All posts by Rob

Do It Yourself: Custom Filework on your Knife

For my first project, I decided to use a Kabar TDI(Small) Training knife. Nothing I would cry over if just ended up with ugly gouges. 

First, I measured and marked off the sides with a pencil:

Then I carefully marked a small notch on each pencil mark with a file:

Then I made the notches bigger:

I slowly enlarged the notches and smoothed them out until I ended up with this:



Here are the tools of the trade:

Of the six files, I only ended up using three. I started and opened each notch with the triangular shaped file, I rounded it up with the circular file, and I widened and smoothed it up further with the half-circle file.

To say that I was pleased with the results would be an understatement, but it was definitely a learning experience. Marking properly and starting each notch slowly and evenly is very important. It’s no fun trying to shift the notch once you have already started.

This took about an hour, but I’m sure I could cut down the time with fewer mistakes.

Next time, I’ll leave a little more space between the notches and try some more little embellishments.

Thanks for looking!

Tactical Tomahawks: SOG Fusion Tactical Tomahawk

There are times when a knife or a camp axe is just inadequate for field use or defense.  I have been searching for a tool that could be used as a camp axe and as a defensive weapon for quite sometime and I decided to go with the SOG Fusion Tactical Tomahawk.

  • Blade Length – 2.75″ x .26″
  • Overall Length – 15.75″
  • Weight – 24 oz.
  • Edge – Straight
  • Steel – 420
  • HRC – 51-53
  • Handle – Fiberglass/Nylon
  • Finish – Hardcased Black
  • Sheath – Nylon
  • Country of Origin – China

The SOG Tomahawk incorporates the best of both worlds from a multi purpose tool in the field to an effective weapon for self defense.  When I ordered it I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I had no idea that it would be perfect for nearly any task I could call upon it to do.

Once the box arrived and I unboxed it I was impresed at it’s size and weight for something relatively inexpensive…and when I say this I do not mean cheap. It’s made for hard use from top to bottom.  The blade of the cutting side is very sharp out of the box but not sharp enough for my taste.  I used my Spyderco Sharpmaker to put a wicked razors edge on it. This thing will shave with ease.

The opposite side of the blade is a spike. This is great for breaking glass or to breach doors or as a weapon. The whole thing is very well designed from the composite handle to the reinforcing near the head to prevent breakage under extreme use. I plan to use it mainly as a multi use tool in the field but also as a weapon. It’s perfect for throwing and is light enough to move lightning fast and yet have enough mass to get a good bite on anything it may encounter. I am still evaluating the SOG Fusion Tactical Tomahawk. and plan to torture test it to it’s limit. For under $50 delivered it’s a deal that can’t be beat.

Thanks to James White of Ammosmith.com for this guest post.

Tactical Tomahawks: Strider Hatchet

Strider knives are know for bulletproof knives that can handle insane abuse.  The Strider Hatchet was built in the same vein as their other tools:  Sturdy and bombproof.  This heavy-duty hatchet is more of a breaching tool than a fighting tomahawk style weapon.

Here are the specs on the Strider Hatchet XL(pictured above)according to the Strider website:

  • .250″ Black Oxide Coated S7
  • 550 Cord Wrapped Handle
  • 16.65″ OAL
  • 5.86″ Head
  • 4″ Edge
  • 2lb 3oz
  • Kydex Edge Guard
The more common Strider Hatched (non-XL) is shorter and doesn’t seem to be in production currently.  Here are some specs from the Regular Strider Hatchet:

  • Blade Head Width: 5 1/2″
  • Cutting Edge: 2 1/2″ Serrated bevel
  • Overall Length: 12 5/8″
  • Blade Steel: Crucible S-7- Black Coated
  • Handle Material: Tan Paracord
  • Sheath Description: Kydex Head Cover
All the Strider Hatchets were made from S7 tool steel and feature a Chisel ground primary cutting edge and a sharpened beard.

Cheap Knife Storage Case

Sometimes it can be difficult to find an inexpensive way to store and protect your knives in an organized fashion.  

I have found that pistol magazine storage pouches work extremely well.  The storage pouch you see in these photos was purchased from MidwayUSA for ~$23 and has 8 pouches.

In these photos, you are looking at a Kershaw Blur, a SanRenMu 763, a Benchmade Mini Griptilian, a Spyderco Catcherman, and a Spyderco Endura 4.  These should give you an idea of what will fit and what won’t.  The storage pouch was designed for double-stack pistol magazines up to 5.5″ long.

There are other models for longer knives(or magazines).  For fat knives, I would recommend a pouch designed for AR magazines.

Yes, there are other magazine pouches that may work, but I recommend the California Competiton Works pouches.  The stitching has held up to my carrying them on road trips across the country, numerous range visits, and general rough handling.   These pouches are often carried with a full load of full magazines.  With my XDm9 mags, that means >150 rounds.  Not an insignificant load.

California Competition Works has a website, but it is extremely difficult to navigate and doesn’t have as many photos as the MidwayUSA site.  The prices are pretty much the same in either place.

Here is a link to the specific model photographed here.

Confusing Flashlight Designations

I think flashlight manufacturers and marketers need to make their designations a little clearer.  Maybe include a hint as to the battery type or count in the name.

I don’t have any hard and fast rules, but anything would be better than a list of seemingly jumbled combinations of letters and numbers.

Sure, when you finish learning and memorizing the product naming pattern of your favorite flashlight manufacturer, you feel smarter than all of us unlearned peons, but is that really the way it should be?

Spyderco Endura 4 Review

I purchased a used Spyderco Endura 4(Combination Edge, Saber Grind) several months ago and have been carrying it nearly every day since.  I believe a review is in order!  The specific model I am reviewing today is the Spyderco Endura 4 Saber Grind Combo Edge. (http://www.spyderco.com/catalog/details.php?product=208)  When I first received the knife, I was surprised at how large it was.  The photos and dimensions don’t do it justice, but it is a good sized knife:

  • Length overall – 8.75″ (222 mm)
  • Blade length – 3.75″ (96 mm)
  • Blade steel – VG-10
  • Length closed – 5″ (127 mm)
  • Cutting edge – 3.438″ (88 mm)
  • Weight – 3.6 oz. (103 g)
  • Hole diameter – .5″ (13 mm)
  • Blade thickness – .125″ (3 mm)
  • Handle material – FRN

Size – You can read the dimensions, but until you hold it in your hand, you may not realize what a beefy knife the Endura is. Thankfully, the size doesn’t bring a huge weight penalty. The FRN handle keeps the weight down despite a fairly thick and heavy duty blade. By way of comparison, the Kershaw Blackout I was coming from is a little more than a half-inch shorter than the Endura, but the weight is nearly identical.

Blade – The Kershaw Blackout had a spine swedge along the majority of the blade that cuts down weight and looks a little prettier(in my opinion), whereas the Spyderco Endura 4 has a squared off, full-thickness spine that runs almost all the way to the tip. On the Endura 4, the grind begins to narrow the width of the spine about a half-inch from the tip.

According to my calipers, the saber grind extends ~.4″ away from the cutting edge. At the blade’s tallest point, that leaves 3/4″ of the blade at it’s maximum thickness. Not ideal for slicing tasks. When cutting stiff, strong cardboard, this sharp grind angle becomes a bit tiresome compared to a full flat ground blade or even my previous Kershaw Blackout with a grind more than 50% deeper(.67″ from cutting edge) than the Endura 4 saber grind(.4″).

I was a bit dissapointed in the proportion of the plain edge vs. the serrations. The Spyderco Endura 4 plain edge portion of the combo edge blade is ~1.55″ vs. ~1.9″ of serration at the base of the blade. That means the plain edge is 45% of the overall blade while the serrations are 55%. On my Blackout, the plain edge was ~2.1″ vs ~1.2″ of serrations(64% vs. 36%). I realize it’s personal preference, but I like having more plain edge. When I buy my next Endura, I will go with a plain edge, full flat ground blade.

Part of the reason I want more straight/plain edge is to make sharpening easier. Clamping the Endura 4 into a sharpening rig can be a real pain. Because of where the spine starts to narrow near the tip, there is a limited amount of grip for the clamp. The other 6 inches of blade and handle all try to twist out of the clamp. I realize that not everybody sharpens the same way that I do, but it was an issue for me. More plain edge area would have allowed me to move the clamp further back down the blade spine for more grip.

Jimping – The base of the blade spine has about a half-inch of jimping where it curves up to the tallest part of the blade. The FRN handles also have ~1.5″ of jimping on the back portion nearest the blade.

Handle – I was a bit worried about the Spyderco Endura 4 handle. Not because it’s plastic, but because of how thin it is. I like handguns with big grips and tools with monstrous handles because my fingers are relatively long. I figured that I would have trouble with the thin handle(~.43″ at it’s thickest).  My Blackout was ~.63″ thick at it’s fattest point and had a similar profile(to the Endura). In reality, the Endura’s handle thinness was never a problem and I actually came to see it as an advantage. When I carry the knife in the lowest/furthest corner of my pocket, you can definitely see the extra impression from a fatter blade(especially in dress pants). The thin handle aids with concealment.

Texturing – Although the points where I grip the handle strongest are along the top and bottom(not the sides), the texturing on the sides of the handle are a nice touch. I can tell a lot of thought went into them. Depending on how long your fingers are, and how you grip the knife, they may help you hang onto the knife where it would have otherwise slipped from your hand. Your mileage may vary.

Carry Options – The Spyderco Endura 4 has four mounting options for the pocket clip. Tip-up or tip-down mounting options on both sides of the handle. When I received the knife, it was set up for left-side tip-up carry. I am a repressed lefty. That is, I am left-handed, but have leaned to cope with a a world built for right-handed people. I decided to leave it set up how it was and carry on the left side for a while. While it didn’t stay that way for long, it was nice to have the option. The change was very simple with torx screws.

My previous EDC knife only had only one pocket clip mounting option: Right-side, tip-down. I had grown accustomed to flipping the knife in my hand upon removing it from my pocket in order to press the thumb-stud. It took some time and practice, but I now enjoy the tip-up carry that allows me to reach into my pocket and place my thumb directly on the opening hole as I am pulling out the knife.

Opening Hole – In short, I love it! The hole is large and smooth enough that it rotates around my thumbtip during opening and closing with minimal friction.

Locking Mechanism – The locking mechanism is a “back lock” with the David Boye detent. I have no problem with this design. It has never released the blade despite some strong spine taps(for testing). In short, I trust it. The David Boye detent does nothing special for me. The back lock does make it difficult to close the blade with one hand, but in my opinion, you should already be in the habit of using both hands to close a knife. Pressing down the back lock pretty much requires you to place a finger(or more) on the other side of the handle as an opposing force to squeeze the lock. Those fingers are directly in the path of the unlocked blade, so I prefer to be holding the blade with my other hand.

No assisted opening, but it’s not a problem. I had grown accustomed to the assisted opening of my previous knife where a short hard shove on the thumbstud resulted in a snappy opening. The unassisted opening may be a millisecond slower, but definitely not a noticeable diference.

Uses – I’m not an outdoorsman, but I’ll give you and idea of some of the tasks in my urban lifestyle that I have used the Spyderco Endura for:

  • Cutting rope
  • Prying off metal caps(from our propane tanks)
  • Opening boxes
  • Cutting carpet and padding
  • Cutting Rubber(inner-tube)
  • Opening plastic packaging and sealed containers

Thankfully, I have not had to use it in a defensive capacity, but I believe this is where the Spyderco Endura would really shine. Most of the above tasks don’t require the Endura’s blade length. Many of these tasks would be better served with a shorter blade. However, in a defensive use case, every extra bit of blade can make a big difference. All other things equal, the ability to quickly deploy a longer blade means that every swipe or strike will do more damage. Every bit of extra damage makes it easier for you to find an opportunity to escape(the ultimate goal).

Complaints – My biggest complaints are all solved by other Spyderco Endura 4 models that are already avaialable. My next Endura will be the plain edge with a full flat grind.

Disclaimer – All measurements are rounded and inexact. My observations are based on my background and previous experience. Your mileage may vary.

Great prices on the Spyderco Endura!

 

Cheap Red Dot Sights

When it comes to cheap red dot optics, my advice is to go as cheap as possible and buy several.  That way, you will have replacements on hand when they invariably fail.  For the most part, I haven’t seen much of a quality difference between $30 and $150.

For a .22LR, I doubt you’ll have many problems even with the cheap brands.

Personally, I have had good experiences with Primary Arms. They are the exception to my first statement. Check out their house brand “micro” models for $75-$80 each.  I have used these(for plinking) on ARs with no problems.

Jeremy Krammes Shortcut – Small Custom Folding Knife Spotlight

The Jeremy Krammes Shortcut is another highly regarded small custom folding knife with numerous options. The Shortcut has four distinctive pinholes at the top of the blade following the spine. The blade is a simple drop-point with a spine swedge. Here are the general specificatons:

  • Overall Length(Open): 4 5/8″
  • Length Closed: 2 5/8″
  • Blade Length: 2″
  • Liners: Titanium
  • Handle: Carbon Fiber, G10, Titanium, ask
  • Opening Device: Thumbhole
  • Weight: ~2.3 oz.
  • Clip: Tip Up Carry
  • Linerlock

Here are some photos of the Shortcut from his website:

Visit http://jkknives-shortcut.blogspot.com for contact and ordering information for the Jeremy Krammes Shortcut.

Eric Ochs Otter Folder – Small Custom Folding Knife Spotlight

The Eric Ochs Otter Folder fits right in the size range that we are looking at.  As you will see in the photos, the options are limitless, but here are the general specifications:

  • Blade Length: 2 5/8″
  • Blade Thickness: 5/32″
  • Blade Grind: Flat ground with swedge
  • Length While Closed: 3 7/8″
  • Overall Length(Open): 6 1/2″
  • Blade Steel: S30V
  • Handle: Green, G10, Wood, Titanium, Carbon Fiber
  • Weight: ~4.2 oz.
  • Opening Device: Spyderco Hole or Hinderer Lockbar Stabilizer
  • Clip: Tip Up Carry
  • Locking Mechanism: Liner or Framelock with all lock faces carbidized
So lets see what it looks like:

According to his webpage for the Eric Ochs Otter Folder, the base price is $385.
The following options are listed with instructions to call about other options:
  • Framelock $20 or Full TI $35
  •  Bolsters $35 & up
  •  Wood, bone or Carbon Fiber handles $20 & up
  •  Hand rub blade finish $20

Brad Southard Downing – Small Custom Folding Knife Spotlight

Since the Brad Southard Downing is a custom knife, there are no real constraints for materials.  Here are some general specifications:

  • Blade Length: 2 1/8″
  • Clip: Tip Up Carry
  • Length while Closed: 3 1/8″
  • Handle: Titanium / G10 / Carbon Fiber
  • Overall Length (Open): 5 1/4″
  • Opening Device: Thumb Hole
  • Titanium Framelock
  • Weight: ~2 oz
  • Backspacer: Optional Glow in the Dark
  • Blade Steels: Cryo-treated CPM-154, CPM-S30V
  • Blade Finishes: Satin/Stonewash Combo, Bead-blasted, Hand-Rubbed
  • Blade Shapes:  Drop-Point, Hawkbill
Now, let’s get to everyone’s favorite part.  The photos:

According to Brad Southard’s page on the Arizona Custom Knives website:

“Since my grandfather first gave me a knife at the age of 8 I’ve been hooked. The love grew from there and I’ve constantly searched for and sought after the best. When my love of woodworking led me to make my own chisels and hand planes, the step to knives was an obvious choice.

While studying Industrial Design in college I learned to machine, and quickly learned all I could about metal working and tried my hand at knives. What started as a hobby and pastime quickly began to pay for my tuition, and before I knew it, it was my main source of income. I made knives part time for quite a while but in 2009 was forced to go full time. I say forced, but it was a welcome move, although a hard one.

Every day I go to my shop and spend a few minutes sketching and drawing, hoping to see if a great new design appears. For every couple hundred sketches I get one or two worth developing farther. My constant goal with design and knives is the age old adage “Form follows function”. The comfort and usability of the blade comes long before how the knife looks, but when a good design comes together you can end up with a beautiful knife that functions well, and you just cant put it down. That’s what I strive for.”

Brad Southard is a relatively new knife maker out of Tucson, Arizona who is building a stellar reputation in the custom knife community.  Brad’s order book is currently closed, but you can still find his work through custom knife dealers and collaboration projects(i.e. Triple Aught Design, Liong Mah, etc.)

Special Thanks for the photos to:

 

Small Custom Folding Knife Spotlight

It seems like all the big, flashy custom knives get all the attention, but sometimes you need you need something light and small.  Sometimes you may wear dress pants that don’t like heavy knives.  Sometimes you need a small knife that won’t scare the sheeple.  Sometimes you may feel the need to go as small and light as possible.  Sometimes you just don’t want to carry a full size knife!

That doesn’t mean you want to abandon all semblance of style and panache.  Thankfully there are a number of custom knife makers with fantastic small custom folding knives that will fit your needs.  Over the next several weeks, we’ll look at a number of small custom folding knives.

When I compiled this list, I was looking for something similar in size to the Spyderco Dragonfly, a production knife that many would consider to be the standard in the small and light folding knife category:

Length overall 5.563 ” (141 mm) Blade length 2.25 ” (57 mm)
Length closed 3.313 ” (84 mm) Cutting edge 1.875 ” (48 mm)
Weight 1.2 oz. (34 g) Blade thickness .093 ” (2.5 mm)

 

I’ll be covering custom knives that are similar to these dimensions. I realize that “similar” is a very subjective word since every knife is different, but I think you will be happy with the selction.  Here are few of the knives we will be covering:

  • Warren Thomas Mini Model 2
  • Yuna EQ-2
  • Steve Kelly Kogia Folder
  • Brad Southard Downing
  • Curtiss Knives Nano
  • Jeremy Krammes Shortcut
  • Gerry McGinnis Prawn
  • and more…
Stay tuned…

 

Cold Steel Knives Kindness

I received an email from a friend with a heartwarming story about the kindness of Cold Steel Knives:

Our daughter, Kristen, already has her first knife. I took a picture of her in my cold steel hat and put it on twitter. The media guy of cold steel showed it to the CEO of cold steel and the picture made him laugh. He told them to get my address and they sent her a knife with her name engraved upon it.

Good on Cold Steel Knives!

Modified 4Sevens Titanium Preon Tailcap

Yesterday, I posted about a 4Sevens Preon clicky tailcap modification from Zodiac Engineering.

Here’s what I wrote:

I saw your photo of the modified preon tailcap.  Is that a service you currently offer? At what cost?  Can you tell me any more about the modification?

I received the following response today from Ken at Zodiac Engineering:

Modification consisted of removing the titanium cover and turning down the remaining cap flush with the rubber boot then adding a large chamfer on the ID to allow your thumb to still activate the button.

Modification runs $16 plus return shipping.

So they are removing the metal cap and pressing the rubber boot itself to actuate the switch.  Hmm…

I’m willing to try it out if they do the mod on the regular(non-titanium) tailcaps.

I also wonder how the rubber holds up to heavy use?

 

 

Modified 4Sevens Preon Titanium Push-button Tailcap

According to the Zodiac Engineering website:

Modified @4Sevens Titanium Preon 2 tailcap. Titanium cover removed, retaining ring faced flush with the rubber cover and countersunk deep at 45 degrees to allow access to the switch. This allows the user to stand the light on end as a candle and still retain the guard around the switch to not accidentally turn it on when pushing down into your pocket.

I like the concept of an improved 4Sevens Preon clicky tailcap and I’d love to see how this turned out.

No price is given, but the information was posted two months ago.  I emailed for more information…

4Sevens Preon Modification

Those of you that read my review of the 4Sevens Preon 1 saw that I had a problem with the 4Sevens Preon clicky tailcaps.  It seemed that they collected every piece of dirt or grime within a 20 mile radius.  I had numerous issues with the clicker sticking in one position or the other.  I had heard better things about the tailcap mechanism from the Streamlight Microstream, but I wasn’t too impressed with the light itself.

But what if you could combine the emitter and the guts of the 4Sevens Preon with the body and clicky tailcap(push button) of the Streamlight Microstream?  I hear that you can.  Bear in mind that I have not verified or done this myself yet, but I have read this on three different occasions from three different sources.

I understand that it’s not a quick and easy removal, but it is possible.

Most recommended placing the Microstream body in a vise and using a heatgun(or hair dryer):

 Slowly heat the threads and after every couple of seconds you need to try to twist the head off.  It’s all about slowly heating and twisting the head every couple of seconds. That way you’re not melting the body and head together.

This is not the only way. Someone else had this advice:

Ziploc baggie, boiling water, and a (very) small strapwrench does the trick every time.

Basically, with a little patience you can combine the two lights.

When I get my Microstream, I’ll get some photos while I do the work and let you all know how it goes.

Have any of you already done this?  I’d love to see some pics…

Rick Hinderer XM Custom Titanium Scales

Here is some amazing work that was done on the scales of two Rick Hinderer XM Series Knives.  These titanium scales were machined, then blasted for a beautiful finish:

The work was done by Barry H.  You can see more of his work here:

http://s19.photobucket.com/albums/b165/BarryH_1956/

 

Knife Trade in Program

After hearing about all the gadget trade-in programs with major retailers, I wonder if there are any similar programs in the knife world?

I’m sure there are tons of lightly used knives that people would love to trade for quick cash.  Not everyone feels like doing price research and taking the time to post them on ebay or various forums.  Is anyone doing this already?

Spyderco Dragonfly Custom Wood Scales

This time we have some beautiful wood scales on a smaller knife: The Spyderco Dragonfly

The wood is Hawaiian Koa:

The work was done by the Custom Scale Division in Europe.

Good prices on the Spyderco Dragonfly.

Open Letter to Magpul Dynamics – Blade Training

Here is something I sent them this week:

I appreciate what you are doing with firearms training.  You have brought high-quality training to the masses with high-quality production values.  You are putting out some great material.

I hope you will consider doing something similar with practical blade training in the future.  If it is produced in the same manner as your previous work, I am certain that it would be well received.  It would have a market similar to your other work, but also a much wider base.  Even if this isn’t an area of expertise, I feel confident that you would do a good job finding competent and well spoken instructors and acting as a liaison to bring their information and skills to the public.

Thanks in advance for any consideration,
Rob Robideau
If you feel the same way, please let them know.  I would love to them produce some knife instructional products.