HI underwater torture testing: or The evolution of a working blade

Howard Wallace

Feb 23, 1999
Red Flower and I recently took off for a vacation month down under. We flew out during a break in the snowstorms in the Pacific Northwest, into some fine summer weather in Victoria and Tasmania. We missed most of the snowstorms and the flooding in Washington. We had a great time down under, and we flew back home just before the 120 F+ heat waves and the fires started in Victoria. One of the towns we visited was completely wiped out by fire a few days after we left. It seemed we were hopping from point to point on the globe just ahead of the bad weather.

Coming back to our place in Washington we’d left for a month, some things needed tending to. In particular, there was a branch partly broken, and hanging off one of our trees. I went to the toolbox in the bed of my truck to get the 15” AK and cut the branch down.

It was then that I discovered that sometime during the rainy Pacific Northwest winter the seals on the toolbox had failed and it was completely full of stinky water. The water had apparently been there for some time, judging from the smell and the deterioration of all the supplies within. I dredged everything out and threw it on the lawn to drip before trashing it. Fire extinguisher, first aid kit, emergency blankets, canned food, everything went into the trash as it was not worth the trouble and risk of trying to resuscitate these items.

But there was 1 thing I couldn’t throw away. The 15” AK. This was the first khukuri I got from Bill, the one that had started my relationship with HI. It was made in shop 1, before HI had their own facilities. Bill and Kami Sherpa inspected those shop 1 blades to ensure they were up to HI quality standards before they went out. I must have bought it in the early or mid 90’s. I can’t remember the time exactly. It’s been riding in the back of my truck since then, seeing hard use and always uncoddled. It looked pretty bad now though. The sheath was slimy and stinking. The khukuri was stuck in the sheath, and the metal that could be seen was covered with a thick layer of red rust.


So I put it in my garage to drip out for awhile.

Today I went out to examine the knife. With a little work I was able to get it out of the sheath. The entire blade was covered with a coating of red rust. Karda and chakma were in the same shape. The sheath was still serviceable but it stunk to high heaven. If I had 300 miles of jungle to cross and I needed some way to carry my knife I have no doubt it would have served the purpose. However, since I live around people and could see no way to get rid of the awful smell, I threw away the sheath.



Next came a scrubdown with a steel wire pad. 5 minutes of this took the red rust off the khukuri, and the accessories, and also the slime off the horn handles. Under the red rust was a layer of black oxide, fairly uniform.

Then I took the AK out to the back yard and beat the heck out of it against a hardwood round from an old apple tree. I wanted to see if the knife had lost any of its integrity. It it was going to fail there was no point in spending more time on cleaning it up. However, the AK was rock solid. Not a bit of play in the handle, and no tang failures despite sharp hard blows from every which direction. It was, apparently, worth a bit more care.

Next came 5 minutes with a scotch-brite pad. During this time the horn handles came off both the karda and the chakma. I had not torture-tested these little tools against the hardwood like I did the khukuri. The failure of these two handles pointed out the clear superiority of the full peened down rat-tail tang on the AK. The implements that had just been “glued” in the handles did not stand up to the long immersion. The little tools are put aside for now. Perhaps one day I’ll glue them back into their handles, but perhaps not. I rarely use them.


The 5 minutes with the scotch-brite pad took off some of the black oxide, leaving a interesting and beautiful pattern on the blade.

Another three minutes was devoted to putting an edge back on the knife with a coarse slack belt on the belt sander. Finally, 2 minutes on the crock sticks gave it a fine working edge again.


The blade is fully functional now. I’ll put a rubber edge guard on it for carry. As Bill would have said, it’s got at least a hundred years of work left in it.
Last edited:
Jun 11, 2006
Glad you were able to save it. There are ways you can build a sheath for the khukuri to replace the original.


Got the Khukuri fevah
May 9, 2002
Thanks for the story, Howard. It's always good to see you posting:) My best to Red Flower as well:thumbup:
Nov 28, 2008
We had a great time down under, and we flew back home just before the 120 F+ heat waves and the fires started in Victoria. One of the towns we visited was completely wiped out by fire a few days after we left.

Glad you got to see those beautiful parts of Oz before they were destroyed.

The human death toll currently stands at 201 plus countless numbers from all the various species both native and introduced.:(

That some of the fires were acts of arson is the hardness thing to bear.:mad:

Like your AK, I hope these parts of Australia experience a renewal too.
Feb 21, 2001
It's great to see you posting!:thumbup: Cool story. Say hello to Red Flower for me.



Feb 6, 2009
Yes, pics would be good. but somehow i think you were not bothered to take pictures at the time.
Maybe just pics of the finished product?
Nov 26, 2002
Howard, you're a sight for a sore mind.

Great story. Always seems to me, that the ________s (fill with whatever) that one has rescued/salvaged/resurrected are the ones that mean the most. I like new things, but what I LOVE are the things that I've been able to bring back to a useful condition, after someone else has written them off.

Lot of people around, who can make a great sheath for you...
May 18, 1999
Osiyo Howard!

At least the 15" HI AK fared much, much, better than "Miss Belvedere" the fully equipped 1957 Plymouth Belvedere that was encased in a time capsule that was opened here in Tulsa two years ago.:thumbup: ;) :D

Jul 30, 2004
They only get better with use...

(thread veer warning) Yvsa, shame about that car! Never heard that one. :(

(thread re-veer) Howard, the first khuk I ever saw was in the 1970s... my dad's best friend, who had been stationed in India, was using it underwater to cut hydrilla weeds in a South Florida lake. Later it was cleaned, dried, oiled and hung back up on the wall with all his other overseas art. It was 30 years later, here, I finally knew what that way-cool curved blade was called. :D

Sep 2, 2006
Sorry about your tools, I am happy to hear that you rejuvenated the khukri.
Good to hear, is a good feeling in the derth of wynter:thumbup:

Jan 13, 2001
Good to see you back Howard. Interesting impromptu test you had there. I know I don't have to say it, but HI khukuris always seem to prove their worth. BTW did you take any pictures?