HANDMADE FIELD KNIFE
OR - HOW TO MAKE A MULTI BAR, MULTI ROD, TWIST & PLAT, FIELD, UTILITY KNIFE - The knife that Neil made out of and old lorry spring : )
Recently [3/9/17] we moved house and while unpacking boxes and bags I stumbled across an old beast of a project in the bottom of a rucksack.
IT WAS ALWASY GOING TO BE A KNIFE
You may have read in my bio that I'm an ex blacksmith. I did an apprenticeship for 7 years and worked with my farther who taught me well. From a very young age I enjoyed making weapons none of which were very good but for the most part they held their edge and didn't break... for the most part. But coming to the end of my blacksmithing career I decided to make one last item that I could use and in turn would be useful. "A knife" ! Of course it was always going to be a knife.
|KNIFE AND HANDMADE SHEATH, A KITCHEN TABLE PROJECT|
There aren't now and never where any pictures of the actually manufacturing process. These were different times long before digital cameras and iPhones, when cameras where for holiday snaps and little else. There I hope the story of its conception and pix of the knife as it is now. After 26 years of use and a decade in the attic will help to illustrate the process and inspire your own projects.
Bo Randall was an inspiration, their Model 18 was the shape, form and function that inspired me. But of course my version would have to be bigger wouldn't it.
|SAW BACK DETAIL. THIS WAS HAND FILED AND SET AND ACTULY WORKS|
So design was decided upon, for the actual forge of the blade I decided to make it as per the Angelo Saxon method. A composite blade made up of many parts, not folded but twisted. For a blade the length of my design "9" this forged plat wouldn't be necessary:
But I liked the idea,
I hadn't done it before and
didn't know what I was letting myself in for.
|SAW BACK DETAIL FROM ABOVE|
WHAT OTHER KIND OF ENGINEERING IS THERE?
The ethos of this knife would be OVER ENGINEERED with this in mind I decided to use a lorry leaf-spring steel for the core, tool steel in the shape of an old carpenter chisel for the cutting edge and the spine for the blade, which of course had to have a saw, this would be made out of an old horse rasp [file for horse hooves]. So this isn't just forging a knife but up-cycling. Basically a load of scrap but perfectly good steel for the purpose and it was free or very cheep. The leaf spring I would have to get from the local scrap yard and as such I wouldn't be able to stick down my trousers so I would have to pay for that. The grand sum of £1.75p [???$ US] for nearly 3ft X 4" wide x 0.5" thick of high carbon spring steel!
Now to forge a twisted, multi-bar knife blade, Anglo Saxon style.
|SAW BACK DETAIL TOOTH SET|
CAN'T THE SEE THE RIBBONING FOR THE BLUING
The ripples in the steel caused by the manufacturing technique are called ribboning but rightly or wrongly I wasn't interested in that I want my blade to be 100% tactical and that meant black. Ironically this technique is known as bluing and involved heating the steel to straw heat then quenching in oil but then this would cause problems with toughness if I got the temper wrong ???? I played with the idea of making two blades. One being a prototype to practice the tempering and bluing sequence but in the end, I figured I should know what I was doing so went for it anyway.
|THE KNURLED STAINLESS STEEL HANDLE WAS TO UNCOMFORTABLE TO USE FOR LONG BUT A PIECE OF BIKE INNER TUBE FIXED IT|
First I would have to anneal the blade. The opposite to a temper it would soften the steel making it easier to work. All these processes would need to work together to produce the temporary I was after, which was tough but with a hard cutting edge that would not chip. So I wanted the edge to dent if anything, at least then I could resharpen it. This would also depend on the grid of the edge, of course making sure that there was enough metal behind the edge to support it. I thought that the edge should have two grinds. The first 2.5" of the blade would be scalpel, shave your arm sharp, the rest would be less fine for working wood etc.
|THIS PICTURE SHOWS SOME BLADE DAMAGE THAT I FIXED!|
The blade took about 12 hrs to fire weld and forge the multiple pieces into a rough looking blade but blade it was. I liked this stage the most as now I had something that looked and acted like a knife, It was no-longer a lorry spring!
THE CHICKEN AND THE CHOP TEST
So now I chickened out and gave the blade a rough edge and temper to see if I had things right. Wrapping the tang in a rag, I gave it a bloody chop test. Wood, brick even sheet steel feel before my blade and it held up fine. Bloody great!
With the confidence that I might end up with something like the plan, I got back to work, re applied the anneal and started the grinding and polishing process to a stage where I felt happy to give the blade its first temper. This was a straw heat, followed by a modestly quick quench [cool] in oil, remembering that the steels I had chosen were hard, tough and brittle by nature so I figured that what I'd call a moderate temper for this stage would be about right.
4 INCH ANGLE-GRINDER
Polishing mostly by hand, with some help from a 4" angle-grinder, took about 4 days. Starting with the angle grinder, going through to draw filing then finishing off with ever finer emery cloth and oil. I had never taken that much time on polishing before but it had to be a mirror finish. Once the blade had been blued it would be too late to polish any more. [I wish I had a picture of it polished]
|CROSSGUARD DETAIL, TWIN HOLE FOR CORDAGE|
Taking a break from the blade I designed and had made the handle. This was tubular stainless steel, ready for a small survival kit and with a screw cap. This had a brass button compass which was held in place with a split ring. For strength the handle was made from a solid drawn stainless steel bar. My guy, who knew what he was doing knocked this up for me in an hour. Really it's to thick, heavy and uncomfortable to use for any length of time but at the time I thought it was just great.
|YOU CAN TELL I MADE THE CROSSGUARD IN A HURRY, YOU CAN SEE SOME PRETTY LARGE FILE MARKS IN IT : )|
The Crossguard was almost forgotten and if I was honest, I didn't enjoy going back to it, never-the-less it! was made from spring steel and was completely ground so no forging required. It has holes for a lanyard and one side has a screwdriver. As gimmicky as this sounds it actually works quite well.
At times it looked like I'd never finish but eventually it was. I remember performing the final temper and bluing and worrying that I had it all terribly wrong and the blade would just shatter as soon as I tried to cut anything. I put the knife together and there it was, all finished, nearly 6 weeks from start to finish, I gave it a final oil. Done!
|VERY PLEASED WITH THIS DETAIL, STILL LOOKS FRESH TODAY.|
|KNIFE AND SHEATH WITH RUBBER HANDLE SLEEVE (bike inner tube) REMOVED|
But in the end this knife came with me on many, many camping trips being just great around the camp. From digging fire pits to build camp gadgets. Yep it was too big and chunky and part of me wishes I'd just kept it as a reminder of what I was capable of, at the height of my blacksmithing powers but I didn't, I used it and yet here it still is, not looking to shabby at all.
|THIS DROP POINT WAS HARD TO FORGE, GRIND AND POLISH AND KEEP THESE EDGES SHARP|
TOO BIG, TOO HEAVY? I DON'T CARE
You know how it is as you get older, you look at stuff you did when you were younger and think... "good at the time now... not so much" but not in this case. Yes it's too big, too long, too heavy and a bit ungainly but even to this day I do love the over engineered attention to detail. I have to remind myself that a much younger me made this almost entirely by hand and for that I have impressed myself, which is rare.
CtA [Call to Action]
Leave a comment. Tell me what you think. Do you like the knife? Have you made your own Field Fnife? It would be great to hear. Thanks very much for taking the time. Enjoy the rest of the site.