Hits and misses of DIY projects, both big and small.

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impact driverUntil 2002, almost nobody in North America knew what an impact driver was. Now most pros use them all the time, and a growing number of homesteaders and DIYers do, too. The first I heard of impact drivers was 11 years ago, from an obscure story in a little magazine that was reporting on popular power tools in Japan. Apparently, so the story went, carpenters in that country didn’t drive screws with cordless drills any more, they always used impact drivers instead. Speed is one reason why, but there’s a more enticing incentive, too. The only company at the time that offered impact drivers in North America was DEWALT, so that’s the kind I tried first.

Fast-forward a decade, and impact drivers are now the only way most serious professional builders drive screws. And while you might not be a professional yourself, there’s lots you can learn from pros in your quest for serious self reliance capabilities. Impact drivers are the ultimate woodscrew driving tool. They sink screws faster than a cordless drill of the same size, and this matters because screws are a growing part of how things are built these days. But speed and power isn’t even the best thing about impact drivers. More importantly, these tools also keep the tip of screw driving bits much more firmly engaged with deck screw heads, virtually eliminating the slippage and frustration that’s so common when driving screws with ordinary cordless drills. I’ve never seen anyone go back to using a drill for driving screws after they’ve tried an impact driver. Lithium-ion batteries and more efficient, brushless motors are the two most important innovations that are boosting the performance of impact drivers right now. That’s because the smaller and more powerful an impact driver is, the handier it is to use.

If you’ve never used one before, it might be easier than you think to give one a try. Visit for a chance to win one of three professional-grade DEWALT impact driver kits including the tool itself, a charger and two 4.0 amp-hour batteries. Contest ends December 15th, with prizes delivered just in time for Christmas.


In less than two minutes, you can learn how to build a rocket stove using only cement blocks. Just watch this brief video, "The 6-Block Rocket Stove," for the easy instructions.

The video's clever design for a dual-burner DIY rocket stove uses only six concrete masonry units (CMU), also known as cement blocks or foundation blocks. By stacking the blocks as demonstrated, you'll be able to channel enough heat from a small fire to cook food in two separate pots.

If you've not familiar with the concept of rocket stoves, these efficient cooking (and heating) devices are typically compact and simply designed. A rocket stove generates heat with substantially less environmental impact than an open fire, burning up about half the flammable material. Fires can be built and maintained inside rocket stoves using small twigs, branches and even grasses — making the devices especially suited to places where wood is scarce. This type of stove is valuable in off-the-grid living and rural applications where gas or electricity isn't available. Rocket stoves can be used to cook food or heat small spaces; some rocket stove plans incorporate heat exchangers for heating large quantities of water.

To build the rocket stove featured in this video, you'll need 3 standard cement blocks, 2 half-blocks and one stretcher unit. As the video demonstrates, the blocks can be arranged quickly, and your rocket stove will be fully operational in a matter of minutes. Start by placing one standard block lengthwise, with its solid surface down, and topping it with the stretcher unit having its openings facing skyward. Flank this arrangement on each end with one standard block, openings turned out to the sides (the side-facing openings will function as fuel magazines into which you'll feed the flames). Place the half-blocks on top to create two vertical chimneys, over which you can place recycled burner grates to support cooking pots and to allow for a draught. And that's it: Now you know how to build a rocket stove for cooking.

The video also includes instructions to build a more compact, single-burner rocket stove using just four cement blocks.

Rebecca Martin is an Associate Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, where her beats include DIY and Green Transportation. She's an avid cyclist and has never met a vegetable she didn't like. You can find her on Google+.


crocheted scrubbiesNow that the cool weather is here, I have found myself crocheting up a storm.  It gives me something productive to do in the evenings when I want to put my feet up and relax, and as we all know, the holidays are coming quickly, so I’m trying to get a head start on handmade gifts.

When I get tired of dishcloths and need a break, I switch over to making scrubbies.  If you’ve never tried using them when washing dishes, you’re missing out.  I love them, which is why everyone who gets a dishcloth for Christmas will also get a matching scrubby (or is it spelled ‘scrubbie’?  I don’t know.  It’s not important to the story!). 

The backstory on these is that my dear Aunt Audrey has been making them for years.  When I asked her how to do it, these were her directions:  “Cut some netting into strips and tie them all together.  Then, crochet a circle and increase for a couple rows.  When it’s the right size, start decreasing.  That’s all.” 

That’s all.

For a newbie crocheter, that wasn’t enough! 

Fortunately, I didn’t give up.  It turns out they ARE very easy to make and take almost no time at all, once you’ve cut the netting into strips (this will take some time.)  You want to look for ‘nylon netting’ (frequently used for tutus).  The toile stuff that is used for weddings (and frequently sold next to the netting) is softer and doesn’t have as much scrubbing power.  The major fabric stores have 40 or 50% off coupons on their websites, so print one off and get yourself some yardage (I would recommend 2-4 yards.  I’ve done 5 and it gets tricky to cut.  I would also recommend a dark color, since these will get dirty.)

When I was first researching how to make scrubbies, I went to a bunch of different tutorials online, and most of them said to cut the netting into 2” strips.  But Aunt Audrey was adamant that that would be hard to work with, so I decided to go with 1” strips like she uses.  She was right… sometimes it’s hard enough with the 1” strips, I think the 2” would drive me mad!

So, take your yardage and cut it into 1” strips (the long way).  You don’t have to be precise, as the width won’t make a huge difference in the outcome.  Aunt Audrey uses scissors, which seems to me would take forever.  If you don’t have a rotary cutter and mat, I would highly recommend it!  I fold the yardage over itself and one roll of the cutter yields many strips.  Tie them together, and roll into a ball.

Once you’ve got your ball made, you can start crocheting.  I use a size ‘I’ hook just because that’s the same size I use for my dishcloths and I’m too lazy to go find another.  I’m sure H or J would be fine.  This is how I do it, which is a combination of many other different patterns.  You can play with it to adjust to your liking.

Smaller Size Scrubbie

Row 1:  chain 3, then connect to the first stitch using a slip stich.

Row 2:  In the hole of the circle you just made, work 12 double crochets.  Connect to the first using a slip stitch.

Row 3:  In each stitch, work 2 double crochets and connect to the first using a slip stitch.

Row 4:  In each stitch, work 2 single crochets, connecting to the first using a slip stitch.

Row 5:  (You will now start decreasing to make the ‘back’ of the scrubbie.) Single crochet, single crochet, skip a stitch (and repeat all around).

Row 6:  Work a single crochet into every other stitch and keep working in the round until it’s closed up.  Stuff all the knot ends inside and work it into a pretty circle by pulling and tugging if you have to.

Larger Size Scrubbie

Row 1:  chain 3, then connect to the first stitch using a slip stich.

Row 2:  In the hole of the circle you just made, work 12 double crochets.  Connect to the first using a slip stitch.

Rows 3 and 4:  In each stitch, work 2 half double crochets and connect to the first using a slip stitch.

Row 5:  In each stitch, work a single crochet, connecting to the first using a slip stitch.

Row 5:  (You will now start decreasing to make the ‘back’ of the scrubbie.) Single crochet, single crochet, skip a stitch (and repeat all around).

Row 6:  Work a single crochet into every other stitch and keep working in the round until it’s closed up.  Stuff all the knot ends inside and work it into a pretty circle by pulling and tugging if you have to.

Lanette Lepper is a beekeeper, chicken keeper, gardener, food preserver, and proud Navy spouse who blogs at


This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Brent Garcia.

Photo by Brent Garcia

This travel mosquito-net tent is made from a couple of fiberglass rods, rope and aluminum tubing. I bought 4 yards of mosquito mesh at Hancock Fabrics for about $20. It's an easy project and very simple to set up. No sewing required!

Step 1: Fiberglass Rod Protective Covering

Fiberglass rod is strong and flexible, which is a must for this mosquito net tent. The problem is that you get invisible splinters from handling it. To fix this, I gutted 3/8-inch rope and used the sheath to cover the rod. Next, I sealed them in by crimping and melting the ends. What’s even better, they now fit snuggly into the tubes they'll go in.

Photo by Brent Garcia

Step 2: Tent Pole Connectors

I got the aluminum tubing at Home Depot. I cut four 4-inch sections with a pipe cutter. Next, I removed the burrs with a file and drilled a hole 10 millimeters from the bottom edge.

Step 3: Form Eyelets in the Stakes

I placed the hooked end of a stake in a vise and closed it along with a socket. This created the needed loop for the connectors. After slipping the tube on, I closed the hook the rest of the way. The tube should be able to fold freely for storage.

Step 4: Rope Rings

The ends of the shelter will be gathered together and threaded through the rope rings. To make the rings, I cut two 6-inch sections of the rope and fused the ends together with a torch. Make sure the rope is threaded through the looped end of the stake before you fuse together the ends.

Step 5: Cut the Mosquito Mesh to Length

I figured out the length by rounding my height up to the nearest foot, and then doubling it. My net is 12 feet long. About 3 feet of that hangs over the supports on each side. There's nothing fancy about cutting the net — just use a pair of scissors.

Step 6: Set Up the Mosquito Net

Hammer in the stakes as far apart as you are tall. Make sure they're close enough to form an arch using the fiberglass rods. Gather the ends of the mosquito net together and thread them through the rope rings. Anchor the ring stakes into the ground. Drape the mosquito mesh over and pull it tight. I used a constrictor knot and a fish bone to get the tension right. 

You can see more images of this mosquito-net tent on my original Instructables post.


This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Caleb Smith.

The finished product. Photo by Caleb Smith

A month before school started, I thought it would be neat to have some old car seats as my dorm furniture instead of the bad futons that everyone else has. After a week of planning, I started searching for old car seats and found some for a decent price — $25 a seat. I bought two bucket seats and a bench seat out of a wrecked Grand Prix. 

I learned a lot from this project and went into it knowing very little about building furniture. I think anyone should try this if they're tired of plain old furniture, have some extra cash and like to impress their friends. I managed to complete this project for under $100, but I could see it running up to $300, depending on how expensive you want to go.

Here are the materials I used:

  • Car seats — $75
  • Angle aluminum — Free
  • Wood — Free
  • Drawer slides — $10
  • Welding — Free (knew someone)
  • Miscellaneous hardware (drawer rails if you want to attach a bottom drawer) — Free or $5

My total cost was around $80.

Now, if you choose to build something as cool as this, you can use any materials you feel comfortable with. I chose aluminum because we had some extra lying around, and it’s sturdy when it’s all welded together. Plus, it was free.

Step 1: Make a Plan

After finding the seats that satisfy you, start measuring so you know what you’ll need to attach below them.

I got my seats out of a totaled 2007 Grand Prix. You can reuse car seats of any kind. Older seats are generally cheap and new ones, of course, are pricier. But it all depends on who you get them from. Fortunately, the place I got them from charged me $25 a seat, equaling $75 for the three of them.

Aluminum frame. Photo by Caleb Smith

Step 2: Finding Pieces for the Frame

I decided to make my frame out of aluminum because I had dozens of pieces from some bleacher seating. You can use wood, but that would add a lot more weight to your DIY dorm furniture.

After you've measured the dimensions for the seats, start cutting and/or welding your chosen materials for the frame.

Here's how mine turned out (see photo at right): a simple rectangular frame.

Step 3: Mounting the Backrest

You'll need something to mount the backrest to. There are several ways to do this, but I figured the one I used would be the best. I used two pieces of aluminum: A shorter one that would attach directly to the bottom frame and a longer one that attached to the short piece.

The short piece of aluminum I happened to have was already pre-drilled with holes. You can just drill holes in yours where they're needed.

I cut off each end of the short piece at a 25-degree angle. That way, when I attached it, it would rest on the bottom frame at this angle and put the back rest at a 65/125-degree angle.

The short piece in step 3. Photo by Caleb SmithThe attached back rest. Photo by Caleb Smith

After these pieces were welded onto both sides, I clamped the long angled aluminum piece to the frame so I could drill the holes in the correct locations. Next, I bolted them on because I wanted the backrest to be removable for storage.

Bottom support. Photo by Caleb Smith

Step 4: Mounting the Bottom Seat

Next, you'll need to make something to support the bottom cushion of your DIY dorm furniture. My solution was to drill holes along the sides of some 1-by-4 boards and attach them across the length of the frame. Then, I wove some rope through the boards to act as springs. I used a bent nail as a needle in order to thread the rope through the tight holes.

Step 5: Mounting the Backrest

At this point, your DIY dorm furniture looks like it’s done, but it's not.

I set the backrest against the vertical angled aluminum pieces. I set a car jack underneath to support it and so I know how high I would need to bolt it, but also so it would rest properly on the bottom.

There should be four holes in the long angled pieces when you fold the seat down. I cut the vertical pieces down to the right height and welded a horizontal piece across the top of them and bolted the back seat to the horizontal piece.

Step 6: Building for Storage

This step is optional. I thought it would be neat to install a big sliding drawer underneath my DIY dorm furniture for storing what-have-yous. My drawer measures 4 feet long and 20 inches wide. For the bottom, I just stapled some Masonite on the slots.  For my first time building a drawer, I thought it turned out great. 

The attached drawer. Photo by Caleb Smith

Step 7: Attaching the Drawers

Basically, I welded aluminum pieces onto the bottom of the frame to support the rails for the drawers. I attached the rails to the drawer first, then clamped that to an angled aluminum piece and welded everything down so I would have the exact spacing and wouldn't have to measure anything. The drawer fits perfectly, but it slides a little rough because it’s so wide. I would suggest putting a slide in the middle as well as the two outer ones.

Step 8: Finished (But Not Really)

I ran out of time before school started and could not finish it off by putting some exterior plates to cover the holes and ugliness, and to also hide the drawer. I was also going to put on some arm rests but have not figured out how I am going to do that. But, because I've tucked my DIY dorm furniture under my bed in a corner, you can barely tell it's not finished.

The seats even fold down! Photo by Caleb Smith

I like having my sofa on the floor because it's comfortable as a set of gaming chairs. If you want a nice desk chair, I think you could take a car jack to a single seat and mount some wheels on the bottom. It could be a low-to-the-floor gaming chair that you could raise to be a desk chair when needed.

I hope you enjoyed this project to build simple, inexpensive DIY dorm furniture that’s comfortable and will impress your friends.

You can see more images of this project on my original Instructables post.


This article is reposted with permission from Spool & Spoon.

This whole fall decoration idea came about when I ran across this tutorial for an Acorn Garland at These Light Footsteps. It’s a super cute fall craft, and I had all intent to actually make it. I thought I'd probably glitter the acorns because what crafty girl doesn't love glitter? The problem arose when I ventured out to collect acorns from the only oak tree in the neighborhood. Well, it seems that the squirrels and chipmunks beat us to it because there were only a couple of whole acorns left; what remained was just caps. Bummer!

I put on my thinking cap and felt (pun intended) that some felted acorns might look even cuter instead. I love felt. Like, I really love felt. Not the cheap felt you used in elementary school, but the handmade felt that is made one batch at a time. The mister got me a needle-felting kit for my birthday (he knows me so well), so I set to work creating the little nuts.


  • Acorn tops
  • Tacky glue
  • .25 ounce wool roving
  • Bubble Wrap
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp dish soap
  • Twine

Materials and instructions. Photo by Jessica Mauras Instructions:

    1. Mix the water and soap in a small cup.
    2. Smear a small amount of soap/water onto the Bubble Wrap.
    3. Tear off a small piece of roving. (I used two colors to add dimension to the finished acorns.)
    4. Roll the roving up on itself to create a small cocoon.
    5. Tear off the second piece (can be the same or a different color).
    6. Line the pieces up perpendicularly and roll them up together.
    7. Roll this piece between your hands lightly until an actual ball has formed.
    8. Apply some tacky glue to the inside of the acorn cap.
    9. Stick the felt ball inside and you're done.

You could always cheat by using pre-made felted balls if you really wanted, but your hands smell awfully nice after handling all of the dish-soap-soaked wool. All in all, the finished acorns are the perfect combination of whimsy and natural.

In order to get your garland started, gather all of your acorns as well as a spool of twine. I used a combination of both real and felt acorns for a bit of variety but one or the other would be fine.

Close up of the tie. Photo by Jessica MaurasTie a knot around the stems on the caps. The nice thing about twine is that, even with a relatively loose knot, the texture keeps everything in place just as it should. I didn't have to use hot glue to hold them in place, but that's an option if your caps don't have large enough stems attached.

Continue tying the acorns on, one by one, until you've tied them all. I spaced them about 3 to 4 inches apart. In total, my garland ended up around 5 feet long.

Once Hallowe'en has passed and November starts, I'll hang it up in the dining room. I think the natural tones and textures will be perfect alongside my monochromatic pumpkins. Even strewn across the table, they look great so, who knows, maybe I'll be lazy and just do that instead. It’s such an easy fall decoration!

If you liked this project, I'd be delighted if you'd consider following Spool & Spoon via email or through Google Friend Connect; there are plenty of other simple tutorials and mouth-watering recipes for you to discover! Also, did you know Spool & Spoon has a Facebook page? Hop on over so you don't miss any of the fun.

You can see more photos of this project by visiting my original post at Spool & Spoon.


This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Cas van de Goor.

A good bushcraft knife is a must-have for every outdoorsman. It's a tool that will last a lifetime. Wouldn't it be awesome to make such an essential, lasting tool yourself out of an old file?

This post will show you how the basics of knife-making, concentrating on how to make an excellent, inexpensive (under $20) bushcraft knife using simple tools such as a hacksaw, file, drill and vice. The design is based on the popular (but expensive) Ray Mears bushcraft knife.

So if you have a few basic tools and plenty of elbow grease, let’s learn how to make a knife.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Here's a quick overview of the tools and materials that I used to make this bushcraft knife.

-Old file
-Piece of hardwood
-Two-part epoxy adhesive
-Forge (something to burn the coal in)
-Air pump
-Quenching oil
-Kitchen oven
-Scriber, permanent marker
-Lubricating oil

Step 2: Finding the Right File

The first thing to realize is that "steel" is a generic term for alloys of iron and other elements. So steel comes in various compositions that are important to understand before you begin knife-making.

Not only the composition of a type of steel determines its properties like hardness, ductility and tensile strength, though. The way the alloying elements are arranged on a microscopic level also influence material properties. So, steels with the same composition may have different material properties, depending upon the microstructure of the steel. And the microstructure can be changed by heat treatment or cold deformation. In order for a knife to hold an edge, it needs to be hard. Among other elements, carbon is added to make steel capable of being hardened. So, what you need for a knife is steel with high carbon content.

Old files, as well as leaf springs and old sawmill blades, are made of high carbon steel. Most new files are case-hardened, which means that only the outer layer is high-carbon steel while the core is mild steel. Try to get find an old file to make your bushcraft knife.

There are a few ways to verify whether you're dealing with the right file:

Spark test: If you have a grinder, see if the steel on the surface of the file — and the steel 1 or 2 millimeters below the surface — give off the same short, bushy sparks. These sparks indicate high carbon content. If the steel below the surface gives off longer sparks that flow out in straight lines, the file is case-hardened.

Hardness test: Besides the spark test, you can try to scratch the steel on the surface and the steel below the surface with a screw or drill bit. In both cases, it should be equally difficult to make a scratch mark. If the steel below the surface is softer, the file is case-hardened.

If you don't have a grinder, you'll first have to anneal the file (see Step 4), remove a bit of the surface, harden it (see Step 8) and then test for hardness. If the steel below the surfaces didn't harden, the file is case-hardened.

Break test: Wrap the file into a cloth to prevent steel fragments from flying around your workshop. Secure the file into a vice so just a small portion sticks out. Then, hit that portion with a hammer to break it off. The material should break readily without bending and the core of the file should be smooth and light grey. If the material doesn't break readily and the core of the file is coarse, the file is case-hardened.

Step 3: Designing

In this project, I'll be making a bushcraft knife with a full-length, hidden tang. The tang is the portion of a knife that extends from the blade and connects the blade to the handle. Two common tang styles are the full tang and the full hidden tang. A full tang follows the contour of the handle and is therefore visible. A full hidden tang extends all the way through the handle, but is not visible.

Photo by Cas van de GoorPhoto by Cas van de Goor

The height of the thickest part of the handle depends on the size of your hand, but it is usually about 30 millimeters. If you want to make a full tang knife, I would advise you to use a flat file that is about 30 millimeters (or at least 28 millimeters) wide.

This knife-making project incorporates with a full hidden tang, because with this tang style the size of the handle doesn't depend on the size of the file. You may either stick to my blade design and adapt it to the width and thickness of your file, or make your own design — just make sure the construction is the same.

Step 4: Annealing

Materials can only be worked with tools that are harder than the material itself. Files are hardened, so they need to be softened before they can be worked with a hacksaw or other files. The softening is done by a heat treatment called "annealing." Annealing involves heating the high-carbon steel and cooling it down slowly. You'll save a lot of work (and tools) if you do this correctly.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

Annealing the file: Make a charcoal/coal fire and bury the file in it. Make sure there's plenty of coal to surround the file completely. Blow air into the fire with a pump to speed up the heating process.

The file should be heated to the "austenitizing temperature." At this temperature, the carbon steel is red-hot and non-magnetic.

After a couple of minutes of heating, expose the file to see if a magnet doesn't stick to it. Also, see if the file is evenly red- hot. Do this in the dark, because you'll see much more contrast between the different colors of the steel. If the file is still magnetic and it isn't evenly red-hot, bury it in the fire and continue the heating process. If the file is non-magnetic and is evenly red-hot, you know that the fire is hot enough. 

Bury the file in the fire and heat it back up again (the file cooled down while it was exposed). Keep it at austenitizing temperature for about 3 to 5 minutes. Then allow it to cool down with the fire.

Step 5: Profiling

In this step you'll cut out the bushcraft knife profile with a hacksaw and refine the shape with a file.

Marking out the knife pattern: Print and cut out my knife pattern or cut out your own design. Then, trace the pattern onto the annealed file (workpiece) with a scriber or permanent marker. I used a white pencil, which quickly faded due to the use of lubricating oil.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

It's hard to accurately mark out the knife pattern on the grooved surface of a file. I ended up using a caliper and a separate knife pattern, which I compared the workpiece to as I progressed.

Cutting out the rough shape: Secure the workpiece in a vice in such a way that you can make a vertical cut, and that the cut is as close to the vice as possible to reduce vibration.

For sawing material with a thickness of 8 millimeters or less, a blade with 32 teeth per inch is recommended. A minimum of 3 teeth should be engaged in the material at all times to prevent tooth breakage. Install the blade on the hacksaw frame with the teeth pointing away from you.
Keep the blade at sufficient tension to ensure straight cuts.

Don't start a cut on a sharp edge or else less than 3 teeth will be engaged in the material. When sawing, apply a little bit of oil to the blade to reduce friction. Use long, steady strokes and only apply pressure on the forward, cutting stroke. Remove as much material per cut as possible. If the cut is wandering away from where you planned to cut, turn the frame gently in order to twist the blade into the right cutting direction. If you need to start a cut on an angle (with respect to the material), first make a shallow, perpendicular cut that will keep the saw in place when sawing on an angle.

Refining the shape: In this step, you'll first use a cross-filing technique to remove the most material, and straighten the somewhat wavy edges made by the hacksaw. Then you'll use a draw-filing technique to clean up the rough surface and flatten the slightly rounded edges produced by cross-filing.

Secure the workpiece in a vice in such a way that you can file in a horizontal plane most of the time.

Cross-filing (straight-filing): Use a large coarse (bastard, double cut) flat file. Finer files can also be used, but remove material less quickly. When filing, you can usually feel whether you're using the right file and the right technique.

Grasp the handle in one hand and the tip of the file in the other, so that you can apply downward pressure. Place the file diagonally on the edge, so that the file covers a large area. This ensures that large errors (wavy edges) are corrected. Move the file from tip to handle, in a direction not quite parallel to the file, to prevent grooving. Use long, steady strokes and only apply pressure on the forward, cutting stroke.

Most people have a tendency to file slightly on an angle, as opposed to perfectly horizontal. Correct this error by changing the filing direction 90 degrees and flipping the workpiece 180 degrees in the vice.

Draw-filing: Cross-filing usually results in a straight edge but a slightly round cross-section due to the rocking motion of the file. Draw-filing is used to make the edge flat in the cross-section and perpendicular to the adjacent surfaces, and to give it a fine surface finish.

Use a fine (smooth, single cut) flat file. Grasp the file at each end. This way you can hold the file steady. Place the file perpendicular on the edge. Push and draw the file from one end of the workpiece to the other. With this technique, be careful not to remove more material in the middle of the workpiece than on the edges. Also regularly remove filings, as these tend score the surface when they get caught up in the file.

Step 6: Making the Grind

The bevel, or grind, of a blade refers to the shape of the cross-section of the blade. Along with the steel type, heat treatment and the thickness of the blade, the grind shape and angle determine cutting performance and blade strength. In general, the steeper the grind and the less material behind the edge, the sharper the blade. On the contrary, the less steep the grind and the more material behind the edge, the stronger the blade. Furthermore, a less steep angle can also be combined with less material behind the edge. This gives a durable edge while it reduces friction when cutting. Examples are a convex grind, double grind and hollow- or flat grind with a less steep secondary grind.

Depending on the application of a bushcraft knife, sharpness is less or more important than strength. In this project, I make a 20-degree-angle sabre grind (giving a total- or "included" angle of 40 degrees). I think this grind provides a good balance between blade strength and cutting performance for a bushcraft knife.

To reduce friction you may want to convert the sabre grind into a convex grind.

Marking out the grind boundaries: Some knife makers use a jig that keeps the file on the same angle while filing in the grind, though you can easily file in the grind without the use of a jig.

To get a grind with the desired angle, you'll need to mark out the grind boundaries. Measure the thickness of the blade with a caliper. If you used a file that tapers in thickness, measure the minimum and maximum thickness of the blade.

Calculate the grind width b:
b = T / (2tanα)
with blade thickness T and grind angle α.

Mark out the calculated grind width on the two sides of the blade using a scriber and caliper. Color the edge of the blade with a permanent marker so that a scribed line will stand out. Place the blade on a flat surface. Scribe the edge using a drill bit with diameter T (thickness of the blade). This way you get a line running along the center of the edge. If you used a file that tapers in thickness, put something underneath the tip of the blade to compensate for the taper.

Filing in the grind: Secure the workpiece into a vice. If you want to have a small ricasso (unsharpened section of the blade near the handle), clamp a piece of steel to the blade as a means of guiding the file.

File in the grind on both sides of the blade. Apply the same filing techniques you've used to refine the knife profile (Step 5). Regularly check if the edge is straight.

Step 7: Quenching and Tempering

Now the blade is ready to be hardened. The hardening is done by a heat treatment called "quenching." Quenching involves heating the high-carbon steel and cooling it down quickly. After quenching, the steel is very brittle. The brittleness (and hardness) is reduced by a heat treatment called "tempering." Tempering is a specialized type of annealing.

There are many ways of quenching and tempering knives and all yield different results. I use the most straightforward way in this project.

Quenching: Heat the blade evenly to austenitizing temperature. Keep it at austenitizing temperature for about 3 to 5 minutes. Don't heat the entire tang. The end of the tang needs to stay soft, so it can be peened later.

Grip the end of the tang with a tongs. Wear work gloves to protect your hands from the heat. Quickly lower the blade tip first into a heat-resistant oil container. The blade should be at austenitizing temperature when it hits the oil. Use a sufficient volume of vegetable or mineral oil. I used about 2 liters of sunflower oil, but you might as well use 4 liters or more (for a more uniform quench).

Move the blade around in order to speed up the cooling process. Leave the blade in the oil until it has cooled down to about room temperature.

See if the blade hardened by scratching the blade and tang with a screw or drill bit. The screw should skim over the surface of the blade, barely leaving a scratch. It should be much easier to make a scratch mark on the end of the tang.

If the blade didn't harden, either it wasn't at austenitizing temperature when it was quenched or it didn't cool fast enough (assuming the blade was made from a high-carbon steel file). If the blade didn't cool fast enough, try to quench it in water or brine (water with 7 to 10 percent salt by weight): Water and brine result in faster cooling (water about 3 times and brine about 6 times faster than oil). Only try a water or brine quench if an oil quench didn't work, because these quenchants are more likely to may cause cracking.

Tempering: The color of the steel gives an indication of the temperature to which the steel was heated.
Remove the scale on the bevel, spine and tang with sandpaper so that the color of the steel will be visible when tempering.

Heat the blade to 350 to 660 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1-1/2 hours in a kitchen oven. A higher tempering temperature yields a slightly softer material with a higher toughness, while a lower temperature yields a harder and slightly more brittle material. I would recommend tempering in two or more cycles of 1-1/2 hours, because of the inaccuracy of a kitchen oven.

For example, if you want to temper your blade at 480 degrees Fahrenheit (brown-red): First temper the blade at 350 degrees. If the steel didn't reach a brown-red, temper again at a higher temperature.

Step 8: Making the Bolsters

For the bolsters I used the steel that I had left over from the old file.

Marking out the shape and the hole positions: Mark out two ovals measuring about 26-by-19 millimeters. The front bolster will need a rectangular hole so that it fits around the tang. The rear bolster will need a slightly smaller hole so that it fits around the narrowing at the end of the tang.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

Mark out the rectangular hole in the center of one oval. Center-punch two holes inside the rectangle. Also, center-punch the center of the other oval.

Making the bolsters: If you are making the bolsters out of a coarse file, remove the grooves with a file to minimize the seam between the bolsters and the handle material.

Use a drill press or secure the workpiece into a vice. Use a drill bit with diameter T (thickness of the tang) or slightly smaller. Make sure to hold the drill perpendicular to the surface of the workpiece. Apply lubricating oil to reduce friction when drilling. Cut out the ovals with a hacksaw and refine the shape with a file. Make the holes rectangular with a small square- or flat file. You can also leave the hole in the rear bolster circular and make the end of the tang cylindrical.Both bolsters should fit snugly around the tang.

Make the hole in the rear bolster (very) slightly tapered. In the next step the bolsters and the handle material will be secured onto the tang by peening the end of the tang. The end of the tang will expand in cross-section and fill up the tapered hole, so that the rear bolster can't slide off.

Step 9: Making the Handle

In this step you'll make the wooden handle and assemble the bushcraft knife.

Assembling the front bolster: Slide the front bolster over the tang. If the bolster doesn't quite fit over the tang, you might have to enlarge the hole, but for me rounding off the edges on the end of the tang also helped. If the bolster doesn't readily slide down the tang, place a steel tube over the tang and hammer it to force the bolster into position.

Photo by Cas van de Goor

Making the handle: Find a nice piece of hardwood. I used a piece of about 35-by-35-by-100 millimeters.

Mark out the rectangular hole. Use a drill bit with diameter T (thickness of the tang) or slightly smaller. Make sure to hold the drill parallel to the length of the workpiece. Drill two holes alongside one another. If the drill bit isn't long enough, drill from both sides.

Remove the wood between the two holes by gently moving the drill perpendicular to the axis of rotation. I know this is not what a drill is made for, but it's the quickest way of doing it.

Make the hole rectangular using a small chisel and/or file. The handle should now fit around the tang. Saw the wood roughly to the dimensions and shape of the handle.

Assembling the knife: Secure the blade into a vice. Use aluminum vice jaws or two pieces of wood to protect the blade against scratching during peening.

Apply some two-part epoxy adhesive to the tang, bolsters and hole of the wooden handle. Slide the handle and the rear bolster over the tang. Start hammering on the end of the tang. Be patient. The end of the tang should slowly "fill up" the tapered hole. Let the epoxy cure.

Finishing off: Refine the shape of the handle using a coarse half-round file and sandpaper. Remove the portion of the tang that is still sticking out with a file. Sharpen the knife with progressively finer grit sandpaper. Apply several coats of Danish oil to protect the wood from the elements.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this project to make a bushcraft knife. If you have any questions or remarks, please don't hesitate to comment on my original Instructables post, where you can find many more photos of how to make the knife.

I have entered this project into Instructables' Great Outdoors Contest and the I Could Make That Contest. If you like my bushcraft knife, please vote for it!

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