I have to start off by apologizing to my friend Dan Eastland of Dogwood Custom Knives. In my haste to get my “BLADE Show 2017: Under Review” post published, I only talked about the knife samples I acquired for testing, completely neglecting to mention the very cool knife accessory that Dan handed off to me for evaluation. Of course, it kind of works out well for him, because I prioritized my review of said item! I present, Firefly replacement scales for the mid-size Becker knives, by Dogwood Custom Knives.
If you are unfamiliar with Firefly, it is proprietary to Mr. Eastland, and is essentially chunks of glow-in-the-dark material embedded in a translucent resin. If, like me, you are a bit worried about the durability of such a loose matrix of chunks-to-resin, you needn’t fret. There is a thick G10 liner as a substrate for the fancy top, like solid bone structure behind the pretty face.
As for the glow performance itself, Dan claims that thirty minutes of direct sunlight will result in an approximate ten-hour glow time.
I have not been able to test that independently, but after having the scales underneath my photographic lights for a bit (not nearly as powerful as the sun, naturally) and then leaving them alone overnight, there was still noticeable glow after six hours. At the eight hour mark, the glow was quite faint, but still there.
Perhaps just as impressive, these suckers are bright! After shutting the lights off and making sure the room was blacked out, I was able to navigate well enough to avoid hitting my shins on random furniture. Hold the Firefly up to a page on a book and you can even read by the light!
Now that we have covered the material, on to these Becker scales themselves, they are sized to fit the BK15, BK16, and BK17… knives the Beckerheads have dubbed the “Tweener” series as they are smaller than the full size Beckers (BK2, 7, 9 and their ilk), but larger than the neck knives (BK11, 14). Right now, the “Tweener” size is all that Dan has available, but if demand is great enough, there is the possibility of making a run of the full sized handles.
Dan’s mid-size scales are CNC routed to match the exact contours of the original factory scales (so they will fit your aftermarket kydex sheaths if you already have them!) with the addition of barely-there diagonal grooves across the surface. We’ll see how they feel while in use.
Multiple resin colors are available, including blue, green, white, and the orange seen here. As all of the “Tweeners” make good hunting knives, I think the orange is an especially good fit.
The scales also come with upgraded hardware consisting of a brass post to run through the tang and hex head fasteners which screw in from each side.
The upgrade makes for a cleaner look – certainly more in line with the premium materials – but I honestly would have preferred the approach that the stock scales use. With a hexagonal relief on one side that will hold a nut in place while you screw in a bolt from the opposite side it only requires one tool to install, rather than the dual allen wrenches that are needed with the type of fasteners the Firefly scales include.
Of course, I may be reacting to the fact that I munged up a couple of the upgraded fasteners by over tightening them and stripping the hex socket. Looks like these scales aren’t coming off unless I drill them off!
About that installation. I equipped the Firefly scales to my Becker BK16 (read the full review of that knife here) to see how the scales held up in actual use. They fit perfectly and I was ready to rock and roll. The two things I really wanted to evaluate were as follows:
#1 – How durable are the Firefly scales? I’ll throw some batoning at the knife to see if the new handles can cope with the shock.
#2 – One complaint some level at the stock Becker scales is that they are “slick.” Do the grooves on the Firefly scales improve “grip” without creating any hotspots?
Diving right into it, I proceeded to split a few logs from my woodpile, which has stuff that has been aging for a couple of years (I only keep this pile on hand for camping trips and my reviews… we don’t actually have a working fireplace!).
As expected, the hardwood presented little problem for the BK16 (Read more about the 16’s performance on wood in the aforementioned review). Likewise, the Firefly scales held up wonderfully. The perceived impact/shock on the hand was not too bad, and I even committed a cardinal sin by beating on the handle and suffered no ill effect.
I’ve since taken the knife out and done a bit more batoning here and there, and I am confident in its strength. That said, you will probably be giving up just a little bit of ultimate stability when compared to something like the canvas micarta scales that KA-BAR offers as an official accessory.
After bashing around a bit, I also worked on some whittling to evaluate the comfort in various grips.
After working the knife out on a bunch of tent pegs and feathersticks, I can say that the Firefly scales are just as comfortable as the stock handles, while having a higher quality feel, which means the grooved surface is no problem in my book.
So, with question #2 halfway answered, I took the BK16 into the kitchen in search of some slimy foodstuffs so I could evaluate the “slickness” there.
My test media? Some greasy, rotisserie chicken, and some very ripe avocado. These both failed to flummox the Firefly scales. I had no problem maintaining grip, even after I smeared avocado all over the handles.
I personally don’t feel that the stock Kabar scales are too slick, but if you are someone who does, then these Firefly replacements will be right up your alley. By virtue of more surface area (the grooves) they definitely add a measure of grip above and beyond the stock scales.
So, the Firefly replacement scales are for me, but are they for you? If you want the utmost in strength and bashability, perhaps not. But if you are looking to class up your Beckers, Dogwood Dan’s replacements are a great choice. At a cost of $75, they are pricier than some options, but you get all the comfort of the originals with a little more grip, a lot more style, and no tangible sacrifice in real-world strength. And oh yeah! They glow in the dark like crazy!
[Full disclosure: While at BLADE Show, Dan Eastland treated Clay and me to an expensive and rather delicious meal at Local 3 just outside Atlanta, where we dined in a private room along with the restaurant’s chef, a longtime friend of Dan’s. Try the truffle-popcorn.]