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I tend to pay close attention to DiamondBlade Knives because they’re doing something unique, and since knives have been around for 1.4 million years (a flint specimen, found in Spain) and in their modern form, from the time of ancient Egypt, so we’ve had a fair amount of time to work on them, and there’s not a hell of a lot that’s radically new. But DiamondBlades are a distinct step forward.
In 2006, Charles Allen, a former Texas game biologist, current Alaska guide, and founder of Knives of Alaska, came up with something that the world had not yet seen. He adapted a method of welding, which had been developed for joining submarine-hull sections, to knife forging, and the results are unique in the world of knifery.
DiamondBlade starts with a strip of D2 steel—a tool steel that’s widely used for knife blades—and subjects what will be the cutting edge to immense pressure and heat in a process called Friction Forging. In forging, the smaller you get the steel molecules, and the better aligned, the better the edge. Conventional forging operates at the molecular level. Friction Forging works its voodoo down to the atomic level.
Friction Forging produces an edge with a Rockwell hardness of Rc65-69, which is off the charts, because a conventional edge of Rc62 is considered extremely hard. There are knives that are ground as sharp as a DiamondBlade (although not a hell of a lot of them) but the latter will hold that edge practically forever.
I once tried to dull a DiamondBlade edge by cutting a ½-inch-diameter hemp rope into short sections. Because hemp is both extremely tough and highly abrasive, it will sort out an edge very quickly. But my hand gave out long before the knife did. When I finally said the hell with it and went off to find a bucket of icewater for my hand, the knife was still hewing hemp to a fare-thee-well.
I met an elk guide in Utah who used a DiamondBlade all season long without sharpening it, and he was gutting rutting bulls who had been rolling in mud wallows. I have a couple of DiamondBlades that I’ve been using casually for 11 years and have never even touched up.
Normally, if you harden a knife to Rc65-68, it will be so brittle that it’s unusable. However, DiamondBlades are in effect differentially heat-treated. The spines are Rc 38-42 (spring steel is Rc31-52), and the blades are so strong that I once watched Charles Allen lock one in a vise, put a pipe over the tang for leverage, and bend it to 90 degrees. Then he bent it back again. There was a slight jog in the blade where it had bent, but otherwise it was perfectly usable.
There are 20 DiamondBlade models: hunters and skinners, folders and tactical knives, plain and fancy. The newest one is the Surge, a 4-inch fixed-blade drop-point with a narrow, pointy blade, and a wonderful big handle. If you have a massive mitt, here’s your knife.
There are five handle options for the Surge, ranging from checkered rubber to plain black micarta or plain and virtually indestructible G-10 to exotic and attractive ram’s horn, which you better be careful with. If it were up to me, I would go with the presentation-grade desert ironwood, which will stand up to anything, and is wonderful to look upon.
And a word about care. D2 is reasonably stain and rust resistant because it’s a 12 percent chrome alloy. The edge, however, is 16 percent chrome (which is considered stainless) because the forging raises the chrome content. This means that the rest of the blade can still rust if you abuse it. Store the knife out of its sheath and coat the blade with Break-Free CLP, or Renaissance Wax.
And: Charles Allen is running a contest whose prize is a brown bear or moose hunt in the last week of September. The reason I mention it is because I took the moose version in 2006, and of it I can say this: In 50 years of big-game hunting, all my hunts run together in my memory except a very few, and this is one of them. I can play it in my mind like a movie, from the moment I got off the plane in Cordova to the evening when I got back to Anchorage and strolled the sidewalks, which were concrete, for the sheer pleasure of treading on something that was solid.
It was a difficult hunt, but it was the experience of a lifetime. I didn’t get a moose until the last day. The only break I caught was with the weather, which was beautiful all the time, which is unheard-of for Alaska.
You can get the details by going to HUNTDBK.COM. The winner will be announced on July 15th. If you win, you had best be in shape.