Steel Knife
Project Background

I don’t have any real purpose for making or owning weapons, but I do like displaying them decoratively. When I discovered how cheap and accessible weldable steel was, I started using it in many of my projects. Due to its lack of alloying elements and its subsequent crystal structure, weldable steel is not stainless and is really not the best material from which to form lasting blades, but that’s what I had at my disposal at the time. For the fun of it, I decided to make a strangely shaped knife blade from steel that I had lying around and a section of a broken hickory axe handle.

I enjoyed using my dad’s bench grinder to form steel which took off a much larger amount of material than any manual method like filing or honing could have done. Once the blade was shaped and the taper formed using the grinder, I used a file to smooth out the grinding marks and remaining mill scale and to put a clean edge on the blade.

Weldable steel is fairly ductile compared to what one would normally find in a blade, so it doesn’t hold the blade’s edge very well, but can plastically absorb much more energy without failure. That property of ductile materials isn’t important in blades most of the time, however, but some amount of ductility is good to prevent the blade from chipping. I could have attempted hardening methods to allow the knife to hold a better blade, but it really isn’t a practical knife to begin with, so I never intend to use it for any real application. There are many things that I could improve upon now that I know more about mechanics of materials and real blade-making techniques, but again, the knife was meant for show.

To form the handle, I cut the top section off of the hickory axe handle and used a wood saw to divide it into two halves. Using 3/8-inch bolts, similar to what I did in my machete and katana projects, I clamped the wooden sections around the tang of the blade and ground down the nut and bolt surfaces bringing them flush with the wood. The steel has already begun to rust, despite being indoors and kept from water, but it is easy enough to polish. I may apply a corrosion inhibitor to its surface once it’s fully polished to prevent that since I have no practical use for it, but I enjoyed making it regardless.

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