It is possible to get into knifemaking on the cheap, using all manner of discarded steel. The results vary depending on the quality of the materials and the skill of the maker. In the case of a Mr. “HarryFeltersnatch”, the material was a garage sale flat-iron pry-bar and the skills include heat-treating in a homemade forge, and the by his own admission “ugly ass leather work”.
He spent a whopping $20 on the project, $12 of which were spent on the piece of leather for the sheath. He documented each step with some great photography, including a cool .gif of his makeshift forge in action. You really need to go and check it out if you have a couple of minutes.
Harry obviously knows what he is doing. The forging and quenching sequence of photos and description thereof demonstrate a high level of knowledge and the finished product obviously speaks for itself.
He includes one detail that completely eclipses my knowledge of metallurgy. He mentions testing the steel for magnetization between heating and quench. I understand that it is possible to really mess up a piece of steel if you mistreat it, and I am guessing that magnetization is an indicator of an error in execution, but I do not know why.
Maybe I can get Will to chime in and explain. Or if one of our edged intelligentsia would like enlighten me, by all means please share. Thanks!
And once again… you really do want to go and have a look at this fine bit of work.