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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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    hasco, rpdur and Cdmayhem like this.
  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
     
  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

    690
    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!
     
    varga49 and Bmurray like this.
  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.
     
    B Griffin likes this.
  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
     
    B Griffin likes this.
  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.
     
    B Griffin likes this.
  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.
     
    Kismet likes this.
  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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    Nbrackett likes this.
  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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    B Griffin and Bmurray like this.
  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!
     

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