Introduction: Making a Bushcraft Knife for a Kid
Hi Instructables Community,
this time I would like to share my latest project with you. I made this bush craft style knife as a gift for my 13 year old nephew who is going on his first camping trip this summer.
For this project I chose to try out some new (to me) materials and techniques so come along and follow me as I try to figure out how to make this idea a reality.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
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- 80CrV2 High Carbon Steel - 3,2mm (1/8") thick
- Black G10 Handle Scales 3,2mm x 40
- Red G10 Liners - 1mm x 40mm x 250mm
- 6mm steel rod for pins
- Black Kydex sheet
- TeckLock Belt Attachment
- Two component epoxy
- An angle grinder with cut-off disks, flap sanding disks & wire wheels
- Belt Grinder
- Bench Belt Sander - Both sanders/grinders can be substituted by file work and lots of hand sanding if you do not have those powertools
- Cordless Drill with HSS bits - For more precision a drill press would be preferable
- Rotary Tool with sanding drums
- Deburring Tool
- Various clamps
- Sandpaper in the following grits (600, 1000, 1200, 1500, 2000) - Make sure the sandpaper can be used for wet sanding - I also recommend to use some windex for wetsanding
- Propane torch or other heat source that gets over 1200°C - I've used a large torch that would commonly be used as a weed killer. This puts out enough BTU to get my steel to hardening temperature. A small propane torch might not be sufficient for this job.
- Fire brick
- Scroll saw, band saw or table saw
- Linseed oil & wax
Step 2: The Design & Template
Since this knife is meant to be a gift for a (soon to be) teenager the dimensions had to be scaled down slightly from a full sized knife.
The blade itself was based on a drop point design with a more modern handle design. Since the boy doesn't have experience with caring and maintaining a blade I decided to use synthetic materials and protect the high carbon blade from rust.
This basic design was then cut out to create a simple template. This will help with creating the blade shape and locate the pinholes.
Step 3: Cutting Your Steel to Length
Since the steel stock came in a 100cm bar I had to cut off a piece that was appropriate for the project. The template was used to determine the required length which was then marked with a permanent marker after adding approx. 1cm to account for losses during shaping.
The actual cut was then done with an angle grinder & 1mm cut off wheel. Since the steel was delivered annealed this cut was actually quite quick & easy.
Alternative Tools: Hacksaw or metal bandsaw
Tip: Use a spark bucket! This is a simple bucket that is filled halfway with water (and some windex to reduce surface tension) and then place beneath your workpiece. This reduces the amount of airborne dust particles tremendously which is especially useful when in small places without proper dust collection system.
Step 4: Flattening Stock
I used to do this step after the shape was finished but found that doing this earlier worked better for me.
For this step I used my bench mounted belt sander starting with a 80 grit belt followed by a 120 grit belt. I did this until I had a flat and uniform surface. This also removes and rust and tool marks that might be present.
Alternative methods: You can of course also sand the surfaces by hand on a hard and flat surface such as a glas pane.
Tip: Use a welding magnet to get and keep a hold of your work piece when using the belt sander. To protect the steel from scratches you can wrap the magnet in masking tape.
Step 5: Gluing on the Template
To help me cutting and grinding out the shape I glued the template directly to the steel. A simple glue stick seems to work best for me although some others prefer a spray adhesive whilst other use spray paint to create a permanent outline.
Note: The template can later be removed very easily with water. However if WD40 is used and gets into contact with the glue it seems to increase the glues strength making it very difficult to remove.
Step 6: Center-punching Pin Holes
If you ever tried to drill a hole into steel you might have noticed the issue of your drill bit wandering off from where you are trying to drill. To counteract this problem use a center punch or auto punch tool to create a little dimple in the location that you want to drill through. The dimple will help keeping that drill on course.
I did this before the shaping to ensure I had the location of the pinholes marked in case the template gets damaged or destroyed.
Step 7: Rough Shaping
To get the rough shape of that knife out of the steel I used my angle grinder with a 1mm cut-off wheel to remove the larger bits inching closer to the drawn outline. To assist this process I made a lot of relief cuts. These cuts will help avoiding long cuts and thus reduce the risk of twisting and destroying the cut-off wheel.Be careful with that cut-off wheel as it will cut fast and might ruin or mess up your project.
Step 8: Shaping
Once I removed the largest pieces I switch to a 40 grit flap sanding disk to move ever closer to the template outline.
This is a reasonably quick process and less risky than the cut-off wheel. Keep the wheel moving without staying in one area too long to avoid overheating the steel.
Step 9: Refining the Shape
This is one of those tasks were I'm glad that I've bought a 1x30 belt grinder but wished I had the time to build a 2x72 grinder instead. Starting with with a 60 grit belt I was able to refine most of the outlines to my liking.
The challenging part were the finger and sharpening choils but I was able to shape these with my rotary tool and 120 grit sanding drum.
Alternative methods: If you do not have the aforementioned power tools you can achieve the same results with a little more time and sweat using files. I actually recommend to use files as a beginner as it gives you better control.
Step 10: Pinholes
It is time to drill the pinholes. At the time of this project I didn't have a drill press and had to drill the holes by hand.
Lot's of cutting oil and sharp drill bits worked great for me and I quickly drilled the three pinholes and the lanyard hole.
If you do not have a drill press I recommend to clamp the blade down (the less the blade moves the cleaner the holes will be) and take your time ensuring the holes are drill straight.
Once the holes have been drilled I used a deburring bit to remove any sharp burrs that were created during the drilling. Once again clamp the blade down to get smooth results.
Step 11: Centerline
Before I can grind the bevels I will have to determine where the center of the blade is or what will become the cutting edge. Here is a pretty simple yet accurate (enough) method. Use a permanent marker (Or cam dye/layout fluid if you have any) and paint the entire edge. Let the paint dry and then use calipers to measure the thickness of the blade. Ideally this should be the same along the blade but you can verify this by measuring in different spots.
Once you have your measurement set the calipers to half of your result and use the tips of the calipers to scribe a line on the edge while riding on the corner face of the blade with the other tip. Sounds complicated but really is quite simple. Repeat this process from the other side and you should end up with two lines (or just one line) that are very close together and parallel to each other.
Step 12: The Bevels
I think nice & clean bevels are one of the most satisfying things in knifemaking. For me however they are also one of the most challenging.
To help with consistency I made a simple bevel block that had face that was angled 5°. I screwed the knife to the block through two of the pinholes and began to grind. As you can see I had some trouble with a parallel bevel on one side which was caused by my grinding technique. In the end I was able to clean up the bevel but continued to fight with the blade tip. Again my grinding technique was to blame and I repeatedly made the tip too thin from one side so grinding from the other resulted in a lot tip which forced me to drop the tip down further and further from the original design.
Tip: Keep your blade cool!!! Grinding will heat up the steel which may result in unwanted properties. If there are discolorations in your steel you have to go slower and quench the blade more often.
Step 13: Hardening
This is (at least for me) one of the trickiest parts of any knife making project. Since I do not have a kiln or want to send the knife off to a hardening service I have to do it my self.
I have also not invested time or money in a permanent and proper gas forge to heat up my blades but instead use fire bricks (Don't use regular bricks as they might explode in your face when subjected to extreme heat) and a propane powered weed-burner. This burner puts out enough temperature (up to 1800°C) and btu's to get an even heat on my blade.
80CrV2 steel should be hardened at a temperature of 840°C - 880°C (1544°F - 1616°F) once you reach this temperature you should hold the temperature for around 5-10 minutes to allow an even distribution. When hardening with a gas torch I start heating the blade up from the spine and let the heat travel to the edge. Estimating the temperature is possible by judging the blade color. At 850°C the steel should have a bright red to orange glow to it.
Once the temperature has been reached and held for a suitable amount of time remove the blade from the heat and quickly quench it in oil (I used a vegetable oil) this will also give your workshop the nice smell of a fast food restaurant.
Let the blade cool down on the air after the quench and try to check the hardness with the file test.
Try to use a metal file on your blade. It shouldn't bite into the blade but skate over the surface with a higher pitched sound.
Your blade is now quite hard but also brittle so be careful and move on to temper it.
Step 14: Cleaning
Before we can temper the blade we need to remove any scale that might have formed during hardening.
Simple use some wet sanding paper with the same grit you used last (in my case 320 grit) to remove the scale and clean up the blade.
Step 15: Tempering
The purpose of this step is to give the steel more flexibility at the cost of some hardness. According to the datasheet on Brisa.fi the blade should be tempered for two hours for the following final hardness:
150°C (302°F) - 63HRC
200°C (392°F) - 60HRC
250°C (482°F) - 57HRC
I chose to go with 200°C because I figured that 60HRC was plenty hard for the planned application.
Once the blade cooled down I removed the yellow oxidation layer with a 400 grit belt.
Step 16: Scales and Liners
Since I wanted to use materials for this build that don't require a lot of maintenance I decided to try out G10 as a handle material. I ordered black handle scales with a thickness of 3,2mm (1/8") and also red G10 liners for a nice contrast.
Since the red liner came in a single 30 cm strip I had to cut it down to the same size as the black scales. I used my micro table saw for this job and it was a quick and clean cut (mind you that the liner was only 1mm (3/64") thick).
Alternative methods: I've read that some people recommend to score and break G10 over an edge, saw it with a hacksaw etc. Since I only had those pieces I didn't want to experiment around risking to loose my handle material. I cut a small strip on the table saw before to confirm that this was working though.
Step 17: Laminating
Now there are a number of different ways you could go about this but I felt this was for me the best way to laminate the liners with the scales.
First I sanded both sides of the liners and one side of the scales. I used a rather coarse grit for this and the idea was to create a rough surface to assist the epoxy bonding the two surfaces.
I mixed a 2 two component epoxy and covered the entire surface of the black scales with it ensuring that the glue was spread evenly.
I then added the red liner and clamped both together between two pieces of particle board that was covered with some masking tape (I have since been convinced to used parchment paper or non-stick backing sheets instead).
Note: Ensure that the liner and scale are properly aligned during the clamping and remove any excess epoxy that might squeeze out during clamping.
Step 18: Ze Pins
For this project I decided to use simple 6mm steel pins and cut them from stock using an angle grinder. The round stock has some anti-corrosion coating from the factory which I removed with my belt grinder.
Please note that this is mild steel which will eventually rust. For my plans this was ok but keep it in mind when choosing pin material.
Brass or stainless steel are other excellent materials than can be used for pins.
Step 19: Pinholes and Alignment
Again a drill press would be the best tool if available. Clamping the blade together with one scale I began extending the pinholes through the scales. G10 is actually pretty easy and clean to drill I do recommend however to use a backing board to avoid chipping at the exit.
Once a hole was drilled I inserted a pin and continued with the next hole. This way I was sure that all holes were in alignment to each other even if they were not drilled perfectly straight.
I repeated this process with the fresh (undrilled) scale on the bottom followed by the blade and topped with the drilled scale.
The already present holes helped guide the drill and once again I inserted a pin after drilling each hole. Two of the holes were actually not straight at all but thanks to the above technique the pins still fit and everything aligned ok.
Step 20: Markings
To avoid confusion I simply marked the inside areas of the scales and blade with letters indicating the corresponding sides.
Step 21: Shaping G10
Of all the steps in this project this must have been the most frustrating one.
The idea was quite simple: Simple remove as much material from the outside of the drawn outline as possible.
The reality however was quite different... First I tried to cut away material with my mini table saw. This worked well for the liners however it didn't work that well with the laminated scales. The blade stopped several times even for short cuts so I had to try something different.
I read that some people would use an angle grinder (different types of blades were talked about) or an oscillating multi tool to shape G10. Although I do have those tools I didn't want to try since I was worried that liner & scale might delaminate due to the vibrations.
In the end I tried my Dremel moto saw (which is sort of a small size scroll saw) and this worked quite ok for a while. The blades dulled pretty quickly and I ruined two in the process.
So maybe next time I will try to completely shape the scales on the belt grinder which will create a lot of nasty dust but will work quicker and easier.
Step 22: More G10 Shaping
As I've mentioned earlier the pin holes weren't exactly straight. To counter this issue I added spacers (cut-offs from the bar stock) in between the two scales and held it all together with double sided tape.
This allowed me to grind the two scales to the same shape which will also be the same as when mounted to the actual blade.
Step 23: Handle Details
There are also areas of the handle that will be very difficult to shape once the handles are glue to the blade.
Since I wanted a simple shape I tilted the tool rest on my belt grinder to a 30° angle. This allowed me to grind a consistent angle on both ends of the scales. This slight angle should help with highlighting the contrast between liner and scale.
Step 24: Fitting Blade & Handle
Before we can glue up the blade we need to fit all parts together and ensure that scales line up with the blade.
Apart from the belt grinder, which was used for the straight parts, I used a sanding drum in my rotary tool to remove material in the finger choils.
G10 is pretty nasty stuff when it comes to sanding so apart from using a respirator I also recommend to have some sort of dust collection running during this process.
Step 25: The Cutting Edge
Since the blade had only a primary bevel ground before the heat treatment I also had to grind secondary (cutting) bevels. These were done with a 1000 grit belt which took a bit longer but is more forgiving.
The objective here was to create two bevels at approx. 20° which should be ok for an outdoor knife.
Step 26: Glue Up
Take your time and properly prepare for this step. There are few things as annoying as trying to quickly switch gloves whilst working with a fast curing epoxy. I usually prepare by laying out all needed tools and materials, wrapping the blade in masking tape (removing epoxy from the finished blade is something you do not want to do).
The glue is mixed on some masking tape which makes the clean up much easier.
I usually wear three pairs of gloves (minimum) so once one gets too sticky with glue I can quickly remove them and continue right away.
Spread the glue over all surfaces that you want to glue together and then clamp everything together. The clamps will squish out excess glue which you should remove right now as it will be much more difficult to do this later.
Although the glue should cure very quickly I usually let it do its thing overnight and come back to it the next day.
Tip: Although not shown here I recommend to use parchment paper inbetween your clamps and scales in case there is any glue left outside.
Step 27: Clean Up
Once the glue has dried it is time to clean up things. This means removing any epoxy that might have leaked out and wasn't cleaned up earlier and to cut down the pins and grind/sand the flush with the handle.
Step 28: Shaping
Before the handle gets a texture I rounded over all edges using old/ripped sanding belts. This works just as well with files, rasps and regular sandpaper depending on your handle material.
Even without an additional texture the handle would work quite comfortably already.
Step 29: Handle Texture
To ensure the handle has a good grip I decided to experiment with a handle texture.
I've tried to find the name of this particular pattern (something Italian sounding I think) but couldn't find it. I did however find the YouTube video I used as an inspiration.
The basic idea is simple but effective:
- Clamp your blade into a vise
- Start with your rotary on medium-low speed
- Grind a groove into the handle that extends over 2/3 of the width of the handle (in that spot)
- Move your tool to the left (or right depending in which direction you grind your pattern) so the edge of the sanding drum lines up with the right edge of the groove you just created. This way the grooves should be pretty well aligned
- Continue slowly until the entire handle has been textured
- To clean and slightly roughen the surface use a wire brush on the handle. This will create a micro texture for increased grip and also better contrast.
Step 30: Blackening
Since this knife was made for a boy who never owned a knife before I wanted it to be as low maintenance as possible.
To reduce the risk of rusting I used a quick blackening (You might know it as gun blue) solution to give all metal parts a blackish patina.
Now this finish needs some practice and I'm not 100% happy with the results (Not only the appearance is unsatisfactory I have now also noticed some slight rust although the knife was never used outside yet).
I will have to look into other ways to prevent rust for future projects.
Step 31: Handle and Blade Finish
To finish the blade I used some Ballistol mineral oil which I applied generously and let it sit for five minutes before wiping of any excess oil. The blade now had a nice thin coat of oil which should provide some additional protection against rust.
The handle was wiped with a generous amount of boiled linseed oil which I let sit for approx. 10 minutes. Once the linseed oil was wiped of the handle colors really popped with a nice contrast.
Step 32: Sharpening
The last step for the knife itself is to sharpen the blade. Although I could have used a high grit belt on my belt grinder for this I actually prefer to do this by hand on whet stones.
For this blade I used a waterstone with a 3000 and a 6000 grit which was followed up by stropping the blade on a leather strop.
Step 33: Cut Test
The actual test will be done outside once the knife is put to use and I really look forward to hear how it performed.
For now I just tested the knife on some paper and my thumb nail and was pretty happy with the results.
Step 34: The Final Knife
Right so this is what the final knife looks like (along with the kydex sheath) which will be a separate video & Instructable.
I look forward to read your comments and hope to have inspired you to try to make a knife yourself!
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