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A ZZeal of ZZebras

Discussion in 'Chris Reeve Knives' started by --SG--, Jan 19, 2019.

  1. --SG--

    --SG-- Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 7, 2016
    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.

    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, from 2002, is one of only two pictures of zebra Umfaans I’ve seen. It’s not my knife, and it’s not my picture.


    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:





    The orange/purple colors on this blade may 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. I have read that 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:



    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.” The 21st Anniversary knives aside, 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.


    The Blue Zebra

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


    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 I have read it is the very last blued blade of any type ever put into a CRK knife. (CRK stopped making blued blades around the beginning of 2005. Is anyone aware of a blued blade that came after mid-December 2005?)

    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:


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


    The three black and white-bladed knives:


    The two colored-bladed knives:


    The quintet:


    … 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: Jan 21, 2019
    loon#r, Rykjeklut, WuTanga and 17 others like this.
  2. NCHunter78

    NCHunter78 Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 14, 2016
    I will try to get a better pic of the umfaan.
    nickpp likes this.
  3. --SG--

    --SG-- Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 7, 2016
    Rob, thank you! I’d be thrilled to swap in a better picture.
  4. OLd_gUY

    OLd_gUY Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 20, 2018
    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.
  5. Lone_Wolfe

    Lone_Wolfe Dazed and Confused Platinum Member

    May 3, 2011
    Wow, awesome write-up and pics! Just gorgeous knives!

    @bhyde, please add this thread to one of your stickies!
    nickpp and OLd_gUY like this.
  6. mangelo2407


    Apr 3, 2015
    Gorgeous ...........
  7. --SG--

    --SG-- Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 7, 2016
    LW, OG, and mangelo2407, thank you. This collection took a long time to put together, and I’m glad to have a chance to share it and the history.
    Lone_Wolfe and OLd_gUY like this.
  8. James Longstreet

    James Longstreet

    May 1, 2014
    Well done, Scott! Thanks for your documentation.
  9. greatwtan


    Feb 3, 2014
    Awesome works! Hopes someday I will get one.
  10. nickpp

    nickpp Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 11, 2005
    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!
  11. bhyde

    bhyde UNNECESSARY EVIL Staff Member Super Mod Moderator Platinum Member

    Mar 19, 2002
    nickpp and OLd_gUY like this.
  12. --SG--

    --SG-- Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 7, 2016
    @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.
  13. OLd_gUY

    OLd_gUY Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 20, 2018
    @bhyde - FWIW, I'd like to cast another vote for making this very informative thread a sticky :thumbsup:.....when you get a chance
  14. Silverstonev8

    Silverstonev8 Gold Member Gold Member

    Jul 12, 2018
    It’s a sticky under Chris Reeve knives history links.
    OLd_gUY likes this.
  15. OLd_gUY

    OLd_gUY Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 20, 2018
    bhyde likes this.
  16. Ernie1980

    Ernie1980 Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 19, 2012
    Nice group and some great Information and pictures!!
  17. RTedder2

    RTedder2 Basic Member Basic Member

    Oct 21, 2015
    Wow! Good info about very unique knives.
  18. --SG--

    --SG-- Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 7, 2016
    Thanks all! @Silverstonev8 — now I see it. Thank you!
  19. NCHunter78

    NCHunter78 Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 14, 2016
    @--SG-- your inbox is full - tried to send you a message
  20. loon#r

    loon#r Gold Member Gold Member

    Mar 10, 2008
    Thanks for taking the time to capture all of this.

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