How to Make a Bushcraft Knife – A Step by Step Guide

A bushcraft knife next to some wood chips.

Needless to say, behind every successful outdoors enthusiast there is a trusty bushcraft knife. Okay, that sounds a bit like a camping trip gone horribly wrong (remember good ol’ Jason Voorhees?). In case we didn’t get our message across, a sturdy bushcraft knife is one of the necessary items on your let’s-have-an-outdoor-adventure inventory.

Let’s ask you a question: besides being the outdoors lover that you are, do you see yourself as a DIY fanatic? If so, you’ll absolutely love today’s article. We’ll show you a step-by-step guide on how to make your own bushcraft knife without investing a lot of effort.

First, you’ll have to pick out the steel you’ll work with and settle on a design. Next, you’ll apply the design to the material by using the steel-cutter. Also, a blade ain’t a blade without heat treatment so that’s exactly what you’re gonna do. After you’ve added a wooden handle, coat your new DIY bushcraft knife in walnut oil. 

That was just a neat little preview! Keep on reading for the whole thing!

Table of Contents

What makes a bushcraft knife?

Before we show how to make a bushcraft knife, let’s what makes one? In other words: what’s so special about this type of knife? Here’s a standard definition: bushcraft knives are a variant of classic survival knives and they’re used for fine, more delicate tasks in the outdoors. For instance, those tasks might consist of making traps, carving wood, trimming rope, or getting a fire started. Bushcraft knives are well-known to be durable, very reliable, and flexible.

Let’s see what else makes them different from other survival knives. Bushcraft knife blades are usually about 3-5 (8-13) inches (centimeters) long. That makes bushcraft knives the shortest kind of survival knife (their usual blade length is about 6-12 (15-30) inches (centimeters)). Also, the bushcraft knife blade should be 1/16 to 1/8 (0.3 – 0.15) inches (centimeters) thick.

Now that we’ve covered the basic characteristics, let’s check out what most folks look for in a bushcraft knife.

What do you want in a bushcraft knife?

Here’s what you’ll want to look for in a bushcraft knife. In other words: this is what a good bushcraft knife looks like:

  • The blade itself should possess a long flat cutting edge (that slightly turns upwards to meet the tip).
  • The tip of the blade shouldn’t be ridiculously narrow & pointy nor blunt & rounded.

Needless to say, the flat blade’s pretty darn versatile. That makes things easier for you when you’re chopping or batoning. Additionally, there ain’t no slicing or slashing that isn’t easily done with a flat blade. That’s exactly why many nature enthusiasts love this piece of necessary outdoor equipment.

Okay, so that’s about it for the introductory section of this guide. Let’s see those steps required to make yourself a good, sturdy bushcraft knife!

A bushcraft knife with a black handle.

How to make a bushcraft knife – A step-by-step guide

Of course, the construction process (if we can call it that way) of a bushcraft knife will require you to utilize some heavy machines and other useful equipment. However, with the proper gear (steel cutter, for instance) and knowledge (the next 10 tips will be more than enough), everything is doable! So, shall we begin?

Step #1: Choosing the type of steel you’ll use

For the best results, you’ll have to pick out the right steel for this knife-making process. That being said, you’ll want to use the best quality stainless or carbon steel to make your DIY knife. For beginner knife-makers, you’ll want to use steel that has over 0.30% carbon in it. Still, you shouldn’t opt for ultra-high carbon either. Find a percentage that’s in between (0.90%, for instance).

Step #2: Figure out the knife design

Once you’ve found the right type of steel for your knife-making experiment, the next thing you’ll want to do is to pick out a design. You can either find one online or design it yourself following the principles we’ve mentioned earlier in the text (chapter: What do you want in a bushcraft knife?). Also, cut the paper into the shape of your soon-to-be-new knife.

Step #3: Apply the design on the steel

Next up, you’ll need to apply the design you came up with on the steel. Place the knife-shaped paper on the steel you’ve picked out. Use a permanent marker or something similar that will make the shape more visible to trace on the steel and work around the paper.

Step #4: Do some steel-cutting

Moving on to the steel-cutting process. Utilize your steel cutter on the marked area. You’ll want to cut it properly until you meet the previously set design. Keep in mind it probably won’t be perfect the first time you try it out. Retry until you’ve satisfied with the cut.

Step #5: It’s grinding time

When you’re down with cutting out the shape of your knife, it’s time to grind the knife-shaped steel. This process will make the steel look more knife-like if we’re allowed to say something like that. Anyway, the grinding of the steel will also make the cutting edge of the blade sharp enough to match the bushcraft knife concept.

Step #6: Heat-treating the knife

As you can notice, we’re already calling it a knife (since the steel’s now transformed into a characteristic shape). However, we’re far from the end of the knife-making process: the steel blade is still comparatively soft. Needless to say, it needs to be strengthened by the process of heat-treating. 

For this, you’ll want to employ a high-quality Acetylene torch with a rosebud nozzle. Heat the knife to 1500°C (don’t go over that temperature) until it becomes red hot, then you’ll put in the ice-cold water (feel free to add ice to the water) in order for it to cool down. This process will make your knife strong enough to handle difficult tasks that lay ahead of it.

Step #7: What about the handle?

If you were wondering when does the handle walk into the picture, the answer is: right now! Find a pair of sturdy oak tree logs and give them a rudimentary shape that fits the blade’s design. Afterward, put the two wooden pieces on both sides of the blade. Mark the trace the blade makes on both logs, and, of course, ensure the marks are visible.

Next up, put the knife between the two parts of the handle. Drill the necessary holes for the pins, which will ultimately keep the logs & blade together.

Step #8: Pins, pins, pins…

Once the pinholes are formed, you’ll need to place the pins inside ’em. Make sure you’ve tightened them good, then cut the extra parts of the pins with an iron-cutter and grind ’em a bit just so they don’t stick out.

Step #9: Refine the handle

We’re almost there. Before you reach the last stage of the knife-making ordeal, you’ll need to refine the wooden handle of the blade. You can use a grinder & sand-paper combo to refine the wooden handle until you’re completely satisfied. 

Step #10: You’re reached the finish line

Once you’ve done everything we’ve mentioned above, you’ll have to make one last move in order to finish your DIY bushcraft knife. Wipe the blade & handle with several coats of walnut oil to thoroughly clean them and make ’em shine. Once you’re done, sharpen your new knife using a diamond sharpening system. That’s all that’s there!

By carefully following each one of the 10 tips we’ve shown you, you’ll make yourself a unique bushcraft knife. It will follow you on your every outdoor adventure and you’ll have a chance to brag in an oh-you-know-I-made-it-using-these-two-hands manner.

Bonus tip: How to remove scales from Swiss Army Knife

There probably isn’t a more distinguishable piece of camping equipment than the world-famous Swiss Army Knife. Its trademark look is something most folks around the world will easily recognize. However, some of ’em wonder if it’s possible to remove the scales from the Swiss Army Knife. As many people nowadays strive towards a bit of originality, it’s no wonder they want to customize even an item like the famous knife in question.

Anyway, detaching the scales from the Swiss Army knife might be the easiest thing in the world to do. The first thing you’ll want to do is to remove the tweezers & toothpick combo from your Swiss Army knife. The emptied slots will temporarily serve as nooks; find a screwdriver small enough to find in there and gently lift the scale upwards. That’s basically it!

If you’re wondering if there’s more to this story than the info we’ve given you above, feel free to read the article covering the very same theme.

Final thoughts (or however you want to call the final paragraph)

That’s about it, fellow nature-lovers! As always, we hope you’ve enjoyed reading this one as much as we did writing it! Now you can say you know how to make a bushcraft knife, which is a skill not many folks possess! Don’t forget you’ll have the opportunity to use the “using these two hands” rhetoric whenever necessary!

For more camping tips and related info, pay a visit to this page.

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