Natural Bushcraft - The True Spirit of Bushcraft

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home Bushcraft Kit / Reviews Making a Bushcraft Knife with a Homemade Forge

Making a Bushcraft Knife with a Homemade Forge

E-mail Print PDF

Making my first Bushcraft Knife

Using An Old Recycled Metal Working File

- GreenPete's Knife Making Guide
- My Project
- Materials & Tools (Not Much!)
- The Forge
- Heat Treating (Annealing)
- Knife Template
- Working the Steel File
- Finished Product

 

This article documents the process of me making my first bushcraft knife. I stumbled upon a superb video teaching you how to make your own bushcraft knife with relative ease using easily available tools and materials. The steel could be an old recycled file and I managed to get all the tools needed for under a tener. Thanks to GreenPete and his generosity in giving his time and effort to share his knowledge, he passed on to myself and a friend the knowledge to make our own knifes.

This article will progress and show you the steps of progress as I worked on creating my first knife, however, if your interested in learning how you make your own knife, feel free to first watch the same video that inspired me:

This is the video guide that inspired me to do this project, have a watch its very educating, note that GreenPete kindly offers this video for download in full DVD quality, the download link can be found below the videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

GreenPete has kindly made this video available in a high quality DVD format for free,
you can download it using the torrent protocol. Use a program like uTorrent to download the DVD.
Click the icon below to download the GreenPete.torrent file:


http://www.greenpete.co.uk/ccount/click.php?id=18

GreenPete's website
http://www.greenpete.co.uk/?page_id=503

 

<< Back to Menu or carry on reading below!


My Project

Inspired by the video, a friend and I started planning; thinking of materials and tools. Neither of us had any prior knife-making experience but thanks to GreenPete's video, we were confident that this project was feasible even for us! We had to gain tools, knowledge and experience along the way so off we went...

<< Back to Menu or carry on reading below!


Materials & Tools (Not Much!)

angle grinder I had no real tools to start, but the video taught me I wouldn't have to spend a fortune on fancy equipment and I could use recycled materials. So first up I thought about getting a tool I considered to be one of the most important used in the video, the Angle Grinder, it does most of the shaping and hard work. I gave my father a shout and told him to keep an eye out for one (seeing as he's a builder), 2 days later I was kitted with a second-hand angle grinder that was like new that cost my father 3 or 4 pound which he paid and kindly gave the grinder to me! So far free.

I picked up a hammer, sandpaper, wet & dry paper & a spare angle-grinder disc or two at a local show all for about £5-8, dirt cheap.

Regards a working area; I had no garage or work-bench, just the small space of a balcony which became our work-area.


This is the old, rusted file that I had to start with and turn into my first bushcraft knife:

metal working file

*Note: If you plan to follow this project in a similar way and will be using similar tools, please equip yourself with the right safety gear. A £2 file or a £4 grinder can easily be replaced, your fingers or eyesight cannot! Please, please, please take your safety seriously when working. Goggles will be essential and gloves are highly recommended. Safety equipment is available to the right of this page.

As soon as we saw GreenPete's video myself and a friend were discussing plans for our own homebrew forge to do our heat-treating in. We quickly determined that between us we had enough spare kit to make some chambers and rig something to do the job. So onwards we went...

<< Back to Menu or carry on reading below!


The Forge

We started to design our own small homebrew forge which we would use to do the heat-treating of our steel files. To the right you can see our first crude idea, you might laugh, funny as it looks but it worked well in the end.

 

Homemade forge with thick pan and variable voltage plug for fan controlMyself & Scott tinkered for hours in my living room with different design ideas and pieces of kit, trying to workout what best recycled parts would be best and fitting them together and eventually we came up with a little forge that despite its looks will reliably heat a thick file to red hot in just a few minutes. It worked very well.

On the right hand side you can watch a YouTube video we made introducing you to our homebrew forge, it might give you a better idea of how it works and you get to see it in action.

The hairdryer fan we used was infact a travel-hairdryer, so probably not even as powerful as most of the motors in normal ones, but this fan combined with one of those variable voltage-plugs, the ones where you can slide the voltage up and down, this let us have good control over the speed of the fan.

If you make a forge similar to this design using recycled parts, make sure the top-pan (a old thick wok in our case) is fairly thick metal, a few millimetres at least, you don't want it to melt or degrade away with the intense heat of the forge. The wok we used (shown in pic) seems to do the job just fine, I've used it numerous times and for long periods and its still going strong.

Forge initial design idea drawing plan

Video of my Homemade Forge

<< Back to Menu or carry on reading below!

 


Heat Treating (Annealing your steel)

hot coals steel in forge glowing red hotThanks to GreenPete's video-guide, he taught me the basics of heat treating my steel file. Previously I knew nothing about heat-treating steel, but now I know first I needed to anneal my file to soften the steel so that it can be worked with and shaped etc.

How to Anneal / Soften Your Steel

To anneal your steel-file raise the temperature of the file up to 800ºC (glowing red-hot). You can do this by lighting a fire, let it burn well and get a good bed of embers, put your file into the fire then stoke it right up with plenty of fuel, keep it going for about half an hour, then the important thing to do is to allow the fire and file to cool down very slowly, this will allow all the carbide to turn back into carbon and then the file will be workable.

When your fire has gone out, remove your file and if there is any good charcoal left you may want to keep it for later use with your forge.

To test if you have successfully softened your steel you can test it by trying to file or drill a part of it that you wont need to use latter, this will be a good indication if its worked or not, see GreenPete's video for more info on that.

 

<< Back to Menu or carry on reading below!


Knife TemplateGreenPetes Template

Click the image on the right to view the full size template. Save the full size JPEG template and then open the file in Photoshop. Photoshop seems to print it at the correct size. Yet again thanks to GreenPete I had a lovely template to follow!

My File was just a fraction to small to follow GreenPete's template, so I adjusted the measurements slightly
template drawing scale measure measurements design idea

I used a small piece of ply-wood to make a wooden template of the knife which I could use as a comparison when working on my file with the grinder.

wood template metal file g-clamp work

Now you have your template ready you can go to work on shaping the steel with your grinder or files.

<< Back to Menu or carry on reading below!


Working the Steel File


angle grinder metal wood tools

As you can see in the above picture; so far I am using a ply-wood template and a cheap hand-held grinder that I picked up second hand for around £4. Using a grinder was fairly new to me, so I just worked slow and safely, taking my time. Wear eye protection, watch your fingers! And don't have cloth or flammable materials nearby (you'll be creating lots of sparks!).

wooden template metal design

Again, working slowly with nothing more than the hand-grinder I managed to cut the basic knife shape out of my steel-file. Once I had the basic shape, I decided to clean up the sides, removing the file-teeth and rust. I did all this with the cheap grinder, a bench grinder and sander will probably make life easier if you can get access to one. If your starting like I did with no previous knowledge on using grinders etc. please seek guidance from someone who is experienced.

As you can see above, I have used the grinder to form the shape of the knife, take off all the rubbish on the surface of the steel. If you are using just a hand-held angle-grinder as I did, this will take you hours of work. Next I took a trip to my father's so I could borrow his hand-drill, and drilled three holes through the steel, for my handle to be fixed to later. I believe the holes I made were 4mm in width and I had ordered some 4mm brass-bar online.

You can see in the above picture that I have started a single bevel edge for the blade, again I just did this mostly with the hand-grinder, no doubt there is a better tool for creating your bevel edge, a bench-grinder etc. but I only had a hand-grinder and a dremel to work with, I was pretty pleased with the results so far. Looking back on this; your bevel-edge is potentially the most important part of your knife, my angle was to steep, I would recommend starting the bevel edge with the angle-grinder but then to setup a file-jig like GreenPete did to get a more precise, consistent angle for your edge (approximately 22 degrees). There are also specially made equipment for helping you to create your bevel edge.

 

<< Back to Menu or carry on reading below!


Finished Product

bushcraft knife oak wood handle 01 tool steel homemade

Bushcraft Knife Finished Fire wood bushcraft handle shown in woodlands

Bushcraft Knife Oak hard wood handle

I am happy with the outcome of my work, considering this is my first ever knife project and I had no prior metal-working or even hardware skills I think I have done well.

So how's the Knife? It looks the part hey! Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be the best Bushcraft Knife I've used. I've sharpened it and it seems to work, it'll shave wood etc. but it just doesn't seem to perform as good as other knives, yes thats right a £10 Frost Mora cuts a lot better!.. there I said it

Im pretty sure this is because the bevel-edge starts too low, to close the cutting edge, which inturn makes the angle of the bevel edge to high, the blade essentially widens out too quick a bit like an axe blade, meaning it will cut, it'll just take more force and effort, so seemingly it wont cut as easily and efficiently as a thin drawn out bevel like on a frosts mora etc.

Im not too bothered at all, 'He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.' For me its been an enjoyable, learning experience and I have GreenPete to thank for that.

 

 

 

Have you completed your first knife-making project?

Let me know how it went! Send in your photos or comments here.

 

ignored for now!

01 ground flat stock

tool steel

high-carbon steel

harden and temper the blade.

high carbon steel, 01 ground flat stock ready for working, old metal-work file which will need softening first.

 

 
Comments (14)
14 Saturday, 12 January 2013 17:10
Joe Joyce
hi there. I have tried to download the greenpete video. It is brilliant! However there seems to be a broken link somewhere.

Does anyone have a downloaded copy on DVD they would be willing to sell me?

I would be more than willing to make a donation or pay for same.

Can anyone help?
13 Monday, 05 November 2012 16:48
jeffoverseas
You need to reheat then oil quench your knife then temper it, will hold an edge better, from the thread your knife is still in it's soft state.

J
12 Monday, 21 November 2011 06:34
Markl
What a fantastic Knife making Video!
Do hope you succeed in refining your device and develop one for the open market.
I be glad to buy one of your knife, however I'm skint at present.
''A Great Knife has a Great story, and your First Knife is a Great Knife.''
11 Sunday, 25 September 2011 17:22
ferret ian
Wish i had seen this over 30 years ago when i made my first knife.
I will give it another go at some time,when time allows CHEERS.
10 Friday, 08 July 2011 08:37
eagerbeaver
If that was me I'd be very chuffed. It really looks the part and for a first go it's excellent. Apart from making the odd coat hook and candle stick in mild steel I've never worked with tool steel and wouldn't have the confidence to even start a project like that. It makes you appreciate the cost of something like an Anza knife.
9 Sunday, 12 June 2011 07:33
Joe Belcher
After you got it soft to work did you heat and quench it to re-harden it? Then you heat and cool it to temper it. I think Randall knives has a description of their process on their web site, without trade secret details.
I also read that the angle of the blade behind the edge should be less than the edge. 20 degree bevel if that's the word and a 22 degree edge for example.
8 Monday, 18 April 2011 17:56
Danny
Nice knife, I want to try this myself, I tried to load the jpeg image of the knife template but it says its not found...
7 Monday, 17 May 2010 16:48
xxstincexx@hotmail.com
If you would have tempered it after you annealed it you would get better results, check out greenpete.co.uk
6 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 18:17
i work on a farm college and am also interested in bushcraft/survival,
i keep losing my knives all the time, i even managed to lose a german ww1 folding knife!!!
probably in a field far away now!
think i might have to make a few of my own soon.
great stuff.
pat
5 Thursday, 14 January 2010 21:56
Inspiring! Can't wait!
4 Wednesday, 13 January 2010 12:01
Hux
Hi Ashley,

Really like the simplicity of your forge design, was thinking of doing it myself, now that I've seen how it can be done simply and without too much expense I'm definately going to give it a go, will let you know the results as soon as I get round to it!
3 Sunday, 06 December 2009 22:17
Hello from across the pond! i purchased a nice machete the other week and have been chopping any lumber i can find, it works magnificently, but i kept remembering Greenpete's videos and what makes a good bushcraft knife, i tried making tent pegs, they came out good, but it was a pain in the ass to make them. i made a bow for a bow and drill fire method, same problem came out sub par, but was a pain in the ass!!! my hands would cramp reaching across the 50mm blade to get a good hold. so i decided to make my own knife specifically for it and carry it separately on my person on my stay with nature. i have been bringing a certain peice of metal to red hot, then hammering it into a nice thin blade, its probably 3-5 mm thick now, and i have been making it red hot and letting it cool on its own accord for many days now, i can pretty much bend it with my hands now. because of this little tutorial, i know exactly what to do. thank you so much Ashley, now i can make it perfect.
2 Monday, 02 November 2009 07:32
I'm only 13 years old and tried to make one about a month ago but lost the blade. Right now I am drawing the knife itself. You have helped me a lot!
1 Friday, 04 September 2009 06:32
Nice knife, i hope i can make my own knife

Best Regard`s

Pathfinder_indonesia

Add your comment

Your name:
Comment:

Natural Bushcraft is a personal project aiming to provide a free bushcraft resource available to everyone.

Sharing Bushcraft Skills and Knowledge Freely regardless of age or status is important to me.

Welcome to the...
'The True Spirit of Bushcraft'

Best wishes
Ashley Cawley.

Bushcraft Community

Welcome to the world's friendliest Bushcraft Community...

UK Wild Food - June

Elderflowers
Marsh Samphire
Wild Strawberry
Stinging Nettle
St George's mushroom
Shaggy inkcap
Wild Rose Flowers
Wild Thyme
Fairy-ring Champignon
Sea Beet
St George's mushroom
Greater Plantain
Ribwort Plantain
Alexanders (the flowers)
*These are just some of the wild edibles you will find in the UK this month.

The Hedge Combers

the-hedge-combers-165

A beautiful blog by my friend Janie sharing tips on self-sufficiency, homemade recipes, growing fruit, veg & rearing animals for meat & eggs.

Woodland Valley

 
woodland-valley
Woodland Valley an Organic Farm in the centre of Cornwall.
A Bushcraft Friendly Campsite with Ancient Woodland and Group Accommodation  available.

Ravenlore-150px-wide
Another Bushcraft & Wilderness Skills website that I love, by a friend & superb Photographer Gary Waidson.

Bushcraft Search

Who's On the Website

We have 69 guests and 1 member online
  • brindle

Subscribe on YouTube

Subscribe on YouTubeEnjoy our videos? Be sure to Subscribe to our YouTube Channel to hear about our latest releases.

Help This WebSite

Ashley Cawley Founder of NaturalBushcraft.co.uk

It takes a lot of work to build & maintain this site, I don't get paid for any of this and I choose not to display adverts, I offer it all for free. However it does cost to run the site, if you'd like to help me with those costs you can do so here:
 

July 2014

  • Marco Tello
  • Sylvanbilly

June 2014

  • Alan Catherall

May 2014

  • ac mccabe

Thank You
Supporters of
Natural Bushcraft


Follow Me on Twitter

Twitter Icon Follow Ashley Cawley
@NaturlBushcraft