Upcycled Bowie Knife




I enjoy the outdoors. Camping, fishing, canoeing, all of it. I love working with my hands. I take...

This build uses entirely recycled materials. The blade is from and old truck spring, but my focus is the nut forged into a guard. Essential for this creation is a welder, but beyond that, only a simply forge is needed. Everything remaining can be done with common tools.

Well let's get started with my Up-Cycled Bowie knife.

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Step 1: Nut Turned Guard

This old rusty nut struck my attention, and that is where this all started. Initally, I pondered turning it into a neat knife, giving it a wavy edge by simply flattening it.

For the first step I cut one side of the nut. I opened it up in subsequent heats. At this stage I felt like it looked more like brass knuckles, but transitioned it into a guard similar to that on a Nazi Zombie Bowie Knife.

With that final decision, I hammered the edges to a taper so it could attach to a blade. (Not specified in pictures)

Step 2: Blade Profiling

Here I stood with a guard, and no blade. I took the next logical step: make a blade.

I selected a section of truck leaf spring. After scrawling on a design I cut out the shape with a torch. I cleaned up the profile with a grinding disc on an angle grinder.

Step 3: Welding

Welding the pieces together has three main steps

Prep: I cut notches into the guard, so it slid together as one, almost like a mortice and tennon.

Weld: I simply welded the pieces together making sure to extend the weld down onto the blade, for aesthetics and slight function.

Grinding: I used an angle grinder to clean the weld, achieve a better look.

Step 4: Forging Bevels

This build was also one of practice. I generally grind my bevels, but I wanted to forge these down.

Essentially all one does is slide the blade edge onto the edge of the top anvil surface, and angle slightly. Hammer blows from the other side, match the angle, making the same effect on both sides.

It is good practice to flip the blade over, to eliminate inconsistencies that occur from each side.

I did this on each side, as well as the tip, so I had less to grind later.

Step 5: Stock Removal

With the forging done, used a 72x2 grinder to finished the shaping. I used the slack in the belt on the top to make a concave bevel.

I grinded the surface of the blade, increasing grit of belt until desired.

I used the wheel on the grinder to clean the surfaces of the nut, as they had curved in forging. The forging also damaged the edges, so this helped clean that.

I cleaned all sides of the guard, and used a flap disc on some of the harder to clean sections, like the weld.

All parts of the knife was finalized with a Scotchbrite belt.

Step 6: Hardening

I used a three inch pipe secured between a table and an anvil to serve as the quench tank. I used oil, since the spring is most likely 5160

I heated the blade evenly to a medium orange, and submerged it in the tank. Moving the blade around in the tank prevents the bubbles from insulating the steel

I used a propane torch to pull some of the hardness out, by heating the center of the blade to a dull plum color.

Step 7: Cleaning

I cleaned off the scale with the belt grinder, and used beeswax to protect the blade from corrosion.

Step 8: Handle Attachment

I used a piece of walnut left from another project for the handle material.

I drilled holes in the wood, matching those in the steel.

I cut pins from aluminum tent stakes, which have a size of 1/4''. I secured it together and started shaping down the wood with a flap disc, files, and sandpaper.

With it closer to size, I glued it together with a two part epoxy. Typically I wrap the blade, but with this one,i just oiled it to stop the glue from sticking. I let it dry clamped up, and checked on it. I let it cure for a few more hours.

I then used a large circular file and 1x24 belt (cut) to do the rest of the shaping.

I used increasing grit sandpaper to finish the handle.

Here's where I confess. I drilled the holes horribly. It's not my first rodeo,but for some reason it just didn't line up well. The wood had to be drilled out larger then the pin. Between three pins it was still solid, but frustrating nonetheless. I was already planning on wrapping the handle with leather, so it didn't really effect my end result. I kept on trucking.

Step 9: Leather Wrap

Leatherwork is fun. Its a field I very little experience in, but interesting anyways.

I cut a piece of leather large enough to wrap around the handle with my desires dimensions. I trimmed the part where the handle was thinner, to compensate.


Using a fork, I marked all the spots to punch. Leather is very strong, so typically the holes are punched first. I used a punch over a wooden board. Approximately equal holes on each side.

I used way to much thread on this part. You'll probaly do the same. Six inches of thread per inch of handle should be plenty. I had like 6 feet of it. It was ridiculous, don't do it.

I used two needles, with the center of the thread obviously at the first stitch spot. I tied a square knot over this stitch using the thread. Using the two needles I stitched it like tying shoes. Cinching tight each time, I finished, and tied a knot on the bottom. Well, not really. I broke one of the lines at the end, and had to stitch the other around a whole bunch. Don't make my mistake.

I sealed the bottom with a little super glue. Maybe overkill but anyways.

Step 10: Complete

Here's your completely recycled bowie knife. Try it out, I had fun.

Questions? Comments? Advice on something I did stupid? Please do tell. I'm always looking to explain something in more detail or learn something new.

Most importantly, thanks for reading, and happy crafting to all

- BC

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    33 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    When i first saw this i was really hoping it was going to be made from bike parts. Still a really cool instructable.

    7 replies

    I'll try a bike build sometime. Any direction on what you expected? You have me intrigued on possibilities.

    The Atomic Zombie site has nothing to do with making knives from bike parts, nor anything to do with zombies and nuclear power for that matter.

    Actually i was hoping it was a pun (up-cycled). But if you were looking to do one I'd suggest using a bike gear as the cross-guard so the teeth are on the outside.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I like the bike gear idea. But how would two dislike medals weld together? Or do you pay way too much to get a real solid steel gear. Most are mixed metals now.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    My very first comment! I like these ideas, and I would say to braze the dissimilar metals. Then, after some grinding, you would have some brass coloring in there that could be pretty cool.

    David the R

    4 years ago on Introduction

    The guard is illegal in many states. It might get you, your stuff in your apartment, car, whatever, all tossed looking for something else illegal.

    NIce work though, I like the leather handle. Perhaps it could be leather cord instead, wound extremely tight, otherwise the leather shown could rotate at the wrong moment….


    4 years ago

    Wow... Just beautiful man


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice. It could also be considered a trench knife.

    Illegal to posses anywhere in Australia...unfortunately


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I would love to make this for my dad. He is a huge knife fan and would love something like this.


    4 years ago

    Wow! Awesome project. Just wondering, but how big was this monster nut?

    2 replies

    All depends on the size of the blade. Still it looks like a knuckle duster. I like it. I made my own but made the hand gaurd smooth to keep the man of me. Still was hassled. No hand guard I can walk around with a 15 inch blade as long as it is in plain sight. But have a multi tool in your pocket you get charged with having a conceded weapon! Even if the blade is 1.5 inches long! Go figure!