What is a Bone Knife? How to Make One?

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Let’s say you lost in the backwoods where survival is becoming challenging for you, as the supplies that you have are just not proving to be enough. Luckily, you have found a source of fresh water supply, have set up a DIY shelter, and have ignited a fire. Well, all the primary needs have already been taken care of!

Now, you feel the need for the most useful survival tool, a knife! In this condition, where survival is the topmost priority, a bone knife can be your ideal combat knife. Using a bone from the surrounding animal carcass, you can make this knife.

Well, this is something that outdoorsmen traditionally used to do. In most cases, a single large bone from an animal carcass was enough to craft this knife.

The tool did not need any kind of ammo. However, its durability used to decrease with each use and was then repaired with one bone when the durability was entirely over. It was not possible to scrap, dismantle, or melt this tool in a Forge. However, modern versions have different characteristics. Let’s find out more about this knife.

In case are looking for a boning knife for your kitchen please read our boning knife guide here

Overview of the Bone Knife

bone knife

A bone knife is a type of survival and kitchen tool with a sharp point, a sharp edge, and a wide blade. It is useful for discarding the bones from the meat of dead animals. As the name indicates, the handle or the blade is typically made using a bone. This bone usually comes from the remains of naturally deceased animals such as the chin and leg.

Unlike a boning knife, this one usually has a wider blade but the length is overall shorter. A bone knife is a Melee tool that is simple to make using large bones. It is among the handful of tools made for harvesting useful items during survival, such as big bones, hides, fat, and meat from dead beings.

The blade of a bone knife is usually 5.0 to 6.5-inch long, although a few models may extend up to 9.5 inches. It may not be as thick as the usual kitchen or butcher knives.

The handle usually has a surface texture to ensure an attractive look as well as a better grip. In modern times, the most common method to create this texture on the bone is jigging.

Herein, a particular jigging machine is used wherein the customized portions cut the bone such that grooves are formed into it. The unit runs using a rocking motion to generate a predetermined pattern. This pattern features a distinguished appearance.

Once the bone is jigged, it is usually dyed using a myriad of colors for making bone handles. For handles, bone as a material is believed to be lasting, attractive, and relatively easy to shape. It is the commonly used material for pocket knife models.


Interestingly, the first bone knife is found to be 90,000 old. It was founded as a single bone artifact in a Moroccan cave, which is considered to be the most ancient, unique bone tool belonging to the Aterian culture thriving during the stone age, as per a new study in 2018 reported by sciencenews.org.

The study was published in the PLOS ONE journal by Abdeljalil Bouzouggar, who is the geoarchaeologist at Morocco’s National Institute of Archaeological and Heritage and Silvia Bello, who is a researcher at the London’s Natural History Museum.

The discovery of this knife made using an animal bone in Morocco indicates the ancient rise of mastered tool making in northern Africa. The build of this tool is distinct from sub-Saharan artifacts of the same era, indicating the presence of exclusive technological diligence in North Africa.

Recovered from Dar-es Soltan 1 cave nestled inland and far from the Atlantic coast, the tool was made from a big mammal rib. Upon close examination, it was found that this knife was designed and sharpened by employing a myriad of modifications to be over 120 mm long.

The layer having this bone knife is around 90,000 years ago, which is approximately 55,000 years post the advent of the culture. Both the knife and the technology employed differ from the bone tools of that era in South Africa but analogous to the two tools found in Morocco’s El Mnasra cave of the same period.

Such special bone tools are the indicators of cognitive intricacy, although they are not well understood with the prevailing technological complex at that time. The authors have endorsed that the new technology at that time may be the result of changing resources.

According to Silvia Bello, the Aterians were specialized in employing an intricate and controlled chain of actions for making special bone knives.

Another bone knife as an artifact has been found, which belongs to the early 17th century. Found in Jamestown that was the original place of the initial permanent English settlement in America, this knife was the critical tool for eating. During that time, hardly a few spoons were recovered with no indications for forks. The handle

The handle was simple and made using sheep metatarsals. It is unique to the archeological collection. It was undoubtedly owned individually as the symbol of high status, wealth, and prosperity.

Composed of bone, the end that has an acorn shape is adorned on the sides. There is a small ivory inlay flanked by a thin ring made of copper. The grip is embellished on sides with cut and stained quatrefoil flowers. Each of the petals has an ivory inlay.


A bone knife usually has a sharp and thin blade for discarding the bones and skin. The unique curves on the blade allow separating bones and joints from the meat. The level of flexibility is such that you can make precise, thin cuts.

A bone knife is also used for cutting soft plants, vegetables, and fruits.

In the unlikely scenario of a zombie apocalypse, It can also act as a short-range tool to slay down an average zombie with 13 hits to the body or three hits to the head – just kidding 🙂

Winterbottom Bone: Popular Royal Handles

Winterbottom bone may seem strange to those who are not the collectors of antique cutlery. Nevertheless, those who know it are aware of its uniquely grooved and stained appearance on knives. The collectors know this handle style, as it comes with distinct cuts, a result of jigging. Some of these handles also come with distinguishing coloring.

The Winterbottom’s bone is a uniquely styled product that is durable enough to give lasting knife handles. Samuel Winterbottom was the original bone cutter to make this substance. This indicates why the product is named so.

The distinctive appearance of Winterbottom’s bone was commonly employed for making the handles of knives by the oldest cutlery makers of America. It was widely seen in the pocket, table, and hunting cutleries during the first half of the 20th century.

While the Queen Cutlery of Pennsylvania’s Titusville was the primary user of this handle material, others such as Imperial, Ka-Bar, and Camillus also made knives using this material for handles. ​

During 1885, the English man, Samuel, came to the United States. He learned how to cut bones from his father. At the beginning of his career, Samuel made Winterbottom handles all types of knives. The underlying notion was to create a pattern for retaining texture and holding the knife with grip.

During the 1960s, the hike in the bone price made the Winterbottom bone knives quite expensive. Further, due to the limitations on bone imports that the government started levying, the cutlery producers started using synthetic options for making knife handles.

These circumstances resulted in selling the original knife to one of the clients. Collectors can buy antique pocket knives having these handles, which are 70, 80, or 90 years old. Further, new knives having Winterbottom handles are available.

Thus, Winterbottom jigged bone is over 100 years old. Some of the coolest models of Winterbottom are from the Queen factory in Titusville.

How to Make Your Own Bone Knife

In case you are in the wild where you cannot buy any knife, you can go ahead and make your bone knife. Just follow the below-given steps:

  1. Find a suitable bone from the surrounding remains of a big mammal. It is wise to pick a leg bone for making a bone knife. Hunting is just not preferable for this purpose.
  2. Next, locate a solid flat rock that will act as a table for smashing.
  3. Look for another rock whose size is such that you can keep in your hand. Consider choosing a round rock. This rock will be a smashing tool.
  4. Now, put the bone on the flat rock or table.
  5. Using the round rock or smasher, shatter the bone.
  6. Select a segment having a sharp end from the fragments that are the result of shattering. The section chosen should be around the size that you intend for your blade. Further, ensure that there are at least six more inches available to be the knife’s handle.
  7. Rub the blade area quickly against the flat rock. Continue to do so until you get the desired shape and sharpness for the blade. That’s it!

Here is a video describing the entire process.



A bone knife was mainly used in the kitchen as a chef’s knife for cooking and outdoors as a combat knife for survival. It’s an excellent choice to add it in your collection.