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Modifying knives.......

Nov 4, 1998
As some of you might know, I am a Dremel junkie. I make no excuses for my habit, and in fact, I thouroughly enjoy it. I do not own a knife or gun that has not seen Mr. Dremel, and I was wondering if any of you guys (&gals) share my affliction. If you read my review on the Ascent in the reviews forum, you'll get an idea of how bad my affliction really is. ( must say that my Ascent is now a really pretty looking knife)

What kind of knife mods do you forumites do, and with what tools?
Do you have any advice for junior knife butchers like me?
Are there people that make a living modifying production knives?


"No, it's a Vaquero Grande in my pocket, but I am happy to see you!"

I would be interested in hearing what kinds of alterations you have done.
Me too, what do you do with Mr. Dremel and do you use a variable speed. I only use mine for polishing right now, but would love to hear any cool tips.



Mods I have done with Mr. Dremel, let's see...

Starting with my original Gerber LST I put on some fingernail grooves along the spine so I could open the thing. How Gerber forgot to do it I will never know. Where the blade meets the choil I used the cutting wheel to put in a wire stripping notch that also helps make short work of heavy monofilament fishing leaders. Due to some damage on the butt of the handle, I ended up putting finger grooves on it, and sanded them smooth. I reprofiled the tip after I broke it. I ended up wearing my LST to a nub, and the blade is only about an 1 1/2" long.

My next knife was a serrated SOG auto clip. THE first thing I did was pull out the pin that fastened on thclip, and ditched the thumbwheel. I had some small stiif coil springs lying around, and one just so happend to fit in the hole where the thumbwheel used to be. This has been the absolute best plastic clip I have ever seen or used. It is always under constant tension, and despite having been snagged on several occasions, it has never broken. I also removed the blade from the handle, and polished the radius that the lock rides on, as well as the flats where the zytel handle makes contact in the hinge area. This smoothed up the action considerably. To make adjusting blade tension a little less of a chore I used the cutting wheel to cut slots in the heads of the hex screws that hold the pivot pin. I put my now beloved wirestripping notch in the blade, and removed the last 1/8" of the tip of the blade (it was too skinny for my tastes and would have broken anyways
) and reprofiled it. This knife has been a constant companion for three years, and has never let me down. If you ever want a cheap knife to beat the %^$# out of, the SOG auto clip is it. I have thrown it into hard wood floors, at squirrels, missed squirrels and hit trees, thrown at walls, dropped on floors, hammered on the spine to split small logs, hammered it from the end to remove rusted on heater hoses, used it as a screwdriver, pryed, poked, stuck, stabbed, sliced, diced, smeared peanutbutter, cleaned fish, birds, rabbits, etc. , cut, chopped, stirred my coffee, and amazed my friends with this knife. Not bad for 440a, I can't wait to see what this ATS34 Ascent will do.

For my next trick, I Dremeled the heck out of my large Ascent. I posted those mods under my review of the Ascent & Goddard already, so I won't waste bandwidth by repeating myself. I will say that My Ascent turned out pretty darn nice. After I polished it, it cut way better than before, and the reprofiled tip is much more useful to me than the original point. Polishing the blade also removed all of the writing & logos (I hate that stuff, it is a knife, not a !@#$%^& billboard). I did not put a wire stripping notch in it because I now have a Leatherman. I may put some grooves along the topstrap of the handle, as someone had recomended in a post under my review (I can't remember who right now, but THANKS!). But for now, I think I am done.

For the record, I must admit that My work on the ascent was the first time that I was actually trying to make the knife look better. My daily carry knives suffer alot of abuse, but the ATS34 was screaming to be buffed up. It is a really bright colored steel. It has been my expreience that 440a has a duller gray color, but I might be seeing things.

Oh, I almost forgot my VG. As the knife butcher that I am, I have performed some of my most brutal work to my VG, but I think that it is better because of it. I used the grinding wheel, and re-serrated the blade, every spot that suffered from those infernal microserrations, I attacked with the 1/2" grinding wheel, and made them into a single, deeper, serration. The new edge is just flipping wicked. For just general whacking purposes, it is the bomb, and it still makes short work of onions in the kitchen too. I also attacked a clip to it (clip donated by my ill fated Apache, and the threaded brass ferrules came from my STIFF kiss's sheath). I drilled an 1/8" hole aproxamately where I wanted the clip, and used my soldering irn to heat up, and force the ferrule into place. After the area cooled, I attached the clip, and with a 3/16" drill bit, marked where the other two holes would go. I removed the clip, drilled out the hole, and repeated the process. It has been on there for three months now, and has yet to fail me. The best feature is that only a small portion of the handle protrudes from my pocket, and does not hint to the 6" of steel I am carrying hehehehehe.

This brings me to my Stiff KISS. Basically, I buzzed the sheath down to its bare essentials. I did not plan to carry it any other way than as a neck knife, so all of the other holes were useless. Also, in its original form, the sheath did not ride comfortably under my shirt, the edges rubbed against my pecs and made the whole thing protrude so it was easily seen under my shirt. It is now smothed out, and does not show unless I stretch, even when under a t-shirt (YMMV, I am not very skinny, and I have larger than average pecs).

I use my dremel on everything. I do not own a gun that has not seen the polishing wheel (I gave my Ruger 22/45 stainless a full polish job, it looks sweet!). I do not know what I would do without it.


[This message has been edited by Yekim (edited 28 January 1999).]
There's my alterations for the CSVG lockwork (for smoothness) also applicable to the whole Cold Steel Zytel series from 4" through 6".

EMail for details. I've also got a small diagram of the CS lockwork I include...it's cheesy but it gets the idea across. I doubt it's applicable to other lockbacks in general, but the same glitch *might* be seen elsewhere.

I've also hogged out better thumbholes before, when absolutely necessary...I've "de-horned" the lockback release button on a CSVG, made for less painful closure...rounded the whole spine a bit so it wouldn't cut an experimental sheath I did at one point. I also use a dremel to cut Kydex and leather for sheathmaking purposes. I keep actual knife mods to a minimum, I think Yekim and probably Thaddeus do more extensive surgery.

Jim March
I am a Dremel fanatic! I gleefully skip around the house while modifying my folders, and my wife thinks I am nuts. But, every time I hand her a knife that I modified, next to a "stock" version of the same knife, she invariably asks me "Why don't they just MAKE them like that?". I tell her "I dunno, but it must be to save money, because my design ROCKS..." (in my humblest voice

I invariably start with the index area on most knives. My REKAT Pioneer now has a guard and an index groove thanks to my Dremel tool, a Coral grinding bit, and a LOT of grinding (ARG!).
My AFCKs sing in the hand, especially once I am done with the clip.
You should SEE what I did to my Pinnacle clip...
And Axis'...well, it is a great design as it is, but just because I am fanatical, I HAD to add a custom index groove for an even more secure grip and forward cant, and I shaved down the clip because it was digging into my hand, and that little nub on the end is useless anyway.
I now use my Dremel to reprofile my edges instead of doing it by hand (Whew!).
I round out all corners, grind away liner lock releases and lock back releases, and I even take knives apart and modify the friggin mechanics!
I add deeper ball detens to my liner locks so they stay closed, and bend the lock leaf so it engages better, and smooth out the pivot so it opens smoother.
I am so looney that I even redesigned my Axis lock!!!
I took the blade out and radically reground the tang so that the knife now opens like a liner lock! This reprfiling has NO effect on the strength of the lock, only on the tension holding the blade closed into the handle. I am nuts I tell you, but I have NEVER, not once screwed up a knife, to my own amazment, they are always for the better.
For those of you that don't have an Axis, they have a pretty strong tension holding them closed, which is a GOOD feature for when you are active, but not if you want a reliable quick draw. I have two Axis', one for active wear, and one for quick draw. althought the quick draw one still stays closed extremely well (much better than any liner lock) and therefore I seem to end up wearing it all the time. My quick draw mod is such that there is no longer that tension (or much less of it) holding the blade closed, so it whips open with the ease of a liner lock (you know how smooth liner locks are and "fall" open after they start opening?). My Axis kicks butt now with it's index cutout, reprofiled edge, shortened clip, and "thaddeus-smoothified" opening action. Why didn't they just MAKE it that way? I dunno, but I may have to become a knife designer soon if someone out there can't start getting it right the first time.
I would like to note that my modifications mean no inferiority to the knife in it's essence, it is actually a compliment that I like the knife enough to spend hours working on it. There has NEVER ever ever been a design that I did not immediatly go to work on expect for the Commander. The handle on the Commander can not be touched! It is perfect! Ernest Emerson may have his fault, but he knows how to design a handle!!! I did work on the blade and action of my Commander, but never the handle!
Every single other knife I have ever had as a "user" has had extreme modifications, and it is a compliment that I will even modify a folder, because most of them I just toss aside because they are so poorly designed that I don't even bpther trying to refine them!

thaddeus, Dremel nut extra-ordinaire, and a little bit too proud of his work!
Gads Thads, you are a nut. I'll mess with $50 knives, but $100 or more? Not me. I bow humbly to your superior Dremelness. I would like to hear more of your clip mods.

All hail Master Thaddeus! Lord of the Dremel!


"No, it's a Vaquero Grande in my pocket, but I am happy to see you!"

My name is Marcus and I`m a Dremel-holic. I use it to polish and recontour darn near anything I can get my hands on. I`ve done the CS Vaq. Dremel thing too,smoothed the action out and rounded the spine of the blade so it won`t cut through any more pockets. I`ve used the sanding drums to reprofile the grips on knives and the buffing wheels to polish parts of them for better functioning and looks. How did we ever get by without them? Marcus
Wow, you people are amazing. Have you guys thought about just making knives of your own? I mean with kits or cannibalized parts of different knives.

BTW, I love the Commander "Wave" feature. Would be intereting to adapt that to other "waveless" knives out there. Just think, if all my knives can open like that. . . Too cool!

KNIFE-DREMELITES OF THE WORLD: UNITE! And tell a poor prospecting Knife-Dremelite some simple things, like: How do you figure out which tool/bit/rpm to use with what material/task? The little booklet, that came with my *brand new* Dremel Multi 3950, doesn't help much. How do you handle the dust problem? I guess, not everyone has a separate place for such tasks (at least I don't). How about holding the thing to be dremeled? Do you use some sort of vice, and when/not?

I know, Dremelites, especially Knife-Dremelites, may be an exclusive fraternity, and such like to mystify or Zenize things. But may I still (humbly) hope for explicit, informative answers?

Also, it would be nice if all posts related to Knife-Dremeling (and perhaps other modifying too) could be collected to one spot. Maybe something like a Dremeling-FAQ, or at least a list of the posts? Some of you have already been very informative about your specific modifications (like Thaddeus about the clip-modification), but it is difficult to remember, when and where.


[This message has been edited by Markku Huttunen (edited 17 February 1999).]

I believe the basic premise of Dremeling is to get the most from the least, at least it is for me. Whether it is to get a 1 1/2lb. triggerpull out of my Ruger 22/45, or to make my knives just a little more functional, a little bit of Dremeling can make things perform at a higher level. My other goal with Dremeling knives is to make them "Mine". I cannot explain that much better than to say that after I am done, it is a unique peice, and my initials are carved on it to prove it.

In staying with my belief of getting the most from the least, I have never purchased a vice, and most of my work is done free hand. As far as bits are concerned, I find that a select few tend to be used the most. First there is the "Grey eraser", it is a rubberized polishing wheel capable of removing a surprising amount of material. It is the be all/end all of Dremel bits, and I would be happy with just that one. It works great for poilishing up lockwork, smoothing out machined surfaces, polishing feed ramps, etc..

My second favorite is the fiberglass reinforced cutting wheels. Dremel makes two types of cutting wheels, and the non reinforced ones are not worth a crap. The Cutting wheels make short work of about everything. I have cut bolts that were 1/4" in dia, and have even repaired the threads on larger bolts with it.

Next in line are the various grinding stones that are out there. I tend to use the drum shaped ones the most, but all of them have come on handy at one point in time. Lastly, my buffing wheel.

Dremel's buffing wheels are usually made of felt, and attach (inadequately) to what looks like a screw. I never liked the setup myself, I have had them fly accross the room, but maybe its just me. What I do for a buffing wheels is I took an old, dried up dish sponge, and cut roughly circular 1 1/2" inch chunks out of it. I poked a hole in the middle of them and attached it to the same shaft that I use for my cut off wheels and polishing wheel. To make the "sponge buffer" truly round I usually just put it into my Dremel, fire it up, and (carefully) use a utility knife to "lathe" the sponge round. To polish, what I usually do is smear the object to be polished with a thin layer of Iosso GunBrite (I am sure toothpaste would work in a pinch), then hit it with the wheel.

I do use the other bits that I have, but only on rare occasions. The sanding drums are good for stock work, and I use a small metal bit to carve my initials into stuff, but most of my other bits go unused.

As far as speeds go, I hardly ever go over what the lowest setting is. The exception is when I use my homemade buffing wheel, it seems to be most effective at half throttle or so.

And NO, dremelites are not an exclusive fraternity, if you are a cheap bastard, like me, or just are not happy with the way things are made in the first place, feel free to mail me with questions.

I've Dremelled three knives, and it can indeed be a euphoria-inducing experience. Here's what I did:

On my mini-AFCK I ground the clip to coincide with the index-finger cut-out in the handle.

On my Spyderco Calypso Jr. I rounded off the pointed shoulder above the thumb hole, and rounded off the spine. My thumb thanked me profusely.

On my Benchmade 640 Mini-Spike I shortened the blade by grinding the spine down towards the tip. It's a much better paring knife now.

If you proceed slowly, Dremelling operations can be quite forgiving. If you're like me, function is more important than appearance, so who cares if you smutz up the finish a bit? Practice on your cheap knives until you build confidence. It can be very liberating. Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead! But always wear safety glasses.

David Rock

[This message has been edited by David Rock (edited 29 January 1999).]
Lets see- I have gone so far as to use my variable speed Dremel to grind a six inch bastard file into a drop poit utility-style fixed blade. I used the gray alum-oxide(?) stone, clamped it down on a wooden t.v. tray w/a c-clamp, and after 2 1/2 hrs. now have a nifty-type blade waiting to be heat treated and handled w/hi-density white cutting board type plastic.
As I live in an apartment, the Dremel is my tool to tackle most items on the "Honey-do" list.
Oh, BTW, She Who Must Be Obeyed has given notice that ALL knife like projects must be done on the porch, because of the dust, noise (cats hate Dremels. Do ferretts, Jim?
), and while She is at work. Oh, well- such is life....


"The secret to winning any engagement is proper training and superior firepower."

Ferrets *hate* dremel noises...

As to dust, if it's a quick job get on your knees and do it over the (EMPTY!!!) bathtub so you can just wash all the crap down the drain.

The fiberglass cutoff wheels are for removing a LOT of steel or anything else "right now". That means BE CAREFULL with that bad boy. The far more brittle thin stone wheels do sometimes have their place; run at very high speeds and with a light touch you can carefully "sculp" metal with 'em.

The fiberglass cutoff can also be used on Kydex, plexiglas, even wood in a pinch although you'll mostly "burn your way through".

Has anybody come across a diamond grit stone yet, and how much would those run?

Jim March (specializing in large Zytel CS folder mods)
Click on search and enter "dremel" to get a list of posts.

I often prefer hand tools to power tools. Dremels are great for some things but often needle files and rifflers are better. Often it pays to make a special tool for a special purpose, reshaping a Dremel tool or shaping a piece of wood to just the right shape and gluing emery cloth to it. A good vice is tremendously useful; a cheap one will last a week if you're lucky.

I started out filing and polishing tangs of lockbacks when that was the only way I could get a knife that didn't take two hands to open. (I don't know how that rumor that I once used one in a heroic fight with a saber-tooth tiger got started. It wasn't a big deal; I had already wounded it with my atlatl....) Of course I've forsaken my infidel ways now. I often buy cheap knives (and guns and things) because I like the design and usually most of the reason expensive things are expensive is the hand work that goes into them -- I can do that myself. Sometimes the amount of work I put into something cheap is pretty ridiculous but I consider it play rather than work, and I end up with something I like better than anything I could buy at any price.

-Cougar Allen :{)

P.S. I posted on rec.knives a while back about how to turn an Opinel into something pretty kewl -- I think I titled it "Too Much Time On My Hands" but if not a search for "Cougar + Opinel" should find it.

-Cougar :{)

[This message has been edited by Cougar Allen (edited 30 January 1999).]
I just completed the "March CS mod" on my Gunsite. I gotta tell ya that after I started cutting metal, I couldn't help but ask myself, "Why the #@%&* am I trying this?" Putting doubt aside, and with no real choice but to continue, on I went -- with my wife in the background shaking her head.

Although I wish I had a very narrow felt wheel to polish things up, I am VERY pleased with the result. I can finally snap open the knife without fear that it will fly away from me from the force needed to overcome the blade stop. Thanks again for the tips, Jim.

Now as long as the Dremel is out, where did I leave that Opinel anyway?

Brian: glad it worked out; I emailed that little graphic to Spark for online access, I'll get it and the instructions available here for others. This is a good thread, let's collect as much data as possible.

Cougar: Sorry man, can't find that Opinel hack thread *anywhere* and if you've got a way to make a BIG Opinel even slightly tactical I REALLY wanna know. Can you find it and post the direct URL here?


Jim March
Don't forget to wear eye protection. Those cut off wheels will shatter and could damage your eye. If grinding G10 or other handle material, you need to at least wear one of those 3M paper masks.

The thumb ramp on the CRKT apache is pretty big, and before I removed the one one mine, I played with the idea of putting a wave on it. It could work, but I hated the ramp so much that I just whacked it.

I have made a couple of knives before, but that was back in highschool when I had access to a forge, grinders, and all of that other neat stuff. My first one was made out of an old file, and ended up looking like a fantasy fighting filet knife. My second one did not survive heat treating, and my third was a bait knife made from scrap 440 for my dad. If I had access to a shop, I would be in heaven.

Note: If memory serves, the Apache's ATS34 cut like butter for me, but the Ascent was a bit more difficult. My guess it has something to do with the heat treatment.

More tricks I just remembered....

If you are working on the actual edge of the knife, or any other part where its strength is a concern, do not over heat it. I usually have a cup of water nearby so I can keep the part cool. My general rule is if it gets hot to the touch, dunk it.

Before I cut up the blade, I usually have spent some time with a magic marker drawing new profiles on the blade. The final draft I leave on so I have a pattern to go by when cutting/grinding. I guess this could be expanded to grinding handles, etc..

I will add more later...

Jim- I don't know if you are familiar w/the Roseville area, but we have a fairly large flea market/auction on the weekends. (Denio's) People literally come from as far away as Oregon and Nevada just to shop on the weekends.
Anyways, there is one stand out there with "knock-off" (NOT made by Dremel) parts for mini-rotary tools like the Dremel, and he has diamond impregnated steel disc's almost the size of a quarter (one inch diamater???). I believe they are in the realm of 10 for $12-$15. I'm going out there this weekend, weather permitting, and will gladly drop a couple in the post for ya gratis.
Hmmm, Dremel meets EZLap- ohboy, ohboy, ohboy- can you say fun?

P.S. SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed- thanks for that one,
James Mattis
) doesn't mind if I use my "toys" inside if it's on a project on the "honey-do" list. Go figure???
P.P.S. Does anyone have the "Snake" attachment yet? It's wonderful!


"The secret to winning any engagement is proper training and superior firepower."

[This message has been edited by Christian (edited 31 January 1999).]