Question of the Day: Are you a Modder?

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Reader Ian M. removed the black paint from his Cold Steel Norse Hawk, and forced a patina on the blade.

There are some folks that are never satisfied with a tool as it comes from the factory. David has modified some OTC “Old Hickory” knives and wrote this excellent piece. Contributor Ian M stripped the paint off of his Cold Steel Norse Hawk, attempting to force an antique patina instead.

I have never been much of a modder myself. I have made some creative repairs when an item has begun to wear out or break. I designed and built my fishing lanyard from scratch, incorporating over 60 feet of paracord in what is essentially an oversized survival bracelet with snap-swivels woven into it to hold my guiding accoutrements. But with the exception of my drift boat which I built to my own specs while working for Hyde Boats in Idaho,  most of my gear is in fairly stock condition.

I recently made one simple modification to my Mora Bushcraft’s sheath . It is so embarrassingly simple that to make it a stand-alone post would be an insult to your intelligence. Instead I am incorporating it into a discussion on the larger topic of modding – hence the QoD.

This simple mod address a problem that has developed over time, and I think it is an improvement over the stock configuration. All I did was add a paracord loop and bead retention strap to my sheath.


I added the paracord loop and bead so I don’t accidentally create “ventilated waders”

It is wader season again, and I no longer just throw my Mora and wading belt into Rubbermaid gear-tub that I haul to the river. Through a year of use, my sheath no longer retains my knife as effectively as it once did. It isn’t bad, in fact I can still hold the sheath upside down and it takes a shake to drop the knife free, but over the summer I noticed that the knife would work itself loose while jostling around in the tub.


My sheath still retains the knife while inverted, just not as well as it used to.

Now that I am rolling my knife and belt up in a pair of waders, the stakes are higher. While I haven’t cut myself or anything else by accident, I don’t want to run the risk of cutting my waders. The knife is razor sharp, and I would rather avoid spending the day in leaking waders because my knife made contact with the nylon fabric.

All I did was run a piece of paracord through the belt loop, and slid a spring-loaded bead over the tag ends. I knotted and fused the ends so the bead would not slip off or fray. The bead can be slid up to tighten the loop and positively retain the knife in the sheath.

I used the knife for 3 straight days of guiding this weekend (hence the delay in this post), and I really like how it turned out to work. When tightened, the knife is held firmly and cannot be shaken loose. I left it tight until I needed to use the knife for the first time each day, and it was simple to blindly slide the bead loose. It hung clear of the blade’s draw-path, and remained so when I returned the knife to the sheath. I don’t need to tighten it until I remove my waders, but would usually do so (again blindly one-handed) while watching my clients fish.

The only downside that I can see is that the cord prevents the sheath from rotating 360 degrees. But it will still swing to a fully inverted position when I sit down in the truck. That is important, and the inability to do so would have been a deal breaker.

So here is the question:

Do you mod your knives and other gear? Is it destructive like reshaping a blade, or just a small tweak to improve an item’s function?



  1. Sam L. says:

    Not yet, but I really like this idea!

  2. GC says:

    I’ve only done fairly simple mods to some of my knives, such as stripping the coating from the blade when its well worn and improving the angles of lousy factory grinds. The impressive assortment of wood at this year’s Blade Show did make me think about trying to make custom scales.

  3. Jim Bullock says:

    Well, now you got me thinking…

    Upon reflection, I notice that I end up “modding” most things I use. The knives are, by comparison, mostly “as bought.”

    My carry-knife mods so far are limited to a braided paracord on a pocket-sized Spyderco I carry is suits of sport coats. That knife was carefully selected to conform to the anticipated TSA flight regulations, before that got squashed.

    Now I feel the need for a quad rail w/ laser optics & holo-sight.

    Do cooking knives count? I’ve re-angled edges, like putting a very shallow flat grind on a MAC santoku, which turns it into more of a slicer. I’ve added a loop, pocket, or just stitching to knife rolls from time to time. Also, a magnet strip or side of counter rack is pretty much mandatory. Some people thrown their working knives in a drawer. What’s up with that?

  4. GuyFromV says:

    I mod almost anything I get unless it is already as effective, durable or aesthetic enough as it is…depending upon its original value, of course. I like to buy cheaper blades that may be constructed well out of good material that may be shoddy in make into really usable tools. For instance, 2 of my favorite bladed items are from a couple of maybe 20 year old Smoky Mtn items that prob cost me less than 20 bucks off the new-fangled Internet. One was a bowie-style knife which I ripped the handle off and placed on the end of a ash tool handle…it’s a great spear now. Then there is a older Cold Steel machete that doesn’t seem to be made anymore: a shorter, thin tanto-shaped tapering wedge end that resembles a wakizashi and has a two-hand area for grip…after a lot of grinding of the tanto head and JB weld plus paracord grip wrap, it’s a decent “keep by the door at night next to the shotgun” item. They may not look good but they are sturdy and usable for grunt work.

  5. I_Like_Pie says:

    I practice stippling on my Mora handles. Easy, looks wonderful, and really adds to the purchase of the knife. Solder iron and 30 minutes and it is the best modification for any of the $8 red or blue mora knives.

    I flatten the back and add some texture with my dremel for a thumb rest ceramic disks touching it also adds to the thing.

    Also rust blued my carbon steel blades with laurel mtn rust blue.

    FUN FUN FUN to play with cheap knives to improve them. Really like that axe. Going to do that soon!

  6. Evan says:

    I just got into modding, my first knife project was this Opinel N0. 9, which had the tip break off a while back. I filed it down to create a makeshift tip, put on a forced patina using brown mustard, and made a burn ring near the bottom of the handle. I think it turned out alright, what does everyone else think?

  7. sagebrushracer says:

    Nope, not a modder. If i have a knive/item that does the task i want and it is suitable for said task then why try and improve the wheel?

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Question of the Day: Are you a Modder?

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