Metal Tool Manufacture in a Survival Situation

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So yes, it's unlikely that the uninitiated tool maker such as myself would be able to manufacture a hardened and tempered tool in the wild, though I could sharpen it. Instead, I would be much more likely to attempt to create some form of natural tool from stone or make do some other way. However, the skilled craftsman should be able to make a perfectly serviceable knife, axe, machete, or other cutting tool from components of, say, a plane.

So here is my question ... you are stranded in the middle of nowhere and have arrived by some form of mechanical vehicle. All the emergency lark is out the way and you decide to try to make a cutting tool. Let us assume there is no suitable starting tool in the tool kit, but there are some basics like a hacksaw and pliers. The vehicle will not start, but the battery is sound. Nothing in the vehicle is damaged but you can get away with bits of metal being a bit loose or twisted it you like.

How would you go about it?
 

Dave Budd

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I would have to be pretty bored and not wanting to get out of the spot I'm stranded in (ie I've left the 'real' world and have found my desert island), but making a tool from a dead car would be easy :) Assuming I had some tools to dismantle the thing

If the battery and fan are working then I have an air supply for a forge. If they aren't then I would use either chair seat covers or some other thin fabric/tarp/inner tube and a piece of exhaust as a tuyere. Then dig a hole in the ground or raise a hearth depending on the ground conditions. For fuel I would use wood or make some charcoal since I obviously have the time. I could use a couple of rocks for hammer and anvil if nothing else in the car is suitable. Then I can start to make tools from the car itself.

To begin with I would use green wood for tongs, but soon move on to the metal in the car frame (such as around the doors). Larger bolts could be quickly turned into chisels and punches to allow me to reword other pieces. Coil spring would be removed to be forged into a decent chisel, punch, drift and tongs. Then I could make knives, gouges etc. Once I've got my breath back I could remove one of the axles or larger diameter bars to reforge into hammers, axes, etc. The car body could be reworked into buckets, pans, etc using wooden formers and shears or chisels that I have already made.

the list goes on... :)
 

spandit

Bushcrafter through and through
Jul 6, 2011
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Quite how you'd remove all those bits without decent tools, I don't know. I've changed springs on cars before and you need impact tools & spring compressors!
 

Toddy

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Jan 21, 2005
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I suspect though that you were trying to retain the integrity of the vehicle.
The phrase, "gimme a big enough lever and a decent fulcrum and I can shift the world", comes to mind.

On balance I reckon Dave Budd's in with the crew you'd want to be stranded with :D

cheers,
Toddy
 

Swallow

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May 27, 2011
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Quite how you'd remove all those bits without decent tools, I don't know. I've changed springs on cars before and you need impact tools & spring compressors!
He did say assuming he had the tools to dismantle the car.

One tool you should be assured of is the wheel brace. Which will get the wheel (possibly steel) off for the inner tube. At worst there will be the wheel brace itself and at less than worst the wheel brace will fit some of the other nuts on the car allowing you to at least partially dismantle it.
 

santaman2000

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Jan 15, 2011
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Ummm. Didn't the OP say he wanted to make a "cutting" tool? And didn't he say he has a hacksaw blade? Isn't a hacksaw blade already a cutting tool?
 

Dave Budd

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Like Toddy says, if you don't mind damaging things then you can get a lot off a vehicle with a lever and simple tools such as a chisel, hammer and a winch/tourniquet. I've pulled all sorts from scrapped cars in the past that way ;) I'm assuming that most people carry some tools in a vehicle just incase they have to fix something on the roadside (even a socket set or spanners are a must if you need to change your battery for example). I normally have a socket set, pliers, screw/hexdriver and a hammer in the car. Mind you I also tend to have a bunch of other tools in there too :rolleyes: Heck, sometimes I have my forging gear in there already! As Swallow points out, most cars will have a wheel brace and a jack, both of which can be used to remove various parts or could be used to provide some material worth using.When I've taken springs apart in the past I normally cut them with an angle grinder, but it could be made red hot and chiseled through if there is no other way of releasing the spring.

Steve M, Initially I would look at bits of metal that are the right size for the job, but different bits will be more or less suitable for tools. Springs, bearings, torsion bars, axles, etc will be medium to high carbon steel and will harden up nicely for tools. Whereas the chasis, bodywork and most other bits will be mild steel so only good for non-edge tools such as tongs and some brackets for the hanging basket that I would eventually want to set up on the wall of my Robinson Crusoe house. If I wanted to get really ponsy I could laminate bits of steel that are forged down from (for example) spring and chasis, thus making a patternwelded (damascus) range of tools.

p.s. Santaman. If you want to cut a tree down and carve a spoon with a hacksaw, be my guest! :D
 

lannyman8

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jan 18, 2009
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what if you had the basic tools but no steel, what then????

i think i would get by with a hammer and pair of pliers to make other tools such as a good knife, i would have to smelt some ore though to make steel or iron first, that would be the hardest bit i think, i do want to try it at some point anyway.. there is always bog iron too, just depends on your surroundings and whats about really...

food for thought...;)
 

santaman2000

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.....p.s. Santaman. If you want to cut a tree down and carve a spoon with a hacksaw, be my guest! :D
LOL. I thought this was all for a survival situation. Cutting a small tree down with a hacksaw ain't that hard (I've done it as a kid just playing around) As for carving a spoon; well I've no desire to do that with any tools for any reason.
 

Dave Budd

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saw blades cut by using a sawing (oscillating) motion. So a saw does cut, but not in the same way as a knife or axe. Most saws work like a row of chisels, which will only bite when drawn across the material to be cut.

Making a saw without a file. Depending on the size of the saw, the teeth can be chiseled or punched; that's how many have been made for centuries. Basically the blade is layed flat and a triangular punch is driven down to shear the teeth out of the sheet. The finished saw is then sharpened with a file, but in a pinch you could use the saw without sharpening (the punching will leave sharp edges), alternatively there may be some abrasive rock or you could make a kind of abrasive block from sand and molten plastic/rubber from the car.

Some finer saws such as hacksaws and those that I have made for cutting horn combs have the teeth chiseled into the thin edge of te blade rather than through the flat as above. This results in the metal spreading sideways and thus creating a wider tooth than the blade stock (and therefore negating the need for the teeth to be set).

The first issue when making a saw from scratch is that you need a thin flat piece of metal that is harder than the mild steel car body. The easiest way to do this is to forge a very thin bar and taper it in cross section like a knife (ie a triangular blade not a woodlore clone bar of steel!). The thicker side, which would be the back of a knife, has the teeth cut into it, thus increasing the chances that the blade will slide through the cut without having a ridiculous set on the teeth. The forged surface will be too uneven and have scale (plus decarb) which won't allow good edges to the teeth, so the blade will need cleaning before cutting. This can be done with a scraper (either a sen, which is like a metal working drawknife or a more ancient style that is more like an engineers scraper) and finished off with abrasives, such as the sand or abrasive stone mentioned above.

You will most likely want a file at some point too. A chisel is made, a little like a short assymetrical cold chisel and is hammered into an annealed (and cleaned) bar of steel. The angle that the chisel is ground and held at determines the pitch of the teeth and the weight of the blow determines the height of the teeth and thus how coarse it is. The same for rasps, but a round or triangular ended punch is used instead. Now, the bar of steel could be a piece of good steel (such as the bearing race), in which case your punch needs to be good and cleaning the bar up will be laborious. Or you can start with a lesser piece(which is easier to work) and case harden the finished file using some fat(grease from car), charcoal and leather (car seats?), all wrapped in clay and brought to a bright yellow in the forge before quenching. That is a very ancient way to make files, but it works.
 
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santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
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Maybe but why "make" a saw when the op's said you already have one? That was the point of my post; he already has a cutting tool. As to "how" they cut; why would it really matter in a survival situation? If it cuts, that's enough.

But I suspect the point of the OP was to stimulate a discussion on more elaborate techniques just such as is going on.