How to build a bush craft knife, part 3.

Better then Ray Mear’s bush crafts knife.

I finished the last post by gluing and fixing  the handle materials to the blades. So today post will continuo from there (obviously).

I do the rough shaping on my belt sander using the 60 and 80 grit belts, then I use drums with progressive finer grit size, and length of send paper to finish the polishing process. To achieve smooth handle finish, It is important that the drums diameter match the correct curvature of the handle (see cover photo).Hand made bush crafts knifeHandmade bush crafts knife





At the same time I grind the brass bolt at the top, making it flush with the wood. Don’t grind the bolt all in one go. Do it in slow belt revolution in few time, making sure it is not become too hot.

If the brass allow to be hot, it will co premise the integrity of the glue. Handmade bush crafts knife

I cover the leather part of the handle and the blade with electric tape, then paint the wood part with clear Linseed oil. Let it dry for few days and repaint it. the longer you let it dry the better. hand made budh crafts knife

I now cover the wood parts with electric tape and using bees wax I buff the leather bit. I do it long enough for it to shine. At the same time I also lightly buff the blade.

I now hatch my name / logo onto the knives blades. I clean the blades with acetone and paint the blade part where I want the logo to be with thin layer of nail varnish and let it dry. I surround the splodge of varnish with electric tape on four sides. Bush crafts knife

I asked my wife Tamsin to scribed my name on the varnish. I mix whatever amount of salt that I managed to hold between my two finger with four tablespoon of water. Drop some of the solution  on the scribed logo (using syringe). I attached the positive end of 9v battery to the blade.   Bush crafts knife 

Then I deep a  cotton  swab into the salt solution, attached it to the positive end of the battery and lightly touch the blade just above the logo. I left it there for one and half minutes and stop the process. If you let it for more than that, the solution may become too hot, the varnish will melt and the logo will ruined.  Clean the blade with acetone.

The last thing to do is to sharpen the knives.

I know it is better (probably) to do it by hand on the belt sander, either free hand or using jig. I don’t have (yet) the experience to do it free hand and I didn’t have the time to built a holding jig, so I used Lansky sharpener . It is not the best tool in the world but it did the trick (in a way). It is probably design for small blade rather for large ones. Bush crafts knife

If all worked well (and for me it was) you end up with eleven very nice knives. Bush crafts knife

Now for the sheath:

Hhh, that is for next post.

Let me just say that the next post will be in few week time, as I am away to the desert to take part in the Mid Burn event in Israel.







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How to build a bush craft knife, part 2.

Better then Ray Mears’s bush crafts knife.

I end last post with soldering the 4mm threaded rod to the knife tang. Today I will continue with making all the components for the handle,  how to fix it to the blade and how to finish the knife.

 I asked my acquaintance Mr Clive Freeman to drill 3.2mm hole through the middle of the brass rod, than I cut it into 10mm length segments.  I use 4mm tap to thread it into a nut, than I cut a narrow slot at the top of it, that will help to screw it to the tang. Bushcrafts knifeShaping  the wooden guards and the butt cap.

The guard have a compound shape, so to built it was partly like sculpturing. I use elliptical shape router bit on  my drill press,  to cut the wood for the guards in one direction. Home made knifeThen I traced the overall shape of the guards on to the wood, cut it on band saw  and by used a disc sander to form it into oval shape.  Bush crafts knife

The top side  and the bottom side of the guard are not the same size. I marked the bottom side, and again shaped it on the disc sander.

I clump it on the vice using (yet another) jig, and finish shape the top part of the guard.  I drill 4mm hole through the middle of the guard  and shape it to precisely fit the knife tang. Bush crafts knifeNext is the shaping of the wooden part of the opposite side of the handle, the butt cap . That was altogether easier, the part is symmetrical all around and I shaped it using my drill press as improvised lathe. Making knife handleI cut  leather sheet into 30x35mm rectangular pieces. I also cut the coloured plastic spacers into about the same size as the leather.

Now that I have all the various component of the knives handles, it’s time to glue it. Bush crafts knifeClean all the knife parts, blade and handle with acetone.  Clump the blade in a vice, point side down.

Prepare the glue. Apply some glue on the tang near the blade shoulders, and start to slide the handle materials on to the tang, one after the other, apply the glue as you progress.  Make sure that everything is strait and bolt it tight  with the brass nut that you prepared earlier.

The nut should protrude enough above the handle, to allow you to grind it flush with top of the handle,  without seeing the pre cut notch at the top of the brass nut.

After repeat the above  eleven times   I end up with these.

Bush crafts knives

Well that post become too long and I need to go and cook diner for my family, so I will do another post in few days time.

I am sorry if that post is to some degree massy. it was written in a rush.

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How to build a bush crafts knife

Last month I attend a bush crafts event that take place near Grampound Road in Cornwall.

I volunteer to do some demonstration on how to forge and build a knife in the field, using basic / primitive tools. I thought to myself : maybe I can sale some of my knives. So I made eleven knives. The knives design base on my One and half Days Knife Making Course.

Bush craft knife

In this post and probably in the next few I will talk trough the process of making those knives, and how I made the sheath for the knives.

Therefore the proper name for that post need to be:

How to build a bush crafts knife, and how to make the sheath for it.

As my writing ability is not so good(say the least) I will write the post as if it is a food recipe. It will be more coherent.


For the knives.

Car suspension spring leaf, roughly measure 14×65 (length unknown) mm.

10mm diameter brass rod.

4mm threaded rod.

8-9 oz. leather hide which is around 3.2mm. I used two deferent colour hide.

Propriety plastic spacers, 1mm and 2mm thick with various colours.

Hard wood, poplar and lemon wood.

Linseed oil.


55% Silver 1mm silver brazing rods.

Nail varnish.


2 Ton long curing time two component clear epoxy.

For the sheath:

5-6 oz. natural tanned leather hide which is around 2.4 mm.

Contact cement adhesive.

18/6 Waxed linen sewing thread.

Nickel plated open D ring.

Nickel plated 9mm cap size two piece tubular – single cap.

Alcohol base leather dye.

Brown and colourless shoe polish.


To begin with I draw the knife, dimension it and make sure that I have all the tools that I need to shape the blade and the handle. all the sanding drums need to fit to the curves of the handle and same goes to the router bit to roughly shape the guard part of the handle. Bush crafts knife

I started by cutting the steel . I use car suspension spring leaf.  It is I believe a spring steel (5160?). Bush crafts knife

I have a lot of experience working with that type of steel. I can bring it to around 55-58 RC. The blade is hard enough to hold its edge, the blade can’t be broken, it will bend but not brake. It is not as hard as all the new exotic steel but, it is lot cheaper to get and it is a lot easy to sharpen. Especially in the field, one can sharpen it using any old granite stone, red clay brick, roof till or any object made of concrete.

I cut the steel to 120x 23mm pieces, using angle grinder. To each peace I weld a 600mm long piece of re-bar to serve as  handle. One can use tongs, but I found that it is more comfortable using the rebar handle.

I forged the blades in my gas NC forge. I work against a knife template to ensure blades shape consistency.  Bush crafts knife

Next I shaped the blades profile, again, sing the template as a guide.

Bush crafts knife

Now it’s the turn of the belt sander. Establishing the knives bevels, progressing from 60 grit belt to 80 to 120 grit. I left part of the blades unpolished, mainly the blade spine and the ricasso.

Bush crafts knivesBush crafts knife





During the process of  forging the blades, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the tang section of the blades. As consequence, some of the tangs happen to be offset from the template profile. that will affect the shape of the handle. So I built a jig to help me marking the exact centre line of the tangs, exactly as it supposed to be.Bush crafts knife

In preparation for brazing the threaded rod, I cut slots at the end of the tangs.

Bush crafts knife

As you can see the position of the slots are not the same on all the blades. That is to compensate for the sloppy tangs forging.

Now it’s time to give the blades the heat treatment. That will transform the metal from relative soft metal to hard, one that can hold its cutting edge sharp for a long time (time is relative).

I bring it up to critical temp’ and try to keep it at that temp; for few minutes. Then I quench it in pre heated transmission oil. Let it cool completely and check for the RC harden rate. If all is well I then tempered it in my kitchen oven at around 176 C for one and a half hours for three times . If after the quenching it’s not hard to my satisfaction I re quench it and check again, then tempered it.

I finish polishing the blades on my belt sander (this time without the jig), using belts from 120, 240, 400, 600 grits, make sure not to grind / polish the unpolished blades spine and ricasso.

I silver brazing the threaded rod to the tangs. I lay it on heat proof brick and weld. I can’t say I am fully satisfy with the end result but, it was strong. Next time I will use thicker silver rods (2mm) and keep the tang and the threaded rod away from the brick. Maybe in vertical position and not horizontal against the brick. Bush crafts knife

when you solder the threaded rod to the tang, you must make sure that you are not hover heat the blade.  you can deep the blade in water leave the tang portion that you weld outside.

That it.

Next post I will talk about the threaded brass bolt, that lock all the handle materials together, on to the knife blade. I will continue to construct the rest of the knives i.e. the handle and how I finish / polish the knives.



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