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Vaughn Neeley hollow handle knives

Discussion in 'General Knife Discussion' started by Seriousbladeno1, May 26, 2016.

  1. Seriousbladeno1

    Seriousbladeno1

    921
    Sep 11, 2014
    Hello guys

    Any interesting information on maker and these knives? Anybody own these in their collections, or can add photos and make some close description of knives please?

    Thank you all for replies
     
  2. sams

    sams

    Apr 21, 2001
    I have an original, Timberline. I use it and added a compass. It did not come with one. It has the arrow head and fire starter in the back of the sheath. You use the rounded side of the thin arrow for the screw driver to take the handles off. I have seen the Neeley newer shape blade for sale. You can hit google and come up with info.
     
  3. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    Vaughn Neeley and Jim Hardenbrook were the founders of the original Timberline Knives back in the early 80s. Bill Sanders eventually joined the team soon after. Over the years, Timberline won several awards including Blade Magazine's 1983 American Made Knife of the Year Award for the SA hollow handle model. It is the first and only hollow handle knife to ever win a Blade Magazine award, in any category, since they started the awards in 1982. Timberline/Neeley hollow handle knives were/are made with 440C blades, guards, and buttcaps (buttcaps are hardened). They are known for precision in fit and finish and are beautifully crafted in every way.
     
  4. Seriousbladeno1

    Seriousbladeno1

    921
    Sep 11, 2014
    Thanks man, I have just come across few of their pictures - similar to Jimmy Lile, Martin Knives and Brit Guddowski's Black Star knives.

    Knives are quite pricey, but it's clear, these are custom made to very high standards and tolerances. They are beautiful, but rather very rare, even in thread about hollow handles, I seen mostly other makers,never these ones (maybe I failed to notice) Arizona Custom Knives I think have these for sale from time to time
     
  5. Seriousbladeno1

    Seriousbladeno1

    921
    Sep 11, 2014
    Very interesting, thanks. You seem to be well informed about them
     
  6. JB in SC

    JB in SC Gold Member Gold Member

    May 19, 2001
    Vaughn is still making knives (at least in the last couple of years), very competitively priced for customs. Google and you'll find out where you can reach him.
     
  7. The Whip

    The Whip

    575
    Jan 28, 2007

    TAH, you seem to have a good grasp of the makers'/company's history, and I've always been curious about the events that led up to what I perceived as Timberline's downward quality spiral. When the brand was introduced, it was obvious that the knives were handmade, or at least precision-machined. Then they proceeded to introduce some excellent collaborations (e.g., the SPECWAR and the Aviator), as well as a line of innovative, American-made folders (the Timberlites). It wasn't too long after those mid-1990s successes, however, before they had shipped all of their manufacturing to Asia, the quality of their knives became substandard, and the brand became a mere shadow of what it once had been.

    Did Neeley, Hardenbrook, and Sanders stay with Timberline through the transitions? Did Timberline's decline result from GATCO's purchase/partnership?

    -Steve
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2016
  8. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    Steve, I agree with your assessment and progression of Timberline Knives. I'm certainly no expert, but things started to change in the late 80s/early 90s. Below is a little more history on Timberline, but it isn't 100% accurate. Hardenbrook died in 1983 while hunting on horseback. His horse reared and he landed on one of his own arrows. The article makes it sounds as if Timberline split up at the time of Hardenbrook's death, but we know this isn't true. Neeley and Sanders continued to produce knives under the Timbeline name for several years. Eventually, there was a falling out, but I'm not sure if the GATCO purchase was the reason.

    http://knifetalkin.blogspot.com/2015/09/three-knife-men-in-colorado.html
     
  9. Gaston444

    Gaston444

    Oct 1, 2014
    The edge on the SA9 is 0.060" behind the edge. To give a perspective, a typical big Randall will be 1/3rd of that...

    Let's just say this edge is a couple of ticks beyond heavy-duty pry bar level... Even an old thick-edge TOPS knife will be green with envy...

    The Neeley SA's handle is not secured against vibration, so it will come loose rapidly, and start unscrewing itself... On mine this happened in just few chops, in part because of my temporarily losing the buttcap O-ring, and just chopping with the naked buttcap screwed tight: Once loosened, something serious will need to be done to secure the tube handle, as the handle just gets looser and looser: Maybe some kind of thread adhesive will do the trick.

    [​IMG]

    The chopping performance was surprisingly high once the edge was brought down to around 15-17 degrees per side, which for me is very thick, as all my other knives are easier to thin to 12 degrees per side.

    Even at a blunt angle, the amount of metal that has to be removed to get even 30-34 inclusive is extraordinarily high. I did this by hand so there was no temper loss through raised metal temperature: Despite this extra care, the resulting edge had extremely poor edge-holding, and what you see below happened in about 30 chops on Maple: Note the extreme amount of metal that had to be removed to reach even this moderate angle:

    [​IMG]

    The original edge was around 60-70 degrees inclusive, which is close to a 90 degree square corner...: Hardly a knife at all...

    The SA9 was the most finely made knife I have ever seen in terms of symmetry/surface precision. The hollow grind and compound curve plunge line unfortunately make it a very problematic knife to have the blade re-ground thinner into a useable edge, at least not without huge cosmetic changes...

    Handle capacity is large and sheath design excellent.

    Of note is that the Neeley-made Lile designed knives are made with similarly thick 0.060" edges as the SA series, while the original pre-dot Liles ranged from 0.040" on my Sly II to 0.028" on my "Mission".

    0.060" means they are basically intended as wall hangers, but this can't be the intention for the SA series. If the SA were flat ground like the Lile designs, they could be easily fixed by professional sharpeners, but complex hollow grinds like the SAs are much more difficult to thin: All you can easily do is raise an enormous edge bevel to make them marginally useable...

    I find flat ground knives work better with round handles, as they reduce any tendency for the blade to roll while chopping: This is not a huge deal in practical terms, as being careful can prevent rolling, even with a hollow grind, but the tendency is more acute with a narrow blade like on the Neeley SA or Chris Reeve one-piece series...: "Locking" the grip against rolling around an hexagonal shaped guard is also easier than on oval or small guards like the Reeve models...

    Because of the very poor edge-holding, and extremely thick edge, I would not recommend the SA series. But if you come across one that holds it edge, and know a sharpener that can do miracles, and know of a glue or method to secure the handle, they have some nice design features...

    The one hollow handle currently made I would recommend today as useable out of the box would be the Randall Model 18, owing the thin edge and excellent edge holding. But it has poor blade mass and is not what I consider a real "shelter builder": The Randall Model 12/with 14 grind, with a sheath pouch, is a better choice.

    The Liles are the best ones out there, especially with their excellent edge holding, the best design being the "Mission". In addition, they combine correctly flat grinds and hexagonal guards, but the surface finish is slightly uneven, and they could use a re-grind to improve their surfaces, if only cosmetically...

    The Parrish is probably one of the better ones out there, but is a bit small to chop.

    My favourites are the Colin Cox models for their thin edges, but they have oddball shapes (the "sawback" being quite useful, but only to chop through knots!). Voorhis makes some very strong models, very similar to Liles, but they are in 5160 Carbon, and have poor sheaths.

    Gaston
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
  10. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    Here we go again. :rolleyes:
     
  11. The Whip

    The Whip

    575
    Jan 28, 2007
    Thanks much for the link and the additional information. I'm surprised that there isn't more in-depth, accurate history available. I know that the brand got some decent press in the early days, but I don't recall any substantive background pieces. When I get some time, I'll see if I can dig out some old articles that might add to the discussion.

    I had completely forgotten about the Timberline folder (mentioned in the linked article) that possessed hollowed-out Micarta scales containing survival supplies. I remember being very impressed with the innovation of that approach the first time I saw a photo of that knife. Seriousbladeno1, if you want a cool, unusual, cutting-edge-for-its-time "hollow-handled" knife, see if you can track down one of these beauties!

    [​IMG]


    Gaston444, I appreciate your photos and assessments of the Timberline models (as well as other high-end, hollow-handled knives). It's good to see those survival knives being put to use in the woods, where they belong!

    -Steve
     
  12. Gaston444

    Gaston444

    Oct 1, 2014
    That is because the high end models are literally never used... For instance, the notion that a broad full flat ground blade rolls less than a hollow grind, with round handles, is not widely known, because most people never really chop wood with them...

    Also little known is that tube handles hit harder while chopping, because they are broader inside the thumb forefinger band of flesh, and so this broader shape moves back less "into" the hand when the blade hits. The Chris Reeve One piece models "pinch" narrower there, so they squander that advantage, unless you hold them further back, but then you cannot hit really close to the hand, which is a big disadvantage...: I much prefer a simple tube shape because of this...

    Of course you can avoid hitting close to the hand by "Whipping" the blade, which is easier on the hand, hitting further out from the handle and letting the blade weight do the work, but then the bites are much less deep than hitting with a rigid hold, as close to the guard as possible (see the Trailmaster's performance below, whose handle is so narrow you can only whip the blade: The Lile "Mission", in contrast, is ideal for "rigid" hits near the guard which is unlugged: Lugged guards are more susceptible to bending...).

    As far as I am aware, I am the only one to post any kind of in-use photos of Liles, Neeleys, and a few other high end hollow handles... I think there are no other posted pics of a Lile being used (but there are many, many more to come!):

    [​IMG]

    You are not likely to hear about their failings with the kind of use they are getting... The two big fails I have encountered so far are the Neeley SA and the Andrew Clifford Sly II, both mainly for edge durability issues.

    The 10.5" Model 9 Colin Cox I hit the guard while chopping, bending the guard: While unbending the guard, I caused the handle to separate: It was held only by the presence of a large amount of a super-strong two-part epoxy called G-Flex, widely used for custom knives, actually very good resilient stuff. Unfortunately, the handle's tube was not "roughed-up" inside to "lock" the G-Flex in place...: I roughed it up with a drill, and re-epoxied the whole knife back together using the same G-Flex material that originally held it together: It is my favourite hollow handle now, despite the lack of a true steel-on-steel mechanical lock (as Liles have), just to give you an idea that I do give them every chance I can...

    I would say that on these things thick or poor performing edges are a much bigger concern than handle separation.

    Gaston
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2016
  13. Blues Bender

    Blues Bender Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 27, 2014
    [​IMG]
     
  14. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    Gaston,

    Did you ever contact Neeley regarding your SA that you reprofiled? Didn't you also compromise the handle joint as well? - can't remember the details. I believe your knife was sent to Vaughn for his inspection. I think it's time to hear his side of the story instead of you continuing to publically bash his knife that you altered.
     
  15. Mikel_24

    Mikel_24

    Sep 19, 2007
    Why do I have the feeling that I AM MISSING SOMETHING? Someone care to provide some links or explanation?

    Before I knew anything about knives, I thought that the hollow handle knives were SO COOL and even practical. When I was 16 I bought a Rambo Knife replica (read, cheapo) online and right after receiving it, I sent it back for a refund. Too light for chopping, to thin for trusting such a long blade. I got an ONTARIO SP8 instead... XD.

    Now, knowing that there are quality hollow handle knives out there, I am curious to know about real experiences with them. If I buy a knife, it is going to be used. If said knife is big, I expect it to chop well. Here in Spain, the AITOR JUNGLE KING in any of the versions was a nice blade, but the grind was so thick, that even when reprofiled didn't chope well.

    Mikel
     
  16. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
  17. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    Well? :confused: I would like to know Vaughn's assessment.
     
  18. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    Gaston, I think my last post above was lost in the Cloud Flare and didn't bring the thread back to the top. Anyway, what did Vaughn have to say?
     
  19. Gaston444

    Gaston444

    Oct 1, 2014
    What evidence do you have that I altered his knife? I did nothing of the sort.

    The joint unscrewed itself through vibrations while chopping Maple. This may have been made worse by the temporary lack of an O-ring on the buttcap, but it still happened in less than twenty chops with the buttcap unbuffered in this way...

    The joint unscrewed itself after a total of around a 100-120 chops in Maple, the last twenty without the O-ring in the Buttcap, which probably accelerated things...

    Because the joint threading is done from the steel tube handle to a brass plug fitted over the tang, unless some locktite is used, or some strong adhesive, or pin, added to prevent unscrewing, there is nothing to prevent the thing from getting looser and looser: It unscrewed itself within ten chops, even after restoring the o-ring...

    There was no residue of any kind on the brass threads to suggest anything was done to prevent unscrewing.

    As far as contacting Neeley, after him getting what amount to an $800 knife returned, with I presume attending instructions, it's his business to contact Sam, the person who send it to him.

    Also, Sam suggested he would at least fix himself the handle issue.

    Personally I find Neeley's knives to be so incredibly thick-edged (including the Lile series he is doing, judging just from photos alone) that I don't feel like discussing with him what I think he is doing wrong... I would never have made the purchase if I had known just to what extreme of absurdity this was carried... 30-35 degrees per side? This is not knife-making, this is wall decoration... The crumbling edge was merely the last straw, this despite the enormous effort I went through to thin down the edge by hand, to avoid any temperature rise.

    I have to say I feel even worse about the Neeley than I do about the Andrew Clifford, because on the ACK a bad heat-treat, or temper issue, or steel quality issue, all that can be completely unintentional, while the way Neeley made the SA9 was entirely intentional, even if you ignore the crumbling edge... The ball is in his court as far as I am concerned, and I certainly don't want to make efforts to pursue something I want to avoid...

    Gaston

    P.S. Oh and Mikel_24, I have had the Aitor Jungle King I as well, and I agree the geometry was also bad (seems to be a theme on a lot of these knives), but the geometry on the Neeley was far worse, even if that is hard to imagine. Between the two I would much rather have the JK I again, since with today's diamond hones, I could actually thin it down, or send it to REK...

    G.
     
  20. TAH

    TAH Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 3, 2001
    My apologies. Perhaps, I was thinking about your Lile knife that was "heated" for some reason and epoxy was bleeding out of the joint. Regardless, if the Timberline joint failure happened as you say, which I have no reason to doubt, it would be interesting, and educational for all, to hear Vaughn's thoughts.

    Sam is third party. This is between you and Neeley. I know you are passionate about knives - get the answers yourself. Personally, if it was my knife, I wouldn't let Neeley off the hook so easily, especially if I was certain that the handle failure and crumbling edge are Timberline issues. However, it is disrespectful to bash Neeley's work publically without hearing his side of the story. After all, he is an acclaimed knifemaker and knife making is his livelihood.

    That would be quite the discussion. :rolleyes:

    The way I see it, the crumbling edge was either a bad heat treat or you thinned out the edge too much. I have a feeling it was the latter and another reason to hear Neeley's side.
     

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