Bowie Knife





Introduction: Bowie Knife

About: Retired Firefighter 1966 to 1986; Retired Wheat Farmer 1987 to 2003. Drapery Sales 1969 to 1987. 17 year Quintuple Heart Bypass Surgery Survivor; 14 year Melanoma Cancer Survivor. 81 years young.

My goal in making this Bowie Knife was to use metal from my scrap pile to make the blade and make the handles (scales) from a dead Black Walnut tree on my acreage.

There are a lot of different metals that can be used in a lot of different ways to make a knife. That being said, I have quiet a few nice tools, but do not have a forge, so I proceeder with a piece of metal I could form with the tools I have, such as numerous hand and bench grinders, oxygen acetylene torch, hydraulic press, etc. The car spring leaf I picked was rusted with a few pits, but I wanted it to look old, not new, so that didn't bother me. In fact it adds character.

Step 1: Cutting the Car Spring

I cut the main leaf to 13.5" with an electric chop saw and made preliminary cut on tip of blade. I made 2 more cuts on the other end forming the tang for the bolster and scales.

Step 2: Roughing Out the Blade

Since i just had a mental picture of what it ought to look like, I started shaping & smoothing it with a 4" belt sander using a 40 grit belt. The tip turned up a little too much, so in the 5th photo, I blacked out what I wanted to remove. The 6th shows that part ground off.

Step 3: Making Revisions & Cutting Wood for Handles

I liked the straighter tip, so I then ground the rear of the blade to narrow it back toward the handle. My Grandson and I cut down the dead Black Walnut tree, which was about 7' diameter. We sawed it into a rectangular block and then sliced it into 2 scales, 3/8" thick. The lines you see on them in the photo are burn marks from the saw blade. Black Walnut is a pretty hard wood, but not nearly as hard as seasoned Bois D'Arc. I had some Bois D'Arc (pronounced "bo' dark", but AKA "Osage Orange", and "Hedge Apple"), but it is so dense it cannot be stained. (See my other instructable "Walking Canes") It can be "carbonized", by burning it with an oxy/acty torch and polished with a buffer wheel, but that was not the look I wanted

Step 4: Melting Brass for Bolster

I wanted a brass bolster between the handle and the blade. I didn't have any 1/4" or 3/8" flat brass, but I did have several small brass and copper parts, so I decided to melt them down into an ingot in a little 5.5oz cat food can. When I cooled it and started grinding it flat, it was bright and shiny in spots and randomly pitted in others. I like that look so I polished the flat part. Later, I brazed the bolster onto the blade to secure it even though it fit the tang near perfectly.

I drilled two X .125 holes through the tang and then lined up one scale and drilled holes thru the tang going thru the scale.. I then removed that scale and repeated for the other one. My brass rod turned out to be .152" so I had to drill them to that size. You must be very careful drilling so that when the bit goes thru the wood, it will not split it out and make an ugly exit hole.

Step 5: Straightening Blade & Adding Handles

The spring leaf had a bow in it, but I took that out with my hydraulic press. It's a Harbor Freight with a 1.5 ton jack.

I used Permatex 2 part 5 minute epoxy from Walmart to secure handles and pins to the tang.

Step 6: Finished

Lots of grinding, filing, sanding & it's still pretty rough, but that was my goal. I am still sharpening it, but it's getting better all the time. .

A faster, easier way would have been to buy a knife blade blank off eBay for about $ some nice handles out of Indian Buffalo, Elk Antler, or whatever for another $15 and glue & pin them on with Epoxy.

That was not what I wanted.



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    16 Discussions

    Thanks, rhino. No heat was used. I have a Harbor Freight Hydraulic press and I used it to straighten the knife before I put on the bolster and the handles. On a job like that, I had to put a block of steel under each end and press the unsupported middle past being straight. When I released the hydraulic jack, it sprung back. Then I would check it to see if I needed to apply more pressure or if I had overdone it and it needed to go back the other way. It took about 40 minutes. I was just experimenting to see if I could straighten it that way.

    1 reply

    The problem is that with a knife made from a leaf spring, they are already very hard and springy and have "memory", if you hydraulic pressed it you are causing a lot of stress to the already hard metal, its better to forge it flat, aneal it then reharden it. By bending it back into a flat shape the knife now has a much higher chance of snapping under stress.

    Vote! You did great. It would have been nice to see how you took the bow out though.

    First things first, COOL KNIFE!! here is something i have learned through experience and research in knife making books- knife balance in the context of a point of neutral (no tipping) is somewhat of a misnomer. a better and more effective method of determining where the weighted end of the knife is wanted is to determine what you are using the knife for. if you want a chopping/hacking blade for dismembering game or cutting branches then it will be a wiser choice to have a knife with more weight forward of the hilt. this lets gravity do alot of the work for you. if you are filleting a fish or deboning a roast then you should consider a knife that is light in hte blade as it is not going to see the abuse. as far as being able to throw a knife and make it stick it is an art form that requires a ton of practice to make it work. it is also a good way to ruin a knife. throwing knives are pretty task specific.

    2 replies

    Thanks weldor. This is my first attempt at making a complete knife although I have made some with blanks from eBay. It is more fun making one from scratch.

    Thank you weldor. As to throwing a knife, I was aways amazed why anyone who had a weapon like a knife, would throw throwing it away. LOL

    man, you should heat treat it and temper it for a better edge retention and flexibility

    No it doesn't. It's balance point is about half way between the 2 ends. I never gave that a thought. Maybe next time I'll give that some thought. LOL

    Right now I'm considering making a Brake Drum Forge, but I have no idea where to get any coal, although I could make one using propane heat source.

    Thanks for the compliment.

    The original blacksmiths used charcoal in their forges. In fact coal is not always desirable because it contains sulfur. It took the metalworking industry a while to discover how to turn coal into coke that they could use. The really critical element with a forge is to have a way to blast the fire. So just go for it.


    3 years ago

    did you heat treat the spring leaf at all?

    1 reply

    No, I did not. I don't really have any way of heating it except an oxy/acty torch. I'm hoping it will keep it's shape after I straightened it with hydraulic press.

    Glad that I'm not the only one that felt it neccesary to make an instructable on knife building!

    You're looks amazingly crafted and well planned!

    1 reply

    Thanks for the compliments, but this is the first one I have made from scratch. About a year ago, I bought a knife blade blank on eBay and added Osage Orange wood scales. That's much easier.