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Picture of TOUCAN - TOtally Useless Companion Anyone (should) Need

'It's a particular kind of satisfaction when a tool that you designed and built works surprisingly well and there's still margin for growth to make it better.'

I wrote this a few days ago, after I tested this new blade desgin. The origin of this came from the eternal discussion between axe junkies & machete/parang folks on which is kind of the best tool to have with you 'if you had just one to choose'. Just one. Some will swear by their compact forest axe, some by their sami knife and others by their kukri. The discussion goes on, and despite the fact much - for not to say everything - depends on the environment in which you're gonna use it, the question stays open 'if you just had one to choose one'. Let's say on a blindfolded mission, destination nowhere & everywhere. Think about it, it's quite entertaining. And quite frustrating, sometimes.

As a no-concessions-guy I've never been into that discussion, actually, but I love the idea thinking about it. I carry my Hultafors bushcraft knife, a custom no-name carving axe, my Jauregi forest axe and a jungle blade my dad forged for my 10th birthday almost all day and no tree resisted to all this firepower ever. And not one trip in the woods was ever unsatisfied, also. But, imagine, if you really had one tool to carry, what would it be?

Let's be honest. Sometimes – even some many times - a parang or machete ain't just enough, and sometimes that good ol' blister & beer soaked forest axe ain't just enough, either - no concessions on that bushcraft knife btw.

Recently I was in a good mood for scetching - again - and one idea led to another beer which gave me the idea of just one beer more and before I realised it I was getting really serious about a tool that could be ànd axe ànd parang. It had to be a jungle-proof device that was able to clear, dig, cut, limb, split & carve at the same time. And open a bottle. It had to be simple & compact. And easy to make. Quite a lot of parameters, though, but at the glance of the first stars I felt quite satisfied about the little bird I just designed.

I named it 'toucan' – for obvious reasons.

The bird, you know, not the rock star.

This project is still in progress, and therefor I need your help. Are you folks giving this any potential or does it seem just another fail in tool-making history? Think about it, and let me know. Many thanx!

Step 1: Overview

Picture of Overview

The toucan is basicly a handle with a pivotable heavy blade. In 'open' position it's a jungle knife, or parang, whatever, and in 'closed' it's a small axe.

The blade is attached to the handle with a double safety - a device that's still in development btw. In the first tucan (see pic) it was a solid bushing and a bolt for extra security. In version 2.0 the 'eye' of the bird became more complex for extra safety.

It's not a one handed folder. It's not even a folder in the first place. It's just an articultation.

To go from axe to parang you loosen/remove the bolts with an allen key.

Very basic. But very sturdy.

Pics: Toucan 1.0

I am you not have access to a milling machine?

This would be a simple part to cut with my bridgeport. It has CNC capability so much easier than using a Water cutter. Water cutters are great for cutting out multiple flat pieces. Same as laser/plasma cutting.

But the mill can chamfer all the sides and the drilled holes, also do exacting different level cuts that seem to be required. Also, you and everyone else is more likely to know someone with a milling machine than someone with a water jet cutter.

bartworker (author)  taibhsegaeilge1 year ago

Excellent idea! But no, I don't have a milling machine - I'm an old school woodworker you know... Thanx for your advice, I'll refine my search field in my area to find someone with such a toy ;)

I wish you all the best with your project. I too make knives, it's an enjoyable hobby. I am personally working on new mechanisms for working steampunk style blades with working pneumatics and possibly hydraulic movements.

Best wishes,


bartworker (author)  taibhsegaeilge1 year ago

Very nice to meet you Pete! Did you post on this site? I'm gonna have a look, I'm really curious about your projects! Axe on!

I'm sorry, I just don't have time to be loading photographs onto here, I wouldn't know where I would begin anyhow.
I am a bit old school, ("a bit" being an understatement!) My wife bought me this tablet, and I am just about able to message people. But, as you can see....4 months late. I don't hold out hope for my technological advances :-)

Super Work...Congrats...

ToolboxGuy1 year ago

Lovely piece, but I definitely have reservations about a blade that can swivel like this.

On the safety bolt to hold the blade in place, have you thought of possibly using a hitch pin, making it easier and faster to switch positions, and no key to carry around.

bartworker (author)  AlexanderM1941 year ago

You know, despite the fact that I love your idea and I agree about the time it would save, those two bolts are really functional. Old-school, but functional. It's the kind of tool that will be heavily abused - and it's built for that - and those two bolts solidify blade & handle as hard as possible. Adding a 'normal' pivot - as in classic folders - or safety pins will make the tool less sturdy and more apt to break, my opinion. I've been really abusive with a lot of folding knives, and after the hard work they all became less sturdy. It's a decision to make, agreed, but I'll go for the heaviest duty on this one ;)

Combining the comments of AlexanderM194 and ZaRue... don't think about the safety pin as a replacement for what you already have, reconsider the hinge methodology entirely. For example, the cotter key on a bolt doesn't take much abuse - the nut does all the work of holding things tight, the cotter key just makes sure that everything else can't change positions (prevents the nut from loosening in the example, or in the Toucan it prevents the hinge from shifting from one locked position to another). Thoughts?

I like this. But it seems like it is too big, so a modified one?
ZaRue1 year ago

To reduce the strain and potential enlargement of the pivot and safety pins, what about adding a second safety pin? The triangle is one of the strongest and most stable structures.

And/or instead of using a round pivot point, what if the blade had 'fixed' positions using a shaped central pin and socket? The tool could then be made with a triangle of locking connection points to secure it. (using the hex key fasteners.)

The wood on the handle looked more 'comfortable' to me and also gave me an idea as to where you could include a space for the key and maybe a few survival items like flint, fishing hook with line (and a bandage or two just in case ;) )

PKM1 year ago

Making the bit by your fingers blunt means it looks like you've lost a lot of potential machete blade. Would it be wrong to have a symmetrical handle (like a mallet), and the opposite side of the blade sharp? That way no slicing your finger in axe mode, longer machete blade, and if the "top" of the axe is sharp but the bottom blunt you can use it as a Froe. You could call it "Tou and froe" :)

ZaRue PKM1 year ago

Or a "Tucan Froe" :)

MoparDude1 year ago

Beautiful & functional, Great work, I'm jealous.

bartworker (author)  MoparDude1 year ago

Thanx a lot! Don't be jealous, it was just the beer... ;D

Just a thought: if you swapped the parang edge to the opposite side so that the parang's spine faces your fingers when in the hatchet configuration, then you could use that parang edge--while in the hatchet configuration--as a froe.
jedexkid411 year ago
So, as far as the locking mechanism alan key, could you make a hallow in the handle Instead of the multiple holes? Then just use that to hold the key, stops the runaway, and adds a way to store something like a hone or firestarter.
Some kind of bolster would also be nice.
Im not a metal worker, i just like knives and other bladed items.
CarlosL2101 year ago

Warning: bye fingers!

I like it but it looks like you can slice the fingers as there is no bolster ans the sharp is all the way down, to the handle. It certrainly is cool looking.

GregS2781 year ago

now I think you're on to something, if you need any one to give a review on it.

You can send me one and I can make a video review I'm known for putting

things to there breaking point! Great build great idea!

bartworker (author)  GregS2781 year ago

Thanx Greg, I guess that makes two of us! ;) I tried to break it today - see vid - and I'll do it all over this week, lol!

dimdiode1 year ago

Very nice. If it was a commercially available product I would buy it - with a couple of mods. The production run would need to have a glass-filled nylon handle, and it would need to close entirely to make a safer carrying tool. It would need to open and close with spring latches. But as a prototype, this is really excellent.

Probably better off going with the fiberglass type handle used in most good modern day hammers. Relieves stress and shock when making hard strikes. It would make it a lot more of a comfortable tool to use, and is more sturdy as a hand tool material. Also it is has great machinability for a fantastic finish. I have used it myself in projects.

If nothing else, the aluminium really needs some sort of coating to make it a practical tool to use in all conditions. Aluminium draws heat away from the body very quickly, not a great choice for gripping.

Just my opinion, no offence intended.

bartworker (author)  dimdiode1 year ago

Thanx for your suggestions. Personally I'd like to keep this as basic & sturdy as possible. Not evolving is going backwards, though, so you gave some really nice ideas in the direction this project might take, so many thanx to you.

I find Instructables site to be inspirational and rewarding, because you can find so many innovative and smart inventions on here. I recognise your need to keep things basic and sturdy, it certainly is the case that joints and hinges are points of weakness. I look forward to seeing where this goes, I think it has great potential.

Alex 2Q1 year ago

Awesome project(s)!

I like both designs but visually I find the v1 more appealing due to the handle scales, maybe using micarta or G10 would benefit the handling. That way you could also create a hollowed out section in the handle for accessories such as a spare nut/bolt and or sharpening stone. Another design addition could be to extend the blade area to the rear creating a small flat area that could be used as a hammer.

Anyways all the best of luck for the metal contest (you got my vote)

Using alcohol as a coolant helps when cutting alumine with jigsaw. I use calcohol based cleaner in a spray bottle. Also dipping blade to wax time after time prevents blade to be stucked.

Why not just use water?

TorbenB71 year ago

Nice project. Personally, I am sceptical to moving parts in wilderness equipment (axe man myself), but I see where you are going.

I would suggest turning the blade around, so the parang edge is away from your knuckles when chopping.

This way, it can also be used for splitting wood like a froe (

If you then want to go fully foldable you can have 0° = folded 180°= parang 270° = Axe, very rough sketch attached :-) Light grey lines are supposed to show sharp edges.

bartworker (author)  TorbenB71 year ago

Hey axeman! Thanx for the froeisation of this tucan - frucan sounds nice also, btw ;) I don't think I'll go for a fully foldable version in the first episode of this project since the more the blade's centered the better, but the idea of a full 180° utilisation is inspiring, thanks a lot!

The safety bolt on constant chopping will curve out the hole in aluminium in no time, and if it eventually snaps off you'll have the "heavy blade" swinging on the handle unpredictably.

But even before that, on blade becoming more and more loose, it'll also eat a piece of handle it sits against in "axe" position, and even if there won't be sharp edge right against it it can pinch the skin on finger very well.

The other problem, I can see is next: imagine, you're using it as an axe and the edge on the rounded section is a bit dull; you're hitting a round log, let's call it at a sharp angle; the the blade will tend to slide along it pushing the whole "axe" toward the hand... abd there's a blade right against your fingers.

What I can suggest is, maybe, to insert a steel plate to reiforce the aluminium basis where the blade is mounted. Also adding a protruding "guard" element on front side (when in axe position) of the handle to create more surface contacting against the blade, but also and mainly, protecting the fingers from sliding towards the blade. I see no reason on having that on the opposite side since that corner on the blade is already sufficient enough on stopping the blade.

bartworker (author)  Waldemar Sha1 year ago

Thanx Waldemar for your honest comment & reflections. I've been wondering about it and even though I'm not convinced about some of them - that safety bolt weak spot issue for exemple - the only way to find out is to put this baby to a series of severe tests in the field. I agree about the potential-cut-off-finger-issue - which I also stated in the i'ble. So, let's get that blade done and set course to those misty mountains...

I'm glad that you're going into experiments but yet self critical enough about the results, and open for others opinion. It's a bit hard for me to judge since I didn't held the thing in my own hands, or used it on practice, so, maybe, some of my arguments are invalid afterall. Also I'm not a knife maker, but I was researching on the topic for while at some point. Anyway, good luck on improving of the design, it can be a neat thing afterall.

bartworker (author)  Waldemar Sha1 year ago

That's one of the reasons why I loved this site in the first place - there's always someone around who'll think about an issue or problem you'll maybe only discover by accident. I asked for critical opinions. Compliments are nice but constructive critics can only make this product better. I keep you posted about the progress. In the meantime I salute you, thanx!

Thanks you back!

zposner1 year ago

Such a beautiful project!

bartworker (author)  zposner1 year ago


Gadisha1 year ago

Nice and versatile, seems interesting to design your own tools.

bartworker (author)  Gadisha1 year ago

Thanx, it gets even more interesting when you use them ;)

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