A beautiful knife with dangerous curves !
The Serrata is a beautiful massive short fixed blade designed by Stuart Ackerman and released by Spyderco and manufactured in Taichung Taiwan.
Holding that knife in your hand is the only way to feel how sexy this tool is.
Sexy is the term. It almost feels like it has been grind in a broken Iron Mistress. So go figure !
This knife got almost a 1 centimeter thick blade. The slabs on the handle look out of proportion. This is massive. But then it is perfectly balanced. The handle sits in your palm with authority and confort. Despite the lack of guard I have never felt like I was going to cut myself.
The leaf-shaped blade is nicely tapered to the point where the Serrata is almost a delicate knife.
Yep almost for such a brutal cast steel beast !
This is not a bushcraft impact edge tool like the Spyderco Bushcrafter or the BRKT Canadian Special, actually the Serrata is a knife for meat and fibrous material processing. Stuart Ackerman even does not advise to use it for batoning as the steel is not “made” for that.
The edges on the blade back are smooth and there is no lanyard hole. So if you want a knife to use hard you should invest in something more shock proof. but I will use it for like chopping as the weight will help it a great deal. The nice belly should bite deep on gentle impact. I will compare it to my Fallkniven A2 which I was able to keep unchipped after a decade of use.
But the Serrata really shines when you need to cut into fibrous materials.
OK let’s put everything in perspective, the Serrata is a solid knife though but it is performance oriented. It would be a perfect companion for a hunter and a cook.
Let’s understand the process to create that knife: it has been “made by casting 440C stainless steel-a process that creates dendritic (“tree-like”) crystalline structures”.
And God this is dangerously sharp! The meat of my thumb can feel that hungry microscopic toothy edge waiting to draw blood.
My Dutch friend JD has provided me some old catalogs from the initiator of Cast 440C: David Boye. He’s famous for posing next to huge pil of 3000 pieces of 1″ hemp rope cut (without resharpening) with his 8 inches knife.
Reading “Dendritic Blades” an excellent article from Michael O’Hollaren published in Knives Illustrated Magazine in Summer 1994 (Page 8,9,40-43, another piece of great information provided by JD!) I have learned that it was a machinist friend of Boye (Don Longuevan) who has suggested him that casting blade might reduce grinding and fabricating time which would be a majo help when it comes on stock removal. The idea became a challenge for Boye. And by 1982 he started to cast his blade with Larry Veenker of Intermoutain Precision Casting on Lindon, Utah. then Boye built a drop hammer to reduce and refine even further the pattern of his 440C cast blades.
According to Boye, at first he “did not realize the carbid crystal structure of cast steel contributed to better edge-holding.” But soon he found that “when edges were prepared identically, the dentritic steel consistently outperformed forged steels used in the testing.”
He found that forging was breaking up and reducing the size of the microscopic carbides in the original ingot. Paradoxically with forged steel the smaller the grain size the sharper the blade can theoretically get but the less “bite” it will have.
The carbyde crytals of the dendritic steel are rooted in the steel matrix hence the long last aggressive edge. They form a fern like network throughout that 56-58 HRC steel matrix.
To cast steel you need to turn it into a liquid state and pour it into a mold. This is a century old technic known in jewelry. So first you create a mold by pouncing a hard knife between two blocks of aluminium with a drop hammer, forming a cavity in the shape of the blade. Then hot wax is shot into that mold and when it cools it is removed as a wax model of the knife. The wax blades are “ganged” together to form a tree which is dipped into porcelain slurries. Between each slurry dip, sand is applied to the wet slurry, each sand dip a little coarser than the previous one. This make the mold stronger, thicker, and able to support the heavy molten steel.
The mold is left to dry three weeks to guaranty there is no moisture left in the porcelain.
Then it’s placed in oven to burn the wax out.
With the wax burned out the hot mold is ready for the molden steel which must be poured when the mold is still red hot !!
As the poured steel cools the carbide crystal network forms through the blade.
The porcelain is broken away and the individual blades are cut from the “tree”, trimmed, annealed and straighten.
Boye stated that this method is more expensive pound-for-pound but it is well worth it in the long run.
Thank you Michael O’Hollaren of Knives Illustrated, my English seems much better when I copy your article. 🙂
Anyway, do you remember the film “Conan” and its beginning credits ?
So back to Stuart Eckerman. The man looks like a character from Wilbur Smith’s South African saga: a veteran from the Rhodesian wars and there is some “aura” of high adventure in the design of his knife. Like a call for the hunt…
The Serrata is a knife you should bring in a Safari if you want to process the meat in the field.
now I do not advocate murdering animals just to please the Safari Club, a long shot lens camera is a much better companion than a rifle IMHO but there is something about Hemingway in the Serrata. Something wild.
On hard matters, like dry wood, the Serrata is good, but not as good as a CPM3V thin convexed BRKT Canadian Special or a zero ground Nilakka. But I still got the factory edge on my FB32 and I’m planning to thin it later for a full convex edge.
On the two last pictures of this post you will notice how the wooden chip forms on the Serrata and the BRKT. If had noticed that the grain of the steel changes the texture of wooden chips. The smoother the chip, the finer the grain. Best results were obtain by comparing ATS 34 AFCK with M2HSS AFCK, the second was almost polishing cut wood. (There is a reason why the best wood chisels are made from M2HSS Speedstar).
In the kitchen the Serrata is incredibly good on tomatoes ! This is another great test as tomatoes got a elastic skin over a tender flesh. Cutting tomatoes gives you a lot of information on your edge. The Serrata has a very thin micro serrated edge which cut in vegetable like a dream. And it cuts just with the weight of that massive knife.
I will update that article soon as I need to prepare some rabbit next week.
So stay tune for more experimenting with the Spyderco Serrata.
(Oh and with a steel like that, there is no need to strop it on leather as you want to keep some kind of natural coarse edge.)