Picture of Mini Swords for non-forge owners
2012-10-07 08.51.09.jpg

For a while I've been wanting to make a decorative letter-opener or small knife, and it seems every instruction on the web on knife, or any other metal-working needs a forge. So I decided to experiment and find a method that allows me to make small swords, knives, or letter openers without the afore mentioned forge. And thus we have, the mini-swords.

While these serve no practical value, with very few letters to open these days, they are fun to make, and could make gifts for a fantasy-fond friend.

The images show me making a cutlass, but you can make any sort really, like the one below:

Step 1: Materials and requirements

Picture of Materials and requirements
Even though this does not require a forge, it still needs some other tools:

A Nail. 10cm is a good size, 15cm is hard to hammer flat, and 7 or so is the smallest you can work with without risking fingers.
Thin sheet steel for hand-guard. The amount and thickness depends on what style sword you make.
Solder to attach hand-guard.

Bench Grinder
Anvil or anvil like thing
The biggest hammer you have (short of a sledge. I use a 5lb-er)
Sandpaper of varying grits
Optional tools:
A Dremel or other rotary tool makes polishing much quicker...
A can of water

3-4 hours per sword
A template for a sword is a good thing to have. Making them by feel is hard, but possible.

Burns - even though we are not using fire, sanding and grinding metal makes it get very hot. Good luck not getting burned, I aint managed it it yet.
Major Abrasions - you have a rough surface spinning. It could hurt.
Cuts - Never mind, you'll get hundreds of small nicks by the end of it, nearly guaranteed.
Bruising and broken bones - a 5lb mallet can hurt if you miss the nail, hence the pliers.

Making it is dangerous, and if you sharpen it you could probably seriously injure someone. I'm not responsible for what you do.
Enough of that, you get the idea, it isn't safe, but it is fun....
Normey1321 month ago

I made it :-) i did not need a bench grinder i used a metal file

austin421 year ago

cool i made one just dont have picture :( do you know any home ways to shine it

i use steel wool or an S.O.S pad and some water

sdfgeoff (author)  austin421 year ago

There are plenty of instructables here on polishing metal. I find just taking lots of time, and starting with coarse sandpaper.

turel108 months ago


enarmory1 year ago
Friend needed a pair of letter openers so I used 4" deck screws
ArticAkita1 year ago

WOW! you have talent! I dinked around with a simple nail and flattened the whole thing and left it be, wondering what to do next? I finally took my ginding bit to it and buzzed away at it until it took the shape I wanted and I don't have a way to solder so I used super glue gel used a wood stiring stick and sanded that down to cover the metal, used the top of a roofing nail and carefully buzzed a oval for my blade to go through for the hilt & for some dumb reason wrapped green emoboydery floss only to redo that with green elmarko and use elctrical tape to wrap it providing green 'windows' looks cleaner.after reading you instructables on making tiny swords has me inspired to make another!


here some of the better ones I've made

sdfgeoff (author)  MandalorianMaker1 year ago

Looking Good. I'm particularly intriqued with the gold-handled one. Is that just wire-wound?

Anyway, I should update this with some of my newer creations.

Venemot1 year ago

Great instructable.........I MAde one too......though inspiration credit goes to another instructables by penabilli...........

though this ones pretty great aswell

zahilslmn1 year ago
I know I'm late in saying this, but this is awesome. I know what I'm doing when I get a couple hours of free time. Also, I think you can use a barbeque to heat up the nail to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit. It's not enough to heat treat a blade but it will soften it if you cool it down slowly (I know it's called aneiling but I don't know how I to correctly spell that).
sdfgeoff (author)  zahilslmn1 year ago

It is great fun. Though I prefer to leave the blade as hard as I can

Also, if you heat it, you have zinc fumes to worry about.

how did you flatten them so much and still keep them so thin mine ended up looking like a cheese fork

sdfgeoff (author)  David Zeno Maly1 year ago

If I understand your reference to 'cheese fork' correctly, you're ending up with really long and thin bars?

I normally hammer across the nail (so when the hammer hits the nail, it forms a 'T' like shape), which may be different to what you are doing.

juswood2 years ago
Love it!
bf18283 years ago
Thanks for this instructable after reading it I just had to have a go.
I've posted a pic of my first but by no means final attempt made using the recommended 4" nail.
Bit rough I know but the only way is up from here.
Pommel was a bit of a challange so any ideas on making a better looking one would be gratefully appreciated.
bf1828 bf18283 years ago
I've now made a shield for the sword so this is how they look together.
Thanks again for the inspiration
sdfgeoff (author)  bf18283 years ago
Great job, looking really good. What material did you use for the shield?
Just sheet metal? How did you paint that then?
bf1828 sdfgeoff3 years ago
Thanks the shield is quite simply the side of a beer can as
the natural curvature of the can works perfectly with the scale of the shield.
Once cut out I painted it with acrylics via an airbrush.
I just need to work out an effective way of getting more complex design onto them. Transfer paper just doesnt look right any suggestions?
curvy77 bf18282 years ago
great recycaling by useing the beer can!.......how much were u drinking? =p
sdfgeoff (author)  bf18283 years ago
Good idea using a can.
Airbrush the base colour, then cut a stencil for your design out of paper. Glue the paper on using a cheap gluestick (so you can have detached parts) and then airbrush again.

kjb1353 years ago
What kind of grinder du you use?
sdfgeoff (author)  kjb1353 years ago
A desktop bench grinder (two wheels, one coarse and one fine)
dont use galvinized nails
sdfgeoff (author)  custom knives1013 years ago
It doesn't matter if they're galvanized or not. When you clean up the bar by grinding the faces, you take the galvanizing off.
HMice3 years ago
My favourite is the last on on the 10th step on the second photo!
What if you don't have a bench grinder? Is there a head for a dremel that would do virtually the same thing?
Try a grind stone on your dremel but be careful of the heat generated and the stone catching your fingers.
Here's a pic of my second attempt with a much improved pommel
ngong03 years ago
I just got the same tool as a gift yesterday and am looking for projects to use it on.
sdfgeoff (author)  ngong03 years ago
These tools are great for starting, but working on steel like this, even small grinding takes a long time. You're better off working with aluminium unless you are just adding finishing touches.
Myself I have a bunch of 1mm and 2mm sheet aluminium that I regularly make pendants out of. I'll have to make a ible on that sometime.
curvy773 years ago
for easier engravings leave the blade blackened and start from there. since ur doin somthing small you could use a stove burner or blowtorch to heat up the metal and make it easier to hammer down. also if you ever want to make a great sword nail heat up 2 nails till both turn mid orange or low yellow color( extremely hot!!! be carful!!) then hammer ends together (u judge the length) and one u can lift the super heated metal without them seperating give it a few more good whacks and cool rapidly. also use a small dremer or metal file on the edge to give it a good sharpness.
sdfgeoff (author)  curvy773 years ago
Leaving the metal blackened does indeed make the engraving stand out more, but does little to improve my own inaccuracy with the tool!

Interesting idea to join two nails, I hadn't really considered that. But then the whole point of this ible is to let people try metalworking without any kind of high-temp generating device (forge, gas torch etc). Still great to know, and I may well try this at some point.
to help with ur inaccuracy you could make a little paper design over the blade and ,after cuttinging them out, use the holes as a sort of trace path. i did this on my knife and worked well(though mines a bit bigger lol). as for the cold metal work you can try metal folding..... might work.
yoyology3 years ago
You could try etching instead of engraving for blade decoration.
Etching Knife Blades
Etch a Family Portrait (he's doing aluminum, but says it will work on steel)
Etching On Tin Using Crayon-Technique

And here's an 'ible on How to do engraving easy and make it look good. :-)
spiderham3 years ago
Those look great. Here's one I made some time ago. it's not up to par with yours, but I enjoyed making it.
sdfgeoff (author)  spiderham3 years ago
Out of interest, what did you make the hand-guard out of, and how did you cut the slot for the blade?
Looks great, mine aren't exactly museum pieces either.
It's a flat washer from some throw away electronic devices I scavenged. It just happened to be the right size to fit over the tang. However, Tinplate Girl has a video on making decorative punches out of concrete nails. I think that might be your best solution for making the holes on your guards. I used a bit of solder on the tang side of the guard so the hilt would hide it.
sdfgeoff (author)  spiderham3 years ago
curvy773 years ago
to minimize burns or heat pain one should wear thick gloves (gardners gloves will work) and long sleaves. very nice design and work. and remember just cause you dont use a fire to make blades dosent mean its not forging. i have made a few things cold smithing and they turned out fine. the fact that it takes so much time to make one sword means you put great effort into it. Well done!!
Biggsy3 years ago
This is actually kinda awesome, I like it well done... I don't have the patience to make one, nor the tools i suppose... :D

but anyway great work and a well rounded instructable, a high five for you