Modifying knives.......

Tactical Opinel

First pull off the locking collar and grind or file one of the heads off the rivet (easy; it's aluminum). Now you can push the rivet out and remove the blade. Widen the slot in the handle so the blade doesn't fit it so tightly. Keep replacing the blade and pivot to try it so you don't remove too much wood and make it loose.

I think I used emery cloth glued to a strip of sheet metal to widen the slot. I seem to recall using a fingernail file on it, too.

There's a real trick to flipping open an Opinel even after you've loosened it up. If you flip it too hard the blade will bounce back and could cut your fingers. If you cut your fingers off don't bother to sue me -- I have no money anyway.

I eventually got so I can flip it open and lock it very quickly and reliably, and unlock it and flip it closed one-handed, too. It takes practice. The joint is still absolutely rigid when locked.

The wood swells and shrinks with changes in the weather. My next step was to scorch the handle black (I use a propane torch but any heat source will do) and soak it in boiled linseed oil -- soak it overnight the first time or two for full penetration, then apply many more coats of oil. Warming the oil helps and it's easy with a microwave oven. Eventually the wood becomes totally moistureproof. A scorched oil finish is beautiful -- you'd never guess that was birch. Rub it with a cloth between coats -- lots of rubbing, lots of coats -- a really great oil finish is a lot of work but it's worth it. One of the penetrating plastic finishes would make it waterproof with less work but wouldn't look as wonderful IMHO.

Then I applied a mottled finish to the blade with Formula 44/40 gun blue -- I did that one with dots so it looks similar to cable damascus.

The hardest part was blackening the locking ring -- I ground off the plating and blued the steel under it with a mottled finish to match the blade. Black paint would be easier.

I never got around to making a new rivet, just pushed the original one back in. The joint would be stronger with a rivet that has a head on each end, though.

It's occurred to me it ought to be easy to make an Opinel into an auto but I haven't tried it. My idea is to reshape the back of the blade a bit so you can lock it closed with the rotating ring too. Then install a flat spring that'll kick it open when you turn the ring, and then you'll turn the ring some more to lock it open. Closing will have to be manual, of course. Don't use too strong a spring or it'll bounce.

-Cougar Allen :{)

P.S. It's also occurred to me it shouldn't be too hard to make an Opinel from scratch. I guess it would be the easiest kind of locking folder to make. The biggest Opinel is ridiculously big, but ... hey Jim -- you could make one as big as Mad Dog's Hydra! Or how about a folding Outsider? Ackkkkkk -- I'm frightening myself....

-Cougar :{)

P.P.S. Another strange idea just occurred to me -- what happens to all those folding spike bayonets people take off SKSs? How about putting one of those on a stick handle instead of on a rifle?

I have no intention of trying to patent any of these ideas, so if anybody wants to mass-produce auto Opinels or pocket SKS bayonets, go for it!


Cougar, buddy, the "giant tactical auto Opinel concept is so DELIGHTFULLY twisted my hat (usually Snell-approved) is off to you, sir.


Jim March

I like your sponge buffer. I'll steal the idea
. I use a dab of superglue on the screw thing for the standard Dremel buffer, and they won't fly off but can be easy hand twisted off for a new one.

I was trying to make a folding fillet knife a one hand opener, so I was drilling (trying to) a hole to put a thumb stud in. The drill slipped and chipped the edge pretty badly....I thought about it a bit and tried the polishing wheel....I made these cool serrations on the back half. Its now a great kitchen knife.
I just want to echo A T Barr's advice regarding eye protection. Those cut off wheels are EXTREMELY brittle. I've had more shatter & send bits flying than I care to remember.

I mentioned yesterday that I completed Jim March's CS mod on my Gunsite. That cut off wheel survived the operation intact... or so I thought. It broke in my hand this morning as I was just lifting it out of the accessory rack.

Back to playing with my Opinel. Thanks for giving me the idea, Cougar.


[This message has been edited by bcaffrey (edited 31 January 1999).]
I got one of the snake thingies, but it and I just do not get along too well. I like being able to shut off me Dremel at a moments notice, but that is just me.

In regards to the cutting wheels, heck with the eye protection, I would prefer a face sheild. If you are actually cutting something with one, and you twitch just a bit too much, egad. I can see using them like Jim said, but I won't be using anything but the fiberglass wheels for cutting.

I also like the idea of using those neat SKS spike bayonets for something. I have seen tham for as little as 3 bucks online. If anything one could just get a bunch of 'em and use them for heavy duty tent stakes.

I wonder if it would be possible ti spring load the collar on a large opinal so it would automaticly lock when the blade opened?

Egad, it looks like I have been reading too much Jeff Cooper.

bYek(the "b" is silent)


Now at last I've had the time to do SOME DREMELING OF MY OWN. Thank you all for the sound advice. No doubt you spared me of some nasty mistakes. And it really "can be an euphoria-inducing experience", as Dr. Rock said!

First targets were two CS Voyager Tantos, a 4"er and a 3"er. Now they both have a pronounced index finger groove, maybe 3/2 mm deeper than originally. Also, the butts are now more rounded (from all sides except below). The larger one with a rather "square" butt benefited from this in particular. The pivot area I left alone, except for rounding out the foremost part of the right-side bulge. The integral clips were shortened just a bit, and the part of the rocker bar I depress to unlock was lowered and rounded slightly.
I tried several bits but used mainly two: the sanding drum(s) and one of the coral(?) (aluminiumoxide) bits. RPM took some experimentation, and of course I burned the Zytel occasionally
Dremeling did leave some grinding marks. Took care of that with quite a lot of sanding by hand; the buffing wheels that came with my 3950 set were either too inefficient or melted the plastic material in them (I'll try your buffing wheel trick later, YeK), and the few sanding drums were all quite coarse. (I'll JMarch the half-way detents later.)
To my knowledge and understanding, both of the knives are now considerably more secure and comfortable to use and easier to carry than before (and I've carried and used them a lot before). I wish I were able to include some pictures here (though you really might have to try the knives yourself to appreciate the difference)!

Next in line were a few Spydercos with a too pointed shoulder above the thumb hole. I DRocked them with a coral(?) bit and/or a siliciumkarbid(?) bit, plus some polishing with a grey buffing wheel. Two Dragonflys, in particular, thanked me of this even design-wise; that really improved the flow of their lines. The Calypso Jr., on the other hand, looks now... hmm... different, though it, too, feels more comfortable than before.

Last, I enlarged (by approximately 1 mm) the thumb holes of two Spyderco baby's, a LadyBug's and a BabyGoddard's, with the cone-shaped coral(?) bit. Couldn't open the blades securely with my thumb before, now I can. But did those tiny blades get hot quickly! (thanks, YeK, for the advance warning; I knew immediately what to do when the skin on my thumb said 'hhsss'
). And as I said recently in another thread on this forum, I managed to ruin the BabyGoddard in trying to improve its (lousy) ergonomy (some clothes in the bathroom still have a dinstinct Micarta fragance in them).

Finally, a QUESTION: What might work best with some more extensive metal-work (like reprofiling spines and edges, etc.)? The aluminiumoxide and siliciumkarbide bits do not feel efficient enough (even Thaddeus said "a LOT of grinding"), and the cutting wheels (I'm getting the fiberglass-reinforced one soon) are, as their name implies, more for just cutting. Might a diamond bit be the answer?

And another one, while I'm at it: How about those situations where you have to grind, say, plastic and metal *simultaneously* (like in a G10/titanium liner-lock folder)? How might that be handled without melting the plastic?


Glad to see you have joined the Dark Side

Do not discount the cutting wheels for some grinding tasks, when I finally did the Jim March CS smoothee to my VG, I used a fiberglass wheel to do most of the work, and finished it with a peice of 1/8" stock wrapped in sand paper.

Lately I have found myself using the sanding drums for adding/deleting serrations. There is no worry of the wheel wearing funny like with the regular wheels, and extra drums are cheaper than wheels, and you can get them in different grits. They remove a surprising amount of metal, and seem to last a while. They also feel "softer", unlike the teeth rattling effect the stone grinding wheels have, and they do not heve the same tendency to bounce, thus making them easier to control.

Thanks, YeK, and thank you for initiating this thread.

It's good to be on the BRIGHT side; knife modifiers are conscientious citizens.

I'll try "sanding" steel. Meanwhile, any thoughts about the second question, simultaneous grinding of plastic and steel? A BM Stryker or an AFCK might be an example. I would not like to take the knife apart for that, if it isn't absolutely necessary.

Interestingly, there's one low-priced folder I've been unable to modify at all (except perhaps the clip): the Spyderco Endura 98. Tried to think of something to change in it for about half an hour (with the Dremel in my hand), but all my ideas were somehow "refuted" - no room for a more serious index finger groove, no need for rounding out the butt, etc. My "different review" of the knife returned to my mind immediately (

Any experiences with similar "futile Dremeling attempts"?


[This message has been edited by Markku Huttunen (edited 10 March 1999).]
Sanding plastic in general takes finesse. Light passes and letting it cool are the best ways of dealing with it. You cannot put too much pressure on plastics or else you will gum up the sander, and possibly fling molten plastic all over the place, including your face, which stings... I cannot advise in good conscience advise working near the sink because of the possibility of electrocuting yourself, but that is what I do. If my project starts getting hot, I quickly run it under some cold water. When grinding on blades, I keep a glass of water near by to douse the blade in before it starts to get too hot....grind, drench, grind, drench....I guess you could just as easily dip a knife handle in a glass of water....just be careful not to cook yourself...

I don't think I have ever suffered from "Dremeler's block". If a knife doesn't need to be Dremeled, then it is probably as close to perfect as one can get. Then again, it might just be time to break out the wet/dry sandpaper and hand sand all of those annoying grind lines off. Then going ahead and polishing the blade. There is not many thing much more pretty than polished steel. And a polished blade cuts most things much easier than a bead blasted blade. The ATS-55 that spyderco has an especially bright color to it compared to "greyer" steels like 440a...

And, as always, be careful......grinding on sharp, pointy things can be hazardous.

Thanks, YeK (a feeling of an echo again). I'll print your thoughts and study them more carefully at home (it's 4.40 PM in here).

How about Ian, Greg, Jim, Thaddeus, Marcus, Goat, DRock, Christian, Cougar, Brian, A.T, DC, and all the others who've just read thus far?

I think I posted something above about how hand tools are often better than power tools, but I'm too lazy to go back and look so I can't expect anyone else to.

Working with plastic is an application for hand tools, and even with hand tools you might have to slow down a bit to avoid melting it.

When you work dissimilar materials at the same time you need a hard tool that doesn't give -- if you use a rubber-backed sanding block or hold emery cloth with your hand the softer material will be undercut and you won't get the two materials flush. Use a file or a sharpening stone or glue emery cloth to a rigid backing, metal or hardwood.
Finish with gentle pressure to get a flush join; if you press down too hard the softer material can be undercut even with a hard tool.

If you use rubber cement you can peel off the emery cloth when it gets worn and replace it. Ordinary rubber cement works fairly well on a rigid backing, but lapidary cement is better and you can even peel it off a rubber backing. It's a weak rubber cement, basically. It never really hardens so you can replace the emery cloth several times before you have to renew the lapidary cement. You can get it at rockshops, any place that sells lapidary supplies.

Wet sandpaper is good for finishing. You can probably get it as fine as 400 to 1200 grit, and 220 grit turns into 1200 grit or finer faster than you might expect.

-Cougar Allen :{)
YeK, the sanding drum worked on steel just as you described; a softer touch and less ear-numbing screech. But quite hard to keep a precise angle in reprofiling the edge (false one too) and to prevent the tool from slipping a bit occasionally (I'm inexperienced with all this). Now I'll have to find a way to get some nasty scratches off of my CS Trailmaster blade.

The reinforced cutting wheel also worked like charm. Lopped neatly off the upper finger guard on the same Trailmaster (and the sanding drum did the rest). Now I have a much more comfortable and practical handle.

Haven't yet tried the simultaneous grinding of steel and plastic, but I'm getting more and more fond of Cougar's suggestion to use hand (non-power) tools, even more generally. Maybe the Dremeling is like fast food, after all? (Don't shoot!
) And maybe, just maybe, there is something very special in the (relative) silence of working with just hand tools, without having to worry much about dust flying all over, etc.? I know this is heretic, and yes, I'm getting old.


I am in favor of handworking when it is possible, it is only when I will suffer extreme joint pain or large amounts of fustration that the Dremel gets to have at it. Also, I lack the proper hand tools for most jobs. Proper Dremeling requires patience. Going at full force will cause problems. I think of it like sketching. Each pass of the wheel I make little corrections for the last pass, and all of the little passes comes together to forn the whole work. It is amazing that I can do as well with a Dremel as I do considering that I couldn't draw a straight line with a gun to my head...

Learning how to brace your work, and hold the dremel steady are skills which one has to learn for themselves. My literary skills are insufficient to explain the nuances of the proper hold, and the proper hold varies from person to person, peice to piece, and be what type of work is being performed. I am glad the the sanding drum worked for you. The scratches on the blade may be alleviated by using the "Gray Eraser". it is one of my all time favorite tools. It is a rubber polishing wheel impregnated with some sort of grit compound. It is an amazing little tool that removes lots of material, but leaves a mirror polish in its wake. The trick is to blend out the scratch by buffing around th scratch as well. After that you should be able to re-create what the original finish was.

Have fun Markku...and keep me posted...I like hearing about other people's projects because it gives me ideas for my future ones...

Jim, you can find the Diamond Coated Micro Burrs at Go into the on-line catalog and look under sanders(?). I have had a set for about two years. They grind hardened steel like the little grinding stones, bounce and are loud. They work well on handle materials like wood, G-10 and on soft steel. But where they really shine is on glass. I have chipped a couple drinking glasses, and they worked very well in smoothing out the chips(yes I'm cheap). If you work on the handle type materials a lot they are a good buy, because they never wear out, at least not so far. But if you want them for hardened steel, I think the drum sanders work better.


The Bitterness Of Poor Quality Remains Long After The Sweetness Of Low Price Is Forgotten

[This message has been edited by Garrett (edited 25 March 1999).]
First off, let me say right up front, GET A VISE! AHHHHHHHHHHH!

Two reasons,
One, one of these days you're gonna slip and people who slip while dremeling knives free handed, are easy to spot. They have a scar on the back of their hand and one to match in the palm, OR, they can count to something less than ten!

Second reason, if you chuck the blade in the vise, it acts as a heat sink to draw heat away from the blade, therefore, the blade heats less quickly and you run less risk of ruining the temper.
BTW, if it gets hot enough to burn you, I hate to say it, but you probably already have damaged the temper of the blade. Do you notice that it is easier to sharpen and loses it's edge quicker? You may have annealed the blade somewhat. (unevenly at that.)

Okay, enough about safety, let me introduce you to my leettle fren. It's called, the 90Degree Die grinder! (Place evil laugh here.)
It's an air tool, and it is to dremels as the Kenworth is to Tonkas. They are worth the money in the time you save.
If you don't want to get that deep in the pocket, (600 for air compressor and 75 for a Die Grinder, and you'll want two or more grinders.) you can check out the Foredom tool. It's the Dodge Ram compared to the Tonka. Has the extension snake and foot treadle control, with a key chuck small enough to use Dremel bits.
Use Dremel or reputable bits! Don't buy the flea market variety, as these are far more likely to "blow up" on you.
Glad to hear that you are all aware of eye/respratory protection, but also consider ear protection. That little whine can cause high frequency hearing loss over time.
(I know it sounds like I'm anal retentive, but I am a VERY rare creature, a gunsmith that can HEAR!)
Dremeling knives is something that I do only occasionally, (I've got some great mods for the Buck 110, email me.) but guns and airplanes, I tear 'em up! You may have ridden in an airliner that I have "dremeled" on!
(Much more evil laughter!)

I cut it, and I cut it, and it's STILL too short!

Wow, I thought I was special just because I used a small "v" file and cut thumb and index finger serrations in my Newt Livesay Woo neck knife. I am unworthy to be around you guys.

Note to self: Pick up the snake attachment tomorrow and some assorted grinding stones.
Grrreat advice again! Thank you all!

YeK, I can "see" (or maybe feel) what you mean by your description with no words about holding the thing to be Dremeled correctly. Sometimes it comes intuitively (like some other things in life), sometimes not. And of course practice helps.

Ken, I have a vise, but I cannot attach it to the only place in my home where I don't have to worry about (metal) dust excessively: over the washbasin in the bathroom. And the overheating of the blade (hhsss, said the skin) happened only to my Spyderco LadyBug, so no big deal, luckily. Because of that I understood to take care of the problem when I Dremeled the Trailmaster.

And a Post Scriptum to my previous post. *Of course* the glassfiber reinforced cutting wheel worked like a charm, when I JMarched the half-way detent on my CS folders. Now I'll just have to find some suitable polishing bits. It works already fine, but the action is a bit gritty.


The trick for finishing off the halfway detent is wrapping a peice of 1/8" wood or metal with some sandpaper. works like a charm. I had to open & close the knife under running water to work out all of the grit that was in the action.