Inspired by the customization project outlined on the YouTube channel of Gideon's Tactical as I began to search for a survival/camp knife, I decided to go with the Ka Bar Becker BK 16 based on many things including its lower price point and ability to upgrade parts of the knife when you are able to and not have such a large investment up front.
First the final results after stripping the stock coating and upgrading the handles and sheath:
The Becker 16 arrives with 2 sets of plastic handles that have a good shape but feel slick in your hand and the nylon sheath is good enough to use for a while if you needed to. It does have a pouch to hold a Ferro rod at least, however it seems large for the knife.
The first thing I was able to do was purchase after market micarta handles which are a night and day upgrade to the feel of the handle. They are slightly thicker and have a softer feel that will provide and obvious grip upgrade to the knife. If that is all you do to change the knife it will already be 100% better.
I didn't realize, but the sun was hitting the knife through my shop window and caused the slight color change on the micarta seen above. Could be a way to darken the handles if you wanted.
Good shot of the thickness of the handles and the knife itself.
Next, I stripped the coating off the blade because it is a very thick paint with a texture and I wanted a smooth surface. I got Tuff-Strip but any paint stripper will work. Just make sure you are in a well ventilated area because this is bad stuff that works fast. You also need some sort of plastic scraper to push of the coating as it bubbles up.
Once all the paint has been removed from all the corners and crevices, clean off the blade in water, dry it, and place it in a new clean tray. Now you can decide how you want the patina to look. A dark unfiltered vinegar will create a darker patina and a white vinegar will make a lighter one.
I chose a dark vinegar and ended up leaving the blade in it for almost 45 minutes each side. As it was soaking the darker area visible on the finished blade was growing toward the end of he blade and I liked how it turned out. Cutting the time in the vinegar will also create a lighter patina with less of the dark area that was created on this one. I also suspended the blade in the vinegar on nails so all sides would be exposed. Also you will need to knock off the bubbles forming on the blade every few minutes or they will affect your final result.
Finally, I upgraded the sheath to AZ Welke kydex taco style sheath and testing out how the tech lock does in non-tactical situations. So far, it makes the knife ride pretty high, so I'm already thinking I'll need to go with a drop on the sheath.