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People come to knifemaking from all sorts of backgrounds. These diverse backgrounds bring fresh eyes and new ideas to the industry. One of these new ideas is the “In-Line Pocket Clip” series of knives from Joe Caswell. Joe was a well-known writer for motorcycle magazines for 15 years under the name “Moto-Joe.” He’s been pattern-welding steel since 1995, specializing in historic configurations, particularly the multi-bar/separate-edge composite blade structure associated with the Migration period through early medieval and Viking swords. He and his team at Caswell Knives have indeed come up with something that’s new, elegant and functional at the same time.

Departure From Standard Pocket Clips
An In-Line Pocket Clip is a patent-pending departure from the standard pocket clip, which is usually bolted onto the side of a knife handle. By contrast, an In-Line Pocket Clip is set into the spine of the knife, between the liners. With a thumb push, it is moved out from the interior of the knife into position. When using the knife, it retracts back out of sight with another simple thumb motion. What this means, of course, is that the clip is in a different plane than a traditional clip. A traditional clip secures the knife between the spring and the scale of the knife. The In-Line Pocket Clip clips the knife between the clip and the knife’s spine.

edc.gifJoe Caswell: “The In-Line Pocket Clip, provides superior security by causing the fabric of a pocket edge or waistband to form two right-angle bends as the knife is worn, pressed against the body by the clothing. This dramatically reduces a knife’s propensity to fall out of a normal-fitting pants pocket while the owner is sitting or running, compared with conventional designs. Also, because of its novel location, the In-Line Pocket Clip reduces the likelihood of catching on or scratching objects that the user might lean on or brush against, such as a car door or expensive furniture.”

What’s really interesting is that an In-Line Pocket Clip knife has a reduced parts count compared to a traditional folder, since the clip does double duty as the knife’s back-spacer. So, you get increased functions with a reduced parts count!

Joe Caswell again: “The In-Line Pocket Clip assembly consists of only two parts: the retractable clip/back-spacer and a rectangular ‘guide pin’/bearing, which constrains the clip’s linear movement to and from the open/closed positions. These parts are made of 17-4 stainless spring steel, a precipitation hardening alloy popular in aerospace, medical machinery and specialized industrial applications. It hardens to approximately 45 Rc, and is prized for its toughness and tremendous wear characteristics. [The design] is comprised of a simple flexure/cutout in one of the liners. This cutout is fitted with a small press-fit ball bearing. This hardened steel ball drops into one of two corresponding holes in the clip as it’s deployed and retracted.”

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The In-Line Pocket Clip holds the knife securely in the pocket; it does not twist or turn there. It does not require any lubricants, and, in fact, Joe advises against using any. Joe incorporates the In-Line Pocket Clip into his line of EDC folders. The one sent for this article features a 3-1/4-inch flat-ground, 0.116-inch thick, single primary grind (almost), drop-point blade of stainless Damascus in a “tight-twist” pattern from Damasteel. Yes, it’s beautiful! Paul Bos does the heat treat, and this number was cooked to 61RC. The EDC-pattern knife from Joe comes with a wide number of scale materials, from Micarta, G-10, or carbon-fiber one-piece scales on the low end to handles with Bob Eggerling mosaic Damascus bolsters and exotic handle materials on the high end. The plain-shaped handle is 4-3/8 inches long, and the entire (one-piece scale) knife weighs in at 4.1 ounces and measures 1.06 inches across the scales. Thick 0.080-inch titanium liners and a standard opening stud round out the specs on this half open-backed EDC folder. Laser micro-machining (as opposed to standard laser marking), at a depth of 0.008 inches, is used to create the complex logo on the Damascus blade.

From a construction point of view, the Caswell EDC uses a hardened stainless 0.187-inch pivot pin, press-fit into one side. Both the blade pivot hole and the non-press-fit side liner (the side with a 4-40 pivot adjustment screw) were honed (not reamed) to achieve a repeatable clearance of 0.0003 and highly perpendicular edges to practically eliminate side-to-side blade play on a properly adjusted knife. Blade bushings are bronze, 0.020 thick. In constructing this knife, parts are blanked by water jet, then machined. Of course, there’s a lot of hand work in each knife as well.

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Breaking New Ground
The EDC represents something of a departure for Caswell Knives, as previous projects were sole-authorship Damascus knives and swords. Since 1995, Joe had concentrated on medieval-style pattern welding and contemporary hunter’s daggers and bowies. The EDC is, thus, new ground on several fronts.

OK, that’s the technical material and a description of the new clip. But how does the knife perform? Well, the knife’s side profile is simple—a straightforward drop-point blade and a straight handle with no guard. If you’ve been an active reader of this magazine for a while, you’ll recognize that profile as the most desirable for a utility knife (in the opinion of a lot of the contributors here). And, in fact, when I first opened the Caswell EDC, I said to myself: “a folding puukko.” True, the EDC doesn’t look like a puukko from a visual point of view, but viewed through a functional lens, it resembles one. The high primary grind is also a clue to pure cutting efficiency. To me, this guard-less knife is obviously designed to be an all-purpose utility knife, in the medium-size category.

Not surprisingly, it cuts very well. The way Joe sent it to me, it shaved hair and sliced ribbons of free-hanging paper. Putting a Spyderco TriAngle gray ceramic rod hone on the EDC, it sliced 5/8-inch manila rope in three passes. This is an “A” performance for a knife this size. Manila rope really is tricky and tough stuff for a blade, and I still regard it as the best all-round test of working (not laboratory) cutting ability. It sliced a very hard red oak log with B+ performance, and cut 1/4-inch nylon line like butter for an A+. The EDC sliced cardboard with another A-level performance, and thrusting it into a tightly taped stack of cardboard with maybe half-power, it penetrated up to 3/4 of the blade.

The EDC feels really good in the hand—like a straightforward working tool. The straight line of the handle and blade makes the position of the point and edge highly intuitive. Moreover, it feels like a real tool as you use it. The beauty of the EDC is in its use as well as in its Damascus steel, custom workmanship, and, of course, its innovative clip mechanism.

The In-Line Pocket Clip does require that your access mechanics—your drawstroke, if you like—are a little different from a knife with a conventional pocket clip. It takes a little getting used to, but not a lot. I really like this knife; I’m pleased to see a real working knife with proper (simple) lines in a custom package. Couple that functionally with a new knife mechanism—something that’s pretty rare in this industry—and Joe Caswell has a real winner.

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