KA Custom - Step Milled Benjamin Barker - All Titanium
Dave started exploring all Titanium knife construction back in 2009, learning both the difficulties and solutions involved with creating a cutting tool out of that "wonder material". The popularity of that ambition has ebbed and flowed over the years both with custom makers and production factories as well. The challange has always centered around the inability to heat treat titanium.
Being non-magnetic and totally impervious to corrosion, titanium would seem like a wonder material for knife blades. It's strong, extremely lightweight especially considering its strength and shock resistance. However, the inability to heat treat the material means you can get a heck of a sharp edge, but it isn't strong enough to stay around for long. Naturally, titanium has a rockwell hardness of about 27rc. Most blades need to be heat treated above 55rc to really be in the range considered useful. Go much over 60rc and it's tough to put an edge back on because the blade is so hard...go even a bit over that and you create weakness that can result in shattering, etc...
So what's to be done. Ti is Rad, but being soft is BAD. Solution: Make the Titanium the backbone for another material that is already super hard and will stay sharp! Carbide. In a method made popular by Warren Thomas, carbide is essentially electro welded onto the backside of the titanium blade along the cutting edge. And this only works if you then zero or chisel grind back into that surface....but then the actual cutting edge becomes the carbide. A material that is super hard at over 70rc, but too brittle for practial blade use. In this application, both material work together in a symbotic relationship lending eachother their strengths. The Ti being light, strong and flexible while the carbide brings the hardness and long lasting cutting edge to the table.
Ok, enough blathering. Why isn't this done more if it's so cool? Answer, because it's a pain in the ARSE to do well. Hand grinding titanium is a nightmare if you like straight grind lines. It is a material that changes it's composition as it heats, and gives the sensation of being slippery if you allow that to happen. As a result you use twice as many belts and go twice as slow to do the same grind in Ti as you would with steel. SO... you can either suffer that process, or walk a different path and use a totally different method. Enter the Step Milled blade!
The step milled blade not only looks like something Robo Cop would have carried to address his daily stubble, it solves the engineering brief of reducing the titanium down to a thin cutting edge in a clean and efficient manner.
Initially done as an exploration into razor designs, the Barker has taken on all sorts of sizes and shapes over the years. From traditional looking "swing through" style razors, to Butcher inspired blade shapes, and more recently into the gigantic mega razor of the Seeney Todd. (yes the inspiration of all this razoring came from the Musical.... Benjamin Barker was the name of the forlorn character before he lost his Sheet and became the murderous revenge filled Demon Barber of Fleet Street and changed his name to Sweeney Todd), "No doubt the years have changed me sir!"
This particular Barker became an exploration into combining an art deco feel with modern techie materials. That 1920's vibe was further carried into the decorative features of the finish, with the American Arts and Crafts inspired lettering that wraps the back side of the blade up and over the spine. The word "Kingdom" was creative in a negative image by the application of the carbides. Essentially everything that isn't a letter, is carbide coated... which is what creates the actually cutting edge as it's zero ground into. Practical and cool looking for extra bonus points!
A matching frame in 6al4v Ti pinned to a copper backspacer with brass and given a nice two tone satin wire wheel and hand sanded flats finish is clean and simple. The copper gives the blade a safe place to rest, being softer than the cutting edge. Just the tip. (don't even say it!)
All Ti... check.
*A note about carbide and Ti cutting edges. Hair popping sharp, this arrangement has a different feel than most are used to. More "toothy" feeling, think micro serrations. Although a razor in its appearance, this is a utility tool in its soul....and it has a dark heart. Don't put it to your face, it'll bite you. But it will absolutely open your Amazon prime packages this Christmas like a BOSS!
You were warned.
Interesting and effective, this design and construction method also made in all titanium made the cover of Recoil Magazines "Concealment" mag back in 2017. I don't know about shoving this down your pocket and calling it "concealed"... but I have always enjoyed having one on my desk for opening boxes and mail...(Bills, DAMNIT!)
This Barker will ship in a wool felt slip sheath that was handmade by Dave on his properly stickered up West German sewing machine!