Next Gen Knife Mods
Tony Sculimbrene 05.29.14
Before he started down the custom knife road, Geoff Blauvelt a.k.a. TuffThumbz, was the Internet’s premiere knife modifier (yes, I am going to use that term instead of the other one). Since then, things have changed. There are a few new guys on the scene–Menovade, for one–but a lot of the newer folks are really changing what we think of when we consider a knife mod. As with all things, the level of innovation and skill continues to rise. Now instead of a simple handle scale swaps or an acid washed blade, we are getting full-on reconstructions of production knives with entirely new dimensions and features. Here are three of my favorite “next gen” mods out there.
Boker’s recent collab push has resulted in a ton of new and interesting custom makers getting products into the hands of the masses. Most folks will never own a GTC, but thanks to the Boker, they can score a facsimile of that awesome blade by picking up the Boker GTC Federal. Another one of the more high profile collabs was the Burnley Kwaiken. The original knife, created by custom maker Lucas Burnley, was a marvel of restraint. The simple handle and blade shape, plus the letterboxed handle scale, made the knife stand out from the horde of overstuffed, overdone customs. But like many high end customs, it was out of reach.
Boker released the collab about a year ago and it was an instant hit–the IKBS bearing pivot set off the beautifully simple knife. But the IKBS also tempted a few people. The bearing pivot works exceptionally well with a flipper design, but the Boker Kwaiken was a thumb disk opener. In comes Alexander Dietz, one of the better knife modders out there.
Through a clever trim of the handle scales Dietz was able to expose the rear tang of the blade when the knife is closed. This squared off corner gives you excellent purchase and allows the knife to function like a flipper. He also modded the detent and made an even better opener than it was stock. Since the mod has come out, it has been a constant on knife forums and YouTube. The Kwaiken’s simple design lends itself to modding, but with the flipper mod, the knife is transformed. Others do the Dietz mod and it appears as thought Dietz himself has moved on to making custom knives, but the mod itself was a stroke of genius.
In fact, compared to the factory flipper version of the Kwaiken, the Dietz mod is superior in a number of ways. First, unlike with the factory flipper, the uber-clean lines of the Kwaike remain uninterrupted. In silhouette, its very difficult to spot the flipper on the Dietz mod, while on the factory version it literally sticks out. It’s a little thing, but with a knife this focused on aesthetics, it is a big deal. Second, the shape of the flipper on factory version is close to universally despised. The Dietz mod, however, is simple and effective. It may seem like heresy as Burnley designed the flipper version as well, but I think I like Dietz’s flipper better than the original.
The Spyderco Southard was something of a watershed knife for Spyderco–its first flipper, its first collab with renowned knife maker Brad Southard, and its first knife with Carpenter’s CTS 204P. But a lot of folks, including me, thought the knife was just off a bit. For me, it was the size and the poorly finished handle. The knife seemed too big, like it was a stretched out version of a smaller knife. Additionally, the round overs on the handle scales and the incredibly awkward pocket clip made this blade awfully pokey in the hand, especially for a Spyderco. Like the Kwaiken, the stock bones were brilliant enough to encourage modders and there are lots of upgraded versions of this knife out there.
But Bower Bladeworks took the modding of the knife to a new level. First, he shrank the blade and reprofiled it into something like a sheepsfoot blade. Then he cut off excess handle and gave it contoured handle scales. Finally, he reworked the clip. The end result is a knife that looks right and undoubtedly will feel better in the hand.
The mod is a lot of work and it is quite pricey, but the end result is a virtually new blade with lots of high performing parts from the original. Bower Bladeworks also makes a mini Paramilitary doing much the same thing.
The Cryo was a knife I didn’t like, but respected because the bones of a very good blade are underneath a few design missteps. The Cryo’s potential is very high, but the stock original was something of a let down. We all were excited by the idea of a budget Hinderer, and the blade size and shape are just about perfect, but the knife was prohibitively heavy for its size (weighing more than both the full sized Benchmade Griptillian and the Spyderco Paramilitary 2), overly slick thanks to all stainless steel handles, and it had the unnecessary but popular assisted opening feature. There were other issues too, but these things made this very inexpensive knife something I couldn’t recommend buying. Nonetheless, I recognized the potential. The G10 version looks to fix a lot of problems, but modders saw the issues too and went to work.
Erik from EMP Knives offers (or offered, it’s unclear from his website) a modded version of the Cryo that fixes a lot of what ails the design. First, he removes the assist and adds something like a functional detent. Then he adds carbon fiber handle scales. For the grand finale, he adds a bearing pivot. The end result is something like a baby ZT0560. These alterations, if done correctly, are transformative. All of the positives of the Cryo design remain and three of the biggest problems are gone. Erik’s service was also relatively inexpensive.
These three mods show that the knife modding bar has been raised quite a bit. No longer are modders content with merely adding new handle scales or other superficial embellishments. This new generation of modders are getting in under the hood, so to speak, and transforming knives into different and in many cases better versions of the original.