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Soldier Steel Mk 2: The Dispos-A-Bowie


James Helm
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So apparantly the U.S. Army's current policy for soldiers in Afghanistan is that they can take bladed implements over there, but they can't bring them back. Down to and including the multitools that they're issued.

 

The soldier that ordered the two knives from me wasn't much more disappointed than I was to find out that he would have to leave his nice custom knife behind if he took it in theater. So I ended up making him a third knife, one that is much rougher in fit and finish but as functional as the more nicely finished ones, one that he won't have to worry about scratching the finish on. At the end of his tour, if he can somehow get it back to the States, well and good, and if not, he has his nice knife waiting for him when he gets home.

 

The blade is forged from the same 5160 spring steel that the nice knives are. I didn't try to make it the same exact profile to the other two, just forged and ground what was natural. It came out pretty close. The edge and false edge are rough ground with an 80 grit belt, then draw filed the rest of the way. The blade is left forge finished, soaked in vinegar overnight to eat the scale off. The blade received the same three fold heat treatment and selective tempering process that the two nicer ones did.

 

disposabowie1.jpg

 

The handle is made out of well-seasoned blackjack oak from my family's Texan farm that has been darkened with black leather dye. The guard is a piece of flattened out railroad spike. The tang is a through tang, going all the way through the buttcap (made from the head of the railroad spike) and peined over, forming essentially a long rivet. Since fit and finish weren't considerations, I saved time by putting a layer of leather between the guard, handle, and buttcap to take up the unevenness. This shot comparing it with my Ka-Bar was taken before some more work was done on the guard and handle.

 

disposabowie7.jpg

 

The blade is the same length as the Ka-Bar (7"), but beefier. It's much thicker than the two nicely finished knives, which are light and will be quick in the hand. In comparison with my Ka-Bar, it feels more comfortable, has more of a mechanical lock in the hand, has a much more substantial guard, and has better weight and handle characteristics for chopping. In spite of the weight, it is nicely balanced at the guard, keeping it lively in the hand. The half-shaved, dirty gorilla paw with the partially healed burns is mine. :D

 

disposabowie10.jpg

 

The buttcap/pommel was added to the design as a means of reinforcing the wooden handle. It's the first one I've ever tried. As far as ease of manufature goes, I don't care for it, but that was a secondary concern with this knife. I don't care for "skullcrusher" pommels, or the notion of using a knife's buttcap to hammer with, but I have to say that I keep thinking about what this would do against an attacker's jaw or skull, and it ain't pretty. Cave it right it.

 

disposabowie8.jpg

 

I sharpened it last night and chopped through a seasoned oak branch about two and a half inches thick twice, not bothering to avoid the knots. It wasn't as sharp when I finished, but it was still a good working edge. No nicks.

 

After working the guard and handle a bit more today (mostly the guard), here's how it stands. The handle is sanded to 100 grit, everything else is 80.

 

disposabowie11.jpg

 

disposabowie9.jpg

 

In summary, it's not what I would want representing my skill in knife aesthetics, but it is what I would want representing my skill in knife functionality. It's a disposable knife that I finished as quickly as I could. But it feels great in my hand and withstands hard use.

 

I'll be building a Kydex sheath for it tomorrow, taking final pics, and mailing it. He's moving out at the end of the month, so not much time for it to get to him up in Alaska.

 

If anyone out there knows for sure why this is current Army policy, would you please let me know?

James Helm - Helm Enterprises, Forging Division

 

Come see me at the Blade Show! Table 26R.

 

Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

 

My blog dedicated to the metalwork I make and sell: http://helmforge.blogspot.com/

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That's a big disappointment about the other blades, but on the other hand you've knocked out a hell of a workhorse. With that forge finish and the spike head cap it just looks mean, a knife made to be dirty and get the job done. I like the temper color coming up from the guard too.

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Well that kinda sucks, ask them if they can ship them home, I mean there usually are post offices on the larger bases and sneak them through that way. Most soldiers if they are resourceful can get something home. We had a guy on post here find one of Saddams Chrome plated AK's in a storage locker and took it home. Then turn it in to Lakewood PD for SOME unknown reason.

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just use common sense.......dude your boned

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Thats sorta what happened to the custom weapons when we first got into Iraq, a friend who was in the mp's was showing us all his personal pictures of the confiscated weapons from his palaces and, he told me the higher ups came along and took the ones they wanted and the rest were shipped out not to be seen again. Just goes to show yer ordinary soldier cant have anything nice.

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just use common sense.......dude your boned

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Well that sucks, man! I had no idea they weren't allowed to bring them home--I would imagine they could get it shipped home through DHL or some other such international courier, though. Still this one is pretty hardcore. What are you planning on doing with the other two?

 

~Noah

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Noah - The other two knives are still his, paid for in full for everything except shipping. I'll get them finished out and then mail them to his sister to await his return. I just ended up making him a thrid knife in addition to the nicer ones.

 

I got the sheath finished and the knife, sheath, TekLok (they had come in), some extra Kydex, and four Chicago screws mailed to Alaska. The man at the post office says they're guaranteed to be up there by 3:30 on Friday. He will be shipped out to Afghanistan by Monday.

 

I realized as I was making it that I had no idea how high the sheath needed to ride on the soldier's belt or whether he would need to attach it to his LBE somewhere else. So, I sent the extra Kydex for him to make the attachment frog how he needs it. Cut to size (I use tinsnips on it), drill the holes to attach the TekLok on one end and the sheath on the other, and screw it all together. I sent enough Kydex that he can build several different attachment frogs as needed, if he decides he needs to change up where he has the knife. In addition, the eyes of the rivets/grommets should be large enough to run paracord through, and I milled some slots large enough to allow it to be strapped with 1" webbing.

 

I re-sharpened the blade to shaving sharp, spread 3-In-1 oil on the blade and then wiped off the excess, and gave the handle two more coats of Danish oil before packing it away.

 

disposabowie12.jpg

 

disposabowie14.jpg

 

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James Helm - Helm Enterprises, Forging Division

 

Come see me at the Blade Show! Table 26R.

 

Proud to be a Neo-Tribal Metalsmith scavenging the wreckage of civilization.

 

My blog dedicated to the metalwork I make and sell: http://helmforge.blogspot.com/

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I made one as a gift for a soldier a couple of years ago. As I understood it, there was a problem sending the knife to him because Iraqi customs would confiscate it, but I never heard anything about him not being able to bring it back. I had to wait until he was home on leave from his second tour to send it to him. Maybe there's a difference in the Iraq theater as opposed to Afghanistan for some reason?

 

It's a real shame if he can't get it home. You have created a family heirloom that would go right along with great, great grandaddy's Civil War saber, Grandpa's bayonet and Dad's Randall knife. I really hope he can find a way to get that back with him. It's cool that you did this for him. Those guys need all of the comfort they can get. If your knife makes one guy feel that much safer in an otherwise bad situation, you've done well. Good on you, sir!

Hammering away at reality.

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