Introduction: TOUCAN - TOtally Useless Companion Anyone (should) Need

About: I made a beer mug with only a knife and a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

'It's a particular kind of satisfaction when a tool that you designed and built works surprisingly well and there's still margin for growth to make it better.'

I wrote this a few days ago, after I tested this new blade desgin. The origin of this came from the eternal discussion between axe junkies & machete/parang folks on which is kind of the best tool to have with you 'if you had just one to choose'. Just one. Some will swear by their compact forest axe, some by their sami knife and others by their kukri. The discussion goes on, and despite the fact much - for not to say everything - depends on the environment in which you're gonna use it, the question stays open 'if you just had one to choose one'. Let's say on a blindfolded mission, destination nowhere & everywhere. Think about it, it's quite entertaining. And quite frustrating, sometimes.

As a no-concessions-guy I've never been into that discussion, actually, but I love the idea thinking about it. I carry my Hultafors bushcraft knife, a custom no-name carving axe, my Jauregi forest axe and a jungle blade my dad forged for my 10th birthday almost all day and no tree resisted to all this firepower ever. And not one trip in the woods was ever unsatisfied, also. But, imagine, if you really had one tool to carry, what would it be?

Let's be honest. Sometimes – even some many times - a parang or machete ain't just enough, and sometimes that good ol' blister & beer soaked forest axe ain't just enough, either - no concessions on that bushcraft knife btw.

Recently I was in a good mood for scetching - again - and one idea led to another beer which gave me the idea of just one beer more and before I realised it I was getting really serious about a tool that could be ànd axe ànd parang. It had to be a jungle-proof device that was able to clear, dig, cut, limb, split & carve at the same time. And open a bottle. It had to be simple & compact. And easy to make. Quite a lot of parameters, though, but at the glance of the first stars I felt quite satisfied about the little bird I just designed.

I named it 'toucan' – for obvious reasons.

The bird, you know, not the rock star.

This project is still in progress, and therefor I need your help. Are you folks giving this any potential or does it seem just another fail in tool-making history? Think about it, and let me know. Many thanx!

Step 1: Overview

The toucan is basicly a handle with a pivotable heavy blade. In 'open' position it's a jungle knife, or parang, whatever, and in 'closed' it's a small axe.

The blade is attached to the handle with a double safety - a device that's still in development btw. In the first tucan (see pic) it was a solid bushing and a bolt for extra security. In version 2.0 the 'eye' of the bird became more complex for extra safety.

It's not a one handed folder. It's not even a folder in the first place. It's just an articultation.

To go from axe to parang you loosen/remove the bolts with an allen key.

Very basic. But very sturdy.

Pics: Toucan 1.0

Step 2: Creative Setup

All my projects are born on paper. During the past years I filled hundreds of pages with ideas, scetches, plans etc. From paper it goes to template and from template to prototype.

And from prototype to the bottom of the sea, sometimes.

Or covered with 50cm solid concrete.

Step 3: Handle Overview

The handle is the most technic challenge of the project. I wanted it ànd light ànd sturdy, so I chose the same solid piece of 15mm aluminium I bought to build the picapow. Remember that one? Still using it btw.

Cutting aluminium without a waterjet is a pain. I've had the best results with a heavy duty jigsaw and simple wood blades. I tried magic, I tried mind power, I tried metal blades & I even tried those 'special alu' blades. The only thing that was really special about them was the speed they became totally worthless. Their tiny teeth got very rapidly 'saturated' with sticky alu dust. Stay to good ol' wood blades. Or be nice to someone who has access to a waterjet.

So, simple wood blades. The cut is less smooth, I agree, but it's easier to smooth the edges down than to change or clean a blade every 5 minutes.

Once the handle is roughly cut out you can smooth the sides with files or belt sander. No need to get it shiny in this stage, aim is to get those lines smooth, not to get a mirror.

Since I wanted initially a nice wooden look - and because wood feels so much better than aluminium - I glued 10mm thick hardwood to the sides which I planed to 3mm once the bicomp resin was set. I didn't use a template for them since it was just too simple to sand the excess away later. Btw, bicomp is really great stuff. Use clamps to hold it tightly together for a few minutes, it hardens fast.

Next time I'll use templates for those scales too btw. In the next stage you'll be drilling a few holes and this process produces so much heat that it'll mess up the connection between alu & wood. Learning from mistakes, you know. And sharing with others. Instructables, you know.

Drilling these holes is best done on a tower drill to get a perfect 90° angle. Big hole is 16mm diameter, the small ones 7.5mm. Use WD40 to lubrifiate the bit whille drilling. Or vegetal oil. Or polar bear wax, whatever.

End the stage with putting a 8mm tread in the small holes.

So, first you do the cutting, then the drilling, then the glueing and at last the sanding. In that order, somehow.

Finally you're good to go for what makes this type of handle really awesome: the octagonal shape. I used a simple router with a 45° router bit (for wood, initally) and it worked just perfect. Say the word: octagonal. You've got to feel it to believe it.

Sand the whole down with a 180 grit and you're done. Linseed or walnut oil to finish.

If you're not using those wooden scales, sand it down to 1200 grit and admire yourself in that mirror.

Pics: Toucan 2.0 as it came out of the workshop.

Step 4: Blade

For the blade of Toucan 1.0 I used 'a' 4mm thick carbon steel.

During the years I collected a whole bunch of hardware. From old cast steel bath tubs to WWI ammunition. Preparing for the apocalypse, you know.

For this design you only need a heavy powerful blade - 4mm thickness is a must. I don't remember where I picked the one up I used for the first version of this design, but as you'll see later it wasn't definitely my best choice ever.

Use that template for shape & holes. Be precise. Go to bed early the day before.

If you're using already hardened carbon steel, you're doing good to remove the hardness for it'll be a lot easier to cut & drill. Heat it in the forge - or a forest fire - and let it cool down slowly. Cut with jigsaw (metal blades) or a disc sander. Check out this site for more info on the heat treatment process, there are some awesome projects where this process is explained in detail.

Next step is the bevels. I put 30° bevels on each side. Other angles will be tested to see which one gives the best results.

Once you're happy with the shape you can harden it again. Heat to cherry red in the forge and once is doesn't stick to a magnet anymore you quench it - read: dropping in vegetal oil and letting it cool down. Last stage is the tempering. This stage is necessary since a quenched blade is brittle as glass. So it needs to be 'softened' to make it workable. One way to do it to place it in the oven at 220°C for 30 about minutes.

These are just the basics, you know. When you're not a blacksmith, the best way to get a decent blade is to send it to a specialist to get it hardened for you. Check the net.

Step 5: Safety Components & Pivot

To hold the blade tightly to the handle I used two pieces.

The first acts as a pivot point. It's a steel bushing-like piece made with a 6mm thread inside that's pressed to the handle with a 6mm bolt. I asked a friend to make it for me since I don't have a lathe.

The second is a 8mm bolt that acts as safety and that prevents the blade from pivoting.

Pic 1: Toucan 1.0 with the safety bolt directly fixed to the handle.

Prc 2: Toucan 2.0 with the safety bolt fixed to a net that has been welded to the bushing.

Step 6: Maiden Trip & First Upgrade

I tested the toucan shortly after its built and wrote this about it:

Today was the day, yay! I put the tucan to the test and besides a few - one, in fact - hics in the whole story it didn't end up at the bottom of the sea after use. That 'hic' was the steel I used. In fact it wasn't the steel itself but the way I heat treated it. I guess the tempering was a big fail and so I got a blade as brittle as glass. No major problem, we'll do better next time.

As I said, the overall feeling is quite great. It holds nicely in my hand and the fact the blade is slightly off center doesn't seem to bother much. With a decent blade and the right bevels this tucan can be a keeper, so I'm going to put it in the hands of some other brutal fellas to discover their feelings about it.

I asked a few friends online about their first ideas and I'm also asking this to you guys. What's your opinion about it?

Some early comments on the design:

- blade too much off center, probably uncomfortable

- bevel of the parang side too long, possible danger

- big risk of loss of that allen key, potential disaster in nature

These comments in mind I decided to go for tucan 2.0, with a better blade, a shorter bevel, a more centered blade and a solution for that runaway allen key.

But, during the routering of the pivot zone the handle became so hot that the bicomp lost grip and the wooden scales came off. So I kicked them out of the project and returned to full basics. Also, I drilled a few more holes in the handle to gain some weight. The handle I mean, not my body.

Pics: Toucan 1.0

Step 7: Toucan 2.0

After the disaster of the first tucan I went back to the shop and worked on some upgrades.

To list a few:

- 3mm carbon steel blade

- modified blade design

- slimmed down handle

- blade more centered

- modified safety device

Ready for test run 2!

Thanx for passing by, and let me know what you think about it.

Step 8: Toucan Vs Jauregi Meat Axe

Technical details for junkies only ;)

Overall weight Toucan vs Jauregi: 788 gr vs 695 gr

Weight Toucan blade 3mm: 393 gr

Weight Toucan blade 4mm: 373 gr (slightly smaller in size)

Weight Toucan handle: 378 gr

Length Toucan jungle knife: 350 mm

Length Toucan handle: 240 mm

Length Jauregi handle: 240 mm

Length blade Toucan: 170 mm

Length blade Jauregi: 140 mm

Cutting edges Toucan: 90 mm

Cutting edge Jauregi: 115 mm

Update 12.

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