Colored Bullseye Tube Story

Discussion in 'Fiddleback Forge Knives' started by Comprehensivist, Nov 14, 2020.

  1. Comprehensivist

    Comprehensivist Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Aug 23, 2008
    Hello Fiddleback Friends,

    It’s been a while since I posted anything of substance on this forum. I thought the story of how the colored bullseye tubes came to be might be a worthwhile story to share.

    I went through my Fiddleback acquisition heyday from 2014 to 2016. I was buying something new at least three Fridays a month back then. My collection theme was almost exclusively centered around Shadetree burlap handles in every color of the rainbow.

    Late in 2014, Shadetree made a very small batch (one sheet?) of Red, White & Blue burlap. It had a red resin layer over a blue layer and white burlap fiber. I bought a couple of handle sets from them with the intent of using them on a patriotic themed knife.

    Ken Craggs was the GM at Fiddleback in 2014. He and I talked frequently about all things Fiddleback back then. I hit him up with the idea of using the R,W&B burlap on a knife. The only caveat was that I wanted a white bullseye tube and pins to compliment the patriotic theme. He told me white pins were available, but it was a no-go on the white tube. They were not available. Basically his response was like a paraphrase of the Henry Ford quote, “You can buy any color (tube) you like as long as it’s black (or brown.”). That is because the big manufacturers who make the foot long tubes that Fiddleback use only make those two colors. I wasn’t satisfied with the “no” answer, so I promised Ken I would find a way to get some white tubes one day. He wished me luck with that search and the topic was dropped.

    When my R,W&B Fiddleback dream was dashed, I hit up Dylan Fletcher to make me a 1/8” TT CPM 154 Esteban II with 1/4” white pins. It was a gem. (It belongs to one of my best friends now.)

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    My unfulfilled promise to Ken that I would find a way to get some other colored tubes stayed on my mind for many months after that. I did a lot of internet research off and on to find someone who made more colored options. I basically repeated the research that Andy did years earlier and came to the same conclusion that black & brown were the only commercially available choices.

    My thoughts turned to having some tubes custom machined. I have worked in the aerospace manufacturing industry for 35 years. The first 16 years were in procurement of machined parts at major OEM’s and the last 19+ years as a quality manager for a high precision machining and grinding job shop. I ordered some oversize white plastic rods and tried to get our machine shop guys to run some tubes for me. No luck because running plastics means tearing down and cleaning CNC lathes (before & after) that are set-up for running metal parts. They were not interested in my side project. Another dead end.

    Weeks later I was walking through our machine maintenance area where I spied an old manual lathe that I thought may be my ticket to making some tubes. I had the maintenance guy show me the basics of running it. I order the correct drill and reamer for the ID and told the boss I was going to come in on a Saturday to do the machining. He laughed because the running joke at work was that “I add no value” there because I don’t run a machine. Yeah, I’ll show you boss-man…

    It was slow going machining and measuring the tube one at a time.

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    I ended up with 22 tubes to send Andy to fulfill my old promise to Ken.

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    A few months later at Blade 2017, I managed to pick up a Bourbon Street Skinner with one of the white tubes.

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    More important than that to me was the fact that Ken Craggs was there to see that our discussion from years earlier had finally come full circle to fruition.

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    That could have been a fitting end of the story right there. Instead, it planted a seed to find some high quality brightly colored G10 material that would match the colored pins Andy uses.

    Finding suitable bar stock material in the right size and color(s) is much harder than you would think. I had one false start months ago when the material I ordered turned out to be crap color-wise and structurally after I started cutting blanks. I ended up scrapping $80 worth of material and going back to the drawing board.

    After much internet research, I found a supplier with real G10 rods in colors that I thought would go well with some of Andy’s handle & pinstripe combos. I called the supplier to confirm that the outside diameter (OD) size was what they advertised it to be and consistent from rod to rod. The nice part about this material is that the OD is only .002” smaller than what I machined the old white tubes to when I made them. That saved me a significant machining step. Based on their confirmation, I ordered four each 1ft. rods to give it a go.

    I began setting up the same old manual lathe in the day after the material arrived. I applied some lessons learned from machining the original batch of white tubes three years ago to help make this batch much more precise and minimize scrap given the limited material I had to work with.

    The first step was setting a hard stop allow the blanks to be cut-off at a consistent length.

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    The next step is center-drilling a starter hole on one face to guide the subsequent drill-thru operation.

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  2. Comprehensivist

    Comprehensivist Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Aug 23, 2008
    Next up is drill-thru on each blank. The blanks are locked into an expandable chuck on the lathe. The drill bit is mounted on a fixed chuck on the tooling pedestal. When you release the clutch on the machine, the lathe head and part blank spin to facilitate the cutting action when a fixed tool is pressed into the spinning part. Cranking the handle on the right side of the pedestal slowly moves the drill bit into the part.

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    The drill bit size is selected to produce a slightly undersize hole to the desired finish size. This is necessary because the drill bit produces a less than ideal surface finish and ID size consistency. The edge finish on the back side of the tube usually exhibits some small tearing and/or flashing of material when the drill bit break through. The next step that cures those issues is switching to a precision reamer to run through the drilled hole. The reamer yields a hole size that consistent within .001” and a nice smooth surface finish. The ID to OD concentricity is excellent at this stage also.

    In this photo you can see the flashing left on the back end of the ID after the drilling operation.

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    The reamer removes that flashing while it trues up the ID. All those fine flying fibers and dust show why wearing a protective mask is an absolute must when doing this type of work.

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    The ID finish after reaming is much better than the drilled finish alone.

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    The final step is a light de-burr & polish of the ends on a buffer with a red fiber wheel. This nocks-off any remaining burr(s) or flashing. These are much better quality tubes than my first batch of white ones.

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    When all was said and done, I yielded nine each in red, green, orange & blue. I look forward to seeing what Andy does with them and how his faithful buyers respond.

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    I mailed them off to Andy with a letter wishing him continued success in spite of the Covid-19 economic slowdown and all the other weirdness that is 2020.

    On a personal note, I just retired from my job to support my family through some health challenges. That means my access to the equipment to make any more colored tubes is past. This batch was the last hurrah by me.

    I hope you guys & gals like them. Don’t wait too long to buy a knife that has the colored tube you like. You may regret it when they are gone…

    Phil
     
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  3. varga49

    varga49 Gold Member Gold Member

    May 1, 2016
    Hello there Phil, this made for some great reading this afternoon. As always over the years your posts have informed and broadened the picture of this Fiddleback Forge family! Best Regards to you and yours my friend!
     
  4. jaz322

    jaz322 Gold Member Gold Member

    701
    Feb 1, 2015
    Phil you have always had such talent with your reviews on this forum and this is no exception. I read through your post knowing your former place of employment is going to have a tough time replacing your skillset. What an asset and friend you’ve been to the Fiddleback crew. That’s what it’s all about. Hoping we can hang out again someday when all the ‘weirdness’ is past us.

    Great backstory. Keep those posts coming. A lot of us look at this forum everyday for highlights just like this to come along!
     
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  5. Bmurray

    Bmurray Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 9, 2012
    Phil. You're a good guy and I'm happy to call you a friend. Congrats with the retirement. Now just buy a small lathe and put it in your garage.
     
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  6. swonut

    swonut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 1, 2007
    yeah congratulations! I second the small lathe. No, buy a big one and put a VFD on it. Anyway, I picked up a vintage Prazi lathe mill a while back and have had fun making scrap from stock.
     
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  7. willic

    willic Gold Member Gold Member

    May 13, 2013
    Phil, GREAT THREAD! THANKS FOR SHARING!!! That is such a cool story! I have a few knives in that "superman" Shadetree! Now I have to find a Fiddleback with one of your colored tubes!!!

    Congrats on the retirement! I hope all is going well!

    -Will
     
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  8. Cdmayhem

    Cdmayhem Gold Member Gold Member

    691
    Jul 9, 2013
    Super cool story. It adds some additional back story to the OS Ladyfinger with white tube that my wife has.
     
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  9. B Griffin

    B Griffin Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 22, 2007
    Very cool post Phil! Thanks for the back story. 2017 was an insane year for me. I think I went through all of it, Blade included, on autopilot as all of the things came to light in the divorce and custody case I was fighting and having just found out about the tumor that scared the crap out of me at the same time. I spent the vast majority of 2017 lost in my own mind, huge parts of it are just a complete blank, and i don't even remember the white bullseye tubes... But I do really hope to land one of the colored bullseyes.
     
  10. Fiddleback

    Fiddleback Knifemaker Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Dealer / Materials Provider

    Oct 19, 2005
    What a great write up. Phil pushed for colored tubes before I could even get good sources of pinstock to match liners. There is much discussion here about pins. I have to figure out a way we can do this here. I think its doable with a wood lathe. We'll have to seel.

    A big thanks to Phil for doing the pins. Both rounds were a neat touch for a short time. I think its a big deal. Tracable. Thanks for posting the thread too Phil.
     
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  11. swonut

    swonut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 1, 2007

    I think you'll have problems with keeping the OD right at any type of production rate greater than one, but you could definitely do the ID. I little bitty mini-lathe might be a better choice, I picked mine up used for about 500 bucks. Took a lot of looking though.

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  12. Nbrackett

    Nbrackett Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 19, 2015
    That looks like a fun toy. I’d love to find one of those.
     
  13. VANCE

    VANCE Moderator Moderator Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Gold Member

    Mar 13, 2006
    Very cool post Phil. Thanks for sharing.
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  14. hasco

    hasco Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 30, 2014
    Thanks for sharing this great story Phil! I had noticed the colored pins popping up, but I had not even noticed the colored tubes. I had to look back at some of the newer knives. Those are really neat! That's the way to make something happen. Now the owners of those knives can know the story behind them and the work and money you put into them to make them happen. They need a special makers mark Fiddleback by AR and Phil!

     
  15. Choppaman

    Choppaman Gold Member Gold Member

    May 6, 2017
    That is AWESOME!!! What a read! Very cool and thank you for sharing that story, the details and photos Phil. :thumbsup: As far as you and your family, Prayers are with you in whatever you all are going through. It's been a tough year for sure. Having stories and good deeds like this are helpful for all of us (and new knives :D).
    Happy Holidays to you and your family brother!
     
  16. Comprehensivist

    Comprehensivist Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Aug 23, 2008
    Thanks for the feedback my friend. I am glad that you enjoyed the read.

    I appreciate the compliment my friend. It was great to meet you Blade 2019 in the Pit and share our common interest in knives.

    Watch it Bob. I don't need friends encouraging me to start machining in my garage. Hand sharpening is as close to machining as I want to get these days.

    Thanks for the enabling Swo. See my comment to Bob above. ;)

    It is great to see you drop in again Will. Your shoeboxes of full of Fiddlebacks you beat me out of on the old FF sales format. I hope you score one with a colored tube someday.

    Thanks for the compliment. Congrats on the nice Ladyfinger for your wife.

    Thanks Brian. That compliment means a lot coming from one of the master storytellers here. I hope you score a knife with a colored bullseye sometime soon.

    Thanks Andy! This was fun to do once I got going on it. I hope it leads to more sales for you my friend.

    I was a better desk jockey than a machinist. Have fun with that.

    Be careful! One machine always leads to more. That is the way all hobbies go.

    Thanks Phillip! I am sure that your first thought when you look at those tubes is "more work for me." :rolleyes:

    Thanks Todd. I appreciate the compliment from a good friend who is also a tinkerer at heart.

    Thanks Choppa! I made these tubes with you in mind knowing that you want 3 or 4 of each color for your vast collection (Phillip is hoping for that. :D)
     
  17. Comprehensivist

    Comprehensivist Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Aug 23, 2008
    It is time for another update on the colored bullseye tube story.

    Even though I was very pleased with the quality of the colored tubes I made back in October, I was conscious of the fact that they were going to be more of a novelty item rather than a regular production solution for Fiddleback Forge. I say this for two reasons. The first is that Andy doesn’t have the equipment to machine more of them. The second is that glueing-up individual tube assemblies is a hassle on a production basis.

    Most Fiddleback fans are probably not aware that they glue-up foot long sections of bullseye material which is later cut into individual knife handle width sections.
    I don’t have full length sections of the components, but this photo give you an idea of how long the production tubes are at glue-up

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    Another piece of bullseye trivia that is not commonly recognized is that the standard black and natural tubes share the same outside diameter but different inside diameters. The ID on the natural tubes is smaller which results in a greater wall thickness. I machined the colored tubes to match the dimensions of the natural tubes to maximize the color-pop on the finished knives.

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    The also means that the inner metal tube diameters must be different for the black and natural tubes. You folks who like to add fancy @Gary W. Graley style fobs to your knives will find it easier to start your paracord through the black bullseye tubes.

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    Continuing with the story, I wanted to find possible solution(s) to the production issues so that colored tubes could move from a novelty to a regular item if Andy decides to go that route.

    Drawing upon knowledge from my 36 year career in purchasing and manufacturing of precision aerospace machined parts, I knew there had to be a better and more efficient way to make tubes.

    My first thought was to have a CNC machine shop that specializes in plastics to set-up and run a bunch. That would solve the supply problem but not the glue-up hassle.

    My next thought was to see if it would be possible to gun drill straight through a longer rod while maintaining good concentricity to the OD. I paid a visit to a gun drill company that I have dealt with for almost 30 years to discuss the project. The owner thought what I was proposing was possible, at least up to a certain length which would be determined at the time the material was run. He agreed to take on the project as a favor for me when he could get to it.

    Gun drilling, or deep hole drilling as it’s also called, uses specialized machines to drill holes with a length to diameter ratio of 20/1 or higher. For example, if you drill a .250” diameter hole through a 6” piece of material you get a 24/1 ratio. As the ratio gets larger on longer pieces, the more specialized the equipment must be to maintain acceptable concentricity. The rigidity of the material being drilled also is a factor in how deep you can go with good concentricity. As the name of the process implies, it is frequently used to make gun barrels.

    The drills used in this process bear no resemblance to the normal twist drills everyone is familiar with. Gun drills use a single bit tip with holes through the center for cutting fluid to enter and chip removal. The workpiece is held in a precision drill guide bushing on the end where the drill will start and chucked on the far end for rigidity and concentricity.

    Here is a photo of a metal bar mounted for gun drill on one of the smaller machines of this type.

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    Most gun drilling is done on metal. Not every shop doing this process is willing to work with composites because it contaminates their recyclable chip waste. Luckily the shop I have done business with for almost 30 years was open to working with G10 material. I took two Fiddlebacks along to help explain the intended use for the project. My friend the business owner agreed to give it a shot as favor for me when he had some open time on a machine. I said that if it works the way I hoped that I would return the favor by passing on his business information to Fiddleback so they could possibly work together directly if Andy wants to pursue it.

    The G10 rods I ordered come 11-3/4” long which is perfect for the Fiddleback glue-up process. The supplier was out of the lime green, so I added white to the mix this time.

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    Once the there was some open machine time, I received a call from the owner to let me know that the G10 material was not rigid enough to drill completely through 11-3/4” in one shot, but drilling 6” and flipping the rod to drill 6” from the other end and meet in the middle would work. Sometimes drilling from both ends results in a mismatch where the holes meet in the middle. He told me the mismatch was .010” or less. I wasn’t sure if this would cause problems in glue-up or not, so I asked to cut the rods in half and run them that way to be safe. I think the final result was speaks for itself.

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    I am happy with the way these turned out. In an effort to see what’s possible, I believe this little exercise was a success.

    I shipped these off to Andy & Phillip along with all my old notes, sketches, & tooling. My part is done now. If the story continues or not will be their’s to decide.

    I kept one souvenir from the original batch of white tubes to remind me of where this project started almost five years ago after a conversation with Ken Craggs planted the seed for this idea. I need to send him a message to let him know how it all turned out.

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    Phil
     
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  18. swonut

    swonut KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jan 1, 2007
    Phil-
    Glad to see the adventure continues. I am truly amazed at the Georgia Knife Makers and their willingness to share. It's contagious and it makes us all feel like part of the family.

    - Blaine
     
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