Not a Mistake, Just a Smaller Knife…

… but by no means a small knife.

Harvesting firewood from my coppice is a yearly task that requires a lot of chopping off thin branches and twigs. Currently, I am using an old chef’s knife for that, but it is getting pretty warped and worn-out because it was not meant for that kind of work. And a hatchet is too unwieldy for it.

So two years ago I tried to make a machete. And I failed completely, the blade warped in quench and subsequently snapped when I tried to straighten it. It broke near the handle, so I had a relatively big chunk of straight blade left, but I did not know what exactly to do with it and I had better work to do anyway, so I have just used it for various experiments – for etching and tumbling tests, etc. I learned a lot from the piece for my future projects, so it was not completely wasted. But it was still big enough to make a knife, and the surface was so pitted now that it was no longer suitable for tests. So I have decided to make a knife out of it after all.

I annealed about one-third and cut the tang out of it, then I have put the now 17 cm long blade in the tumbler with fine sand and let it run for a few days to clean the surface of most of the corrosion, although the pitting of course remained. I did not polish the blade afterward to remove the pitting since that would make it really thin. Instead, I have dunked it overnight in tannic acid (or, as per Marcus, Oak Drop Soup). It got a nice dark-grey-blue coating that way and a really mean rustic look. In combination with linseed oil, it should provide moderately durable and strong corrosion resistance. Only I forgot to etch a logo in it before doing all that, and now I can’t, so the blade is unsigned.

The handguard is from bronze and old bone, the handle from pickled black locust. When I am making sheaths, I will make one for this too. I must confess – I did not do a very good fitting job on the handguard, I did not want to waste too much time on this. And I have decided to let the bronze get a natural patina over time for the same reason. But since this is a working knife for me, any flaws are not a problem since nobody ever will complain.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I think it looks kind of nice and I am considering adding this type of knife to my repertoire as a bushcraft knife, with only slight changes in construction (full-tang instead of hidden tang). I am also considering adding a lanyard, although it is secure enough in the hand with this handle-shape.  I have already tested it for its intended purpose and the blade coating is resistant enough to withstand wood-chopping. And if it rubs-off, it is easy to reapply. I really like how this turned out and I am glad I did not simply toss it on the scrap pile.



  1. avalus says

    I really love how this knife turned out. The shape, the colours, the grain. Beautiful!

  2. voyager says

    Nice shape on the blade, and the handle is elegant. It sure doesn’t look as if it started life as a mistake.

  3. Ice Swimmer says

    I love the outdoorsy colours of the knife. It is neat that the handle looks shapely even when it is basically in a shape of a reversed and truncated kitchen knife handle, especially as it is, like you say, secure in hand.

  4. says

    @avalus, voyager I like the shape and colors too. especially the “burned” look of the handle. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to get the same color scheme again. Each ammonia pickled piece of wood seems to come out a bit differently, so each is unique.

    @Marcus thank you. I have expected the fuller to wash out a bit in the sand during tumbling, but it did not happen. The abrasion in the tumbler is not strong enough to seriously damage fullers or even bevel ridges, which is a good thing from my point of view, since it makes a very nice satin finish, saves a lot of work, and this means I can use it for those types of blade too. Only making fullers is a major pain in the ass and I will have to build some new equipment to make it less so.

    @Ice SWimmer, the handle is in fact deliberately modeled after the one that I have devised for cheff knives. I had to start three times before getting it right, the first time I started with a too small piece of wood, the second time I messed-up the hole, and the third time was the charm.

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