“The Project Knife” Wrap-Up

 

This was the photo on EBAY when I bid and won the no-name, “Project Knife” back in early February.

The stacked leather handle was a bit loose, ragged and uneven. The sheath was a sub-in, and too short for the 6″+ blade. The blade itself was dull, with some surface pitting etc.

Only the tiniest bit of cleanup and polishing on the blade by the time this photo [above] was taken had let me see that the knife was indeed worth the time and effort to bring it back up to grade. [this was after only 15 minutes work with some strop compounds and a bit of rag, right in my lap].

 

There was very little really wrong with the knife. Just neglect and abuse that needed fixing up. You can find the previous posts showing some of the progress by scrolling down a ways here on the timeline.

The handle took a bit of reshaping, but you can see how it was starting to come back.

 

 

 

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All told, I don’t believe I have much more than three hours of my time invested in the whole restoration process, and virtually NO money beyond the $10 cost of a replacement sheath. A good bit of the job was waiting for glues and etc to set between sessions, and I certainly didn’t “buckle-down” to the job. I grabbed a few minutes here and there.

I am completely satisfied with the end result. I have been finishing up the job with some work to clean up the brass blade guard, some time to further polish the blade itself, and some more sharpening and stropping. This morning I worked a bit of my friend CurleyMaple’s fantastic beeswax and oil mixture into the handle leathers to penetrate and seal the leather. The matte result gives a good, firm grip. Anyway… Imma callin’ it “done”.

I like the knife… and I think it looks great!

  • nice weight in the hand without being too heavy/ good balance
  • the colored bands at the guard and pommel cleaned up well/ the leather handle was returned to a rich dark shade/ that helps hide the fill-in that was necessary to tighten up the leather disks.
  • the blade came up very sharp with less effort that I has anticipated/ It remains to be seen how well it holds an edge over time, but I am betting it does as well as any.
  • the sheath is now a good fit/ I love the basketweave pattern/ the color deepened and the grain came out nicely with some Lexol/ I kept the old snap-strap from the sheath that came with it because it was broken in and had a better fit… and to give some continuity 

 

Yeah, I could have taken the Project Knife further, but I am looking for a tool, not a showpiece. I really do like the classic Bowie knife styling. Nothing fancy… just a clean, traditional shape that truly says, “hunting knife”. A lot of people have carried this style of knife through a lot of years… and it takes me back to a similar one I had in my Boy Scouting days. I am glad I went through the process to restore this one. I learned a lot, and will have no fears about taking on another knife project when one comes along.

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The Project Knife~ bonus

I almost took a “flyer”on this second “project” knife a week or so ago. Fortunately, it went for a price above my pay-grade, finally selling for $44US plus $7.99 s/h… fair, but not for me right now.

Described on eBay offering as:

“NICE OLD WADE & BUTCHER “TEDDY” MODEL, TEDDY ETCHED INTO BLADE, KNIFE SHOWS AGE AND SHARPENING, STACKED LEATHER HANDLE SLIGHTLY DRY, POMMEL CAP SHOWS SLIGHT DINGS, BLADE SHOWS SOME IDIOT PUTTING GRINDER MARKS ON IT.  SHEATH IS CRUDELY HANDMADE WITH A CROSSDRAW BELT LOOP BUT SHEATH IS IN GOOD CONDITION !”

Wade & Butcher are well known British cutlery makers in Sheffield, and most Sheffield is pretty nice steel… carbon and well formulated. Most interesting about this though is that the “TEDDY” is supposedly the first widely offered “stainless” steel hunting knife made.

The grip seems a bit bulbous to my taste, but I really loved the brass spaced catalin decorative disks at each end, and the single tang blade guard.

The fool and his grinder marks I can deal with, but what put me off making any bid was that I could see that the blade was rather heavily worn in right there before the ricasso [the squared off chunk between the edge and the guard… zoom the photo and you can really see it]. That was going to mean substantial regrinding forward on toward the point to flatten the bottom edge.

Still and all…. that’s a really nice looking knife, I will probably keep my eye on eBay in case another one comes along.

EDIT~ for a second “Bonus

Just to show that you can pick up a “good enough” used knife in reasonable condition for a reasonable price…. I passed on this KA-BAR USA 11″ Stacked Leather Bowie Knife with Leather Sheath as well, but it went for only $35US [shipped] over on eBay the other night… Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 9.43.26 AM

 

 

 

 

 

The Project Knife Update #1-2

There has actually been some slow but steady progress being made. I started out a couple of weeks ago, and then got hung up on the rest of my life commitments…

The first steps involved “stabilizing” the leather handle. No disks were actually missing, but there were small gaps between some, behind the brass guard, and right at the front catalin disks. I worked some Gorilla Glue into some of the gaps to start with. I also used some braided casting line with the GG to wrap-and-fill behind the guard. Then I switched to furniture glue as it could be thinned and put in on a razor blade.

This first photo shows where I have glued and then tightened up and worked the spaces between disks to give a single, dime-thick void. I filled this with black “Sugru”.

 

 

 

I finally had some time this morning, so I taped off the catalin decorative disks, the pommel and the guard with painters tape to protect them while I broke out a rasp, a file and the disk sander to get serious with reshaping the now tight and secure leathers. [You can see the Sugru infill there in the center]

 

For safety while grasping, I also put a pair of duct tape strips up the edge of the blade and covered them with a third layer folded over.

Here we are after some heavy rasp work, some filing, and a go with 220 grit on my Porter-Cable orbital.

After making most of those dark rings there between the disks go away, I moved on up to 400 grit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just cleaned up with a rag to get off the sanding dust, I am pretty pleased with the progress so far. You can see the shine already coming up on the leather. The grip in the hand feels fine, with no real change from the very slight material removal. Sure, the Sugru infill is always going to show as a souvenir of the renovation, but that just adds character.

There are some more spaces that showed up in the catalin disks by the pommel, and the down slopes across the catalin on both sides at the guard need to be brought up to the 400g level by hand.

In the center photo you can see how nicely the decorative disks come back. So, my next play is to work a last bit of glue into the gaps, lightly file off the residues, and work down those front slopes to match the rest.

The Project Knife Arrived

The semi-Bowie blade shape is just what I was looking for to add to my arsenal. Whatever it’s unknown age might be, the shape is the one popularized by the WWII “M3” combat blades issued to the US armed forces, and made by a number of quality knife companies including Camillus, Case, Ka-Bar, and Cattaraugus Cutlery. This one lacks the concave “blood groove” along the upper blade that marks the fighting knives. It is also shorter at 6″ as opposed to the M3 mil-spec standard of 6 3/4″.  As such, mine was probably [hopefully] made in the 50s-60s as a hunting or Boy Scouting knife. I had one very similar back in my own scouting days.

 

 

My EBay seller did not make it clear that the sheath was “non-original”, and had been modified to allow easier slashing of your pants leg.

 

 

In the upper photo I laid my fully sharpened Buck 692 over the new blade. It is obvious that there is not much on the way of an edge left on the new guy. You can see arm hairs from shave-testing the edge on the Buck… NO chance of that on the n00b. Although it is not really as obvious from the long angle of the shot, the new knife has very little if any damage to the point. It hasn’t been over-abused, just neglected and poorly sharpened/ maintained.

The classic aluminum pommel has a the Ka-Bar shape that I find really appealing… less rounded off than some scouting type knifes. It too shows no sign of abusive handling. Thank god it didn’t have the dreadful, disgruntled eagle pommel that got put on too many Boy Scout knives back in the day.

 

FullSizeRender 24The stacked leather on the handle is still tightly compressed with no missing disks, no gapping between the disks, and not dried out. I particularly like the finger grooves. They are a feature that I had not seen in the seller’s photos. The three color, plastic stacks at each end are right purdy as well.

 

I will want to do some overall smoothing with a file and high-grit sandpaper to even out the grip, and then finish it with a soaking coat of urethane.

This is what a brand new “stacked disk” handle looks like.

Here’s hopes that the project knife might make a come back to something similarly good looking.

 

 

In conclusion, the “project” knife is just about what I hoped to get for the money [$22 shipped]. The biggest question is of course that of the steel grade used, and with no quick way to evaluate that beyond re-edging it and then seeing how the blade holds up to use. The good news is that the overall construction seems to be of a quality that would at least imply a decent grade of steel was used in the build. It could be German Solingen. I know they made plenty of blades in this style, but “unbranded” for use by a variety of US companies.

Other than that, there are no glaring problems to be seen. I know what my knowledge, skills and tool kit are capable of… I don’t think there are any real obstacles to ending up with a highly usable, and nicely restored knife at far less cost than buying one new. Plus I get the satisfaction of the process. I’ll keep updating as I work on it.

Of course, I am gonna have to buy a new sheath! [$9 on Amazon].

[Quik Note~~ I was wrong about how bad the blade was. A fast whetting on my kitchen steel and I sliced up onions, carrots, and beef for stew just fine. It’s a bit thick in the blade for real kitchen use, but already good enough for my camp cooking chores]

 

Restoration Project Knife Inbound

I have been looking for a good project knife to restore as an exercise in what “can’ be done to bring a blade back to life.

I picked up this Boy Scout type semi-bowie for just over $20 on EBay. Nothing glamorous, but it truly needs work. Just a quick look shows that the blade will want a complete new edging, and the handle needs to be reprofiled.

It is also a great chance to really work out the Lansky System sharpener I got last Fall and my other stones, etc, to see just how good my licks are.

Overall, it appears to be good bet for a project… the handle looks to be tight and not too dried out, the steel is not pitted, and even the sheath is in OK condition, although I may pick the stitching and resew it. So… “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

I’m looking forward to this, as I have wanted a large/long blade for a while now and this one harkens back to knives I had as a kid [and have no idea what became of].

I’ll get some photos when it comes this weekend and let you know how it goes.

Sharpening Tips and Tricks from Moosenut Falls

  • Using a black “Sharpie” marker, draw a band of color along the very edge of the blade about an 1/8th” wide. Then when you run the blade over your stone you can see if you are taking material from the true edge or whether you are too far up on the shoulder/body of the knife. You want to be working the micro-bevel, not further back.
  • [This also works if you want to remove material from behind the micro-bevel when re-edging a blade… just make the Sharpie band wider, and attempt to leave the color on the edge itself]
  • You do not have to use much pressure. A little is better than a lot. Let the stone do the cutting and removal.
  • Use some oil to help float the blade on the stone, and keep cleaning the surface of your stone or hone as you work. the minute steel particles that are being stripped off the blade will clog the pores/grit of your stone. Eventually, you are just working on the build-up without any cutting action from the now buried stone surface. I use a drop of WD-40 wiped off with a paper towel. It will lift the debris right up and off… re-oil the surface and continue. [Diamond hone “stones” usually recommend water for lubrication, but the WD-40 trick works for cleaning]
  • Oh, yeah… that business about shaving hair off your forearm to “test” sharpness…? Don’t. You just end up looking patchy, and might cut yourself. Instead, just touch the blade edge to your thumbnail at the angle you would cut a steak. If it catches, you are getting sharp… if it slips, keep working.
  • Get a cheap magnifying glass or loop. Looking at the edge close-up is a full education as to what you are accomplishing and what you still need to do. [Plus a magnifying glass is still just as cool as when you used one as a kid… take it camping, it’s worth the weight for the fun.]
  • The consensus jury is way, way out on the issue of whether it is better to sharpen into the edge or away from the edge. Whatever you like. My personal take is that it is easier to accidentally steepen the angle and shove the blade into the stone, dulling it, if you are working into the stone. I move the blade back from its edge. I think this also allows the burr to pull away from the edge instead of being forced back under or up.*
  • Likewise there is no real consensus on whether you should work toward yourself or away on the stone surface, regardless of how you draw the knife across it.
  • Pressure, direction, angle, orientation… Find which works best for your own comfort. Your results, and the speed with which you achieve them will tell you what is right for you.
  • Also, remember that you can over-sharpen a blade. Going ultra-sharp on a chore knife just means it will dull faster because the edge is “too” delicate. If your knife performs the chore as needed, it is sharp enough.
  • Finally… an oldie-but-goodie. You can get a quick-fix sharpening done by using the rough, unglazed ring on the bottom of your favorite ceramic coffee mug.

My last suggestion is to find some old knives , and try out your sharpening licks on them. You might be really pleased to discover that you have rescued what would otherwise be a POS, and, at the very least, you won’t be wrecking a good knife on your learning curve. [Check out a Goodwill… old carbon steel kitchen knives show up in the bins there all the time. Give ’em a couple of surface licks with some steel-wool before you hit up working on the edges]

 

*with the new Lansky System I am using the only real way to use it is gliding the stones into the blade, up and across… exactly opposite to what I ordinarily do, but the results speak for themselves.

Putting a Fine Edge on Things…

When I was at the Great Pumpkin hammock hang last month, my friend R3l@X gave me a knife sharpening mini-seminar. I am fairly proficient, and have a variety of stones that have accumulated over the years, but I wanted to see if I could up my game. His system is based on the Lansky System of graduated hone stones and various polishing compounds on leather strops. I was way beyond impressed with the results, and ordered my own set when I got home.

From the Lansky site:

“The Lansky Deluxe Controlled-Angle Sharpening System [5 Stone] features:

  • Extra Coarse Black Hone: (70 grit) for re-profiling the bevel grind
  • Coarse Red Hone:  (120 grit) for edge reconditioning
  • Medium Green Hone:  (280 grit) for sharpening and less frequent touch-ups
  • Fine Blue Hone:  (600 grit) for most frequent touch-ups to keep your blade paper-slicing sharp
  • Ultra-Fine Ceramic Yellow Hone:  (1000 grit) for polishing the edge for a razor sharp edge
  • Honing Oil:  Specially Formulated for sharpening
  • Easy to use, multi-angle clamp:  to hold the blade securely
  • Guide Rods:  One for every hone
  • Extra long knife clamp screws for thicker blades
  • Storage/carrying case to hold all system components
  • Complete easy-to-follow multi-lingual instructions”

I ordered two additional diamond hones in Coarse (120) and Medium (280) grits because I knew that I had some, old, worthwhile blades that would require aggressive reshaping.

As you can see in the product materials, you clamp the blade in the jaws of the clamp, select an angle [17°/20°/25°/30°] that closely matches the existing edge, and using the rod mounted on the hone stone to maintain that angle with the slots, you gently slide the hone upward against and into the blade while sliding it sideways as well. The technique takes only a couple of passes to master, and yields superb results.

One of R3l@x’s tricks is to blacken the cutting edge of the blade with a “Sharpie” marker. Then you make 1 or 2 passes with the ultra fine, 1000 grit hone. That stone is so fine that it only polishes off the marker, and reveals how much the blade needs actual “grinding” down with the more aggressive stones to place/extend that polish right to the cutting edge. Any black between the polished of area and the cutting edge needs to be worked down. There are some other tricks and techniques that make using the Lansky System easier and more efficient… I will go into those when I do a planned tutorial on Basic Knife Sharpening sometime soon.

You just move up through the gradations of grit, moving from actually changing or improving the edge profile, thru simply refining out the grind marks, and on until you are merely polishing the final, “hair popping”, razor-sharp edge.

The results are astounding! I took the sad little neck knives that I bought for next to nothing out of Sham Shui Po, last seen in the post “You Get What You Pay For…”,  and achieved an unimagined sharpness that upgraded them from classic POSes, to really “OK”. I had them relegated them to survival kits just for batoning fire stock. Now they can shave tinder as well. They were the proof for the Lansky System in general, and the two diamond add-ons as well.

 

Using the Lansky is simple and effective. Combined with further finish honing on stropping compound sticks, you can easily get great results. The action is one that you can do semi-mindlessly while you listen to music or chat around a campfire. At an Amazon price of only $40 , and given the life it can quickly bring back to nearly any knife, in nearly ANY condition, that needs sharpening, it is close to a no-brainer to pick up.

Later, as needed, you can add the diamond stones, arkansas stone hones, a 2000 grit Super Sapphire Polishing Stone, as well as shaped stones that let you work on serrated and curved blades like “karambits”. They also offer two stands and a C-clamp to support the blade clamp.

Look for my upcoming [check the sidebar] Sharpening Tutorial to see some results.