Tag Archives: CTS BD1

On the edge of the Polestar by JD

Like Nemo I have received my Polestar as a gift from Spyderco. It was in the goodie bag at the 2017 Amsterdam Meet. When I took the knife out of the box and looked it over my first impressions were positive. The blade opened smoothly and locked solidly with the lock bar fully engaging the tang. I liked how the gray G10 looked and felt, a nice combination of grippy and smooth. Clip tension was also excellent. I could slide the knife in and out of the pocket and waistband without any problem. The edge it came with from was less impressive, it could push cut receipt paper but had no slicing aggression at all.

When I came home I put a drop of Nano oil on the pivot which made it even smoother. I could flip the knife open with my middle finger, which is a lot of fun! Other than flipping it a few times I didn’t know what to do with Polestar. For me it is quite a big knife, having a blade length of 8,5cm. In my urban environment and with my use I have found that a blade length between 5-7 is ample. Small knives are often just more convenient for me.

After a few weeks of from time to time picking it up and flipping it I decided to give it a try and see how I would like to carry and use it. Like Nemo I moved the clip to the tip down position. I was going to carry it in the waistband and tip down carry reduces the chances of the blade accidentally opening. Thanks to the Spyder hole hump it could still be easily and quickly opened with the Spydie drop.

Before I was going to use it the edge would need to have more slicing bite then it did new. So, I thought a few passes on a coarse DMT hone would be enough for a quick touch up. I was wrong! I found out that, especially close to the recasso, the edge was pretty uneven. In some places it was even a high angle convex. The edge would need to be formed anew!

I cut of the old edge with a few light cuts into a stone and then created a new edge with my extra coarse DMT hone. I was interested in how the knife would function as it was intended by Spyderco. So I did not change the angle of the edge much but just evened out the edge bevel and formed a new apex. The steel was not hard to grind but, due to the unevenness, some parts needed lots more work than other parts. After I had was sure of having formed an apex by creating a burr on either side of the edge, I removed as much of the burr as I could by using alternate and high angle strokes. The burr flip flopped from site to side a lot and was not easy to cut of. Once I had removed most of the burr on the extra coarse hone I repeated the procedure on the fine DMT with the same difficulty in removing the burr. At that time the edge would slice receipt paper well but I have had better edges.

From past experiences I know that often a new knife needs to be sharpened a few times before the edge reaches its full sharpness and edge holding potential. So, this did not disturb me much. It was to early for conclusions.

I proceeded to cut up some cardboard before repeating most of the afore mentioned sharpening procedure. Only this time I finished on the diamond side of the Fallknives DC4, one of my favorite hones, to an edge that would just split head hair. Removing the burr and finishing the edge had become a bit easier this time around. Over the following days I carried this knife and used it for my normal cutting tasks. Mostly cutting paper cardboard and plastic packaging material and perhaps a bread bun for lunch. A funny thing I noticed: the edge its cutting ability seemed to first increase, then settle down, before slowly starting to dull!

After about a week of use the edge would still work for most of my cutting tasks but had lost some of its sharpness. I decided to resharpen the edge with just the diamond side of the Fallkniven hone again. Getting it sharp enough to shave arm hair was easy but getting it to split head hair still proved to be a bit fiddly, although I did managed it in the end. By comparison: my Elmax Squeak went from not biting in to the hair to cutting the hair with much less effort. A few passes on the hone did the trick there.

Normally I would have put the knife in pocket pocket as it was sharp enough for me use, but out of curiosity and to check my findings I resharpened it once more. I had become a bit easier to remove the burr and to make the edge arm hair shaving sharp. But to get the edge to split head hair was still a challenge. With other knives like my Maniago Spyderco’s in N690 and Elmax and, for instance, my Victorinox Bantam this had never been this difficult.

Overall the Spyderco Polestar is an enjoyable and capable knife: flipping the blade open with the middle finger is still fun and the handle works well, it handled my cutting tasks fine ones I got it sharp, but I am not impressed with the condition of the steel at the edge on my example. Still, it was interesting playing around with a knife that is so different from my usual fare!

JD

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Spyderco C220GPGY Polestar – Workhorse for the budget-conscious user.

Spyderco Polestar

Designed for budget-conscious knife users who demand genuine Spyderco quality, the Polestar was offered to all attendants at the last Amsterdam Minimeet (2017). That’s how I got mine.

What could be the definition of a Workhorse ? We got example of knives which has been used hard, lost, bought again, always in our pocket, the one we use for dirty jobs and that we trust.
Classic examples are: Swisschamp from Victorinox and their Spartan, Buck110, Spyderco Delica, Opinel N°8, Mora’s Companion, Benchmade’s Griptilian, Coldsteel’s Voyager, Pradel’s folder, Doukdouks… to name a few…
Those manufactured knives do not have the best new hyper duper high carbide power metallurgy steel but they can get a keen edge and you won’t need a sharpmaker on the field to keep them sharp. And you don’t pay a premium.
So the Polestar leaf-shaped plain edge blade is a full-flat ground from American-made CTS BD1 stainless steel.

Again, the equation for a great blade is: steel + Heat Treatment + geometry. Fred Perrin uses 1075 steel but his geometry, heat treatment and great ergonomy makes the trick.
Twenty years ago, with Fred, we were testing a famous “tactical” collection names “Master of Defense” now discontinuited. Eventually we found, despite their high sexiness (black blade, premium material and designs) they were not able to hold an edge for a long time. Compared to our Spyderco Military (CPM440V) and my Sebenza (ATS34) they were almost useless for us. Thick edges on CPM154 did not make the trick for users.
The same year (I think it was 1996) we got the opportunity to test some Pakistani 1 dollars folders (Laguiole knockoff). Their thin blade were really capable. We were really impressed. Those shitty knives were users and keepers.

In June 2012 I was able to test a Spyderco Persistence. I enjoy many things in that knife but I did not like how fast its edge could get dull. I have tried to get beyond the factory (burned) edge but without any improvement. Based on that sample, it was really frustrating for my use. No chipping though, but a real tendency to ask for ceramic touch up twice a day. Since then, I have been staying away from Chinese Spyderco and Byrds.

I still got a Titanium Catbyrd wich has been a running test of 200 pieces to try the equivalent of 440C in China 9CR13MO. And despite a thick edge to my own standard, it has proven to be a much better option for an EDC user.

Back to the Polestar, this time the steel is American, made by Carpenter. You can find it on Spyderco Kitchen knives, a Mule, my UKPK and a lightweight version of the Manix 2. So this is a folding kitchen knife blade after all !!

What make the Polestar loveable is its design. Even if Spyderco recognised it has made some kind of retro engineering on one of their Byrd linerlock, for me the Polestar is the heir of their infamous Tenacious: there is no choil ! 🙂
The open construction makes cleaning easy. The wide lanyard hole is a reminiscence of the Paramillie 2. You got four positions for the clip which is much better than the Rubicon 2 in term of usability and “clipability”.

It can be easily open using the Spyderdrop technique so I have mounted the clip for tipdown carry. It’s fast and the knife is ready to cut. It suits my need.
At 3,3mm (0,13″) of thickness the full flat ground blade is a really beauty. There is a lot of Spyderco DNA in it. And it works great.
Yes, there are also a lot of quality  and attention in the manufacturing: my Polestar is perfectly centered and locks with zero play. This knife is serious business.
The G10 texture is something new. Some kind of peeled blue and grey G10 which gives IMHO a premium look to that knife. And under the thumb it is not abrasive at all. No sandpaper needed for my own use. The stainless steel construction give also some weight and no lateral bending.

So what do we got for around 60 dollars ? A solid sharp knife you can use with no second thought.
Like I wrote in the very first article of that blog here quality is not synonym with the geography. Viking used to got to Persia (using the Volga river) to buy the best steel for their swords because back in that time, some of the best alchemists were there. Chinese manufacturers are getting better and better. Just look at the Real Steel collection and especially at their Megalodon flipping folders. Chinese production will soon get pricey as they are investing a lot in robots. If you study the age pyramid in China they will be confronted to a demographic problem. So they need robots and computer controlled production able to deliver constant quality in manufacturing. Never forget all our expensive Apple toys are made in China not in Frankfurt !!

So, the Polestar is the choice for a hard use EDC and also a great guinea pig if you want to master the art of sharpening too. You will enjoy how fast you can get a popping edge back. And you won’t mind using the blade on hard surfaces. This what a workhorse also made for, cutting on a plate or on concrete, with no second thought.

My FranckenStrech is equipped with a Super Blue Steel. That was my idea of a EDC Workhorse: thin angry edge, easy to maintain, easy to carry and sheeple friendly. This tough cookie is hard to beat. Both designed by Sal Glesser.

The edge is not the thinnest (not bad actually !) but the cuts are precise and powerful. It can be thinned easily with sandpaper.

The Parmigiano chips is also a good test. They are transparent !

After whittling hairs, to cut against hard material like glass is not a concern.

You can notce where the edge has rolled. In two ceramic passes it was straight again.
I won’t have the same ease of realignment with K390 I think. 🙂

Some of my Spyderco workhorses: the Millie, the Manix, the Polestar, the Stretch and the Slysz Bowie.
Different budgets for different tastes. All those knives are easy to clip, got enough edge for a lot of application and are easy to clean. The three knives I have not reprofiled are the Slysz and the Polestar.