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Folders as "mules" - discuss

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:20 am
by The Deacon
Starting this in an attempt divert the hijack of the Casual Bombshell thread.

Here's how I see it. Note that my statements, especially the ones about folders, are presented as observations and opinions not as fact.

The original idea of the Mules was to allow folks to experience, and "steel head" to compare, a variety of steels in otherwise identical blades. Some would be steels Spyderco has not used, some would be steels which they have. The hope was to make them as inexpensive as possible and, for that reason a fixed blade without scales was the chosen platform.

Making a "folding Mule would involve some tradeoffs and constrants.

The model would have to be one made in Golden, if only for logistical reasons.

The knife would probably have to be fully assembled or, at the very least, a kit where all parts were supplied. Either would, as a general rule, add to the cost.

There may be legal/liability reasons why Spyderco would not want to sell it as a kit.

However, if a kit were the choice, the FRN UKPK would be the most logical platform due its combination of price point, screw construction, minimal parts count, and (relative) ease of assembly.

Most other Golden models are either pinned, or considerably more complex. Remember, nobody ever loses a part when assembling a kt, the manufacturer left it out. ;)

The possible up side would be that, when the most expensive exotic steels were used, an FRN UKPKr might cost less than a FB Mule. Good damascus, for example, can cost $15 or more per inch.

Ok, those are my thoughts, time for yours.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:31 am
by Peruna

I am all for it. I love the concept of the Mule series, but I have never bought one. Why? I have a limited need for fixed blade knives. I work in an office. I cannot walk into my office in a suit and tie with a fixed blade strapped to my side. But, I can carry a folder in my pocket, and do on a daily basis. Given the way knife carry laws are headed, the FRN UKPK is the perfect choice as it is a non-locking folder. It can be carried legally just about anywhere. A Mule series on that platform would allow me to try some of these different steels. Would I buy everyone? No. Most? Yes.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:46 am
by Baconman69
I really like this idea. The only thing ever stopping me from buying a mule was my inability to have a handle made for it or to make my own. With a UKPK that problem is gone. Plus, as others have mentioned in the casual bombshell thread, it's more likely to be EDC'd.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:46 am
by vampyrewolf
I had built a kit knife a few years ago, don't recall it taking much more time than it does for me to strip my cricket down for a good cleaning.

I'd say if they made a liner lock kit in the range of the delica I'd buy a few.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:56 am
by ChrisR
As someone who first started this idea - thanks Paul for moving it to its own thread :)

I would almost certainly buy all of them, as long as the price wasn't way above my budget - like Peruna I have really wanted to try out these different steels but I have almost no need for a fixed blade outside the kitchen :)

The mule Teams were always aimed at 'modders' but I think that was just because the costs could be kept down by avoiding fitting handles. Similarly, if the folders were provided disassembled but all parts were provided I'd be happy to assemble mine - and, as someone else said, if the FRN colour was white it would still allow modders to dye and customize their knives.

I remember someone suggested that the slip-joints might have to be assembled and 'finished' by hand to ensure a good F&F ... but I always thought that the blades were precision laser cut so would that necessarily be true?

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:06 am
by Donut
I would love some new steel folders.

There are some models that seem to be mule folders already.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:07 am
by The General
Folder, heck yes.

Budget knife, yes.

Native, Delica or caly make a lot of sense if you are thinking a locking knife.

UKPK Lightweight otherwise, though I am not sure if that would be a Japanese made knife?

If its going to go in the UKPK G10 handled knife, which currently runs over £100 ($160 US) in the UK for the S30V standard model, I would have to pass.

I can't afford that.

I would love the UKPK Lightweight option if at all possible. Its plenty of knife and the non locking option means its universal.

Regarding selling folding and possibly locking knives as kit knives, I would not recommend that. Too much to go wrong and the negative press could far outweigh the positives. I have seen how unreasonably high many peoples expectations are towards Spyderco, in particular, recently with some very surprising posts on this very forum from low post/new members. Sell a pre made knife or don't bother. Much as I would like it to be otherwise, if its going to carry the Spyderco knife, the build quality needs to be the same as any other Spyderco. Or its going to end badly.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:10 am
by ChrisR
Of course, if it was a UKPK FRN then the blade shape would have to be decided ... I'd prefer FFG drop-point but if it had to be hollow-ground then that would be fine - just make it PE ;)

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:14 am
by The General
ChrisR wrote:Of course, if it was a UKPK FRN then the blade shape would have to be decided ... I'd prefer FFG drop-point but if it had to be hollow-ground then that would be fine - just make it PE ;)
To be fair, the blade shape would be best as a scaled down version of the Mule IMHO. I see it as the Spyderco blade shape anyway.

To my eyes its almost as much of a trademark as the SpyderHole.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:25 am
by ChrisR
Ahh, true - a leaf-blade would be good too ... I'll have anything - just not SE or CE :D

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:36 am
by unit
It seems pretty clear to me that if Spyderco would want to do this, they will want to get the most bang for their buck.

It seems logical to cover the most bases with the fewest efforts...this sort of points to the Mule as it exists (which obviously works for many), and a non-locking (perhaps non-one-hand-opening) knife for those with legal restrictions.

A locking folder seems to be an intermediate step between the two that only opens the door part way.

I think it is a cool subject, and a great idea. Perhaps it could happen.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 8:42 am
by 224477
Definitely interesting idea. I cant tell for the moment if I see myself as one of the potential customer, but I guess this would be interesting no doubt.

Paul, do you mean blades only, or whole knives (which are close to sprints in fact..) ?

Lets take the UKPK slippie in consideration - it would be nice to have a couple of handle scale material types (diffent colors of FRN, then G10, CF and possibly Ti - price would sing the song) and different types of steel for blades, possibly some blade shape variations too.

The customer would be able to click /setup/ his desired combination online which would be assembled upon paying the price and delivered later. (first come - first serve basis).

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:03 am
by Sequimite
To reinforce Paul's points: when the Mule project started I asked Sal if they would do a folder blade that would be interchangeable with a production knife and he replied that they couldn't do that because of legal liability concerns and difficulty in fit between handles made in one batch and blades made in different batches, so I think we're talking about a finished knife with the current Mule blade steel. Since most blade steels will be US made and all will come through Golden, that also points to a Golden made knife.

So it seems the choice is between an FRN UKPK or an FRN Manix.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:07 am
by Peruna
While a kit is a nice idea, liability is a major concern. Go ahead and sell it constructed. Besides, the cost of packaging the various pieces versus assembling them cannot be very different.

Blade shape is an interesting point. While I understand people love the leaf shape, having carried many UKPKs, I personally think the UKPK DP is the more useful shape. Also, I think it may use less steel, so there may be some cost savings there as well.

I would not worry too much about RIT dying. That being said, I would choose a lighter color FRN in deference to those that want to go that route.

So, I would opt for:

FRN UKPK DP FFG (light colored FRN). As for steels, well, I would love to see:

1095 (I know, not stainless, but excellent carbon steel)

I am sure the steelheads would have other wishes.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:17 am
by Ben_1323
I think the current fixed blade platform makes more sense for testing purposes. A small folding knife, especially a non-locker, would be more difficult to put to hard use and learn about its edge retention, toughness, etc.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 9:42 am
by unit
Ben_1323 wrote:I think the current fixed blade platform makes more sense for testing purposes. A small folding knife, especially a non-locker, would be more difficult to put to hard use and learn about its edge retention, toughness, etc.
I brought this up in another thread...I agree with you to some extent, but it is important to remember that there are a lot of people out there that test steels in many ways that you may not have considered.

Sharpening and polishing, edge retention, a steel's ability to support various geometries, and learning how an edge fails (relative to the steel) can all be assessed with a small slip joint. Further, there are many places on this planet where a fixed blade is not practical (or even prohibited), this could open the door for a lot of new "testers".

Not everyone wants or tests for the same things. And the best steel for a hard use fixed blade might not be everyone's first choice for a small folder.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:07 am
by jabba359
I'd love to see the upcoming Golden made Native 5 be the Mule knife. While the UKPK seems like a nice knife, I prefer my knives to have a lock. Make it screw construction (and maybe even without scales) so I can customize the handle in the spirit of the original FB Mule, and that would be excellent!

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:08 am
by 5.56
I like the mule team program the way it is now. Simple.

I would rather see the Golden facility produce more production folders.


Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:11 am
by cckw
I'll go on record as a no vote, if it were instead of the regular Mule. I like the Mule program the way it is. If the blade shape were up to me, it would be slightly different, more of a drop point hunter type, but that is no big deal.

Additionally I would say the Mule project seems to be embraced mostly by the steel snob set. Which I kinda am. The BD1 is a slow sell because it is not a hotrod steel. The Chinese version seems to be for sale everywhere. Guys can wait to try great steels, but it is not so exciting to discover a great value in a budget steel.

Posted: Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:40 am
by Joe Internet
I'm all for it. My understanding of the mule team concept is that it allows people to try new steels, with the idea that it generates real world feedback for Spyderco. This feedback helps them with developing future products.

I still think a folder is useful for this purpose. I also think that a finished knife would be the way to go, since that would have both Joe Average and collector value.