project: tacticool facelift

IMG_0082The surest way to get a premium price for a tool is to paint it black and attach the word “tactical” to it in some way or another. Examples: Tactical keychain. Personal tactical assistant app. Tactical lawn chair. It’s become so overused that many savvy outdoorsmen refer to it as tacticool.

One solid exception to the rule of black is my BK-11 Becker Necker knife manufactured by Kabar. This is a heavy duty piece of steel that has never let me down. I’ve used it to baton firewood and it’s nimble enough to whittle a drumstick (real drum, not chicken).

For spec junkies, the knife is made of 1095 CroVan steel. It has an overall length of 6 3/4 inches and a blade length of 3 1/4 inches. The drop point blade is flat ground with a 15 degree edge. The butt of the knife has a strange looking cutout that is actually a wire breaker and bottle opener. The entire knife has a solid epoxy coating to inhibit rust.

The only downside of this little knife, for me, is the epoxy coating and the wire breaker. From a purely tactical standpoint, I am no longer slithering through concertina and tanglefoot wire, so the wire breaker is not something I’ve had any use for. As for the bottle opener, most of my buds sip out of cans or twist tops. The one tiny feature of the cutout is a small hook that I’ve found very handy for hooking the bail on my billy can to lift it out of the fire. That does save a lot of wear and tear on the fingers – not to mention a blister or two.

I use this blade for general camp utility, which means it slices a lot of tomatoes and potatoes. This is where the epoxy coating is a bit of a pain. While it is a proven rust preventative, it also adds a lot of drag to an already thick blade. That’s what drove this tacticool facelift for the BK-11.

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I applied two beers worth of 80 grit wet/dry sandpaper to the blade to get rid of the epoxy coating. It’s a tribute to quality control that it took me that long to get the the epoxy down to the bare 1095 steel. Then I applied two beers worth of 200 grit wet/dry to the blade to buff it to a dull luster. I’d thought about working my way up to 1200 grit, but I was running short of brew and my fingers were sore by this time, so I put it on the strop with some white buffing compound to take out as many imperfections as possible.

I use the knife regularly in my bushcraft work, so I need a blade that can strike a reliable spark with my firesteel. The blade has slightly rounded edges along the spine of the blade which is fine if you are using it as a draw knife, but it just slides along the shaft of a firesteel. I used a small diamond file to put a one inch flat section on the spine adjacent to the handle. I made sure that there was a slight burr to the section and then tested it with my firesteel. It threw a sizeable gob of sparks.

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I left the epoxy coating on the handle section. It slightly improves the grip of the knife and I wanted to maintain the rust inhibiting properties in this area. I then wrapped the handle with 1/8” dummy cord to improve the feel. The cord gives just enough bulk to improve the grip and makes the handle a little more comfortable for prolonged use. As much as I like skeletonized knives, they can be rough on the hands during prolonged heavy use.

I touched up the blade with about a dozen strokes on each side with my Lansky diamond sharpener followed by a polishing on the strop. When I was satisfied that it was hair popping sharp I took it to the kitchen to make a tactical salad.

The little blade slashed its way through a platoon of enemy carrots, then mowed down a squad of tomatoes, The cucumber sentries never stood a chance. Even with the light reflecting dimly from the satin finished blade, they never saw it coming.

I think the facelift was a success. It improved the performance of the knife for the tasks I do the most. I used it to make fuzz sticks and wood shavings for tinder. An added benefit of the flattened spine is that it makes a good scraper for finishing the surfaces of the spoon I carved.

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