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”
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
It was time to try my hand at making a Friction Folder. A friction folder is a folding knife that doesn’t use a lock or springs. It uses the handle’s friction against the tang to stay open. The design of a friction folder has an extended tang. This allows the user’s hand to keep the blade from folding shut.
When making a Friction Folder it’s best to make a prototype out of heavy paper or thin wood pieces. This allows you to get the pin locations close enough so it can be tuned in final fitting.
You’ll see my first attempt required an extra pin. I didn’t
leave enough metal to tune it to a
single pin. It actually worked out pretty well.
I finished these knives by sandblasting before heat treatment. They were hand sanded to 600 grit then sandblasted. I plan to leave the blade as it comes off the tempering color.
Making a cardboard working template will help ensure your success. It also helps gauge the size of your finished knife.
Looking closely at the images you can see the first folder I made has an extra pin. This wasn’t really by design, at least not the original design. It did however, work out well and added a bit to the knife. In the end, it works well and looks good, so I’m happy with it.
There are an endless number of designs and styles for friction folders. I will be making some different sizes and styles. They are fun to make and are a very useful and functional every day carry.
Using a friction folder isn’t much different than using any knife with the exception of possibly being a little more cautious if your going to use it in such a way that your grip isn’t going to keep it open. I really don’t think it’s much different than any knife. There is some inherent danger in using any sharp instrument. Use good judgment and know your devices limitations.
Knife 49 – Hunter – EDC – Testing the Knife’s Hardness
Blade – 4 3/4″
Overall – 9″
Scales – Stabilized Spalted Beech
Handle Finish – Hand Rubbed Oil
Testing the Knife’s Hardness
Up to this point Testing the Knife’s Hardness has been to chop a hardwood scrap, roughly 2” x 2” by chopping at it as hard as I could. A used knife I had folded on the test and I couldn’t get it heat treated so it would not harden. I was still researching trying to find a better way without buying expensive equipment.
Then I stumbled on the “Brass Rod Test”. I think this test
is a little more reliable and I’m not sure why it’s not documented with more knife
I did find a couple different processes, both basically the
same. On way is to just hold a brass rod in a vise, the other you mount it in a
block of wood. I decided to mount a piece in a block of wood.
You don’t want the knife completely sharpened yet, but the edge
geometry needs to be close to sharp. The idea is to fold the edge. If the edge
returns to the original shape, the knife has the proper temper. If it folds and
stays folded, it not hard enough. If it chips, it is too hard and should be run
through a tempering cycle at a higher temperature than before.
Hold the knife at slightly more of an angle than the sharpening
angle and put pressure on the edge enough that you see it fold. A light shining
directly on it helps. As the edge folded, the light will change. Now drag the
edge across the bar watching the fold slide. If the edge returns to its
original geometry, you’re good to go finalize the sharpening. If the fold stays
folded, the knife edge is not hard. If it chips, temper again at a higher
You can also force the edge to deform while checking the weight
required to force a deform. If you can push at 30 pounds or so you know you’re
ok. This is a good test once in a while, but until I bought the file set Hardness Testers
on page 74
I did the test on every knife I made.
After a while, I began to become more interested in a serious test for hardness. I decided to order the “TTC 6 Piece Hardness Tester File Set”. This will allow me to get the hardness within the 60-65 Rockwell hardness which is ideal for a knife.
These file help measure Rockwell hardness. It’s measured as HRC,
or Sometimes RC. An abbreviation for Rockwell Hardness measured on the C scale.
The abbreviation usually appears after a number, e.g. 22 HRC. See: Rockwell C
Hardness. Rockwell C Hardness is a designation of hardness, of steel or Corrosion
A typical knife will usually be around 62RC, although some
knives such as cleavers may be as low as 55 HRC as will machetes. Hatchet would
also be 52 – 55RC. Some like a softer steel in the 54-56 RC range their knives.
Softer steels require sharpening more often, but they are much easier to
sharpen than harder steels. They are also less likely to chip. The edge is more
likely to roll over, rather than chip, which is a much easier fix than a
To use the file to test my knives, I file the heat treated and
tempered blade with the 55RC file. If it skates off, the blade is harder than
55RC. I then try the 60RC file. If this one almost bites or bites a little (a
metal shaving shows up or there is a visible scratch) you are around 60RC.
Moving up to the 65RC. This should skate over the steel. If it doesn’t another
temper cycle may be in order.
Etched in Ferric Chloride straight for about 40 minutes
Scales – Stabilized Spalted beech
Seax is an Old
English word for “knife”. Traditionally the seax is a
weapon consisting of a curved sword with a notched blade,
appearing, for example, in the coats of arms of Essex and the former Middlesex.
The Seax was a universally carried knife in Northern Europe. Also
known as the Viking dagger, it was carried and used by the Saxons,
Angles, Vikings and Germanic
tribes. Viking Daggers, use probably dated before the fall
of Rome and continues on into the early Middle Ages.
Small Seax – EDC – Stone Washing
It was about this time I decided to build a knife tumbler as a grinder attachment for stonewashing knives.
Stone Washing for Your Knives’ Finish is quite simple. You can actually do it by hand. Just put the knife in a container with media. I used stones I picked up from the side of the road.
The beginning tumbler is pretty simple. I mounted casters to
a wood base. I had a cardboard shipping container some metal was shipped in
that was about the right size, so I used it.
One end is capped and the other has a block of wood I cut to
fit. It’s thick enough that the sides of the frame holds it in place. I used a course
belt on the grinder to “drive” or turn the barrel. There is a wooden baffle to
“flip” the media. The block of 2 x 4 in front was to keep it from possibly
jumping off, but it didn’t seem to be a problem. The base is just clamped to
You can also use a purchased tumbler. I’ve heard the
vibrating type used for reloading or some that are used in polishing.
After just a few minutes in the tumbler this is the way the knife looks.
Design note for stone washing. In order to finish the scales, it’s nearly impossible to leave the etching on the spline. I should have added Jimping in front of the scales. This would have made a good border from etched to not etched.
A few notes on Stone Washing for Your Knives’ Finish:
You can put nail polish over parts of the knife you don’t
want stonewashed. Remove the nail polish after you’re done stonewashing the
blade with nail polish remover.
Try adding Spray a little WD-40 in the barrel with the
rocks, or a little soap and water.
The longer you stone wash, the lighter the blade will be.
You can purchase tumbling media or use stones as I did.
Different media gives a different texture, so you should experiment to see what
you like. You can create anything, from a matte that’s finely-textures down to
a rough or scratched-up look that looks tough and cool.