1st Knives For Sale! SN0008-SN0012 Background & Details

More in-depth discussion on our inaugural product, the Drengr Folding Knife. Design goals, challenges, insight into what goes into making it.
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Aett Armorers-Chris
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1st Knives For Sale! SN0008-SN0012 Background & Details

Post by Aett Armorers-Chris » Wed Feb 05, 2020 8:32 pm

Very challenging journey to get to this point...

The entire time working on this project I never had a doubt we’d make the knife. Which is kind of funny looking back because it is way beyond what I was capable of making at that time!

The Fieldstrip feature I’m absolutely blown away by, turned out to be every bit of what I hoped for. I was originally concerned about giving up some strength on the knife in exchange for fieldstripping but incorporating an integral backstrap actually made the knife stronger. I can’t even count the hours put into this feature alone. It was originally undertaken just to conceal the pivot pin from the outside, but turned in to so much more.

First prototype getting machined in aluminum:
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I have been carrying and using various prototypes for over a year and using SN0001 for about 8 months. I abuse the prototypes, use them as choppers, spine wack them, toss them like throwing knives, whatever… I did design these to take abuse so I want to see what they can take even though I doubt anyone will use them that way. That will probably be its own thread and story for a different day.
As far as the build project goes, there is no way I could have achieved this, at this level of quality, without the aid of CAD/CAM/CNC machining. My choice to be patient and learn CAD/CAM/CNC wasn’t about making it easier, it was about making it possible in the first place.


Changes From Original Design:

Prototype With Scale Posts
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Originally, the scales were designed to snap onto posts on the frames (see CAD Animation Video) and held in place by steel snap rings. This worked too well… I could not remove the scales without destroying them, making scale replacement an ordeal. A major design change was decided to rework the frames/scales and create custom screws to retain the scales to the frame. This decision ending up adding over 4 months to the project. I do feel it was worth it to have the patience to wait until we had this resolved. Because of this, we will now offer every knife with 2 sets of scales included as standard (something I don’t think anyone else does) to take advantage of this feature.

Takedown Pin
Originally, I designed a simple push pin to release the frames and fieldstrip the knife. 2 people pointed out that it didn’t truly takedown without tools if you needed something to depress that small pin. True, true… I grumbled. I redesigned it to take a rotating pin which you depress slightly and rotate to make clearance for the frames to come apart. I’m pretty happy with this upgrade as it a bit reminiscent of a safety on a firearm with a red dot indicating frames are unlocked.

Machining Refinements
Back when doing prototypes in aluminum, it took 7 hours to machine a complete knife. When we did the CAD Animation Video, I thought that was a long time… Switching to titanium and stainless steel as well as refining speeds and feeds to improve finish pushed machining time up to 15 hours. The additional set of scales adds another 2 hours for a total of 17 hours machining for each knife. Most of the machining refinements where tailored to increases in accuracy and consistency. I’m sure over time that we can get our machining more efficient but with all the small cutting tools required to get fine details I don’t see huge reductions. We are basically taking two 5” X 1 ½” X ½” blocks of titanium and machining away close to 50% of them to get the frames. Smallest tool used is a 1 mm diameter (a little over 1/32”) mill bit. This design requires extensive machining and that just won’t go away. Even if we make equipment upgrades, you can only push small bits so fast.

Materials Notes:
I’ve gotten comfortable machining with Titanium, stainless and the scale materials we offer so far.
We’ll probably roll out a different blade material first with intent to be RWL34 & Damasteel. These steels have similar characteristics to AEBL and I would consider them a high-end upgrade to AEBL. Why do I still prefer AEBL for our standard blade? Tough and friendly for users to resharpen: https://knifesteelnerds.com/2019/03/04/all-about-aeb-l/

For scales we will be sticking with stabilized woods and micarta for a while until we get good testing on any exotics. Different materials expand at different rates during cutting and the scales require a lot of precision to fit well. Each setup to cut a certain material is usually unique to that particular material. Also, we’ve noticed different batches of the same material type expand differently too so it requires a good supplier for each material as well. The scales are CNC milled on the same machine the knife is because a CNC router does not maintain the precision required. Even with that, we still have to hand fit them to the frames then finish them.


Our journey continues.
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While not an easy path, this has been rewarding in many ways. This project has been an opportunity to put out into the world my personal idea of what I wanted in a knife. So many times I've said to myself "I wish it had this or that" or "They should have done this!" and this was my chance to do everything I wanted. It also taught me the hard way exactly why those choices are made. This will never by a highly produced knife, the design is not what someone would do if their primary concern was efficiency in manufacturing. It does, however, live up to exactly what I was hoping for when I set out to do this.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to life.

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Aett Armorers-Chris
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Re: 1st Knives For Sale! SN0008-SN0012 Background & Details

Post by Aett Armorers-Chris » Mon Feb 17, 2020 9:45 pm

Update 1:

After our site and systems where checked and we went live on February 5th we entered the waters by posting on some Facebook groups and worked on getting the word out in general. I'll give you a short run-down of how it has gone so far.

Facebook:
  • I optimistically thought posting in a group with 35K members would reach 1/3 of that daily. It is very apparent that is not the case. While the response was wonderfully positive (100% positive), it was much less than what we thought it would be.
  • In general what we are learning is keep posts small and impactful as you'll need to post often with new content.
  • Post early in the day. If the post doesn't get a lot of feedback and likes fairly quickly, it will get buried in the recent posts. You need early good response to put you in top posts and have chance at staying power.
  • NEVER get defensive no mater what is said or what people think! (I learned this by seeing other peoples posts and their responses.)
  • Roll with the punches on social media and learn from your mistakes!
Instagram:
  • Beats me, haven't figured out how to be effective at all on Instagram yet
We also took the knife to a local dealer to discuss them carrying it, how that went:
  • Optimism didn't match reality. February is lousy time of year to entice dealers. Sales are still weak after holidays and they are slowly making their decisions on restocking. The particular dealer we went to is also moving to a new location and did not want to take on new inventory before move. So we will be going again in May/June.
  • "Tactical Knives" are the rave, if you are outside of that niche (like we are) you'll have to be determined and present uniqueness in a crowded market.
  • Some feedback I received from a maker friend is anything over $1000 is a tough market this time of year.
Sales so far:
  • We completed the private sale of SN0007 during this time with very happy buyer.
  • During that sale, a person unknown to us came up and was very interested. He has reserved SN0021 and we will be contacting him when that one is near ready. It also gives us an opportunity to develop our business process on exactly how we handle reserve orders.
  • SN0011 Sold publicly on our website Sunday (2/16)!!! We had tested, tested, tested then... did more testing of our systems but you never really know until the 1st live transaction runs through that things will all work together properly. It does, wonderfully!
  • We have interest on a knife from an international buyer but are not setup to handle international transactions yet. Preferably, we are looking for a dealer with experience in international sales to carry some of our knives. Especially since the aesthetics of our knives seem to have a strong appeal outside the U.S. Definitely an area/issue we need to put some focus on.
  • We have interest from multiple people known to us for some more reserved sales. We don't have an official system set up for this yet so this interest will help develop that.

General Comments:
  • It's not for the faint of heart. It took a lot of determined effort to learn CAD/CAM/Machining, build a shop, make and finish the knife. Enjoyable but tiring to be perfectly honest. As a maker, you come to a point when you have completed your labor of love and feel a very rewarding sense of accomplishment. The truth is, all that work just got you into the ring. Now you are at the start of a 12 round fight for your future.
  • Family, Friends and your Tribe - You just can't do it without them. You really need people who are in your corner and support you.
  • Love what you do, become a student of it and work to be the best you can at it. It is too early for me to say with assurance what our company will become. I know our dreams, goals and determination to get there and we work incredibly hard on everything we can control but the world is a big/complex place and so much is not within our control. As we roll out, the Coronavirus is spreading outside of China and dominating the news. What will ultimately come of it and how it affects peoples lives, the economy, our own lives and company sales is something we just do not know yet. Stay safe out there and watch each others six (backs).

songshun
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Re: 1st Knives For Sale! SN0008-SN0012 Background & Details

Post by songshun » Thu Aug 13, 2020 7:50 am

that is so crazy to done this work. Happy for you.
But could you please tell me what kind of steel material that you use?
As I know, d2 steel plate and 4130 steel plate are good material for it. But the d2 is expensive.

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