A ZZeal of ZZebras

--SG--

Gold Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2016
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216
It all began with ZZ Top.

The band first played in South Africa in 1996, on its Continental Safari and Mean Rhythm tour. In July and August, there were shows in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town.

At some point after this trip to South Africa, front man Billy Gibbons visited CRK. He asked CRK to make him a few knives with an African theme. CRK created custom handles and asked Gary House to make an African themed damascus steel. Unfortunately, CRK doesn’t have pictures of those knives, nor can I find them online, nor was I able to reach Mr. Gibbons.

Zebra Steel

The result was the steel we now call zebra, also known as mosaic zebra or zebra pattern mosaic. I’ve read it is a combination of 1084 high carbon steel, 4600E, and nickel. It was exclusive to CRK, never used in any other company’s knives.

The steel proved difficult to make, and at first it was available only in smaller sizes. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, CRK used it in Umfaans. This one is from 2002. It has a lot of great details: two-tone blue blade, complementary two-tone blue unique graphic, blue thumb studs, blue standoffs, blue CR logo, and blue star sapphire cabochon.

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From at least 2002 to 2007, CRK used zebra steel in Mnandis, some of which are shown in TommyBBQ’s post “My little Mnandi Collection of Zebra Blades.” Falco57 and Sk8n among others have also posted beautiful zebra Mnandi pictures. And Lone Wolfe has had a few handsome examples.

Zebra steel was also used in small Sebenzas. The earliest reference I have seen is from 2000. The latest I found was from 2006. My searches over the years have turned up only a handful in total. All of them are Unique Graphic knives; there appear to be none with wood inlays. Some are classics and some are regulars. These are two of the regulars, with birthdays in June 2003 and October 2004:

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The orange/purple colors on this blade appear to be unique among CRK knives. I’ve never seen or heard of anything similar.

The 21st Anniversary Knives

Mr. Reeve asked Mr. House to make the steel in a larger size. Mr. House didn’t think it could be done, due to limitations in the way it was made. But he tried and eventually succeeded, producing a large-sized block of zebra steel.

This was special steel, so CRK chose it for the 21st Anniversary knives, of which 21 were made in 2005. James Longstreet’s post “A very special one ….. The 21st Anniversary Sebenza” has the details. Those knives won the Investor/Collector Knife of the Year award at Blade Show 2005. Here are two pictures of mine, number 13 of the 21:

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About the steel, the booklet that accompanied the 21st Anniversary knives explains: “The zebra mosaic Damascus is made exclusively for us and it was a challenge for Gary to make a block large enough to produce blades for these Sebenzas. The weld mark that can be seen on all the blades bears evidence of this challenge.”

Two Last Large Sebenzas

When the 21st Anniversary knives were finished, the remaining block of zebra steel could supply only two more blades in the large size. With it, CRK made two last large Sebenzas, this time with mammoth ivory inlays. Both of them, like the 21st Anniversary knives, are Classic Sebenzas, which the booklet explains was chosen for the 21st Anniversary knives “because this was the profile of the original folding knife with which the Sebenza legacy began.” Aside from the 21st Anniversary knives , the two ivory knives are the only large Sebenzas ever made with zebra blades.

They were, as you might expect, finished just a few days apart. The birthday card for the first is dated December 14, 2005. The second is dated December 19, 2005.

These fraternal twins were separated at birth, sent to different homes. Years later, after a lot of digging, some good fortune, and the generous assistance of friends, I reunited them as adolescents for the first time since they were made.

Both knives have beautiful ivory inlays, the simplicity of which nicely sets off the attention-grabbing blades, which are identical except that the second one was blued. But there are also a few notable differences in the knives.

The Gray and Black Zebra

The first knife has a black and white (really, black and gray) zebra blade, like the 21st Anniversary knives, and it has a gold thumb stud and regular screws.

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The Blue Zebra

The second knife has a blued zebra blade, a silver thumb stud, and engraved screws.

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I’ve done my best to capture the colors in the blade. The darker color is dark blue or indigo, and the lighter one is sky blue. This is the only large blued zebra blade ever made, and it is the very last blued blade of any type ever put into a CRK knife.

The engraved screws are another unusual feature of the second knife. I searched for other examples from CRK, but I found only one. Like this knife, it has mammoth ivory inlays, but it’s a small Sebenza with a traditional steel blade. I don’t know when it was made. Also, the picture I found is too small to show whether the engraving is exactly the same.

So Happy Together

Here are a few pictures of the group.

The two ivory knives:

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The three large knives (in this picture it can be seen they all came from the same block of steel):

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The three black and white-bladed knives:

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Two of the colored-bladed knives:

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The quintet of Sebenzas:

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And all six:

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… and that, friends, is why we owe ZZ Top a debt of gratitude for some great CRK knives.



Everything in this post comes from my research, old forum posts, and information from CRK and other forum members. If you know more, or if you see anything that needs to be corrected, please let me know.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 20, 2018
Messages
1,205
AMAZING! Mucho Thank You's for the excellent info., beautiful pics and write-up. Very well done.
I wasn't aware of the engraved screws so a special thanks for that info.
To say the least, your collection is outstanding.
Congratulations and thank you again.
OG
 

nickpp

Gold Member
Joined
Jun 11, 2005
Messages
434
Great thread and research!
Thank you!

If it is possible to add this to one of the stickies that would be brilliant. They are such a great resource!
 

--SG--

Gold Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2016
Messages
216
bhyde bhyde -- thanks. I'm not seeing this thread show up as sticky, but maybe I'm not looking the right way.

All, I edited the original post to add a better picture of a zebra Umfaan, with a colored blade no less.
 
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