I Almost Didn’t Fail the Second Time

My first attempt at big blade ended up in a disaster and after several years of procrastinating the issue ended up as a smaller (though not small) knife. I gave it a second shot because 1) I really need a machete 2) I want to learn to make these big blades for I have big plans for the future, that will no doubt never come to fruition.

And as the title says it, I almost didn’t fail this time. At least, I do have a serviceable tool to use in my garden.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Spring steel, blackened with oak bark. 4-6 mm thick, 51 cm overall length. Fully hardened, spine tempered to spring.

This time things went reasonably well, but I was suspecting that I have ground the fullers too deep. At least they were passably symmetrical – there was no trouble in the quench. The blade came out hardened and mostly straight, and the very slight bent it has developed (circa 1-2 mm over the whole length) was easily corrected with my unbender after heat treatment.

However, when I was trying to polish the blade and smooth out the fullers, it turned out I was right – I made the fullers too deep and near the tip I have thus ground through. But it might not be a functional issue, just an aesthetic one, so I have decided to finish it, albeit with less attention to detail than I would had it been a complete success. I have filed the hole bigger and oval with diamond-coated files (to remove any stress-risers) and I have stopped polishing the blade, especially the insides of the fullers. I just gave it a few buffs with scotch brite discs for angle-grinder and then it went into the oak bark tee for a nice night-long bath.

Handle fittings are from bronze and handle scales are from pickled black locust. I did want the blade to complement the previous one since they will both be used by me in my garden. This handle is specifically fitted to my hands, so nobody with different-shaped hands would probably feel comfortable using it. I have no idea yet how it will work out in the long term, but it did feel perfectly fine when I gave a few whacks to an old wooden board with it.

I might make a scabbard or a sheath for it too. I am currently thinking about whether to make a double-sheath for the pair or a separate sheath for each item. Both options have pros and cons. Not that I do actually need a sheath for wearing them, they are unlikely to ever leave the house further than the 60 or so meters that is my backyard long, but they are both sharp and big and dangerous and could get rusty, so I need an option for safe storage, both protecting them from elements and me from injuries when they are not used.


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    The machete will look all business when the guard gets some patina.

    Ostrobothnians (residents of the flat area by the Central West Coast of Finland) call a double sheath for their puukkos kaksneuvoonen, which means hybrid or hermaphrodite, i think the German word Zwitter is fairly close to the meaning. Literally kaksneuvoonen or kaksineuvoinen (std. Finnish) is two (kaksi) implements (neuvo = implement, piece of advice).

  2. fusilier says

    Quick question: does the oak-bark treatment serve as a rust inhibitor? It certainly makes the steel _look_ good!

    Whoopsie, almost forgot, what concentration did you use? Yes I have a few (commercial) blades I’d like to try that on.


    James 2:24

  3. says

    @fusilier, I do not have enough personal experience to say, but I have read an article about the treatment of museum pieces in order to inhibit corrosion, so I certainly do hope it works as such. Just to be sure I have also coated the blades with a thin film of linseed oil which I can re-apply after each use. Search for “tannic acid steel treatment” and you will find plenty.

    As for concentration, I have no way of measuring it. By volume, it was a pot filled with bark shredded to pieces max 2 cm which I put on the stove. Then I poured water into the pot (circa 3 l), brought it to boiling, let simmer for a bit, and poured the water out into a bucket. I have repeated this (with that same bark) several times (I think four) until the bucket was full (circa 5 l). The resulting liquid had the color of dark coffee.

    I have then submerged the blade fully into the solution, took it out after a few hours, rinsed it off, and put it back overnight.

    It does not work on stainless steel though.

  4. avalus says

    This is a looker! What a beautiful big knife.
    I would advice for a sheath of some sort. My big garden knife has … some hideous leather taped with gaffa-tape. Probably saved my mom a finger though, so worth it in my book.

  5. Jazzlet says

    How frustrating, still it looks great apart from the over deep fuller and diddy hole.

    I think they both ought to have sheaths for storing them in, but I’m not sure about for carrying the large one,because it might prove cumbersome. Could you rig up something that would let you feel what it was like wandering around with that amount of steel hanging off your belt?

  6. fusilier says

    Thanks for the information.

    Yeah, I know about stainless. I’m a True Believer in the Gospel of High Carbon Steel. ;^) ;^)


    James 2:24

  7. says

    It looks amazing. Working with a machete takes some skill and v experience, but personally I prefer it to many electrical tools.

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