When it comes to survival, there are some things that are essential. One of these is the ability to make fire, whilst another is some form of knife – a multi-purpose tool that can help to greatly in preparing both food and shelter, help protect yourself and serve many other functions. If you’ve planned for an outdoor expedition, a high quality knife will undoubtedly have been included in your kit. But what if you were forced into a survival situation and found yourself without a knife? Here are two ways to improvise a knife blade.
1. In the Wild – The Rock Knife
Since the earliest days of civilisation, rocks have been used to fashion blades and most primitive knives and other instruments were made in this way prior to the discovery of metal. In order to make a blade from rock, you’ll first need… you got it, rock. Now there is an important thing to bear in mind here; not every kind of rock will do. In order to get a sharp, durable blade you need to find hard rock that fractures on heavy impact to give solid fragments with sharp edges. This typically means finding metamorphic rock (a good example that is common in many parts of the UK is quartz, easily identified by its crystalline sparkle and glassy sound when knocked).
Using two good sized rocks, strike one with the other, using a swinging motion that continues beyond the strike (think cricket or tennis, where there is a smooth follow through after the impact). Once a decent fragment has been broken off, smaller, gentler strikes can be used to fashion the piece into a crude blade. Be careful to strike along the side in a glancing manner so as not to smash your work in progress, and be careful not to cut yourself as the edges of these rocks can be seriously sharp!
When using a stone knife, you should always cut towards yourself in a smooth, slicing motion to avoid chipping or breaking the fragile blade. You may find it helpful to protect your cutting hand with some coarse cloth – canvas or leather tends to offer the best grip and protection.
2. Urban Survival – Scrap Metal
A knife is just as important in an urban survival situation as it is in the wild. However, there are some advantages to the urban environment, one of them being that it is much easier to find metal. However, not all metal can be worked with and not every type of metal is suitable for use as an improvised blade.
There are generally two options available to the urban survivor – hunt around until you can scavenge a suitably sharp shard of metal, or obtain a piece of steel and make it into something suitable. In the first case, should you be lucky enough to find something that fits the bill (and hopefully not because you happen to have already been penetrated by it), you’ll want to fashion a handle out of parachute cord in order to protect your cutting hand and give you more grip and control. This is also true of the second approach, however you’ll first need to make the blade.
To do this, start with a piece of metal that is anything from the rough size of a butter knife to that of a larger hunting knife (unless you want to make a zombie-slaying sword – but that is sadly out of scope for this article). Try to find a piece that already has a fairly narrow if not sharp edge at least part way down one side.
Although a manufactured knife is usually made from stainless steel, if you are planning to craft a knife without access to the right tools, avoid this material as it is too hard to work with. Instead, opt for normal steel. Pieces of metal from cars are often ideal. Standard steel is relatively soft, and rocks or other solid objects can be used to beat the sde that will become the blade until it is as thin as possible.
One you have beaten something that is beginning to resemble a knife blade, it is time to get sharpening. There are various ways to improvise a sharpener (and these will work equally well for a machined blade). One is any piece of unglazed ceramic. A broken plant pot, the edge of a tile or even the bottom of a cup will work for this. Alternatively, kerbstones can work well depending on the material used – in most cases, they are hard enough to suffice. When sharpening the blade, pull towards you four times in a smooth motion that is fast enough to see a shiny edge develop, then repeat on the opposite side. Continue until the blade is sharp enough for your needs.
Whether you are interested in wild survival and bushcraft or urban survival, here at Wild Survivor we’ve got the perfect range of courses for you to develop ll the skills you need. Browse through our courses or contact us now to enquire!