Tag Archives: Ed Fowler

52100 A guilty pleasure !

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As you know my experience with 52100 has been enhanced with the owning of a great Paramillie 2 Sprint Run. This steel is staining and pitting just by gazing at it hence the forced patina I have done to protect the pivot’s hidden part.

But then ? After almost a year of rotation how 52100 has behaved ?

“52100 will take a very keen edge. What is often called “sticky sharp” or “a hungry edge.” said Sal in March 2018.  He also said he wanted a Millie in 52100 to be used as Mountain knife.
And this is true. Like SuperBlue steel ! Those folding razor steel are flirting with lightsabers and are strong. Of course you don’t use your folders like a fixed blade as the pivot and lock can be weaker than a tang. “Batoning” (if any) with a folder should be made with the blade unlocked to avoid any stress on the locking mechanism. But lateral blade jolting inside the cutting medium is commun. I do that in plastics when It got resistance but it can happen inside a wooden knot too. So lateral strength especially on a thin pointy blade like the Millie/paramillie and Para3 is not a luxury as is also edge stability.

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But the greatest joy and satisfaction in owning a 52100 blade is in its honing. This steel is made for leather stropping. In two passes it already get back to razor. Of course, I had convexed the blade to a very thin edge. In a simple 2 minutes round, after a full day of using, your knife is back to uncanny sharpness. This is so satisfying !!

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The thick bottom of any plastic plastic soda bottle is my favorite test for geometry and bite as it can collapse under the force if not thin enough. The Nilakka is the queen in that game. But my full flat ground blade are all convexed to achieve powerful and controlled cuts. The thinnest of the bunch are my 72100 et CPM M4.

Ghost my CPM M4 millie has been used on various cutting duty involving food and grease as has been my 52100 Paramillie. I don’t do cutting ropes tests or anything which can be numbered, I go with the feeling. Even if I enjoy reading those tests it’s “quantity” over “quality” as a blade is 33% steel 33% heat treatment and 33% blade geometry. Cutting hard wood, looking and touching the wood’s grain and the cut fibers and how the edge behave when twisted inside is my way ad as 52100 is also used in razors: shaving sticks of hard wood is done with ease and control.

For Ed Fowler (grand manitou of forging 52100) when carefully forged and heat treated, this is the most versatile and dependable steel available to the knife industry. He feels that a man who depends on his knife deserves and needs the most reliable knife possible that will not bend easily or break when he needs it the most. A knife that can be sharpened easily and is friendly to his hand.

Ed got a very oldtimer advice for keeping his 52100 blade rust free:
“Any oil will keep rust from the blade, many times I simply apply the oil from the side of my nose or from behind my ear…”
One thing is certain: the more you use your 52100 blade, the more you check it and oil it with your hands.

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Ed is not stranger to folding knives as he has teamed up with Ron Appleton and forged the blade out of 52100 for his “Chub” in 2001. Ron wanted to create a folding knife that would be capable of withstanding the rigorous demands of a straight blade user.

Our friend Ed Schempp is another fan of 52100 here what he was saying about it in 2005
“52100 is a very good steel. Ed Fowler has spent a life time tweaking this steel to improve performance. With multiple thermal cycles, normalizing and interrupted quenches, and low temp forging has accomplished and extremely fine grained steel.
Most of the time a good smith can further refine the grain on production steel. Some of the grain can be smaller then but not of the homogenous size that Crucible attains in their CPM products.
This translates to a finer cutting edge that can be sharper than S30V. This edge will not necessarily last as long as a high Vanadium steel like S30V, but can a higher initial sharpness.
The thermal treatment to bring the best of what 52100 has to offer will be expensive, although a simple heat treatment will still bring forward a good amount of what the steel has to offer. Differentially hardened blades would be very difficult to do commercially.”

So 52100 is still a guilty pleasure, because you know it will stain, it will need maintenance but when it come to using it hard and hone it back to sharp, this steel shows is true colors !

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Spyderco Paramilitary 2 C81CF52100P2 52100 Exclusive Run – New Old Timer Workhorse !

I love Grandpa’s knives in a modern form, like the AFCK in M2HSS twenty years ago. But I was not able to jump on bandwagon to catch a Military in 52100. Lucky me, soon a Paramillie II designed by Sal and Eric Glesser was able with the same Carbon Fiber handles and the same 52100 blade.

“52100 is a very good steel for cutting organic material. If you stay with organic material it will edge hold very well.
I use it for a core steel on high carbon pattern welded laminate. My competition cutters are a laminate of 15n20-52100-15n20.” Ed Schempp

“52100 is a ball bearing steel. Most ball bearing steels make pretty decent blade steel. Especially where edges are concerned. It is my favorite steel to forge. It is hard to find in sheet. Actually, I would like to do a run of a model in 52100, but I’d prefer to make it in Golden, so it will be a year or so.”   Sal

Ed Fowler in his many articles in Blade Magazine and his books introduced me in the “magic” of 52100. Also my first blades in 52100 are my two gifted Lil Blue II made by my friend Ray Kirk of Raker knivesRaker knives. Ed as a cowboy and Ray as a Native American ? Made in Golden ? This knife is the true heir of American traditional blades !

“52100 is the steel of which most of the bearings used in all walks of life today are made. Civilization rides on 52100 steel. If it were less than reliable, another steel would be used instead. I have used 52100 exclusively in my knives for the past five years. I have forged many bearings into blades. I have given my blades every opportunity to fail, subjecting them to rigorous, destructive tests. I have found 52100 to be the cleanest, most uniform steel that I have ever used. Properly forged and heat treated, 52100 produces a high-performance blade that knows no peers. I have reached this conclusion based upon extensive personal research, testing knives for the things that they need to do in the real world of knife function.

Bearing-quality 52100 steel blades are tough and normally pass the 90° flex test without cracking or breaking. Their strength is evidenced by the force required to flex them.

I demand three levels of performance from any knife intended for serious use. First, it must have the ability to cut and cut well. Second, the blade must be tough. By tough I mean it must flex without breaking like a piece of glass. Last, but not least, it must be relatively easy to sharpen. Through the years, I have tried many steels and heat-treating methods and have tested the results by cutting a lot of rope and breaking many blades. Some combinations have cut extremely well, but have
broken or chipped when subjected to hard use. Drawn to a point where they were tough, these blades were too soft to cut effectively. I had settled upon one steel that when properly forged and heat treated cut very well. I had invested a great amount of time and effort getting the most out of that steel, so I was reluctant to change.

The nature of 52100 has changed drastically since that first bearing was made more than 100 years ago. Bearings are performance oriented, and those that last and gain a reputation for high performance are in demand. Every bearing is, by nature of its job description, routinely tested to its limit of performance. Competition is based solidly upon quality steel, and the outfit that makes the best steel enjoys a ready market for its product. Quality control is a high priority in the manufacture of bearing steel.

In addition to everything else, 52100 is easy to work, grind, and heat treat. Even less than perfect heat treatment can result in a good knife, though it never should be said that bladesmiths should settle for simply “good enough.” As the knifemaker’s skills develop, the performance potential of the steel will offer ample room for growth.
The high chrome content of 52100 promotes a beautiful mirror polish and enhances the steel’s machinability. The 1 percent carbon is more than can go into solution in the steel. However, unlike 1095, which has about the same amount of carbon, the excess carbon in 52100 also has 1.5 percent chrome to react with to make chromium carbides that can enhance cutting performance.
The “Cadillac of steels,” 52100 has been and continues to be one of the cleanest blade materials suitable for cutlery. Its primary use demands great care in manufacture. It’s also extremely versatile. For example, I’m aware of one man who makes
“52100 has been and continues to
be one of the cleanest steels suitable for cutlery.”

Ed Fowler, the lover of 52100 ball-bearing steel, sheep horn, and dedication to the functional knife.

For Sal Glesser, the functionnal knife is carbon fiber handle and impervious to wear and tear. CF got that magic to age great even after some falls on concrete.

As you can notice mine came perfectly centered. The Colorado Plant is now bringing perfect quality controls and a love to details you can appreciate in all angles.
The action is smooth ans the blade can fall by gravity when the lock is released.
As on the Yojimbo2 the compression is lock provides an action which is one of the smoothest out of the box but othing new about that.

Ok time to smooth the peel ply CF for saving my trousers from being filed and also smooth the hump which catch my pocket’s lip. Sandpaper at 500 has been used.

For the hump, like on my previous Paramillie, a diamond file is mandatory. 15 minutes later it’s much better !

Then, knowing 52100’s fun is the fact it can get a patina very quick, green lemon juice was used to start a gentle patina.

For good measure I wanted to compare how a 1075 carbon steel Opinel and that 52100 knife will react to the lemon juice.

In the same time I could try the new Double Stuff 2, Howard korn from the Knifecenter of The Internet has just offered me.

I was able to remove the shoulder and convexe my grind in a pair of minutes. Then with the white ceramic it was own to a mirror polish.
This is true 52100 get polished very easily. And the edge is like a mirror after some pass on leather. So this is also going to be fun.

WIth the lemon juice drying on its size, a patina soon appears.

And I was able to get a nice contrats with the convexed edge.

The knife bites in the wood like an hungry edge will. This should be a dream for Bushcrafters to get that kind of steel on such a modern and reliable plateform.
It can be turned into beyond razor very easily just by stropping my new convexed edge.
Yes, so easy to get it dangerously sharp and whittling hairs !!

The good thing also is that 52100 is supposed to be tougher than S30V and the thin point of the Paramillie needs plenty of strenght. Now I wonder what is the HRC of that blade.

I also like the matte black clip provided. It’s made for a low profile EDC.

It seems like the 1075 is getting drak faster than the 52100 as the wipe marks are visible on the Opinel blade.

So the Paramillie 2 is now ready to get some used. I will go near the Ocean for four days at the end of the week. It will be occasio to test it in a humid and salty environment.

 

 

The new king of bottle butt cutting is my Opinel N°12. It goes through plastic like in butter. The Paramillie is stuck but slowly and steady goes through.
But so far nothing beats the Nilakka or the Opinel in that exercise.
But the 52100 will be slowly more thinned for that matter. 52100 is a steel to be thinned on the edge.

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Cutting bread is another great test. The cruch is hard and the inside is soft. That’s why Opinel are great on that too. But here the Paramillie is also reliable.
52100 is “alive” . It means it needs care and the patina will evolve in time.
I have greased the pivot and now the cheese is greasing the blade. Let’s not forget Carbon Steel folders have been in use much more longer than stainless steel. Roman folders have been found in archeologic sites. So this Eric and Sal design enhanced by this bold move — bringing 52100 to a modern folder — is all an adventure !!
So…
“New” because it’s a new idea to give ball bearing steel to a tactical folder when the tendance is to S35V and M390 manufactured in China (Don’t mistake me I do love my Falcon). “Old Timer” remembering the Schrade 1095 collection made in the USA and Workhorse because this is a knife made to be used not kept in a safe. It needs to be oiled and sharpened and used and oiled and honed…
More to come !!

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I remove the edge’s shoulder with the diamond side of a Double Stuff 2. I do that until I got a burr.

Doing it without guide, free hands, gives a gentle convex edge.
Then I use the white ceramic to erase the deep diamonds cuts.
And then leather stropping. On 52100 it is a breeze to do.
Now it can whittling hairs.

 

And for good vintage look, some P1000 sand paper on the clip will age it.
But rust could be a problem in the pivot area… as shown on part II.

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