In Kathmandu we did something very interesting. We did a workshop on making khukuris through a company called Backstreet Academy. Khukuris are the Nepali soldiers' knives. The workshop was held in the backyard of a local bladesman named Indra. He was very kind and patient. First we took a piece of hard metal which was from a spare car part, and heated it up to make it softer to cut. We used a hammer and chisel to knock out the rough shape of the knife. We repeatedly heated and hammered the metal to thin it out and get the right shape. This was hard work! After the knife was shaped, we ground it to get it sharp and smooth. Actually only Indra and Dad did this part because the grinding machine spun very fast and this was too dangerous for us to do. To make the knife extra hard, we tempered it. This means that we heated it up until it was red hot then quickly poured water over it to cool it. After this we used another buffering machine to polish it even more. Indra then used a small chisel to make some designs on the knife. The last stage was to put on the wooden handle. We drilled a hole right through the handle so the tang of the knife can go right to the end making it a stronger knife. We melted plastic into the hole to secure the handle when the plastic hardened. The handle was also buffed to make it nice and smooth. Voila, we had our very own shiny khukuri! To show us how sharp it was, Indra shaved Dad's leg hair by running the blade down his leg. I thought Dad was going to get cut but he wasn't.
Khukuris range in size and have a very specific design. The shape of the blade is curved. We learned that this makes it easy to cut off the head of the enemy in one stroke. Apparently the lager ones can cut off a water buffalo's head! The blade also has a notch at the base. This is so the blood hits and notch and drips off the knife without reaching the handle so it does not make it sticky.
I really enjoyed this experience! My favourite part was hammering the metal into the shape of the knife and watching the small flecks of iron fly up into the air. I was amazed that a rusty old piece of metal from a car could turn into a shiny sharp knife. This may be one of my favourite souvenirs from our travels.