Horace Kephart (1862-1931) is a familiar name to
bushcrafters along with George Washington Sears (See Knife 59) and was one of
the leading outdoor writers of his time. Kephart designed the knife. This is
how he described it in the first edition of Camping and Woodcraft:
“Its blade and handle are each 4¼ inches long, the blade
being 1 inch wide, 1/8-inch thick on the back, broad pointed, and continued
through the handle as a hasp and riveted to it.
“The handle of this knife is of oval cross-section, long
enough to give a good grip for the whole hand, with no sharp edges to blister
one’s hand. It has a ¼-inch knob behind the cutting edge as a guard, but there
is no guard on the back, for it would be useless and in the way.
“This knife weighs only 4 ounces. It was made by a
country blacksmith, and is one of the homeliest things I ever saw; but it has
outlived in my affections the score of other knives that I have use”.
He wrote of his experiences in a series of articles in
the magazine Field and Stream. These articles were collected into his first book,
Camping and Woodcraft, which was first published in 1906. While mostly a manual
of living outdoors, Kephart interspersed his philosophy:
Your thoroughbred camper likes not the attentions of a
landlord, nor will he suffer himself to be rooted to the soil by cares of
ownership or lease. It is not possession of the land, but of the landscape,
that enjoys; and as for that, all the wild parts of the earth are his, by a
title that carries with it no obligation but that he shall not desecrate nor
lay them waste.
Houses, to such a one, in summer are little better than
cages; fences and walls are his abomination; plowed fields are only so many
patches of torn and tormented earth. The sleek comeliness of pasture it too
prim and artificial, domestic cattle have a meek and ignoble bearing, fields of
grain are monotonous to his eyes, which turn for relief to abandoned old-field,
overgrown with thicket, that still harbors some the shy children of the wild.
It is not the clearing but the unfenced wilderness that is the camper’s real
home. He is brother to that good old friend of mine who in gentle satire of our
formal gardens and close- cropped lawns, was wont to say, ‘I love the
unimproved works of God.’
He also published some more books of the same theme such
as Camp Cookery (1910) and Sporting Firearms (1912). In addition, he wrote The
Hunting Rifle section of Guns, Ammunition and Tackle (New York: Macmillan,
1904), a volume of Caspar Whitney’s prestigious American Sportsman’s Library.
Combining his own experience and observations with other
written studies, Kephart wrote a study of Appalachian lifestyles and culture
called Our Southern Highlanders, published in 1913 and expanded in 1922.
He wrote a short history of the Cherokee and other books
which became standards in the field.
Kephart completed a typescript for a novel in 1929.
However, the book was not edited and published until 2009. It is published
under the title Smoky Mountain Magic.
Kephart never left the Great Smokies, having been
instantaneously killed in a mountain-road automobile accident on April 2, 1931.
My version of the Kephart EDC – Multi Part Handle Scales
Blade 1/8” 1080 4 1/32”
Overall length 9”
For these scales I used a piece of rosewood and a piece of spalted beech to make a two piece scale. First I made sure I had a good fit. Then I glued the pieces together while they sat on a piece of wax paper. The center piece in the picture is a single piece which then got cut down the center to form the two scales.
The I epoxied g10 spacers on each scale. I used the wax paper to separate them so I could clamp them together and get a good bond.
The handle of this Kephart EDC was finished with the help of 2″x72″scalloped belts. I have then in 220, 320 and 600 grit.
Then I finished with 1000 and 2000 grit felt backed belt.
“In 1838, Rezin P. Bowie, brother of Alamo hero James Bowie
claimed that he made the first Bowie knife while the Bowies lived in Avoyelles
Parish, Louisiana. He designed it as a hunting knife and gave it to James for
protection after his brother had been shot in a fight. Herzehian Dunham, Notary
Public in Avoyelles Parish certified that blacksmith Jesse Clifft, who lived on
Bayou Boeuf and was a close friend and neighbor of the Bowies in the 1820s,
forged the knife according to Rezin Bowie’s design. The original Bowie knife
was like a butcher knife in profile, with a thin blade but no silver mounts.
Bowie wore it in a silver-mounted black-leather sheath.”
There were several iterations of the Bowie knife since then, and there are countless books written with the Bowie knife as the primary subject matter. Today, almost any large heavy knife is likely to be called a bowie knife.
This Brut de Forge Bowie was forged from a similar tine as Knife – 42 Hunter Forged from an Implement Tine. To the right it is being normalized. Notice the groove (or fuller) in the tang. I cut that with the belt grinder. It serves a couple of purposes. It lightens the knife. It makes less surface area of the tang that must be flattened and gives the epoxy some space.
Blade – 8 ¾”
Overall 13 ½”
I also used the cross peen to hammer a slight fuller across the top of
the knife. This gives the knife a little more width from the piece of metal
without weakening the blade.
In the photo below I tried the Brut de Forge Bowie out before I put the scales on. This is chopping a stick of hophornbeam to make sure it is performing as expected. It wasn’t even fully sharpened yet when I did this test.
I also found this to be a little harder than I wanted after
two tempering cycles, so I wound up tempering it for one more 2-hour cycle.
The handle was finished with
the help of the scalloped belts. I have
then in 220, 320 and 600 grit.
Then I finished with 1000 and 2000 grit felt backed belt
Because this Antler Handled Carving Knife’s antler was put on with the base end first, it required a little different technique. It seems the base is bone and is harder. It did not soften like a cut end that exposes the softer insides. To get around this I drilled a hole then slightly widen it to be about the width of the tang. I drilled with a drill bit the approximate width and used a Dremel with a cutter to widen it.
I then boiled it again. This time for about 15 minutes.
I also had this antler soaking in water for several days
before I was going to install it.
I added a sheath made with hair-on deer hide. I tanned this hide last year. It was my first tanning experience. I thought it was a good fit for this knife.
Bunka knives are general purpose knives tackling a wide range of common kitchen tasks. Their reverse tanto profile gives the knives a dexterous and delicate tip and a unique and eye-catching aesthetic. It is a general-purpose kitchen knife like a Santoku and it used to be just as popular as the Santoku. With its wider blade, the Bunka knife is suitable for cutting vegetables, while the triangle-shaped tip area is particularly useful when cutting fish and meats.
Bunka Chef’s Knife – Making The Makers Mark
I had a mishap while making my touch mark in this knife. I made a dent by missing steel stamp. Because of this mishap, I’m changing the way I make the mark. I cut a 3″ hole in a block of oak. I use this to protect the blade should a miss again.
I also went to a slightly larger hammer. This meant I didn’t need to swing as hard and helped with control. The extra weight had enough momentum to still make the mark as needed.
I sanded this knife to 600 grit, then sandblasted it. I then etched it with ferric chloride for 20 minutes.
I asked the new owner for his thoughts:
“I used it almost exclusively for
Thanksgiving. The pros:
It held its sharpness for almost all
the prep. Ran it though my sharpener and it was razor sharp again
When I would cut something that
required more “rocking back and forth” instead of actual chopping, the edge
closest to the handle digs into the cutting board. Rounding off that corner
just a bit would help there.
Got to remember to keep it oiled.
Not having a knife like this before, it’s just a learning curve”
A railroad spike knife is made (….wait for it….) from a railroad spike and it’s a project that seems to be a right to passage for a lot of blacksmiths and bladesmiths. It takes a little knowledge and experience to get it right, but honestly, I find them more of a novelty item.
There are two basic ways to make a knife like this. First by
adding some high carbon steel or just drawing out what’s there.
The railroad spike is not high carbon so it’s not going to
make a great knife by itself. There are railroad spikes marked “HC” which
stands for “Higher Carbon”, but it’s still not high enough to make a great
Most you see will have the handle twisted, which is done by
heating the spike in the forge to working temperature, locking it in a vise and
twisting it with a wrench. I just used an adjustable wrench, but if you plan to
twist square stock often, adding a handle extension helps quite a bit.
I then forged welded a file into this knife. I drew out the
end of the spike a bit, split it with a cut off wheel in the grinder (although
a hacksaw or bandsaw would work as well) drove the file in, added flux and
forge welded it in. After that it’s grinding and heat treating as you would any
Making a railroad spike knife is more about learning a few blacksmith techniques and having some fun with the forge than anything else. Although it doesn’t come out as an extremely high quality knife, it does come out as a cool blacksmithing and knife making project that you can add a few of your own twist (pun intended).
And these knives to seem to sell, although that could be a perception. You can find them all the time on etsy, knife makers websites, Instagram and at knife shows.
I forged Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke from another tine as shown in knife 36. I sound up breaking it. I knew I was not finished forging it but I ran out of time, so I just left it sitting on the anvil. The next day I only had a few minutes in the shop. I picked up the knife and noticed a slight warp. Sure, I should have known better but my experience working with mild steel sort of kicked in and I gave it a couple good whacks with the hammer. Boom! A duh moment.
You will often hear this kind of finish described as “Brut de Forge” or “Brute de Forge” – meaning “rough and unfinished”. Part of the blade is left in an “as forged” or partial “as forged” state.
I asked if this would have happened if it was already normalized.
Thermocycling will help with the coarseness of the grain.
Tempering will give it bend without the break and leave an
edge that will hold its sharpness.
And Lesson learned, do not forge below forging temps.
Fortunately, there was enough left of this Fully Forged Hunting Knife that I broke to turn it into a hidden tang.
Thermal cycling is a process in which material is cooled and
heated in cycles.
Normalizing is to bring or return a substance to a standard
or normal condition or state.
As knife makers we thermal cycle our steel to return it to a normalized state, so we call it normalizing or normalization.
I needed to make sure this metal would normalize correctly.
After straightening the tines, I found just a light hammer blow would cause the
metal to break as shown in the photo to the right. So, I ran a test.
To normalize it, I brought it to nonmagnetic three times,
and let it cool in the vise. After normalizing a tried several times to break
it and it did not break after several hammer blows.
It was then heat treated as described earlier. The normal
test all passed after tempering as well.
Hand crafted, hand stitched 7-9 oz veggie tanned leather sheath
1). Mark the spine with layout blue
or marker. Alternate left and right. I used 3/8″ spacing.
2). Cut semi-circles on the left
side every other mark. I used a 5/32” chainsaw file.
3). Cut semi-circles on the right
side, every other mark. These are cut the same depth as the left side. (option:
make these cuts shifted ahead by 3/16″).
4). With the narrowest edge of a
triangular or half round needle file, cut the ‘leaves’ about 3/32″ above
each big half round. Do this on both sides.
5). Carefully shape the lower portions of the big half rounds to smooth the vine. I used the flat side of the triangle file to knock the corner off and finished with the chainsaw file.
I made this laminated handle on this “Knife 55 Seax – Vine Filing-laminated scales” by stabilized strips of beech and wenge and compressing them together during the process of cooking the cactus juice.
This knife was made from a file with Blade Filings added
This knife was made from a file with Blade Filings added. This knife’s design is not what was intended. I had a failed attempt to cut Fuller’s in it. I was using a cutoff wheel with a straight edge guide. The guide slipped. So, tyo make something out of nothing, I narrowed it to save the blade. The spline filing was added to dress it up.
Blade – 5 ¼”
Overall – 10”
Steel – an old file
Handle – stabilized beech
The filings on this blade were made for decoration, no other purpose. In some instances you will see “saw teethe” on the spline. This is meant to be an added tool in a survival situation, but most of them do not work very well. I suspect in most cases they are added for the “cool” factor more than being a real advantage in a real survival situation.
There is nothing wrong with recovering from a failed attempt. I tend to learn by doing, and sometimes making a mistake forces you to learn new ways you’d not otherwise thought of.
The stabilized beach on this handle was a piece with extraordinary figure. It wasn’t wide enough for anything other than this type of handle. This wouldn’t be considered one of the best style handles, but it’s small, and compact. For a utility type knife this will wind up serving someone very well and has a unique enough look to be somewhat appealing.