A Custom Balisong by Pabu Knife

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Presenting another wonderful Pabu Custom Balisong

What a wonderful Bowie blade. The Damascus steel is by Devin Thomas of Panaca, Nevada who is one of the acknowledged masters of Damascus steel. Damascus steel is made from two (or more) different alloys of steel. The pattern is actually part of the metal. It's not painted on or some sort of surface finish.

Typically, one alloy is a high-carbon steel and the other is a high-nickel steel. There are a lot of ways to make Damascus. A simple technique is to start with sheets of the two alloys, stack them up, heat that up in a forge or furnace, and then pound the hot sheets together. Very often, this "sandwich" is then folded and the heating/pounding process is repeated. The result is many alternating layers of the two types of steel which are wielded together without being mixed. On most raw Damascus steel, the pattern is barely visible. To really bring out the pattern, the finished piece is etched typically in a mild acid solution (some makers literally use lemon juice). Such an etching bath causes the high-carbon steel to turn dark gray to even black, but it causes the high-nickel steel to become bright silver to even white. The steel alloys to make the Damascus material and the etching process used to finish it determine just how dramatic the contrast is. If the etched surface is damaged, the contrast can be lost. But, it can be quickly restored by re-etching.

There's a lot explanations around about the benefits or purposes of Damascus steel. There's probably some truth to a lot of them. But, if the truth be known, most modern Damascus is for decorative purposes. Oh, depending on the alloys used, modern Damascus steels can make excellent, sharp, strong, fully-functional knife blades. But, in just about all cases, the reason knife collectors pay extra for Damascus steel is that we like the look of it. And Devin Thomas makes some of the best-looking Damascus steel there is.

Mr. Thomas is also just a great guy. If you get a chance to meet him at a knife show or something, do. He particularly likes to see the knives that get made from his steel, so bring something to show him. By the way, Devin has ten brothers. That's amazing in-and-of itself. But it gets better: Devin is an Eagle Scout... and so are all ten of his brothers! Eleven Eagle Scouts in one Family! It's the world's record.

Pabu has been using Devin Thomas Damascus steel and Mokume-Gane in some of their finest knives for years now and a special relationship has developed between Thomas and Pabu.

This blade features the Pabu Tang Stamp on the front and this unique maker's mark on the back.

Notice, please, that both parts of the Chicago-Screw-style pivot pins are Pabu-Made of Devin Thomas Damascus steel. Who makes their own screws? Pabu does! In fact, the only parts of this knife which are not scratch-made are the four phosphor-bronze washers and the small spring in the latch mechanism.

The eight inserts are solid Abalone shell also known as Paua. Unfortunately, large pieces of high-quality solid Abalone shell have become quite rare. Abalone, like its close cousin Mother of Pearl, is very difficult to work. It chips and cracks very easily. But, working both Mother of Pearl and Abalone are specialties of Pabu and they have special connections to some of the best materials available.

Finished Abalone is quite harmless. But, there is a myth that Abalone and Mother of Pearl dusts from cutting and grinding operations are poisonous. The dust is not poisonous, but it is quite irritating. Some people are more sensitive to it than others. Some knife makers simply refuse to work with it at all.

Personally, I find Mother of Pearl and especially Abalone to be some of the most beautiful natural materials. Another nice characteristic of both Abalone and Mother of Pearl is that they are absolutely dimensionally stable. They do not expand and contract with temperature and humidity nor do they shrink with age as so many other natural materials do. As a result, the perfectly-fitted inserts you see in this knife will remain perfectly-fitted forever. Other than protection from physical damage, Mother of Pearl and Abalone require no special care.

The Abalone used in this knife is solid. When you see large pieces of Abalone these days, it's often what is called, "reconstructed Abalone." Reconstructed Abalone is made, literally, by gluing together smaller pieces. It can be very pretty. However, because of its rarity, solid Abalone remains most desired by collectors.

The clip is made from a left-over scrap of Devin Thomas tri-color, raindrop pattern Mokume-Gane. As Damascus steel, the patterning of Mokume-Gane is part of the metal; it goes all the way through. As with Damascus steel, the colors in Mokume-Gane come from the different alloys that make it up. However, the process to make it is much different. It's also a very difficult process. There aren't many Mokume-Gane makers out there and Devin Thomas is unquestionably one of the best. I'm glad that this material got used because it would be a crying shame to throw away even a tiny piece of this extraordinary stuff.

The latch a Pabu-exclusive L-Latch. The L-Latch design permits the longest possible blade for the handle length. The latch has a detent and spring mechanism that holds it straight out when open so that the latch will not interfere with manipulation.

Notice that the latch is more of the same Damascus steel. Notice also the nice bits of extra filework on the clip.

Length overall open: 10 inches (25.4cm)
Length closed: 5.4 inches (13.7cm)
Blade stock: 3/16 inch (4.8mm)
Weight: 9 ounces (255g)

Pabu Knife is a family operation based in Portland, Oregon. While balisongs are a Pabu specialty, they offer fixed-blade knives and other edged weapons especially in the traditional Filipino- and Moro-styles. They offer conventional folding knives and a variety of other types of knives. Pabu custom balisongs begin at about $350. A knife of the sort shown in this exhibit is about $1900; the exotic materials really run the price up. But, between the beautifully patterned Abalone, the wonderful Damascus Steel, and the rare tri-color Mokume-Gane, it's worth it. Balisongs are, in general, exotic knives... and this one is certain one of the most exotic out there.

Pabu does not have a website of their own. They have asked me to handle initial inquiries about Pabu knives for them. If you're interested in commissioning a Pabu knife, please e-mail me and we can get started. You will end up working directly with Pabu to finalize all the details.

Contact The Balisong Collector Himself to begin ordering your own Pabu

Look at more Pabu Custom Balisongs in Gallery D

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