If you talk to legendary survivalists like Les Stroud or Bear Grylls they’ll tell you that a knife is your most important tool. Having a knife when you are stranded can be the difference between life and death. Knives are also pretty handy in day-to-day life, especially if you’re a country bum like us. We found one talented gentleman who could turn metal into a hardened, beautiful, and polished knife from scratch in his own garage. Keep on reading and be amazed by this man’s incredible work!
23. A sneak peak at the finished product.
We aren’t going to drag you along through a grueling and exciting step-by-step process without giving you a taste of what’s at the end first. Here we see one of the knives created by a man who goes by the username, Phenixworks. That’s a pretty knife, right? You’ll be happy to know that it carves and cuts as good as it looks. Now let’s see how this fantastic tool was created.
22. It all starts with a steel bar.
Let’s be honest, our first thought was that there is no way this blue steel bar is going to become a trio of knives. We’d, of course, be wrong. What we are looking at is a 1084 steel bar that is 1/8″ thick by 1-1/2″ wide. The reason that the steel is purple-ish blue is because it has been coated with a layer of layout fluid. Here we see that our survivalist has outlined his future knives.
21. What is layout fluid?
We aren’t going to just gloss over the little details here. Layout fluid is a liquid that is used to coat a material in order to prep it for carving. The fluid gives the carver a completely blank slate from which to work, hiding all imperfections in the metal. As Jesse Pinkman would say, “Yeah, Mr. Phenixworks, science!”
20. The knives have been outlined!
Now we have the knives actually cut out of their original steel bar and outlined. They still look a little rough but, well, that’s what you get when you use an angle grinder to shape your blade. This sounds easy enough but angle grinders can be tough on steel if you don’t know what you’re doing. We’d definitely say that Phenixworks has been around the tool before.
19. An angle grinder in action.
Here’s a shot of some poor sap working his angle grinder without a pair of gloves on. We’d suggest wearing gloves, especially if you are going to be carving your steel into knives. In any event, moving on.
18. Grind and shine!
When you are a survivalist you know that life is all about the little details. Here we see that the knives have been successfully shaped with a belt grinder to get their smooth texture and refined shape. Phenix also drilled a few holes into each knife in order to create some balance to the overall weight of the blade. More on that later.
17. Let there be more holes.
If surviving in the wild involved knowing how to make a knife from scratch, we’d be doomed. Here we see that Phenixworks is far better off than us. We can see that he’s started to give the blades an edge while also adding in a host of new holes on the grip. He calls this the hardest, and toughest, part of making your own knife.
16. Begin the heat treating.
Once the blade has found its shape you have to start treating the metal with heat. What we see here is what Phenixworks calls the first part of heat treating: quenching. Quenching essentially turns our soft 1084 steel into a much harder and more brittle material. The blade is treated with heat set to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. After heating, he dips it into oil.
15. This is a DIY forge.
Yeah, Phenixworks even went out of his way to create his own simple forge. He used a pair of bricks and this handy vise-grip tool to accomplish the job. Full disclosure: we probably would have gone straight to the internet to buy a forge. Alas, that’s why he is the survivalist.
14. Another homemade forge.
Here is a slightly nicer homemade forge. If we aren’t careful we will probably dovetail off into an endless web search while trying to find the most rad homemade forges. Must. Resist. Back to knife making.
13. Bring out the chemicals.
Back in the knife-making portion of the shed, we see that Phenixworks has busted out his favorite chemical: ferric chloride. This chemical is used to eat away at steel during the etching process. Soft steel etches away gray while hardened steel etches away a much darker color. Phenixworks uses this chemical to make sure that his blades are fully hardened in the way that he wants them. Notice that everything is clearly labeled? That’s important.
12. Post-etching color.
Here’s a cool close up look of the blades after they had soaked in the ferric chloride. You can see exactly where the steel has most hardened by where it is darkest. As you can see, the ferric chloride didn’t eat away in an even line. The steel has different hardening levels at different spots.
11. Fire up the ovens!
Now we have to temper the blades. Phenixworks fires up his personal kitchen oven and throws the knives down on the rack. What tempering accomplishes, according to Phenixworks, includes making the blades much tougher. Toughness in metalworking is defined by a metal’s resistance to fracturing or cracking. The knives sit still for two hours at 400 degrees. That’s a lot of cooking!
10. Gee, has he done this before?
Here’s a larger batch of knives after they had spent time in the oven. You notice how they are almost all the same shade despite some smaller differences? this is because each blade has its own unique little traits, no matter how precise Phenix is when he operates with his methods. We also want to point out that he works with far more than just the 1084 steel that we saw at the beginning of this article. While different materials have slightly different needs, there are many similarities that allow Phenix to re-use his methods.
9. Time to brand the knives.
Here we see that Phenixworks is creating these knives upon request — custom orders. He’s taped up the base of the blade and put in stencils: RMC and Farmville. His goal is to etch these two names right along the blades. Phenixworks turned to his girlfriend, borrowing her vinyl cutting machine in order to craft the required stencils. How nice of her, right? Maybe not exactly what she had in mind when he mentioned “doing crafts together” but she’ll probably take it.
8. Now THIS is a DIY job.
Alright, you probably never thought that this is how the etching would go down. Phenixworks uses a DC power supply (24v), a q-tip, and some salt water in order to etch in the names on the blade. The power runs through the blade, allowing the saltwater and q-tip to fleck away metal wherever it contacts. That’s pretty creative. Also, probably pretty dangerous. Don’t try this at home. Or, wait, maybe do try this at home — but make sure you know what you are doing, first.
7. Let’s make some handles.
A pretty knife without a great handle is no fun at all. With the blades finished we see that the time has come to focus on the handle. Phenixworks pulls out some birdseye maple and G10 red plastic in order to start crafting his handle.
6. And here we are.
Phenixworks is relatively brief on the handle making process but he still has some great information. With the handles shaped to his liking, he affixes them to the blade by using Corby bolts. These bolts come in two pieces and they are threaded together through the handle. Phenix is pretty floored by how easy they work and seems to heavily suggest them to other DIY blade-makers. We’ll take his word for it.
5. A peak at his collection.
Here’s just a sneak peak at a variety of different handles that Phenix has made. Are you starting to get the idea that he is really into making knives? Yeah, we don’t blame him. If we could make anything this cool then we would be doing it all day.
4. A layer of cerakote.
The test handles seem to work pretty well so he takes them off in order to finish up the blade. Here he lays down a coat of cerakote, which sounds redundant, in order to make the blades look amazing. What cerakote actually accomplishes is simple: it waterproofs the blades while making them more resistant to abrasion. You can apply a coating of cerakote by simply spraying it on and then baking the blades for a few hours. Easiest thing in the world, right?
3. Finishing up on the handles.
Phenix decides to go back to his handles and make them just a bit more interesting looking. He dyes the maple wood with a dark brown and then polishes it to give it some shine. With that done he uses his Corby bolts to affix the handles to the blade, grinding the bolts flush when he is done. One more step and we are done!
2. Time to sharpen the blades.
With the blades and handle finished all he has left to do is to sharpen the actual blade. Sharpening your blade is extremely important because a dull blade can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than a sharpened blade. Besides, you want your tool always ready to go when you need it.
1. The beautiful finished product.
Phenix busts out another one of his blades to show us how it looks when it is completely finished. This is one beautiful and vicious looking knife. Made from 1095 steel and braced with a desert ironwood handle. There is pretty much no limit to the creativity that Phenix is displaying, which means he’s going to be making knives for a long time.
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