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]

 

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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.

“CAMPTON AX”

I finally received the small axe that I had ordered off AliBaba in the 11/11 sale. As I had already concluded, it was not a Chinese POC [piece-of-crap] It was a Russian POC. After playing with both a Cyrillic keyboard and a Russian to English translator site, I managed to figure out that they had branded the blade “Campton Ax”… do you suppose they were trying for “camping”?

FullSizeRender (15)

I am not even going to go into detail about it until I have messed with the axe some, but after having “bashed” it a bit in my previous post, I wanted to go into some digressive info on just why I had gone ahead and bought one. For now you can check it out in the post from a week ago was about “Chinese Inscrutable Advertising“.

The site description on this axe was a wonderful example of the difficulty in translating/ transliterating between languages, and the misuse and overuse of catchwords. It was described it as “Damask” steel at one point, 440 Stainless at another, and high-carbon steel in a third. I guess the first instance is a misunderstanding of the word Damascus, which is used to describe both a type of  highly-figured and layered steel, and a historic manufacturing process. The other two phrases are frequently used in the descriptions on forums discussing high-quality knives… I guess they just seem catchy. Not accurate, but catchy.

In fact, the little axe I got is 65X13 steel. This is the Russian made equivalent of AUS8… not a bad steel for this use at all. On other sites offering the same axe I had been able to see the branding on the shank, so I was pretty sure what it was actually made of. This elevated it just out of the POC range and made me think it was good for a shot as a “project piece” to see if I could bring it all the way up to worthwhile.

My second reason, and the real basis of this post, is that I have always wanted an “Ulu”.

    

These are two examples. The ulu is the traditional knife of the Inuit peoples of the North American Arctic. Before the white man and his supplies of metal, they had knapped a similar shape in stone, and beaten them out of copper ores. It was their butchery tool for whale blubber and sealife.

    

The ulu is generally made of moderately thick sheet metal with a handle above the blade as you seen in the above photos. They cut smoothly, and are surprisingly maneuverable. I know a guy who regularly dresses out his deer with one.

Newer designs are moving toward a more modern esthetic, upgraded materials, and a truly ergonomic styling. They also are making the blades heavier and profiled more like a traditional hunting knife. Benchmade is producing a version they have named “Nestucca” that retails for $150US.

The beautiful units from Bliss [shown in first photo above] are made to order, and start from $130 depending on handle material. Those kind of prices put them way out of my reach, but the little Russian jobbie is as close to an ulu as the “Nestucca”, and was only about $11 on sale/shipped. That fits with my whole 90% utility for 50% of the price deal.

I’m hoping to end up with a fireside beater for wood prep and an alternative blade for use in the camp kitchen. I’ll let ya’ll know how the progress goes, and what the verdict might be some time soon.

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.

Knife Sharpening~ Tips/ Techniques/ Tutorials Links

Note that some of these sites want to sell you stuff, but the info is good. These are not any kind of endorsements, just a collection of facts….

In no particular order:

Knife Sharpening: A Quik Faq

There are some basic facts that you should know about sharpening [if you already don’t].

  1. All “sharpening” involves the removal of at least some material from the blade edge
  2. It is only the exact edge of the blade that does any cutting~ the rest is merely separating material
  3. Getting the finest edge is about minimizing the friction at the cutting edge~ the smoother the edge, the finer the cutting action
  4. The angle of the edge bevel effects the type of cutting action~ slicing/chopping/cutting/shaving/paring

[1] When we sharpen a blade we work from crude removal to polishing in steps. How many steps you use, and how far into finishing/polishing you go is up to you. Sharpening to a decent cutting edge can end at any point you want and are satisfied with. With files and the coarsest of stones you can actually reshape the entire profile of a blade, change the edge angle to change the utility of the knife, or restore the edge angle on a blunted blade. These all involve serious removal of material, and are futile with higher grit stones… it will just take so long you will lose heart.

Working up to a good cutting edge is done by changing to increasingly higher grits of abrasives that remove less and less material at each level. This is commonly done with a series of graded stones or diamond hones, and finishes with stropping on leather with very high grit [1000-3000+] polishing compounds that leave the edge with a nearly frictionless, mirror-like finish.

[2] The point of separation or cut on a blade is on what is referred to as the “micro-bevel”. This is the real edge. The area behind this is really just forcing the cut material apart. However, both of these surfaces effect the cutting action. If the main bevel is still rough, the blade will have higher friction pulling through the cut. It will feel less efficient, and your results will be cruder. [Most knives are finished with two bevels… one that provides the transition from body to edge, and the micro-bevel that performs the cutting. The exception is on “convex” ground blades which curve continuously all the way into the cutting edgeWe are going to ignore convex blades for right now… if you’ve bought one, your knowledge is probably already past this faq].

[3] As you refine the blade edge you remove less and less material. This is why maintaining is better than having to restore. What you need to appreciate is that the material does not all get removed. Some of it feathers up on the opposite side from that being sharpened to form a “burr”. [You can see this best with a file or grinding wheel. A fine flange of metal is turned up away from the edge in a curve] When you turn to the opposite side, the burr gets pushed in the other direction. No matter how fine a grit you are working at a burr is produced… it just gets finer and finer. The finest edge involves reducing this burr to its most negligible point.

The second concern in sharpness is that as you refine the edge there will always be roughness on the sides of the bevel back from the edge. This causes friction and drag as the blade moves through material as you cut. The less roughness the better and smoother the cutting action. On damaged/blunted blades you have to repair the main bevel before you can set the micro.

    

At a magnified level you can always see indications of each of these, both burr and bevel grooving, as well as the “toothing” that will always remain. These all cause friction in the cutting action, no matter how minimal. How much you choose to refine them away is what is up to you.

A final consideration is that finer angles means the blade is thinner for a greater distance back from the edge. Thinner means that it becomes easier to “turn” the blade, which is the deformation and degradation of the edge… bending, toothing, and blunting. These choices are dictated by what your intended use might be for any given blade.

[4] Most edge bevels range from about 16°[most acute/finest] to 30-35°[most blunt]. The finer the beveling on the blade the easier the cutting motion. At the sharpest angles you start to be limited in just what you can cut without starting to seriously blunt the blade. If you try chopping with a 16° edge it is going to bend to the side under the impact, or possibly even chip. If you try slicing with a 35° bevel you are pushing into and against the material as much as cutting. The blade will deflect away sideways due to the wider bevel in harder things and simply give a less clean cut in softer ones… think cutting into a steak with an axe blade. You want a different angle for campfire chores than you do for cooking or whittling. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to cut carrots or onions, or to get fine curls on a featherstick for a fire, with a wide beveled blade.

Once your blade is sharp, maintaining the sharpness becomes exponentially easier. On a properly sharpened, and properly used knife, the edge can be maintained by a quick stropping on a steel or leather strop charged with a compound. This is also sometimes called “truing”. These work by straightening out any deformation of the edge and removing any burr that is caused by use.

A sharp blade cuts easily, cuts clean, and cuts long.

 

[top image from KnivesShipFree.com … one of my favorite, drool-worthy sites]

 

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.