Making A Cleaver From A Worn Out Saw Blade Fun & Interesting

I actually did this project a bit more than three years ago, but didn’t put a build article together for it. I also didn’t think that it would get much attention, but at this time the original video has just over 400,000 views.
Also, and this is becoming more of a problem all the time, someone took the original video and made a short animated gif from it (without my consent or permission) and that has been getting hundreds of thousands of views on several popular websites. This is a form of piracy (theft) that is becoming known as “freebooting“, and takes the hard work of video makers without any compensation or even attribution.
I figured the best way to combat this would be to re-edit the video to make it shorter, and rerelease it. While I’m at it, I thought I would put together this article as well, to go into some of the details.

To get started, I made a cardboard template of the cleaver shape that would fit on the blade. The blade is an old one that has been sharpened several times:

marking the blade profile

The body of these blades is normally good quality steel that has been hardened and tempered already. Being careful while cutting it out and shaping it will not destroy this hardening – the trick is to keep it cool. While the steel is hardened, it is not hardened to the same degree that would be optimal for a high quality knife. It will be ideal for a cleaver, since it is used for chopping (mostly) and should have a blade that is tough.

With the basic shape cut out, I welded an extension on for the handle using another piece of the same blade. I also filled the arbor hole with a plug cut from the same steel.
Much of the shaping was done with an angle grinder with a flap sander. I used my belt sander platform for the bulk of the rough smoothing:

sanding the blade smooth

grinding the bevel on the blade

I had a paint tray filled with water to plunge the blade into to keep it cool while doing this.

With the rough shaping done, I figured it was sharp enough for a quick test. I chopped a 1″ maple dowel to a point (and chopped into my bench a number of times as well) and the edge was still keen enough to slice paper:

chopping a maple dowel

cutting paper with the cleaver

The handle is black walnut, glued onto the blade tang with slow setting epoxy. I did something that I’ve never seen before for the pins, maple dowels instead of metal. I made the maple dowels on the spot and glued them in with construction adhesive:

inserting wooden pins through the handle

To protect the handle but keep the real wood feel, I used linseed oil. Several coats were wiped on and rubbed in:

using linseed oil to finish the walnut handle

edge of the handle

The finished cleaver was never meant to be a show piece. Rather, it was made to be used and it has been hundreds of times over the three years since I made it.
To keep the blade in top shape, I wash it, dry it thoroughly and rub on some vegetable oil. This, and regular use, keeps it free of rust.

the finished cleaver handle

The finished cleaver full view

I made a new video on the build: