Introduction: Knife Out of a Sawzall Blade (no HT)

Picture of Knife Out of a Sawzall Blade (no HT)

This Instructable details my process of making a simple knife out of a sawzall blade. (Stock removal method, logically.)

Sawzall blades are already heat treated, so if we are careful not to overheat the steel while grinding out the blade, theoretically we should be able to bypass the heat treating process altogether and still end up with a hardened blade. I put theoretically in scary bold and italics because well, we'll see if it ends up being true. (more on that at the end)

This project started when my Dad broke one of his large sawzall blades at a job (a common occurrence). Being always on the lookout for scraps of metal with which to make stuff, I snapped it up.

Wait a minute. Actually, that's not quite how it happened. First he gave to my one of my little brothers, who was going to make a knife out of it, and he had it for several months. (They can be a bit slow with the making thing) Then another of my brothers picked up some old chewed up deer antler from a friend. (I have a lot of brothers. And the deer antler has nothing to do with this project.) I traded an obsidian arrowhead (from my rock collection) for the deer antler, which I traded to the other one (brother) for the sawzall blade. (No worries, I then traded a bag of pennies and a prop Lord of the Rings one ring to get the antler back. I'll use that for another project.)

Anyway.

I got an old sawzall blade.

And I'm going to make a knife out of it.

Step 1: Video

Step 2: Design

Picture of Design

I find that nearly all of my projects begin with me sitting at my desk, staring down at a blank sheet of notebook paper, with a pencil in my hand, good music playing, and a large cup of strong coffee on my desk.

Ok, fine; most days life gets the best of me. But that's how I like to do it. I find planning my projects out on paper to be an inestimably valuable as well as just plain fun part of the creating process.

(I'd check out this class if I were you. Highly recomended and very helpfull. I learned some great tricks: https://www.instructables.com/class/Design-Sketching-Class/)

This was no exception. I traced the shape of the sawblade onto the paper, and then sketched out the knife I saw in it. It turned out to be a japanese inspired tactical knife with a slightly upswept tanto blade, jimping on the spine, and a sweet paracord handle wrap to add that nice, minimalistic-yet-totally-cool-look.

Step 3: Grinding Teeth Off, Shaping Spine and Bottom of Handle

Picture of Grinding Teeth Off, Shaping Spine and Bottom of Handle

We are turning a sawblade into a knife. A sawblade has teeth. A knife doesn't.

So grind them off.

The handle needs shaped too, so -

Never mind.

Don't know about you, but I have trouble writing about self explanatory things. It seems redundant. No, worse than that. Almost hypocritical. Forces people to be less observant. More dumb. Less smart.

Not only have l gone to all the trouble of taking and uploading way too many pictures (my ibles are always pic-heavy), but now I'm 'sposed to write a detailed description. Telling you what the pictures and title already state with crystal clarity.

Sorry, I don't support stupidity.

All the info you need is in the pics and step description.

:)

Step 4: Grinding Blade Profile

Picture of Grinding Blade Profile

Here I grind out the shape of the blade. It is very important in this step that we keep the metal cool. If you overheat the steel on the handle or on any spot not going to be cutting edge it doesn't really matter, but if you mess up the heat treat on the blade it won't hold an edge later.

Remember, we aren't going to be heat treating this knife. If the steel discolors, you have ruined the HT. I advise you grind with bare hands, so you can feel the temperature of the metal. When it gets hot to touch, dunk it in water.

Step 5: Grinding Sides of Handle (for Paracord Wrap)

Picture of Grinding Sides of Handle (for Paracord Wrap)

Most handle wraps look like an afterthought. Like someone just slapped some paracord around a tang designed for something else. I wanted mine to look like it was meant to be there.

A lot of that depends on the particular wrap you do (sorry, but most of them look like absolute CRUD), but it also helps if you design the knife with a handle wrap in mind. To help it fit in with the rest of the knife, I ground the handle down a good 1/8th of an inch on both sides where I was planning for the paracord to go. (hard to explain, see pictures)

It will help the paracord stay in place on the handle, as well as make it look like the wrap is built into the tang.

Step 6: Refining Grinds, Sanding

Picture of Refining Grinds, Sanding

After I finish roughing out the shape with my bench grinder, I move over the belt sanders and clean up everything.

Professional knifemakers generally don't use bench grinders; they do all their grinding on their fancy-shmancy high powered 2x72 belt sanders (you can tell I'm jealous). Then they just switch belts to do the finer sanding.

I don't own a high powered belt grinder. Thus, when I need to take off material quickly, I find it best to use my bench grinder, and move to my underpowered sanders mainly for grinding bevels, finish sanding, and shaping wood for handles.

Not that you couldn't do all do the main grinding on the sanders, but I find it takes much longer. That's just wearing the belts out unnecessarily.

Anyway.

No pictures of it, but I did do a little hand sanding afterward to give it that last little touch up.

Step 7: Grind Edge Bevels

Picture of Grind Edge Bevels

Here's another step that is fairly self explanatory. As before, just be careful to keep the metal cool.

A lot of knife makers use jigs to help them get even grinds. I don't. (Haven't made one yet)

Mainly it just takes patience and a steady hand.

Step 8: Drill Hole Handle (for Handle Wrap)

Picture of Drill Hole Handle (for Handle Wrap)

The traditional japanese knife handle wrap requires the presence of a hole in the bottom of the tang. The japanese inspired wrap I will be doing will require a hole as well.

So I drilled one.

Since we are dealing with hardened steel, keep in mind that it will be very tough to drill through. As of yet I do not own any good metal eating drill bits, so I had to go slow and step up with progressively larger bits until the hole was the size I wanted. I believe it ended up being a quarter inch in diameter.

Tip: If you are feeling really impatient, you could anneal that portion of the tang with a blowtorch. It will then be much softer and easier to drill through.

Step 9: Jimping

Picture of Jimping

Good filework requires more practice than anything else. If you are hoping to get some great tips and techniques for how to file good jimping in this step, well, you're going to be disappointed. I can count the number of knives on which I've done fancy filework on one hand, so I hardly feel that I should be telling you what to do.

The main thing I've learned is to go slow and pay careful attention to spacing. Well done jimping can add that extra bit to set the knife apart, but bad filework sticks out like a sore thumb.

I would also be careful with how aggressive the jimping is. Good jimping fits your hand comfortably, adding just the perfect amount of extra grip. It should NOT bite into your thumb. I can't stand it when jimping gets uncomfortable after a few minutes of use. It completely destroys the purpose.

Step 10: Vinegar Patina

Picture of Vinegar Patina

At this point the knife was looking good, but was a bit too shiny. Pretty. Clean looking.

It just wasn't giving me that tactical vibe I was looking for.

So I decided to darken the steel. A few hours in a vinegar bath and we were back in business.

Step 11: Handle Wrap

Picture of Handle Wrap

This handle wrap is about as simple as it gets.

Over, under, over, under. Run through the hole. Tie a knot.

^ that's my explanation. Sorry.

If I were to write more I'd only confuse you. The pictures make it more clear than any amount of description.

If you are still stuck, the video will clear it up.

Step 12: Done!!

Picture of Done!!

Wow, what a simple knife. For only a hour or two of work, I must say that is a very impressive blade. (I am completely unbiased)

Not bad.

So.........do sawzall blades make decent knives? Is the steel hard enough?

In my experience, they are ok. Not amazing. The steel is not quite as hard as your average knife. I'm guessing they HT these things with shock resistance in mind, not edge retention. If you've ever seen a sawzall in action, you know the blades have to hold up under incredible amount of vibration and shock, something a blade hardened for pure edge holding couldn't stand. So the steel is a bit softer than preferable on a knife. Which just means you will have to sharpen it more often.

Is it the knife i'm going to take on that backpacking trip to the Rockies?(which, btw, I am not taking) No. But seriously, you made it in a couple hours out of trash. Still cool in my book.

I am entering this instructable in the Reclaimed Contest, so vote if you want me to get a free t-shirt.

And if you liked the instructable.

Hope you learned something today and see you next time,

Jake

Website: http://www.jakemakes.net/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCszMFa_qz5weFBoQ7olwlGw

Comments

Jake_Makes (author)2017-12-06

I won the T-Shirt!!!! To everyone who voted for me: Thank you so much.

I shall wear it most proudly.

PROJECTILE PRO (author)2017-11-10

wow

Why thank you my dear fellow........

jcushard (author)2017-10-07

Well done, as doing is hard and explaining much harder. I only comment to assure that saw blades do indeed make good knives, in fact near my home in Cincinnati, there once a place called the , Ohio Knife Company. The founder used old bandsaw blades from lumber companies as a cheap source of metal, and built a million dollar company.

Narsil (author)2017-10-05

Saw blades are frequently differentially heat treated so that the teeth are hardened much harder than the spine. You may find that putting your sharpened edge on the side where you ground off the teeth will give you a significantly harder edge to your blade.

Jake_Makes (author)Narsil2017-10-05

I have heard that before, however as of yet I haven't tested it to find out whether it is true or not. What sort of experience have you had with them?

nliwilson (author)Jake_Makes2017-10-06

Most commonly Sawzall and most other brands use “Bimetal” (AKA “Bi-metal”) or in other words composite blade construction. That means the blade is actually made of 2 different steels bonded together. Sawzall use M2 for the tooth edge which is excellent for knifemaking but the body of the blade is made of a more flexible and therefor softer unnamed generic steel. The softer steel supports the harder and more brittle M2 when the blade flexes and that means with your Tanto blade will hold a better edge along the length of the blade but the upsweep and tip will be a lot less durable.

That being said you’ve inspired to make a sheepsfoot blade the same way, in spite of your admittedly endearing rambling. Don’t worry, this artical’s still perfectly readable even with the rambling. :)

Jake_Makes (author)nliwilson2017-10-06

Glad to have inspired you! Thanks for the info, very helpful. I suspected the blades were either bimetal or differentially heat treated, but had not been able to find any info on them. Good to know for the future.

My writing style is unorthodox, to say the least, and my instructables are of a different type than most.

But I would say most instructables are boring. At some point I decided to write the style that I love to read, instead of just laying out the cold hard facts of the building process. It makes for a fun experience, where every project is an adventure.

Unfortunately I have found that this style of writing, for a young person at least, also has the effect of making one look rather ignorant. Which is quite annoying, as I find that I am often more knowledgeable (or have more experience) on the subject than the guys telling me what I'm doing wrong in the comments. If an old (older) guy writes in this (sort of sarcastic) style, he may sound dumb, but is assumed to have more knowledge than he lets on. If a teenager does it he's assumed to be just plain dumb. Frustrating.

But now I'm rambling again :)

Narsil (author)Jake_Makes2017-10-06

I made a fruit knife from a hacksaw blade doing this. The only method I have of testing the hardness is the file "skating" method which really only shows that the steel is hardened.

https://imgur.com/a/Z4NmN

Rapel Teetaw (author)2017-10-06

i find the personal asides unnecessary and distracting. Otherwise, your idea and pictures are terrific.

NoQuartyr (author)2017-10-05

You’re just asking for a nasty accident by wearing that tie. If it catches in that grinder your heads going to be plastered!

Jake_Makes (author)NoQuartyr2017-10-05

I do agree with you. Wearing a tie while grinding isn't the best idea in the world.

Barkfin (author)NoQuartyr2017-10-05

Clip-on is the safest tie.

Jake_Makes (author)Barkfin2017-10-05

Clip on ties are for lazy men.......

Jake_Makes (author)NoQuartyr2017-10-05

There is a reading problem going on here.............

I answered that two comments down.

Brian 1968 (author)2017-10-05

NoQuartyr thought the same as me!! I caught my glove in a belt sander a couple of days ago. The glove did its job and saved my fingers from any injury, but the glove was shredded on one of the fingers.

I seem to remember not wearing a tie was one of the first things that we were told in the wood and metal workshops at school, I now think it was one of the few useful things that I learnt, along with technical drawing, geometry and trigonometry (who knew!!).

Jake_Makes (author)Brian 19682017-10-05

Geometry and trig? Useful? Bah!

ShawnS60 (author)2017-10-05

Nicely done! If you read up on Hinderer, Rexford, Sinkevich, Mel Pardue, other famous knife makers—keep up the good work, and you may be at Knife Show 2018...or ‘20.

alanemartin (author)2017-10-03

What size was that blade originally? How thick is it?

Jake_Makes (author)alanemartin2017-10-04

Sawblade originally was about 8 or 9 inches long. Finished knife a little under 8". Thickness about a smidge under 1/16", near as I can tell. It's thin, so finished knife is fairly flexible. Very lightweight though; good for a neck or boot knife.

I'd obviously go with the thickest sawblade you can find.

I believe it was a blade like this: https://www.amazon.com/DEWALT-DWA4188-8-Inch-Reciprocating-5-Pack/dp/B005C4PYS2/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1507128217&sr=8-5&keywords=sawzall+blade

eugopnosaj (author)2017-10-03

Nice idea however as for wearing that duct tape "tie" because you think it is cool whilst working on the bench grinder - bad idea, you're lucky it didn't get caught and strangle you!!

Jake_Makes (author)eugopnosaj2017-10-04

Ha ha, well we all make some sacrifice for fashion.........

Actually once did get my shirt caught in a wire wheel. Let me assure you, not a good experience. I was stupidly working with my shirt very very close to the wheel; didn't even cross my mind it might grab it. But it did.

Silver lining though, I now have some real gnarly scars on my chest :)

As far as danger here however; the tie is slick and extremely unlikely to catch on a smooth grinding wheel, even if I were to get it close enough to the grinder for the two to make contact. I seriously doubt I could get it to snag if I tried. There is more danger of my shirt catching, that being fabric and more likely to catch. And I was nowhere near close to the wheel. Don't worry, I'm not likely to make the same mistake twice :)

seamster (author)2017-10-03

Very nice!!

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Bio: I am Jake and I make. I build awesome stuff out of simple materials, mainly dealing in the dangerous. Knives out of RR spikes, guns ... More »
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