March 25, 2017


The spectrum of people who buy knives ranges from glass-case custom knife collectors to nothing-is-sacred-let’s-modify-this-beast users.  I am squarely on the dirty modder end of that spectrum.

Disclaimer: Before going one word further, I want to make this perfectly clear: this is a modification on a personal blade, not for sale.  This is for inspiration only.  The upgrade is clearly inspired by Ernie Emerson’s patented wave opener, and infringing on patents is never cool, even though this may not cross that line.  Patent infringement is especially not cool when it’s a patent owned by someone as clearly cool as Ernie Emerson (watch any video interview with him for all the proof anyone needs of that fact).  Congrats, you’ve been officially disclaimed.

The Spyderco Yojimbo 2 is a hell of a folding knife:

  • The point is pin sharp, and strong.  
  • The blade is ground to Spyderco’s near-surgical sharpness.  Out of the box, it’s in the top 5 sharpest production knives I’ve taken out of boxes… and that’s a lot of points of comparison.
  • The blade shape is funky, but very well suited for making sizable holes in anything that deserves to have sizable holes made in it.  This is one of its primary functions.

But for all the positives, there were some things that prevented me from wanting to regularly carry it:

  • The lock.  While I’m not opposed to lockbacks in general, the forward-mounted lockback bit me every single freakin’ time I opened it using the thumbhole.  Would I bleed out from a pinch?  Nope.  But if you practice drawing and opening a knife 100 times each session there is no productive reason (design-wise) for that annoyance.
  • The thumbhole position.  I have big monkey hands and a long thumb (two, actually).  I know a lot of guys who love Spydercos; they just fit.  Spydercos don’t fit my hands.  It’s just not smooth for me to open the Yojimbo 2 the way it was intended to be opened.  I’m not going to carry something I can’t open quickly and consistently under stress.  Blame this one on my DNA.
  • The pocket clip.  The clip itself is pretty great, well positioned, can be moved and is made of a decently strong metal.  But on a knife that is designed for defense, why is it shiny polished steel?  Easily fixed, but this one had me shaking my head.

Bottom line: great knife that I liked, but wanted to love.  It had a few things I felt needed to be addressed to get there.  If I were a collector, it would probably go into a drawer never to be touched again.  But I’m a modder, so I went to town.  (Literally, since I needed some modding supplies.)

First fix: shiny pocket clip:

There are people out there who have electroplating and anodizing setups, spray booths, and powder coating gear.  I’m not one of them.  I’m just a dirty modder.  

I roughed up the clip with 60 grit sandpaper and cut to shape a piece of 3M stair tread tape.  This is great stuff with tons of uses.  Thoroughly wiping finger oil off the surface of the clip is necessary for good adhesion.  The edges will eventually peel, but one piece of the tread tape is basically a lifetime supply for a few knives.  

You can also use friction tape, but the adhesive is much less secure:

I’ve heard all-black Spyderco Endura / Delica clips can replace the standard clip as well.

Second fix: “waving” the blade:

There are lots of guides and videos for how to “wave” a blade, particularly Spydercos since the thumbhole is a straightforward candidate for reshaping.  This works better on some knives than others, mainly due to the shape of the blade spine and position of the thumbhole.

I sketched out a few potential Dremel cuts (with a cutting disc) that could work, and noticed that they required removing quite a bit of steel.  The Yojimbo 2 doesn’t have a typical Spyderco blade or spine shape.  I settled on making a single cut and making the opening wide enough to act as the pocket catch, rather than cutting all the way into the thumbhole.

It worked pretty well, but I had a few “misfires” right off the bat when drawing from the pocket, so I added a second parallel cut.  A little smoothing and deburring later, and it opens every time… as in, just a handful of failures to open after 1000+ opens.  The edges are all smooth, so it won’t tear a hole in your pocket, and while it looks vicious, it’s rounded to the touch.

Using it:

Consistency is key.  This solution may not work in all circumstances.  The “vicious wave” may not catch well on your pocket if you wear thin dress pants, or if you rotate which pocket you carry it in.  If you carry the Yojimbo 2 in your waistband, it will not open when you draw it (probably a good thing).

Wrap Up / TL:DR

  • Two problems: shiny pocket clip, awkward one-hand opening
  • Two solutions: 3M stair tread tape, two wide Dremel cuts as pocket catches
  • Problems fixed, goals accomplished.  
  • Total cost: up to $12 for a lifetime supply tape if you already have a cutting tool.  
  • Total time: ~45 minutes all in

I hope this gear mod rundown gives you some ideas about what it takes to be a dirty modder… which is not much.  

It can be unnerving to take a shiny, new, expensive piece of gear and change it with no going back if you screw it up.  This is how I determine if it’s worthing modify a piece of gear: If your proposed mod won’t solve a real (not imagined) problem for YOU specifically, don’t do it.  I only make mods to improve functionality, so the payoff of a better functioning tool is the reward of that improvement vs. the risk of ruining something of value.

Do you modify your gear?  What’s your favorite mod you’ve done or seen?

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