Knowing how to make a survival knife out of things you already have lying around in your garage or shed is a skill that could save your life. Although you could always buy a survival or pocket knife, knowing how to make one yourself is an excellent skill, and making your tools is pretty satisfying.
Here’s how you can make survival knives out of saw blades:
- Draw or trace your desired shape onto the saw blade.
- Cut out the knife’s shape using an angle grinder or hacksaw.
- Start filing your knife to the desired shape.
- Sharpen your knife with P80 to P150 grit sandpaper.
So, let’s walk through these steps and fashion a brand-new blade from your old saw. Further in this article, I’ll explain how to make a wooden handle for your knife and the different ways you can use the knife. Exercise extreme caution when knife-making and wear non-flammable clothing, safety goggles, and face protection at all times!
1. Draw or Trace Your Desired Shape Onto the Saw Blade
The first step to making a survival knife is to trace its shape onto the saw blade. You can get creative with this step, as there aren’t any limitations! For easier tracing, I recommend starting with something basic, then drawing on any additional features.
For example, you can add some ridges for a can opener, incorporate the old saw teeth to make a knife with a saw on the back, or make it decorative.
Ensure you use a clamp to hold the saw blade onto your working area and make sure it’s secure in place.
2. Cut Out the Knife’s Shape Using an Angle Grinder or Hacksaw
With the clamp still holding the saw blade in place, start cutting out the shape of your knife. An angle grinder may be the better option for this step, as it’ll be easier to make straight-line cuts. However, if you don’t have an angle grinder, you can use a hacksaw.
If you use a hacksaw, ensure the blade is secured correctly and have the teeth facing away from you. From there, start cutting the saw blade using push strokes.
Side note: Wearing gloves while operating machinery with moving or rotating parts can be hazardous, as the fabric can get caught in the machines and result in severe injury. It may be best not to wear gloves, but take extra caution when operating machinery.
However, if you need to wear gloves, use tight Kevlar gloves with a high resistance level (but do so with extreme caution!).
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3. Start Filing Your Knife to the Desired Shape
After successfully cutting out your survival knife, refining its shape is next. The blade will likely have jagged edges, especially if you use a hacksaw, so now is the time to make it look pretty!
Move the knife across the wheel with your bench grinder to eliminate unwanted imperfections.
If you use a bastard file, clamp your knife to something stable and start filing until you’re happy with how your knife looks. I recommend this Crescent Nicholson Handy File from Amazon. Its features are as follows:
- It has a forged handle for improved grip.
- One side is for sharpening and smoothing, and the other is for stock removal.
- It has single-cut teeth for deburring, sharpening, and finishing.
- It also has double-cut teeth for the removal of unwanted material.
4. Sharpen Your Knife With P80 to P150 Grit Sandpaper
The final step is to sharpen the blade of your knife. The more abrasive the whetstone, the better and sharper the edge. If you don’t have a whetstone, you can use a bench grinder to sharpen your knife.
Bench grinders are very versatile and have wheels that can be used for shaping, grinding, and sharpening, so you can run your blade across a sharpening wheel, and you’ll have a nice and sharp survival knife!
Some bastard files also do an excellent job sharpening blades, so these files are a great alternative to whetstones and bench grinders.
After completing these steps, you’ll have a beautiful homemade survival knife! Please keep reading to learn how to make a wooden handle for your prized possession to complete its aesthetic.
How To Make a Wooden Handle for Your Survival Knife
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably got your survival knife already made and want to put a handle on that bad boy. Luckily, making a wooden knife handle isn’t too taxing, and you can customize it however you like.
Here are the basic steps for making a wooden knife handle:
- Cut a piece of wood slightly longer and wider than the knife.
- Round the edges of the handle and smooth it out with a sander.
- Drill a slot in the middle of the handle wide enough for the knife.
- Fill the handle with construction adhesive or epoxy to secure the knife.
Making a handle for your survival knife is optional, so don’t feel obligated to create one. A handle will help grip the knife and add to the finished look. However, a knife is a knife with or without a wooden handle, and it’ll still work well without it! Extreme caution and protective gear still apply to this step (wear gloves this time!)
Let’s detail these steps together to make a beautiful handle for your upcycled blade.
1. Cut a Piece of Wood Slightly Longer and Wider Than the Knife
You can use any wood for your knife as long as it’s durable and sturdy. I’d avoid balsa and pine and opt for something like oak, which is hard but not so hard that it’s impossible to cut.
In addition, note that when cutting a piece of wood, it’s always best to make it a bit bigger than the knife.
The wood still has to be sanded, so it’s better to have a piece of wood that’s a bit oversized. After all, you can always cut a piece of wood that is too large, but you can’t add back more wood after you cut.
2. Round the Edges of the Handle and Smooth It Out With a Sander
Assuming you cut a rectangular shape from the wood, the next step is to round the edges and smooth the handle out with a sander. You can use an electric sander or sandpaper, but doing the whole thing by hand (or with paper) will take time.
Buffing the handle removes splinters, giving it a smoother, buttery feel. In addition, it’ll also look much better.
3. Drill a Slot in the Middle of the Handle Wide Enough for the Knife To Fit
After you’ve refined the piece of wood, it’s time to do some drilling. Take your drill and make a slit in the middle. You want your knife to fit snugly, so it’s a good idea to measure the width of your survival knife’s handle with a pair of calipers and mark that exact measurement on the piece of wood.
Marking the wood ensures you don’t go wrong with the drilling and will help you not have to start over again because the slot is too big or crooked.
4. Fill the Handle With Construction Adhesive or Epoxy To Secure the Knife
Once you’ve made a slit in the handle, it’s time to fill it with a strong adhesive. Be generous when filling the handle with adhesive, as you don’t want your knife to be loose or shake around in the wooden handle.
Once you’ve loaded the handle with adhesive/epoxy, slip the knife into the handle and let it dry.
If there’s a hole on the opposite end of the handle, cut a piece of metal or saw blade and carve it to the shape of that end. Should the knife stick out of the hole, use an angle grinder or hacksaw to cut that piece off, then attach the metal piece you carved onto the end of the handle. You can use adhesive or drill screws to keep it in place.
You’ll have a sturdy survival knife once you’ve completed all these steps!
Various Ways You Can Utilize a Survival Knife
Apart from cutting things, you can use a survival knife in plenty of ways. Knowing how to use something as simple as a knife in an emergency can save your or someone else’s life.
I’ll share how you can use a knife to ensure you’re well-equipped with what to do in a difficult situation!
You Can Use a Knife To Make a Fire
Making a fire is challenging enough when the conditions are wet or cold, but if you don’t have a source of tinder or kindling, it’ll be hours before you get a good spark going. However, a survival knife can help you cut the bark off larger wood pieces and create smaller, splintery twigs from logs, thus allowing you to get a fire going.
You could use the fire to:
- Cook something
- Keep yourself and others warm
- Boil water to purify it
- If the fire is big enough, the smoke may act as a smoke signal if you’re stranded.
There are plenty of stories from survivors who profess that making a fire saved their lives, and they did so by lighting the tinder they got from using a knife.
A Knife Can Be Used as a Signal to Help
A reflective or shiny blade can act as a mirror that signals distress. By angling the blade so that sunlight can beam off it, the reflection will bounce off the metal and give you a chance to be seen by other people or rescue workers.
It may take a couple of tries to get the sunlight to bounce off the blade, so try various angles and move your body. Once the sunlight hits the knife and beams, you’ll notice it.
You Can Make Weapons, Tools, and Shelter Using a Knife
Although you can use knives as weapons, there’s no harm in making some more, especially if you’re in a life-threatening situation. Using a thick branch and your survival knife, you can carve the branch to resemble a spear. You can use this spear can for catching the game and use it as protection if needed.
Apart from making a spear, you can also make booby traps or fishing hooks to catch your dinner for the night. Creating weapons and other hunting tools is also a productive way to kill time while waiting for help or planning your escape route.
Knives are also helpful when constructing lean-tos and other forms of shelter. Blades are also invaluable for making rope and cord from plants, cooking surfaces and spits, and other practical tools.
You Can Use a Knife To Make an Improvised Band-Aid or Bandage
If you may get stranded or lost, it would always be best to take a first-aid kit with you. However, it’s not uncommon for people to forget the first-aid kit and land in situations where they need it but don’t think they would.
In such a predicament, you can use your knife to cut an article of your clothing to create a makeshift bandage. If you have alcohol, pour some over the wound and then bandage it. If not, boil some water and add salt to make a saline solution to disinfect the wound.
Use Your Knife as a Projectile
Using a knife as a projectile may take some practice, especially if you’ve never used a knife for throwing before. Set up a target and aim your knife towards it so that you aren’t throwing it in random places and risking losing it.
Carefully hold your knife by the blade and have its spine/handle resting against the back of your hand. Practice throwing the knife and aim to pierce the target.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of it and the blade has hit the mark a few times, you can use your knife to catch game (preferably smaller animals) and defend yourself.
A Survival Knife Can Act as a Stake
If you need to make a shelter and don’t have the tools, a knife can be driven into the ground and used as an anchor. If you only have one knife and would instead not use it for shelter, you can make stakes from thick branches.
Find some sturdy branches and sharpen one of the ends. Drive the sharpened ends into the ground, and build your shelter accordingly.
Making a survival knife out of a saw blade is a valuable skill that can save your life in a survival situation. By following the steps of drawing or tracing your desired shape onto the saw blade, cutting out the knife’s shape using an angle grinder or hacksaw, filing the knife to the desired shape, and sharpening the knife with grit sandpaper, you can create your own unique and functional survival knife.
Exercise caution when knife-making and wearing appropriate safety gear, such as non-flammable clothing and protective eyewear, is essential.