Pleasure of whittling — Which knife ?

A knife and a piece of wood make my day.
I can sit and enjoy a good blade taking nice wooden chips.
Steel chemistry is important, especially how fine its grain is.
Back in the 90’s I have found how a Benchmade in M2HSS was more enjoyable than the same model in ATS-34.
How is the blade is ground is also very important, scandi makes shallower cuts when hollow grind got deeper in my experience.
But more than this: the general ergonomy of the knife and especially the spine of the blade do make a difference for me.

But let’s have a look at the knives: Ed Schemp’s Tuff and Bowie, Police 4, Yojimbo 2, Sebenza, Spydiechef, PPT, Paramillie, Lil’Native, Wolfspyder, A little TOPS scandi, Mantra2, Millie and Nilakka.

A rounded spine like my Sebenza is great. It’s very thin edge is also a plus but ATS34 is not making the moment enjoyable. Of course it will cut but the pleasure of feeling how the edge is making the chips is not there. Its edge is like a mad cow !! Hard to control.

 

One of the great surprise in term of pleasure has been that Lil Blue 2 from Raker (Ray Kirk). Made of 52100 ball bearing steel and brought to razor by JD !
The rounded spine of that small fixed blade makes it super enjoyable. The fine grain 52100 makes thin chips but can also be use hard for deeper cuts. That would the kind of knife you can enjoy all an afternoon without thumb soar.

A good old Opinel N°8 is able to cut deep and with power, for sure. Do I enjoy it ? Not really. It does the job but there is no pleasure when the thin spine bites my thumb during push cuts.

A great surprise and even a better surprise that my previous whittling with a Yojimbo 2 in S90V is my Yo2 Jade with a CPM M4 blade.
It is not a knife designed for whittling but it does the job perfectly. Better even is a tougher blade in CPM M4 which is very aggressive. The spine also is thick and my thumb can push with with confort and control. The Yo2 and especially that version is a great wood companion I can use with serenity.

Another knife I highly recommend for going in the woods and whittling with pleasure. And another knife with some martial pedigree has proven to be a great whittler: the PPT.
The S90V thin blade of that edition with a very confortable handle has been eating wood like a chef.

Speaking of chef: lets’ continue with the surprises. One important side of the Spydiechef is how easily it can go out of the kitchen. Sailors and sea kayakists are using it without any risk of failure but within the woods? OK mine has been convexed but this is another great tool to bring with you everywhere. I was able to create beautiful chips and the spince have not bite my thumb. Really a nice experience with this one.

My CPM Cruewear Paramillie has been convexed and its edge was really hungry for wood.
It was in all the bunch the one which went the easiest in the rod of wood. But then the square spire was so sharp and thin: it was not enjoyable. More about it later.

The Lil’ Native with JD sharpening skill is nice and powerful for its size. Really a nice you should not judge by the size. But then again, JD reground it to almost a scandi level. The belly and the thin edge does marvel for whittling. Just a tad longer blade will improved the experience but then you got a Native not a Papoose no more.

Another knife improved by JD sharpening skill is the Mantra 2. I had rounded the spine on this one and it turned to be a very powerful wood cutter. The kind of knife which disappears in your pocket and once deployed is a game changer. The very solid construction and great ergos of that Eric Glesser design is blooming in the woods.

The Police 4, as powerful as its K390 thin convexed blade was a real disappointment. The thin spine is really hurting my thumb when push cutting. The Police is and stays a very urban design. I was not really able to enjoy fine whittling with it. It does the job but the thin spine ruined it for me. This one is much better in cutting cardboards or ropes…

Of course the Nilakka is a five stars experience. nothing new: thick spine, zero ground blade. It is powerful and accurate. Pekka Tuominen knows. Just the thin point could be an issue when digging in the wood to make a hole for example. This is were the Wolfspyder shines: a very solid point !

Another great surprise in term of pleasure has been the Gent knife from Massdrop. I had convexed the edge and its S35VN rounded spined blade is just great. Its natural belly helps a lot in term of push cuts. It is a great folder and 100% shot flipper, easy to keep clean, and look at the shape of that blade: it is stunning and for less than 100 dollars shipping included. It will be reviewed.

Sorry, but the Mora has been the worst. It was not able to bring me nice chips.
I’m certain it would be a great hard used tool in the wood but here for fine gentle whittling: zero pleasure.
The synthetic handle is becoming sticky, the scandi edge is rusting and it was not able to bite in the wood. Cheap fixed blade.

So eventually, using 400 grits sandpaper, I have decided to rounded the spine of my Paramillie 2 and of course it makes a huge difference. Actually I have been really surprise in how deep It was cutting in the wood, kind of remembering its brother in 52100.
Soon I will try AEB-L steel which is considered as a stainless 52100 on a Sprint Run Urban already in transit. So more will come.

In conclusion my more enjoyable whittler is still the Wolfspyder.
The surprise joy came for the Gent, The Yojimbo 2, the Mantra 2 and the Raker.
The Paramillie with a more rounded spine will be certainly part of the club.
The biggest down was the Police 4 and the Mora.

But in term of sitting under the porche and whittling a rod the Ray Mears designed Wolfspyder is winning. It was designed for that task.

 

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STEEL K390 BÖHLER’S MICROCLEAN – UNCANNY BLADE MATERIAL.

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I have seen a video where someone is stabbing concrete with its Spyderco Police 4 to show how K390 is strong ! The blade of that famous knife is thin and this thinness is here for a purpose: Sal Glesser has decided to use the Police 4 plateforme according to his own desire but toughness and impact resistance may have weighed in on the decision. For once the Police is not especially aimed at the LEO but those ELU who use their thin knives hard !

“We make quite a few designs for the Law Enforcement market at this time, so the design for Police use is necessarily the case anymore, like it was in 1984. I designed the Police 4 to include what I would like in a knife, more than what a LEO might like. It’s still a kissing cousin, and large for most people. I widened the blade, enlarged the hole and selected a steel that I like to use. The design’s success in the marketplace is unknown at this time. But I get to have one. ” Sal Glesser.

K390 is not stainless. It’s a cold work tool steel which uses Bohler proprietary Microclean technology.  K390 has close to the same edge holding as A11 but is much tougher. Bohler’s third generation particle metallurgy contributes to the toughness of the steel.This steel will be hard to grind, finish and sharpen. Once it is sharp it will stay sharp for a long long long time. It’s CPM M4 on steroids which means K390 has more strength, durability, stability and wear resistance than M4 ! And I do love CPM M4.

Here is a video which confronts CPM M4 and K390:
https://youtu.be/TI53ziibeiQ

From Bohler’s commercial:

“K390 is quite simply the powder metallurgical cold work tool steel with the best properties for cold work applications available from BÖHLER at the moment. K390 MICROCLEAN was developed to meet the demanding wear resistance and compressive strength requirements of cutting, blanking and punching applications, for cold forming applications and for parts which are subjected to abrasive wear in plastics processing. Tool life can be increased by several hundred percent due to the outstanding wear resistance, high compressive strength and good toughness of BÖHLER K390 MICROCLEAN. These material properties enable our customers to make their production processes more efficient and consequently to reduce the price per part produced. Too hard to be machinable? Quite the opposite. The task of the tool steel manufacturer is to produce a steel which is, on the one hand, easy and economic to machine (with a hardness of around 280HB) and simple and unproblematic to heat treat, but which, on the other hand, has a very high hardness (up to 64HRc) and optimum performance in use. The secret lies in the powder metallurgy process. A very fine, homogeneous microstructure guarantees optimal machinability.

K390 owes its superior properties above all to the powder-metallurgical production process. The main advantages of BÖHLER MICROCLEAN steels over conventional steels are: • uniform carbide distribution • small carbide size • uniform chemical composition over the entire cross-section and length • virtually isotropic behaviour due to improved homogeneity and the absence of segregations.”

From Phil Wilson on the Spyderco Forums.:
“I have been using K390 from the start ever since it was introduced by Bohler and I got some small samples to try. A bit of history is that it is the European version of CPM 10V but not the exact chemistry (about 1% less V plus small addition of a few others). That is because the CPM 10V chemistry was protected by patent at the time. If you check the K390 data sheet it claims that the bit less V gives K 390 a little boost in impact toughness. It also can be heat treated at a lower temp. than 10v. So it is pretty much the same as the A11 grade but different in a few small details. It is hard to tell the difference between CPM 10v and BU K390 in the real world in my experience. I like both grades and they are the base line (along with Vanadius 10 and K294) from which I measure wear resistance. The 5 chrome is there to make them all air hardening among other things and does not contribute much to corrosion resistance. It is going to make a killer knife in the new offering and be another classic. Phil”

On my Urban, K390 has proven to be very tough. It is my main travelling folder. And it is a real wolf under sheep’skin. One of the little home test I got is by removing the metal around a bottle of wine’s cork. Most of the time, the knife edge is bent and shows some shining due to miss alignement but not with K390. The steel feels like plastic. On my three knives, the Pingo got the most stout blade and less pointy. This little knife is simply used very hard with zero damage to the edge: digging in wood, cut into staples, scrapping various paints and plastic. So far, even if the steel is not stainless, a mild patina has protected it from real rust.

So what do we got ? A tough blade which keeps its sharpness for a very long time. A forgiving edge which can be used by clumsy hands with no after thoughts.
The side effects are: the need of diamonds and ceramics to keep it razor.
Once convexed to me taste, I use white ceramic and some stropping just to get it mirror.

We definitively needs more knives in K390 !

 

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Caper: Kid of Picardie

 

 

 

 

 

My former colleague and now friend Pascal is a new blacksmith; he makes folders and also fixed blades in the Picardie region near by the Paris area. I recently purchased one of his early makes that has become my “EDOT” (“Every Day On Table”).

The overall size of the knife is 17.5 cm. The length of the blade is 7.7 cm long and 2.2 cm wide with a small boister and a spine a bit over 2 mm. This is a full flat ground blade made from D2 steel with a belly; the profile looks to be a mix between wharncliffe and sheepfoot. The handle is made of Zircote (a tree of Central America having brown wood streaked with dark almost black lines – thanks Meriam Webster) with indentations for the fingers. The rivets are discrete and the scales perfectly joint with the tang; it’s a full tang.

 

 

 

I really like the caper shape which if we were to simulate the curve would be at minimum a 3rd degree polynomial function with an inflection point: the caper! Goto https://www.mathe-fa.de/fr#result, enter f(x)= (x/10)^3 and g(x) = (x/10)^3+2  and you will have a good idea of the knife’s overall wave! For me the size is right and the handle’s organic design fits well in my hand. Said otherwise and in a much simpler way: “ça tient dans la main, ça tient dans la main!” (Coluche)

coluche

… and the blade’s curve (belly) enables to concentrate the force in one point for increased efficiency. The hardest I cut with it has been very dry saucisson and the result was great enabling energy optimization and transfer between the forearm muscle and the masseter muscle!

 

 

So I am very satisfied with my capper born in Picardie and do recommend “Les Lames du Phenix”! https://www.lamesduphenix.fr/

 

The Spyderco PPT Round 3- Long Term Review of a Faithful EDC with Supersteel.

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Since last year round with the PPT, the very unique ergos of this unique folder have made me come back again to its radical design and I have decided to EDC it in all circumstances (instead to keep it safe).

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Still, I really enjoy how the weight of the handle glue it to my hand and I have found zero hot spots after filing a bit the choil. Smoothness of its action has been really enhanced by using it everyday. Now it deploys fast and close by gravity.
After some work on the blade, the edge has been thinned as my Manly’s.

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The PPT is a very easy companion. My main battlefield is the kitchen. It is not an open handle design but with some hot water I have been able to keep the spacer and the skeletonized liners clean. A dip in very hot soap water is all my maintenance after a full day in the kitchen but a tiny drop of oil is then always welcome. It has been used in the woods where I was able to use it on wood. The knife has behave perfectly even when twisting the edge. Zero issue here. The chips are flying everywhere as the full flat ground is fast in making deep cuts in wood. While in the forest, when working with it, most of the time I have thrusted its blade’s point in a tree instead closing it and opening again.

No damage at all. For the record, Sal has developed and sold his own version of a Bushcraft knife, at first named the NASA Bushcrafter with S90V blade and Carbon Fibers handle and later the Proficient. It means that the melange S90V plus CF is approved by Sal for being used in the wood with reliability.

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The lock which is almost a RIL lock has not failed me because your grasp reinforced it when you hold the knife in your hand. Zero movement vertical or horizontal. I have not been able to fumble my grasp when closing. The opening of the knife is now made with my major finger flicking it like.


I have sanded the handle (just a bit) to smooth the edges of the corrugated CF, just to protect my trousers from being chewed. Nothing changed in the look but the PPT is now much easy to retrieve and introduce in my denims. I carry it in my right front pocket along with a leather wallet.

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Once brought to “razor sharp level”, S90V is easy to maintain to that level mostly only with white ceramic and some leather stropping. ( JD has given me some diamond compound that help the process too). After some cardboard cutting, the ultra razor level is lost but the working edge is keen enough to slit through paper and this sharpness will last for a very long time. Zero chipping even after various cuts into very hard plastics. It is almost a maintenance free knife, like my Manix in CPM110V which I use for travelling (It is light and stays sharp for a very long time avoiding me to bring some sharpening tool).

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When cutting with the PPT you got a very agile blade with its center of gravity inside your hand and, by just holding it by its hole, it immediately orients itself tip up. It helps when you need to change your grip: it like a compass telling you where is the point and the very sharp edge even with greasy or wet hands.

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Despite its martial pedigree, sheeples seems not afraid of my PPT. No raising eyebrows even when used in restaurant or family dinners. Nobody seems to notice it which is a very good thing.

 

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Eventually if the PPT was a dog, it would be an Amstaff : compact, bold and powerful.

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Spyderco Ikuchi C242CFP — First glimpse at Slim Shady.

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The Ikushi is a very strange Taichung made spyderco and his father, Paul Alexander is a perfectionniste-engineer who got radical new ideas on portable cutlery. Remember the Sliverax ?
My first impression after opening the Knifecenter’s parcel (thank you Howard and Tom for the fast shipment!): wow so slim ! So easy to pocket ! What a great handle to blade ratio !
My friend JD and Pascal introduced me to front flipper with both owning Des Horn and I even was a proud owner of one of them.

The Ikushi is an eye candy. The knife is unique in many ways. It is a tour de force. So let’s quote Spyderco:

“The ultra-slim Spyderco Ikuchi is a radically different approach to pocketknife form and function. Designed by Paul Alexander, a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering and a lifelong knife enthusiast, the Ikuchi (pronounced ee-koo-chee and named after a mythical Japanese sea monster) has an elegantly curved handle crafted with full, skeletonized stainless steel liners and stunning carbon fiber/G-10 laminate scales.

In the closed position, the handle’s narrow, open-backed profile completely contains the knife’s blade—except for a small textured section of the tang that serves as a flipper opener. Stroking this section of the blade with an index finger or thumb provides leverage to swiftly pivot it into the open position, where locks securely via Spyderco’s patented Compression Lock™ mechanism. The satin-finished CPM® S30V® stainless steel blade is full-flat ground for exceptional edge geometry and cutting performance and has an acute, scalpel-like point for detailed work.

To ensure discreet carry while keeping the Ikuchi instantly accessible, its handle includes a low-profile, deep-pocket wire clip that is reversible for left or right-side tip-up carry.”

Some user has argued about the point of the blade being able to catch their finger. If clipped to the right pocket, the seam will be against the handle and it is impossible to catch that tip. I can feel that sharp tip with the meat of my finger and I can understand how I could cut myself too. We will see that in future reports.

But first I have asked to Paul Alexander what was is thoughts behind that design.
“I’ve had a version of the Ikuchi in the works for 4-5 years, but only got around to submitting it to Spyderco at the end of 2016. Part of the reason was the non-functional Spydie-hole, which I thought would stop Spyderco from producing it. The release of the Positron and Mantra 2 made me rethink that, and I started to seriously prep it for submission.

The whole design started around the blade shape. My dad has always preferred a narrow blade because it’s easier to turn the blade in the middle of a cut if you are paring, whittling, etc. Most of my designs have had a fairly wide blade, and I wanted to do something that would fit his preferences a bit more. He’s also been partial to the narrow clip blade found on the American traditional muskrat knives, and the Ikuchi blade shape is my version of that. Sticking with the traditional inspiration, I used the toothpick handle pattern as the inspiration, which also kept the entire knife nice and slim. In the end, I suppose the whole thing came out looking like a modernized Laguiole… which is likely the design which originally inspired the American toothpick pattern.

The wheel flipper was a slower evolutionary process that was a collaborative effort with the Spyderco team. Eric had sort of mentioned that he was curious about adapting the compression lock to a flipper opening mechanism when I first started working with Spyderco, and I tried coming up with a handful of options, with this being one of them. I originally had more of a tab-like interface on the flipper surface on the Ikuchi design, and that morphed into the final wheel configuration through iterations and refinement with input and prototypes from Spyderco.

The early phases of that development process got me so excited for the Ikuchi, I adapted the locking and flipper geometry to three other traditional knife patterns and blade shapes I liked, and created a series of knives. I called the series by the working title of the ‘Four Horsemen’, and tried to tap into that theme for the look and style of all four pieces in the series. The Ikuchi was initially code named ‘Famine’, which fit the inspirational traditional pattern’s name and the overall aesthetic of the design. The other horsemen designs are ‘Pestilence’, ‘War’, and ‘Death’, but that seemed too dark of a theme to use for the marketing of the designs, so I officially named them all after different mythological beasts… and that’s how the Ikuchi became the Ikuchi.”

Mine is not as easy to open/fire as I thought.
The detent is quite strong and it can be a hit and miss. I have hurt my index finger and failed attempt to fire open the knife. Not fun.
I wonder if it will get better but not being able to trust the fact to simply open it…
I have asked Paul.

Some beautiful Tour de Force but not flawless. I would be need to be certain the tip of the blade once closed won’t catch anything in my pocket and to be certain I can open the knife easily and not only half of the time. Unless I need to strenghten the tip of my index ?As you can notice this is the first design which can be easily locked to prevent children to play with it.
Also the flipper once open acts as a guard for your finger but not on a design like the Ikushi. I have never trusted a locking system even on balisongs so it is a knife which is intended to be used as a gentle tool: beautiful to admire as an engineer’s dream.
How will it perform in day to day basis ? We will see.

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The Spyderco Dog Tag sees a little action by JD

Recently Nemo offered me a chance to try out a Spyderco Dog Tag. I gladly excepted the opportunity to see how this little knife would work for me!

Spyderco’s Dog Tag folders are designed by knife maker Serge Panchenko and inspired by his customs. There are several version of this knife. The one Nemo send me is the version with the green titanium handle and blue aluminium back stop featuring a CPM S30V blade. The overall length is 82mm and the blade length is 31mm. The blade is held in the open and the closed position by means of a detent ball on a titanium spring. Effectively it functions like a slip joint.

When I received the Dog Tag from Nemo it still had the factory edge but it was not in new condition. It had been cut with. It was still sharp enough to slice receipt paper but not sharp enough to push cut it. The edge was still good as a working edge, but could be sharper. And, I do like to put my own edge on a knife! The blade has a two bevel chisel grind. The front side has a flat main blade bevel and small, also flat, edge bevel. The back is completely flat.

I started sharpening the edge with the diamond side on my Fallkniven DC4 but soon found out that it was going to slow. The edge bevel had a sight wave in it as well. This is not unusual with an edge that has been sharpened on a belt at the factory. But it becomes visible soon after you start sharpening it on a flat hone. A little more work was needed to get the edge right and for that I switched to a DMT coarse hone. With  that I would be able to remove metal faster than with the DC4.

Besides getting the edge bevel even I also wanted to make it slightly convex so it would have a smoother transition from the edge to the main bevel.

Convex chisel grinds on knives are not that well known but have been, and are used on performance oriented blades. For example Jimmy Fikes, one of the pioneers of modern blade smithing and performance testing, used to make tanto’s that were convex chisel grind. Another example are the traditional working knives of the Yakut of central Russia. That knife also has a convex chisel grind. This knife is used traditionally for, among other things, woodworking and cutting frozen fish. On youtube there are quite a few video’s showing how this knife it made and used.

After I had used the DMT to removed the unevenness of the edge and had created a burr on the flat side of the blade, I knew the shaping work was done. Time to switch back to the DC4 to refine the finish and get her sharp!

After having finished the work with the DC4 it was time to remove the burr that had been created. On a chisel ground knife you only shape the beveled side but you have to work both sides  of the edge to remove the burr and make it sharp. Often with a chisel ground knife you remove the burr from the flat side by laying that side flat on the hone. As I did not want to scratch the finish of the that side of the Dag Tag, I lifted it just a few degrees of the hone. By going lightly I avoided creating an edge bevel on the flat side while still removing the burr there.

On this knife the burr proved easy enough to remove.  This  suggests that the blade has had a good heat treat and had sustained non or little damage during factory sharpening. The resulting edge was sharp enough to push cut receipt paper as well as cut a free standing head hair. Nice! Into the pocket it went ready for use.

I took a few time opening and closing the knife to find out how to do it confidently as the knife feels different in the hand than most conventional folders. after playing with a little the process became fluent and comfortable. The Dog Tag can be opened by just using the opening hole while the handle lying on your fingers. Or you can pinch open the blade between your thump and index finger and then snap the handle to the open position. Like in a Spydie drop. Good fun!

Closing the knife is also very easy. A little push is enough to overcome the detent and swing the blade so it is once again covered by the handle. After a little practice its easy opening and closing action turned it into a fun fidgeting knife!

Another advantage this easy opening and closing action is that the knife can be used very subtly. Handy when you want to open a package or remove a label in a public space where you do not want to draw attention your knife.

When using small knives like this Dog Tag, I am always impressed by how capable they are. I can do almost all the things I use a pocket knife for with a blade of this size. The most notable exception is cutting larger foodstuffs. The fact that it is a chisel grind sometime made cutting  straight a little bit of a challenge. But no more than that, a little. The small choil between the back of the edge and and the handle sometime hung up on what I was trying to cut. Like the sharpening choil on many knives can do. On a short blade I just notice it more. Other than these small issues it has been a fun and functional little knife!

Lil’ Native seasoned by JD – Lil’ Pocket Big Knife !

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This is a follow up review from last year LUCKY MEETING THE SPYDERCO LIL’NATIVE BY JD

I got the opportunity to carry JD Native avter he has used it for months (since october).

Now the Lil’Native is smooth and easy to open it and close it but more interesting, JD as refined the edge to some sort of pseudo scandi grind !

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And this knife is cutting so well…

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Push cutting through bottle’s bottom is made easy with that new geometry.

 

JD has made a beautiful regular thin edge from the choil to the tip.

 

The very solid construction, glass smooth action and thin edge turned the Lil’ Native into a very impressive knife. Again this is SPyderco specialty to bring short powerful matter separators. The lock is strong, the blade is strong, it is a very capable tool in a compact size. The belly also helps for push cuts.

Really impressive EDC knife.

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