Sunday, June 17, 2012

Come Hinderer

I just got my hands on a Rick Hinderer folder. 

 Open Hinderer knife

He is quite an interesting person.  Located in Shreve Ohio he has been known by locals for sometime.  I believe he started with fixed blades (doesn’t everyone?) and found his way to folders.  You can read his public story at his website ( ).

His website is quite into merchandising with investigator pens, survival bracelets, hats, shirts and of course knives.  I’m not criticizing, he sounds like a smart businessman.  Several years ago Gerber picked up his rescue knife design and now Zero Tolerance has picked up one of his designs called the 0550.  There is a 0551, but the main difference is the blade steel.   Maybe a topic for another day.

I couldn’t find this folder on his website.  A lot of designers make one or two styles and they constantly evolve.
I was told by the knife owner there is a two-year wait for Hinderer custom knives.  He’ll be at the Blade Show, in a booth, not a simple table.  The significance?  Money.  We’ll see if he has any custom knives for sale or if it’s just signing up for a waiting list.  [I missed the Blade Show due to a death in the family.]
I’m told the blade and most of the knife is D-2 powder metal. 

D-2 powdered metal blade
I didn’t know D-2 came as powder metal but an internet search showed me several companies making it.  D-2 is a standard in the knife industry and I find that AMAZING.  Several of the websites warned about problems in heat treating, ranging from dimensional changes due to martensite formation, cracking if allowed to cool before annealing, complete precipitation of chrome carbides, and difficulty in grain size.  Wow!  Good thing the heat treaters know how to work it.

What’s in D-2 steel?

  • 1.4 - 1.6% carbon
  • 11.5 - 12.5% chromium
  • 0.7 - 1.2% molybdenum
  • 0.25 t- 1% vanadium
What does it all mean?

Good question.  The chromium forms carbides that provide both steel strength and cutting power.  The chromium forms a “bloom” of transparent chrome oxide that resists oxidation.  This level is not quite high enough to be called a stainless steel.  The molybdenum and vanadium are ferrite stabilizers.  Ferrite is one of the three important iron phases in carbon steels.  The rest of the story is metallography and that's a study and field all onto itself.

Let’s talk about the knife.

It’s not apparent but the blade is a partial flat grind with a flipper.  Flat grinds are interesting.  They take a little more work and equipment because they don’t utilize the curvature of the grinding wheel to shape the blade.  It means more steel in the blade, but as you sharpen it the angle changes faster.  The entire side of the flat grind can be sharpened, keeping the blade geometry, but it mars the surface.  Most people will just sharpen the edge and at some point be forced to thin the blade back to get the edge angle they want.  It’s not the end of the world.  I just did that to my Crawford Kasper folder.

The knife body is a frame lock.  

The opening stud meshes into the frame.  Nice work Rick!

The opening flipper has aggressive jimping.  Note the frame screws protruding slightly above the carbon fiber handle.

The frame lock has become quite popular in recent years but precautions have to be taken to keep the lock from being hyper-extended during opening and losing its tensile strength.  A lot of good knives, like this one, sport an adjustable stop that prevents the lock from being hyper-extended.

The clip is inset in the frame for stability and is reversible.  A small plug fills the other clip position.  Unfortunately it’s a right-hand knife only.  It just means if you carry left side, the closed blade faces into the pocket.  With a right-hand knife carried on your right side, the blade faces into the back edge of the pocket.  Carry one way and you never worry about the knife blade opening into the pocket because it’s blocked by the side of the pocket.  The other way… well, be careful every time you stick your hand in your pocket.

The knife has a lot of nice features.  The flipper has a little jimping as does the top of the blade and frame and bottom back edge of the frame.  The knife opens a little stiffly with thumb pressure and using the flipper took a little practice on my part to get the timing.  No biggy.  Give yourself 10 tries and you’ve got the motion.  Just remember move the hand and knife, before using the flipper.

The knife handle is a very nice carbon fiber slab decorated with large screw heads.  Most of them are counter sunk, but the pivot sticks up a little. 

holding open knife by choil
I kept grabbing the knife by the blade choil.  No protection to keep me from sliding onto the blade.

How did it cut? 
Everyone has an idea of the right way to test sharpness.  I like to cut newspaper and watch for two things: does the cut leave little fibers of paper sticking up or not.  The sharper the knife, the fewer the torn paper fibers.  The second thing I look for is the ability to change directions during the cut and not tear paper.  Both tests are subjective because it’s a measure of my skill as well as the knife.

The knife cuts an edge in newspaper that is razor sharp and I can cut curves and change directions.  There’s no question it’s a sharp knife.
I like to shave wood, typically pine.  Face it, that’s what I have around me, scrapes of pine from wood butchering projects.  The Hinderer did fine.  I quickly had enough shavings and a fir stick to start a fire if I needed to.   I have no doubt I could have cut quite a few more if I needed them.  (I should have cut more, but it’s not my knife and while I had permission, well, I just felt sheepish about doing more cuts!)
After that activity, I ran the newspaper test again.  Same results, a razor smooth cut and I could still cut curves in the newspaper.

What do I think?

I love the simple elegant blade shape and size.  The carbon fiber handle scales are attractive and the jimping shows a clear understanding of how knives are used.  But….
The rest of the knife was just too busy for me.  Rub your thumb over the closed knife.  My thumb catches on the carbon fiber above the opening stud.  The flipper grabs at the hand’s skin.  Funny edges, roughness in unexpected places, it just doesn’t feel good in my hand.  Even open, the balance is wrong for me.  It feels dead, lifeless in my hand.  The back of the knife looks busy.  
Open knife showing back of knife
Back of knife

The screws are in contrast with the look of powdered metal giving them a bling look.  I know I would lose the plug that covers the other socket for the clip.

I can’t help but compare it to my CRKT Crawford Kasper folder.  It’s old, was never as sharp as the Hinderer and I had to find a machinist to drill and tap it so I could reverse the clip.   I still prefer it to the Hinderer.

Rick's on the left and my used and abused Crawford Kasper on the right

Should you by one?  I don’t know.  People buy knives for many reasons.  Hell Heck, I own a Randall knife I’ll never use, unless it’s the Zombie apocalypse. 

You should by this knife if you like it, but don’t buy it just to be admitted to the boy’s club!

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