Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lava and Navigator in Burgundy Micarta

Here you see top left, a Spyderco Navigator, Spyderco Calypso Jr. ZDP189 folder, middle still factory fresh, and far right is a Lava. This Lava and the Navigator have both been rebuilt by me in Burgundy Micarta. They each were equipped with one of my signiture custom made titanium pocket clips also. The Navigator is another fine little all stainless folder from Spyderco offering a whole lot in such a small package. Either of these folders, the Lava or the Navigator are fine 50 state legal carry knives and I really like them a lot as they come from the factory but they are a bit heavier than what is shown here and also the slick stainless is at times harder to keep hold of or get a good purchase on to remove from the pocket. I've also noticed on several occasions that in cold weather these little stainless folders get darn cold so for that reason I feel its a better folder in a man made synthetic. Everyone should have one of these little Spyderco Lava folders. They are little giants of a knife that work a lot harder than the small size indicates by just looking at the measurements. Once you get one in your hand you know you have a real work horse in your hand that offers a lot of leverage and control for a short blade folder like this.

Black G10 Lava with lanyard fob by STR

The Lava is one of my favorite little giant knives. As I mentioned before this is by anyone's definition a small folder. But I know police and FBI both that carry these and train with them and it was in fact designed by a police officer. The handle and the ergonomics really add a lot of grip and leverage that is not normally possible on a knife with such a small blade as this. I've seen the insides of many lockback folders over the years and for a small knife this folder stacks up compared to many larger folders I've handled and repaired. The lock contact is quite stout compared to other folders with the same overall foot print. This does not mean its a heavy duty folder like the Manix from Spyderco but for what you get here its more than capable of medium to medium heavy chores when the need arises. This folder here lost a good deal of weight in this conversion but it gained added texture and grip, along with some width which I think is a fair trade off. I have only done one Lava with titanium liners but that one was all I needed to do to realize its just added weight that isn't needed in a folder this small. The G10 material is quite rigid even in larger knives like the Dodo so in something this small it more than meets most any challenge. For myself this is what I'd carry right here.
Thanks for looking.

Lava WIP pics

Here are a few more work in progress pics of the Lava as it looks from the inside once you get it apart. Managed to tweak a screw driver during the break down of this one.
Of course getting it apart is only half the battle. Once apart all the parts including the blade have to have new 1/8" holes precisely machined out in them. If you are off a micron it can change the lock up so its very important to map everything out precisely. Once done then you can custom fit your new barrel and screw construction to the folder after custom sizing those parts to fit. In the end you have an all screw/stainless barrel construction. Although I do not advocate taking the folder apart even after this screw construction is completed it is possible. Most of them are quite easy to get apart. Its getting them back together that often times messes with the novice, particularly when washers are involved and that is the case with the Lava. Lockback folders with washers in the pivot can be very tricky for someone unfamilar with how to finesse things in place. The pivot for the blade has a washer set up so you have a washer on each side of the blade that smoothes out the action. Lose one you'll notice so only take one apart when time allows.

Spyderco Lava progress pictures

Here is what the Lava looks like from the factory by Spyderco. These are great little all stainless folders. Some have been begging for a lighter weight less slick folder to carry though and I aim to please. This is but one of many Lavas I have rebuilt for folks. I've done these in Micarta, Micarta with ti liners, and G10 of both the textured and smooth type.. All of them come out quite well and its one of my faves to handle. Once you handle one of these its hard to put one down. They really do fit the hand. I know it looks a bit odd but as the old saying goes. There are two kinds of beauty in the world. The kind you see with your eyes that are often times liars, and then there is the time you feel with your hands, which hardly ever lie. If you have ever heard of the hug test you know what I am talking about. So, hug a Lava today! :-) STR

Spyderco Jess Horn ZDP189 Limited

Seen here is a Jess Horn designed folder by Spyderco. Lignum vitae wood really added some quality feel and a touch of class to this one. You can note the untouched factory example just to the right and below the new version of this folder. When I rebuild these I have to create a custom spring holder/stand off for the rear of the folder as well as new liners and scales or just thicker scales that stand alone without metal liners depending on how the owner of the knife wants it. The original spring encasement that keeps the lockbar secured on the blade is designed into the nylon AKA FRN molded material the factory handle is made out of. There are many names for this material. Some refer to it as Zytel, others as Nylon, some call it plastic reinforced. Spyderco calls theirs "FRN" which is short for fiberglass reinforced nylon. These days the wood requests are not as frequent as they used to be but its no wonder with all the great man made materials available. Man made materials don't warp, crack or change with the outside ambient temp. of the air much if at all and most are immune to oils, and staining, absorbing moisture and so on so there is a lot to like about them. Before going on about the wood and handles lets talk about the steel for the blade on this one though.

This limited edition folder like others Spyderco produced is using a new steel designed by Hitachi. ZDP189 is a laminated steel where the inner core of the blade is much harder than the outer shell surrounding the harder steel. This is very similar to the Japanese swords and combines both strength and extreme edge keeping due to the hardness of the cutting edge. Unfortunately it can be challenging for some to sharpen a blade when its 64 or 65 Rockwell hardness. As a result there are many that don't care for the steel since trying to sharpen it back up to snuff gives them so much grief. If you have the right tool for the job though this steel is probably about as good as man has created for edge keeping.

Lignum is one of my favorite woods. I often times grab a piece of scrap in my shop just to sand it for a few seconds because I love the smell of this wood when you work it. Lignum has a long history of being used for knife and utensil handles. Its still used in the marine industry for boat engine drive shafts, and for sheaves and other parts in the building of sailboats, and even sees a lot of use for judges gavels to this day. Its the heaviest, densest, strongest wood on planet earth according to what I've read. Unfortunately though its hard to determine when you have actually been sold Lignum and when you were sold Vera wood, a close relative. This is quite common. I have some of both woods myself. Both work and even smell very close to the same and in fact there is a lot of evidence that Lignum Vitae is not really just referring to one species of tree but refers to a family of them. True lignum for the tools mentioned above though is denser and heavier than these others and sinks like a rock in water and once you see and handle both you can tell which is which. Still though I've used both and like them fine.

Spyderco Jess Horn ZDP189 Limited Edition folder

Good shot looking straight down at the liners right next to the FRN handle on the factory model.

Spyderco Jess Horn ZDP189

The Jess Horn was always a folder I liked from Spyderco. Jess Horn is a near legendary knife maker anyway, but when he designed this one for Spyderco I doubt he had any idea of how long lived or how many incarnations the folder would eventually see from Spyderco.

Jess Horn ZDP189 Laminated blade model by Spyderco

Here is another shot of the Jess Horn I could not resist posting.
If you look close on this shot of the blade you can see the line separating the harder cutting edge from the outer softer body which is characteristic of all the 'laminated' steels.

Jess Horn ZDP189 folder by Spyderco rebuilt by STR

Here is a nice size comparison shot for you. These are fairly nice little folders by Spyderco, more along traditional lines than a lot of the models they produce.

Jess Horn ZDP189 laminated blade in Lignum Vitae wood

Here is a fair shot of the liners which I had to build from scratch for this one since they don't come with any from the factory.

Spyderco Atlantic Salt in stabalized birds eye maple

This is a Spyderco H1blade Atlantic Salt. H1 is a nitrogen based steel as opposed to a carbon based one. H1 simply will not rust under any condition. I know guys that have soaked these knives in salt water, vinegar, mud, garbage, you name it. They do this of course trying to prove the Hitachi creators of this steel wrong but so far to no avail. I know one gent that lost his H1 Salt folder outside only to find it again months later with only a short blast under the hose to clean it up and right back to work it went.. Its really an amazing steel with no evidence it had sat out in the elements for that long. Everyone should have one of these folders if they do a lot outdoors. People around the oceans swear by this steel. I've heard great things about it and how it holds up in the Amazon jungle too and that is a place where many so called stainless steels have still managed to rust.
This folder was built using .050 titanium inner liners. I tied one of my lanyard fobs to fit it but not before modifying the blade profile to give it that nice shape it has now with just enough 'splinter picker point' to get the job done should the need arise but not enough to take it down so its still not somewhat blunted. You guys unfamilar with this one may want to type in on a search "Atlantic Salt by Spyderco" or something similar and see what kind of improvement this is in just the blade appeal. Personally I find this shape much more useful also but I do imagine on a boat rocking on the waves, particularly if its nasty out, that a pointed blade would be quite dangerous. Guess its a bit hard to stab one of your mates if its a blunt tip. Even still, since publising this one I've had many of the factory FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) handled models sent to me just to reprofile the blade to this Wharncliffe blade shape. Thanks for looking


Atlantic Salt rebuilt in titanium and stabalized maple

Here is a nice shot of it closed.

Spyderco Delica 4 in Bubinga wood and titanium

This folder here is one that I almost decided against doing. I hate working on these Delica folders. Well, thats not entirely true. I hate the new Delica 4 and Endura 4 models compared to the older ones. The original Delica is my fave. I guess you've figured out by now that I like working on Spyderco folders. For years I used to buy Cold Steel folders and rebuild those. Then I found a Spyderco at a gun show and hardly used another Cold Steel after that.
These are problematic in several areas.
Its seen here sitting among some of my wife's moneywort plant outside. I had some trouble getting a good bit of sun for these shots today. This is probably the best of the three pics I managed. My solution to dealing with the nested liners of this folder was to simply discard them and the old scales and remake the new liners of titanium in .050" thickness and then to cut some slabs off the wood and plane those down to the proper thickness. Once I did that the machining took place to fit the scales to the design. After that it is normal that its all down hill since I'm a big fan of bead blasting. Not with this one though. I had a lot of hand sanding on this puppy. My fingers were stiff for days from all that. Anyway, I knocked it out and this is the end result. Like always I'm trying sometimes to be anal about the details but the customer loved it so thats all that really matters I guess. Thanks for looking.

Bubinga Wood Delica 4 rebuild by STR

Here is the second shot of this Delica 4 rebuild. The nested liners that form fit like an inlay up inside the factory FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon scales really can be problematic to duplicate even with a mill. I really need to get a rotory table to go on my milling machine for that kind of work but being a hobbyist its hard to justify the cost. My cheap Harbor Frieght Mill costs less than the rotary table I found so for now its going to be all I can do.. All the table I have will allow is straight up and down or left and right but its not capable of tilting or moving diagonally. Maybe one day when I win the lotto.

Bubinga Wood Delica 4

Here is a shot I almost deleted but decided it did show the wood grain pretty good even if I did cut it off a bit. I'm not the best pic taker in my defense. :-)

Buck STRider 881 frame lock opened

This shot is the completed redesigned folder with an all new talonite blade, and all new frame lock and handle in a new more secure grippiness and color.
Talonite is one of those materials that has become more popular here in the last few years since the late great Rob Simonich began using it some time ago. It does not work like regular steel and in fact is not really steel by definition. Talonite and Stellite are similar materials to the Boye Dendritic Cobalt Alloy all having very high wear resistance with hard carbides in a cobalt matrix. You won't be carving wood or cutting harder materials with one of these blades in either Talonite or Stellite and getting carried away with it. The edge can roll on these from harder surfaces or impacts. All these are very hard to grind due to the carbide content. Carbides are what actually does the cutting and carbides by nature are very hard. In either Talonite or Stellite or Cobalt alloy the carbides are held in place in a much softer matrix. So what happens is the carbides can easily be dislodged if you use the blade in a harder material and the edge can fold or roll on you but breaking it is very very difficult. If the edge is too thin it can weaken that matrix responsible for holding the carbides also so a 15` edge bevel is not advised either from my understanding of the best way to use it. Where people like these blades is in cutting softer materials like cutting down cardboard boxes, paper, rags, bags, tape, and other things like ropes of various materials. You could use one of these on flesh like to field dress a camp full of deer and be surprised at how long it would go providing it was in an experienced hand that avoided the bones. Used in these materials a talonite or stellite blade will outcut a common steel blade many times over. Either material is also non magnetic and extremely corrosion resistant so boaters love it, especially around the salt water. In fact I've had folks that sail a lot or do jobs cutting boxes down to discard them that tell me they sharpen their talonite blade once every two years. Not bad at all when you think about it. Its a 'need specific' blade material so to speak. Anyway,
this folder proved to be one of the more challenging projects of 2008 for me but I managed to cuss my way through it. :-) Thanks for looking

Buck STRider 881 lock up view open

Nice shot looking down on the edge of the opened talonite blade. By the way, you can click on these pictures to see them full size if you like.

Buck STRider 881 rebuild closed G10 side

Here you can see the same thumb stud with the o'ring attached as shown in the pictures before getting started below, only now that stud is mounted on the talonite blade. This one shows a fair shot of the new coyote brown textured G10 non lock side.

Buck STRider 881 frame lock conversion closed

Here is a good shot of the rebuilt/redesigned Buck STRider custom folder with a new titanium clip to match as it sits on a log in the closed position.

Buck 881 completed in it's new incarnation as a beefcake STR frame lock

Here you are looking down at the blade center when closed and the new body and talonite blade. The factory ATS34 blades are among the thickest you can expect in a folder this size. I measured the factory blade at 4.5mm thick. Thats chunky! A blade that thick makes for a sharpened pry bar which is about what these little tanks of a folder were when Buck still made them. Needless to say it means having to purchase an equal thickness piece of talonite to replace that blade. Talonite is not cheap stuff either! I was shocked to find out what just the blade alone amounted to on this knife. $60 for the Talonite material and that was just enough to make this blade and no longer or wider! The stuff is non magnetic and grinding it? Well, you may as well be grinding on a rock!

Buck 881 Talonite complete redesign frame lock conversion

This one was like making a folder from scratch. At first I did not want to proceed with all that was going to be needed and it did take me two tries so there was so me waste which increased the cost but in the end I went forward with everything in my original drawing that I wanted. Only thing reused was the original thumb stud, and the screws and body mounts for the folder along with the phosphorus bronze factory washers for the factory 'bull' pivot barrel which was also reused since all these things are proprietary to Buck and needed for this blade thickness to make it all work.
These are another fine example of a 'little giant' folder capable of working big. This talonite blade was in the folder when I recieved it. As I recall Reese Weiland did it and with it and the job I did it basically makes this little Buck STRider a custom knife albeit a higher dollar one since talonite isn't cheap and I doubt paying to have someone grind it would be either. I did one for myself after learning about this new age long term cutter called Talonite and being non magnetic among other things like grinding terribly hard compared to anything else I've ever done and sprarking some too I won't do any others.

Buck 881 from the factory with added O'ring on thumb stud

Seen here is the factory Buck ATS34 blade and handle as it came when shipped. I have owned several of these myself and while they are nicely designed folders Buck did seem to drop the ball with the lock contact on them. About every single one I've seen has had blade play. Not all but a surprising number and they came that way. I had to buy three just to get one that locked up solid and I ended up repairing the other two before selling them. Seems they came with the lock contacting the blade such that it allowed what we cutlers call blade rock. Other than this they seemed to be a tank of a folder. It is still worth snagging one if you see it. They are discontinued now by Buck and becoming quite rare.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Emerson P-SARK open side view

Next are shots of a Police Search and Rescue Knife (P-SARK) by Emerson knives. This one comes from the factory as a very thin liner lock. I beefed it up to a .140 + thickness frame locker. Some of these show the classic chisel grind (one side grind) of many of the Emerson models.

Emerson P-SARK lock up

Emerson P-SARK open

Emerson P-SARK

Emerson CQC13 frame lock rebuild side view

These next two pics are showing an Emerson CQC13 liner lock. This model was in fine shape when it arrived and worked fine. These have thicker locks than most of the Emersons I've handled in the liner locks and it didn't really need work from wearing out like some others but that didn't keep me from turning it into a tank built beefcake of a workhorse folder. As is usually the case with these you can always take it back apart and put it all together as it came from the factory. In reality it looks completely rebuilt here but no permanent changes were actually done to this one. Thats not always the case of course but I do try to do that whenever possible.


CQC13 side view one

This one turned out to be one heck of a great folder if I do say so myself!

CQC13 looking at blade center when closed

Emerson CQC15 and CQC8 SouthPaw conversion frame locks

First up is the CQC8 in black and tan G10 as requested by the owner of the folder that begged me to convert this one for him. He wanted it more lefty friendly with a more washed out military look. I think the black and tan G10 did that personally.

Here is the second of the two titled here in this segment. This one is an Emerson CQC15. As mentioned above it and the CQC8 model shown both came to me from left handed folks wanting their right handed factory folders permanently modified to make them both true lefty friendly while at the same time beefing up the frames. This took some doing but in the end I had my way with both folders and they are seeing some hard use now that I like to think they'll handle for a very long time.
Unlike the 8 the CQC 15 was redone for both sides made of slab titanium in .140" thickness titanium. Its a tank with an edge now and ready for serious work!

Doing a lefty conversion is dependent on several areas I must see before I can tell if the knife will allow such a conversion. This is tricky to do on some and impossible to pull off on others. These were both tricky. Most of the difficulty lies in having enough blade metal to play with to change the lock contact angle on the blade to a true left hand function angle so the new lock will work mirror image of what it did from the factory. In some cases as with this 15 model the lock side washer had to be reduced in diameter just a little bit because of the new angle and lock position. It was also necessary to activate a true lock detent ball on both these models. This little ball bearing in the lock is what is responsible for keeping the blade from opening by gravity. Without it the blade point could lift up and protrude out from between the body of the two slab handle sides.

Emerson Commander closed

Seen here is an older Emerson Waveless Commander. The Wave is that hook on the blade that catches the pocket as patented by Ernest Emerson. This enables the user to whip the folder blade open faster than an automatic once you get the hang of it. This ole gal here had seen better days when it arrived here. The original liner lock was worn terribly and the life was effectively used up out of that one I'm afraid. Even I would have been hard pressed to simply repair it as it came from the factory. But with this conversion and a new lock side in chunky titanium it breathed new life back into this one. It should be good to go for another 30 years or more now.

Emerson Commander Lock Up view looking in

Emerson Commander after hard stab in stump. Unphased

My Custom "Ouparator" Folder with 440C stainless blade

These next ten photos are various shots of six different versions I've built of my custom made from scratch "Ouparator" frame lock folder. Oupa is a very good friend of mine that drew up an original design for me to make him one of these years ago which I did and traded to him for another folder I really wanted. I did his and liked it. Then we kind of came up with this name for it as a play on words combining Operator and his screen name from the knife forums and with his blessings I now make one every now and again as seen here in either 440C stainless steel, ATS34 stainless, 1095 gun blued blades or hand forged damascus blades and all titanium frames or with G10, or Carbon Fiber handle scales and titanium frames.

That first one for my friend Oupa (Dirk Potgieter is his real name) was a liner lock. I've never much cared for liner locks though and when I started making more for myself I beefed them up to what you see here. No two are ever exactly alike. Being ambidexterous I have even done a couple true left handed folders that I gave to some friends of mine. These are true handmade folders through and through. Also sporting custom made titanium pocket clips made by me in either standard style or my signiture low rider style clips also referred to as 'fold over' clips for low profile carry. Some of these in 1095 blade steel are thinner blade models and done that way on purpose. My favorite carry knives growing up in the hills of West Virginia was always some kind of a Case pocket knife with one of the CV blades in it. During that time I got used to the versatility of a thinner easier slicing blade than some of these thick monster blades you see in frame locks today so my idea was to tie in that original thinner blade of the old slip joints I carried as a youth with some more modern lock type titanium folders. The one hand easy opening and pocket clip further brought them up to date but the blades allowed just enough flavor of yesteryear that I thought the two combined together quite well.

Most of these folders will look similar so you can tell they are the same model. However, one may sport a 2 and 3/4" blade while another may be up to 3 and 1/4" depending on how it comes out or what I have in mind when building one. Closed lengths run from 4" to 4.5" and I use anywhere from .100" to .110" *(my favorite) to .140" thick beef cake titanium slabs for the lock sides depending on what I can find. On others I'll use .050" thick titanium with Micarta or G10 over scales or stand alone sides on the non lock side of equal thickness to the lock side in G10, or Carbon Fiber materials to build them without a liner on the non lock side. I've even done quite a few in .070 thickness titanium which makes for a thin medium duty folder easy to carry and quite light in weight. Click any picture to enlarge to full size. This is the only folder model I make from scratch anymore. I've found that it allows me to have a custom folder from scratch to still claim to 'make knives' without hindering my other interests in knives which is the other stuff you see here in the way of rebuilding or redesigning production folders more to my own personal liking. Feel free to ask any questions regarding this folder model. I'll sell a limited number a year only because being a hobbyist I don't want to get into a situation where I change my tax braket.

True South Paw frame lock folder in gun blued 1095 blade steel

For those wondering, 'true southpaw' refers to the fact that the lock is set up for a left handed person. A lot of makers charge more for left handed knives. I find it no more difficult to do than a right handed one personally. They are not as called for as the right handed ones I guess so maybe thats it.

South Paw frame lock looking down in

Lefty Ouparator showing grooving in titanium and low rider

Gun Blued 1095 blade extra long Ouparator with grooving and grip cuts