Monday, November 16, 2015

Ranger wedding knives

Not that they were necessarily used in the wedding.  They might have been; he didn't say.  :D

But he did give me permission to mention his profession.  These two knives were commissioned by a return customer in the Army Rangers, one for himself and one for his best man, also a Ranger.
He wanted a matching set of double-edged Benghazi Warfighters.  I forged them from 80CrV2 steel, with black TeroTuf handle slabs and flared stainless steel tube rivets.

Prior to giving them their black oxide finish, I took them down the road to a laser engraver.  The opposite sides had a unit insignia and personal identifiers etched in, and this side has these lines of verse:

"The wolves will learn
What we've shown before
We love our sheep
We dogs of war"

He picked out this pattern of camo Kydex, and I set the sheaths up with Combat Loops for belt carry.

Upon receiving them, he told me that he "couldn't be more pleased".  That's always what a maker likes to hear.  :)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Carry rig for test mule camp knife

This is now my knife, so I needed to be able to carry it with me easily when going walkabout.  It's a big blade, and I didn't want to try belt carry with it (yet).  I wanted to be able to take it on and off quickly and easily.  I had in mind when I built the sheath that I'd use some kind of shoulder sling.  This is what I ended up putting together: a variation of the shoulder sling I build for my tomahawks.

I'm a lefty, and I set it up for a cross draw, up fairly high.

From the front:

From the back (against the body):

A closer look at the quick-detach double-adjustable sling.

I did a fair amount of walking around with it today, up hill and down, and found that it was out of my way, didn't flop around, and didn't interfere with my movements.  I didn't do any gymnastics, but basic hiking and moving around it worked quite nicely.

Drawing the blade:


Plenty of real estate to add pouches for fire/survival kits and paracord should I feel the desire to later on down the road.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bugout blades

A customer sent me a link to this article on the Daily Mail website about an art project where a photographer took photos of the contents of people's bugout bags as a form of portrait.

And sure enough, one of them had not one but two of my knives!  I know exactly whose bag it is.  :)

Very cool to see my work pop up at random like that.  :D

80CrV2 camp knife testing

I put together this camp knife with the intention of testing several things: heat treatment, using neoprene beneath the wrap, and the durability of the black oxide finish.  If it survived the tests, I decided to make it my personal camp knife.

The knife is forged from 80CrV2 steel with a shallow recurve to the blade.  The clip is a false edge with a very slight bevel, purely for aesthetics.  The blade is 13" from the tip to the Turk's head knot, with an overall length of just under 19".  The spine is 3/16" at its thickest point, right in front of the Turk's head.  The wrap is stripped black paracord over intact olive drab paracord (though you really can't tell the color of the underlay unless you look closely in person) over neoprene, all impregnated with West System marine epoxy. 

The edge was sharpened as I normally do, by eye and feel with an Arkansas stone and leather strop, and was hair shaving sharp before starting the test.

I was confident enough that I went ahead and built a Kydex sheath for it, though I haven't yet rigged a shoulder sling.

The big thing I wanted to test was toughness, particularly if it would survive being batoned through a difficult piece of wood.  I wasn't interested in testing to destruction on this one, just a real-world toughness test.  The mesquite I started with was splitting too easily to be a challenge, so I moved on to a piece of solid, seasoned oak about 4" in diameter on the smaller end.  You can't see it in this shot, but there's a pretty good elbow in the wood opposite of the sawed-off branch.

I got the blade down below the level of the wood a couple of times, batonning both on the handle side and the tip side.  Both times it hit a point at which it was not wanting to split further in spite of repeated blows with the baton and lifting the whole chunk of wood with the blade and slamming it down on the cement slab underneath.  It's a piece of wood that would have been challenging for a splitting maul, and actually splitting the wood was not the point.  Flexing the blade in the wood and impacting the edge were, and as you can see, it flexed the blade pretty good.

And after knocking it free from the wood, it straightened back true.

I then turned it over and batonned the blade into the longer, straighter section of the chunk of firewood.  It flexed the blade even further in the opposite direction by the time I reached the limits of how far I could drive the blade.

This time the blade took a slight set.  No damage to the edge. 

Satisfied with the batonning portion of the test, I moved on to chopping.  This is extremely hard, seasoned oak wood, and I didn't try to avoid any knots or use a section with straight grain. 

After cutting through, I found no nicks, rolls, or flat spots on the edge, which I was expecting.  What surprised me a bit was that the edge still was roughly cutting hair (as opposed to shaving it) right in the area where I had done all the chopping.  With a lazy flick, it would still slice the tops off of the long grasses growing around.

Conclusions -

1.  The heat treatment is right where I want it.  This was not a stout knife, in fact it's pretty light.  The spine is not particularly thick, and the edge is a general usage edge that was a nice, working sharp when starting.  The blade was flexed quite a bit in a very tough piece of wood and did not break, remained a very useful straightness, and the edge took no damage while retaining a good working sharpness.   I'm not a big advocate of batoning; it has its place, but I think it gets overused.  However, it is one of the toughest things a customer will typically subject a custom knife to.  For someone who is wanting that as a primary usage, I'd go with a stouter spine.

2.  The handle could probably stand to be a little wider, but all other aspects were great.  The paracord has a bit of an aggressive grip, but did not raise any hot spots.  It was very comfortable.  I could tell no difference in usage between the neoprene foundation and the leather I've been using, but in construction, the neoprene was easier to work with and didn't clog the belts like leather does.

3.  The black oxide wore away in usage, but acceptably.  Any blade coating wears, and it shouldn't be too hard to clean up and re-apply the coating if need be.

4.  I gots a new camp knife!  :D

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Woodsman, Benghazi Warfighters, Little Roks, and oxtail camp chopper

My brother-in-law asked me to donate a couple of blades for a Ducks Unlimited auction, with the opportunity to sell blades at the event.  Time was short, but this is what I put together.  My wife went in my stead; I have blades to make and friends coming in from out of town.  She's a good 'un.  :)

The Woodsman 'hawk and one of the Benghazi Warfighters were the auction items, with the other Benghazi Warfighter and two Little Roks for sale.

The 'hawk is 1/4" 4140 steel, the knives are 3/16" 80CrV2, and they all have back TeroTuf handle slabs and a black oxide finish.

On the other end of the spectrum, I also sent along a forged 5160 oxtail camp chopper with a 12" blade and a hybrid handle wrap.  It has a foundation of neoprene along the tang (something new for me, instead of the leather I have been using), with an underlay of hemp, an overlay of stripped paracord, and a three-strand Turk's head knot of intact paracord, all impregnated with West System marine epoxy.

Back to work.  :D

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wrecker 'hawks at Blue Line Gear

Four of my 15" Wrecker tomahawks are available for sale at Blue Line Gear.  These are the first of my work to be picked up by a dealer.  There are two tan and two black, with Kydex sheaths and shoulder slings.

Check them out.  They have better photography than me.  :)

Blue Line Gear - Helm Enterprises

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Shop upgrade helps with big Kydex

I daily peruse knife forums and YouTube looking for techniques and tooling that I can integrate into my own methods, as well as inspiration from all the amazing blade makers out there.  I came across a video on YouTube a few months ago showing a T-shirt press being used to heat Kydex prior to molding.  After a bit more research, I added it to my list of future shop upgrades.  I've been using a toaster oven for small Kydex and an electric griddle for long Kydex.  Both of them would end up with a usable sheath, but they were inconsistent in heating and I ruined more Kydex than I was happy with through scorching or melting since the toaster oven would fluctuate and the griddle would overheat in the middle.

A few weeks ago, a customer agreed to pay me for his bush sword and sheath before I started on the sheath (I usually only charge when everything is ready to ship) so that I could afford to buy my T-shirt press and use it to make his sheath.

Boy howdy, am I happy with the results!  Much more even heating, and I can set the temperature higher without worrying about it melting from temperature fluctuations, so the Kydex molds better. 
And since I got the press with a 16" x 24" clamshell surface, I can very easily heat big pieces for making bush sword sheaths.  Once the press is up to temp, it takes literally a minute to have the Kydex nice and noodley and ready to mold.

Here's the press.  You can see the griddle sitting on the bottom shelf of the rolly cart.

So, the various blades that came back with me from the Gathering have all gotten sheaths since then and most have gone on to customers.

Here's the one that paid for the press, with a retention strap and shoulder sling.  That's an 18" blade.

Another 18" blade.

Blades that widen toward the tip are particularly tricky to make sheaths for that have decent retention yet can still be easily withdrawn.  I made these two for cleaver-type blades with open backs and retention straps.

Works great for small sheaths too.

So, definitely worth the money for the increased control and ease of working long pieces.  I'm happy.  :)