A Big Commission – Part 1 – Beginning

I got a new commission via the sign on my garden gate. Maybe if I did not live at the end of a road in the middle of nowhere I would have gotten more business that way, but a little is better than nothing.

The customer initially asked me if I could harden a kukri machete that he has bought and found of insufficient quality. My reply was that it might be possible, but only if the steel is good enough and only the quench is botched, not if the steel is craparooni as well. After a bit of back-and-forth, he brought me the bad kukri together with one that belongs to his friend and that he initially intended to buy.

Both machetes are from the same company. I won’t tell you their proper name, but it could be paraphrased as “Low-Temperature Carbon-Iron Alloy”.

The bad one was manufactured allegedly in Africa (the country was not specified) and it is really bad – it has no primary bevel, so it is essentially just a sharpened flat bar. The hardness is about 50-51 HRC, so it is hardened. But this is the lowest point where it might be useful as a cutting tool – with very frequent sharpening. Which would be difficult with steel this thick and this type of grind.

The good one was manufactured in the USA and it is in my opinion still bad, although not as bad as the first one. It does at least have primary and secondary bevels, so there is no need to remove excessive amounts of material when sharpening.

I took a picture of the good one, proposed a few design modifications, and made an outline and a price offer.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Since this is supposed to be a working tool, we agreed that there is no need for high polish or any excessive fancifulness. On the other hand, there should be some fancifulness since a handmade product is going to be expensive regardless. So there will be a jatoba handle with hidden pins and a dyed leather sheath with a pocket and natural sharpening stone. The offered price is about ten times higher than what the manufacturer of the original has charged, but I do hope that I can deliver a product worthy of that expense.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I have already cut the outline from 4 mm spring steel and then I got distracted. I could grind the bevels freehand, I do have the skill to do so. But I thought to myself – I might need to make a second one if the first one cracks in quench, I might get more requests for big blades, so it probably is worth to spend some time making a jig. And today, I started to make that jig.

More about that when it is finished.


  1. Jazzlet says

    I’m really pleased for you Charly, and I’ll be looking forward to your progress repoerts.

  2. says

    “Spring steel” sounds kind of generic. With all the really amazing steels out there, it always makes me sad when I see stuff like the initial kukri, made out of mystery metal.

    Lately I’ve been amusing myself with stainless/hardox welding rods. You can layer a bunch of air-hardening tool steel right onto something, then form it into an edge. I just made a set of tool steel-tipped rebar throwing chunks, for fun. Nothing bothers them -- you can hammer them into dirt as tent-pegs and they are still needle sharp when they come out. Good times to be messing with steel!

  3. says

    @Marcus, “Spring steel” is generic. The specific spring steel that I am using is 54SiCr6. I have made several blades (including my machete) from it and it has performed very well -- it has high hardening potential whilst being very tough and strong.
    The material of the original is indeed mystery metal. The manufacturer is not exactly renowned for using high-end materials and producing high-end goods. They are renown for other things. Indeed when the customer initially approached me, I guessed the manufacturer as soon as he started talking.

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