Sunday, August 5, 2018

Two-Way with Benchmade

In this corner we have Benchmade’s Anthem and in the opposite corner we have Benchmade’s Bugout.  All right, I want a clean fight.  No clip gouging, no biting and no hitting below the axis lock.  Okay?  Now go to your corners and come out on the bell.


This is an unfair fight.  But let’s see how it shakes out.

The Anthem is a manual opener with Benchmade’s famous AXIS lock.  Introduced in 2017, its unique feature is the handle is machined out of a solid billet of titanium.  For the same strength, titanium is 45% lighter than steel.  So this knife weighs in at 3.66 ounces.  The titanium handle is sculpted in a chevron pattern that is pleasing to the touch and attractive to the eye.  The knife is set up for tip up carry and the titanium clip is left/right reversible.

Anthem knife
Hey, good looking...

As soon as anyone uses the term wonder steel, a new one appears on the horizon.  Still it is the correct adjective to describe this steel.  Let’s talk composition.

20CV is a martensitic steel containing 1.9% carbon, 20% chromium and a whopping 4% vanadium with 1% molybdenum and a smidge of tungsten.  The high concentration of carbon and vanadium produces a high volume of incredibly hard vanadium carbides.  These carbides strengthen the steel and give it wear resistance which benefits any knife blade.  The chrome rich steel has excellent corrosion resistance. 

Starting as a powder steel 20CV has small grain and uniform distribution of tiny carbide grains.  But machining is difficult, having only 35-40 percent of the machinability of 1% carbon steel.  Hardening, annealing, tempering operations are complex and time consuming.  Despite these complications the Anthem’s blade reaches 59-61HRC.

Anthem folding knife
The screws in the spine anchor the AXIS lock
The opening stud is easy to find and is spaced nicely from the body allowing easy access.  The blade glides open on what looks like bronze washers.

It’s a beautiful knife.

If I had to summarize Benchmade’s Bugout, I would have to say: “Now for something completely different!”  I also have to add different isn’t bad.

The Bugout was introduced this year, 2018.  It too is a manual opener with an AXIS lock.  It’s thinner, lighter and more compact than the Anthem.  The steel is CPM S30V, another super steel.

S30V is a martensitic steel containing 1.4% carbon, 14% chromium and also 4% vanadium with 2% molybdenum. The rest of course is iron.  Vanadium reacts with carbon to produce very hard carbides.  Harder than chromium carbide.  Generally, steel has to contain 10.5 % chromium to be considered stainless.  One factor to consider in this equation is how much of the chromium is removed from the metal as carbides.  Fortunately, as chemical reactions go, vanadium carbides are the favored product, so most of the chromium is available for protection from oxidation or staining.

Bugout in your Bug-out Bag
A nice Introduction to Benchmade quality knives.

Powdered metal products, in general, have smaller grain size and a better distribution of the carbides than cast steel.  It’s reported to be as easy as D2 steel to machine, which according the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, isn’t all that easy. 

Hardening, annealing, tempering operations seem to be relatively straight forward.  Bugout’s blade reaches 58-60HRC.

The handle is a glass fiber filler nylon called Grivory.  It one of many types of engineering nylons and its properties are well understood.  There will not be any surprises here.

The knife is set up for tip up and the metal clip is reversible left/right and set up for deep pocket carry.

Partial Steel Liners Bugout
You can see the steel liner ending just at the top finger.  there's a second one on the other side.

The knife doesn’t have full handle metal liners.  The metal liner is about 1.7 inches long and it looks like it’s injection molded into the handle and then screwed at the tail end for additional strength.  The opening stud has a nice blue color but it’s held near to the grip making the knife a little more difficult to open as compared to the Anthem.  The AXIS lock is also tucked into the handle and the blade doesn’t swing free when the AXIS lock is used as does the Anthem.

As Gin Wigmore says “going head to head”:

Handle Material
Titanium Billet
Blade Hardness
58-60 RHC
59-61 RHC
Blade Length
3.24 inches
3.5 inches
Closed Length
4.22 inches
4.56 inches
Lock System
1.85 oz.
3.66 oz.
Reversible – deep carry
Tip Up
Tip Up
CATRA Edge Retention
145% of 440C
180% of 440C
$135 MSRP
$500 MSRP

CATRA edge testing is one of the new witchcraft testing procedures to produce a reproducible, operator independent, meaningful edge retention value.  The problem with many of these types of test is finding a test material that is also constant and reproducible.  In any case it’s better than you and buddy shaving leather or cutting steaks.

So, what do I think?
These are knives designed for different needs and different people. 

The Bugout is a nice “Welcome to Benchmade” knife.  It’s small and compact but provides enough cutting ability for most uses.  It’s the knife I would carry in places I couldn’t carry a knife.  Places I thought I might lose a knife.  If I was packing a true hell-for–leather bugout bag, one of the knives would be a Bugout.  If I was going to stash a knife, a couple hundred in twenties, compass and matches in a sealed wax container… you get the idea.

The Anthem, well, it a great knife and for me it would a “barbecue” knife.  Something I’d pull out of my pocket to show off.  I’d carry it in places where I never intended to use a knife.  It would be a status symbol for me, if I used those kinds of status symbols.  But look, if you need to get the most out of a knife, if you use a blade hard and need every possible advantage of edge, weight and durability, the Anthem could be your answer.  It’s pricey, but I think it would hold up better than the Bugout to hard, brutal use.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Brew Week

The expression “standing on the knife edge” is often used to suggest you are looking for and can see the future as it develops.  It’s a place of nervous energy and decision making.  Do I like this, do I understand what I see, and do I need to jump off before some specific future arrives?

It’s also place to sit back and relax.  Sometimes we just want to let the edge take us to wherever it’s going.  So that was what Ohio Brew Week in Athens, Ohio was.  A chance to just let the future of microbreweries wash over us.

We pull into our first brewery Devil’s Kettle.  We haven’t had lunch or even checked into our motel.  The Brew Week guide tells us DK has food at a little foodie stand called Pork and Pickles.  That very cool!

So we order a beer, get a picnic table and walk over to place a food order.  The owner is behind the counter and in front of the grill.  She tells me she had to send her helper to Kroger Food for supplies.  I’m cool with that.  I understand the need to be patient.  So we order two burgers, well done.  She tells me P and P only cooks them medium.  It seems the beef is locally sourced (later I find out she owns the cattle).  I look at a burger someone is eating.  It’s 2 inches thick and it’s bloody, raw ground beef with a thin layer of brown crust on each side. 

I like to enjoy food, but I can always rationalize poorly cooked food as “it’s just fuel.”  But still it’s too rare.  “Could you cook it a little more?  Please?”  I request.

What!   Compromise the integrity of what!  She must be nuts!

“I don’t want to compromise the integrity of our local beef.”  What, did she read that in some epicurean foodie publication with a circulation of a 150 wannabe chiefs?

I already have a beer, and I need some blotting paper in me and she holding lunch hostage.  So I don’t respond with  “Hell, lady, it’s too late, that cows is already ground up!” 

Instead I look over the posted menu for options.  She has some kind of cold pressed pork patty, but every time I read it the letters spell “Trichinosis.”  I’ll spare you the autopsy photo of a brain infected with trichinosis.  It still gives me the dry heaves, so no cold pressed pork for me or anyone I love or even vaguely like.  

She’s got soup and deviled eggs listed.  I’m saved!  Not so fast.  “Sorry the deviled eggs are for dinner only…”she tells me.

Well, we applied a liberal dose of flattery and convince her we’re celebrating St. Smithers’s Day, the patron saint of hamburgers and she cooks two burgers well done, only after we swear an oath never to reveal that she failed to respect the integrity… you know the rest.

I don’t feel bad about breaking my word to someone who doesn’t know the patron saint of burgers is St. Menches
We stopped at a number of places.  One was Jackie O’s.  The food was great and the beer, well everyone was rolling out something special for Brew Week.  So while I’m enjoying a beer I’ve never heard of and can’t find anywhere else, I look over at the table next to me and he’s drinking a Stroh’s beer from a bottle.  Stroh’s was founded around 1850 and is now owned by Pabst.  It’s an ordinary beer that bases its sales on the idea that a since its fire brewed, it must be good beer.

I think you should drink what you like.  But here you are, sitting in one of the breweries consistently rated in the top 100 in the world, not Ohio, but the freaking world, and you’re drinking fizzy, alcoholic, yellow water, cause some advertisement told you should?

We stopped by what is quickly turning into my favorite brewery, anywhere, Little Fish.  They have a relaxed, friendly atmosphere with some amazing beers.  Food is available at a food truck anchored next to the brewery.  They specialize in Cajun food, and it’s excellent.  We had their quail breast sliders one night and went back the next for another serving.  They had a cucumber beer (Cucumba) that is perfect for warm summer nights and an orange/carrot beer (Cheeto Benito) I think would go good with a turkey Thanksgiving dinner.

The selection at LF
One of the bands at Little Fish and some of the grounds

The Cajun Clucker at LF.  The food is excellent!

Little Fish is growing.  Bigger building, indoor restaurant, more parking are in the works.  Bye-bye food truck!  Will success spoil Little Fish?  I sure hope not!

We also sat in an hour lecture in the history of the beer can.  There are a few beer cans out there that would pay for a summer of traveling in Europe, if you find one.  The point I liked best was cans were introduced by canning companies looking for more market share of the beer beverage market.  Those beer companies that could afford the technology were able to effectively leave local areas and enter new markets.  They slowly drove the less advanced companies out of business. 

The history of beer cans and it was held in a ....

...In a church!  To me it is proof there is a God and he loves me!
We’re seeing the advent of local brewing, beer with local taste and character and the savvy companies are expanding to maintain a larger regional presence they can grow into a national presence.

Brew Week is the cutting edge of the future of beer in the world.  More and more cities, town and unincorporated areas have breweries.  They cater to local tastes while using local products.  This puts money back into the local economies and creates opportunities.  Not all these breweries will go regional much less national, and some with simply fail.  But they will create many different unique beers.

It’s a great time to sit back and watch it unfold.  Relax and have beer with me.

Here's a few more photos:

The Eclipse Company Store

The Eclipse Company Store is on a bike trail, which is equipped with tools and air pump to effect emergency repairs.  Thats is soooo cool!

uuyg uy h

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mystery Knife

I just want to let you know that no knives were hurt at the Medina gun show this weekend.  In fact, damn few were sold by anyone.  There is something about the June show.  One would think that since there is no May show and following the June show there is nothing until September, June would be busting with buyers needing ammo, targets, supplies, blades and other sundry items.  Not so.

It was a stinky show, so men, stop eating all that cabbage, ‘cause it’s bad enough not having customers, but gassy ones are worse!

Horn handle,  A Beltrame
What appears to be a tang stamp is someone's initial carefully carved into the metal.

I did pick up a horn handled lever lock auto.  It’s completely free of maker marks.  So I searched Google images.  I found an internet reference to SKM A Beltrame in Italy.  This led me to the website from Frank Beltrame and Maniago, Italy.

It seems Maniago, Italy has a long tradition of making automatic knives, especially in the classic Italian stiletto style.  They also make lever locks like mine.  From the little I could tell with my internet search, companies like SKM (Switchblade Knife Works) acted as jobbers making knives for everyone and could, as governed by Italian law, mark the blades with anything or nothing.  SKM is reported to be out of business.  There is no website, but they may have resurfaced with a different name.

Frank Beltrame, Italian Auto
The tab, or lever must be depressed towards the handle to open or close the knife.

lever lock, automatic knife, switchblade
With the lever up against the bolster the knife can't be closed.  When closed this position prevents the knife from opening or unlocking.

Frank sells this knife, but he has no prices on his website and only one picture.  I’ve found other listings of this knife, but the dimensions are a little off.  Was this a bad translation from metric to English?  Or did the jobbers have a range of knives they made that looked the same, but varied in size?

In any case Maniago has what could be a very cool Museum of Knife Making: Art of Manufacturing and Cutlery.

Horned handle lever lock automatic knife, closed and locked.

I’m not sure what to do with his little guy.  It’s in very good shape with a 3-inch blade and 4.5-inch horn handle.  I suspect there is a little more research to be done on this guy. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pilgrimage of Steel

  As much as I love knife companies, I admit they would not be my pilgrimage of the faithful.  I instead would bow down and face Smokey Mountain Knife Works.



You might consider it as well.  Right now SMKW estimates that 1.5 million pilgrims will make the journey this year.  There were two school buses in the parking lot when we arrived.


Walk in and you notice knives and more knives.  The doors are numbered and you’re reminded to note your entry.  That was a clue how big the place is.  You’ll find people buying $3 POS knives, but you’ll also find top shelf Benchmade, Case, SOG and all the rest.  Wander around and look at all the mounted animals, everywhere.  They were collected by one man who hunted every continent in the 50s and 60s.  The walls are lined with cases and displays of old knives and knife collectables.  These wasn’t a plan, it grew (as much as I hate the expression) organically.  The staff squeezed in a display here and there and then someone decided this display would look good near some other display.  And it just kept going.
Indoor at SMKW
We walked in door number 2 and found ....

Smokey Mountain Knife Works, Victorinox
One of many....

Smokey Mountain Knife Works
Esee fixed blades

Mr. Pipes started as a seller of arrowheads and civil war memorabilia and a friend suggested why don’t you try selling a few knives?  It didn’t take too long before the knives out sold the relics.  The original store wasn’t big enough, so they moved, then they added on and it’s still crowded.   But everything is laid out nicely and well labeled.

More collection

Prison Shanks, SMKW
Shanks.  Who collects shanks?


But when you get there, make sure you see everything and then go down into the Relic Room.  Here you find fossils from China and the warm seas that covered Chicago.  You’ll find bullets from the revolutionary war as well as the civil war.  Oh, there is some crystal non-sense about spirit guide stone animals and how a stone with a certain shape will focus your attention and balance your chi.  But you’ll also find Russian coat buttons from the Cold War, binoculars from our western expansion, fired pistol cases from WWI among books listing the local men who enlisted in the Civil War.  How about a commemorative belt buckle from the first reunion of Teddy’s Rough Riders?  I don’t know if anyone knows all the treasures in that room.  I found an issue of Popular Science from March of my birth year.  Guess what the cover story was about?  How to convert your basement to a shelter for the anticipated atomic wars.

Chase Pipes, Smokey Mountain Knife works
One of dozen or more selections of historic relics

The owner of the Relic Room, Chase, is a Pipes family member and is a prodigy for history, both natural and human.  He spoke to us of records and university archeology digs that confirm the existence of a Spanish rendezvous from the 1500s a couple 100 yards from where we stood.  I had no idea the Spanish were ever in this part of the country, but I heard him teach several children (and myself) that the Spanish court required a notary under the control of the Church to travel with their explorers.  Everyday the explorers would diary about the day and the entry would be notarized.  These extensive records are now matched to current digs which confirm the veracity of the findings.


Old, beyond my comprehension
 bought a chunk of the oldest original rock available on planet earth.  It’s Acasta Gneiss from the Hadean Age.  There’s still some of this rock showing on the Acasta River in Canada.  It doesn’t look like much.  It is 4.2 billon years old.  And I can touch it with my fingertips.


That’s beyond cool.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Blade Show Day 3

There’s a few customers with energy and the counter people are doing the best they can, but it’s day 3 of the Blade Show.  When I’m done I simply walk out the door.  The vendors have to start packing up at 3:01 and it takes a while.  I expect some will be there at 6 tonight.  The life of a traveling sales staff isn’t easy.

I stopped by one of my favorite manufacturers, Shadow Tech.  They have creative new ideas.  Yes, I know I said the Blade Show is row after row of sameness.  But there are innovations.  ST has a small fixed blade neck knife with replacement blades.  No, not replaceable in terms of sharpness, but in terms of blade design.  I got a blade that reminds me of a sharpened eagle claw.  But if I decide I need a different blade, I can purchase one for an amount less than the knife (prices are still being figured out).  The blade is held in place by four Allen screws and some internal geometry.  This is a very clever idea.  The blades are S30V and are about an inch and a quarter long.

neck knife, ST

I stopped off to talk with Mickey Yurco.  Mickey has some of the most interesting ideas on blades and how to carry.  Boker Knife is picking up a second of his designs and I believe they will be using Ultclips.  These are metal spring clip that can anchor a knife sheath inside your pocket.  It’s very clever design.  You can carry an IWB holster or knife sheath without having a belt by clipping a Ulticlip to the fabric of your pants.  Great for women who often go beltless.  I think you’ll see a lot of these in the future.


I never wanted a Pro-Tech Godson.  It seemed too small, a derivative of the classic Godfather auto.  That all changed with the Godson Steampunk.  The copper steampunk art work is designed by Bruce Shaw.  The copper artwork looks great set into the anodized black body of the knife.   ProTech made just 200 of these you better hurry if you need or just want one!

steam punk

I took a few moments and mounted the glass breaker and seat belt cutter I bought yesterday in my car.  It looks good and we didn’t even notice it driving.  I don’t think I’ll ever need it (I hope), but that’s what I say about concealed carry.  If I need it, I’ll have it in place.

Seatbelt cutter

I picked up a few items I need for turning my Spyderco Mule into a working knife.  Jantz is one of the places to go for just about anything you need to make knives.  We’ll see what happens.

Speaking of Spyderco, well, there’s just too much to talk about.  Joyce is always generous to a fault, so I always get some help there.  I am astonished at the interesting designs they are willing to take a chance on.  I’ll have a separate column on them.

I also stopped at Case Knife.  They are making more tactical looking knives and have several collaborations going on.  The Winkler fixed blade they have is sweet.  They are also introducing an assisted opener.

Let me just go off on a tangent.  Quality costs.  So does performance.  If you want a knife that will last 3 years and then needs to be thrown away, you can find them.  Many of us can’t use the full potential of the knives we buy and they become portable temporary collections.  The knife takes a little wear and ends up in rusty tackle box or under a car seat forgotten about.  Cheap knives are everywhere.

If you want performance and an innovative design, expect to pay.  You’ll find knife makers who have a passion for knives.  They want to make the best knife they can for the price they ask.  Joe Caswell is one.  He wants to make the best knife he can.  I found South African Arno Bernard cutting out life size paper models of two folding knives he wants to work on.  He’ll use those models to buy supplies to make prototypes.  Like his fixed blades they will not be inexpensive, but the quality will be there.  He too has a passion for knives.

And it isn’t just designers.  Look at Shadow Tech and Spyderco as just two companies.  They are constantly pushing designs and quality.  They use good steels and constantly strive for improvement.  And it isn’t just US manufacturers.  The Chinese company, WE, does both consignment manufacturing as well as manufacturing under their name.  Look at their knives.  The quality speaks to you.  Every year I see improvement.  They may have trouble with English (they speak English better than I could ever learn Mandarin) but you can see the passion for knives.

Counterfeits remain a problem.  Counterfeit knives, tools, bolts and even food all come into the country and displace quality products because of greed.  If you’re buying solely on price and not concerned about quality and performance, you’re part of the problem.  I’d like to say I hope your sex organs shrivel up and fall off, but I decided it would be better if your little finger died and broke away.  At least then we could recognize you.  There always a chance your sex organs will follow suit.

Read Day 1

Read Day 2

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Blade Show Day 2

It’s hard to summarize.  There are so many vendors and people that everything jams together and blurs into grayness by the end of the day.  Still, I don’t want to miss any of it.

News:  Blade Magazine and the Blade Show are rumored to have been sold.  It’s reported that Gun Digest, owned by Caribou Media, has plunked down the dollars.  I do know that the Blade Show is scheduled to be back at the Cobb Galleria (Atlanta) in 2019.  We’ll see about the rest.


 I purchased a Microtech OTF only because I couldn’t see not having one.  The knife, like many is really more of a barbecue knife that you show off to your friends.  Yes, you can use it; it will cut, stab and kill but most of us will leave it in the safe.  The problem is for most uses, you’ll have the blade orientated up/down which puts the button under your thumb.  Press the button at the wrong time and the blade disappears.  Oops!

box opener
Richmade Knife 3D box opener
Richmade Knives had a clever utility/box cutter they were giving out.  It was made with a 3D printer and is very clever.  The razor blade folds into the body and it has space for two spare blades.  I wouldn’t use it if you paid me.  I have visions of it coming apart and cutting the heck out of myself.

 Do you carry an emergency escape knife in your car?  You know, something with a glass breaker and a seat belt cutter?  I’m always reading about people in Florida who drive into a flooded canal and drown.  I carry one in the side pocket of the driver door, but I know in an accident it will pop out and end up somewhere the coroner will find later.  I bought a little unit that straps around the sun visor. It has a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter.  Best of all it stays where I put it.

I spent an hour with Joe Caswell.  He’s building the coolest knife I’ve ever seen.  Right now it’s a karambit, but future models will have a more traditional blade.  He was at Blade to talk with a manufacturer who want to mass produce them.  The name is a secret and he’s not about to screw that up.  His percentage from the knife and derivatives could be, in his words, “substantial.”

Folding Karambit

Joe Caswell

Folding Karambit
and Bingo!!  Open

Here’s a few more pictures.
Space Fighter  Very Nice

Jenn from Alabama Damascus and Oscar the rat   Only slightly strange.

the Blade Show

Wayne Hensley  One of the Grand Old Men of the knife community.  I have a Subhilt fighter he made for WRCA knife  collectors.

In progress knife from Art Knife.  The handle will be ruby red.  If you have to ask how much, well you can't afford it.

I really love Steam Punk knives.
I don't know who made it, but Knife Legends has it.  They buy and sell investment grade folders ans fixed blades.

Lost knives
Saw this sign on 2 tables (at $650 a pop!)
Not everything about the Blade Show is unicorns and rainbows.  They may get their money back, but they still had to pay for the tables and how can you account for lost customers and lost opportunities.

Tomorrow is my final chance to find gold, it's Day 3.

Read Day 1

Read Day 3