A Traditional “Rag Knife”

A traditional style of farm knife made from a broken American scythe blade, usually used for topping root crops.

The blade below crack was cut back to the spine, which was forged out into a tang. Normally this would have been simply wrapped with rags to form the grip (which is why they were called rag knives) but we used a reshaped billhook handle instead.

The tang is peened on the end and the grip tightly wedged from the top inside the ferrule for an extremely tight and secure fit.

A Rag Knife A Rag Knife A Rag Knife A Rag Knife

2 thoughts on “A Traditional “Rag Knife””

  1. Hi,

    Was there any blade above the crack that could also be used to make a heavy duty chopper/machete?

    How was the heat from the cutting and forging processes controlled/diverted to avoid disturbing the blade’s original temper?

    Would adding a washer before peening the end have made it sturdier and have been useful in protecting the handle from the hammer marks?

    Are there any scythe blades that would not be useful for this.


    1. Do you mean below the crack? No, it was originally a bush blade that was not only cracked but had a few welded spots on it. Heat near the tang/blade junction was applied using our mini induction heater, which uses magnetic frequency to heat a concentrated spot within the magnetic coil.

      A washer added before peening would have made the task of peening in and of itself easier, but not necessarily have made it sturdier–it was done with great care. There aren’t any hammer marks on the handle itself–the discoloration you see is a sort of sooty tar that came out of the wood when we burned the tang into the grip to fit it.

      This blade is glassy-hard and you would not want to use it for a chopper. It’s a tool for lush vegetation and slicing cuts on green woody weeds only.

      As for scythe blades that would not be useful for being converted like this, any blade that does not have cracks in the blade or excessive wear should not be converted because it still has useful life left in it to be used as a proper scythe blade. While they’re all over the place, they don’t make them like they used to and probably never will again. Even badly twisted blades can usually be coaxed back into shape. Only blades that are good and truly “dead” from fatal damage should be converted for other uses. There are tons of broken ones to be had for $5 or less at flea markets etc. Some folks even give them away if you buy a good blade because they’re hard to sell. 🙂

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