A new custom pocket knife

 

 

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Mother of pearl handled Daddy Barlow by American Bladesmith Society Journeyman Smith Mike Christenson. This is a big folder, 8 ¾ inches open and 5 inches closed. The flat ground blade is made from 154 CM and is .091 thick at the ricasso. Workmanship is excellent; the blade has a half stop, and is perfectly centered when closed. The bolsters are cut at a 45 degree angle for a matching bevel on the handle scales to fit under. The knife weighs 5.4 ounces. Mike is a friend of mine and lives in the same mountainous area of North Carolina that I do.

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Dan Warren ABS Mastersmith damascus pocket knife

Here is a folder made by American Bladesmith Society Mastersmith Dan Warren. Dan is from Haywood County in Western North Carolina.

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And here is the man himself.

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Gerber E.A.B LITE folding utility knife

DSC_8703 copyGerber E.A.B LITE folding utility knife

I think the Gerber E.A.B. LITE is one handy little liner lock knife! This well-made tool uses replaceable utility knife blades and has a pocket/money clip. The manufactures specs from the package are:

Closed length: 2.85”

Overall length: 5.10”

Weight: 2.4 oz.

Stainless steel handle

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On my example the liner lock works well and there is no play at what I will call the blade holder and handle juncture when open. In fact the blade holder to handle fit when open is better by far than the blade to handle fit of many much more expensive knives that I have owned. This knife is currently available for as low as $12.99 if you shop around and that seems like a bargain to me.

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I get mine at http://www.amosoutdoors.com/

Kershaw Leek updated

On August 8, 2013 I posted about a Kershaw Leek that I had just received. Link to the original post: https://thenorthedge.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/kershaw-leek/ Since that time I have carried it almost daily and have formed some opinions as to its usefulness and overall desirability to me.

At the time that I first posted about the knife I noted that it was possible for a coin to get wedged between the blade and the handle making the knife difficult to open. Now I have revised that opinion. If I carry the knife in the same pocket as my change, it is not only possible that a coin will work its way between the blade and the handle, it is likely. Dimes are the worst offenders because of their thinness and relatively small diameter. It seems to happen frequently enough that it discourages me from carrying the knife.

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One other thing that I don’t like is the very slick or slippery feel the knife has. I would prefer the handle scales to have some texture.

Other than the fore mentioned issues I like the knife; its keen point is great for digging out splinters and it is of a useful size for opening envelopes or packages, cutting twine or tape, and the other daily tasks that my small folders get used for. Its small size makes it a pleasant knife to carry.

Despite its good points I stopped carrying the Kershaw Leek after less than 5 months because of the coin jamming the blade issue. The annoyance factor is just too much for me to put up with since I own plenty of knives that don’t have this problem.

A little Wade Coulter friction folder knife

DSC_6223-2 copyWade Coulter friction folder

This melding of knifemaking skills and folk art by Wade Coulter is only 5 ¾” overall when open. The antler handle is slotted for the blade which opens and closes smoothly. The pretty little Damascus blade is file worked on the spine and the spine is stamped “W C “.

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I’m not sure that this knife would be classified as a “goblin” folder but the butt of the handle is carved with a grotesque face.

DSC_6233 copyCarving on the butt of the Wade Coulter knife

The custom/handmade knifemakers pie

The big pie of custom/handmade knife makers can probably be said to divided into three segments or wedges of unequal size. There are probably sub groups or wedges as well but for today I will talk only about the three main groups or wedges of the pie.

Group 1: This is the smallest wedge of the pie and often although not always the best and most desired makers come from this group. These are full time makers that get up every day and work at the business of making knives and these makers deserve respect for their strong work ethic, and the skills that they have acquired and honed. It is their profession. Their knives are for sale. In my experience knives from the top level makers in this group sell well in the aftermarket, often at a profit. The best and most successful makers have a good grasp on the three legged stool of art, craftsmanship, and business concerns; they are able to keep the stool level.

Group 2: This is a large wedge of the pie. These makers are part time makers and often they have other jobs or additional sources of income. They don’t rely on knife sales to buy groceries and they make knives when they have the time or when the spirit moves them. Many of these makers are skilled and make very nice knives. Often their production, limited as it may or may not be is for sale. Some of them are able to sell almost everything they make and others not so much.

Group 3: This huge portion of the pie is made up of knife enthusiasts that want to a make a few knives for fun, for the experience, to learn more about knives, or to fit into a group of like-minded people. In my experience few makers in this group ever become highly skilled because they don’t for whatever reasons devote the time necessary to learn, to practice, and to actually complete projects. In my opinion it is unlikely although not impossible that a knife purchased from a maker in this group will appreciate much unless the maker moves up the ladder of wedges of the pie.

I know that sometimes makers in group 1 are concerned that their sales are damaged by makers in groups 2 and 3 pricing their work much lower than group 1 makers think is fair or correct. I doubt there is much validity in that thinking. A part time maker is unlikely to be able to do much damage to the sales of the best known full time makers providing that the full time makers are good business people. What will more likely than not damage sales are poor business practices and not moving forward with the business as it changes.

I don’t have any actual numerical data that supports the above. Like much I have written on this blog it’s just my opinion based on what I have observed. So if you disagree or think I’m full of it that’s fine; you can and should have your own ideas.

copyright Bill North 2013

Steel Silliness

DSC_2296A forged blade cools in the vise. The makers steel rack is in the background.

In the following I am addressing “using” knives and not “collector” knives:

For years I have seen on various internet knife related forums posters who may or may not know what they are talking about, commending the virtues and/or decrying the faults as they see them of various steels used in knives. I know of makers that are so focused on steel and heat treating that they seem to pay little attention to other important aspects of the business of knife making. I have heard claims that some batches of well-known steels are supposedly superior to other lots of the same steel, and maybe that’s so, I certainly have no way of knowing. I have seen makers claim their heat treating methods were superior to other methods, and I have heard makers criticize other maker’s heat treating methods as being wrong, too basic, not advanced, etc.

I used to try to pay attention and attempt to sort through all this input and to get to the bottom line; what steel and heat treatment is best for my knives? Soon I was overburdened with information and I found myself easily being seduced by the promise of a better steel or better heat treatment. I spent more time wading through mountains of others opinions and thoughts on the matter than I did actually using any of my way too many knives. Just when I thought I had it narrowed down to what was the best steel for me, some new steel would be put on the market or some cache of desirable but hard to get steel would be suddenly be discovered and available.

After several years of wasting time at this never to be fruitful “steel silliness” I made a decision that seems obvious now, I’d just use some of my way too many knives and figure out what worked for me. I found out some things, and some of what I found out was not what I expected at all.

One thing that I found out was that in a large percentage of the knives that I tried, the steel and heat treatment seemed adequate or better to meet my daily use requirements. When it comes to the factory made knives that I own, I just have to believe that most factories that produce and sell thousands upon thousands of knives probably have the heat treatment of their chosen steel pretty well down. The factory knives that I own and use work just fine at what I use them for. If they don’t I get rid of them or throw them in a drawer to be forgotten.

As far as custom knives, I suppose most of us have to take the makers word for some things. If I decide to buy a knife from a custom maker, I am probably forced to accept what he says as far as the steel goes and how it is heat treated. That is sort of an uncertain position to be in. My experience with ordering custom knives is that sometimes I get what I think I am going to get, sometimes more, and sometimes less. As far as I am concerned, if fit and finish are sloppy, or promised delivery dates are missed by a lot, then other areas of a makers work could and probably should be suspect. The custom knives that I use I could not be happier with performance wise.

Another thing that I found out was that while the steel is very important so are other things. Now days not being so pre-occupied with the steel selection or how the steel was heat treated I am able to focus on other things. Things like is the knife ergonomically pleasing to me, is it reasonably easy to sharpen, is it’s edge holding and strength acceptable for my purposes, and does it have blade geometry that works best for me at the tasks I would put that knife to? Is it constructed in a manner that is satisfactory to me, and if it is a knife that I am going to carry, does it “carry well”? All these things are important to me in a knife that I am going to use more than casually. And all those things are probably more important that the “steel silliness” that I was caught up in.

copyright Bill North 2013