Sometimes I realize it’s easier to make the tool I need then to find one already made just the way I’d want it.
This was true once again when clearing a trail in the woods- neither a machete or an axe was up to the task.
The scraggly trees we have here in North Texas can be inhospitable to being cut. There aren’t many trees in Texas that give up their limbs easily.
The store bought machete just deflected off most branches even though it was freshly sharpened, and the axe is difficult to place directly on the limb you want to cut.
There are some really nice machetes from knife companies that would work, but sometimes it’s important to know how to make your own. Especially if there are no stores to go to, or inflation has made buying one out of the question. These skills can be put towards making any type of blade for cutting.
Metalworking is an art that is learned over time. I’m by no means the best metal worker around, far from it. I just practice and take my time.
First you’ll need metal to make the blade out of. Since your making a sharpened blade you’ll want hardened steel. I use old saw blades from sawmills. They can be found at flea markets anywhere in the country. There are other places you can scavenge hardened steel from such as lawnmower blades and circular saw blades. New hardened steel sheet can also be purchased at most metal supply shops.
After you’ve picked out your metal you’ll need to cut it. For hardened steel a good metal band saw or plasma cutter works well. Since I have neither of those, a trusty cutting torch is my go-to metal cutter.
Take the cutting slow so you don’t over heat the metal. Just a little at a time. Overheating causes warping and can alter the molecular structure of the steel making it soft and unable to hold a good edge.
Cut the blade out larger than you want it so you can grind it down to the size and shape you want. This was any metal I overheated while cutting will get ground away. You can overheat while grinding as well so use light pressure and just a little at a time.
Shaping your blade profile is a whole ‘nother art form that could take a volume of books to completely explain. I did a little research and decided on a profile that didn’t have to extreme of an angle, if I need more cutting power I can always profile the cutting edge more.
I used an angle grinder while I had my blade locked into a table mounted vice. Then I moved to a bicycle pedal style grinder stone. I like this machine because I feel close to the metal, and it’s more accurate.
When the blade edge is pretty much contoured how you want it finish the edge with a good quality file, and then sharpening stones. I start with a tougher grit and move up to a fine grit until it’s super sharp.
After the blade is done, it’s time to put a handle on it. For my project I chose an old axe handle. I wanted to have plenty of reach, and be able to get both hands behind a strong swing. To do this I drilled 2 holes through the handle and the blade’s handle area. Then I inserted two bolts with nuts and trimmed to length.
There are better fasteners that you can get at the hardware store for this. If it’s a handle you’ll be holding onto inset the mounting hardware so it sits flush. There should be tons of videos on youtube to show how to make a nice knife handle. But mine’s purely utilitarian.
It’s a good idea to practice tool making. You never know when you’ll have to rely on your own ability to make what you need. If you don’t have all the tools you can find someone to help as well. Metal shops can cut out the blade shape for you and drill the holes if you need tougher equipment than what you have.
My first attempts at blade making didn’t go very well. It took persistence and experience before I could turn out anything decent. Have fun with it and show me your creations on our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/prepcabin. I’d love to see what your imagination dreams up. If you have a blade you’d like made shoot me a picture and dimensions and I’ll see what I can do for you.
Here’s the damage it did to a decent size limb in one slice. I put a golf ball up there for size reference.