belt loop it was easy. Thanks

PurplePerson (author)2013-07-18

Nice instructable another step you can add is heat treating it in an oven, it will make the steel much harder

djokimaki (author)2013-02-01

OOps, Guess i shoulda looked ahead!

djokimaki (author)2013-02-01

OOps, Guess i shoulda looked ahead!

salomon1996 (author)2012-11-05

Very nice! looks like a good project.

aeszok (author)2012-09-21

"Cement is a good abrasive. It goes pretty quick"

Ha ha, good one, you're funny.

camping crazy (author)2012-08-29

I love this just made one I wrapped my handle with tape.

ynordia (author)2012-08-25

my version of this cool knife:

Ammoking3 (author)2012-08-05

if u dont want to drill hole and raeally make it without tools just get electrical tape it really gives it a leather bound look

jonathan.elwell (author)2011-11-10

Knife, shank.... potayto, potahto...

acoleman3 (author)2011-08-28

honestly...the curve of the butter knife blade "edge" is already ideal for a hunting knife. try skinning anything out with the style of blade you have at the top and you'll end up with a bunch of slices in the hide. all id do is remove material on the back until you have a drop point style blade and thts it for shaping it.

Dr.Earl Insanity (author)2011-08-08

sheet metal makes a disposable, yet sharp knife. all ya need to do is but a 40ish degree bent on the back bone to make it flex less

cbarry-1 (author)2011-06-02

Tanto Blade

Tenebrioun (author)cbarry-12011-07-27


Kendallkip (author)2011-05-10

Yeah that was kind of an out of place reference. However I do applaud the effort, good show I say.

BobMarleyFan (author)2011-04-24

To sharpen it you could use the bottom, unglazed, ring on a mug

zaqtaq258 (author)2010-11-09

I made the blade on a butter knife and I didnt have to cut away anything. It just took a little longer to where away the metal into a point. I just have a few questions about the handle. Where could you get parchute cord? Would there be any at a walmart or sporting goods store? Does any one have any other ways to make a handle?

krdog (author)zaqtaq2582010-12-25

For this particular purpose, 1/8th" nylon boot laces work wonderfully. You can by a pair of 72" laces for a coupla bucks at wallyworld giving you 12' of working material. If you deconstuct one you'll find a braided cover around a central core, same as paracord. The difference is essential contruction. True paracord has several cohesive strands forming the core; the bootlace core is more like a clusterf**k, but after deconstruction the separate pices of both can be used for string, thread, etc. enabling you to repair jeans or create fish line for instance.

commanderzhao (author)krdog2011-01-30

He meant wal-mart

Kooshi_Govno (author)2008-01-12

Well the knife's not sharp yet, so theres no real risk.

Nicholas G. (author)Kooshi_Govno2010-06-15

A dull knife is often more dangerous than a sharp knife because it is likely to slip when cutting something, thereby giving you a lovely slice and a serious need for stiches.

zachery980 (author)Nicholas G.2011-01-11

ya lets play the super glue game

jadi929 (author)Kooshi_Govno2009-03-21

its still sharp enough to do some serious damage, safety precautions shall always be followed

Ganoderma (author)jadi9292010-03-28

 anything spinning at drill speed is sharp enough to do serious damage I think... 

crickle321 (author)Kooshi_Govno2010-03-25

Even a dull knife can cut you. And spinning at 630 rpm will only multiply the hazard.

kethinum (author)2010-12-31

i made one of these last night and also a simple sheath thx fr da onstructable its a goood one

krdog (author)2009-09-23

using a 'whip knot' would make a better handle. it's used to finnish the end of a natural fiber rope that can't be burt n sealed. it's similar to what's been shown. u make a loop with a tail along the blade, wrap the handle, stick the end in the loop at the pommel then pull on the tail along the blade. loolk it up in the 'knot' section, i'm sure it's there

About This Instructable




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