dinsdag 19 juli 2016

The Blade's primary function Part Two: Heat Treatment and hardness

CONAN, not Cohen...oh well.

Treating something hot

It's not exactly like what you picture

We've all seen scenes in Conan the Barbarian, The Hunted and many other films where they take a
red hot blade and stick it in a bucket of icewater, or a bank of snow or something along those lines.
We've heard (horror) stories about persians who quenched their blades in the bellies of slaves to make them better and the magical properties of moonlit forging.

As you know however Hollywood has a tendency of hearing something....and then completely screwing it up in their films. So that, while the basis of what they're showing is true, they're completely missing a LOT of important details.

Because four hands on a keyboard
are WAY faster than two
everyone knows this!
They do this with hacking, crime solving, war fighting, engineering and even basic physics. So why not for blademaking too.

Recap, steel

So a brief recap, steel is iron mixed in with carbon and often some other elements like chromium to give it the desired properties.
The main interesting one is Carbon though. And whether it contains carbon or not determines whether the metal/steel can be hardened.

Iron balls?
The reason this is needed is that iron itself, is rather ductile....that means it bends when put under
stress. Granted, iron is still better than a lot of other materials, copper for instance is softer still. But when using a knife it's kind of nice to not have to sharpen it again everytime you make the initial new slice in a tomato. Or when cleaning a carcass when hunting you have to sit down and resharpen it after making the first cut.

Offcourse you could just use a harder material like stone...but that comes with a whole host of other problems. Because since it's so hard when having it in thin slices (like on the cutting edge of a knife) it becomes brittle. So a knife needs a combination of hardness (so it stays sharp) and flexibility (so that chunks don't break out of it while using). It's like a balancing act.

And so far, the best material at this balancing act is hardened steel.

Heat treatment, how does it work?

Sooooo metal!
The technical side of heat treatment is rooted in the science of metals. Also known as metallurgy. Now metallurgy is a real sciency subject and is pretty difficult to follow. Even for me when they start getting all technical. However the basis for it is fairly easy to understand.

Iron atoms have a crystal type structure. In other words, a very organised structure. The comparison doesn't work 100%, but picture honeycombs. You know the hexagonal shape that they have and how it's repeated all throughout the beehive. Iron is like that when it's cold.

It's like a 3d honeycomb structure. Like a rubber ball with hexagonal sides all around.
Bounce bounce bounce

If you've ever handled one of these then you know you can squeeze and manipulate the shape of it all over the place.

Now steel however it like lots and lots of these all stuck together. With harder pieces in between the balls. Just for picture's sake let's say there's little black balls stuck in between the red rubber balls that are exactly big enough to be on the inside of the red balls.

What we WANT is to get the black balls inside of the red structures. This will make the steel harder (because of the black balls on the inside the red balls won't be able to compress anymore) but still somewhat flexible (the red balls can still stretch).

Now the black balls are bigger than the hex openings in the red balls....so something needs to happen to make those bigger.

To make the openings bigger we're going to heat up the material. When materials get hot the atoms and molecules start moving around more. When they move around more they require more space. So we heat up the material past a certain point and the red balls get slightly bigger, just big enough to let the black balls into the structure of them.

Now if we let them cool down slowly, the red balls will squeeze out the black balls again. And essentially nothing will have changed.

However if we go FAST and cool the material fast enough then (somehow) the red balls get smaller so fast that the black balls don't have the time to move out of them. And we have hardened steel.

That's the first step, we call this "Quenching" the steel.

You can imagine that something that happens so quick...might not be the most stable of structures. In fact, most of the time. This structure is so hard that it's become brittle. Now remember, brittleness is something we've wanted to avoid all along. Otherwise we'd have been better off with something like glass or stone.

The only acceptable brittle
So there's at least one more step in the process. We have to stabilise the material. And we call this process "Tempering" the steel. When tempering the steel the hardness is brought down a little bit so that it can become more stable, tougher and more flexible.

For example, if you take a really hard metal like a file (steel files are extremely hard, they have to be because they have to CUT other steel) and throw it on the stone tiles, it'll break into two or three pieces.
Take that same file, temper it a bit more and do something similar and it'll end up scratched, but still in one piece.

Heat treatment practises

So how does this go in practise? Well. You heat up the steel to the appropriate temperature (anywhere from 820° celcius up to 1200° celcius) and keep it there for the appropriate time. Remember, for perfection you have to give the red balls enough time to absorb the black balls. For some steels (simpler steels with less carbon and little/no other elements) this goes almost instantaniously when it hits the right temperature. Other steels need to be kept at a certain temperature for a certain time to ensure the transformation of the whole steel.

For bonuspoints....do this kind of stuff
WITHOUT the gloves...
Then after that it can be quenched in a medium appropriate with the right cooling off rate.
Some steels require a FAST cooling like water or salt saturated water.
Other steels work best with oils.
Other again work best through cooling them with cold metal plates (aluminium or steel) and others again just need to cool down in "normal" temperatur air.

All of this depends on how hard you want the steel to be, the kind of structures you want the steel to have and what ingredients are in the steel.

After hardening tempering can correct the hardness and the grain structures that you didn't want. Tempering is done on much lower temperatures than quenching temps. More between 180° celcius and 300° than the extreem red hot temps.

Hardness and grain structure

The eventual goal offcourse of all this hard work is to get the steel hard enough and flexible enough. Hardness can be seen/measured by hardness testing. In working with steel we generally work with the Rockwell C scale. It measures hardness by clamping the steel in something. And then pressing a tiny diamond or other hard point into the steel with the same force every time. Depending on how deep the dent goes you can see how hard something is.

In general, the harder a steel is. The longer it will stay sharp when using.

Yes....smiths are nerds and they LOVE diagrams
and charts and graphs
Then there is the grain structure. This one is harder to measure. The only way is to break the piece in two, polishing the pieces, etching them and then checking under a microscope. Now you'll understand that you can't do this for everything you make. So knifemakers generally do "practise pieces" and check with those so that they can get the right "recipe" down for their actual knives.

While we all agree about one thing, "finer grain is better". We don't really have an ideal hardness.
That one depends on all sorts of stuff, intended use, type of steel, type of knife, thickness of the grind and all factors like it.

For a big wood chopping knife you don't generally want it to be too hard. It might break, or pieces might snap off.

On the other hand on a pocket knife, that's only used for softer materials (meat/vegetables/fruit etc) maybe you'd want as hard as possible since there's very little risk in it breaking.

A lot of thought goes into the end result And if done wrong the results can be pretty bad....if done right the results can be amazing.

dinsdag 28 juni 2016

The Blade's primary function Part one: Steel Type

What makes a knife....a knife?

It's been a while since I wrote anything. Basically I did not feel "triggered" for a while as well as being rather busy with other things in my life. But recently something triggered some thoughts of mine and I thought I'd do another writeup.

The War Wizard and his edict.

As an early 20 something I really got into the writings of Terry Goodkind. Somehow his books really spoke to me. What helped was the fact that the main character was a wizard/swordsman who when he fought had the the following directive:

"It means only one thing, and everything: cut. Once committed to fight, cut. Everything else is secondary.
Cut. That is your duty, your purpose, your hunger. There is no rule more important, no commitment that overrides that one. Cut." (source)
Only way that could've been cooler would  if he used a chainsword
To me, this was just plain cool. No other reason than that. It's raw, and pure and the core of what a
Awesome indeed...I would probably still do it if it were lik this.
fight should feel like. As a teenager I was a fencer and that was how it felt for me (except we didn't cut each other...we poked at each other with pointy weapons)

Now that I make knives my the edict for my blades is pretty much the same. That's what they should do and in general...they do it pretty well.

But....why? And how can you recognise something that will cut and cut well?

What influences the edge?

And with some knives...the design is so impractical
that it really doesn't matter......
Now if you'd go on to knife forums like the ones that I sometimes frequent you'll find a LOT of talk about several factors. The most that is talked about when it comes to how well (or long) a knife will cut are a couple of things namely:

  • Steel type
  • Heat Treatment (hardness of the blade)
  • Edge angle
All of these definately have an impact and I'll explain a little how. But there's at least  2 more factors that will play a HUGE influence on how well (and how long) a knife will be effective as a knife.

  •  Stock or spine thickness (how thick the knife is at it's thickest point)
  • Grind/Geometry of the blade. (What shape/thickness the blade is going from the spine or back of the knife to the edge

Today's Topic: Steel Type

When we look into fiction (books/ Comics) we always see some "Ultimate steel". Looking at the most recent Marvel films for instance they talk about Vibranium (Capt. America's Shield for instance) a lot. Apart from that metal there's mention of Adamantium (Wolverine's Metal Claws and infused skeleton). Then in the movie Avatar they talk about "Unobtanium". And in decades past Titanium was seen as the Unobtanium (different link than the last one) that everyone wanted. So much in fact that right now there's still a bit of a Titanium craze going on.

But fictional or hyped metals aside....what makes a metal suitable to make a knife out of. And for that...we have to go down to Chemistry. And what the difference in between Iron (an element) and Steel (An alloy).

We all know about Iron. Iron is the stuff that we see all around us. The stuff that rusts when it gets wet. The stuff they make ships out of.

Or is it? See it turns out..that Iron on itself is pretty soft and rusts easy. So for a lot of purposes it's not that good after all.

But we CAN make it better at certain things. This is when we start making alloys. The romans and those before them had already discovered that certain metals like Copper were pretty good...but if you mixed them in with other metals you could make things like Bronze. Which has some other desireable properties.
In the air? Yup....in steel? Well I wouldn't want my
blade to smell like a fart....but I'm pretty happy with carbon
being where it is.

The same can be done with Iron. For instance you can add some Carbon to the mix (yes, carbon, the stuff that we all worry about in emissions is a very usefull additive to iron). And when you start doing that you create what we know as "Steel".

Steel is a lot stronger than iron. Meaning it'll resist deformation (It won't bend as easily).

For steel to be usefull as a knife steel (because we use steel for lots of other purposes too, like ships, pots, pans etc) it needs around 0.6% of carbon in the mix.

As a general rule (but not a golden one, this is a bit of a simplification but a useful one) the more carbon you add to a steel the harder you can make it with the heat treat. (We'll talk about that in the next blog)

No...no that kind of Chrome.
Then there are other ingredients you can add to the steel. One of the most important ones is Chrome. Which is used to make a regular steel resist corrosion (Rust) better. The more chrome in the mix, the less likely the steel is to rust.

Who knew you could burn a knife too?
Then there are things like Vanadium and Tungsten which can make for very small...very HARD pieces in the steel. (Carbides) Offcourse the harder something is, the less likely it'll be to wear down (get dull) so lots of small extremely hard bits in a metal could mean that the knife made from it stays sharp longer.

There are quite a few other things than can be thrown into the mix. But what it comes down to is, like with a cake...where the ingredients will for a large part determine what the end result tastes like.....the ingredients in the steel determine for a large part how the knife will behave when finished.

Like with a cake though....if you build it wrong, or overheat it, or underheat it you can still easily ruin it no matter how nice the original ingredients were.

What can we conclude?

A little bit more about steel. And offcourse why knife collectors rave about it sometimes. In general the more expensive the steel is. The better it'll be at certain things. A steel with a lot of ingredients might stay sharp for a very long time. But you might not be able to GET it as sharp because at a microscopic level there are bigger particles in the mix. (The smaller something is...the better it'll cut things,)

This is why for a long time a lot of people thought Stainless steels were no good for knives. Stainless steels have more ingredients and therefore a courser grain (bigger pieces), bigger pieces cut less efficiently. But most carbon steels have relatively few ingredients and therefore smaller grain /particles so they cut better.

The picture has to be compl
But when it comes down to it. Even the cheap steels will "make a decent cake" if the proper recipy is followed.

Will a more expensive steel make a better knife? Sure...if all the other factors are also done right. But if not....tough cookies. Your expensive $500 knife with unobtanium steel might just be outcut by the simple and humble Opinel that can be bought at your local hardware store for $15. (Not affiliated with Opinel....just owned one as a boy (still do) and they're great knives).

Next installment:  Hardening and basics about Heat Treatment

Ofcourse this blog wouldn't be complete without some bonus knife pictures of the stuff I make.

donderdag 11 september 2014

Artists or engineers?

So this week I got an addition to my knife collection. It's a yearly edition by probably my favourite designers, A.G. Russell and Phil Gibbs.

Like this....except for this guy's
killer hair/glasses combo.
I sat on the couch with my new knife and was just checking out all the details on it. The little things that make it one of their knives. Small things that just improve the quality on it whilst the casual observer would probably not notice on it. And I was extolling the virtues of some of these features to my wife when she asked me: "So is he an Artist? or an Engineer.

You see a while back I started thinking about what makes some knifemakers able to turn out knife after knife, each the exact same as the last one. Or with only a slight change in colour or shape. And that would blow my mind. Because....well....I can't imagine making the same thing over and over again and still enjoying it.

Dreadlocks are cool though
Maybe I could get away with
those?...nah, would probably
just get stuck in my beltgrinder.
And since me and the missus discuss almost everything we came up
with a reason for me not enjoying making the same thing over and over again....she decided I'm too much of an artist to like that.

Now let me assure you....I ain't no hippy sitting around painting grass and smoking flowers (that's what hippies do right? Or did I get those mixed up?) and hugging trees whilst wearing goat woolen socks and hemp clothing. So I asked her what she meant.

Assembly line work needs
a special kind of person
Well it all has to do with the creative process. Turns out that for me (like for some) the process of creating, of doing NEW things of building experiences is VERY important. This shows itself in the fact that the first time I've ever tried to build knives that look similar was this past year.....and the reason I did it was mainly to see if I could......so in short I tried it for the experience of trying it.

Solution based thinking
if I ever saw it
So I could see the point. So it started me wondering.....what's the opposite of that then? Why do some people work on ONE model knife for so long, tweaking it and perfecting it slowly, building generation after generation of it each one slighly.

After pondering it I realised.....it's because they're more of an engineer. You see an engineer is
someone who works to find solutions. Who leans towards perfection if possible. Who's more occupied with how WELL something works than with the process of building it.

"Now if we move this over there...the toilet will flush
just a tiny bit faster"
"Sounds like it'll be worth the extra $50K, I'm
right on it!"
And engineer can take months of preparation, drawing plans, doing calculations and research before he ever commits to the first spade/brick/piece of concrete etc. And if possible he'll redo the entire thing if he feels he can get an extra 0.001% of performance out of it.

An artist on the other hand will waste as little time as possible and just get cracking as soon as he can. He might make a quick sketch but some will not even do that.

I'm honestly not sure which
should represent
the artist and which
the engineer in this
one. You decide.
Now realise here...I'm not saying any of you knifemakers are a complete artist or a complete engineer.  What I'm saying is that every knifemaker has to be a little bit of a multiple personality version of that. (Not Scizophrenic........Schizophrenia is NOT multiple personality disorder like most people think).

He (she? There's some impressive knifemaking ladies out there) HAS to be. In order for the knife to functional he's got to get in to the science side of things. Learn about materials, learn about construction etc.
In order to make the knife look good he's got to embrace his artistic side. I've seen some very well built knives (functionally and technically) that look like complete crap (to me). So in those cases maybe there's very little artist and a LOT of engineer.

I google "Fantasy Knife" was NOT disappointed
At the same time I've seen many a knife that looks AMAZING.....but then the person starts talking about the materials/construction methods he uses and it turns out it'll probably not work very well at all. Or maybe it'll be very uncomfortable.

Some collectors might prefer artists' knives. They love the aestethics. Others listening to the engineer inside them will prefer more utilitairian looking things.

In the end.....All this doesn't really matter. Some people have a preference for Artists while others prefer Engineers. I try to be a little bit of both.

All of this is just to give you some food for thought. Maybe next time you look at something you see you'll stop and wonder....was this made by an artist? Or by and Engineer.....and why do I like/dislike it?

In closing...enjoy this little clip that made me scratch my head in bafflement.

maandag 14 juli 2014

What is Quality?

This wasn't my school.....butthat
would've been AWESOME!
When I was in uhm.....(what's the english equivalent of a HBO?) college I suppose at one point I had a class
on "Quality". The class started with the teacher asking a simple but very difficult to answer question:

What is quality?

I'll tell you me and my classmates brainstormed for a long time on that question and never really got to a clear cut answer.

A couple of years later I was hired to be a Test Consultant in training. The CEO (Who is an awesome guy) of the company had all trainees in his office on our first day to talk about what we were going to do in our capacity as software testers and just testers in general.

At a certain point during that meeting he held up one of the pens with the company logo to show it to us. Then he gave each of us one of those pens and told us: "Go ahead, test this pen". In our enthusiasm some of us started writing with it, others worked with the balance, some checked the pen for manufacturing flaws and we experimented with it in all sorts of ways for a few minutes. But all the while we got the feeling that we weren't doing it right somehow.

(We may or may not have looked a little like in the video while doing it....I'll never tell)

Worms, full of healthy proteins.
Offcourse the fact that our CEO had a sneaky smile on his face the whole time didn't help. We just knew we were doing something wrong but couldn't put our fingers on it. Then out of nowhere someone in our group came up and figured something out. He asked the CEO "Well.....what do you want it to do?"

And that was exactly the purpose. That was what he'd been angling for.

You see, quality is a tough subject. Because it has so many aspects. Offcourse this is a knife blog so we'll talk about knives here.

Soo.....a good car should always be able to
 withstand a 1000ft drop right?
To some Quality might mean that a knife takes the sharpest edge. To someone else Quality means that there's no flaws in the construction. A third user might not find any of those important but DOES care that it stays sharp for very long during usage. Then the fourth chimes in and says that quality is more about high end materials. A fifth might claim that a quality knife has to LOOK like it's high end. And we could go on and on and on probably for a long time.

You see, determining whether something is a quality piece is dependent on the specifications and the demands placed on that piece.

Gotta take those boxes to the box flattening area first!
Or is there a special box slicing area?
Are you someone who cuts down carboard boxes all day  at work? The specifications for you would then say that something has to be

  1. Comfortable to work with for extended periods of time
  2. has high edge holding capability (because cardboard is very abrasive and will dull most knives pretty quickly)
Are you more of a woodworker? Then your knife would have to be
  1. Comfortable when a lot of force is put into is
  2. take a very fine (very sharp) edge and maybe edge retention is important for you too. (Edge retention is important to most people who like knives)
This is what hunters wear right?
Maybe you're someone who hunts and field dresses a lot of animals. In that case:
  1. You want something that won't get slippery/is easy to hold on to when it gets wet/bloody
  2. Maybe you prefer something that can be easily sharpened

In short, everything in life is pro's and cons. You just have to figure out which ones are more important to you. And it could very well be that in those cases...you'd be willing to spend a little extra to make sure you're getting exactly what your specs were.
And trust me, there's nothing like getting EXACTLY what you wanted. Most knife makers will try to make sure of this. I was recently "accused" of being obsessed with details when I make a knife for someone. Well, that's because I want to make a quality piece and in order to do that I have to make sure that I know what it is you want.

So my advise to you when buying a knife (or spending money on anything that costs a little more or that you'll be using a lot):
Make sure you know what you want.
 Followed closely by:
Be prepared to spend a little extra to make sure it IS what you want.

After all that's why they say "Buy cheap, cry all the time, buy quality cry only once."

Alexander Noot

Here's some gratuitous knife making pictures :-)

woensdag 4 juni 2014

What's the best.....?(knife, steel, handle material, brand etc etc etc)

As a Knife maker, Collector  and all around enthusiast I tend to do a lot of reading about knives. Most of my reading takes place on the internet, specifically on the various knife forums and communities that I frequent.

One of the most asked questions that I see generally runs along the lines of: What's the best.... followed by a
Because we all know Daniel San is the best....also
you might want to listen to the song that's now stuck in your head.
...you're welcome.
specific part or construction method or maybe a brand or something.

Sometimes the questions vary a little as in they'll ask...: I have $XX.XX...what's the best knife I can get for that?

I have to admit I've even asked the question myself once. Purely for inspirational purpose on what to buy with all my hard earned pennies. And that's fine I think. We all need a little inspiration every now and then (even though I'd never ask that question that way anymore).

Why would I never ask that anymore though? Don't we all want to know what the best of something is? Offcourse we do! Don't we deserve the very best that our money can buy? (I feel we do). So why NOT ask that question?

Well, because the question isn't complete. Let's take that question and put it in a setting that more people have something in common with. Let's take cars for instance.
Allthough let's be honest...this is clearly the best car EVER!
I mean nothing offroads like this beast!
Let's say you ask someone: "What is the best car ever produced so far?"
You could ask 100 people that question and possibly come up with 100 different answers. I typed it into google and the results I got were mostly, "Best sold cars ever" in which case the best car ever according to Wikipedia it's probably the Toyota Corolla. (Funnily enough the above shown Ford-T ranks pretty darn high as well)

But is the Toyota Corolla really the best car? Can it beat a landrover when it comes to going offroad? Or a Ferrari when it comes to high speeds? Can it fit a lot of people and travel comfortably like a volkswagen hippy van? Or keep on going and being easily repaired like the common army Jeep?

I'm pretty sure the answer to all of those questions is a wholehearted NO.

I'm popupar because I think thumbs up
is still considered cool (I really do)
So we see that the most popular doesn't mean it's the best at something. You see, you can't just say "The
best". Because that question should ALWAYS be followed up by the counter question: "At what?".

So now we're getting somewhere. Now we can start asking direct questions. Like:
What's the best value for money? What's the best steel for low maintenance? What's the best design for skinning? What's the best brand for kitchen knives with long periods in between sharpening?

If we ask questions we need to share with the person we're asking them where the question is going. Are you an avid outdoorsman who's spening 30% of his time in the woods/forrests? Maybe the best knife you should buy might be a little more spendy than for someone who only goes camping 3 days a year (two of those on a campsite with electricity).

A proffessional if I ever saw one.
Are you a proffessional chef? Maybe spending a little more on a good chefs knife might shave a few minutes off prep time in the kitchen for dishes and in the long haul will make your kitchen more efficient.

Are you a hobby chef? Maybe "efficient" isn't that important to you, but maybe you'd love something that just LOOKS good?

Do you do a lot of woodchopping? Maybe you'd like a shock reistant steel in your knife like CPM3V. On the other hand if you'd prefer something that works well in a wet enviroment and keeping it sharp is not much of a priority then 420J might be plenty good for you.

Want something budget friendly? Get something made in china with 8Cr13Mov steel and you'll only spend up to $20 or so. The performance won't be up to par with more expensive blades often. But for a lot of people it'll be just fine.

On the other hand if you want someting unique that'll work really well you'll have to spend a little more.

I've had some customers come to me and ask me: "What's your best knife?" To which I'd have to reply......I don't know. What do you want to do with it? (Because I'd love to make you one)

maandag 19 mei 2014

Why knives?

I was sitting in the car the other day, on my way to church and I was thinking about what my next blog should be about. And I would like to appeal to people who don't collect knives a little bit as well. You know. Keep it interesting for my family who merely tolerate my knife hobby instead of participating in it.

So I asked my wife, I said "Dear, what would you, as a non-knife-person, like to read about on a blog about knives?" And she basically said "Why Knives?"

So I want to write a little bit about why I like knives, and why a lot of people like knives and the various reasons for collecting them.
Bob Loveless in his workshop.
Seriously...the man wore the coolest hats.

Knife making legend Bob Loveless said the following about knives:
"When a man picks up a knife, there's an old memory from the collective unconscious that surfaces. A knife is an atavistic experience. It was man's first tool and weapon. Man was chipping flint into cutting edges before he invented the wheel. No matter how sophisticated we become, a knife takes us back to the cave."
(Interview with Bob Loveless, Sports Illustrated 1980)

And in a way...that makes a point with me silly as that may be. When I hold a knife....it makes me want to do something with it. It makes me want to see how sharp it is. How long it will cut, how good it'll keep on feeling in the hand. It makes me want to go out into the woods and build a shelter, cut wood and MAKE something.

Shiny....sooooo shiny...must cut.....throats..
HAIR...must shave HAIR
(Source Sweeny Todd)
The idea that there is something that separates things at the moleculair level (which is what a cutting edge does) astounds me. The effort, the design and the production processes interest me enough that I could (and I have) read books about it for hours. Looking at a knife feature and thinking "why did they design it this way" can keep me occupied for quite a while and sometimes I'll bore my wife to death with the discovery of a new feature on something that I've owned for a long time. I love using knives, for me it all started with proper "Cut Throat" razors (Called Straight Razors properly) and it ventured on from there.

Well that's just me though. That said, my collection of knives is pretty humble. I spend a LOT more time and money on MAKING knives. So for me the interest in collecting them is also in learning from them about how to make a better knife. Sometimes I learn something about how a knife is built, and sometimes I learn how NOT to do something from the way a knife is built.

Apart from what I like about collecting knives there are a lot of other motivations for people. Here's a few collectors stereotyped.....and please note. A lot of collectors fall into more than one category. You'll also see a lot of these collectors in other collecting hobbies like Fountain Pens, Camera's, Watches etc.

"I finally found that goldcovered
 feather duster with diamond inlayed tip!
Now my feather duster collection is complete!"

The one pattern guy:

This is the collector that just REALLY likes ONE type of knife. Or maybe it's one manufacturer or one handle material. His (her? There seem to be fewer lady "collectors") goal is basically to "Collect the whole set" Some people collect a Peanut Pattern, others collect knives in Mammoth Ivory (no, that's not illegal...mammoths were already extinct for a loooong time, no one is hunting them), others prefer Mother of Pearl or maybe they collect hand forged bowie knives. Maybe it's just from a certain smith or factory. The hunt for that one missing piece is a lot of fun and sometimes it takes YEARS to find that one that's been eluding you for so long. The person hunting for "The one" will pay a LOT of money that, to someone who isn't in the know, will not really seem worth it. But to this collector it is because of rarity for instance. When not coupled with common sense the One Pattern guy will turn into the Fanboy.

The Investment guy

The Collvestor is basically looking at his hobby as a way to make money. However it's mostly the trading that he likes. He'll be buying low (if possible) and selling high. However this guy knows that it's pretty difficult to make REAL money through his collection. It's basically turned into a personal challenge. He'll be scouring E-bay and trade shows. Looking into garage sales and secondhand stores.
At the higher end of the scales he'll be looking at newer custom makers and trying to predict which ones will become famous and go up in value. There are a lot of Collvestors who aren't very good at it. being a good Collvester takes a LOT of research, time energy and often money. For a lot of these people the game is a lot more important than winning though. And they often don't mind all too much if they lose some money on a deal. Someone who's got quite an eye for this (and literally wrote the book on it) is Les Robertson.

The Trend Chaser

I kill the CRAP out of those boxes!
The Trend Chaser is someone who's always looking for the latest and greatest. He sees folding knives with a new locking system? He's gotta play with one. He sees a new type of steel coming to market? He's gotta get one. It doesn't matter if he has any real use for the knife or not. Some trend chasers use knives in their daily lives, others just chase em to collect em. Some will take them out on militairy deployment, others into the woods. Others will just sit and open and close them in front of the TV. (And open the occasional box with em)

What you do with the knife isn't really as important as the fact that you own one and have actually held one. These guys are the early adopters of the knife world. And sometimes they can make or break a makers reputation.

The I-collect-what-I-like guy.
You're not my real dad!..I do what I want!
(Source, We're the Millers)

This guy is usually a mix of all of the above. (And this is what MOST collectors are like). They'll just buy things that they like. Sometimes that's because they like the history, sometimes because of the price, sometimes because the materials or the design are something special. These guys are most often called "Accumulators" rather than collectors by some of the other groups. There's no real order to what they like. But they don't care. They like what they like and if they lose money on it, or if it doesn't fit in with the rest of the collection then that's just fine. Their collections are one big mishmesh of patterns, materials, makers, priceranges and era's of knives. They like what they like and they'll do what they want. No apologies.

The User

He might be a woodsman, a butcher, a chef, a militairy man or all of the above. But the User buys his knives to USE and will let everyone know. The knives in his collection will show patina (a light form of corrosion), sharpening marks and scratches.
These guys are often LOVED by knifemakers. They can tell a knifemaker how to improve his work in a functional manner. Some of these guys will buy VERY expensive knives and use them in the same way they'll use a $50 knife. Some of these guys don't know much about making knives, or steel chemistry or things like that. But they know what makes a knife work well. Some makers will even send these guys knives for virtually free just to get some valued feedback. (Or at cost of materials)
Don't be this guy.....just don't.

And then there's the worst kind of collector (in my view)

The Fan-Boy
The Fan Boy is kind of like the One Pattern guy except that he's a complete fanatic. He devotion to a certain thing (brand, model, maker) is complete and blind. He's the kind of personality that you see on forums that, when someone has a complaint about a certain knife (like it broke or something), will be the first to accuse the owner of doing it wrong.
He's the person that, when someone complains about being ripped off by a maker, will say "Don't worry, he'll make it right", or "He's a great guy, he'd never do that" or "You must've been rude to him or he had a bad day or something".
Nothing you can say will dissuade the fanboy from his devotion. His object of adoration is flawless and anyone who refuses to see this is an idiot and not worthy of respect or decency.

Like I said though. We usually are a mix of all of the above. Be whatever kind of collector you want to be.....just don't.....DON'T be a fanboy. (Or girl)

Gratuitous picture of some knives I made..
also...buy my knives!

vrijdag 16 mei 2014

More knife myths: The strongest type of knife.

Recently I read a Blog about how to select the proper knife for survival. In this blog the writer (a self appointed expert) claims that the only type of knife that's suitable for survival situations is a FULL TANG knife. This is another one of those myths that probably started out as a strength test and then became gospel somehow.

First of all let's get into several construction types for knife handles. Basically there are two general types of handle construction method which have different variations and extra's that are possible.

First of all there's the Full Tang of which the construction looks like this:

As you can see, the full tang construction is fairly simple. (Actually all knife constructions are simple...they're knives, not diesel engines)

It's basically a slab of metal, the one end of the metal is ground (or forged) into the blade. The other end of the metal is drilled with a couple of holes (usually), and then slabs of handle material are placed on there with glue and pins. Sometimes bolsters are added, sometimes the tang is tapered, sometimes more holes are drilled for weight reduction. But the basis is simple. A piece of steel with two pieces of handle material.

Then there's the "Hidden Tang" which does exactly as it implies. It hides the piece of steel that is not the
blade. These also come in all sorts of variations. Some are mortised (which is like a cross between hidden tang and fulltand), some have a very narrow tang (rat tail tangs) others have a very wide tang. Some tangs run all the way through the handle to be fastened on the other end of the handle, others only run through partially to be pinned through the handle

Now the idea that most survivalists seem to hold (and a LOT of people really) is that a full tang is the only real way to go for a survival knife.
Granted...the full tang probably IS stronger. That means if you took two similarly shaped handles of similar sizes and put them through a torture test that was the same. The hidden tang knife would probably fail before the fulltang.

The question that needs to be asked though is....do you really need a strong handle? Is the handle the part of the blade that normally breaks? Let's have a look shall we? I googled "Broken knife" in google images and got a lot of results. You know what? I'd guess over 90% of those broken knives didn't break at the handle but at the blade. You see...at the blade the steel is ground thinner and so that's naturally going to be the weaker part. The handle, whether it be hidden or fulltang, usually leaves the tang at full thickness.

Even in those cases where a broken knife handle is visible around 30% of them are still full tang knives (I saw some VERY expensive heavy dute marketed knives among them) and MOST of the knives with broken handles were cheap ones that cost less than $40.

What were you planning to do in a survival situation that is going to break your knife?
Hidden tangs are plenty strong for pretty much any use that a knife should do. Want to see? Have a look. A couple of years back I made my biggest knife so far. A very large Bowie style knife. Once it was finished I decided that I wanted to play with it a little. We had an old coffee table that was going to be thrown away. So I chopped it up. Here's the result
You might notice, I'm not holding back there. Full force chops. The knife was still extremely solid, it was still sharp. And it was probably more comfortable than any fulltang knife I've ever held. (The advantage of hidden tang knives is that they don't transfer any vibrations or force directly to the hand.

So, what's stronger? Probably a fulltang. What do I like more? Hidden tangs both because of looks, functionality and the fact that they're plenty strong to do pretty much anything with that I'd ever need to do.

Which reminds me....I should get to making another bowie knife....just because it's fun :-)