Friday, February 28, 2020

Shirogorov-Lee Williams Collaboration: 110.Kickstop.

Of course the all familiar bear logo on the flip side of the blade is certainly there but I thought the unmistakable "pac-man" screw and a very nice deeply lazer-etched Lee Williams logo with the word .Kickstop. makes this collaboration unmistakable.

 For an official description on this knife, please go to  

Below is my rambling positive bias as usual but what I would truly think is befitting of a marvelous design with the usual high quality of production and attention to aesthetics in Shirogorov made collaborations.

When words were whispered ~ 1.5 - 2 years ago that there is a collaboration between these 2 makers, I was naturally excited. Familiar with most things Shirogorov but having only handled 1 kickstop and had always wanted one ever since...

... but it's a little more than that. A conversation with few friends after being introduced to the kickstop from 1 of 5 Williams-Mayo collaboration, the Donk, I came out with my idea of a "perfect knife"-- a 110 but with a kickstop. I think no one that day honestly ever thought my babbling would ever materialize someday.

Definitely not a spin of creative writing on my favorite brand of knives to make things sound more interesting...

... My first Shirogorov and also the first serious knife to start off was none other than a rather uncommon  specimen of a Model 110B pictured above.

With murmuring of a collaboration I thought it would be a norm by now, like with the RDD, RFT and Hokkaido.. a design from a US maker, refined and produced at the Shirogorov factory, until the name 110 Kickstop surfaced...

What in the world can a 110 be, a name not found in any of Lee's models so far.  Surely they aren't talking about the exact thing I had in mind 3-4 years ago!

"Yes"..... Yessssss  Ooooh YeEESSSSS..

And if that sounded like the climax to an amorous nite.. I would say the sensation of the neurotransmitter in my brain firing away is rather close to those feelings Excited would be an understatement.

All aligned on the presentation side for the pivot, no doubt it probably has the same detent ball like some of newer ones these days.

The only thing I fervently hoped for was that there isn't going to be a huge dollop of a flipper tab sticking out from what's seen with other Kickstop models. I don't know for sure if having such sizes is a requisite to work with the Kickstop mechanism design at that time but having the 110KS now, obviously it's not.

However given how the last few collaborations turned out, I was almost certain Sergey would have some serious thoughts put into this department on a knife. With the 110KS pretty much his own design, it was with certainty that the profile and obviousness of a tab would have to be aesthetically pleasing and gel with the rest of the knife even if its just visible in the closed position on this one..

Some may say a large flipper tab has its merit to act as a guard in normal knives when open and gives the leverage to flip a blade easily... Ok but I'm just not a fan as the visuals simply detracts from the rest of everything that would otherwise flow. Be it in open or close position. Looking at large flipper tabs somehow makes me think of an enlarged appendix waiting to be cut away in a surgery room.
Not hard to see why its called a 110KS-- outer profile is 99% like the original 110/ 110B Models. Minor differences in the butt with a rather generous size lanyard hole which would make it easy to thread a paracord through. Ricasso is a lot closer to handle now which also makes it having a smaller choil than the original 110s.. .

The reason I envisioned my perfect knife to be a 110 with a kickstop is because even with a normal flipper tab it would disrupt the lithe form of the 110...

... that sensual stiletto-ish shape was the chief reason it was picked as the first knife when the rage about folding knives then was all about flippers and "smoothness" of knife action.

Therefore a kickstop tab that hides away when open but married to the sleekness of the 110 design truly defines what's a nice knife for me, shape wise.

The handle ends aligned to the grooves are milled out in rounded dots just like other parts of the knife

Incorporating the signature 5 line sharks-gill grooves in the lock-spring of Lee design adds a very nice touch to this collaboration. But what may not be apparent without a closer look is the 5 dotted millings at the base matches the rest of the dots found throughout the rest of the knife. The "origin" of those dotted millings were found on the 110B too... in the bolster area.
How many dots can you see?

Tiny details... in/ out, always symmetrical as usual.

Overall the combination of these milling bits gives it a classy fierce look while incorporating signatures of the past and of both the makers design elements in complimenting ways, while not taking away the elegance by over complication or indulge in the use of opulent/ colorful materials. .

The visible part of the backspacer is a departure from the norm which are usually jimpings at 90 degrees to the length.

Taking a closer look, I reckon that the clean lines on the 110KS backspacer indeed fits better... having the usual railroad track jimping in conjunction with the dotted millings would make it look a little too crowded. Besides, with a big knife like this where the back would extend beyond the hand for most folks when holding, grip would be sufficiently firm without the need for those tight packed jimping.

 Directing the line of sight rearwards...

...Just as with the spacer, on the clip is a satin finish before anodizing, something a little different from previous collaborations which spots a smooth matt blasted finish, some were anodized and some were not.. Here it's shiny but probably more prone to wear marks over time if carried often enough.

Rotating over...

... Just like the trend that started with RDD, the parking of the blade tip is part of the integrated backspacer.

Centering here is very much dependent on getting the sweet spot in tightening the pivot as I have found out. What's really nice is the diamond beveling in the spine. But that means it's almost impossible to balance the knife on the back of the blade.  Not that there is really much reasons to do it anyway...

Another is the totally hidden screw for the clip which seems to be a default feature by now...

Alright, moving on to full pics before getting to more of the bits...

And ...Let there be light..."  Couple of full shots in my favorite picture taking corner of the house.

And I really want to focus more on the flipper tab. As for the Kickstop mechanism, more details can be seen on page 9 of this thread. It would give a good idea of how the nifty two part mechanism works to interlock in the open and close position..

A separate piece in the tang area disengages as the blade is fired. Blade kept in the same relative position here to show how this flipper piece is independent of the blade but "locks" itself into position once again when blade is opened. No, the flipper tab doesn't travel to the south end unlike tiny tabs that are designed to be hidden in the tang area just behind the choil.

Relative to the center of the pivot, the flipper tab is much forward and in fact a sliver of it is jutting out the front of tang area. Quite unlike a few recent designs with a diminished tab profile and forward bias but never quite protrude out the front of the knife, this here is blurring between a conventional tab and a front flipper..
Back, forward, center forward and centered relative to pivot-center. Giving rise to differences in leverage and action feel in all of these knives.
The verdict? Best action goes to the 110KS and Quantum. Feel is almost identical. That solid resounding smack at lock-out, shared by the Neon 3D.

Already seen it in quite a few knives of late, the raised profile on the opposite side to the lock bar insert is something that got people talking. Personally I think it has to do with the insert screw.

As weight shaving these days can mean thinner material on locks, to accommodate for sufficient length in one tiny screw to hold up on what looks to be a sizeable insert on the inside, having that raised profile to accommodate for just that tad more screw thread to bite on makes perfect sense.

Although jig-saw to fit but still a rather big piece for one tiny screw to hold up tight to avoid lateral play over time. A longer screw by way of the raised profile on the other side makes sense.
Final Thoughts? If a collection knife really makes you want to use it, I guess it fits with all the things you have in mind for a "perfect" knife. I am really tempted to break this out as an EDC... makes for a perfect steak knife with its length to width ratio.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Barker-Shirogorov Collab: Hokkaido

Going straight to the butt of the subject, but more on the actual booty later...

First off, thanks to all out there who has been following this space and wondering if I'm err.. "dead". No, on the contrary.. very much alive, just playing too much games and not having too many knives lately.

To kick-off, I'm thinking the usual long windedness and crappy no-narration short video format at the end of each article is getting a little stale. It would be nice to collaborate with someone else who does video presentation better while I put my wall-of-texts in words as usual. So here's to a video review at the end by James Nguyen aka on Instagram.

Let's start off to say in all honesty, this wouldn't be a design that makes it a daily go-to-knife for me. My gungho-ness with edged stuffs has been honed mostly with precise aggression involving my culinary skills for the ultimate gastronomic delights.

 However, I do appreciate the intended applications it is designed for. A no nonsense knife meant to work and get the job done, quick, once taken out. A true big bad brute of a tactical knife indeed.

When the RFT and Poluchotky arrived, I deemed those as pocket swords. The Hokkaido? It's simply a tank... something quite capable of steam rolling through anything.

Blade thickness, 4mm, matched to the width (34mm at the heel and 30mm after the drop-in)  and the manner it's pared down towards the edge makes it a very well balance blade.

Due to the width, it doesn't look long but having the same length as a F95 at 95mm is by definition a "big knife" to many.  In comparison the widest point of the F95 is only 28mm.

The 95 is flipped to make the blade comparison closer with the Russian Hokkaido. 111 still pretty much dwarfs everything when it comes to length, well almost all.
Upon holding, it didn't feel "squat"-ish. If the term isn't an oxymoron , I'll venture to call it a "big compact'. It's one of those knives you pick up and it immediately gives you that "Oomph" feeling. Solid and sturdy, weight weenies will cringe though.

While spotting the same length and thickness as a F95 yet the feel is anything similar for the blade. Not just because of the tanto-ish shape here vs the leaf point of a F95 but the heft of the blade was really the first noticeable thing.

If memory serves me well-- a normal F95 would be ~130-140gm while the Russian Hokkaido is 170gm. Handle wise the Hokkaido would not have been much diff with cutouts vs a normal F95 and materials being titanium on both are light relative to steel. Accounting a few grams here for the copper backspacer, the majority of the weight difference would have to go on the blade.. Same length but with 20-ish grams more of steel on the blade, I reckon an idea of "what the heft" this blade is packing can be imagined.
A reverse profiled screw holding up the back end of handles and spacer and from the looks, it can only be a hidden hardware for the clip
Let's continue with ogling the butt for now...

The challenge here as one looks at the clip in its entirety is that it doesn't stray too far from the flat  one found in the original design. By using a minimalist re-designing, it was kept as close to the original yet becoming something quite different with the end result. This view is not only from me but some thing found in common after talking to different folks. We can all truly appreciate what has gone into the clip area even though it doesn't seem to be packed with features or milling works.

Spacer! The one non functional area of a knife that I'm rather particular about, something that can make or break a decision at the point of buying. With Shirogorovs, that is not a problem. Nothing particularly fanciful most time in new models but they blend in nicely with the rest of the knife with the usual attention to details.. Most people ask me, what's the big deal of a few broad jimpings milled out? Grab one and a few other "lesser knives" and it really wouldn't be hard to understand.

Of course any jimping are always aligned to the handles, I expect no less from the factory's standard on such details and it never disappoint. The opening here is a lot friendlier than many, so putting on your favorite bead and lanyard wouldn't require the same effort as shoving an elephant into your storeroom and asking the poor animal to make a u-turn.

The milling on Shirogorov knives are taken for granted by now. Even so, the work on the Hokkaido jumps out at me this time. The previous few collaborations had nice millings too but of the very fine kind. Here the lines are deep and clean, if anyone still remembers the batch of full custom F95 Seashell from ~ 2014?? It looks a lot like those here on the Russian Hokkaido but here its deep and seems even more refined than the Seashells in the finishing. I may never have the chance to own the full customs but even if their trickle down effects reaches a few years late in other makes, I'm certainly not complaining.

Though nothing new by now but the pivot collar with its bronze anodization lends a classy polished overall demeanor . Presentation side of the pivot adds a nice touch by being aligned horizontally with the blade. Ideally it would be on both sides but that will take some carefully calculated custom turned screws... I have seen those in 1-off custom works but reckon to repeat on 200 pieces would really be quite hard to justify the cost and time involved for something that may be easily missed.

The milling actually wasn't the focus of the photo above. The intention was to highlight the logos. Not one to fancy logo on the blade as often said in past writings, this is one of those that I have no qualms. Cleanly and deeply lasered. Very defined at different angles. Again, while its not a big thing like the aligned pivot  but I sure hope all knives from the factory in future with logo on the blade would be of this quality.

While the above gives a clearer view of the logo, what I also like as seen in the picture is the lock geometry and the overall profiling given to this area. The lock interface of the insert is only on the top half, the bottom half matching the tang area has a deep groove. If one look closely, it looks a little like jig saw pieces fitted together. Psychologically, an added assurance of everything being secure at lock up, although I suspect that is only something from my over imaginative mind. Others might not agree.

Angle of the lock setting is also nicely done on this particular one, which is something that can vary from knife to knife as these are individually finished. Nice early lockup with no signs of wobbling and due to the angle (I think), nothing to push inwards too easily as some others have been. On this point I had some I had a discussion with folks on the pros and con of the acuteness of the lock face on the blade side of a knife that can cause this "moving inward" of the lock bar.

Early but firm lock up at around 30%

Haven't opened up any of the collaborations since the Jeans and RDD from 2 years ago. Unlike earlier days where every little detail from inside to out intrigues me, if a knife arrives these days I normally leave them as it is. Only if somehow the action or centering is off, would I venture a take down. If that is the case, I frankly wouldn't consider it a good knife to begin with. All knives should leave a factory/ or someone's workshop without a need to disassemble until it comes actual maintenance due to usage over time.

So with this is where a collaboration review with James works out. I'm glad that inquisitive streak is alive in someone else these days :) Wouldn't have found out otherwise how much the insides and hidden view of things have changed

Photo credit: Courtest of James Nguten, (IG)
SRRBS on hardened steel washer keeps everything rolling.

Signature pac man screws are now used on the insides to fasten the insert and clip. Pivot detent first seen only on full custom finally made it to the collaborations. I suspect it started with the RFT but cannot vouch for that as I have not seen an opened up RFT so far. My suspicion comes from trying to turn the pivot loose.. if its all locktited and has a pivot detent, it will loosen with a bit of force, otherwise both ends will rotate together.

Single row roller bearings on hardened steel plate washers gets the whole package rotating. I like it on some knives but not others.. Here it works out well with the combination of the blade weight. A smooth closing even though the detent and lock bar strength is set pretty strong.

The deep extensive milling is probably how the weight has been kept down to 170gm and would explain why logos are not done on the insides anymore these days.. There simply isn't space for them.

It took a few rounds of comparison on action. Final trio is here with the Hokkaido sitting right smack in between. Speed wise it's closer to the RFT. Both knives with their heft has more of a deliberate feel in their momentum when flipping out. Poluchotky still remains the in-your-face hard and lightning fast blade. But it shares the sturdiness and firmness of detent and lock strength with the Hokkaido which are a tad lighter in the RFT.

No secret that I've always been a fan of Shirogorov flipper tabs. Not much changes to make it look too subdue like the previous few collaborations and this knife definitely need a bigger tab for proper grip-and-flip purchase.  What's nice is the detailed milling for functional purposes that is not lost.  It makes no sense to have lines and corners that are physically sharp, creating hotspots when flipping. Here it is looking clean and sharply defined but pleasantly comfortable.

Whether you tab the jimping or prefer to dig your index finger in front and trigger pull like me the blade fires positively every time. If you trigger pull, then you will appreciate the front has an ever so slight a convex surface.

Parking it right. Or should I say parking it tight. It's upping the game in getting closer to the sides and probably with the edge closer to the backspacer these days. In real it looks a lot closer than this close up pic. Frankly I was a little paranoid at first.." What if after a few flip and things start to loosen a little, will it touch the spacer?"  Ok-- had about 300 flips.. all's good, still centered.

Parking it Tight: Hokkaido (left) vs Ti Russian Dr Death

One last comparison pic, this one with the RFT (left). While there are a number of grinds near the back of Shiro blades, having compound grinds are far and few in between. Both here are not as extensive as some other makes but whatever is produced on one has to remain consistent over 200. I guess that takes a lot of consideration for each an d every line added onto the blade. When the RFT first came, having the compound marks a step up. 

Maybe it's easier to get the definitions "sharper" on the Hokkaido due to the steel being worked on? M390 on the RFT vs Vanax 37 here. Whatever it is, there is really nothing not to like about it on the Hokkaido. Even with an extra dimension of sloping down from the back added here, it's still not overly complicated. A subtle statement of change while keeping with the quality of finishing and consistency is apparent.

Something to choke up nicely when a firm grip is needed. Not with the index finger in front of the flipper though as maxing out of edge length means only a small choil is retained in the design.

Now to James video before a couple of show pics below.

As my South African machinist friend calls it-- The Chameleon Knife, because depending on the lighting, it never quite look the same.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mod F95... pt 2

Ahem.. digressing so much from the last post-- it never even got to the latest modifications done on my de-facto EDC, Shirogorov F95.

How it all started?
When the fixation for a convex edge struck and an idea of modding the edge about a year ago, it turned out to be a half-educated trial and error that worked. But close inspection with a digital magnifier says there is still a lot of micro unevenness. Still it solved one of my issue with this knife... namely a keen cutting edge with good retention for daily tasks.

Info out there is that Shiros have between 20-22.5 dps (degree per side) depending on models (and maybe to an extent the steel type used in each model?)  Chatting with folks-- many find 19-20 dps seems to be magical numbers for models like F95, F3 and Hati and ~21 for the Shirogorov 111. Though some swear by 19 or 20 as well.

Like most, too eager and thinking good steel can take a much more acute angle, earlier on it was messed up with a 17dps. It took forever to sharpen and that widened the edge as a result. Finally gotten it to hair splitting sharp but edge retention became an issue. With such an acute angle, I was also getting tiny chips.. no big deal but annoying nonetheless.

Subsequent re-profiling took it to 17.5, then 18 and finally at ~18.5 dps-- it was better. The chips doesn't happen much anymore. Edge retention improved but not stellar.

Next was a microbevel at 22. This works fine but under the magnifier-- my microbevel was still horribly uneven in width. Much later I discovered part of this was due to the limits of my sharpening system and a little overdose of elbow grease on my part :)

All of these started my process into looking more intensively at stropping and the making of a thousand different strops to test various compounds etc... which are detailed in the last post.

Next, the edge was re-profiled further at 1 degree intervals.. so the 18.5 stepped up into a 19.5 followed by 20.5 and then another step somewhere between this and the 22 dps microbevel. Frankly I still don't trust the accuracy and clamping of my guided system even after making some changes and DIY to it... but it's all I have to sharpen on.

Getting things ready...
A key process was trying to strop everything down to a curvy surface after the sharpening...I have no idea really if it really work then, as the thickness behind the edge by now is not exactly thick enough to eyeball easily and my digital magnifier can't focus depth well.

As mentioned this was a positive trial-and-error experimentation. The theory behind seems sound and all it boiled down to was the execution.  Well, everything seems to work.. I slice and slice and it did cut the way I like my knives to be... "de-shouldered" with the least amount of resistance like my convex edge Japanese kitchen knives. The edge lasted well too.

For almost a year now -- it only got stropped every couple of weeks and never needed another serious sharpening session.

Test piece with D2 blade
The idea of a faux harmon line came up earlier but I filed it away till last wee when a week at home and boredom got the better of me... 1st thought was whether is it even worth doing? Aesthetics is one but what if it ends up looking "cheap". 2ndly-- is there an added functionality or can I add anything to the process? Part of it was to try and remove some scratches near the edge on the stonewash surface.

Anyway I started out on another "test" knife with D2 steel.

Masking and polishing away, it was easy quick work.
I initially tried to sand off some before the polish. Absolutely unnecessary. in fact it left lots more scratches but the dremel and diamond paste took care of things fast. In fact it was "too easy" and soon a hi shine "mirror started surfacing.

It wasn't a bad thing but after removing the masking tapes.. the blade is basically 2 tone with a wavy line clearly delineating the tones. I need something a little more subtle...

D2 Test knife on the right and subtle toning on F95 (left)

What's needed was something more subtle and a little fuzzy with more than just one clean line.

The F95 turned out to be quite different. First, the stonewash finish is probably blasted smooth, so taking it off was a lot harder. The underlying S90V steel probably contributed to that as well.

It took a much longer time and as the surface starts to shine, it was several more rounds of gentle buffing. It never got to the same high shine as the D2. But that was actually a bonus as it gives off a hue that goes better with the remaining stonewashed surface.

Next was a bit of dremeling black magic... I changed up to a smaller micron diamond paste onto wooden cotton Q-tips. Pressing at 45 degree on a piece of wood till it became cone shaped... and then polish of right along the line, resulting in what's seen in pic here, an additional line following the masked one but in a different tone.

Bits and pieces from my bike bin transforming the F95 blade into a "push-knife" :)
While certain characteristics are forming, everything was still pretty raw and scratches were slapped on the worked on area. Everywhere. I end up with maybe 100x more scratches than trying to remove in the first place... but these are only temporary. The scratches while numerous, were not deeply scored.

On the first D2 test piece, the edge was gone and I had to do a total re-sharpening after all the polishing. But D2 isn't that hard and I changed that one up into my "convex" edge as well.

My S90V F95 was still spotting a nice crisp edge so I thought if edges were taped up before polishing - that will save me some work. It was just too little surface for the tape to secure itself... a few pass at 2000-4000rpm of the dremel.. off it came and yes.. I knew that a re-sharpening is definitely in the books ;(  Ok we all learn something everyday. Maybe nail polish  might have worked better.

"Push Handle" serving as rotational knob, especially useful when nearing edge and need a softer touch.
Since it had to be re-sharpen, thought might as well push it a little further.

Thus the sharpening was stepped up sequentially in 0.3-0.5 degree each time from 18.5.

Owing to what was done previously... non appearance of a burr was not a concern... in fact if it starts before would indicate things were really off on the edge before the sharpening this time around.

The unevenness described due to previous sharpening was manifested indirectly in the the uneven burring  appearing. It started off at ~22 but parts of it did not appear near the curve before the tip and at the heel. Taking it further this time... a full burring was achieved at ~22.5 degrees.

As usual... hitting the apex at the tip took forever... but I bide my time this time around. No forceful grating.

Freshly done... no matter how much time spent on the sharpening, certain final bits have to be done on the strop. And done patiently... like the tip.

Still a long way from finish...
Finish off by going back to 16.5 degrees,, just lightly passing each side several times. This is to prep it up for the next step...
and...on to the endless stropping process.

Took muchlonger than usual because the purpose is now 3-fold. First to get apex cleaned up and smoothed. Check that there is no chips or areas that catches when slicing which may be due to an undulating apex.

Secondly to curve out all those stepped angles into one continuous curve and lastly, this time it will (hopefully) also move beyond the already non existent shoulder and flow with the recently polished out area. And here it is also where the removal of all those polishing scratches will take place...    Several sessions at multiple angles of stropping..

A lot of these is "I think.... that's how it will work" but truly without an idea if it actually does. The surefire way is of course to test it.

By way of bench-marking, tapping down and cut-- so far only my Rockstead Higo does that nicely with its machine perfect convex grind and my ultra sharp custom Buster, hand ground and manually sharpened to ridiculous accuracy by my good friend Snecx. So "will the F95 be able to meet that mark now?"

and...cutting down on folded lines on a standing piece of paper is a little too easy by now. Finding a way down the middle of 2 folded section?

 Edge retention? No I'm not gonna start cutting hemp ropes to the point of failure. Just use it normally.

Based on the rate I use this knife-- if it doesn't need a sharpening and even less stropping than before this whole modification-- it pass.

Next, on to my first use after its done. Dinner!
Perfect surface at each cut-- flatter than ham off the slicing machine.