Thursday, October 17, 2013

Making Semi-Custom Blades on the Cheap

This is a project I've had on a burner (not the back one, but not the front one) for awhile now. I had seen tutorials on various sites and always intended to tackle it but never had the time. Well I've finally started it. Back in the day a company by the name of Cold Steel (most famous for their ridiculous product videos, See below) Made a machete blade that cost around $12. They've now discontinued it, which threw the first wrench into the plan. I made the choice to buy one of their other machetes for about $17 and change the design a little. These blades, are cheap, covered in a black coating, and have a junky plastic handle, BUT they are tempered and heat treated properly which means they have potential.

My first step was to take a grinder and cut of the handle without damaging the tang. This is harder now than it used to be when they were making rubber handles. Be sure you have good ventilation and maybe even a mask because if you use a grinder the plastic doesn't cut as much as it just melts.

Step two was to take some charcoal and draw out the shape of the two blades I was going to cut down. I marked it out, took the grinder with a cut off wheel and got to work chopping the long 21" blade into a small dagger and seax style small blade. It wasn't a perfect fit but they worked out alright. The downside to the coldsteel blades is just how thin they are, not much real meat to them.

Step three was taking my orbital sander and getting the black coating off. This was the easiest part to do. A little elbow grease and some repetition with a coarse grit paper did most of the work. So I was left with two bare blades ready for rehilting.

This is about the point where I had a long break since life got hectic, but I started carving and shaping the new handle out of Red Oak. I cut the basic shape with my jigsaw (a scroll saw would be great for this) and then started working it with the bench grinder and sand paper. It was a bit bulky so I thinned one side down using the table saw. I unfortunately ran it through backwards and cut too thin, so the blade will be offset. Not what I intended but it will make a nice pair for the dagger as a side blade on a main scabbard so I decided I could live with it.

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