With a little elbow grease and some common household tools, you can make a custom survival knife for under $10.
The best survival knives all share the same traits. They fit well in the hand, have a full tang, a five to six inch drop point blade and sturdy spine. Most custom survival knives also carry a hefty price tag, but we’ve got some tips on how to have a one of a kind knife for under $10.
Here’s what you’ll need: a metal file, a drawing of a survival knife, paracord, a fire pit, an oven, sandpaper, grinders or sanders and a wet stone.
To make the knife you need to go bargain shopping at your local flea markets, swap meets or garage and estate sales. Look for metal files, the bigger the better.
Find one that at its widest point feels good in your hand, or is slightly bigger than your grip. Usually you can pick up one or two for less than a dollar. The file itself may not look like much, but when you are done with it, it will be a work of art. If you are able to pick up one or two quality files at the same time for the same price do so. These will come in handy when you are finishing your blade.
Let it burn
Go home and build a nice hot fire and keep piling the wood on. Bury your file into the embers and sit back and enjoy the fire.
The hotter the fire and the longer you keep it burning the easier your knife will be to form. This process is called annealing the metal; it will actually soften the hardened file so you can reshape it into a knife. Let the fire go as long as you can, and allow the file to cool overnight.
Pull it from the ashes the next morning and clean it up. If the file has warped, take a hammer and straighten it back out. The straighter your knife starts, the better the end result will be.
Get in shape
Transfer your design to the file. Mark where the handle is to begin on the blade, and any other features you wish your knife to have. Take whatever tools you have available to you and get the basic knife shape cut out from the file. If you lack grinders or other power tools, use the extra files you purchased to begin the shaping. This process takes time, do not rush it, you are creating a one of a kind work of art.
Once you get the basic shape formed, flip your knife over and draw a line down the center of the blade from the tip to the handle. This will help you form the blade uniformly, and keep the edge in the center.
Start to slowly decease the thickness of the blade to form an edge. If you have access to a grinding wheel or a belt sander, this will speed things up. If not, use your files.
Keep refining the edge until you get the knife’s blade to the thickness of a penny. Once the blade is formed, shape the handle as well. Then it is back to the fire pit to heat treat your knife. For this step, you want a large bed of red hot coals.
Bury the newly formed knife into your bed of coals. You will know when your knife is finished being heat treated when a magnet will no longer attach to it. This will take some time, so keep the fire going and test the knife periodically.
Once the knife is no longer magnetic quench it, or cool it very quickly with a bucket of water. Your knife may have changed colors during the heat treatment, this is normal and will make it more unique.
The temper step
The next step to making a solid knife is to temper it. You can achieve this in your kitchen’s oven. Heat it to 400°F and lay your knife inside on a rack and bake it for two to three hours. After the knife has baked, take it out and allow it to cool on its own. Once it has cooled repeat the tempering process again.
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Once your knife has cooled a second time, it is time to work on the handle. Use some paracord and slowly start wrapping your handle. This will provide a strong grip, it will also ensure you always have string handy in case you need it in the field.
If you don’t have paracord, use whatever’s available. Strips of leather, old shoelaces, or anything that will give you a better grip. Once your handle is complete, it is time to finish your blade.
Start with 60 to 80 grit sandpaper designed for metal, and slowly work your knife on the sandpaper to refine the edge. If you have trouble keeping the blade angle consistent, lay a penny under the knife’s spine to help keep the angle. Continue refining the knife edge on finer grit sandpaper until you reach 1,000 grit. Finish your knife on a wet stone to give it a shaving sharp edge.
Congratulations, you have just made a custom survival knife for under $10.