Friday, December 20, 2013

Every Day Carry (EDC)

I had the joy of spending my early years of life on various ranches and farms in South Dakota and Minnesota. Part of growing up was getting your first pocket knife, a monumental day that I can still remember and still have the knife. Everyone carried a knife, it was the most essential tool you could have (days before multi-tools). Folding knives were the standard and still are for the most part due to ease of use and ability to disappear when Sunday suits were worn. Then a few years back a friend and loyal KoM supporter gave me a magnificent little fixed blade knife made by Barry Dawson called an EDC. About 7.5" overall 3" blade and slim enough to fit in the leg pocket of Carhartts. All the benefits of a fixed blade yet small enough to disappear. I've skinned moose, goats, and bears with that little knife and done millions of chores with it. So this is my attempt at making a similar concept of a light, strong, small knife that you can tote along all day and not get in the way or make a big show.
Nearly finished knife with hamon line clearly visible. G10 micarta handles and brass pins.

I started with 1/8" thick 1095 HC steel but instead of standard heat treatment, used the Japanese method of differential heat treating and clay tempering to increase the flexibility of the thin blade while maintaining a wear resistant edge. I used the same method on my "Dakota" model but took more time etching and polishing to produce a stronger hamon (different color on the blade produced when the steel cools at two different rates simultaneously.

I use high temp refractory cement as a clay coating material. Someday
I'll develop my own family secret recipe as they do in Japan.
These blades have just been heat treated and quenched in oil. 1095 becomes non magnetic at its critical temperature (@1450 f) and then plunged into warm oil. Here you can see the hamon line where the clay covered the blade (darker) and slowed the cooling process. The blades are then tempered to relieve the stress of rapid cooling and produce the correct Rc hardness.
I temper all my blades two times at two hours each round with a cool down in between.
These blades are only hard on the bottom third toward the cutting edge.

Leather work and a fine 12 year old blended
Leather work ready for stain and stitching
for the trio.

The finished set of knives with black leather sheaths and high contrast stitching. The finished knife is about 7.5" long with a 3.5" cutting edge. The handles are G10 micarta with a slight red and black contrast and unseen in this image the handles have bright red fibre spacers between the blade and handle and brass pins. I hand finished these blades to 400 grit and etched them pretty heavily as they are working knives that should be used daily. Traditional Japanese blades with a hamon are sanded to 1000 grit and polished to a mirror finish. That's a lot of time and sanding which equates to a much higher cost with no performance gain. I'd rather have someone spend $150 on this custom knife and not feel guilty about scratching it rather than spend $1500 on a knife that never gets used. But if you want to spend $1500, I wouldn't turn it down.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Two types of knives are produced in my little shop, things I dream up and figure out how to sell later and bespoke items that I work with clients (always referrals) to make happen. All my products are handmade by me, Malta. They start life as an idea sketched out and end up as a functional tool. This one was quite a challenge and almost didn't. But, when finally finished, it struck me,  I was proud of this simple tool. Life is like that sometimes, you want to give up but keep at it and in the end it all works out. I hope the new owner enjoys his Christmas present as much as I had making it.

Finished with time to spare. If you know cabinets, you'll recognize the backdrop.

 Roughed out with grind lines marked
Rough grind. The top knife is for a retired operator, the bottom
is for a Vietnam Vet.

Cleaned up after tempering

Fresh out of heat treatment and oil quenched in my shop

Handle blocks, Cocobolo for this one and canvas micarta for the
other knife, both with .25" stainless pins

Handle roughed out on the band saw

Handle fitted, file work on the spine with
thumb rest

All my knives get custom made sheaths that are produced in house (either kydex or leather). This one is 8oz vegetable tanned cowhide from a local supplier in Anchorage. My leather comes in big odd shaped sheets and ends up like this. Some knife makers don't provide sheaths for fixed blade knives and I think that sets the wrong tone of "I don't expect you to use this pretty knife." Not here, these are not museum pieces but affordable field grade knives. The sheaths are cut, wet fit, and finished.   
Saddle stitching and contact cement hold these together.
Almost done, just need wax and polish.

Final specs on this one. 1095 HC steel, 9.5" overall, 4.5" cutting edge, Cocobolo handle, stainless pins, leather sheath. I hope he likes it as much as I do, this one just fits right in the hand and is scary sharp already but could be honed even more. Thanks to Broken Tooth Brewing for tasty beer, I'm not sponsored but from one craftsman to another, well done! Now to get the other four on my bench out the door so I can start experimenting with hatchet making.