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Picture of Yak-Proof Survival Knife
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Y.U.R.T. - Yellow Ugly Rescue Tool ;-)

I wanted to call this Instructable "Make a heavy duty survival knife from an rusty file for less then 15 dollar in less then 2 hours with only basic tools", but sometimes less is simply more...

Survival. Again. I'm doing this - this what? this sport? this spirit? this way of life? I like the last one! - for many years and every survivalist comes to The Moment of asking the only question that counts: 'which knife???'
On the net you'll find thousands of 'survival knives' and a few brands offer really good stuff.
Instead of buying one, as a survivalist I prefered making one.

Making your own survival knife is going back to basics of survival: be inventive or die, or so.

Untill now I always used a customized tactical knife (my custom Muela Tornado 'Black Betty' - see picture). No need to spend an Instructable on this: take the knife, take a grinder, take a sander and you're done!

A few months ago I decided to make a survival knife from a file with only some basic tools. That evening project resulted in Y.U.R.T, I agree, the most ugly knife you've ever seen. But one that does the job!
YURT exceeded my best expectations. It's 200% yak-proof and a lot more reliable than a lot of the so-called 'survival' stuff you'll find on the net - with all my respect for those brands that matter.

Why a file? Because it's very hard steel, easy to find, and cheap.

All you need:
  • a big grandpa's file
  • a big hammer handle
  • chemical anchor
  • angle grinder
  • sander
  • drill
  • safety gear
Dimensions of Y.U.R.T.
  • weight: 272 gram - almost 10 oz
  • overall length: 26.5 cm - a bit more than 10 inches
  • blade length: 11.5 cm - 4.5 inches
  • blade width: 3.5 cm - 1.4 inch
  • maximal blade thickness: 0.7 cm - 0.27 inch
 
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dropkick1 year ago

I want all my survival situations to be like those of Bear Grylls.


-With a fully loaded RV just off camera.


Nice knife.


This isn't a criticism, but I always grind off the striations of the file before I make a knife out of one. I worry about the striation creating a weak point where the blade could break - I could be way off base with this though.

JeremyA dropkick8 months ago
(removed by author or community request)
dropkick JeremyA8 months ago
JeremyA,

I don't consider making fun of Bear Grylls as picking on him, I consider it as more in the way of performing a public service.

Except for the first time I watched it, I can't remember watching a complete episode of Man Vs. Wild. I used to watch portions of the show while flipping through the channels. Despite that and the fact it's been years since I did watch any of his show, I can still remember many instances just off the top of my head where I saw him give advice or doing things that ranged from just bad ideas to this-could-kill-you bad.

i.e. cooking fish directly beside his shelter in "bear country", building a snow shelter that was actually colder than just lying on the surface of the snow, eating maggots that could contain salmonella or even botulism, jumping off a ledge into a river without knowing how deep the water was, drinking urine.
--I'm sure if I took some time I could remember more.

I don't mind that his show was staged (he has publicly admitted this). I don't care that the maggots were actually meal worms, that often just off camera was an RV that he actually slept and ate in. What I do care about is his purporting to be a survival expert and then giving out bad advice.

I'll continue to be proud of educating people about this.
JeremyA dropkick8 months ago

You have made your point and I concede. I don't mind him creating scenarios to teach survival. I don't mind him sleeping in an RV. I do agree with you on taking issue with teaching misleading information.

joey569 months ago
Cool
fenikkusu1 year ago
Ok I'm struggling here to post a pic and I already messed this up twice...lol. Let's hope third time's a charm.
Hubby is a farrier. He uses rasps. They have a smooth side just like what is shown on your knife that I think you could use to create spark for a fire. They also have a rough side and i wonder if some of that was retained on the other side of the knife if it could be used to scale a fish, since most fish are edible (though not necessarily palatable). But I've never scaled a fish before. So pass back a response with an opinion if you have one. Love your projects by the way, I've looked at several.
boston-boy1 year ago
Do you have to use a old file? Because that might be a bit hard to find
I don't know if this helps or not. I am the wife of a blacksmith (in NH btw). I don't know nearly as much as my hubby does, but old files are hardened steel, where new files at least in the U.S. are only surface hardened. They are machine pressed and I believe they are fired briefly and then a coating is applied to the surface (all the way around) only. Once that surface hardened bit is worn off the files quickly lose their edge. One could imagine that a file made the old fashioned way would have taken a lot of time! All that being said, there is nothing particularly wrong with using a new file. You may have to sharpen that knife more often, but on the other hand it will be easier to sharpen using a simple rock from the woods, and if you're still in New England there are many MANY good rocks to sharpen a knife with just about everywhere. At some point any knife will need to be sharpened right? What I like about this knife is that it retains the smooth side of the rasp that possibly could be used to make spark. I wonder if retaining a little of the rough side of the rasp could be used to possibly scale a fish? I don't know though, I've never scaled a fish. My hubby must have about 50 used rasps kicking around.
3.14152 years ago
Nice work! The simplicity is perfect. Perfect for improvisation when minutes count. Sure, one could spend lots of extra time being a blacksmith, but that may not be a luxury. Survival is about adapting. Just ask Darwin.
I do blacksmithing, and stock removal from a file takes a lot less time. It's much easier, but more limited. You can only make a knife as big as the file. Then again, there are some files that are about 20 inches long.
bricobart (author)  3.14152 years ago
Thanx mate, you got the picture!
flintwo21 year ago
It looks like it could still file objects, Was that meant on purpose?
bricobart (author)  flintwo21 year ago
Not really, the idea was to leave a maximum weight to the tip of the knife to improve slashing. If you want to file with it: feel free!
You can use the file part to make sparks with flint and steel to start a fire if need be.
EmcySquare2 years ago
A few sujestions for further emproovement:

Usually when you repurpouse an old file into a knife you need to take away the temper form it first, and then putting it back by hardening, quenching and tempering. Heat threat is the very HEART of knifemaking

Also the connection between the tang (the part you refer to as "root") and the blade should not be a straight 90° angle but a large curve, otherwise you put a weak spot in the knife "by design" (it is still unlikelly to break, put if it does it will break right there or chip the point)

With such a file you could have made a longer knife, or a full tang

Keep up the good job
bricobart (author)  EmcySquare2 years ago
Hi EmcySquare!

Thanx for the suggestions mate! You're not the first one who pushes me on the forgery way and know that I agree with you and with all of you!

I'm gonna build my forge, for sure, and know that I can't wait to heat my first DARC, to forge my first Bhai and to improve the YURT. Burnin' feelin'!

I made this I'ble in the first place for all of those who don't have the advanced equipment of you knife-makers. I wanted to show that with a minimum of equipment, effort and investment you can make something that's knifable.

No need no forge, no need no drill press (in case of a full-tang design with love-less bolts or whatever), no need no craftmanship. With a cheap angle-grinder of 20$, a drill of 25$, some discs of all together 10$, an old file, a handle and some anchor of all together 20$ you can have a lot of fun. And survive in a lot of wildernesses, if you like ;-)

I'll post some pics once the forge is burning!
Esque bricobart2 years ago
Hi Bartolo, I'm all for making knives on the cheap (I collect and make my own over here in the UK) but I get very frustrated when I see what could be a good project spoilt by poor heat treatment, or in some cases even no HT at all!! By using a grinder you will have definitely messed up the HT on your file and while it will work for a little while, HT would definitely improve it. The thing is, an HT set up doesn't have to be hugely expensive and my best bit of advice would be to invest in Wayne Goddard's book, $50 Knife Shop.

Taught me a huge amount and it might just turn your future projects into something that meets the potential of this one. All the best and good luck with future projects, it would be great to get the word out that Ht doesn't have to be complicated or expensive!!
bricobart (author)  Esque2 years ago
Hi Esque! You know, this I'ble goes about everything but knifemaking. Calling YURT a 'knife' would be as crazy as calling Heineken a 'beer'. Don't push grandma into the nettles, we say.

I agree, HT would surely improve the whole thing.

But: why should we heat the file untill it looses it magnetism, cool it down to make it soft, do what we have to do, reheat it again, quench it in oil to rehard it, and bake it in an oven for an hour to give it the right hardness (sorry if I simplified), IF IT WITHSTANDS AN HOUR OF ROUGH WORK (see The Big Test in step 4) WITHOUT IT?

In survival only the result counts, skip the details ;-)
Don't push grandma into the nettles
I don't know what that means, but it's my new favorite saying.
You crazy non-Americans.
Working a hardened blade i harder and require more hard work

But' it's not only that: the hard work requires stronger "energy" on the blade that means more heat produced while working.
If you heat the blade and make it dark yellow in color the temper il gone anyway and you can't just "take away the yello spot"... the metal is weakened inside already.

Then you need to re-temper it anyway.

doing "the long way" is easier and helps getting a better result
I made my first knife with just a file, a drill, a hacksaw, a pair of pliers, some sandpaper, and a vise. It was more tools than I actually needed but it made it easier.
I did remove the temper first with my oven in my kitchen - I heated the metal (I used a leaf spring) to 500F and then left it in the oven to cool overnight. This removed the temper.
I then drilled holes around the shape I wanted for my knife and used the hacksaw to connect them. I smoothed and formed the shape with my file and made it prettier with the sandpaper.
Then using a coffee can filled with charcoal briquettes and a desk fan in place of a bellows I heated the blade edge until it was white hot and quenched it in old engine oil.
I made a handle out of a split apple wood branch that I formed with the same file and sandpaper I'd used on the blade. I attached it to the full tang with a pair of bolts and nuts.
I still use this knife.
I made my first knife with just a file, a drill, a hacksaw, a pair of pliers, some sandpaper, and a vise. It was more tools than I actually needed but it made it easier.
I did remove the temper first with my oven in my kitchen - I heated the metal (I used a leaf spring) to 500F and then left it in the oven to cool overnight. This removed the temper.
I then drilled holes around the shape I wanted for my knife and used the hacksaw to connect them. I smoothed and formed the shape with my file and made it prettier with the sandpaper.
Then using a coffee can filled with charcoal briquettes and a desk fan in place of a bellows I heated the blade edge until it was white hot and quenched it in old engine oil.
I made a handle out of a split apple wood branch that I formed with the same file and sandpaper I'd used on the blade. I attached it to the full tang with a pair of bolts and nuts.
I still use this knife.
I made my first knife with just a file, a drill, a hacksaw, a pair of pliers, some sandpaper, and a vise. It was more tools than I actually needed but it made it easier.
I did remove the temper first with my oven in my kitchen - I heated the metal (I used a leaf spring) to 500F and then left it in the oven to cool overnight. This removed the temper.
I then drilled holes around the shape I wanted for my knife and used the hacksaw to connect them. I smoothed and formed the shape with my file and made it prettier with the sandpaper.
Then using a coffee can filled with charcoal briquettes and a desk fan in place of a bellows I heated the blade edge until it was white hot and quenched it in old engine oil.
I made a handle out of a split apple wood branch that I formed with the same file and sandpaper I'd used on the blade. I attached it to the full tang with a pair of bolts and nuts.
I still use this knife.
krdog2 years ago
Unfortunately - depending on circumstance, you won't have the materials handy to make a steel survival knife. Best bet in this day and age is to go back to the basics and learn how to bust a chip off a rock and go from there. The more you know, the less you have to carry.
bricobart (author)  krdog2 years ago
Aim of this knife is to build it BEFORE going on a survival trip, of course. You know, there are two types of survival: ask your friends or a perfect mr nobody to drop you somewhere remote and spend three weeks to track your way back 'bear grylls luxury survival', or the real 'LOST-type survival' when your plane crashes and you're put in danger by circumstances.
This knife is for the Bear Grylls's among us.
Do me a fovour, don't use the knives he's promoting...
weldor2 years ago
ever try a push-rod out of an engine? Just a thought is all.
bricobart (author)  weldor2 years ago
A push-rod???
it is the cylindrical shaped piece of steel (sometimes they are hollow) that transmits the lift of the cam (via the lifter/tappet) to the rocker arm which in turn allows the valve to open and close. They are found in the typical (older)overhead valve engines. These are often a decent alloy steel.
I don't think it's ugly, I think it's rather nice looking. But I'm curious; yak proof you say. Have you tested it on an actual yak?
bricobart (author)  throbscottle2 years ago
Actually my yak tested it. He gave up, wasn't able to break it apart - which can't be said of a lot of so called 'survival knife'-brands...
Everyone should have a yak!
astrong02 years ago
How did you prevent the steel from burning?
bricobart (author)  astrong02 years ago
Control the tpm of your grinder and cool the blade in a glass of cold oil when you feel it's getting warm - I didn't do that, but I'm sure it's a good idea!
Celt2 years ago
I have used files to make knives before as well. Here are a few tips if you care to try em out... Temper the blade by heating it red hot, (not too hot where is turns yellow or white). Keep at this temp for about 3 minutes and turn off the heat. let it cool to room temp on its own.
Shape the file into the shape you need and sharpen to the sharpness of a butter knife.
Bring the knife up to red hot temp again and quench in used motor oil.(be careful there will be flames). The Heavy carbon saturated oil will darken the blade and case harden the blade. Do this 2 times for best results.
P.S. Use a bench grinder for best results. Now use wet stones to sharpen the blade to make a purdy finish! I love to make knives, just never have posted any of them yet.
bricobart (author)  Celt2 years ago
Thanx for the tips Celt! My father used the 'used the motor oil technic' to temper his welds. Seems to be quite effective. Next time I'll change the oil of my car the oil will be put apart ;-)
cart5622 years ago
When asking about that chemical anchor stuff at my local hardware store, is that exactly what I would ask for? or is there another name?
bricobart (author)  cart5622 years ago
If you'll explain why it's used for they will understand, no worries!
bricobart (author)  bricobart2 years ago
It's muliticomponent stuff - a resin mixed with a hardener - sold in plastic cilinders you use in a pistol. The mixing occurs in the adapted tubes you mount on the cilinder, you'll see. Waste the first 'sprutch', it often is too liquid. Don't forget to close the cilinder after use.
Ok, I am slightly familiar with those glues where you mix two things together, I was just wondering if this was something different.
Ask for some two part epoxy filler. Not glue, but filler.
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