In a post-apocalyptic world – a knife means the difference between life and death. Many of us forget the importance of one of our species oldest tools.
In today’s world, a handmade knife is not only a classy addition to your personal knife collection – but could also make a great gift for someone you love. Perhaps the most important part is not who, but what you give. Learning how to forge your own medieval knife on a shoestring budget is a good skill to have up your sleeve.
So without further ado – here are simple step by step instructions for making your very own handmade knife.
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Gather Materials to Make Charcoal
First of all, you’ll need a metal drum with several half-inch holes on the side, a drum lid and lots of chopped up wood. Cut some pieces small to start the fire with.
Light the Fire
Put a few handfuls of small wood pieces into your drum and light them on fire. Wait until they are burning well and then go on to the next step.
Throw in More Wood
Fill the drum with wood, but be careful not to overstuff it. You will need plenty of space between wooden blocks because air needs to get in and keep your fire burning evenly.
Cover and Wait it Out
Once your wood is burning well, cover the barrel with the lid. Leave the lid slightly ajar so smoke can exit the barrel and let it sit there for several hours. After about three hours, cover all the holes in the bottom of the barrel and wait until you are sure everything has cooled down.
Remove the Lid
This is far more dangerous than it looks. If you remove the lid too soon, spontaneous combustion can catch you, your yard and/or your home on fire. To be safe, stand back and either kick the lid off or knock it off with a long stick.
Examine Your Charcoal
The charcoal should be dark black, lightweight and easy to break with your hand.
Choose a Metal
Choose what metal you want to make your blade from.
Buy (or Scavenge for) Your Metal
As you can see from the above picture, you can find scrap metal for your knife at a junkyard, second hand store, garage sale, etc.
Examine Your Metal for Signs of Galvanization
Heating galvanized metal will give you zinc poisoning that will either kill you or leave you wishing you were dead. It takes days to recover from and is simply not worth it. Ever.
Gather Materials to Make a Forge
You will need clay, dirt, sand, wood ashes, water, some type of blower (a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer works just fine), a steel pipe that is two inches long and two inches wide and a drill.
Dig a Hole
Your hole needs to look like this except it doesn’t have to be quite that fancy. This is just to give you an idea of how to dig a properly shaped forge.
Prepare the Forge
Put the coal in the forge. Place the pipe on one side to supply oxygen to your fire. But don’t light it just yet; you need to make an anvil first.
Gather Materials to Make an Anvil
You’ll need a metal drum, lots of cement and a block of metal (an old sledgehammer head it ideal).
Create the Anvil Base
Set your barrel on flat, solid ground and then fill it with concrete.
Finish off the Anvil
Set your hunk of metal in the concrete with plenty of metal sticking up and then allow the whole thing to dry before using it.
Light the Forge
Now you’re ready to light the forge. Light the charcoal on fire and blow air on it to heat it up.
Check the Temperature
The metal must be forged between 1,600 and 2,000 degrees.
Place the Metal Inside
Once the oven is at the right temperature, place the blade inside.
Remove the Blade with Pliers
Hammer your blade into shape. Just make sure you’re hitting the metal and not the anvil.
Get Decorative (This one is Optional)
A blade can have just about any shape. Decide how you want it to look and hammer it out.
Check that Forge Fire
If your forge has cooled off while hammering the blade, re-heat it.
Reheat the Blade to Normalize It
Once your forge is between 1,600 and 2,000 degrees, put your blade in again. Then remove it and hold it still in the air. Repeat this process twice to refine the blade’s grain structure.
Gather Dry Wood Ashes
Heat up some dry wood ashes by placing another hot piece of metal inside of them.
Anneal Your Blade
Re-heat your blade and place it inside the wood ashes. Allow it to cool overnight. This anneals the blade to make it flexible.
Drill Holes for the Handle
Now is the time to drill holes for the handle. If you wait, the metal will be too hard to work with.
Get Your Grinding Gear Together
You can make a grinder that looks like this, use a sanding disk and a drill or just use a handheld grinder. It’s up to you but this particular grinder is the easiest to work with.
Grind down the Blade
Grind down the blade carefully, leaving plenty of metal to work with. Remember, once the metal is gone you can’t put it back.
Get Yourself Some Oil
You’ll need lots of oil to harden your blade. Either buy buckets of bacon or ask a restaurant for its leftover frying oil.
Harden the Blade
Re-heat the blade and then drop it into the barrel of grease. Allow it to cool for a couple of minutes.
Test the Hardened Blade
Use a good file to test your blade. It should not remove any metal from it no matter how hard you file.
Temper the Blade
Temper the blade by heating a toaster oven to 400 degrees, placing the blade inside and leaving it there for about an hour. Remove and allow to cool at room temperature.
Find a Handle Material
You can make a handle using bone, wood, plastic, leather or bamboo to name just some of your many options.
Sand the Material Down
Sand the inside part of the material that will attach to the knife. Doing so helps the epoxy bind to it properly.
Cut the Handle Material
Carefully cut your material into shape. Be sure to also cut holes for the metal pins. Set it aside.
Fit the Pins Through the Knife
Fit the metal pins into the knife as shown above.
Epoxy Your Handle Onto the Knife
Use epoxy to glue the handle onto the knife.
Let it Sit
Wipe off the excess epoxy, clamp the knife and let it sit overnight.
Clean and Polish
If you want your blade to look like this, you’ll need to clean it using Q-tips and alcohol. Now is also the time to sand the handle down with sandpaper.
Sharpen the Blade
Use a knife sharpener and carefully sharpen your new blade.