When I was at the Mother Earth News Faire in Pennsylvania a few months ago, I bought a handmade knife from a mountain man — a guy who dressed in buckskins and made a variety of hunting, trapping, and outdoor tools. The blade was carbon steel, which I prefer over stainless steel. It’s softer and easier to sharpen, even if you have to care for it so that it doesn’t rust.
He told me that it was a Russell Green River blade, so I tracked it down, and ordered about half a dozen different shaped blades (from TrackOfTheWolf.com); they’re pretty inexpensive, $9-$10 each. I made the first one in the last few days with some manzanita wood I gathered (and dried out) a year or so ago. It’s a bit crude, but I learned a lot and am going to make handles for some paring and skinning knives.
Perhaps the best way to start would be to buy one of the kits, which include a blade, wooden handles, and rivets. I’d also recommend getting the pamphlet, Basic Knife Assembly, by Ryan and Roger Gale.
Another supplier is Jantz Supply, which describes the Russell (made in America) blades:
“Green River knife blades, the same Russell knife patterns (circa 1834) now available to knife makers. All patterns have a rugged handmade look and can boast the unsurpassed sharpness that earned Green River knives their reputation around the campfires and chuck wagons of the Old West, as well as in the kitchens of our grandfathers and great grandmothers. Heavy-gauge high-carbon steel blades feature full-tang construction and edges that are hand-ground and hand-honed to extreme sharpness. Available in kits which include the blade, Dymondwood handle material, and brass cutlery rivets. Easy to complete, popular with many Boy Scout troops as a group project.”