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27 July, 2014

Outfitting the Cold Steel Double Agent II for Saltwater Use

Anyone who knows me already knows I'm a die-hard Cold Steel fan.  Yes, there may be better knives out there, but they are likely to cost you 4 times what you'd pay for a very similar blade from CS.  I've had a lot of different knives over the years, having grown up on a farm and carried knives for various tasks my entire life.  All my experience tells me that Cold Steel is the most knife you can get for your dollar.
I have been snorkeling on vacations for a couple years now and we recently moved to a place where I can enjoy this pastime whenever I want.  I did go out and buy a dedicated scuba knife, but it's a little cumbersome for just snorkeling around and the sheath attaches by means of some rather uncomfortable rubber straps which would probably be more comfortable over a wetsuit, which I don't generally use.  This all led me back to Cold Steel, who unfortunately does not produce any kind of dedicated scuba or dive knife.  So now I'm off into the land of custom and modification, trying to figure out how to get a stainless steel knife to hold up in saltwater conditions (not really an easy task, given the highly-corrosive properties of saltwater).

Here's the original:

The following is a breakdown of what I have found so far, and I'm sure this knowledge will be revised and updated much over time.  As always, PLEASE COMMENT if you have something to add, "To Keep and Bear" always welcomes help and diverging opinions.

Salt and Sand, General Info:
1) If you haven't figured this out yet, just leave your folding knife at home.  You don't want sand in there and it's a royal pain to take apart and properly rinse, dry and oil the internal workings of most folders.  Just leave your folder at home or in your car, do not take it to the beach.

2) Any fixed blade knife you get is likely to have a handle.  Handles are not generally designed to be water tight.  Salt water will get inside and stay there, never really drying, and constantly corroding the tang of your knife.  If left this way, one day you will be left with a decent blade and a rusted-off handle.  This is fatal for a knife, there's no real coming back from it.

3) Stainless steel is not ideal for saltwater applications.  For the sake of corrosion resistance, you would really want to use some type of titanium alloy, but these are not common knife making materials, and they are expensive if and when you can find them.  You can make stainless work by taking some precautions, outlined below, but you really need to be meticulous with your care and maintenance.

"So what do I do to keep my knife from hopelessly rusting?  All I want to do is take it out snorkeling or scuba diving, and have a little something to cut myself out if I happen to become entangled in something?"  Well, my answer will depend on the knife you're using, but here's what I did with my Double Agent II:

First, I had to remove the handle, which took quite a bit of work and some nail pullers.  This handle is not meant to come off, so remove at your own personal risk.  Make sure you are well-acquainted with whatever tool you choose to use.

Next, oil the heck out of it, preferably with some good gun oil.

Now you need a handle.  The lanyard hole in this one is the perfect place for me to start, I simply slip a loop through and make a secure knot.

Tightly wrap the handle all the way up.  On this particular model, make sure you only GO THROUGH THE FRONT FINGER LOOP ONCE or your sheath will not close properly.

Then go back a second time over the handle.  About half way down, you should check and make sure the catch on your sheath still engages.  If it doesn't, then undo it some and and do it again, making sure to only go through the front finger loop once.

When you get back to the lanyard loop, just open up your slip knot a little bit, slip your loose end through the loop and then tighten everything back down.  Leave yourself a couple inches hanging off the end, that way if you wrap your handle a little differently next time, you should still have enough para cord to get the job done.

Finally, I took a piece of para cord and added a second drawstring to the waist of my board shorts.  This allows me to have something on my strong side to tie the sheath to.  I have had this rig out to sea about a half dozen times now and the knife still holds.

Now for the maintenance and upkeep part.
When you get home from the sea, take your knife out of the sheath, take the para cord wrap off completely, and rinse everything thoroughly with fresh water: the knife, the cord and don't forget to rinse the sheath, too.

Dry everything off, set the sheath off to one side and let it drip dry overnight.  Heavily oil your knife all over, and hang the para cord wrap somewhere out of the reach of children and pets, as it is a strangulation hazard.  In the morning after everything is dry, just re-wrap your blade, make sure the sheath catch still engages properly, and you're ready to go.  Try to leave as much oil on the knife as you can while you wrap it.  If you do this right, your knife theoretically has much less direct contact with the saltwater as it is encased in a film of oil.  Typically at the end of the day when I unwrap my handle, there is still a good coat of oil on the metal.

So there you have it: the ToKeepAndBear Maritime Double Agent II Modification.  For those interested in purchasing Cold Steel products, I suggest the following sites:

Lastly, I felt like I should add on here that I would recommend the full-serrated version for cutting yourself out of nets and lines or what have you.  I'm using the plain edged version just because I already had one and later adapted it to this use.  If I were doing it over I would definitely get the full-serrated version for this application.

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