How to Make Your Own Machete




About: A little about myself: My name is Elliot. I am a 15 year old entering my freshman year, and I am fortunate enough to live on the amazing, venturous coastlines of Maine. Guitar, the outdoors,...

        Hello Do It Yourself-ers!  This is my first instructable, and I thought I would give documenting my machete build a shot and turn it into a How-To for the site!  

        Now, we all know that a nice, big axe/knife comes in handy during camping trips or in survival packs.  In my case, I will be using this hefty, sharp piece of metal for camping trips.  It will serve the purpose of cutting down firewood or building small shelters, and boy, will i look cool doing it!  

Materials needed:

1/8" x 3" x 3' steel or metal of choice (size, material and thickness depend on what you are looking for out of your machete)
Steel rod or dowels (to hold the handle to the steel)

Tools needed:
jigsaw or cutting tool of choice
Tape measure
Grinding wheel and sharpening stone
Vice and clamps
Belt sander or disk sander
Rasp or file
Safety glasses
Sharpening tool of some sort

Step 1: Make Your Design and START HACKING!

      To start off, you may want to have a design or shape for your blade in mind.  For this blade I chose to keep it simple and have a larger section for weight towards the tip of the blade, and had it taper off into the handle.  NOTE: the blade will be built right into the handle so don't cut it short!  I cut about a 1/2" shy of the bottom of the steel for the bout at the tip, and tapered it down to 1 1/4" where the blade meets the handle, then continued on at 1 1/4" for five inches or so for the handle.

    Make the outline of your blade shape on the steel, and start cuttin'!  You want to make sure the steel is secured properly or it will just jump around on you and cutting will be a pain.  And please wear safety glasses!  

Step 2: Refining the Blade

      At this point, you should have a rough cut of your blade and hilt.  If you have a belt sander, use it!  smooth those edges up and make everything to your liking.  refining the hilt is not completely necessary because we will be cutting into that again.  

Step 3: The Handle

      Now that you have shaped the blade and hilt. its time to add a nice handle.  From a previous guitar build, I had a slab of mahogany left over so I cut out a block of wood, the thickness of the blade, and cut in half with the band saw.  You can do all of this with a jigsaw or hand saw. it does not matter.  from there on, I thicknessed the two pieces of wood to my desired thickness and sandwiched the two pieces of wood on the outside of the steel.  Finally, i cut the two pieces of wood to the length of the hilt.

      From here, you can square the steel to the wood and clamp down the wood and steel.  then drill two holes straight thru the steel and wood.  Make sure your drill bit is the same size as your metal rod or wooden dowel so they can secure the handle and blade together.

      Now, after drilling the two holes, mark the length you will need to cut your dowel or rod and cut two of them.  So, with all of your parts, its time to bust out the epoxy!  Slather up the hilt of the blade with epoxy and sandwich it between the two pieces of wood lined up with the holes you drilled, and put some epoxy on the two dowels/rods you cut and pound those in.  Finally, clamp the handle in a vice and leave over night!

Step 4: Make It Your Own!

      After a night of sitting, un-clamp it and get a feel for your handle.  you may just want to round it out and leave it as is!  For mine, I took the handle to the belt sander and made myself some finger slots, then clamped the blade into the vice and rounded the edges with a rasp.  The sky is the limit here!  After you have obtained your final look, you can sand it down so its smooth with 180 grit.

Step 5: Lets Give This Baby an Edge!

      Sharpening this tool is really up to you.  If you want it razor sharp, it may take a while and don't expect it to keep its sharp edge.  Remember, its steel!  

      I took the blade to my belt sander and gave it an edge, then finished the job with a cheap sharpening tool that I found at my local sporting goods store.  That thing works wonders and I sure will be using it in the future.  

      I kept the blade moderately sharp to keep it simple to my uses, but again, the sky is the limit!

Step 6: Now, Concur the Outdoors...

      With your trusty machete, feel confident while at camping trips or know that a reliable tool is waiting for you in your survival pack.  

In part two, we will cover how to make a sheath!

Explore with confidence, my friends!



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    37 Discussions


    2 months ago

    I'm gonna give your tutorial a go. It sounds feasible and detailed too.


    3 years ago on Introduction

    tip: do not temper machetes for the reasons matt.damon.902266 stated and also because if you hit it with the flat of the blade accidentally and it bends you can just bend it back into shape easily. also where would i find the steel for this

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    You do temper, else your blade could snap off and injure someone. Look up proper heat treatment at the BladesmithForum.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    For starters, this is a nice instructable. Easy method for making a machete. I'll try it out myself. However, if you are serious about putting your machete through the ropes, you want to find a way to make the steel at the edge really hard; a harder steel will keep its edge longer, thus reducing the need for frequent sharpening. You'll know the steel is hard enough when even a Nicholson file won't bite into it.

    One way to do this - and you'll need a forge that can accommodate the entire machete blade length - is to spread some moist clay all over the area behind the edge up to ½" from it, at a thickness of about ¼". This will prevent the steel from heating up too fast. (You'll know why in just a bit.) Then you put the blade in the forge until it's orange-yellow hot. Take it out of the forge and quench it in icy salt water. The clay-covered area will cool more slowly, so leave the clay on for an hour or two; clay tends to trap heat, so it will take time for the steel to cool down enough for it to be handled safely. Once you remove the clay, the steel in the back part of the blade will be rather soft, but the edge will be so hard that you cannot file it. You'll need a stone or carbide sandpaper on a wooden block to sharpen it. Also, do any beveling of the edge BEFORE putting the blade in the fire. Filing/grinding down to an edge thickness of about 1 mm is good enough; you want to do the shaping when the steel is soft and the sharpening when the steel is hard.

    When you get to the sharpening stage, you can use either a belt sander, motorized grinder, carbide sandpaper, or rough whetstone to do the rough work. Usually a 220 grit abrasive does the job. When the side view shows the bevel comes to a tip, follow up with 400 grit. After about a minute of the 400 grit, do a minute on 800 grit. Finally, a minute on 1200 grit and a minute on 2500 or 3000 grit. At this point the edge will be sharp enough that you can shave hairs off your skin with it. You can use it just like that. If you want it even sharper, go with a 4000 or 6000 grit stone (this is overkill already) and finish off with 30 seconds on a strop + stropping compound. Usually such high-grit abrasives are for sharpening tools made from high speed steel or other really hard steels; these can keep a razor-sharp edge for a while. Even katana (samurai swords) are sharpened to such a keen edge; sometimes 8000 or even 10,000 grit stones are used to polish the edge. The result is a blade that is more than sharp enough for shaving.

    If you do not choose to temper your blades, 1200 grit or 1500 grit is as high as you should go, since soft steel (steel that can be filed down) will not hold a very keen edge for long. Even so, a blade finished at 1200 or 1500 grit can still give good service. If you are interested in making scary sharp edges, look up "Japanese sharpening stone set" on Google. Different sellers sell sets of sharpening stones. For example, Highland Woodworking sells a 5-stone set for $169.99.

    If you cannot afford stones, you can get a piece of carbide sandpaper and put it on a glass surface or tape it to a wooden block.. Most hardware stores carry up to 2500 grit. The 3000 grit and higher ones are a bit harder to get. Even so, you can get a more than serviceable edge with just 2000 or 2500 grit, especially after tempering.

    Tempering steel to the desired hardness consistently does take a good deal of playing around with the temperature, but usually just heating to a good cherry red and then quenching in icy-cold salt water yields a hard steel, good enough for cutting tools. If the piece of steel is small enough, you can just use a MAPP gas torch. If you're making, for example, small chisels from concrete nails, a MAPP torch is easier to use and obtain.

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Your heat treatment process is shoddy mate. 1-you never quench is cold water, your steel (if it is any sort of quality) is EXTREMELY prone to cracking. 2-the clay is for the quench, it allows the spine to cool slow and the edge fast. Not the heating of the blade, and it only works with quick hardening steels like 1095, 5160 is slow hardening and it doesn't work. 3-heating the blade to cherry red and quenching doesn't temper the blade, it re-quenches. Tempering is done at much lower temps. 300-500 degrees Fahrenheit, 300 being bottom line and not recommended for most steels. 4-lastly this all only works if you have good steel, 1084 is an easy steel to start with and others like 4140, 1070, 1095, 5160 are good. If you want cheap, old leaf springs are 5160 steel typically and coil springs are 1095. Research your steel alloys and experiment and see what you like to work with. Research is important, but good sources are also important, and having all the info. The BladesmithForum is a great place to start.

    And what if the machete is accidentally swung hard, edge down onto a peice of concrete? An edge that has been hardned in icy salt water and not tempered at all to bring its hardness down to a reasonable toughness will undoutably chip very violently when hit hard on the wrong angle by something like a stone or a nail, peice of fence etc which is a high possibility if you use machetes in a way that it is likely to happen. So what is an ideal temper for a machete? I hear the standard blacksmith temper for machetes is one where the edge is made to be partially tough, which means it needs to be sharpned frequently, the most bolo of machetes before and after each session with a simple file, apparently like this: the handle pushed into your stomach and the point of the blade into some tree, sharpening with a standard metal file. But a harder edge would use a stone, perhaps this is a more ideal temper, one where you need to use a stone and its edge will last like but not chip like a good machete should


    6 years ago on Introduction

    When using a machete, you want to use your whole arm to swing the machete, with a snap of the wrist delivered just before contact. For more power introduce a bit of waist motion. This technique is useful for cutting down small trees and large branches. On the job I often use a machete to cut up palm fronds and branches. That wrist motion does help a lot. Finally (and you probably already know this), never use a dull machete! With a sharp machete and proper technique you'll get the job done faster and use less energy. Which means you'll be less tired and less likely to get into an accident involving a body part.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    great instructable bro, but its not wise to use gloves when using grinding stones or belt sanders, if you scrap your skin on the sander it may hurt a little but if your glove gets caught, you can lose a finger.

    but still really good job!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Good thinking - but, having worked in safety for a large multinational manufacturing firm, I must point out that statistics show that wearing gloves while using a sanders or polishers do reduce injuries. The likelihood of the glove catching on the rotating belt or disc exists, but most hand/lower arm injuries with this type of equipment is not from the belt/disc - they are from pieces of material being caught and flipped back, or shattering, etc.

    Standard industrial practise is to insist on gloves at all times even when using this type of equipment.



    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice Instructible. As a 14 y'old Canadian, I made a machete out of an old 2 man cross cutting saw. Excellent steel, with spine thinner than cutting edge. Shaped & ground cold, no need to heat treat. The blade tip could be bent to 90 degrees, excellent spring back.
    Moose horn grip, and rawhide sheath. Had it for 37 years, then a low life stole it from my camp site, in Australia. Cheers

    Trike Lover

    6 years ago on Introduction

    When I was a child my father made two machete-type blades, one using a broken lawn mower blade, the other with a piece of car or truck leaf spring. I got to help with the "safe" jobs. He said he had learned the process while stationed in India in WWII. He had been a night-fighter pilot, and a blacksmith near the field used to make knives for the pilots, as there were no service-issue ones for aircrew. Since they flew at night, he watched the smith during the day.

    I may have some of this mixed up - it was 45 years ago. Our forge was a thick steel bowl, the bellows made with fence boards and canvas. One of my jobs was pumping the bellows.

    To start with, the blade outline was cut using a hacksaw. (I got to do this-a slow job). Then Dad heated the blank in the forge and, alternating sides, gradually hammered the "business" edge thin all down its length. This took much re-heating and hammer-and-anvil work. When he was satisfied he heated the blade very red, then quenched it in old motor oil.

    I got to polish the pieces using Emery cloth, which took quite a while. The shiny piece was then heated until different colours rippled across the shiny surface - he called this "drawing the colours". When the edge turned the right shade of blue it was quenched - I think in oil. The edge was finished on an elderly hand-cranked grindstone with a water-drip. Another long job - I was grindstone-cranker.. Handles were cut from the seat of a wooden office chair - Oak, I think, and leather lace wrapped tight on the grip.

    As I said, I may have details wrong, memory being what it is. I do remember that the finished blades held a very good edge. One was a machete profile, and the smaller more like a Malay parang. Both were stolen from my campsite some years back by some low-life scum.

    Very interesting Instructable, and it brought back a lot of memories.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Was watching a subtitled Japanese travelogue and they had an old gentleman who used one loop from a big ship's scrapped anchor chain to forge a blade. I guess high-hardness steel is wherever you find it.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable! Will be looking forward to your guitar post.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice piece of work. It started to get addictive after a short while.

    - There are not "Metals of choice" : a good job is done only with carbon steel
    - You NEED to heat treat it right: it's not simply a forge&magnet thing

    You might also consider having it HT-ed by a company

    Waiting for the next one ;-)

    4 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    well, that depends on the steel you use... stainless = forget any diy heat-treatment; cheap carbon steel, you probably could get away with it;) it's the tempering that'll have to be more controlled, but even so, it can be done with dthe back-draw method (blowtorch heating the spine). greenpete over on youtube has an series of vids on making a knife out of a file. quite interesting.

    and kudos to Trollinwater for doing this, my first knife still needs tang-holes and HT


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    assuming it was the right size and shape, and not too thin, yup!
    no problem as long as you can get it hot enough (non magnetic) all the way through (you might need quite a large forge) and then quickly cool it
    make sure you know how to quench it - if you bought it, ask if it is air-quench, oil-quench or water-quench, if it is just a random lump of spring (say, a landrover leaf-spring) see what you can find on google, and if unsure, use oil (slowest quenchant). Like I said, tempering is the hardest part... most knife-makers have an electric oven with a thermostat, but it can be done with a blowtorch. Do your research on the steel if you know what it is, and ask around if you don't: britishblades is an online knifey-place, with very nice members, who know their stuff.
     feel free to pm me if want to know something - if I don't know, the people on britishblades do


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    You can usually use propane torch (or for a machete you may need 2 and a buddy) to get the heat you need. the big thing is cutting a few small "slivers" (like 1/4" square and 2"long) off and practice heat treating with them making sure to write down exactly what you did.
    1) heat them up to different temps (past magnetic) and dunk them in the oil then see if a file can remove anything. if it cuts like before try using brine (see below) else go to next step.
    2) clean em off and throw them in the oven at about 350-400 F until they have a straw color (if you don't want to anger eveyone who cooks with that oven be sure to clean the metal with soap and water and dry thoroughly)
    3) turn oven off and let sit until cold (usually overnight).
    4)Do the file test it should just barely cut the metal
    5)Wearing safety gear clamp them in a vise about 1/2 way put a pipe on it and bent until breaking. (remember to write everything down)
    If you did a good job keeping notes and remembering colors you can recreate the properties on the real deal. Most spring steel is 5160 so quenching with cooking oil is probably your best bet. for mild steel (1018 ish) is to use brine which is water and salt (heat water then add salt until it doesn't dissolve any more) with maybe a touch of dish soap.
    Sometimes i forge tools out of mystery steel and this is what i have to do to get the properties in steel that i want. all the precision gear in the world doesn't help you if you don't know what steel your working with (aka junkyard gold)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    thanx dude im going to use this instructable but for making a knife.