NEW KNIVES SHARPER AND STAY THAT WAY ### jim matthews column ### 9may07
Friction forging makes knives stay sharper longer, but not without a price
By JIM MATTHEWS Outdoor News Service
FRAZIER PARK ### More and more new technology is incorporated into outdoor gear every year. It wasn't long ago that no one had heard of GPS (Global Positioning System) units, now it's a rare hunter or fisherman who doesn't understand GPS and many own them. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I remember the first graphite fishing rod.
(For you kids, a brief history lesson: Fishing rods were made with fiberglass for years before graphite came on the scene, thanks to the aerospace industry.)
Some of the new technology just makes little improvements in performance or the ease with which we can do things in the field. Other things have very significant impacts in improving products.
This week I have been using a new knife with a blade that is made with a new process called "friction forging." Remember that process. Using heat caused by pressure and rotation, the process reduces the grain structure of steel while making it harder at the same time. It doesn't melt the steel, it becomes plasticized and its properties change. The technical specifications of how this happens are fascinating and took a panel of five metallurgical experts about two hours to explain.
The process is less important than what it does to knife blade steel. In a nutshell, this new super knife blade can be made extremely sharp, but more importantly, it holds that edge for magnitudes longer than any other steel used to make knife blades. It is also more durable. Hunters know that most steel knives dull after the dressing and skinning process of a single deer. The new friction-forged blade may never need sharpening by the average deer hunter who shoot a deer or two a year.
As a bonus, the edge of the blade is corrosion-proof because of the high chromium content, but it is not made from stainless steel. This means that rust won't dull the blade either.
The new knives will be marketed under the name of Diamond Blade. Charles E. Allen, the president and founder of Knives of Alaska, a 12-year-old Texas company that supplies over 100,000 high-quality hunting knives a year to the hunting marketplace, is the principal who's pulled together the team for this new undertaking.
Utilizing the research efforts over the past decade by Brigham Young University metallurgists Dr. Tracy Nelson and Dr. Carl Sorensen, the technology was adapted to knife blades to create what Nelson calls "the biggest legitimate improvement in the knife industry in over 40 years."
How much better is it? Using the "shave test" criteria, the new Diamond Blade knife was tested against virtually all of the other steels used in knifes. They were all mechanically sharpened the same way, and a task was performed repeatedly (rope was cut) until the knife couldn't shave hair from skin. Most knives lost that ability with as few as 15 cuttings, and even the best steel lost it's edge after about 150 pieces of rope were cut. The new steel blade continued to hold its edge even after 250 pieces of rope had been cut and time curtailed more testing.
In a less formal test, Charles Allen tells how he and his staff kept performing cutting tasks with the new knife and then shaving hair off their skin. "I can tell you than none of us had any hair left on our bodies after about a week, and the knife was still sharp enough to shave hair." That may be too much information.
No, the knife isn't cheap. It will be in the $330 to $400 range, depending on the model, and all are presentation quality knives with exotic handles. But that is on par with or priced below most of the quality, custom knives on the market.
"We're not saying the edge is indestructible or that it never has to be sharpened. It's not going to have to be sharpened as often and it's more durable," said Allen.
Sorenson says the friction forging makes the steel able to start out at least 50 percent sharper at the beginning, and it can hold that sharpness several magnitudes greater than other steel.
It won't take 40 years for all other knife steel to become obsolete.
[Diamond Blade friction forged knives are already in production and available in limited supplies. For information, visit the web site http://www.diamondbladeknives.com or call 903-786-8044.]
Jeff "Jesse" James - Owner of Jesse's Hunting & Outdoors
You can always tell who's in 2nd place by who's whining and crying the most. - Old hockey coach.
Dum spiramus tuebimur
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"In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a brave and scarce man, hated and scorned. When the cause succeeds, however, the timid join him... for then it costs nothing to be a patriot." -Mark Twain
Ron Gayer (Elkron) had one of these and showed it around at the Tejon archery hunt earlier this month. Real pretty knife, and very sharp.
Usually, I don't keep any of my working knives "razor" sharp, since a razor-sharp edge will roll or chip with the first contact with bone. From Ron's experience, these knives seemed to chip instead of rolling due to the hardness of the steel. They're also apparently pretty hard to get sharp again for the same reason.
I'd definitely take a look at them, if I were in the market for a new knife. The price is a little high, but I've paid more for presentation quality knives. It'll be interesting to see if they come out with something like a regular micarta handle and get the price down into the $100-$150 range.
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