In my very first forging project, I made a forged machete! It’s rough and rugged but it’s a machete, that’s the point. It was a great exercise in putting my academic knowledge into practice and I can’t wait to do more!
When it comes to blacksmithing, I am by no means and expert or someone to follow step-by-step. I have been inspired by people like Alec Steele, Jimmy Diresta, and Laura Zerra. Blacksmithing is something that I’ve always been interested in, but haven’t actually taken the leap into a project yet. I decided that the farm is the perfect place to start hitting hot metal. Using the DIY Forge that I made, I tried heating a piece of high-carbon steel to the appropriate temperature for forging. I found that my forge couldn’t get hot enough, so I purchased a Devil-Forge, an entry-level forge that works really well!
I heated the piece of steel up to a bright yellow and used a 3lb hammer and an anvil to beat the metal into my machete shape. It took about 45 minutes to achieve my simple rounded shape and I was pretty happy with the hammer marks left in the metal.
Now that I have a rough machete shape from the forging process, I need to refine the shape using grinders and belt sanders. At this point, the metal has been normalized, meaning it has been heated and cooled in several cycles to align the steel structure to a very rigid structure. It hasn’t been quenched or tempered, that’ll come later. Now is the time to hone the shape and add some bevels to the blade before it gets hardened. I really enjoyed this process because I was able to add shape and detail using the sanding tools. The machete started to really take shape and the small details made it look really cool. Before I start the hardening process, I drilled in some holes for the handle pins.
Now that the machete was normalized, shaped, and the bevels were ground in, I could harden the blade by quenching it in oil. I made an oil tank out of PVC pipe and placed the hot blade directly into the oil, hardening the blade. I then used the sanders to clean up the scale and started the tempering process. To temper the blade, I used my powder coating oven to raise the blade up to a certain temperature using a temperature chart to determine that setting and the duration. Once tempered, I gave the machete one final sanding to flatten the sides and to crisp up the cutting edge. The blade is now ready for some handle scales.
The machete is totally usable as it is right now. Unfortunately, it would be super uncomfortable to use, so we need to make some wooden handle sides, or scales. To do this, I found a scrap piece of teak and traced the handle onto it. Making sure to match up the wood to the handle, I transferred the hole location and drilled through scales. After some epoxy and pinning, the bulky wooden scales were fixed to the machete permanently. To match the contour of my hand, I used the belt sander to round over the wooden scales and even out the surfaces. After a coat of finish, the machete was all done!
My First Blacksmithing Attempt
The forged machete was a success. I know it may be a little rough and unrefined, but that’s the point of a machete. I chose this project for my first attempt because it is really forgiving. This project was intended to be a learning experience, and it absolutely was. I didn’t walk away from this project with all of the correct answers, but I did discover the right questions that I needed to ask. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I’m constantly learning and discovering new skills. I don’t claim to be an expert, and this machete is no different. I am so excited to dive deeper into forging and blacksmithing, and now I’m armed with one project and a lot of enthusiasm.
(purchasing via these affiliate links supports ILTMS)
- Dewalt 20v drill driver combo
- Countersink drill bits
- Grizzly 14″ Bandsaw
- Grizzly Drill Press (WAAAAY overpriced (3x) on Amazon, buy from Grizzly directly.)
- Shop Fox Hanging Air Filter
- 2HP Dust Collector
- 1 Micron bag
Finishes & adhesives I like: