I have been talking in the forums about a couple of custom knives I have had a knifemaker working on for me for a while, so I figure it’s about time to show you what I got. I have actually prepared and started several fires with the smaller one, and the larger one has been very capable in my limited testing. They are both a little rough in spots since they are the first prototypes of knives I would eventually like to sell.
The sheaths are actually the first kydex sheaths that the knifemaker has made. He did a very good job for his first tries with nice tight fits for the knives and a solid snap in locking that holds the knives very securely. There are small Tek-Loks on both sheaths.
They are both made from O1 steel, which is my favorite tool steel. Hardness should be around 60HRC, which is perfect for a camping type knife. Tool steels will bend instead of breaking or chipping like stainless steels, but the lack of stainless properties mean that they rust easily. In fact, the smaller knife has some rust spots on it since I was using it on wet wood the last time I made a fire and was slack about properly cleaning it. I know, shame on me. The pictures make them look a lot worse with the rust than they really are. I was too lazy to set up a lighting setup, and flashes are not very kind to shiny metals.
They both have handle material made from blue burlap and the brightest glow in the dark powder on the market mixed with an epoxy. The glow is surprisingly bright once it is charged up, and is definitely visible at night. I have not left it outside or in bright light for an extended period of time, so I am not quite sure how long they would actually glow in the dark. I had the handles made of that material mostly for shits and giggles, not really any practical purpose. I suppose if it glows for an extended period, I would be able to find them better at night, since I am definitely bad about leaving my knives on the ground. The powder does react to my brighter flashlights very well, so charging the glow powder is quick and easy. The picture with the glow spot is how it actually looks in regular light after just a few seconds of flashlight exposure. The final version will probably have orange G10 instead, since it is likely more visible at night, cheaper, and the GITD material did not finish very well due to several rough spots from the manufacturing process.
The real reason I spent so much time working on a design with a knifemaker instead of just buying some premade designs was the firesteels built in to the handles. I was thinking it was going to be gimmicky at first, but after actually using them many times over the past few weeks, I have come to see how incredibly useful they are. An adequately sized firesteel is ready whenever you need it, and can be there as a backup even if you carry another one. I like the built-in design over a firesteel loop on the sheath mostly because I am a dork and think it is wonderful to have a firesteel built into the butt of my knives. That, and I am paranoid that a firesteel in a loop would be prone to fall out after it is worn down from use. They way the steel in my knives is slotted to accept the firesteels does not compromise its strength in any significant way, and they hold in very securely with just friction thanks to the small aluminum handles. The final version will probably have something like a small rare earth magnet to hold them even better.
Using the firesteels is very simple. Pull it out from the end, flip the knife over, and use the spine (opposide side of the knife from the edge) to scrape some sparks. Most knife spines are slightly rounded for ergonomic reasons, but I had the maker square off the entire spine on both knives. I tend to just use the very tip of the spine since it seems the easiest way to keep the firesteel close to the tinder. The firesteel on the smaller knife is shorter and thinner than I prefer just due to space limitations in the handle, but I have had no problems starting fires even in wet conditions using it.
Once we have the kinks ironed out, I think the design is going to be a real winner. I have honestly stopped looking at fixed blade knives (I know, heresy!) after receiving them, since they are exactly what I was looking for all along. In actual use, they both perform very well in fire and food preparation, batoning, and every other task I have thrown at them. Overall, I am very pleased with them.