Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Enzo Trapper Handle Scales Project

Thompson Scandinavian Knife Supply
For some time now I've wanted ... wait, let me rephrase this. If you read my blog much you probably have the idea that I would rather make something myself, or at least have something that I could modify to my liking than buy things. I am always looking at folding knives and asking myself, well how could I modify it? And, have they done something stupid to it that would prevent me from working on it? Well I guess ultimately there is nothing that can't be taken apart and changed but somethings are made in such a way that it would require the same tools and skills to modify as simply making from scratch, and I don't have them. At any rate, fixed blades are an obvious place to start for people who want to make knives and like to modify things. I have to admit that fixed blades just don't do it for me the way folders do and it's not because I love folding knives more. I use and carry a folder every day. I could do the same with a fixed blade although I think certain people I work with would cringe in terror if it was the sort of knife that could be seen. But seriously, I'm getting off topic here. I have been eye balling the Enzo knives for a long time and man I tell you, the Birk folder is making it hard for me to stick to sub $50 knives. And it's unusual for me I think. Because honestly I don't get too fired up about Scandi grinds and bush-crafting and such. It's not so much that I think it would be cool to have a Scandinavian knife in a folding package, but I am a notorious genre-mixer so to speak. Without getting even more off topic, I like the idea of combining two concepts, or several, into a new concept. I think this is the basis for every good idea that ever happened. So for one thing they are different in the sea of tactical nonsense, and they are two concepts mixed in a successful way. They are a traditional look in a somewhat modern folder with every day utility design. Point is, I like them and I want one.
hedge handles
But I wanted a fixed blade that would be a sort of an all around outdoor tool. The term "Trapper" certainly conjures a picture of outdoor multipurpose tool in my mind. Trappers of old probably used a knife for a variety of tasks and were likely people who spent a lot of their lives outside, living, cooking, skinning ... trapping. Anyway, outdoor knife for me is mostly going to mean hunting. But when I say bush-crafting doesn't get me excited I don't mean that I don't think survival skills aren't something we could all use to have. Even though this is a Project Post, it's also going to be a philosophical discussion as well. So the bottom line here is, get a sort of multipurpose knife and a fun project all in one shot.

Scandi grind, O1 tool steel, full tang survival knife
Back on topic, let's talk about the Enzo Trapper. I got a blank in O1 tool steel and a couple Corby bolts with the big idea of making my own handles. I think in the end I came to the Enzo because they are a pretty good value where the steel is concerned and the designs are simple and straight forward. I just don't care much for a lot of the other blanks available in the States when I look at these two particular aspects. It was a toss up on handle materials. I am feeling more traditional of late so wood made it to the list. I should probably polish it because blood is going to be an issue at some point. Anyway, we always have some Hedge (Osage Orange) around and I liked the idea of a bright yellow handle well enough to decide to go for it. My father and I split some Hedge into rough boards with an axe first. Next, I shaved them down to slightly less rough and straighter boards using my trusty Aranyik E-Nep, then put a flat-ish side on them with a belt sander. The final step was to surface them flat by sticking a sheet of sand paper to a good flat surface and using up some of my elbow grease supply. The rest consists of what you might expect - carving, sanding, more carving, more sanding.
One of my small boards quickly flattened with the belt sander.

survival blades
My E-Nep made fairly easy work of thinning and straightening the rough boards.

Here are my scales cut out.
osage orange hedge handles
Here they are rough shaped and partially fit. After this I was pretty well on the home stretch.
scandi grind, bushcraft knives enzo trapper
Here the Enzo is compared to a BuckLite MAX Large mainly for the sake of comparison. The BuckLite MAX is a perfect knife in my estimation. It's one of those products I like to talk about, the ones made to do their task without extra fluff. Sometimes it's hard to admit but plain boring modern materials like the rubber on the Buck's handle is just plain better than traditional materials when it comes to performance. Traditional materials are attractive, carry workmanship and can be made to last. But when it comes to just doing their job, the rubber is simple, impervious, can't come off, provides grip and can be molded however it needs to be. The Buck has the right blade shape, only the essential features, it's light weight, inexpensive and the sheath doesn't suck! It is an excellent product.

So what I think we have here is modern and traditional kind of going head to head. But they live in the same tool box so to speak. While both are utilitarian, the Buck is as pure and no frills as it can be.

Enzo Trapper review, build
You may have noticed dark rings around my Corby bolts - that's called being impatient. I over heated them and I am hoping that I didn't screw something up.

Chunky handle but I like how it feels. It's not perfect but I don't have enough experience to know what needs to be done to make it better. I wanted to add a little more material up top since there isn't really a guard. I mean really, slipping up on a knife has got to be the result of misuse, but that was one of the thoughts behind this shape. I also wanted a place to pinch the knife, and all this without making it so huge that I couldn't get my thumb up on the blade for power cutting.
The Buck is a touch longer but it looks to me like it has ever so slightly less cutting edge. Is the finger choil really useful? I dunno, maybe.

The curve to the Buck is just attractive to me, plus lets your rock the knife into places your hand may interfere with.
These little details let me get different grips on the knife while still having the chubby handle.

I often consider the term survival, particularly in the context of the internet, TV and the commercialized portion of the word that can't really be overlooked when having a discussion on the topic. For me it always comes down to, what is survival? Here is a pile of all the crap called survival gear, here are the professionals who teach the survival skills, now make it all fit into a situation that can be labeled survival. I have narrowed it down for myself but that's not to say it won't change. I can only picture two situations, maybe three. They are the emergency, and long term survival situations.

In the emergency situation, something unexpected has happened to you. In all likelihood, these situations are going to involve injury the way I see it. Obviously this could be split into two which is where my possible third scenario comes in. Some people, somewhere just live in remote areas where the unexpected could actually turn into a use tools to live for a somewhat extended period of time kind of situation. Some people put themselves in these situations for adventure. In the United States, this first situation isn't going to be more than a matter of hours. You aren't going to build a shelter with a wire saw, or go fishing. People like to prepare each day for the unexpected, whether that means carrying an extra twenty bucks, or putting a bug out bag in your trunk, or filling your basement with MREs. But using a wire saw or needing fishing hooks are the unlikeliest of the unlikely tasks to be ready to perform. Even if this first situation can be broken into two, there are always more important things to carry - first aid, warmth, water. In virtually all situations you're going to look at your little tin full of fishing hooks or your big ass survival knife and wish it was a tall glass of cool refreshing water, or a nice pile of wool blankets long before you are going to hit the river banks for a tasty flat head. For the people who are in situations where trouble could spell disaster, being properly prepared should be a priority. You might as well have useful things that will get you through a few rough days - it's not really so unexpected. I struggle to picture a situation where you are going about your day and BAM, you're building a shelter from leaves and making traps from sticks. Putting a couple warm blankets in the car with a good first aid kit and some water is probably worth its weight in gold compared to the typical bag full of survival implements. I'm not making fun. My point is not that these things aren't good for a number of reasons. My point is it probably makes more sense to be ready for higher probability scenarios when going about your daily life.

For a fun hypothetical let's say you are a combination of these things. You are going adventuring in a remote area, but you came prepared. You have to carry all this stuff on your back, so you insist that saving space and weight is paramount. Suddenly you are in that situation, that one, the one they talked about on the packaging for your wire saw and ferro rod. It must be time for fishing. Now the question is, why don't you pack that crap up, and walk out the way you came in? Well, you suffered an injury. So, unless you're wire sawing your trapped leg off like that one guy did with his pocket knife, isn't it time to treat some injuries? You've put yourself in this situation. The question is, why are you incapable of living through it? You've suffered an injury that permits you to go fishing and build a shelter, but not walk back out the way you came in? No injury? You are lost then. Wouldn't a map, compass, GPS, or all 3 have been pretty light weight if you had just left all that other crap at home? And without question won't you need water and warmth above all else? If you can't move and you need shelter, how well is that $0.59 Wal-Mart space blanket going to work out do you think? I can hear you saying it out loud as you read this - well, it's better than nothing. You're right. 

The fabled ferrocerium rod is often the item that puts my mind to this topic. I'm not sure they're good for anything. They sort of represent my two sided survival situation coin. Long term survival is that great unknown. It is the situation where for whatever reason you like best, you are actually using more primitive tools to live out the rest of your days, or possibly what I would consider a long term situation, several months or more. Essentially all it needs to be is a no electricity event. Electricity was the game changer. Without it, the skills known to early Americans or early native people all over the world, suddenly return to necessity. It's not really survival at all, it's living. This is fantasy land. I say that, not sarcastically, but genuinely. I think humans connect to nature and while many reject the notion that we are in fact animals, we are hard wired to work with our hands and provide for ourselves. It's the free and independent nature of the beast. Humans are apex predators, contrary to the misguided notions certain individuals choose to adhere to. Whether you plant a garden, or enjoy crafting things with your hands, or just love to watch birds, it's some small part of your connection to nature. Glass buildings and fast food are the exact opposite. My point is that even if it's small, some of us yearn for a simpler time that puts us back to self-preservation, self-reliance and true freedom. Some believe that the desire is societal and economic collapse, chaos, violence and mayhem. That's wrong. Many people, if given the option, would walk away from the chaos and violence of today's world, and return to simpler living all the while leaving the status quo open and available to anyone who prefers it.

Coming back to the ferro rod, having one makes a lot of sense. It's simple and makes fire and takes up virtually no space. In no situation does that not sound good. But looking at it from the dual possibility concept what's it really good for? In an emergency a dirt cheap, always reliable Bic lighter is faster and easier to make fire with. It fits in your pocket and will make a hundred fires in case your emergency somehow goes on for days. You gather up stuff that burns and you set it on fire. Often ferro rods are combined with tinder and some kind of striker, which strikes me as a more complex way of doing what the Bic does all by itself. On the other hand, neither stack up in the long term. They decay and eventually you will use them up. I think the notion is that you probably won't use up a ferro rod. If you are living, then you may always have a fire going or have hot coals anyway. You will be cooking with it multiple times a day and keeping warm by it, so you may not actually make many fires each year from scratch. But in the end it is a consumable, tangible, irreplaceable item which is the definition of something that isn't long term. I always try to ask myself, what would early native people do? They used skills - things that cannot be lost or taken or used up - to build fires and if they used some sort of tool, it could easily be replaced using knowledge they all owned. The ultimate point here is practicality and skill are the true essentials. In an emergency, practicality makes more sense to me, and for primitive living, skills are vital.


As always, my blabbering isn't mean as a communication of facts, but a collection of ideas. I would love to take a wilderness survival course and I hate the idea of these skills being lost in time. I even like the idea of bush crafting as a hobby and enjoyable past time. In fact, pick any reason, no matter what it is, for practicing survival skills and I will accept it as legitimate. As far as I'm concerned there is no reason too good or too bad for developing self reliance skills. It's disheartening to think of all the things that humans simply don't know how to do anymore. Many of us don't actually make anything at all, and over our life times may create very few useful things for ourselves or anyone else. The idea of community in my mind is a collection of skills and creativity where each member makes the lives of all the other members easier by the things he or she creates.