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Tag Archives | Ray Laconico

The Nightwatch 5.0 – Vagnino/Laconico Mid-Tech Collaboration Knife

I have owned and used several knives from Ray Laconico over the years. Ray has recently begun to collaborate with talented ABS Master Smith Mike Vagnino. One of the first fruits of this collaboration is the mid-tech Nightwatch 5.0.

The Nightwatch 5.0 features a 5″ blade ground from 3/16″ thick D2 steel. It has a symmetrical full tang handle with a full integral guard. The clip point blade features a 3/4 length false edge. Other features like hollow tubing handle rivets, micarta handle slabs, and generous lanyard hole round out this versatile design.

If you are interested in more information, you can visit Ray and Mike’s forum on BladeForums.com.

Ray Laconico Now Making Locking Folders

Ray Laconico has been making some of the hardest working fixed blade knives around for years. He has also dabbled in slip joint folding knives. Recently, as he stated in his interview here on Jerking the Trigger, he has been concentrating on locking folders.

This is great news for those who love the performance and character of carbon steel and like locking folders because Ray has been making liner locks with O1 tool steel blades. Carbon steel locking folders are all but non-existent on today’s knife market so Ray is really filling a niche.

If you are interested in owning one of Ray’s knives you can contact him through BladeForums.

The Regular Guy Sessions: Knifemaker Ray Laconico

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of interviews with those who are making incredible gear for Regular Guys and Regular Guy pursuits. It is important to support these small business and it is important to know who is behind them. If you can trust the gear maker, you can trust the gear.

Ray Laconico is a good friend of mine and an excellent knife maker. He has been featured in Tactical Knives magazine and is getting to be very well known for his straight forward, modern designs. His knives are not exercises in design only; they are meant to be used. I am honored to have him as my first guest on Jerking The Trigger.

 

 

Old and New Model Explorers

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born on January 25, 1974 on the island of Cebu in the Philippines.  My family moved to the U.S. in 1982.   I’ve been married to my wife for 11 years and I have a 21 year old stepdaughter.  We live in Visalia, CA along with our dog “Bear”.  I’m a full time knife maker and I work out of my home garage.   I have a very minimal shop with no more than about $3,000 worth in equipment.

What did you do before you started making knives?

I’ve been an artist all my life.  I used to draw and paint landscapes, portraits, people, wildlife and just about everything else. I was always good at it but I could never fit in with the “artist” crowd. My first real job after high school was at a big law firm in downtown Los Angeles.  The job was so “not for me” that we moved to Visalia in 2001 to escape with no real plans and ended up starting a cleaning business.  Meanwhile, I’ve always been interested in making knives so I made them as a hobby in my free time.

Why did you start making knives?

I’ve been interested in knives ever since I can remember as a kid.  When I was old enough to buy knives, I started collecting them.  As we all know, it can get pretty expensive.  Then I thought, why not try to make knives instead?  I’ve always been good at making things.  I made my first knife around 2001.  I made about 3 or 4 knives per year just to give them away.  I continued to get better skills and better equipment and by 2005, I started selling them.  By the summer of 2006, I was a full time maker.

 

 

Lightweight Camper/Hiker (My first knife from Ray)

 

Many knife makers are also knife users. I know you really enjoy the outdoors. What or who are your influences as a knife maker?

I have to admit, as a kid, I got interested in knives after the Rambo movies!  Later it was Crocodile Dundee!   As an adult and in knife making, my first influence is probably seeing the works of some of the ABS makers and their big bowies.  In the last 2 or 3 years, my influences have been the wilderness and survival guys who have turned my style into the simple and practical user knives that I’ve done.  In the past couple of months however, I’ve been really influenced by my first and only real teacher and mentor, ABS Mastersmith Mike Vagnino.  He has turned me yet into another new direction; slipjoint folders and hopefully liner locks next!

How much influence do your customers/users have on your work?

During the last 3 years or so, almost everything I’ve done is because of my customers.  If I’m not doing a custom order, I’m doing what I think my customers would want to buy.  Once in a while, I’ll do a customer’s design that turns out to be a hit and end up doing a whole bunch of orders of that knife.  The HWK was my all time biggest seller.  I made so many of that knife that I got sick of it!   My target crowd was always the outdoorsmen who want a nice usable and practical cutting tool – a tool that will cut well and still look and feel good.  Once in a while, I’ll do something different like a bowie or fighter but it’s not very often.

 

 

HWK and HWK+

 

Your designs are always so crisp and modern. The designs seem so simple, but I know that the simplest designs often take the most work to perfect. Can you talk us through how you design a knife?

I usually just keep in mind what I think will cut well and be nice to hold.  If you get those two things you’ll always end up with a simple, yet good looking design.  I truly believe that simple designs are the ones that work the best as a tool.  Edge geometry is also VERY important.

You are known for your incredible precision, fit, and finish. What drives you to achieve that level of quality and are you actually a knife making robot?

As a former knife collector, I would always look at the fit and finish of the knives that I buy.  I always sought after knives that were well crafted.  Even if it’s just a user I still wanted it to be close to perfect (a perfect knife does not exist).   I guess I just want to make a knife that I would be happy to receive if I was the one buying it.  I also price my knives accordingly.  I ask myself, “Would I be happy if I paid this much for this knife?” As for being a robot, the answer is no.  I am not a robot.  I am actually a cyborg.  I am living and breathing flesh but some parts of me are mechanical where they are needed for precision work.

 

 

Nessmuk

 

Do you take more pride when your knives are used or when they are collected?

Definitely when they are used.  However, many of my customers are collectors who also use their knives.  I don’t think very many of my knives are sitting on display.  Maybe some of my earlier works are but I think most of my knives are going to collectors who use their knives.

You are typically known for your fixed blades. Lately, you have been making several slip joint folding knives. What sort of folders can we expect to see coming from you in the future?

Yes, I’ve been known pretty much solely for my fixed blades but I think I’m going in the direction of folders from this point of my career.  I’m going to be making a liner lock hopefully later this year.  I want to take myself to the next level.  I want to be a better knife maker by gaining more skills and knowledge.

 

 

Compact EDC

 

If you could have a knife from any knife maker throughout history, who would it be?

This is something that I probably have to spend more time thinking about but right now, the knives that come to mind are an original Jimmy Lile “First Blood” knife or maybe the big knife that was carried by Jim Bowie.

What is the best way for someone who is interested in owning one of your knives to get their hands on one?

Because I want to develop my skills in making folders, I’m not taking orders for now but I’m sure I will in the near future.  Meanwhile, I should have some knives for sale every now and then in the for sale forum on Bladeforums.  Also, my knives often pop up for sale second hand on Bladeforums.

 

Bushcrafter

 

 

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Coming Soon: An Interview With Ray Laconico

I appreciate the people who make the great gear that fuels our pursuits, whether those pursuits are woodland survival, shooting, self defense, or EDC. I believe it is incredibly important to support these small business owners and operators when ever possible. I hope to bring you interviews that give you insight into the lives, influences, and backgrounds of these people so that you can make informed decisions on the gear you plan to buy. If you can trust the person making the gear, you can trust the gear.

I will be posting an interview with knife maker Ray Laconico some time this week. Ray is a good friend of mine and a very well known knife maker in wilderness survival circles. I am honored to have him as the first interview in what will hopefully become a valuable series of interviews.

Evolution of a Knife Design

A few years ago Ray Laconico introduced a knife design called the “Explorer” and it was immediately successful. I believe it was one off the first “patterns” that Ray offered consistently. Ray introduced the knife in this BladeForums thread.

This will not be a true review but rather a window in the processes that a knife maker goes through to improve a product. I find it pretty fascinating. The mark of a good knife maker is a continual drive to improve designs based on feedback from users and their own experiences.

Stats
Ray is a true custom maker so the dimensions can vary by customer request. However, his pattern knives like the Explorer tend to be similar from knife to knife. The Explorer features a blade that is 5 1/2″ from tip the scale. Overall length is about 10 1/2″. It is made from 1/4″ thick 5160 steel and wears black micarta slab handles.

The Same but Different

The Explorer’s striking looks come from it’s angular handle and tall, slightly drop point blade (or recurve on the original) with some extreme belly near the tip. This nearly straight spine blade profile and distal taper give the knife a very fine point. None of the recognizable features of the original have changed. All of the usefulness and quality of the original is built right into the newest iteration.

The butt of the knife has been made more perpendicular to the spine. This makes the knife more useful as an improvised hammer.

The slightly thicker handle slabs are now more contoured. This gives the very angular looking grip a more organic feel in the hand. The grip on the original Explorer was excellent but this new one will blow you away. You will also find that the new grip is slightly taller and more hand filling.

Ray also changed the design off the guard to be smaller and less obtrusive. The original guard on my Explorer used to rub my knuckle a bit until I broke its edges with some wet-dry sand paper. The new guard is hardly noticeable while still being very effective. If you like a guard on your knives, you will like this one.

My favorite modification of the design is that Ray moved the edge MUCH closer to the handle. This allows for much more powerful cuts while doing tasks like notching and whittling.

The Laconico Explorer is a fine knife for those who favor a larger and thicker knife. There is not much penalty in cutting performance from the thicker stock thanks to Ray’s tall flat grinds and polished convex edge. This knife will shave hair easily and push cut newsprint. Thanks to its thick spine and differentially tempered 5160 steel and can take a serious beating. I tend to favor thinner knives but I do appreciate having thicker ones at times – especially they cut as well as this one.

Overall, the new Explorer is a worthy successor to the original.

The Laconico HWK+ – the HWK but Bigger!

Below is a review that I wrote a while ago regarding the HWK+. Like the HWK, it was made by Ray Laconico and designed with my input. It is no longer being made but can occasionally be found on the secondary market.

The Laconico HWK+
The HWK+ (bottom) with the original HWK (top).

I could not have been more pleased with how the original Laconico HWK (Hazard Woods Knife) turned out. It is proving to be a great all-round tool that I am more than proud to have my name on. In fact, it went so well that I immediately thought it would make a great larger knife as well.

HWK+ Stats:
3/16″ thick O1 steel
Ray’s typical tall flat grinds with polished convex edge
5″ blade
10″ overall
Green G-10 handle slabs


The HWK+ with Victorinox Farmer and Original HWK for scale.

Getting it Dirty
I removed the HWK+ from the package and, as is my custom, began to cut up the wrapping materials that it came in to test the edge. This knife came from Ray shaving sharp, as usual. There is something satisfying about a knife that can easily push cut the newsprint in which it was packed!


The HWK+ has a thick spine and nicely contoured handle.

The HWK+ has a phenomenal handle. It is very hand filling and has excellent contours. It promotes a very secure grip without forcing the hand into any one grip. The green G-10 handle material has a very cool translucent quality to it that makes this knife very attractive.

The blade shape is designed for versatility, just like its smaller sibling. There is plenty of belly, a large section of straight edge close to the grip for cuts that need leverage, and a point that is dropped to be inline with the handle for drilling. Ray does a great job of creating a tip that is fine enough to cut very well without being prone to breakage.


Fine curls are no problem for HWK+ in spite of its thickness.

The next test for the knife was some fire prep. Shaving “feather sticks” can be a test of a knife’s sharpness and edge geometry. Even though the HWK+ is 3/16″ thick at the spine, Ray’s use of tall flat grinds yield excellent edge geometry. The HWK+ is capable of very fine curls.


Deep, precise notching? No problem!

Another test of geometry is how well a knife performs at notching. This is a difficult task for thick knives but the HWK+ holds its own. It simply can’t bite as deep as thinner knives. However, by using a stop cut and then working the notch deeper one slice at a time, you can achieve very precise notches.

The HWK+ has all of the makings of a versatile and dependable woods companion. It would be at home on the belt of anyone who loves time spent in the outdoors whether they are a hunter or a hiker. The HWK+ would even make a fine knife for a soldier.

Matt Hazard

The Laconico Hazard Woods Knife (HWK)

Below is a previously written review of a knife that I designed with Ray Laconico. It was successful enough that Ray got tired of making it. They can still be found occasionally on the secondary market on places like BladeForums.

The Laconico HWK

This afternoon I received a package from Ray Laconico. Inside was the newly christened “HWK” or (Hawk or Hazard Woods Knife). This is a design modification that I requested from Ray after seeing his Hiker’s Utility Knife. I requested that the point be dropped a bit (closer to a spear point) for drilling. I also requested new handle materials and pins. The intent was to make a “bushcrafter” that still looked, felt, and cut like a Laconico.

Stats
This knife is crafted from 1/8″ thick O1 steel. The blade is 3 3/4″ long from tip to scales and the knife is 8 1/4″ in overall length. The handle slabs are black linen micarta with a slight palm swell at the middle.

The Reveal
As soon as I got home from the office I cut open the box from Ray with my trusty Endura. I found a well packed bundle of newspaper inside. Once I unraveled miles of newspaper I was left with the HWK in its sheath.

The sheath is exactly was I hoped. I asked Ray to make it so that it sat a little lower on the belt so Ray included a drop loop that holds the knife lower and slightly away from the belt. It is very comfortable and out of the way of my pack’s waist belt. Ray molded this sheath from two pieces of kydex. It has generous thumb ramps to aid the user is drawing the knife.

Getting it Dirty
I took the HWK out to the creek on our wooded lot and set about putting it through its paces. The first thing I did was test the spine on a fire steel. I was rewarded with a huge shower of sparks. Ray does a great job of squaring the spines on his knives and the O1 steel can really throw sparks.

Next I set about prepping some tinder. The fine polished convex edge made short work of the jute twine. The belly of the knife made rocking cuts in the balled up twine a cinch. I also tested the spine and edge on fatwood. The HWK’s squared spine made achieving very fine curls of fatwood easy and the acute edge sliced larger curls with ease.

Next I tried my hand at some notching. For notching wood, it is hard to beat a scandi grind. However, with the excellent geometry that Ray graces his knives with notching is no problem at all. Ray typically uses a full height flat grind and a polished convex edge. This gives even his thickest knives keen edges.

After the notching and tinder prep, I wanted to see how the edge was holding up so it was time for a few fuzz sticks. I am happy to report that the HWK is very capable of marginal fuzz sticks (probably had something to do with the user)!

Finally, I went to the wood pile and selected a lovely section of sycamore that has been seasoning for just short of two years. The HWK was able to baton through it, though somewhat slowly. I sectioned the log into 4 smaller sections and then split off some kindling. When I was done, the edge would still scrape hair off my arm.

Clean Up
The sheath was full of dirt, shavings, and other assorted grime after the short workout. I simply rinsed it out with water and set it up to dry. The HWK it self came back to shaving sharp with a few licks on the strop.

Conclusion
The HWK, so far, has shown itself to be up to a variety off tasks. One short afternoon of testing is hardly enough to show this knife’s true colors but so far it has been up to whatever I have asked. I will continue testing and report back. I want to see how this does in the kitchen and I imagine that this design should be pretty handy dressing deer (if I can manage to get one this season). Ray makes a fine knife at a fair price – what more could you ask? Overall, I am very proud to have my name on this one.

Matt Hazard

Update: I have owned this knife now for about 2 years. I am happy to report that it is still going strong though it looks much more used. The best way to contact Ray Laconico is to send him a message on BladeForums.

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