Q: Are your knives forged?
No. There are two methods of making handmade knives. The first method consists of forging. The steel is heated and hammered into its final shape. The second method is called “stock removal” which consists of taking a bar of steel and grinding material from the steel until a knife is formed. I use this second method. I begin with a bar of steel which I cut, file, grind, sand and polish into a beautiful knife.
Q: Are your knives heat treated, and at what hardness?
Yes, all my knives are heat treated. It is necessary to heat treat knives to increase the hardness of the steel and to make it possible for the blade to keep its edge. The heat treating process is a crucial step in knife making. A knife with poor “hardening” can be too hard and the edge may chip or the knife may break. If it’s too soft it won’t hold a good edge.
Depending on the steel and the intended use of the knife I will use different methods of heat treating and tempering. One method is to heat treat carbon steel blades with a selective hardening quench. Only the edge is hardened while the remainder of the blade and handle remains “softer” for flexibility. For stainless steel knives, the process is more complex and requires specialized equipment. In this case, I send my stainless steel blades to a professional heat treating company. This makes it possible to draw the best qualities from the steel. In general, the hardness of my knives varies between 57 Rockwell on the low side and 61 Rockwell on the high side depending on the steel type and intended use.
Q: What kind of steel do you use?
There are four general groups of steel, carbon steel, tool steel (also a carbon steel), stainless steel and Damascus steel. The type of carbon steels I use are 5160, 1095, and 1050 for swords. I prefer O1, CPM-3V tool steel for certain types of blades. The stainless steels I use are 440c, ATS-34, CPM-154, and CPM-S30V.
Q: What is Damascus steel?
Damascus steel seems to have originally been forged in the vicinity of Damascus, a city in contemporary Syria, but this is not known for certain. Damascus steel is a combination of two or more types of metals forge welded together with a hammer or press. Once the steel is white hot it is then twisted, drilled, cut and folded to create different patterns within the steel’s grain. Acid etching is then used to eat away at the softer metals, leaving the harder metals mostly intact. This brings out the pattern within the steel’s structure.
Q: What is the best steel, stainless or carbon?
Carbon steel is the best performing steel for extensive use. It’s strong, flexible, holds a great edge and it’s easy to sharpen. Its drawback is that it stains, tarnishes and rusts fairly easy. Carbon steel is typically hardened to around 56 to 58 Rockwell. Stainless steel looks great and has great stain, tarnish and rust resistance. The steel is harder then carbon so it’s a little more brittle, harder to sharpen and doesn’t hold an edge as well as carbon. Stainless steel is typically hardened to around 59 to 61 Rockwell. Damascus steel is a mix of carbon steels and 15N20, a nickel based alloy. The carbon hardens fine but the 15N20 doesn’t, making it a little softer and more flexible then the other two steels. However a Damascus blade is still an excellent working blade and shouldn’t be considered an inferior knife steel. It all comes down to what you want, a hard working knife, a nice shinny knife or a Damascus pattern blade that still will perform.
Q: What are the various kinds of finishes you use for your knives?
The majority of my knives have a hand sanded “satin” finish. I hand sand to 400 grit or higher and then add a light buff. It is also possible to obtain a “mirror” finish, but you should know that this kind of finish scratches very easily when you put the knife to use. Glass bead blasting is also used for stainless steels and has a mat grey finish. I also use Gun-Kote products in multiple colors for my tactical carbon steels. A sprayed and baked Gun-Kote finish is extremely strong and none reflective, excellent for tactical uses. This is a very durable finish but keep in mind that any finish will wear over time with use.
Q: Which materials do you use?
There are multitudes of materials that can be used and there are too many to mention here. But I will cover the most common categories and the materials used. Handles are commonly made from natural materials like wood, antler, horn, ivory, tusk, bone, stones, leather and metals. Also, synthetic materials are extremely durable for handles, like carbon fiber, Micarta, G-10, Kydex, cord wraps, and others. As for the guards, pummels and butt caps, I use brass, copper, Nickel/Silver, Damascus and stainless steel, these are the most common. For fasteners I use screws, hidden bolts, pins, and mosaic pins, these have designs within the center of the pin. And the list goes on…
Q: What are your sheaths like?
My sheaths are simple to fancy, while being functional and tough. I offer two styles of sheaths: Leather – My leather sheaths are durable thick leather, with strong stitching and with an inner gusset. They are dyed and sealed for weather and wear resistance. Kydex – My Kydex sheaths are strong and extremity durable, excellent for tactical knives. Each Kydex sheath is form-fitted to the individual knife to ensure excellent retention. They offer multiple eyelets for tying down to packs and MOLLE gear, as well as helping to provide sturdy construction. Kydex sheaths feature a Tek-Lok clip or my custom ambidextrous swivel belt clip design. Being left handed I try to make most of my sheath ambidextrous for maximum flexibility.
Q: What should I expect when I get my knife?
You can expect, and you will receive, quality fit and finish from my custom knives. Every knife, tool, machete and sword come with a sheath or scabbard unless otherwise advertised. Most knives will come with a certificate of authenticity with the knife’s technical specifications like steel type, Rockwell hardness, date it was completed and so on. Each knife is sharpened for its intended purpose so you will not find a razors edge on a typical tactical or hunting knife.
Q: Can I order a custom knife made according to my specifications?
When it comes to taking custom orders you need to keep in mind that I do this work in my spare time. I have a full time job and knife making isn’t going to pay my bills. It basically pays for itself so I don’t make very much profit, at all. I would recommend picking one of my designs and then choose the materials you would like to see it made of. But if you prefer to have me make a knife from your design I would have to see it and discus what you’re looking for. So the answer is maybe. I would also offer a computer aided illustration of the final design for your approval.
Q: How long does it take to make a knife?
It really depends on the size and complexity of the knife, but it usually takes me about a month to make a knife from start to finish. How many hours exactly, I’m not really sure because the process is spread out and I usually have more than one knife being made at a time. If you order a knife it could be three months, six months, to a year, I just can’t say for certain.
Q: Why are your knives more expensive then a production knife?
Why pay $300 to $600 for a custom knife when you can buy a production knife for $35 to $100?
There are many good reasons to buy a quality handcrafted knife, but let me try to narrow it down without getting too technical. First I use quality materials while a mass produced knife could be made from inferior materials, especially the steel. When you look through catalogs many production knives will say that they are made of stainless steel, but what kind of stainless steel? If they are using quality grade steel they are going to print it in their ads, it adds value to the advertisement. But more often the truth is its cheap steel and quite possibly its scrap stainless steel that has been shipped from the USA to China where they melt down all the different stainless steels into bar stock. Many of the products coming out of China are made from this “dirty steel” including fancy looking knives. Some ads will say that the steel is 440 stainless. But there are different grades of 440 and in my opinion if it’s not 440c it’s not worth making a blade out of. 440c is a common and relatively inexpensive stainless and performs well if heat treated and tempered properly.
This brings me to heat treating and tempering. Heat treating and tempering are critical processes and they are not cheap ones. I have tested some production knives and found that they are not heat treated properly, or not heat treated at all. I’ve read articles on how big name manufacturers sold knives that weren’t heat treated. Let’s face it, production knife manufactures are in it to make money and they will cut every corner they can to make an extra buck.
There are other examples of material substitutes and construction short cuts that the production companies use which save time, but produce a weaker product. Another factor is the use of CNC machines that are computer driven to cut and shape most, if not all, of the components of a production knife, which causes it to lose its handcrafted originality. Blood, sweat and many hours of labor are put into a handcrafted knife, along with keen attention to detail. This will give you an everlasting, quality product that you can be proud of.
Once you start looking at production knives that are in the $150 to $200 range, you’re getting a product that will most likely do the job it was advertised to do. But in comparison to a quality handmade knife, there is a big difference in performance, strength and wear resistance. A custom knife will usually out live you and windup being passed down to your children. My custom knives are a one of a kind piece of art that was made by hand here in the USA, and in this day and age that has significant meaning for many Americans.
Do not hesitate to send me your questions and comments! Contact Derick Rougeau