Australian weapons stupidity

A deadly weapon used by evil gangs, apparently

Australia, it seems, it heading down the shithole. Victoria is first in line, but the rest of the states are lining up behind her.

Take, for example, under Victoria’s new weapons legislation, a kubotan, is a prohibited weapon – that is, you need permission (page 16) from the chief of police to even own one. Don’t forget that the police have the power to randomly stop and search anyone for weapons, without probable cause. Even regular slingshots (page 11) or double bladed pen-knives (page 7). And don’t even think about those nasty, evil laser pointer cat toys – they’ve been banned for years. Oh, and if you’re under 18, no picnics for you, since even the sale of plastic knives is prohibited to those under 18. In Queensland, proposed changes to the weapons legislation would consider “discharging” a laser pointer in the same manner as discharging a firearm.

In concert, it seems, with these changes, customs have recently cracked down on knife imports. A number of sources indicate that customs are now confiscating any folding knife with a thumb stud, claiming they are “flick” knives.

While I am not a gun owner or advocate for the “right to bear arms”, this study by the Fraser institute seems pretty hard to argue with. I highly recommend reading it in full. The gist of it is that they compared per-capita violent crime rates in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. A reduction in gun violence means nothing if there is a corresponding increase in other types of violence – as the study says, “violence involving guns is not qualitatively worse than other violence: being bludgeoned to death is not less horrific than being shot to death.”. Their research actually showed that increasingly restrictive gun laws might actually increase the violent crime rate. I’m not sure that I quite agree with that last bit, but restricting access to weapons clearly does nothing to address the desire of some people to commit violent crime, nor the abilities of police to deter/prosecute said people. The fact that we’ve seen an increase in “glassing” shows that people will always find a way if they want to.

CRKT M21-04G, M21-02G, M16-13LE review / comparison

My Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) folding knifes would have to be my favourite and most used knifes. I got the M16-13LE first. I then got an M21-02G as i liked the look of the blade shape. Initially I thought it was a bit small, so then ordered an M21-04G. Having used the 02 for a month or so, I actually now quite like the size. When the 04 arrived I was actually a bit shocked – it is quite large for a folder.

I originally bought the M16 on the recommendation of a friend. At the time, I only knew of the M16’s, and the available range in Australia was fairly limited. I settled for a M16-13LE – AUS-8, spear point, partially serrated. I didn’t want the serrations, however all the plain edge M16’s I could find were AUS-4 steel, which I didn’t like the sound of. I’ve had it for over a year now and it has been great – very sturdy, opens easily. Serrations I’m not a fan of – i find that for whittling and fine cutting tasks the base of the blade is the most used section – right where the serrations are. I am slowly grinding these back and will eventually have it converted to a plain edge. The black blade coating has held up to a lot of abuse.

While I had set out to convert the M16 to a plain edge, I decided that that would take a while, and I still didn’t like the spear point – I prefer a deeper curve on the blade for slicing. So I decided to buy an M21. I searched ebay and got the cheapest one I could – an M21-02G. AUS-8 blade, G10 scales, plain edge. When it arrived I was a bit disappointed – it is noticeably smaller than the M16, and just felt like it was a bit small (I do have largish hands, and the M16 fits perfectly). The blade shape is great, and the knife just as sturdy as the M16, however I have noticed that the linerlock is a bit harder to close than on the M16. I did notice that the blade coating on the 02 (Titanium nitride) wore in spots pretty quickly. Not that big a deal since I prefer the used look on all my things.

After a few week I decided to just order a bigger 04 too. The fact that customs is getting crazy with knives and who knows how much longer we’ll be able to get them in from other countries also helped the decision. It took a few weeks to arrive, in which I actually grew to really like the compact size of the 02.  When the 04 did arrive, I was actually quite shocked – the 04 is actually quite a bit bigger than the M16 – actually too large for a “pocket knife”. I haven’t actually used this one much, however it seems just as good as the others – sturdy hinge, solid locking mechanism, easy to open with the carson flipper.

Overall, the M16s and M21s are great knives – solid pivots, reliable locks, easy opening, all for a pretty low price (US$40 for an M21-02G shipped to au). I would have to say that the M21-02G is my favourite – nice blade shape and very good size for a pocket knife, and very cheap. The M16’s come second, although it seems very hard to get a plain edge blade in AUS-8 steel. The M21-04G is just a bit too big – might be good as a camp knife, but not good for my use as an everyday pocket knife.

Knife laws in Queensland

Since I usually carry around a pocket knife (as a utility tool), I thought it would be worthwhile researching the relevant laws to know where I stand. Basically, it seems that you cannot carry a knife for the purposes of self defence, however if you have a reasonable excuse (such as utility tasks, work or other lawful activity requirements) then you are allowed to carry a knife – no size restrictions. However, you must not carry/use/act with the knife in such a way that a “reasonable person” would be scared/concerned.

Here’s the two relevant acts/regulations that I found:

Weapons Categories Regulation 1997

Page 8, Section 7A Category M weapons (c),
any knife so designed or constructed so as to be used as
a weapon
that while the knife is held in 1 hand, the blade
may be released by that hand;

The weapons category regulation, defines what is considered to be a category M weapon. My reading of this is that a knife is only a category M weapon if it is a knife that is designed as a weapon. If not for requirement for intended use as a weapon, then I believe a stanley knife would fall under this category. In the case of a linerlock type knife with opening studs, it is probably a bit grey, however if it was argued in court they’d need to show that it was designed or constructed as a weapon – something which I think would be pretty hard to do. (this is not for assisted openers or other such banned knives)

Weapons Act 1990
Page 74, Section 51 Possession of a knife in a public place or school

(1) A person must not physically possess a knife in a public place
or a school, unless the person has a reasonable excuse.
(2) It is a reasonable excuse for subsection (1) to physically
possess a knife—
(a) to perform a lawful activity, duty or employment; or
(b) to participate in a lawful entertainment, recreation or
sport; or
(c) for exhibiting the knife; or
(d) for use for a lawful purpose.

Example for subsection (2)(a)—
A person may carry a knife on his or her belt for performing work
in primary production.
Examples for subsection (2)(b)—
1 A scout may carry a knife on his or her belt as part of the scout
uniform.
2 A person may carry a knife as an accessory while playing in a pipe
band.
3 A fisher may carry a knife for use while fishing.
Examples for subsection (2)(d)—
1 A person may use a knife to prepare or cut food at a restaurant in a
public place or when having a picnic in a park.
2 A person may carry a pen knife or swiss army knife for use for its
normal utility purposes.
(3) However, it is not a reasonable excuse to physically possess a
knife in a public place or a school for self-defence purposes.
(4) In deciding what is a reasonable excuse for subsection (1),
regard may be had, among other things, to whether the way
the knife is held in possession, or when and where it is held in
possession, would cause a reasonable person concern that he
or she, or someone else in the vicinity, may be threatened or
harmed.

The weapons act, covers when it is allowable to carry a knife. Points 2a, b and d i believe are the relevant parts. So, a reasonable excuse would be if you use it for your work (stripping wires, cutting rope, opening packages etc) or, as per the example, for “normal utility purposes”. Note that this says nothing about knife types – as long as the  knife doesn’t fall into a weapons category (which, if used for lawful purposes as above, it doesn’t), then it says nothing about what is or isn’t covered. So, no limits on blade length, or limits on fixed blade knives or their size. Point 4 however, does mean that if you carry around a scary looking knife you could be in trouble.

My Mora Knives

Reading Oldjimbo’s site and his many articles on Mora knives got me quite interested in them. Seems as they’re so cheap (I bought them from this ebay store – easy to deal with, cheap postage and ok delivery times) I’ve got a few now, so I thought it’d be worth a bit of a mini-review.

Mora “Classic Craftsman” 612

Carbon steel blade, red painted wooden handle, half guard.
The first Mora I purchased. I didn’t like the look or feel of the wooden handle, so i stripped it back and oiled it with linseed oil, like oldjimbo suggested. I used a butane blowtorch and wirebrush to strip it back. I also did not like the gap where the blade meets the handle, as it would surely be a repository for gunk. While a lot of sites seem to mention pulling the handle off, none seemed to explain how to do it.
I’m still not sure on the handle attachment method, but what i did was drilled a hold down through the base of the handle until I hit the tang. This was about 5cm from the base of the handle. It looked kind of bent over.

I couldn’t figure out how to get it out easily, so rather than risk further damage, I plugged the hole up with a piece of brass rod, held in by quick steel epoxy. the plastic handled knifes don’t have the issue of gunk getting stuck, so i’ve made this one a garden / workshop knife, and any food work I’ll do with the plastic handles knives.

As far as the edge goes, I’ve started honing it back using wet/dry (emery) paper of 400 grit sitting on a sheet of glass. It took quite a lot of effort to form a wire edge, so I’m guessing that the bevel was ever so slightly convex from the factory, as others have suggested. I ended up resorting to a aluminium oxide stone to hone it back quicker, and will use the wet/dry paper to clean up and polish the bevel sooner or later. I actually chipped the edge prying some nails loose, so I’ll need to hone back the bevels quite a bit. not in a hurry to do this though, as it is just a gardening knife now. Still probably my favourite looking knife now though, as the handle has come up very nicely.

Mora Outdoor 2000

Sandvik stainless, ugly but grippy plastic handle and molded plastic sheath

The most expensive Mora in my collection, at a cost of around AU$25! V/ery ugly looking knife, but seems to be functional. I only used this one as a kitchen knife so far, however my first impressions are that the thin blade and unusual profile (secondary bevel which tapers distally from about 2/3 along the blade) means this knife slices much better than other Mora’s, which have much thicker blades. The wider blade makes paring and some other fine work a bit more difficult, compared with the normal, narrower Mora blades.

This one is supposed to have a high quality Sandvik stainless steel blade. I haven’t had enough use yet to tell whether or not it is any better than the normal Mora Stainless blades, or how this compares with other steels.

The handle and sheath seem functional, despite their ugliness.

Mora 711

Carbon steel, red (red for rust?) grippy plastic/rubber handle, molded plastic sheath.

The knife locates in the sheath firmly, with a friction fit. No click like on the hard plastic handled knives.

Mora 511

Carbon steel blade, hard red plastic handle, molded plastic sheath

The 511 has a shorter blade than the 711 or 612. handle seems good, but not as nice as the grippy plastic handled versions. The knife clicks into the sheath and locates very definitely.

Mora 746

Stainless steel, soft plastic/rubber handle, blue (for water/stainless?) trim, molded plastic sheath.

Golok / Bolo review

DSC08390

After reading about Golok’s on OldJimbo’s page I decided to give one a try. Initially I was going to get one from Valiant, however I found this one on ebay, (from this seller) and ended up getting it for AU$42 delivered, versus AU$85 for the small survival golok.

After doing a bit more research, it seems to me that it is more like a bolo than a golok as was indicated by the seller, due to the tip heavy blade shape compared with a sabre-like shape as seen on Valiant’s goloks. I could be wrong, as I’m certainly not even close to being an expert on blades. In any case, I’m going to refer to it as a bolo.

Construction is very nice, with the blade being around 4mm thick at the spine near the handle. This is thinned off towards the point. The edge has a convex grind. The finish on the blade is quite rough, with a lot of dents (forge marks?) present over the surface, and a raw finish. I cleaned this up a little by running a sharpening stone over the flat, but due to the dents lots of bits were missed.

I’m unsure of the handle construction method, other than it is not a full tang handle, but it is very solid.

Now, in use! This is the result of about 5 hours work (and no, Harry wasn’t particularly helpful)

PhilColePhone_041

PhilColePhone_042

It is a hibiscus shrub which I’ve been wanting to get rid of for a while. Springy saplings from 1 to 4 cm in diameter. Unsupported and springy, the bolo got through the thinner stuff in a single slice, with thicker bits taking a few chops. When chopping the saplings into shorter sections on a hardwood chopping block, it got through everything in one chop – about as much effort as using a hatchet.

The edge held up very well. While the edge was not great to begin with – inconsistent sharpness, uneven edge, it did not lose any sharpness at all after all that cutting. After testing with a file, it seems that it is differentially tempered, with the edge much harder than the spine.

The one area which did let it down was the handle. The carving near the butt, which is possibly meant to act as a hook for draw cutting, was quite sharp and caused blisters. This might be less of an issue for someone with smaller hands, but it still had hard edges, as the shape had been cut rather than sanded. A quick touch up with a rasp and some sandpaper made a big difference, although now I will need to re-lacquer or oil the handle.

Overall i think a fantastic buy for AU$42, and I will surely get plenty of use out of it.

Survival kit tools on the cheap

So I’ve been putting together survival kits of late, and come across a number of cheap options which I thought I might share. I’ve been thinking that it would be better having 5 slightly lower quality items that I’m not afraid to lose, than 1 fantastic ultra reliable item that will make me cry (or worse, in a survival situation) if i lose or break it.

This sort of survival kit on the cheap is, I must say, all made possible by the wonderous cheap stuff coming out of china. Since most high quality, genuine name brand stuff now also comes out of the same factories in china, the knock-off stuff is now pretty good, if a bit hit and miss sometimes with the quality control. While it may not be as good as the real deal, for the price I think its worth it.

One great example is the pocket knife below – the gerber knock off shown below is less than a tenth of the price of my CRKT M16-13LE. Now, there’s no dispute that the CRKT is a far better knife, but the cheapie is still very solid. Steel is a bit softer, but it still holds an edge decently and is easy to sharpen. The CRKT is my EDC, but the cheapies go into the various kits I have.

sku_9199_1
Folding knife – Tanto blade, probably 440a or 440c not properly hardened or similar steel – holds an edge fairly well, but is quite easy to sharpen. Quality control is a potential issue – 1 of 3 had a poorly made liner lock which required repair before it locked properly. At around AU$7.50 each delivered (3 to 5, cheaper for higher quantities), i bought a bunch for my various kits.

sku_20756_1
LED torch (“Flashlight”)
This one runs from AA, AAA and CR123. Runtime on a rechargable CR123 is about 60 minutes. It has a constant current constant voltage regulated driver, as it gives consistant light intensity right up until the battery protection circuit kicks in. With AA and AAAs you get a dimmer light. Different brightness modes would be nice, but the battery flexibility I think is a bigger bonus. At around AU$11 each delivered, one goes in each kit.

0590_more2
Fixed blade survival knife. A number of chinese sellers on ebay sell these for around AU$25. Full tang, very solid construction, nice handle scales. Blade geometry is nice for slicing (eg skinning), and a nice size for survival work – not too large. The only downside is the sheath, which is functional, but not particularly good.

Fire starters
Again, dealextreme to the rescue! They have ferrocium rods ranging from small to large, from AU$2 up to AU$5 each delivered.

sku_3734_4
Another handy one is a small cylindrical zippo style lighter. This one features a screw on lid with an o-ring, meaning that the zippo fluid (aka coleman fuel, naptha, shellite) doesn’t evaporate like normal zippos.

Lansky deluxe sharpening system – review

The Lansky deluxe sharpening system

The Lansky deluxe sharpening system

I recently purchased a lansky rod based sharpening system, as found here. Overall, it seems to be a great sharpening system, although there are a few caveats.

First off, the good.

It comes with 5 sharpening stones, from extra course to ultra fine. Extra course works really well for grinding a new bevel angle, with the rest getting progressively finer to allow nice polishing of the edge. The jig allows you to get consistant angles on both sides of the blade without having to re-attach the knife when swapping sides. This makes it really easy to get a razor sharp edge, and to re-grind edges to your preferred angles (for example, a 20/25 double bevel, which should give decent sharpness and decent durability).

Here’s a picture of it in use

lansky-02

Note the 4 holes for different angles.

(the knife pictured is my “smithing” folding knife – bought from a chinese ebay seller for around AU$25 delivered. supposed to be a high carbon non-stainless steel, with a 58-59 RHC. Build quality was poor – liner lock did not lock, and hinge bolt had crappy torx sockets which stripped in no time. After repairing the liner lock by re-grinding the edge, and cutting slots in the hinge screw to allow the use of a flat blade screwdriver, all is good now. The blade seems to hold an edge well, and it is reasonably solidly constructed)

In use, I start off with a course or extra course if I need to regrind the bevel. Grind one side until you can feel a bevel form on the opposite side. This means you’ve ground that edge down until it meets the other bevel, giving a thin edge. Once this is done, swap sides and grind away until you feel another bevel on the other side. Now, go to the next finest stone and repeat the same process. What this is doing is polishing the edge, allowing a finer edge to form as you go to finer grit abrasives. Once you get to the finest abrasive, you will need to remove the burr by lightly grinding the other edges. You want to break off the burr, while not forming a new burr. Pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

Now onto the not so good aspects. While the angle guides allow you to get consistant angles, they are not accurate. To describe why, we’re going to have to do a bit of basic trigonometry.

lansky-angle-dia

If height is the hole used, angle is the desired edge angle, and then length is the distance the blade edge is from the jig. Here’s a rough overlay which may help illustrate it:

lansky-angle-super

Where we run into problems is that length is in fact variable. Imagine that the next time I go to sharpen that knife, I clip the jig right on the edge of the blade, effectively increasing length. What that does it changes the angle (making it smaller, or shallower). While I will still get a consistant angle, it will be different from last time, meaning that edge properties will be different, and I may need to grind away a lot more steel than I otherwise would have.

To try to combat this, I’ve started noting down the position of the jig on each knife blade a sharpen. This way I should get it reasonably consistant each time, which should help. For example, with the pictured knife, i line the jig up against the thumb stud, with the front lip of the jig about in line with the edge of the main blade bevel grind.

The next issue is the accuracy of the angles. Given that the angle varies depending on how far out the edge is, the marked angles have been made with a certain measurement for length. I assumed that this would have been a couple of centimetres past the lip of the jig, where you would expect most blades would sit. However, doing the maths, it turns out that for the given angles, the blade would actually have to be about a centimetre behind the lip of the jig.

What this means is that the indicated angles are actually larger than the real angles you will get. The wider the blade (that is, the further the blade edge is from the jig), the smaller the angle will be. So, this means if you’re sharpening a meat cleaver with a 10cm wide blade, then angle (for a given indicated angle) will be much smaller than if you’re sharpening a pocket knife.

So, does this mean it’s not worth using this system? No.

It still allows you to get consistent edge angles and razor sharp blades, and do this quite easily and quickly. You can calculate exactly what angle you will get if you want to. Otherwise, just bear in mind that actual angles are less than indicated, and perhaps use the next angle up instead. If you want to get precise angles, then something like the Edge Pro system would work well, but this is going to cost. I’d like to build a system like this at some point, but that will have to wait for the rest of my projects to be done!

blacksmithing!

my first knife! made from an old chisel blade

my first knife! made from an old chisel blade


I finished making my first knife today, a sheepsfoot (lambsfoot?) chisel ground knife. I’ve been reading a lot about steel and heat treatment lately, so i thought I’d put it to test, and making knives seemed like a nice functional way to do it.

This first knife started life as an old wood chisel I found when I moved into this house. I snapped the handle off one time when i was pretending that it was a cold chisel, so it’s just been lying around. Seems as it started off life as a chisel, i thought it would be appropriate to give it a chisel grind.

I started out by annealing it to soften the steel to a level which I could work. Initially I tried this in a fire, which worked to an extent, but i found it was a bit uneven, with the handle end significantly harder than the tip. I tried this again using a butane blowtorch. Surprisingly, I was able to heat the entire blade to a dull red glow, then I slowly bought the temperature back down by reducing the flame and time it was applied to parts.

Once this was done, using an angle grinder, I ground the sheepsfoot shape, then the blade bevel. Rough shaping of the handle was done using the grinder, then I moved onto a half round file to shape the handle. The flat side of the half round was used to tidy up the blade bevel.

Two handle holes (3mm) and a lanyard hole (5mm) were drilled in the handle. I then cleaned up the metal surface, using a sharpening stone (the hardware store two sided style), then 320 and 800 grit went and dry. The surface still has some arc shaped scratches from the initial grinding with the angle grinder.

I then heat treated the blade, by heating with a butune blowtorch till a dull red glow was achieved, holding it at that temperature for about 2 minutes, then quenching in used engine sump oil. Tempering was then performed by heating with a blow torch until the black coating started to smoke.

I think I’m going to re-do the heat treating and tempering, as reading further indicates that I think I should have held the steel at a high temperature for longer (15 minutes or longer) to allow dispersion of alloying elements, which would lead to better carbide formation. I believe the tempering should have also been done with more heat and for a longer duration, but I will research this further. While I’m at it, I’m going to try to remove the scratches to see if i can get a better polished finish from the blade.

For sharpening, I used my Lansky rod sharpener (reviewed here) to grind a “30 degree” chisel edge. This means it is flat on one side, with a 30 degree bevel on the other. a 30 degree included angle (compared with a 20 or 25 degree bevel on a normal knife, which gives a 40 or 50 degree included angle) should give it a very sharp edge. The downside to such a sharp edge is that it shouldn’t last as long as a dual bevel. Accounting for the high hardness of the steel, I figured this should be ok.

I really noticed the difference in steel hardness sharpening this knife. Compared with other knives I’ve sharpened with the Lansky (such as a cheap chinese knock off gerber folding knife, supposedly with a 440C blade and 56-58 RHC) the steel was much more resistant to grinding, and when burrs formed, they were much harder to remove. So far, the edge seems to maintain near shaving sharpness after cutting through woody branches and stalks, so I’d say it’s a fairly tough edge.

I started out intending to make scales from some scrap 3mm aluminium sheet, but I opted for a cord wrapped handle instead. Mainly due to laziness (cord wrapped is much easier to do), but I do thinkg that it is probably more suitable, as a thick handl would look out of place on a such a small blade. The cord I used for the wrapping is 2mm hoochie cord.

Overall, I count this as a great success for my first knife making experience. Sure, it’s a tiny knife, but I’ve still found it useful harvesting pumpkins and trimming plants. The thickness of the blade (about 2.1mm) means it is not so good for cutting through things, but that’s not that big an issue for a small knife like this. The next task is to make a sheath for it. I figure I’d like to make one in a neck knife style. I think my heat treatment and tempering also needs some improvements. While this one appears to have turned out ok, I think it could certainly be improved next time.

knife sharpening and blade materials

I’ve got some knife sharpening to do, and have come across some useful resources in my research, on sharpening and blade materials:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=26036
http://users.ameritech.net/knives/
http://www.sff.net/people/pff/steel.txt

A quick summary of the important points for me are:

– 440C stainless is a good choice for blade material
– a 15/20 degree double bevel is a good choice for kitchen knives. adding a few degrees to each bevel increases durability, so perhaps 17/23 might be a better choice for a pocket knife.
– bevel angle is measured from a centreline running through the centre of the blade – actual edge angle is twice the bevel angle, since you have a bevel on each side.
– the aim of sharpening is to make the edge as thin as possible – fixed angles make this more predictable. You can tell when you’ve got a thin edge when a burr forms.

A very detailed resource on steel grades and their performance in knife blades:

http://cutleryscience.com/reviews/blade_materials.html#S_AUS4A

Also interesting reading are the following articles on knife making. I have some old files and chisels which I might experiment with.

http://www.hossom.com/tutorial/jonesy/
http://www.primitiveways.com/pt-knives-1.html