So I have been examine the "classic" bushcraft knife, and the style that has been used by Ray Mears and duplicated many times in the last 25 odd years is the Woodlore:
220 mm long full tang knife with a blade length of 110 mm and a handle of 110 mm, two slabs bolted to the handle (reindeer may have been originally use but wood and micarta are also used and are probably better), 4 mm thick O1 high carbon tool steel with a scandi grind (although the current Woodlorehas a slight hollow ground cut into the scandi) comes with a brown leather sheath that has been squared off at the bottom and has a hole in the bottom and up near the neck to allow for the knife to be worn in a baldric style in cold weather, also has a loop for a fire-steel.

It's not a bad design, it's just that to get an original Woodlore you need to join a 10 year waiting list and be prepared to fork out many hundreds of pounds, now there are many knife makers who are also making versions of this knife, but most still have a waiting list and you still end up paying hundreds of pounds, especially when you add in post, insurance and NZ customs take thir cut (and they do!).

Of course you do not have to go custom, Condor make a version, out of a lesser steel, the sheath is leather but not squared off and it's a tad bigger than the Ray Mear version, but it's less than hundred NZ dollars, then spyderco make a sublime version, but it comes with a sublime price tag, best part of four hundred NZ dollars.

You could try and get a custom maker here to make you one, but going down that route is still very expensive, usually in the hundreds.

You could buy something online (and pay customs, plus you get the sight unseen concern), or buy from one of NZ few knife shops, who charge a pretty penny on top for the pleasure, but you do get to put the knife in your hand first.

Or we could make one. What? No seriously, why not have a NZ bushcraft made knife with our logo on it (or not, cheaper without but could be nice).
So what would we need and what would it cost?

Well the steel is actually quite cheap, a 5mm thick piece of O1 too steel is $30 mad for a 500 mm long piece, so the blank would be $15.

This of course needs to be shaped and tempered, the shape or pattern is already out there, and being that imitators is the sincerest form of flattery, and that the pattern has been duplicated by many makers already, not too mention that is not really an original design I suggest we just copy the Woodlore, although I personally prefer the shape of the spyderco bushcraft ear handle so maybe that shape is better, or something in between, tempering the blade though can be done by the same company that sells the steel, it's about 50 nzd for five blades, the company is in Auckland by the way, so that brings us to $25 for the blade so far.

Next we need bolts and a tube for a lanyard, Corby or Loveless bolts need two pairs and a tube come to nzd 10 (and shipping), that brings us to $35, then a vulcanised rubber liner (two) is about $3, so that's $38.
Finally handle material, wood, micarta or G10, prices vary, but average around $20 for a pair of scales, which is just stabilised wood or your artificial material of choice, of course if anyone has access to some nice swamp that's about $58 per blade, just add a little for epoxy and acetone (nail polish remover), and we have probably peaked out as say $60.

Sheath. Leather rules. Unfortunately it's hard to buy small pieces of vegetable tanned in dyed or dyed leather, it's easy to buy big pieces though and it's usually sold by the square foot, which should be enough to do two sheaths, you buy it in hides which is about 25 sq feet, and that's about 12-15 dollars a sq feet, so a sheath may cost less than $10, once you factor in glue and thread.

Dyed leather means it's al, done and you just make the sheath, but have no control over colour, indyed means you need Perdue conditioner, due, burnished, and a finish.

Again the pattern is out there, and I rather like the original Woodlore one, or a variation I have in mind.

So far we are looking at spending $70 for a superlative hand made bushcraft knife with wooden handles and a nice leather sheath, full tang construction, made from bombproof 5 mm thick O1 tool steel that has been tempered to a Rockwell in the mid to high 50's, and so you are probably saying where can we pay but that's just the start.

We need someone or someone's to actually shape the blade and assemble the knifes, now you could grab an angle grinder and have a go but the fact is it needs to be done on a belt grinder and kept cool by either a sprayer or a bucket of water to plunge the knife into whilst shaping it, the handle could be done by a file and sandpaper, or a dremel and sandpaper but a belt grinder and sandpaper will do the best job.

The sheath need to be cut, a Stanley blade will do it, then holes made for the stitching, some gauges put in it to recess the stitching and to make the folding easier, finally some needles and thread to stitch it, with a saddle stitch probably, also dying and burnishing of the sheath.

So this is where we need to find people who have the skills and tools to do the job, and for either free, or at cost, as as for profit will make it too expensive I suspect.

One option would of course to do it in a kit form where all the bugs are supplied and then we assemble them.

Oh, and if we want to acid etch the blade we need someone with electrical skills to make a uv light box, the actual paper and acid is fairly cheap and the process is not too hard.

So I am trying to garner information as to who would be interested in this project, who could contribute with skills or advice or tools.

As an aside I am looking at having a whack on my own just to see if it's even possible with just a vice and a dremel and some sandpaper, will keep you posted.


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I make knives with an angle grinder and a belt sander.. over time your workmanship gets better and better..

I use L6 steel. Old saw blades.. Cheap cheap.

Great, you could be our shaper then, ever worked on O1 before, untempered it should be softer than L6, where are you based?

If you are going to have the blade  hardened and tempered by professionals then keeping it cool during shaping is not  a concern as any parts that have had the condition of the steel altered by heating will be restored by them as part of thier process  ... Rob

  • Gone a bit past this stage by now, went from file to a hand made 2 inch by 72 inch belt sander, made and sold maybe 50 knives by now, most in NZ by have also sold to customers in America too.
  • its fun but time consuming too, also make sheaths, some leather but I find kydex is generally a better faster and a cheaper material, which won’t rot or hold moisture like leather does, may not be “traditional” but it sure does work well.

Hi, talking sheaths  I saw a guy fall on his side on top of his knife with a less than substantial sheath the blade pierced the sheath and entered his leg it was less than pleasant  for him and his mates pretty serious really , from then on I have always made an inner sheath of wood and covered that with  what ever maybe that accident willl never happen again but  the boy scout in me says be prepared .. Rob 

You said a hand made belt sander? How did you make that?

Yeah it’s a 2 inch by 72 inch belt sander, kind of the standard size for knife making, although you can get shorter and longer versions, I can’t weld so I made the frame and body out of plywood, and bought an old electric motor off of trademe, and a bunch or bearings and cheap steel, there are many YouTube videos on how to do it.

if I was going again I would buy a welder and have a go that way.

Probably a drill press is a better first tool along with a good angle grinder though.

That's pretty cool, thanks for sharing


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