Review Badfeather Knives Prototype Pocket Fixed Blade

Howard Wallace

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I met Dan Vorhis, the owner/designer of Badfeather Knives when he came to my place as a highly recommended horticultural expert, to advise me on pruning and care of my little orchard. As we were strolling around the trees and talking, we discovered our common interest in knives. Soon he was showing me an early prototype of his knife design, with unsharpened and non-functional blade. His engineering background became evident as he got into the hows, whys and whats of design. Turns out he had an engineering minor as well as a horticulture major in college. With several patents already to his name, he decided to take a stab at knife design. What he came up with was a fixed blade that could be carried in the pocket, similar to many commonly used folders.

Since then, Dan’s IP protection is firmed up enough to go public with the design. He’s still contemplating options of working with an existing manufacturer vs a Kickstarter campaign, but he’s getting a few knives out via auctions or testers to gauge their reception. He should be at the Blade show in Atlanta to demonstrate and explore with manufacturers and potential customers. I’ve had a fully functional working prototype of the Raider Creek model in my hands for a few days. I put my other knives away, and even swore off the kitchen knives so I could see how the prototype did in a variety of situations, including food prep I wouldn’t normally be using a pocket knife for. I admit, I have grabbed my Chinese chef’s knife on a couple of occasions, but it was only to transport the chopped meat and vegetables off the cutting board, I promise.

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The Badfeather Raider Creek knife has a 3 inch blade, drop point, with the multi-purpose utility I find in many of the short Scandinavian fixed blades. You can field strip it into component parts with no tools, and when reassembled it is rock solid.

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“RAIDER CREEK™” SPECS

Materials


Blade/Tang: CPM-S35VN stainless steel
Handle: Titanium alloy
Other components: stainless steel

Dimensions, Weight

Length, overall: 7.07 inches (180mm)
Overall Thickness, max.: 0.58 inch (14.7mm)
Overall Height, max. (to pocket hook): 1.20 inches (30.5mm)
Blade Length: 2.99 inches (75.9mm)
Handle Length: 3.95 inches (100.3mm)
Blade Thickness, max.: 0.110 inch (2.8mm)
Weight, complete: 5.3oz (149 grams)

So far, the knife has performed as expected for a knife of this size. Food prep is doable, the blade profile is thin enough to make slicing easier than with a scandi grind. I even peeled the bitter skins off store-bought carrots by scraping them with the edge. Found that gets the bitter part off with less waste than a regular vegetable peeler. Knife is sharp and holds an edge. Touches up easily with a couple of swipes on a ceramic rod. Breaking down boxes and such everyday use is no problem.

The knife opens more slowly than the one handed folders many of us are used to. It can be opened with one hand though. The current model has the hook on the spine side of the knife. When hanging with the hook at the back edge of my front right pocket (where I like it) I need to rotate the knife after drawing it to thumb the lever. If I reverse the blade then the lever can be immediately thumbed open, but the knife is then in an edge up orientation and almost always needs to be rotated prior to use. I can rectify this issue by rotating the knife 180 degrees in my pocket, but then the hook is no longer at the edge of the pocket. People will have different carry preferences so one hook/blade orientation will not please everybody. An advantage to this design is that multiple blade designs could fit into one handle. Producing one with the hook on the edge side would make opening quicker when using my preferred carry method.

Here is a video of the designer opening the knife while wearing gloves


I like the comfortably rounded spine on the prototype I’m using, but if sparking a ferocerium rod with the spine is important, that is another thing that could be rectified with another blade design that could fit in the same handle assembly. Or you could just grind down the existing spine. I don’t have an expense breakdown but it appears to me that a good fraction of the complexity and the cost of this design is in the handle and associated locking parts. The ability to easily swap multiple blade designs into the same handle seems like it could be a cost-effective plus. Then you could, for example, swap out your stainless coastal fishing knife for your carbon steel, square spined bushcrafting knife when you headed inland. Even breaking a blade just means swapping in a new blade, not getting a whole new knife.

I did have concern with the hook, which has no spring tightening on the cloth like a clip does. I have not experienced it coming out of the pocket though. In the closed position, the weight of the handle is deep in the pocket, providing good stability. I did fall asleep on the couch with the knife in my pocket, and when I got up the hook was no longer engaged, and the knife was deep in my pocket. It hadn’t fallen out, but it was not where I expected it to be when I reached for it.

Another advantage to this design is the ability to expose various lengths of blade. If around people terrified of knives, it is possible to expose ¼” of blade and open a box with minimal risk of someone getting upset. The drop point design of the blade puts the working portion right in the center when just a bit of blade is exposed. The adjustable blade feature could also be valuable when gutting, or when carving wood to a specific depth.

I expect to have this prototype to play with for a little while more before returning it to Dan. Any thoughts or questions are welcome here. Assume steel performance is similar to other applications with this steel. Again, to me it seems one of the big advantages of this design is the ability to easily swap blades. Hopefully when it goes into production this advantage will be realized with different available blade options.
 
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Good review of an interesting design ! :cool::thumbsup:

That clip functions more like a hook than a retention devise but the knife is fairly long and sits deep in the pocket . Might not work for everyone .

I wonder how easy to clean inside the handle . Looks to be one piece ?
 

Howard Wallace

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Good review of an interesting design ! :cool::thumbsup:

That clip functions more like a hook than a retention devise but the knife is fairly long and sits deep in the pocket . Might not work for everyone .

I wonder how easy to clean inside the handle . Looks to be one piece ?
Good question about cleaning. The handle is one piece. For most uses I don’t think it would be an issue. I diced up some bloody beef liver for haggis the other day and nothing got inside the handle. I don’t think pocket lint or wood shavings would be a problem as they probably wouldn’t get in, and could probably be blown out if they did.

The worst case realistic scenario I can think of is the knife is soaked in blood inside a body cavity during gutting, and then not rinsed but allowed to coagulate and dry. This could potentially cause two problems. First, it might make the knife difficult to disassemble. Second, the coagulated blood might not easily shake or blow out. A couple of potential solutions come to mind. Pipe cleaners for cleaning inside the handle, and boiling or hot water soak for the whole knife to unstick the assembly points and loosen up interior gunk. The knife is all metal parts and doesn’t seem to need oil, as it locks via friction. Boiling or soaking shouldn’t hurt it in the least.

I still have some liver in the freezer, which I can probably cook up within the next few days. I’ll try to gum up the knife with blood as much as possible and see what happens. I’m not sure how much the red liquid coming out of frozen liver approximates fresh blood in its coagulation ability, but it’s what I have. Of course, if a forumite volunteers a quart of his or her fresh blood for testing I won’t refuse…

;)
 

oldmanwilly

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Nifty looking design, thanks for sharing.

I'm curious about the strength of the lock mechanism:
- Is there much rattling of the blade/tang in either open or closed positions?
- How tightly does the lock hold when stabbing? Would the lock slip, and the blade slide into the handle, if you had to stab into wood, thick plastic, or dense textiles?
- You mentioned that you could "open" the blade to any length desired; does the lock hold more firmly when the blade is fully exposed than it does when partially exposed?
 

Howard Wallace

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- Is there much rattling of the blade/tang in either open or closed positions?
- How tightly does the lock hold when stabbing? Would the lock slip, and the blade slide into the handle, if you had to stab into wood, thick plastic, or dense textiles?
- You mentioned that you could "open" the blade to any length desired; does the lock hold more firmly when the blade is fully exposed than it does when partially exposed?

The locking mechanism is essentially a vise that tightens down on the tang of the knife. Does a piece of metal rattle in a vise? Or slip? It might, if the vise was not tightened down. On this knife, the big locking lever allows the user to snug the vise down very tightly. When the vise is open the knife does rattle, in either open or closed position. When the vise is cinched down there is absolutely no rattle and the handle is quite secure. The security of the grip appears to be independent of the relative position of handle and tang, as far as I can tell.

If I had to stab a lot of hard things, this would not be my knife of choice. Primarily because it has no guard or handle shaping to prevent fingers sliding up onto the sharp edge of the blade. I just tested putting the locked open knife point first into a piece of wood, and gripping the knife pressing with increasing pressure into the wood. The lock didn’t budge and I stopped testing at the point my grip started to fail. If I absolutely had to stab something with this guardless knife I would place my thumb or another supporting hand over the back of the tang to minimize the possibility of cutting my hand.

If the purpose of the stab is simply to puncture the object, this knife design does have some unique options a regular folding pocket knife does not. The handle can be positioned so as to expose the end of the tang, and then a mallet could be used to hit the exposed tang to hammer the point in. I would avoid striking the handle itself, as that does contain the moving parts. This precaution would also include not driving the blade end of the handle into hard objects by hammering on the tang. Rather than percuss the handle, if I wanted to puncture a hard object deeply I would remove the full tang knife from the handle and just hammer in that solid piece of steel.
 
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Could it be considered a gravity knife by the authorities? He closed it by gravity one handed and it looks like he could open the blade as well using gravity. This makes the blade highly illegal in some parts of the world.
 

Howard Wallace

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Could it be considered a gravity knife by the authorities? He closed it by gravity one handed and it looks like he could open the blade as well using gravity. This makes the blade highly illegal in some parts of the world.

It appears authorities can sometimes do whatever they want. This company is located in Washington State. In Washington, gravity knife has no definition. It is just a silly word used in other places and on the internet. Instead we have spring blade knives, as defined by RCW 9.41.250. https://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9.41.250

Quoting:

“"Spring blade knife" means any knife, including a prototype, model, or other sample, with a blade that is automatically released by a spring mechanism or other mechanical device, or any knife having a blade which opens, or falls, or is ejected into position by the force of gravity, or by an outward, downward, or centrifugal thrust or movement. A knife that contains a spring, detent, or other mechanism designed to create a bias toward closure of the blade and that requires physical exertion applied to the blade by hand, wrist, or arm to overcome the bias toward closure to assist in opening the knife is not a spring blade knife.”

I note that a large percentage of the knives openly made, sold and used in Washington could be argued by a Washington State Prosecutor or other authority to fall under the definition of “spring blade knife.” Since the Raider Creek knife contains no spring, but might be opened in certain manners, an authority like a prosecutor could declare it a spring blade knife. Then erudite legal professionals could debate the point at length in our courts. If the knife with no spring were declared a spring blade knife by the courts, the addition of a spring producing a tiny bias towards closure would mean it would no longer be a spring blade knife, because it now had a spring.

Of course, this entire analysis goes out the window the instant one steps outside the border of Washington State.

For those forumites still perplexed about how men can become pregnant, I hope my brief discussion of spring blade knives has helped you make sense of modern legal theory.

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Afterthought: Although I have not yet passed the bar, and it may be some time before I achieve that coveted milestone, a question does occur to me that perhaps qualified legal minds could debate. That question is “Does a fixed blade knife open and close?” If it does, perhaps sheath knives also become spring blade knives or gravity knives, depending on jurisdiction.
 

Howard Wallace

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Good question about cleaning. The handle is one piece. For most uses I don’t think it would be an issue. I diced up some bloody beef liver for haggis the other day and nothing got inside the handle. I don’t think pocket lint or wood shavings would be a problem as they probably wouldn’t get in, and could probably be blown out if they did.

The worst case realistic scenario I can think of is the knife is soaked in blood inside a body cavity during gutting, and then not rinsed but allowed to coagulate and dry. This could potentially cause two problems. First, it might make the knife difficult to disassemble. Second, the coagulated blood might not easily shake or blow out. A couple of potential solutions come to mind. Pipe cleaners for cleaning inside the handle, and boiling or hot water soak for the whole knife to unstick the assembly points and loosen up interior gunk. The knife is all metal parts and doesn’t seem to need oil, as it locks via friction. Boiling or soaking shouldn’t hurt it in the least.

I still have some liver in the freezer, which I can probably cook up within the next few days. I’ll try to gum up the knife with blood as much as possible and see what happens. I’m not sure how much the red liquid coming out of frozen liver approximates fresh blood in its coagulation ability, but it’s what I have. Of course, if a forumite volunteers a quart of his or her fresh blood for testing I won’t refuse…

;)


Blood testing
After dicing some liver, the knife was swirled around in the diced liver and blood from the package, and then left for 15 minutes in the liver and blood mixture.

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After removal from the liver, it was left on a plate for a couple of hours to dry.

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After drying I attempted to retract the blade. The locking lever moved easily. At first the blade was stuck, but with a little pressure the blade broke loose and was able to retract.

The standard field removal method sufficed to remove the lock nut.

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The lever nut would not unscrew by hand though. After running hot water over the assembly and immersing in soapy water, the lever nut was able to be unscrewed by hand.

Visual inspection of the handle after shaking revealed some droplets still inside. No pipe cleaner being available, a folded paper towel was run through the handle. It came out unstained, indicating the droplets inside had been water drops from the washing.

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Knife reassembled with no problem and was in proper working order.

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scdub

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May 29, 2004
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Very interesting design - and nice review too!

Thanks!
 

Elgatodeacero

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That is a very innovative design, and if I were the maker I would consider contacting someone like Carothers Performance Knives or another small, quality maker to have these made. A few smaller batches of a few hundred knives to start with would be an easy way to test the market.

I see room for some ergonomic improvement, especially regarding the pocket clip, but I would be interested in buying one of these if they were available. Why not make them from D3V? I think CPK could machine the whole thing and skip any welding.
 
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