MAKE subscriber FrankG sent us this nice, sort of mesmerizing, video tutorial on turning an old truck leaf spring into a basic, but effective machete. Kind of a long and involved process, but I can only imagine how gratifying it would be to forge/machine your own tools and then use them on a regular basis.
30 thoughts on “HOW TO – Make a machete from a leaf spring”
My fave, the DiY bandage on his finger….
We saw them making these kind of machetes from leaf springs in the Philippines; they called them bolo knives. They came in many shapes and sizes. They heated them up in outdoor forges, a young boy providing air with a large wooden box bellows. They would pull out the white-hot steel, set it on an anvil, and then two older men would set to whaling on it with their hammers, one after another, in a clangorous rhythm.
The villagers carried smaller knives with them as an essential all around tool and kitchen knife. Longer ones are good for splitting coconuts and shrimping in tidal pools.
I always like it when someone makes something from nothing, but I must add this. I have owned many many machetes in my life and it wasnt until I bought a reverse curved gerber one that I realized they were alllllllll made wrong. By having an away curve you allow for deflection as well as a release in pressure on impact, whereas if you have a foward curving blade it more than doubles the strike force and instead of glancing off it digs deep. I had trouble as this guy did, clearing even thin brush with this style of blade but I swear to you I can take a single hack through a 2-3″ diameter tree branch and take it out in one swing nearly chopping it clear off. A neighbor had a tree fall in their yard and we were able to take nearly every single branch off of it with my gerber reverse blade machete. So in conclusion, love the one you made, now make one with a reversed curve and add a little extra weight to the end. I assure you, it will amaze you.
I believe your Gerber reversed machete is known by most as a kukuri.
Gilberti, no I wasnt referring to a kukuri, The tool Im referring to is extremely different than anything that came before it, and believe me it is FAR superior to ANYTHING else on the market. It chops like a machete or an ax, you can literally cut a foot thick tree down with it using ax cuts. With the very tip turned in it never glances off or deflects in any way. Also there was extra weight added to the tip, all add up to one serious blow. All I can say is, I will NEVER use another machete or anything similar again unless its this tool. In one single swoop you can take a 2″ diameter branch of a tree clean off. At best the kukuri and machete would get stuck half way through. Ive cleared my way through some crazy stuff in the woods before, with a machete you step, swing swing swing, then step, with this you step swing, step swing. I wouldnt be surprised if it took someones arm clean off, bone and all. Once I was clearing a cluster of small trees about 1″ diameter. With one swing I cut through 2 of the trees and half way through my very thick aluminum “no trespassing” sign. Didnt even phase the thing. Do yourself a favor and give one a try, I assure you that you will be thrilled and amazed. Honestly you cant even imagine the power and efficiency of it until you wield one yourself. And NO I dont work for gerber, I only have one gerber rubber handled wet knife and one brush thinner. Im just very happy when I find a tool without flaws and I let everyone know.
Heres a picture from the gerber website so you can see what I mean, notice the large end and extremely curved tip.
It’s called a ditch bank blade. Also known as a “slingblade” from the movie of the same name.
Very nice tutorial. The heat treating technique is crude, but effective. It works because they aren’t forging the blade. Again, very cool.
When I was taught heat treating, it was a part of a blacksmithing course at The Crucible. We used a slightly more involved process–the extra heating and cooling stage was to relieve the stress from work hardening the steel with the hammer blows. Anyway, I made myself a center punch in that class and I love it. I’ve also got a brass hammer from the machine shop class there. They are two of my favorite tools on my bench. I’m never going back to an automatic center punch (I used to swear by them, but hitting my own with a hammer is so much better).
Looks more like a cutlass to me. All machetes I’ve seen have straight blades with curved tips.
Thanks for the positive feed-back!!!
The Philippine Machete sounds like a work-horse, I’ll have to google “Images” to see if they have a distinctive shape…
The original Machete I cobbled last fall was just an old hay Scythe blade that the Right Angle tang had broken on, so I ground down the stub of the tang, and made a set of handles for it…
The blade curves inward to the direction of cut… plus you look like the grim reaper with a side-arm.
Agreed it it s superior tool, but with the arc that pronounced it was pretty unweildy and made me a bit nervous…
The cutlass shape was an unintended consequence of the hammering the cutting edge to thin and broaden the steel.
The diagram posted at the top of the web-page was what I wanted, and that may even be closer to what Gerber described…
The next project is to build a wood/charcoal fired forge, and working out the annealing and better heat treating steps…
All the Best!
Thanks for the link!
I’m sold! that is what I’ll try on my next blade.
By working the back tip of the blade I think I can get it to curve inward s shown on the link, though not as pronounced…
The link below is to an image of the Scythe come machete I described earlier…
but on the other hand walmart sells a machette for like 7 bucks these days!
Some friends of mine and I made use of spring steel to make swords of all shapes and sizes for a local Med Fair group. We made a forge that we could set up almost anywhere. I wish I had pictures of it but maybe a small description could get the ball rolling for you crafty folks.
Find/Buy/Steal the largest wheel you can, preferably from a tractor.
Do the same with an old hand crank blower motor like this one http://www.abana.org/resources/discus/messages/273/1160.jpg
Get some Firebrick http://www.superiorclay.com/firebrick-colors.php and maybe some concrete/fireplace morter if you want it more stable.
First thing you want to do is weld (If you can) a plate to the bottom of your bowl with a hole cut in the center (For the dryer duct).
To really make this work even better you can use a couple of steel grills, or something fairly fireproof to create a small chamber between the floor of the bowl and the layer of firebrick so the air from the blower has a chance to move all around the bowl.
Line the deep end of the wheel with the firebrick (Don’t use the thick ones), making sure to leave enough space in between each brick for air to escape. to fill in the odd spots feel free to break up some of your bricks.
You can use concrete to line the upper bowl and to keep all the bricks in one spot if you plan on being able to move it.
Attach the hand crank blower via tubing of some sort (We used an old Dryer Duct). You will more than likely need to make an adapter when attaching it to the underside of the bowl. The other end can be fastened with a simple ring clamp.
Get some coal and enjoy!
I got this far:
“The colour and hue of the steel can be co-related to a semi subjective temperature chart that demarcates the range of temps such that”
Then my head exploded. Copy editor, stat!
Thats crazy! Nice work man.
I have actually been thinking about picking up on and I like the shape and size of this one: http://www.rockynational.com/4688_1249_Ka-Bar_Kukri_Machete_w_Sheath.html
Sort of Resident Evil style! I know I dont’ have the skills to make one though…
I see why the reverse bend blade on a Gerber machete cuts thru thick branches. It is shaped similar to a brush axe and if you have ever used one of those, you know what it will do.
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