Brothers in steel: this Canadian trio has earned their metal.
You might call them the "Big Three" of Canadian tactical knife makers . Greg Lightfoot, Brian Tighe and Kirby Lambert have all s et high marks individually for their tactical knives but, interestingly enough, they've done it together. Though they all compete with each other for the same customer; attend any big knife show where all three are present and you'll see them hanging out like brothers. In their free time they swap ideas, techniques and trade secrets openly among themselves. If there is power in numbers, this tactical triad is a force to be reckoned with.
Lightfoot, Tighe and Lambert each have their individual styles and all offer their knives in basic tactical versions as well as upscale fare. It's interesting to see how their styles vary; yet they all have their own appeal in the tactical knives niche.
Greg Lightfoot is the elder statesman of the Canadian trio, having gotten a jump on making knives a couple of years ahead of Tighe. Greg tells us, "I have been making knives full-time for 22 years. I started in 1986 playing around in a small shop and then went full-time in 1988. My mentor was Rod Olson, who is from High River Alberta. I would make some knives, go to a small lo cal s ho w and he would give me tips and feedback. I made my first folder in 1992."
Although he still makes fixed blades, it was Greg's folding knives that put him on the tactical map. Light "foot has a clean and purposeful Zen to his designs that flow from tip to tail. According to Greg, "What I strive for in a knife is great design and, that said, the knife has to work in the real world. I have knives that I designed 18 years ago that are still selling in my catalog."
Lightfoot's most popular folder is the Bull Whip, 8.25" of graceful curves terminating in a tip that warns not to take lightly. The knife's blade has a subtle back grind to enhance penetration and a deep bellied re-curved edge for maximum slice-ability. Lightfoot tops off the Bull Whip's curvaceous handle with his trademark shark-tooth lanyard, a tribute to his logo sporting artwork of the evil of the deep. His H-XT Dog sports a palm-friendly handle bulged at the center with excellent finger protection on both ends. Large in size at 8.75", the H-XT's blade has all the personality of a bulldog with one big, bad tooth.
Unlike many knife makers, Lightfoot does not choose to favor just one blade-steel. "There are so many great steels out now, I can give a customer help on selecting but it comes down to what he or she wants," says Greg. "Handle materials I prefer are in the man-made category like carbon fiber and G10. Both have good strength, are highly stable and they look great! My favorite natural materials would have to be ironwood, elk antler and mammoth ivory."
Brian Tighe (pronounced "tye" with a long "i") has been a custom knife maker since 1989 and, like many of his fellow artisans, making fixedblade knives wet his feet. While most knife makers have a mentor who helps develop their abilities, Tighe literally taught himself to make knives, helped along buy his early career as a tool and die machinist. According to Brian, "I first started cutting metal at age 13. With my background as a tool and die maker I already knew how to cut and finish metal, so knife making was a natural progression." Those technical skills, melded with an incredible sense of fluid design, have made Tighe a much sought after knife maker.
Tighe's knives can be summed up in one word--stylish. His fluted and wave blade patterns are incredible engineering feats further enhancing his already slick designs. Tighe is fanatic about technical details and carries that attitude over into the mechanics of his knives, as well.
"For the last few years I've been making 'Button Lock Flippers' that are very smooth and easy to close with one hand," Tighe tells us, and adds, "More recently I have developed a 'Sealed Thrust Bearing System' for my folders. In this system no dirt or debris can enter the bearings like other systems out on the market."
Brian's top seller is 8.5" of knifehandling delight named the Tighe Coon. Tighe uses only top shelf materials such as titanium in his handles, and chooses BG-42 stainless steel for his blades, except for his upscale models spo rting Damas cus steel. "Damasteel stainless Damascus is the best I have ever used, it is made of two harden able stainless steels and holds and excellent edge and finishes up beautifully." Just don't pigeonhole Tighe as a fancy knife maker; he makes basic models of all his folders that can hang with the best of them in field and combat.
Youth is served in Kirby Lambert's contribution to the Canadian gang. At just 34 years of age, Lambert has made a name for himself in record time, serving up overbuilt, bulletproof designs with aggressive attitudes. "I began making knives in 1994 and have been a fulltime knife maker since 2002. I built my first folder around the year 2000. While attending college at the University of Calgary in a fine arts program, I was introduced to a very talented knife maker named Brian Lyttle, who let me work with him for a few years. Shortly after I moved back to Regina I became good friends with Greg Lightfoot who has helped me out tremendously, as well. He taught me many other techniques with blade grinding and finishing too. I consider him to be one of my major mentors. Kirby is also active in promoting the art of the knife, currently serving as vice president of the Canadian Knifemakers Guild.
Lambert's two hottest sellers are his Incinerator and Justice models. The Incinerator, 8.6" in overall length is as nicely balanced a design, as you'll find in a tactical folder. Soundly based with a nicely curved, ergonomic handle complimented by a sleek, deeply ground re-curved blade design with a long back grind for added penetration, the Incinerator has all the right stuff.
Larger at 9.4" in overall length, the Justice lives up to its name by offering overbuilt construction with a bullish attitude that would make a hanging judge proud. The Justice's handle features two deep finger grooves for excellent grip and a bowed backside that tucks right nicely into the palm of the hand. The knife's modified clip point blade has a deep grind for extra slicing power.
Lambert, like his Canadian brothers in steel, insists on using top-flight materials. "I use Crucible steel in the majority of my knives--usually CPM S30V and CPM 154CM--for a couple of different reasons. First off, when it comes to making a good, hard working functional knife that requires edge holding, corrosion resistance, toughness, wear resistance, it can't be beat. Secondly, most all my customers ask for it," states Lambert. "I also use Damascus on my dressier upscale knives. The majority of Damascus I use comes from a couple of different makers, Rob Thomas and Chad Nichols, whose work I really like. Other than those, I will use Damasteel on occasion as well."
It would be hard not to find a tactical you like among these three, but if you're a true tactical knife aficionado it's even harder to find one you don't like. All three knife makers offer base folders in the price range of $525-$550 which is very typical for today's upper echelon of tactical knife makers. These will have Titanium or carbon fiber handles, considered state-of-the-art in their own right. From there you can run the gamut, splurging on such finery as Damascus blades and a cornucopia of handle materials including exotic woods, fossil mammoth ivory and mother of pearl.
For more info: www.americanhandgunner. com/productindex
PHOTOS: CHUCK PITTMAN, INC.
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|Date:||Jul 1, 2010|
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