Materials & Construction of TBS Knives
TBS Knives have been a phenomenal success and since the very first model was produced each product has just added more versatility to the range. We have always had a mantra of quality and if we wouldn't use it ourselves it doesn't get produced.
It all started as TBS wanted to produce a knife that was made of high quality materials, in Europe by European cutlers with generations of experience that you didn't need to take out a mortgage to own. We pride ourselves on sourcing some of the best materials on the market for manufacturing a TBS Knife. This includes doing everything as ethically as we can.
I know that every aspect of the product in it’s design, construction, material sourcing and even the packaging is done to be as fair to every person in the supply chain as we possibly can. That means that everyone has been paid a fair wage and works in decent conditions in the entire process and thought has gone in to every stage to attempt to ensure that we doing things that come up to my exacting standards.
Each TBS knife model starts with a simple pencil drawing. This is then converted to a CAD diagram and from there, once materials are selected we move onto to prototyping. The prototyping stage is essential simply because it allows me to use, test and, if necessary make any required changes to materials, grind angles, heat treats and handle variants. Once this process is complete we move to full production.
The obvious first question was how do you make such a high quality European Bushcraft Knife for less than £150? Well I found that the answer was relatively easy. If you cut out the middlemen and any famous names taking a hefty commission you can bring the cost of the materials like steel down substantially without compromising any quality as you are simply buying higher quantities of the same material.
A lot of makers producing these silly priced knives are using the same materials but they are buying bar stock steel. Essentially a pre-prepared length of steel that they will cut a blade blank out of. This can be expensive and in some cases very wasteful as there will be more left over steel that has be binned or recycled.
We do it a little differently, I found that if you buy an entire sheet of steel that the Bar stock is cut from you bring the cost of each individual piece down. Of course that means you have to buy enough steel to produce about 500 knives but, if you are planning for the long term, then it works well....
Likewise, when buying other materials like timber, instead of buying from a small dealer in the UK why not go direct to the wood yard in Finland, Spain, Denmark or Turkey and buy in bulk? This allows you to have a great pick of the timber available and we now end up being a timber supplier to other makers as well.
We source our timber handle material from sustainable sources and I know that the trees that are being harvested have been planted 3 or 4 generations ago by the families of the people harvesting them now. We DO NOT use timber from questionable sources and I am afraid it really grinds my gears when there are many companies now producing products that consist of timber from places that they simply cannot prove the provenance on.
I am afraid that if you are buying a knife with Cocobolo, for example, it probably isn’t as ethical as you thought it was. Did you know that about 50% of Cocobolo is now the result of illegal logging? There is more Cocobolo and other timbers like it is on the open market than there was ever a sustainable Government quota for so where did it come from? There are many timbers that appear on expensive hand made products that are from sources that claim to be sustainable and just aren’t….
Hand made today has also become a very subjective term. Sorry guys, but our knives are not beaten out of a single piece of steel on an anvil by an artisanal blacksmith and there are machines involved in many of the processes. These are there to enable a master cutler to produce the best possible product and assist him or her but do not take over their job. The first stage of construction of our knives is about the only part actually done by an automated machine, the knife blank is cut out of a sheet of steel and then placed in another machine that grinds off the scale. From that point on they are bevelled, assembled and finished by a handful of Master Cutlers.
I am afraid I have to laugh a little when I see a “Hand Made” knife being sold for £450 from some well known companies because you are genuinely just paying for a name. It is made in exactly the same way with the same methods, from the same range of materials, using the same machines to grind, bevel and finish them. I know the immediate response to that statement is “Well, he would say that as he is trying to sell us a knife for three hundred quid cheaper!” but the simple fact of the matter is that it is true, and they know it is true………
Of course, other makes probably come in a fancy box that costs £20 to make and this helps create a great aesthetic and image of higher quality upon delivery but it is completely pointless and you are paying for it! I have always believed if you are buying a high quality cutting tool why do you need a fancy box to keep it in? Our knives are packaged in a simple recycled and recyclable cardboard box. The reason? Well, because they are designed to be used not stored in a fancy box in a cupboard and then sold in 5 years time for a profit because you were always afraid to take it out and actually use it because it cost so much money!
Please don’t take it the wrong way, I am not laughing at or trying to belittle anyone or criticise anyone's design or construction methods as they are extremely good knives I am just telling the truth; I don't agree with the price.
I also don't believe in designing a product and then putting a big stars name on it just for the sake of sales. On principle, I will also not pay or sponsor a social media channel to directly criticise any of our competitors. It's not ethical and is just petty, if you believe in your products then stand by them, don't pay some popular channel to attack a competitor.
TBS Knives are currently produced in 3 different steels and with future models we will likely add more steel choices as things progress. All our steels have been selected for their obvious qualities. You can now either have K-720 Carbon Tool Steel, N695 Stainless Steel or N690 Stainless steel.
Bohler K720 High Carbon Tool steel is one of the toughest steels out there and is used widely to make high precision tools that need to stand up to some serious punishment.
Bohler N695 Stainless steel has a high hardness and great wear resistance and is one of Bohlers premium stainless steels. We have decided to make a variant of our knives in this steel as, after quite some testing, we have found that it performs extremely well. It has a higher Carbon content that many other stainless steels which means it holds an edge longer and can be tempered to the same degree as Carbon Steels. This particular steel actually has a higher content than many High Carbon Tool Steels. This makes it perform with pretty much all the benefits of Carbon Steel with the added bonus of great corrosion resistance.
Bohler N690 Stainless Steel is a Martensitic chromium steel with cobalt, molybdenum and vanadium added especially to make hardened cutting tools with excellent edge-holding properties. It was developed for tools and components which can be hardened to very high hardness levels and great corrosion resistance. When fine ground it produces a wickedly sharp edge and will retain that edge far longer than many other steels available on the market today.
Steels have been selected specifically for each knife depending on the environment and intended use and each have their obvious merits.
Once we have perfected the knife we then move onto the next step which is a sheath or pouch to carry it in. We are not in the habit of re-designing the wheel here but we have offered some great variations depending on customer requests and have been extremely happy with our designs and products.
I decided from the very start to offer a modular sheath with the future option of being able to add useful products like a firesteel and sharpening stone to make a truly versatile series of products for a wider audience. This has spurned many different other products and helped form the basis of TBS Leather. TBS Leather now produces over 20 different sheaths, pouches and accessories for carrying any number of useful tools in the field.
All TBS Knives have a lifetime guarantee that covers all aspects of manufacturing, material and construction. The guarantee does not cover abuse, tampering or neglect. Please note that it is a quality cutting tool and, if maintained, will serve you for many years to come. It is not an axe, hammer, throwing knife, pry bar, screwdriver or anything else a knife was not designed for.
In all cases look after your kit and your kit will look after you!
Typical Steel Analysis:
K720 Carbon Tool Steel - Carbon 0.90%, Manganese 2.00%, Chromium 0.35%, Silicon 0.25%, Vanadium 0.10%. (HRC 58)
N690 Stainless Steel - Carbon 1.08%, Molybdenum 1.10%, Chromium 17.30%, Silicon 0.40%, Manganese 0.40%, Vanadium 0.10%, Cobalt 1.5%. (HRC 60)
So good I bought 2.
After quite some deliberation I took the plunge a couple of years back and bought the Boar (fixed blade version) with walnut handle.. Originally I bought the "kit" with dc4 and plastic handle firesteel.
Recently I not only purchased the matching walnut firesteel but I bought a Grizzly with Micarta scales and leather sheath.
I have several artisan made knives but these are just so good I keep wanting another, a boar folder is next on my hit list..
If you're are thinking about a new knife, do yourself a favour, stop looking and just buy one of these, you won't be disappointed..
Almost forgot, service and advice is second to none.
My partner bought me a timber wolf knife a few months ago aside from it being a thing of beauty with its olive wood handle, it's a functional treat!
This has just become my favourite knife! I have had it a couple of weeks now and it performs brilliantly, really sharp straight out of the box and the curly birch handle on mine not only looks good it really fits the hand well. The sheath is good as well as I like to carry a knife along my belt instead of the traditional way as I find it doesn't get in the way as much, especially if you are in and out of your 4x4. Well done lads it is a real asset to the stable and I can't wait for the folding variants to arrive - you'd better put me one by!!
Top piece of kit, I have bought this knife as a real all rounder. It has a great handle shape and is really comfortable to use; the Scandi grind is REALLY sharp and I have found it easy to maintain. I have also used this knife for small game and, being stainless steel and micarta, it is such a bonus as you just run it under the tap, dry it and not worry about. Top job!