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.

 

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Bark River Knives~ Adventurer

Despite my previously avowed distrust/dislike of neck knives, when I was at our annual Lobsters and Lighthouses hammock hang last month, I saw a “necker” belonging to a friend, and absolutely fell in love with it. It was the original Adventurer from Bark River Knives, out of Escanaba, Michigan, in the UP. BRK produce a wide range of knives, but always in limited runs. When the distributors run out, it’s “Sorry, Cholly”. … and I really liked that knife!

When I got home, I mulled it over for a couple of weeks while drooling at the on-site photos and weighing the options of one kind of handle material over another… BRK also makes their knives with any number of handle materials as well as choices in the rivets that hold the handle scales to the full-length tang, but they only sell through distributors.  Knives Ship Free, where I was looking to buy, shows each knife individually, and that is the knife you will get. So, you can actually choose from variations in burl, woodgrain, etc. and get that very knife. Mine was fairly plain to keep the price down… especially since I was already spree-deep in the realm of both a birthday and Xmas gift to myself.

I ended up getting the simple Green Canvas Micarta scales in Bohler Elmax steel… I like the look, the grip is excellent, and Elmax takes a fine edge and is easy to maintain. It came with the neck sheath included.

While the shadow in this photo makes it look otherwise, the blade flows smoothly into the handle there at the choil… there is no guard

Overall Length:   6.775″
  Blade Length:   3.250″
  Cutting Edge:   2.675″

 

The Adventurer, like the majority [possibly all] of BR knives, has a full convex grind. This means that the blade curves gently from the spine all the way into the edge. There is no perceptible edge grind at all… just that smooth curve. It means that it is simple to maintain a razor edge by “whetting” the blade on a strop rather than “grinding” it on a stone. [There will be a post on knife sharpening techniques coming right up]  The spine has side edges that will throw a great spark off a ferro-rod for fire starting, and the whole knife is beyond sturdy without crossing over into bulky. There is a nice, comfortable finger choil between the blade and grip, and good jimping on the spine for your thumb to get purchase in heavier work. Even though the handle portion is only about 3 1/2″ long, [this is not a BIG knife], the finger choil section at the rear of the blade makes the knife superbly holdable. It effectively lengthens the handle by a 1/2″. The balance point is right at the forward rivet, so, it dangles nearly weightlessly on your middle finger.

There is a great, more fully detailed review of the Adventurer done by Anthony Sculimbrene at “Everyday Commentary” that features his “point system”… he gives it his full 20 out of 20.

I have never been able to see the appeal in buying an expensive knife, wearing it around my neck and taking the risk of it dropping out unbeknownst in the middle of an outting. I like the perceived convenience of a neck carry, but I have always carried my blades in my hip pocket with a tether-toggle looped over my belt. I can’t really “whip it out” to take on a grizzly bear, but I haven’t lost a knife in the wild in 40 years… neither have I been assaulted by ANY kind of wildlife.

However, it seems that Bark River has come up with a simple and secure method of truly minimizing that chance of loss, and it won me over…

They placed a strong, rare earth magnet between layers of the sheath. The knife remains easy to slide out of the sheath, but the snug grip of the leather combined with the grab of the magnet make accidental “drop-out” next to impossible. [It does take two hands to replace the blade… sharp as the Adventurer is you would otherwise risk self-inflicted open heart surgery.] As you can see in the photo below, the magnetic assist really does work well.

I love the included sheath. Premium leather, stacked at the sides, well shaped and formed to the knife, strongly sewn, and with two secure brass rivets to pass a neck cord through, the sheath can also be easily carried upright in your pocket. Mine has taken on a really nice patina in only the several weeks I have had the knife… I wear it everyday, down my shirt, outside a tee if I am wearing one. The only treatment I have given it is regular smears of “body-butter”… I literally wipe the grease from alongside my nose into the surface with a thumb or fingertip. It has darkened and richened the leather slightly, and the sheath has become more supple without loosening the grip on the handle at all. You can see something of the difference between the two photos. The topmost was right after I got the knife, and the “dangle” was taken today. I don’t like using waterproofing boot waxes like SnoSeal and Mink Oil on sheaths. I’d rather my sheaths take on their character from their interaction with me, just like a fine leather saddle takes it’s own from the rider and his horse.

 

In conclusion:

Not ever owning a comparably costly knife before, I have nothing to compare my Bark River Adventurer to. I does prove to me that there is practical, useable quality to be had in the high-end knife offerings. I had written them off as expensive toys, too expensive for actual use, for the collectors to hoard. My Adventurer does not even approach the cost of some other collectable knives. Heck, with it’s less-than-fancy handle, it doesn’t even go far up on BRK’s own price scale.

Of course, this means that it also well out of the range of my 90%/50% “rule”. However, for me it is as close to a perfect knife as I will probably ever get, want, or need. It is a truly a “lifetime buy”.

I love this knife as much each time that I pull it out of its sheath as I did when my friend first handed me his. It is so well executed that you have no real perception that it is not a full-size knife. It is a joy to hold, and to use………

I don’t think you can go wrong with the Bark River Adventurer.

 

Once More… WTF ?

As my late friend “Uncle”Jimmy used to say:

“Sure… you could do that.

I wouldn’t, but you could.”

Neither U-Jim nor I would buy this knife… but some guy on the camping/hammocking forums over at FB sure did. Right proud of it, too!

This almost deserves a new tag all of it’s own… “more money than sense”.

Laguiole “Picnic” Knife

Last fall I got a wild hair and finally bought a Laguiole style knife. I say “style” because these are one of the most heavily cloned knives out there. “Laguiole is like “Kleenex”… It has passed into common usage for any similar sized, folding pocket knife with a similar sweeping blade. I was under no illusions when I ordered this that it was an actual, handcrafted knife from the village of Laguiole, France, or even the adjoining town of Thiers. For one thing, the Shepherds Cross detail on the handle is upside down, and the rivets are not perfectly aligned. While it actually did ship from France, it is certainly a generic version. And, quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with that.

Here’s a quick link to the Wikipedia entry, and it contains other links at the bottom if you want even more information>>  The Laguiole knife

I have quite a number of what I consider to be decent knives suitable for a variety of purposes, but I lack the money to do any serious collecting of fine blades. This is where my 90%/50% criteria is often used.

The classic Laguiole pocketknife was what you took along to cut up your  fruit and cheese, your baguette and sausage on a picnic in the French countryside. If you had one of the units with the corkscrew, you could open your bottle of cheap vin ordinaire.

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One of the hallmarks of Lagouile knives is the semi three-dimensional bee on the spine of the knife over the ferrule. A second is the engraving along the spine. [the photo at the left is clipped off the Internet, but shows both of these features] Even on the non-handcrafted knifes, the the finer the detailing of these, the better chance of the entire knife being higher-quality. These were two items that I looked for when I started shopping around and comparing the offerings. I was lucky, and the knife I purchased was even more finely detailed than the one shown.

 For my purposes, that is quite enough. This one comes branded “Laguiole L’ Eclair”. It is reportedly made in China of an unknown quality of stainless steel, but takes a very fine, sharp edge with minimum effort. Certainly fine enough for preparing food, and use as a “picnic” knife. The blade opens with a satisfying “snick”, but this is not a locking style knife. However, it does take a firm push up against the back of the blade to disengage the back spring.

The slim blade makes it ideal for slicing. This is why I chose to add one to my camping cutlery. I have big, heavy knives; I have pocket knives and pocket tools. I can dress out a deer carcass, hack up some kindling, and take care of most ordinary camp chores. But none of them have the long, thin blade to finely slice an onion, or to make it a real pleasure to deal with that plate-sized, porterhouse steak that just came off the flaming hardwood coals of your open fire and render it into thin, juicy morsels. The Laguiole does.

It it is also the perfect size to go with my titanium dining set, and carries around perfectly in their mesh bag. Together with the SnowPeak spork, I’m covered. I can prepare and consume in perfect grace, dignity, and high style… while out “roughing it”.

I like using “nice” stuff. That’s how I roll.

You Get What You Pay For…

Another purchase from the strange Hong Kong jobbers 11-11 sale was these three small “neck knives”.

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They are badly executed copies of the fairly classic C.R.K.T/Doug Ritter Mk5. They sacrifice the Ritter’s Kydex sheath for one of a reasonably decent leather, and claim to be 420-C steel, but they really don’t measure up. On one of the units they had failed to even bother feeding the lanyard cord through the eye on the handle. It may not even be fair to call these Mil-Tec knives copies. They make no representation, other than visually, to be a Mk5. And there are certainly omissions. Notably in the lack of the jimping [those little slits for grip] on the spine and finger choil, and the missing blade holes for lashing to a pole.

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Side-by-side with my several year-old original/genuine knife, you can see some of the differences right off. The biggest being that the Mil-Tec ones are severely ground in a “sabre”cut [the blade thickness is reduced toward the edge by grinding the flat down before adding an even steeper angle to be finished for sharpness]. The Ritter is fully flat, tapering smoothly from the spine down to the edge-grind. The Chinese units are abysmally dull. The sabre-cut is not even taken down far enough to overcome the overall thickness of the knife blank. The edge cut ends up being far too steep to give a decent cutting edge without refinishing. You can see the difference in the blank thickness in the first photo below. The Ritter starts out with a thinner blank at the spine, and the finished knife is also longer and much more evenly tapered than the Mil-Tec version. Then, in the second shot, you a can see that the sabre-cut portion of the Chinese blades even retains the rotational curves of the grinding machine. Where on the Ritter you can barely make out the edge-grind at all, on the Chinese version it is quite obvious.

File_007     File_006 (1)

HOWEVER… [you were expecting a however, weren’t you?]   It is exactly that extra blade thickness that will give these knives their redeeming point.

I have never seen the point to wearing a “neck-knife” that dangles with the handle pointing down… they seem to invite loss in a messy situation. My intention instead is to include these clones in Altoid can sized emergency kits. If you have read the posts previously on here about survival/emergency kits you will understand that I always include a mini-multitool of the Leatherman Micra/Gerber Dime variety in the ones I make up for myself or for friends. These minis already have a good blade for cutting, along with the other tools. I want the “Mk5’s” for their usefulness in batoning [splitting] small-wood for fires. Their edges can easily be sharpened up to that point, and that extreme blade thickness makes them sturdy enough to stand up to the pounding. I was looking for a tool… not any refinement.

I think that getting a fire together can be the single most important part of an emergency situation. Getting some wood larger than twigs is vital to an efficient fire. The wood inside is almost always drier that that outside… hence quicker to get burning. Those little multitools are great. You can easily run up a feather-stick to catch fire, but I like the idea of something small but sturdy to get some bulk on there as well.

The final “however” here is that the sale price of all three Chinese knives was less than a SuperMochaFrappucinnoHalfCafHalfDecaf at your local coffee house… $5.64US. At that price they are just fine. You get what you pay for.

Yard Fire…

IMG_0749 I am really happy with the whole kit I have put together over the last year for fire-making, so, tonight I put aside the ax and hatchet that usually get used out at the firepit in the yard and pulled out the pack stuff to have a go at a “backwoods” sized campfire.

You have seen the Kershaw “Camp Knife” [10″] and the Buck #692 in posts last year >>hit up the tags-list on the right for “Knives”>>>.

I recently picked up a Bahco “Laplander” saw [buy on Amazon] for chunking out lengths for splitting… works a charm. A 2-3″ limb cuts in less than 20 seconds with little effort.

The orange pieces are Chi-clones of an “ExoTac” nanoSTRIKER and their match-safe… and I love the burnt orange anodization for finding them in dim light. At under $10 the pair, instead of the ExoTac site prices of $27 and $24, I think I scored OK on the 90/50 criterion I try to go by [90% utility for 50% >or less< of the price is a GREAT deal]