Making a Large Camp Knife From an Old Rasp. Part 1




About: Hi, I'm stephen, I'm a certified welder, working on my machinists cert, and working part time at a hardware store. Mixing in all of that with my hobbies of blacksmithing and knifemaking, only makes for more...

This instructable series will not be extremely detailed, if you want to start learning forging and knifemaking, you definetly dont want to start on a big knife like this (trust me, you dont).

This is part 1, rough forging. Next week I hope to have the next part up. 

Update - sorry, I never finished taking photos of the progress, so I can't continue the series. stay tuned though, I intend to do a step by step of a small belt knife soon. You can see the finished knife here

Step 1: Supplies

This is assuming that your a forging knifemaker. If you only do stock removal, this isn't your ballgame.

1.  Hammer
3. anvil (or big hunk of metal)
4. tongs (channel locks are good)
5. old horse rasp (farriers typically go through 1-2 of these a week, and probably would be kind enough to give you one or two)
6. other tools will include- vise, angle grinder, belt grinder, files, drill press, and others.

Step 2: Design

first you need to decide on your knifes design. My plans were for a knife that fit these criteria:
Big, good looking, full tang, ironwood handle, be a "crocodile dundee knife" (people should see it and think, "now thats a knife!"), I didn't want a bowie, so I went for a camp knife style. I like to sketch out a design, now , I cant draw, so my sketchs always look terrible, but they give me the idea in my head. One tip is to trace the object your using, then sketch around it. That way you make sure you can fit it in the metal you have.

Step 3: Grinding

Since we dont want to get cold shuts in our knife, we need to grind off those big teeth. I just took an angle grinder, and knocked them off real quick, make sure to do it on both sides. (sorry, I did this before deciding to do an ible, so no pics.)

Step 4: Cut Off Test Piece

Your first step is to cut off some of the end, you need a piec to test. When using scrap steel, always test a peice of it to learn several things: will it harden (a knife that wont harden, isn't a knife), and how to heat treat it. I use a hotcut hardy to chop it off quickly.

Step 5: Test for Hardness

Hammer part  (don't wast the whole thing now, you only want to use a bit of it) of your test piece thin (like, dime thickness), I used the old tang of the rasp for this part. then, heat it t to critical temp (above nonmagnetic) and quench in your slack tub (I use water for this test, while some people use oil). when it's cooled, take the test piece, hold it on the edge of you anvil, and tap it with your hammer. if it doesn't break, hit it harder. Eventually it will either break, or bend. Break is good, bend is bad. If it bends then toss the whole rasp (or use it for a non knife project). If it breaks (hopefully with little force) then proceed to the next step.  

Step 6: Begin Forging Handle

Let me first say: I don't have pics of the forging. Sorry. My sisters won't stand out there and take pics for me. oh well.

I always start with the handle, thats how I roll. you can start with blade if you want, I don't care. Now, I decided to make a full tang handle, that gives me less forging I have to do, but I still do need to forge it to shape. First, while the rasp is cool, grasp it in your hand and decide what you going to change to make it feel right, mark about where you want to start the handle with a soapstone pencil (get em at lowes in the welding section, or steal them from the community college shop where you take welding classes).  the rest is simple, heat it red hot, and hammer till it's right. Use the peen of your hammer, and the edge of your anvil for the finger area.  I'll give you some pictures to guide you along.

Step 7: Begin Forging Down the Tip.

I first use my hotcut hardy to chop off a corner, then begin forging the tip from there. that lets me get the tip without getting a little fishmouth looking thing. angle your hammer blows to hit harder closer to the tip.  and pay close attention to it while forging, you dont want to screw up the tip, if you have to cut it off then you've lost precious blade length.

Step 8: Forge Out the Bevel

Heat up part of the blade area and begin forging out the bevel (be warned, this will stretch it, and banana the blade. You'll need to prebend the other way, or bend it back when your done.) Go along the blade, heating up sections, and hammer it out thinner.

When the bevels are down to the size of a quarter, carefully, and slowly straighten the whole thing up. trust me, it'll be twisty, bendy, and out of whack. lovingly get it straight.

Step 9: Stop

When the blade looks good, the handle looks good, and everything is starting to look like a knife shape, go inside, eat lunch, watch an episode of "walker texas ranger" and begin writing ible.



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    10 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    When did you drill the holes for the handle scales? I am having a hard time drilling a hole in my 1/4" thick steel knife project! Any suggestions? I tried all kinds of bits, oil, etc.. The only bit that got through was a masonry bit. Now all my bigger bits just smoke, and squeal! HELP!

    1 reply

    I'm looking forward to writing them, although it'll take a while, at least a week till part 2 is up.

    They should go something like this:

    part 2, rough grinding
    part 3 testing heat treat techniques
    part 4 finishing
    part 5 sheath


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I got some cheap yard sale files (for filing steel) . Do I have to forge them or can I just slowly grind them into a knife shape. I drilled a couple of holes in the handle end already for brass pins. I only have a small propane torch (camping size tank) for heat. I would rather not heat up the metal. Can I get away with this? Thanks.


    7 years ago on Step 5

    having the blade bend is not too bad. just means that it will weaken fater in certain areas.(if it bends dont use it for a defense weapon but as a tool or decoration.)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    hey I've been forging for a while... I learned through trial and error. The old wood rasps look great for making knives but there NOT don't waste your time on them Like i did. They may forge great however when you go to temper them it does not take...
    They are case harden.. they where not made of quality steal that will temper. they did not need to be because they where meant to be used on wood.
    So it will not hold an nice edge when your done. That is why a lot of people use old metal working files. They had to be made out of quality steel that was able to be properly annealing and tempered to hold up to other steal products.
    Like I said I know this from experience I have a great looking D guard bowie knife blade sitting in my work shop. That not good for anything except looking cool.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This will serve as my example as i try to forge a file into a boot knife..

    Anyway, that is one smexy knife blank.