The Making of Khukuri
The traditional way of making of Kukri/ Khukuri (early 2000's)
Making a khukuri/kukri mainly includes making 3 major parts of the kukri , Blade, Handle and the Scabbard/Sheath
Making the blade
Here we have explained 11 steps in making the blade of khukuri/kukri.
01. Weighing/Choosing Steel
Surplus Indian truck steel (suspension leaf spring; HC) are bought from local scrap shops/dealers after carefully observing for any cracks or puncture and then transported to KHHI factory located in Patan Industrial Estate in Lagankhel. It is stored with other raw materials in the warehouse. The steel is then weighed to make the required type of khukuri. The weight of the steel should be slightly heavier than the actual (final) weight of khukuri as weight is lost in grinding process when shaping it.
02. Measuring Steel
The steel is measured depending on the total length required for the khukuri. Normally around 1/2 of the required size is measured on the steel. But this depends on the thickness of the steel; longer if thinner and shorter if thicker.
03. Cutting Steel
The measured steel is cut and split from the main body. At first the steel is red heated around 800-900*C in a charcoal oven, “Chula”, and then is hammered using 3 kg hammer against a sharp metal cutting Chisel. This hammering process takes almost half an hour for two men to break the steel apart.
04. Beating and Hammering (forging)
This is the most important stage of the making process. Here the kukri gets a rough initial shape and size and also the tang is forged out from the steel. The forging (this stage) is all about the master craftsman who rolls around the steel side-by-side, up and down and back and forth while being beaten by two 3 kg hammers simultaneously by his associates. The steel is red heated regularly and hammered countless time to bring into the required size, shape and structure of the kukri. During the process the steel gets the re-curve shape of a khukuri and the tang is created where handle will be fixed at later stages. This heavy duty work takes about an hour for the 3 men team/set.
The rough shape formed at the earlier stage at forging is now given the actual shape. The master craftsman uses 1.5 kg hammer to bring the rough shape to real. The still is regularly heated, beaten all around the surface over and over to get the required shape. This is a very time consuming stage and requires a lot of skill and years of experience.
After the shape is achieved notch (blood dripper) is made at the ricasso of the blade. A rod having its tip like the shape of a notch is used and carefully hammered in the area. The blade is once again heated, made soft and the rod is hammered in so that it cuts the edge of the blade and leaves the impression of notch. Thus notch is later finalized by using a 5” Pitsaw file.
Making of the pattern above the notch along the spine takes place in this stage. Various patterns are made depending on the type of khukuri. A sharp pointed Chisel and 1 kg hammer are used to make the patterns. The craftsman maneuvers his toes to move and flip the blade to find the right spot to hammer in the patterns. In some village khukuris brass inlay is used as part of the decoration of the pattern.
This is another crucial stage where the blade is given hardness and strength. The craftsman carefully spills water (at room temperature) onto the edge/bevel of the carefully heated blade. It requires great skill to be able to judge the right temperature by the sheer color of the blade in order to get the best quench (hardness). The blade’s bevel must be equally heated at the same temperature just before the quenching. Over/under doing it will result in inferior quality either resulting in cracks or subtle (weak) edge. Also, the amount of water spilled should be well balanced on all parts and should not be done on the panel of the blade.
09. Filing Blade
In this stage, the coarse blade is filed by a 10” flat rough file and finished (smoothened). A pair of pliers is used to hold the blade and the file is scrub against the blade countless times until it becomes well done. The blade’s counters and corners are leveled from all angles and sides. The craftsman pays special attention to the edge of the blade and makes it thin and steep from both sides.
10. Joining blade to handle
Here blade is joined/fixed to the handle. A hole is first drilled into the solid handle material by a 10mm drill machine. Then the tang is red heated and inserted into the same hole which burns the handle material and leaves a trail of smoke. Traditional laha glue is pressed and squeezed inside the hole and filled up. Then the tang I inserted into the hole and secured to the handle.
A very traditional method is performed to sharpen a khukuri. It is obviously very time consuming but effective. It requires two persons and a homemade wheel-chain rotary appliance to complete the act. The device uses a 10-12” hard wheel made from the mixture of laha, fine sand and tiny particles of white river stones. The mixture is cooked and stirred for several hours until it is perfectly blended to each other. Then it is spilled in a round iron frame and dried up until it is rock hard. The craftsman grinds the edge of the khukuri against the wheel on both sides to trim the bevel and sharpen the edge while his associate pulls the chain to spin the wheel from the other side. Water is regularly poured on the edge to calm the temperature generated from the friction. The edge is checked time and again until it is very sharp.
12. Grinding (preparing) the edge
During this traditional sharpening process the edge of the blade is repeatedly checked over and over in order to get required sharpness. The craftsman regularly deeps the blade into water and also spills fine sand particles over the edge and again grinds in the sharpening wheel. Here water controls the heat generated from grinding and makes sure hardness is not withdrawn from the edge where as fine san particles helps to trim down the edge smoothly.
13. Shining / Polishing
This is the last stage of the making in which the khukuri is finished and polished (shinned) skillfully. The blade and handle both are finished by applying various grits of sand blasters and papers (lower to higher). The finisher uses 2-3 HP Buff Machine and does 4-5 sets of various steps to get the fine finishing. He has to be very cautious not to overdo the job as overheating may ruin the hardness of the blade making it soft and fragile.