When I was in primary school circa 2000, there was a little internet cafe close to my school that someone ran from their private residence in a double garage converted to house a good amount of, what was at the time, good gaming PC’s. They had this special where for ZAR60.00 (AU$6), you could game for 12 hours from 6PM to 6AM the next morning. We would head there on a Friday evening armed with fizzy drinks and snacks and play Counter Strike and Battlefield 1942 all through the night. Times were good.
That experience cemented a firm love for the Battlefield series of games and over the years I’ve played every one that they brought out (and still do till this day). In 2011, EA Games released Battlefield 3 which was a modern combat version of the game and owning a premium pass gave you access to something that I’ve been obsessed with ever since: The ACB-90 combat knife!
I loved everything about this knife’s profile from the first day I laid eyes on it: The modern profile, contrasting accents and simple yet efficient design. Over the years some companies abroad have taken a stab (punny) at making these available for sale in the real world, but the quality was never up to the standard that I would expect. At least, it didn’t meet the standards that my mind had conjured up over the years that I had dreamed about it. So I always said to mysef: One day, I’ll make myself a proper one of these…
Fast forward to 2022 and I suddenly find myself in possession of a forge, anvil, belt grinder and several other key tools that make the production of such a blade a possibility! Naturally it ought to be made from a proper carbon steel that can be hardened and tempered to stand up to the abuse which, in my hands, will be a bush craft knife. Given that I’m only at the very beginning of my knife making journey however, I have opted to acquire a good selection of affordable alternatives in order to be able to produce quantity over quality during my learning phase.
The aim is to create a knife as close as possible to the actual thing, noting that no official physical 1:1 example exists globally and in that spirit I shall scour the web for a high-res image that can be scaled according to reference images, printed out and laid over my chosen stock for production.
We start off with a couple of key ingredients:
1x Farrier Rasp which will serve as the knife steel
1x Kmart Acacia Breadboard which will serve as the handle material (Note: The actual blade likely has a black canvas micarta handle or similar, but putting expensive scales on a cheap blade seems like a crime. Plus the raw farrier rasp just works so well with wood, so we’ll use that as a creative interpretation)
1x Set of mosaic pins (Made from a selection of tubes I found at the hobby shop)
1x Set of orange micarta G10 liners (These will be another creative interpretation of the orange medical tape wrapped around the handle of the one in the game, which may look cool but is impractical for my intended use. Also, I made these myself. So I call them “DIY-carta)
Firstly the rasp goes into the forge to be annealed. This is a rather quick process where I heat it up to the point where it becomes non-magnetic, then either leave it in the forge to cool down, or alternatively in a nice little bed of vermiculite I have sitting in the garage. While the rasp cools down, I look for some decent reference images online and scale them appropriately for the task at hand.
Now that the rasp has cooled down, it takes a trip to the belt sander to get it’s course surfaces ground down to as smooth of a finish as you can hope to get from something so prickly. On the flipside, it does create some very unique patterns on the blade which I really like. With the image scaled and cut out, I stick it to my annealed rasp and trace the edges with a chalk marker. Then comes with fun bit: 750 hours of careful grinding with a 18V angle grinder sporting a cutting disc. (Editor’s Note: I started making this knife before I had my 2×72 belt grinder. In hindsight, this step would have been way easier after the fact.)
Once I’m happy with the profile, next up is the bevels which on this knife, is A LOT. 3 to be exact, all meeting together at the tip in an upside down tanto style. The gut hook adds to the complication as it needs to be both sharp and strong. Thankfully at this point I had my belt grinder and the bevels were a bit easier to achieve on proper 2×72 ceramic belts. With the blade complete, it goes back into the forge and then the oven to be hardened and tempered. While that’s going on, I turn my attention to the handle.
I picked up a little Ozito band saw for AU$10 off Facebook for this step. It works a treat with reducing the donor Kmart Acacia bread board to knife scales. I glue up the very basic mosaic pins and make some DIY-carta liners using a couple of orange pages from my son’s colouring pad, saturated with slow curing epoxy and squashed between two purpose-cut MDF panels covered in clingwrap. Finally, I glue the wooden knife scales to the surface of the G10 liner using the same epoxy.
Back to the blade, this now revisits the belt grinder sporting a very fine grit belt at a very low speed in order to not ruin the temper. After that it greets the buff covered in green rouge and then the secret weapon: G96 cold bluing fluid! Once it’s blued, I mask up the blade and buff the primary bevel to meet the look of the final product we’re going for.
After this, the rough scales get epoxied onto the blade together with the mosaic pins and I use every clamp at my disposal to keep it tight and still overnight as it cures. Finally, we revisit the belt grinder to profile the handle and smooth it out before slapping a couple of coats of linseed oil onto it.
Et voila! Our reimagined ACB-90 is born! Honestly, this was another one of those projects where even I am surprised by the outcome. I just love it. I don’t know if there’s anything I would change about this blade. It’s exactly what I wanted, thick and sturdy and apart from my time, cost literally nothing to make.
In the movie 22 Jump Street, the drama teacher says something that was profound to me the first time I heard it, regardless of how much of a non-event it was in the actual movie:
“You’ll never know what you can’t achieve until you don’t achieve it”Drama Teacher, 22 Jump Street (2014)
Don’t be afraid to try new things, regardless of how difficult or complicated they may seem. You might surprise yourself and end up with a cool knife in the process 🙂
DISCLAIMER: Please remember that every country / state / region / jurisdiction has different laws when it comes to the production, ownership and carrying of knives and these laws are often dependent and/or differing between knife types and sizes. Please keep this in mind at all times when considering attempting the above.
As a fully licenced, active and experienced hunter, I have taken certain precautions as part of the production process to ensure that the produced knife meets the requirements of a bush craft knife where I am located.