Thursday, August 15, 2013
Sometimes it's hard to fathom why we sometimes do what we do. Case in point: I frequent the bins where the TSA confiscated knives are sold to the public at my local State Surplus auction and retail emporium. There's usually a fairly broad selection of sad Victorinox and Wenger SAK's to chose from, any of whom would offer sterling service for many years, and for just a couple of dollars. However, it was a slow day, the bins had been well picked over, and all I could find that half-way piqued my interest was a 84mm Vic Waiter, and this: a Vic 84mm Tinker that must be about 40 years old, and had had a very hard life. They were having a sale though, so both knives only cost me $1. Fortunately I have no "before" photo's, it would be just too gruesome, but here's the overall state of the knife before I started work. It had been used as a hammer, or chisel, or both. One end of the knife had severe damage to the liners and scales consistent with the knife having been hit very hard. The toothpick and tweezers had been forced into the scales, wedging the ends of the scales off of the knife. The scales were in bad shape overall, with numerous scrapes and gouges, and the badge was missing.Both the blades were broken at the ends. I created a sheepsfoot blade from the smaller blade. The back-side Phillips driver was the semi-squared off section variety, the one with the slot in the end for opening cans. That helped date the knife (but I'd appreciate your best guess as to its year of manufacture). Both the can opener and the bottle open needed some work, as both seemed to have helped transfer some of the force applied to the ends of the knife. After repairing the scale damage the knife end looked like this: So, I set to work, determined to make a nice user out of a sad case, hoping to use all the original parts if possible. I managed to repair a lot of the liner damage using a dremel, a selection of small files, and various grades of wet-and-dry paper. The small blade was reprofiled using my dremel and parting disk, and a cheap diamond grit knife-sharpening-stone from ebay. The openers were smoothed of blemishes, then buffed. The edge to the Awl was removed of it's damage using a small diamond sharpening rod. Finally, I epoxied the scales back on (they were too badly damaged to snap into place), let them set, and then polished them smooth with 400/600/1200/1500 wet-and-dry, fine steel wool, finally simichrome. The knife started to look like a well used, and cared for tool. Finally, I opened and closed the main blade a couple of times. It was catching the small blade when it closed. I decided to crink the blade about half a millimeter, and used a couple of large Crescent wrenches to apply gentle force. The blade stayed strong, refusing to budge. I decided to repeat the crinking with a little more force. Drats, the main blade snapped at the tang. All that work, and now disaster. What to do? Well, the only spare blade I had was from a 85mm Wenger. It was the approximately correct size and shape, but it was 1mm longer, has about 1mm extra belly on the blade, has a tang that's significantly thinner, and finally: the pivot hole is 2.5mm diameter, compared to the 2.2mm pivots in the Vic liners, pivot end bushings, and can opener. Some surgery would be required, and even then there was no guarantee it would work as a transplant. I removed the broken Vic blade keeping the pivot end bushings. I opened up the holes in the bushings, the liners, and the can opener to 3/32" (about 2.38mm) using my dremel and a small diamond hone. I reshaped the tang on the Wenger blade to closely match the Vic tang by pinning them together and grinding the Wenger tang to match the Vic profile. I cut a piece of 3/32" brass pivot to length, mushroomed an end, then assembled everything. To take up the discrepancy between the blade tang thicknesses I used a small washer of the correct thickness, and just the right diameters (it was the first washer I tried out of my fairly large fastener bin!!!). Some force and squeezing was necessary as the knife springs resist assembly. Finally I put on the end bushing, cut the brass to final length, and peened the pivot till the blades opened well, with no play. Re-epoxied the scales (again!!!), let everything set (again!!!), then finish-buffed everything. The original scales were starting to get pretty thin by now, what with all the material removal due to marks, gouges, and blemish removal, but they still just about function OK. The final steps involved getting the main knife blade to sit nicely in the liners/blade stops. As the blade was a little longer, the end of it tended to hit the spacer and liner at the very end of the point of the knife. I went in very gingerly with the dremel, and a parting disk, grinding small amounts off of the liner/spacer, till the blade fit as well as could be hoped for. The blade even looks like it might have been even original equipment, but for the fact that the blade proudly bears the name Wenger. So, after all that effort, was it worth it? I think so, at least to me. I enjoyed the challenge, like to "save" worthy tools, am pleased that the knife didn't end up in a landfill somewhere, and I think it looks like a pretty nice user. And it's now somewhat unique.
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
The advantages of keeping your knife or Multi-Tool inside a custom made "Cocoon" are many. It keeps the item from accumulating pocket lint. It stops bangs and dents from marring the tool, which is an inevitable result of general pocket carrying. It quietens things down in your pocket somewhat as the Cocoon adds sound-deadening qualities. And it prevents wear to any other items that share the same pocket. A Cocoon adds very little thickness or bulk, and the tool or knife can be extracted from its Cocoon very quickly indeed. To my mind, there are so many advantages that I make a Cocoon for every knife or tool that I carry frequently. Here's how to make one. Take the tool/knife, and try slipping it inside Electrical shrink-tubing. It needs to slide in, without undue force, and not be a really sloppy fit. Shrink-tubing is available cheaply in a huge variety of diameters, usually sold by the foot, on Ebay. For my Vic Compact here, I found that 20mm diameter tubing was perfect. Cut the tubing about 1/4 inch longer than the knife. The extra will form around the ends of the knife after molding, increasing retention, and reducing wear and tear on the very ends of the tool. Take some Priority Mail tape, and wrap 2 thicknesses around the whole knife. Smooth it out as best you can. Look at the tool/knife in profile, and imagine trying to extract it from a form-fitting tube. You'll want the greater volume to be at the end that you mold first. I have found that all my Victorinox knives extract easiest by pulling on their keyring attachments, so I always make my Cocoons with the keyring on what will end up being the open end of the Cocoon, with the keyring at the bottom. Slide the tool/knife into the tubing after rubbing a little light oil on to the Priority Mail tape. Without the oil, you will have a very hard time extracting the knife/tool. Now, I use a cigarette lighter, with a medium to low flame for this next part. I guess a Heat Gun would be best, but I don't have one. A lighter allows for a more precise heat application anyway. I apply heat to the tubing, not too close, not too far, constantly moving the flame, till the tubing contracts tightly around just the "tight half" of the knife/tool (the end of the tool that you envision extracting it by). Don't do more than half of the length. Stop heating the tube, let it cool a minute or two, then, using a toothbrush end, or a small dowel, push out the knife tool. Remembering the orientation of the tube to the knife/tool, cut a small slit, with a rounded end (otherwise the tube may tear with use). This slit will permit the tube to give enough, and you'll be able to get the knife/tool in/out easily soon. Return the knife/tool to the tube, in the correct orientation, and repeat the heating process to shrink down the whole tube till it fits seamlessly, and without lose areas. Next, pull out the knife/tool through the slit you made. It should slide out reasonably easily. Remember, it still has the Priority Mail Tape on it, when you remove this, it'll slide easier still. Remove the Tape, and the Cocoon and knife/tool will look like this. Finally, carefully trim the Cocoon around its opening for neatness, and check for fit as you slide the knife/tool in several times. I find that making small changes slowly is best. You can never add material back on !! Also, the best scissors to use are the tiny scissors on Vic Classic's, Rambler's, MiniChamp's etc. Tight circular cuts are best made in an anti-clockwise direction. Lastly, the area that often gets caught up with Victorinox knives, is the area around the corkscrew (if your knife has one). The most central first wind of the corkscrew catches easily on the thin shrink-tubing, and I usually pare back the tubing in this area till the corkscrew clears easily. Remove the oil on the inside of the tubing with a cloth, and check for final fit. You have something that probably looks like this: If you still have issues with the Cocoon being too tight a fit, you can try paring away a little more on the areas that might be catching, or I have also used a very small amount of Baby Powder rubbed in to the inside of the Cocoon. Conversely, if the fit should be too lose for you, put the knife into the Cocoon (without the Priority Mail tape on it), and gently warm an area of the tubing till you see it start to contract a little more. Keep checking for tightness, Don't overdo this part. If you want to hide the lettering that runs the length of the Cocoon, you can use a black Sharpie, or sometimes the lettering will easily buff off with a little metal polish.