Dirty Bird Knives was formed in the summer of 2016 in Albuquerque, New Mexico by best friends and founders, John Orr and Luke Fraser. Both of us have always had a passion for working with our hands, primarily with wood and metal. Knife making for us combined our love of handcrafting pieces of art and creating hard use tools you could depend on whenever or wherever you need it. Through our experiences as blue collar workers and our service in the military, we have developed a tremendous appreciation for well made tools that perform time after time, and that is the standard we maintain when making our knives. We are part-time makers with full time jobs, families, and a dream to turn our little operation in to a full-time reality. We are very humbled and extremely grateful for all the support and love we have received from our local community, the knife community, our families, and everyone who has ever bought our knives or simply follows us on social media.
Aside from our production run collaborations and water jetting our staple models, every process at Dirty Bird Knives is done in house and by hand. Each blade is hand ground, heat treated, cryogenic treated, tempered, and tested for correct Rockwell hardness.
The first step for a DBK knife starts with profiling whether it is a water jet blank or cut from flat stock. Each model is ground to correct size from the hand sketched design which is duplicated in CAD to provide consistent size and profile every time. From there they are surface ground to make the blades perfectly flat. After the blank is flat, the handle hardware and or weight reduction holes are drilled, reamed, and chamfered.
Now the blade is ready for pre-heat treat grinds. The primary bevels are ground to approximately .020″ to .030″ to prevent warping during the heat treat process and to allow for post- heat treat clean up grinds at higher belt grits.
Now the blades steel is brought to full potential during the heat treat process. In order to create an oxygen free environment for the stainless steel to reach full potential, the knives are placed in a heavy duty, stainless steel envelope along with combustible material. When the combustible material is burned away, it creates a vacuum seal and rids the envelope of oxygen. The blades are heated in several sequences where they will reach temperatures near 2000 degrees depending on steel type. After soaking at their final temperature, the blades are quenched between two aluminum plates and cooled with compressed air.
Once the blades reach room temperature, they are quickly submerged in liquid nitrogen for a set amount of time to further maximize the steel’s properties. Once the nitrogen bath is complete, the blades return to the oven for 2 separate temper cycles to relax the grain structure and allow for flexibility.
After the 2nd and final temper cycle, the steel should be within perfect specs. Every blade is tested on our Rockwell Hardness tester on the “C” scale. They are tested 3 times in different areas of the blade to ensure accuracy and consistency.
Once the knives pass Rockwell hardness testing, they are ready for post-heat treat clean up. The blades revisit the surface grinder once again to true up the flats and reveal the brilliant steel beneath the oven scorched finish.
Now, the bevels, swedges, and thumb jimping are ready to be cleaned up. Grinds after heat treat are executed very carefully to avoid altering the hardness of the steel.
Now the scales are cut and ground to the profile of the blade.
Once the scales are ground to the profile of the blade, they get rough contoured, where the gross amount of material is removed and the general shape of the scales is developed.
Once the scales are rough contoured, the blade get’s its final finish. Whether it be a satin machine finish at 400 grit or higher, or a nice dark stonewash.
At this stage, the rough contoured scales and the finished blade come together for their final fit and finish. If the knife is getting pins, it is glued up, pins are ground to meet the contour of the scale, and the long process of hand sanding to final finish is done.
Knife scales fastened with removable hardware are also hand sanded to remove any hot spots that may be present. The scales are then bead blasted to give the scales a solid grip, even when wet, while remaining comfortable enough to use bare handed for long periods of time.
Once final fit and finish are complete, the blade gets a kydex sheath formed specifically to that one knife. Once the sheath is formed, the retention and draw tensions are hand tuned for optimum security and usability.
Lastly, the blade is ready for its final phase of the process. The cutting edge is applied using a Wicked Edge at 22 degrees. This angle on the cutting edge has proven to slice like a razor blade but still withstand considerable abuse while chopping or batoning.
The final step for every Dirty Bird Knife is going through a thorough quality inspection to ensure it is worthy of leaving our doors and representing our name in the world as a hard use, quality tool.