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Make a River Cane Knife and Spear

April 13, 2012

I’m putting the manufacture of the river cane knife and the river cane spear into one post because they are made the same way.  The only real difference is that the spear is just bigger and longer than the knife.

I like to make my cane knives and spears out of river cane.  River cane is native to North America.  It does not grow as large as bamboo but it has thicker walls and is stronger than bamboo of the same size.  If you don’t have access to river cane, bamboo will do.  The lighter canes, like switch cane, are too small and thin walled to work for these projects.

For the cane knife you will need to select a cane that is about an inch in diameter.  It is best if the cane is already dead and dry.  If it is not, you can still use it, you’re knife just won’t be as strong.  When you have secured a piece of cane, cut a section of it that is about a foot long.  I usually cut it so that a cane joint will be on the back of the knife handle, kind of like a pommel.  Pictured below: Cane section for making a knife

Leave the cane totally intact for about six inches.  This will be the knife handle.  Starting just below the handle use a knife, flint flake, or grinding stone, and cut lengthwise to remove about two-thirds of the cane.  This will be the knife blade.  Cut or grind the blade to a point and work the edge of the blade to sharpen it.   Pictured below: Two views of the finished cane knife

That’s all there is to making a cane knife.  The edge of this knife is surprisingly sharp.  My son was working on a bamboo bow a couple of weeks ago and he accidentally slipped and ran his hand down the edge of the cane.  It laid his hand open pretty good.  A cane knife won’t cut through bone, but it can easily be used to butcher and slice meat.

To make a cane spear you follow the same procedure.  Make the spear out of a piece of cane that is six or seven feet long.  Cut the spear point on the big end of the cane.  I usually try and work it so that there is a joint right at the base of the spear point.  This seems to make the point a little stronger.  Pictured below: Two views of the blade on a bamboo spear 

Don’t give either of these to your kids to play with.  They may look like toys, but they can do some serious damage.


  1. Alina permalink

    I’ve been following your blog for a while, and I really like this walkthrough here. I adapted it to make an atlatl dart. I used sinew to secure the fletching (your website was where I learned to process it). I make make the blade of the dart longer to be more in keeping with your design, but it throws well now and is lethally sharp:




    • Glad you are enjoying my posts. I have not tried making a cane atlatl dart with a self point. I have always inserted a hardwood foreshaft, but you have inspired me to try it with a self point. I’m going to play with the idea this weekend. Thanks for the tip. Hank

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