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SEAMOUNT KNIFE WORKS GENERAL INFORMATION


Thank you for your interest in SEAMOUNT KNIFE WORKS. What follows will give you an introduction to me and my custom knives. I am a Mechanical Engineer with some formal training in Art. This is an unusual combination but has given me the background to be able to combine the best of form and function into a usable tool. I like to think of it as "Engineered" sculpture. Knife performance is fundamental in my work. I strive to use the very best materials with the emphasis on state of the art blade steels and heat treating. All of my knives are intended for actual use in the field. I believe in sole authorship, that is the total process of knife making is done by me in my shop. I start with blade steel bar stock and do all the grinding, machining and heat treating. The average knife has about $40 of materials and expended small tools and takes from 8 to 20 hours to complete. The standard designs have all been field tested by me under actual hunting and fishing conditions. I also get very good feed back from hunting outfitters, commercial fishermen, avid sports men and women and Chefs who are actually using SEAMOUNT KNIVES. If you currently have or end up with one of my knives I would very much appreciate knowing about your experiences with it.
 

As the name SEAMOUNT implies I make knives for use in saltwater fishing (SEA), Big Game hunting (MOUNT), and also for kitchen use. Fillet knives are a natural niche for me because I am an avid saltwater fisherman. Salt water fishing knives live a very hard life. They are subjected to an extremely corrosive environment, must be tough, hold an edge while being used on abrasive skinned fish like Sturgeon, Sharks, Halibut and Stripped Bass. This interest and specialty has challenged me to use materials and develop heat treating techniques to meet these very demanding requirements. The same materials and techniques can be applied to Big Game Hunting Knives. Environmental changes from cold and dry, to very wet and humid, are common in hunting camps. Edge holding is mandatory because sharpening is very inconvenient to do while field dressing an animal at night in the middle of a driving snow storm.

This year I entered into collaboration with Spyderco Knives. They are producing a very good reproduction of my South Fork design. They are using CPM S90V for the blade steel  and green G10 for the handle scales. It is an excellent knife for the price considering the blade steel and the quality of the construction. These knives are available through Spyderco dealers and through this web site by using my information button. MSRP is $420 and I can sell them for $260 plus $15 shipping. I will sign the box and certify the blade steel hardness. See the articles section for more information on the South Fork.

I would like to describe in more detail how I treat the following eight elements that are critical to the successful design and fabrication of a custom knife.
 

 
 

BLADE STEEL - HANDLE MATERIAL - SHEATH - HEAT TREATING
EDGE GEOMETRY - SHARPENING - BALANCE AND FEEL -  DURABILITY

 
 

 

BLADE STEEL

The blade of course is the heart of the knife. If the steel isn't right for the intended use then everything else is lost. Knife steel selection is a process of trade offs just like everything else in life. Hatchets and chisels are made from low alloy steels because toughness is the over riding consideration. Taps, dies, drill bits and bearings are made from tool steel. These steels are designed to form and cut other metals. Most custom knife blades are selected from this category. The challenge is to select the steel that has the right balance of toughness and wear resistance and to grind and heat treat it so that the full potential is met. As new steels are introduced I have discontinued the use of some of my old favorites (ATS 34, 440-C 420HC). My current production is made up of these seven tool and die steel grades: 154CM, CPM 154, CPM S90V,CPM S30V,CPM 10V, CPM S110V, CPM M4.

I now use 154CM, CPM154,CPM CPMS30V and Bohler  N690 for fillet knives. All are very stain resistant, have very good edge holding, and ductility. The majority of my hunting knives the last couple of years have been made with CPM S90V, CPM 10V, CPM S110V and Bohler K294, K390 and M390. I use CPM 154, N690 and CPM S-30V for kitchen knives.

The particle metal steels (PM) makeup the largest percentage of my production. These are produced by Crucible Materials and Bohler-Uddeholm. All of the PM steels have a high percentage of very hard; very fine carbide particles in the steel matrix.  CPM S90V was introduced in 1997 as an upgrade for CPM S60V. It has a higher attainable hardness for improved wear resistance. I worked in conjunction with Crucible Materials to pioneer the use of CPM S90V for knife blades. I remain one of the few makers currently offering it because very few are set up to heat treat this grade. I built a high temperature, precisely controlled furnace and developed the techniques required for consistent results. I heat treat CPM S90V to a finish hardness of (RC 59-61). CPM S90V is still a very good choice for the ultimate hunting blade but in 2009, Crucible introduced an update for CPM S-90V. This one is CPM S110V. In addition to the 10% Vanadium in S-90V, Cobalt, Moly and Niobium have been added. All these alloys combine to form a complex carbide that provide excellent wear resistance. Crucible also claims better corrosion resistance than S90V. This grade still requires the same attention to heat-treating as S-90V, but the attainable hardness is much higher. My initial work with CPM S110V, and subsequent field testing has shown that a Rockwell hardness of 62 to provide a good balance of hardness and edge strength

CPM 10V has about the same alloy content as CPM S-90V with the exception of Chromium. Five percent Chromium is not enough to make it stain resistant. This however allows a higher attainable hardness (RC 63-64) with the resultant further increase in wear resistance and edge holding. CPM 10V has been the edge holding standard for me ever since I first tried it 15 plus years ago. I currently offer this steel but only for users who ask for it specifically and understand the trade offs associated with its use.

In 2010 Bohler-Uddehlom, a Austrian/Swedish steel company decided to offer knife grade steels to both custom makers and production companies. I have used Bohler N690 for fillet and kitchen knives and found it to have high corrosion resistance, be an aggressive cutter and is easy to sharpen. It is very similar to the better known Japanese VG10 grade.

 B-U has also made available two A11 grades that are very similar to CPM 10V. These are K390 and K294. They are pretty much interchangeable with 10V and have found them to make excellent hunting knife blades.

Crucible made a heat of CPM 125V a few years ago and I purchased enough to make about 20 knife blades. To date I have only made a few hunters for test blades. Performance was excellent but due to fabrication difficulties, I have pretty much dropped this one. It looks like at this point that CPM S-110V has all the great potential qualities that CPM S-125V did. It is difficult to grind and finish but is well worth the effort. My cutting tests on Manila rope show a very high wear resistance. It is in the same category as 10V for edge holding and is stainless as a bonus. I can offer this steel only at a premium price due to the workability problems and limited availability of the material.

Please refer to the ARTICLES section for more information on these steels. 

HANDLE Materials

I usually recommend one of the three following materials for a working knife handle: They are Micarta, Stabilized Wood and Desert Ironwood. Micarta is an electrical insulating material made from layers of linen cloth or paper laminated together under heat and pressure. It has high strength and is sometimes referred to as the steel of the plastics industry. Stabilized Wood is similar to Micarta in that it is injected with resin under vacuum and then cured under pressure. The result is the feel and look of natural wood but the stability of a plastic. Desert Ironwood is a material made by nature for knife handles. It is very dense and oily, almost waxy, very dark brown with gold streaks running through it. It is becoming a rare hardwood and comes from the Sonoran Desert in Arizona and Mexico. It is the most stable of all hardwoods and is well suited to the extremes of salt water and the high mountain range environments. Stabilized Maple Burl, or Fiddle Back Maple can be dyed many colors. I like to combine the stabilized woods with desert ironwood in a multi piece handle. Various spacers can be added for contrast. The result is a striking effect that is durable and has the appeal of a natural material. Animal materials like Stag, Ivory, and Ossic make beautiful handles but should be considered only if the user is prepared to give the knife extra special care.
 

SHEATH

A good sheath is required for a high quality knife. It provides protection against damage to the knife and is essential for safety. In the past, I furnished a heavy duty leather sheath with each knife. Leather is traditional for a custom knife but it does have some disadvantages. It can absorb moisture, accidentally become contaminated and cause corrosion if the knife is left in the sheath for a few days. This is especially prevalent in a salt-water environment with fillet knifes. I have made the commitment to tool up to make “Kydex” sheaths and will no longer furnish leather sheaths. Kydex is a thermo plastic that can be heated and molded to the knife. It is impervious to water, the interior can be rinsed out with soap and water and it forms a very stiff lightweight substantial sheath. A very sharp knife blade placed in a leather sheath incorrectly can come right out the side. I have done this myself with a fillet knife when the sheath was bent over to one side and I did not notice it. This is not possible with Kydex due to the hardness of the material. At the risk of contributing to more plastic in an already plastic world and appearing to be too “tactical”, I will now be providing a Kydex sheath as a standard with each knife. It has also been traditional in the past to provide a belt loop on a knife sheath. I am drifting away from this requirement based on my own hunting experiences and from paying attention to what others are doing. Most fixed blade hunting knives now go in daypacks. A knife and sheath hanging on a belt is just in the way. The knife can be damaged or lost in a fall and the handle pokes you in the ribs every time you bend over or sit down. My advice is carry a good low cost, high quality (like Spyderco) folder in your pocket for easy access.  Keep the higher cost custom knife in a back pack where it is protected and safe until it is needed.

HEAT TREATING

If the blade steel is the heart of a knife then the heat treating is the soul. The best obtainable tool steel in the world will make the worst very expensive custom knife if the heat treating is not right. I decided years ago that to be able to control the quality of my knives I had to do my own heat treating. The high alloy steels mentioned above can be tricky to heat treat and require good equipment that is capable of repeatability. Doing my own heat treating was a big commitment but I'm glad I made the effort and investment in equipment. I can now precisely control the hardness of each blade. They are all individually Rockwell hardness tested through each step of the process. Final adjustments along the way can be made to arrive at the final hardness desired and the confidence that they are exactly right for the intended use. I do an ultra subzero secondary quench in liquid nitrogen to insure complete conversion to the Martensite phase of the steel. This also insures stability and toughness for the life of the blade. The quenching is followed by multiple tempers to insure the best balance between toughness and hardness.

EDGE GEOMETRY

Many knives are constructed with a thick section at the cutting edge because they have to be built for the hands of an inexperienced user. This makes them somewhat clumsy and hard to sharpen. I elect to trust the user to exercise enough common sense to not abuse the blade. I can therefore grind to a very thin edge. Fillet knives are finished to about 0.010 inch and hunters about 0.010 to 0.015 inch. This allows for very easy sharpening because only a small amount of metal needs to be removed to renew the cutting edge. In fact they will almost cut before they are sharpened. This thin section does however require some care during use. It will hold up very well when used for filleting fish, field dressing and skinning, and normal kitchen and butcher work but is not intended for chopping or prying around bones. A saw or cleaver is best suited for this type of work, and they are much less expensive than a custom knife.

SHARPENING

This is tough to do right with out a lot of practice. I have been frustrated many times in the past trying to get that final shaving edge by making one last stroke on the stone only to lose it all and have to start all over again. I was determined to figure out a method for fool proof sharpening. It starts with the blade itself. As mentioned above if you take a close look at most knives you will find a very thick edge section. It is strong but very hard to sharpen. The ideal edge angle of fifteen to twenty degrees can only be obtained by removing a large amount of material. This is hard work takes time and is almost impossible to do with any precision. A blade steel with good toughness can be ground relatively thin and still be durable. A thin tough edge is only half the solution. The other half is the sharpening stone. In my experience the best sharpening media is Silicon Carbide. Norton’s name for this is “Crystalon”. This sharpening stone is available from them in different configurations with the Crystalon/India combination stone the most popular. Silicon Carbide is the grey side of the stone and works best for initial edge forming. Silicon carbide is harder than the carbides found in the high performance tool steels referenced above so the stone cuts clean and leaves a nice aggressive edge. Final second stage polishing for a surgical type edge can be done with the India side (reddish brown, water stones or with a Silicon Carbide dressed leather strop. I guarantee that the combination of the right blade geometry, superior steel, precise heat treating, and a good stone, will eliminate your sharpening frustrations.
 

See the sharpening heading on this web site for a detailed tutorial on sharpening and for links to Norton and other recommended suppliers.
 

BALANCE AND FEEL

I use a light weight tang construction for most knives and as already mentioned grind the blades very thin. This makes for a well balanced package. The balance plus the overall lightness of the knife provides for a very lively feel. The knife seems to float in the hand and is very controllable. This contributes to less fatigue when you have a big box of fish or a large elk to process. The knife should naturally fit your hand and the shape should contribute to safe use. This is especially important when things get wet and slippery. All my fillet knife designs have a flared butt section to prevent the hand from slipping backward on the cutting stroke.

DURABILITY

SEAMOUNT knives intended to be used in the field are constructed from stain resistant steel in the blade and finger guard. I do a "satin" finish on all my blades. I do not feel that a mirror finish is desired or necessary on a working blade. On hidden tang designs the guard to blade joint is held to a few thousands of an inch and sealed with glass filled epoxy during assembly. On full and partial tang designs the handle slabs are all 100% bonded with epoxy for a full seal. This construction allows for a minimum number of joints and fasteners to leak. The knife will be very easy to maintain but will not be completely immune to corrosion. Stainless tool steel will pit and corrode if not cleaned up after use. I recommend washing with fresh water and drying and then spraying the entire knife with a non stick vegetable spray like "Pam" before putting the knife in the sheath.

A custom knife if taken care of should last a life time. You can will it to your grand kids when you are gone. Each knife will have the highest level of craftsmanship and the very best materials obtainable. I guarantee it for as long as I can make knives.  I will be happy to sharpen it any time for free and will recondition it at $25 per hour whenever you think it needs it.

 
     
 
 
 

Click the links below to read more about my knives and view the Gallery!

 
 

FILLET KNIVES - HUNTING/UTILITY KNIVES - KITCHEN KNIVES

 
     
     

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