Introduction: El Carroñero: the Scavenged Survival Blade

Sometimes I get really into making something that's both beautiful and functional, but today ain't that day.

Inspired by Instructables' Survival Contest and a week of binge-watching The Walking Dead (as well as procrastinating on my dissertation), I decided to give myself a 30-5-30-30 challenge! What is that? you say. Well, I just made it up. I gave myself 30 minutes in a thrift shop with five bucks. Then I got 30 minutes to build a legitimate survival tool that would have cost me at least $30 in a retail store. What I came up with was a heavy-duty, multi-purpose survival knife. I won't be taking it to the county fair, but I could definitely take out a zombie (and I don't mean on a date).

So if you're ready, let's kick this mule!

Step 1: Disclaimer

If you follow these instructions, you will definitely be injured, probably fatally. Before dying, however, you will be insulted, assaulted, sued and arrested. You've been warned and I take no responsibility.

Step 2: Raw Materials

You're probably asking yourself why I chose a thrift shop as a proxy for the desolate wasteland of a post-apocalyptic world. There are several reasons, the first being that looting is not yet socially acceptable. Second, I've become something of a minimalist and I couldn't find anything of my own that I was willing to destroy. Third, the last time I "borrowed" something from a friend (I was house-sitting), I had a minor Instructables riot on my hands. People were all like, "Ooh, you're a horrible friend!" and "Man, it's illegal to transform someone else's tennis racket into an atlatl!" and blah, blah, blah. To avoid the headache -- and yes, I had already dismantled everything at that house that I could repurpose -- I went to a thrift store. HAPPY?!?!? And besides, thrift shops are full of stuff that people pretty much threw away, so it's a representative sample of post-apocalyptic-ish stuff.

Anyway, if you're satisfied with my explanation, I'll continue. I found a pair of shears at the thrift shop for $2.99, except it was half-off-orange-colored-tags day, so they were really only one dollar and 49.5 cents. I've included a picture with the price tag, so you'll know I'm not lying, at least about the original price. You'll have to trust me on the half-off sale. Also, let me just say to all the retail clerks out there, don't ask people if they qualify for the senior discount. It's really presumptuous and rude! Not that there's anything wrong with senior citizens, but it's a good 20 years before I qualify for your discount, so why risk insulting me? Especially when I was thinking that you were cute and I might ask for your number! How do I recover from that? "Uh, no, I'm not a senior citizen, but would you like to go out? I might be able to con a discount at Luby's cafeteria." ??? And the lady in front me me? She had to be like 119! You kept asking her over and over again if she qualified for the senior discount when OBVIOUSLY she did, and the fact that she kept saying, "I'm sorry sweetie, I can't hear you," despite the fact that you were basically screaming should have been a clue. So, my point is that if I wanted to wait another 20 years, I could have gotten this thing for around a buck twenty five. Life is short, though, so here we go.

I don't know what these things were originally for. When they were all taped up, I assumed they were for cutting branches or something. Once the tape came off, I started to wonder if they were for gutting a turkey maybe. I don't know. Maybe I should have just kept them, as they would have been handy in the end-times as-is, but that wouldn't make for a very good instructable (not that this does, LOL). So anyway, I got these shear things for $1.495. That's WITHOUT the senior discount.

Step 3: Disassemble

These shear things were made like scissors, with a single hinge point formed by a bolt that ran through holes in either side. I took the bolt out using a pair of channel lock pliers. That's probably not what you call them. Some people call them "pump pliers," "tongue and groove pliers," "arc-joint pliers," "parrot nose pliers," and "plumber's special pliers." Those are dumb names. My dad called them channel locks, so that's obviously the right term.

I suppose you could use vice grips or a crescent wrench, but a pipe wrench wouldn't work and in my case, sockets wouldn't fit either, because it was some weird kind of proprietary bolt. Who cares! The point is, use whatever you need to use in order to get this thing into pieces.

If I wasn't committed to YOU, the reader, I would just say, "Look, now you have two knives. You're welcome." and then call it a day, but no, I'm not here to teach you how to disassemble scissors-on-steroids and I'm not here to teach you what not to call channel locks. This project has to have something more; something new and exciting and worthy of voting so I can win that Leatherman bracelet tool thing because it's about the coolest EDC gadget I've ever seen but I can't afford to buy one so let's keep going shall we?

Step 4: Think Twice and Cut Once

We're going to make ONE knife with a full handle, which will make dispatching zombies much more comfortable and less likely to result in carpal tunnel syndrome, which is no fun in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Take a knee and listen for a second. If you're a complete idiot, this is where you'll mess things up. First, pick one side of the disassembled scissors-like thing that you LIKE. If you're prone to confusion, you might want to grab a Sharpie and write "I LIKE THIS ONE" on it. Like me, you can select the side that looks like a knife. If you fancy yourself a modern-day Ninja or play too much Call of Duty, you might choose the karambit-esque side. Either way, take the side that you LIKE and set it aside. Put it in a drawer or something until all cutting and grinding is done. That's right, cutting and grinding. Do I have your attention now?

Now take the side that you DON'T like. No, wait, that sounds too negative. Take the side that you like second best and cut off the blade. DO NOT cut off the bolt hole like some moron because then you've gone and ruined everything. Look at the picture above and see where I cut off my second favorite blade. I used a cutting wheel on a grinder, but you can use whatever you want. Did you ever see the original movie "Django"? Not the one by Q.T. (which is flippin' awesome), but the 1966 version starring Franco Nero, whose audition apparently consisted of him wandering in and saying "Hey, I look vaguely like Clint Eastwood, who's big right now" (except in Italian). Anyway, I won't bore you with details about the spaghetti Western plot (or lack thereof) that puts Italian Clint smack between a gang of banditos on one side and the local KKK chapter on the other. Suffice it to say that he gets his gun hand mangled through some unsafe horsemanship, thus preventing him from using the Gatling gun that he generally drags around in a coffin. In the climactic movie-ending gun battle, Django is pinned down in a cemetery, armed only with his trusty six-shooter, but he can't fit his bandaged finger through the trigger guard. Personally, I would have used my teeth to get the bandages off, but then again, I'm not an badass Italiano gunslinging loner who nonetheless can't abandon the quiet town in need of his help. No, Django used his teeth to chew the trigger guard off his pistol, thus allowing him to win the day against insurmountable odds. No, that's not a typo. He chewed the trigger guard off his pistol. My point is that if you don't have a grinder or Dremel tool or hack saw, you can chew your second favorite blade off. Spit. Don't swallow.

Step 5: Reassemble

Now, if you can remember where the uncut half is, get it out and bolt it to the one you just shortened. The reassembly process should be the opposite of the dis-assembly process, and I assume that if you're still alive at this point, you're not a complete dunce, so I won't go through the details here. Just put the ^#$*($)! thing together again.

I put some little notes in the picture above. If everything works out, you should be able to hover over the photo (with your cursor; unless you're David Blaine, I know you can't levitate) and my words will magically pop up. Long story short, there are a few built-in goodies here, in addition to the obvious blade. First off, there are two little pokey, nubby things in the handle. I have no idea what these originally did. Probably nothing. Who cares? Now you can use them to crack open walnuts or maybe torture someone. When I was a kid, we tried going to a church for awhile. The boys got separated out to talk with a leader. Luckily, we weren't molested or anything, but I remember one Sunday this guy had a plan to teach us about the sacrifice that Jesus endured, so he asked for volunteer. Guess who stood up. He whipped out a pair of pliers and got a grip on my thumb. He said he was going to squeeze slowly until I couldn't take it any more and asked him to stop. Like an idiot, he gave us the punch line ahead of time. He was going to show that people are weak and can't take much suffering but that Jesus was all like, "Yeah, bring it on!" So I decided that I wasn't going to quit, even if he broke my thumb, after which I'd be able to sue or blackmail him or something. She he squeezed and squeezed and I went to my happy place. Eventually, he gave up and was all pissed off that his plan hadn't worked. That was the last Sunday school I went to. Anyway, my point here is that these little nubby protrusions would be much better for torturing small children than a plain old pair of pliers. (He was using slip-joint pliers, BTdub, not channel locks, which probably would have made me cry).

Second, you can slip your fingers through the handle and grip one side. This effectively turns the knife handle into a pair of brass knuckles, perfect for punching some sadistic Sunday school teacher in the face.

Third, there's a little knob at the base of the handle and this could be used to crack skulls or windows.

Now, if you're a quitter, you can stop here. You've got a good, sharp, functional knife, made with quality steel. It cost you (and by you, I mean me) less than a buck fifty. You can stab, cut, chop, punch, and blunt force traumatize your enemies. If you want to take it to the next level, though, read on my friend, read on...

Step 6: Stash

Spoiler alert: I'm going to wrap the handle in para-cord in the next step. Depending on how you wrap the handle, you can stow things in the cavity. I think that's pretty cool, man! I did some experimenting and I found that you can fit a tube of epoxy, a AA battery, or a tail light bulb from a 1986 Avion travel trailer in there. It's a squeeze, but you can also put your second favorite blade in the handle. The possibilities are endless! Okay, well, not endless, as they're somewhat constricted by the size of the cavity. That reminds me of the time I was in Hawaii and I dove head-first into a lava tube that went into the ocean. I watched another guy do it. He was above 5'2" and I'm 6'6", but that didn't seem relevant at the time. He said I should wait for the wave-generated geyser to shoot way up in the air and fall down before I dove in. That way, the suction from the receding tide would zip me through the tube and safely out to sea. Seemed like a good idea at the time, so I waited for the geyser to shoot up. I waited for the geyser to drop down. I dove into the bowels of the earth and was rocketing along quite nicely until my head slammed into a lava bump in the ceiling and I came to a dead stop. The water slowed and there was no movement. My arms were pinned down to my sides. I regained my wits just as the tidal surge started back inland, pushing me in reverse! Time slowed down and I considered my options, one of which was apparently to get shot 50 feet up in the air, feet first. This didn't seem like a good idea, so I clawed at the tube's walls with my fingers and toes and weathered the gale-force current to the face for what seemed an eternity. Then calm. Then the water started rushing back out to sea and I kicked with all my might. Thank GOD, I finally made it into the ocean and swam up toward the light. So anyway, don't try to fit anything too big into your knife hole.

Step 7: Wrap It Up

Now you're going to wrap your handle in para-cord. Why? Because that's what you do with survival stuff! You wrap it in para-cord! I suppose, if you really had to, you could use it in survival situations for lashing, tourniqueting, garroting, rappelling (if you weigh less than 550 pounds), etc. It has smaller strings inside that might be useful for suturing, snaring, sewing, and so forth. Anyway, I don't know anything about wrapping things in para-cord, but I know there's a metric crap-ton of instructables on it. I took some pictures of me fumbling through the process. If you know less about para-cord wrapping than me, these might help. If you know more than me, keep it to yourself. Once you're done wrapping, tie off the ends. Whatever you stashed in the handle is now safe and secure. Hopefully you don't need it soon, because unwrapping para-cord is a huge pain. If you're wondering what I hid in my handle, it's none of your business! The first rule of survival is "don't tell people what you have hidden in your knife hole."

Step 8: Bells and Whistles

Well, you were pretty much done in the last step. This step here is only if you're wanting to mass produce these and sell them, in which case they're not nearly enough crap involved. This part really is limited only by your imagination. Just as an example, I hooked a combination carabiner/flashlight to the handle. The battery is dead, so I shoved some matches in the compartment. Using the carabiner/matchbox-nee-flashlight, I attached a UFO-shaped LED light, a zipper-pull compass, a waterproof box, and a roll of Teflon tape. Now it is even more multi-purpose, flashy, jingly, awkward, and heavy. It can be yours for only $39.99

I'm going to need you to vote now, but only if you think I really deserve to win that jointed piece of Leatherman goodness.

Survival Contest

Participated in the
Survival Contest