The Kukri Knife of Nepal

I’m a sucker for things on the Interwebs that are either interestingly made or good for making other things. I’m really jazzed about my new Nepalese kukri which qualifies mighty well on both counts.

A kukri is the incredibly large and heavy knife carried by Gurkha soldiers. Real kukri knives are handmade by knife smiths in primitive village forges in the Himalayan foothills of Nepal. I ordered mine from a knife maker in Kathmandu. Even with shipping, for a handmade item such as this, the cost was surprisingly reasonable (well under $100). It’s made from recycled materials as well.

“Now THAT’S a knife!” – Michael J “Crocodile” Dundee

From the website

“The kukri typically comes in either a dew rated wooden scabbard or leather wrapped scabbard. The scabbard usually houses a karda (knife) as well as chak mak (flint striker). It is claimed that a kukri has never been broken in battle. This is not as surprising as it sounds. Modern kukri is most often made from leaf spring collected from recycled trucks suspension. It is a full quarter inch in thickness and is hard hammered to shape over a forge and carefully hardened along the edge. The high carbon content of the spring steel when selectively hardened, produces a quality of hardness in the steel , where by the blade can be flexed without breaking, yet it will take and hold and edge. Making a kukri is a task that takes four men an entire day. There is no machinery used and no two kukri are alike.”

There’s a lot of tradition among Gurkha soldiers (Gurkhas are Nepalese mercenaries famous for their toughness under fire) concerning care and feeding of the kukri. The most well-known is that once removed from its sheath, it may not be replaced until it’s been “blooded.” Once it’s out, the fight is on, so to speak. If the enemy runs away, the Gurkha will lightly cut himself before putting it back.


William Gurstelle is a contributing editor of Make: magazine. His new book, ReMaking History: Early Makers is now available.

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