Saturday, 28 September 2013

Sanrenmu 710, the Poor Man's Sebenza

Normally I am not a big fan of folder knives but I do own a few.  Folders are the most practical for EDC (every day carry).  My Swiss Army Camper model often fulfills this role.

 Lately I have been reading about a prolonged controversy regarding Chinese knock-offs/counterfeits of a well loved Chris Reeve USA made knife, the Sebenza 21. 
Chris Reeve Sebenza 21
This is not a new issue as it is well known that the Chinese government does not enforce flagrant violations of international patents, copyrights, and trademarks on a variety of counterfeit products being produced in China.  It is my belief that a knife produced with or without a counterfeit maker's mark with the intention of deceiving customers is both illegal and immoral.  This is where I draw the line, however, there are many people who feel that copying any knife design is blatantly wrong.  The lack of a clear definition of what is right or what is wrong, is what generates all the heated discussions on this subject.

 In the bushcrafting community, it is accepted practice for custom knife makers to copy the basic design of the much beloved Woodlore knife, designed by Ray Mears and Alan Woods.  There are dozens of clones of this knife made by reputable knife makers and I will be making my own this winter.  None of these custom knife makers produce their own versions with the intention of fooling potential customers that their knives can be passed off as the original Woodlore.  There is almost an infinite variety in materials being used to produce theses knives including the knife steel itself.  The collectors of folders see this differently...the design is sacred and should not be copied!

I always had the impression that most manufactured  knives from China were of poor quality.  I acknowledge that I was ignorant and wrong.  Sanrenmu(SRM) is one  Chinese company that produces extremely good quality knives.  In fact, Sanrenmu manufactures knives for popular US based knife making companies like Buck, Spyderco, and CKRT.  Sanrenmu also produces its own line of knives for both domestic and export markets.  The knife which has sparked so much debate about copying, is the SRM model 710 because its basic design resembles the Chris Reeve Sebenza 21, hence the nickname "the poor man's Sebenza".

Sebenza 21 on top, Sanrenmu 710  bottom
At this point I would like to add that the Sebenza 21 costs approximately $400 US and uses a titanium frame while the SRM 710 costs under $20 and is made from a good quality stainless steel.  While there are other Chinese counterfeiters out there using the same materials and maker's mark as Chris Reeve, SRM puts it's own trademark on the 710 and has made no attempt to pass it off as one of Chris Reeve's knives.  Both of these knives are framelocks with handles made to fit the width of a hand comfortably.  Consequently there is very little room for a different looking handle and this is also demonstrated in other company's framelock knives such as the CRKT Drifter.  My personal opinion is that the SRM 710 was probably inspired by the Sebenza's basic design and that's it.  I see this knife no differently than the bushcrafter sees a Woodlore clone.

Intrigued by all the furor over the SRM 710, I ordered one.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. Both the blade and handle are made from a 8Cr13MoV stainless steel. The blade (a hollow grind, 2.67 inch long) came super sharp, swings smoothly, and locks solidly into place with no lateral movement.  The handle is comfortable and the whole knife ,at 3.25 oz,  feels substantial but not too heavy and is well balanced.

You may legitimately ask me if the purchase of this SRM 710 has kept me from needing or wanting to buy a Chris Reeve Sebenza 21 because it is considerably cheaper and my answer is an unequivocal no, quite the opposite.  The quality of the SRM is so nice, it makes me really want to try a Sebenza.  However, if you are on a budget and will never be able to afford a Sebenza 21, I highly recommend the SRM 710.  What ever you decide, please don't buy a knock off Sebenza 21 as it is not only supports unethical counterfeiters but they are of poor quality and  literally dangerous.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Bushcrafting: Making a Firesteel Handle

I have a Finnish puukko (a small Sami/Laplander knife) which is amongst one of my favorites.  It is made from deer antler, birch, leather, and has a hand forged carbon steel blade which is very very sharp.  I have always wanted to make a firesteel handle to match one of my knives and this knife seemed to be a perfect match.  It looked like it would be a pretty uncomplicated job and it was!

I had deer antler left over from other projects so all I had to do was scrounge up some birch from a nearby woods and find a little leather.

I cut and trimmed everything and then into the vice with a some glue.

A little shaping with a rotary tool and some hand sanding and it all came together.  I wanted to keep it a little asymmetric because it was the best way to leave a little character in the antler and it gives the whole firesteel a rustic and natural look.

Lastly, I finshed it with a little mineral oil and a glossy wood finish and I installed the firerod.  I went with a misch metal rod rather than a harder ferro-rod because I prefer seeing the shower of sparks that a misch metal is known for.  I should be able to generate all the sparks I need by rubbing it on the spine of my carbon steel blade.  Here is the finished result.

Crafting this little firesteel has convinced me to attempt an even more ambitious project.  Stay tuned to see me create Woodlore bushcrafting knife.