Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tiger, tiger....

Karambits are popular right now for a variety of reasons.  Like so many weapons from South East Asia, they trace their origin to some animal attribute or farm implement.

And why not?  Nature shaped a bears claws for specific purposes, just like the teeth of a shark.  If you need to accomplish a similar purpose, starting with successful examples is not a bad idea. 

It should be self-evident that all invaders strip the conquered of their weapons.  What does the resourceful farmer do?  He learns to defend myself with farm tools and everyday objects. 

I can almost hear the conversation: “Oh no Master, Officer, Governor, Police, that’s not a weapon, but two sticks chained together that I use to thresh grain so I can pay my taxes.  I’d never think of breaking bones and heads with it….”

The karambit or kerambit as it’s known in Indonesia, comes from humble beginnings as well.  It was an agricultural implement used to rake roots, thresh grain and plant rice.  Folklore claims it was inspired by the claws of a tiger.

Slip your little finger in the hole and slash.  Most of the blocks I know work really well with a karambit in one hand! 


Wikipedia has a romantic tale of Indonesian women who would tie a karambit in their hair for self-protection.  I like this tale as a karambit has been described as an instinctual weapon.  More than 15 years ago a self-defense instructor told me “…put your thumb on the back of the blade and simply wipe your thumb on your target.”  He was talking about a classic straight blade; the same applies to the karambit. 

I recently got my hands on a karambit from the We Knife Co.  We is a Chinese company that has been making knives for the last 10 years under the name Wayeahknife.  In 2014 they had the opportunity to expand and changed their name to We Knife Company. 

Their mission statement?  "Building the highest quality knives and tools and giving you plenty of choices in our products."  Sounds pretty good.  They’re using equipment like CNC machines, CNC grinding machines, precision stamping machines, as well as EDM machines to produce high quality knives which they sell in the US and Europe.  These knives aren’t aimed at the Chinese market, as locking blades are illegal.

My karambit is model 708A and the specs are pretty impressive.

The blade has a linear measurement of 2.8 inches, but the curved edge gives you more cutting surface.  The steel used is CPM S35VN with a Rockwell hardness of 59-61.  The blade rolls open on ceramic ball bearings.

We claims the blade is flat grind, but I believe it is better described as a saber grind.  The knife is a frame lock and the locking bar has what appears to be a small steel insert that wedges against the steel blade when open.  Many of the better aluminum and titanium knives utilize a steel insert to protect the softer metal of the locking bar from excessive wear from the back of the blade.  It’s a nice touch.

The handle, metal clip, metal screws and cap are all TI6Al4V.  This alloy is the most commonly used titanium alloy used outside of the aerospace industries.  Wikipedia claims “…. It has a chemical composition of:
  • 6% aluminum,
  • 4% vanadium,
  • 0.25% (maximum) iron,
  • 0.2% (maximum) oxygen,
  • remainder titanium.  


It is significantly stronger than commercially pure titanium while having the same stiffness and thermal properties.  Among its many advantages, it is heat treatable.  This grade is an excellent combination of strength, corrosion resistance, weld and fabricability.”

I like the flipper on the blade.  It really pops the knife open and serves as guard to prevent you sliding onto the blade.  I would have preferred the flipper to be used as an assist to open the knife as you draw it from your pocket.  I’m also disappointed the clip isn’t reversible.  The knife is set up for right hand, tip up carry.  It’s my favorite carry mode, but in everyday life the karambit might best be, as Doug Marcaida described it, as a “back-up weapon”.  The ability to adjust clip for your carry mode would have made this knife a much better product.


I know very little about fighting with a knife.  Watching someone who knows how to use a knife sends shivers down my spine.  But if you are like so many people who look at a knife and ask “Could I defend myself with that knife?” you should take a look at We’s karambit.  The answer is yes!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Another One Bites The Dust

What is the world coming to?

England was the world’s first superpower.  It ruled the seas, had bases and colonies on every habitable continent in the world.  It’s men would march out and the world would hold its breath.  It was rightly said the sun never sets on the British Empire.  At the beginning of the 20th century this island stood again the Central powers and later stood against the Nazis.  But now, well it’s not looking too good.

I just read UK Essex police have a program called “Only Cowards Carry a Knife.”  And they have erected a drop off bin as part of some wacky amnesty program.  On the front of it they have the Cookie Monster and images of a screwdriver, broken bottle, kitchen knives and a folding knife.  It’s only a matter of time before they add scissors.

I also find interesting the Essex police use three swords as part of their logo or seal.

Forbidden knife
Again. is it really the object that are "evil" or the actions done with them?


Part of the program urges people to keep track of kitchen knives and properly dispose of them.  I remember reading about Winston Churchill during the early days of WWII musing, slightly drunk, that the English people might have to face invading German armies with kitchen knives.  Well, if it ever comes about again, they’ll be using pictures of knives drawn on paper.

On the same path, one of my favorite British mystery programs is Broadchurch.  It’s the name of a fictional town on the coast of England.  One scene in the third season shows a grieved (Warning: massive plot spoiler) father confronting his son’s killer and he has a folding box cutter in his pocket.


box cutter
Box cutter, and it looks like the one on Broadchurch.  Not my choice of tool to confront a child killer. 


A box cutter!?!  WT Actual F?  Frankly, if I was confronting my child’s killer, a folding box cutter would be the most innocent thing I would have in my pockets!  Ahh, but it’s England, don’t you know.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that buzz you hear isn’t tinnitus, it’s Baden-Powell spinning in his grave. 



Monday, July 31, 2017

It's Moonshine!

Taylor Brands was founded by Stewart Taylor in 1975 in east Tennessee.  Originally Taylor had knives made for them under their name, but they gained the reputation as a knife jobber who facilitated the manufacture of knives with different trademarks. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Knives of reasonable quality can be made by many manufacturers with excess capacity.  Taylor made S&W logo knives which were everyday working knives at a reasonable price.  I don’t think anyone expects to turn their working S&W knife over to a grandchild and I don’t know anyone who collects them.  But if you needed a cutting edge, S&W would work.

Many companies, for reasons better left to the studies of economics, found they could not compete in today’s market.  Taylor bought them.  Maybe the best you can say about this is brand names like Schrade, Old Timer, Uncle Henry, and Imperial knives were saved from oblivion.  It’s kind of like the Irish Elk.

Here’s where it gets complicated.  Taylor, as previously mentioned, licenses the Smith & Wesson name.  Smith & Wesson recently purchased Taylor Brands.  So they own, among other things, Old Timer, Schrade, as well as knives made in their name.

Recently I came across a Taylor made knife called the Moonshiner.  It’s a brass handled locking blade with a finger hole for grip.  The tang stamp indicates it’s a Taylor knife made in Japan of surgical steel.

collecting knives
I liked the finger hole but the brass handle as got to go!



I don’t know much about the knife, other than no bootlegger ever carried a knife that said Moonshiner.  The blade is stainless and I suspect it’s a 440 type.  Of the three types of 440, I suspect type C, as it’s the most common.


It came in the original box and the blade doesn’t seem to be used.  The brass looks like it’s been handled a lot.  I suspect it’s a show and tell knife, something you show off to your friends and acquaintances, like I’m doing now.  

Monday, July 10, 2017

Shooter's weekend

I just spent the weekend at Canton McKinley Rifle and Pistol Club hawking knives.  This weekend is their big Regional Bullseye Match, what we call a 2700.  It takes three days to shoot it and honestly 4 would be better, but it’s just not possible.  They get about 300 shooters from all over the country, sometimes all over the world.

Starting tomorrow, (as I write this) Monday 10 July 17 the National Matches at Camp Perry start.  They will get at least at least a thousand shooters including all branches of the military, National Guard, Police Departments, clubs and everyday citizens who want to compete. 

I was there at CMRPC selling club merchandise, handing out club tee-shirts and sharpening knives to demonstrate the Spyderco sharpener, at least that’s what they think.

I was really there for raising the flag.

"I'd elevated that another 12 degrees if I was you..."



It starts by pulling a friction fuse on a brass canon captured by the British during the Crimean War.  The canon belches smoke and fire while the National Anthem starts playing.  You can’t hear the first couple of notes.  The canon’s thunder drowns them out.  A three person military team starts to raise the flag and everyone, a hundred armed men and women and all the support people, snap to attention and salute.  The smoke clears but the aroma of cordite lingers as the last notes are played and the flag reaches the top of the pole.  There’s doesn’t seems to be a breeze but somehow a puff of wind straightens the flag for a second and we return to our activities.  Then shooters have a three minute preparation period to get ready.

If that doesn’t bring tears of pride to your eyes, then you’re no friend of mine.

Nothing says "Attention for Colors!" like a canon blast.


People stop by the table to talk, or show of their newest, favorite, or latest blade.  We talk about types of steel, advantages of tip up vs tip down carry and role of everyday knife carry.  I see a wide variety of knives at this match.  Some knives are to commemorate a special event, like retirement or a graduation.  Others are just the flavor of the week.  Some are old, trusted companions that were there for the owner when needed. 

I’ve sold a knife to many of these people and they bring them back to show me.  Most are in good shape and sharp, but a few are dull with micro-chips along the edge; others have cracked and broken tips.  I can’t do much with the damaged ones.  The sharpener I use is best utilized keeping sharp knives from becoming dull.  And that’s really the key to keeping a working knife sharp, never let it get dull.  Yes, possibly you will wear out the blade from all the edge dressing you do.  But most assuredly, if you let your blade get so dull and damaged that you have to grind away some of the edge to get a sharp blade, you will run out of knife sooner than later.

After about a half hour, I got it as sharp as I was going to get  it with a Spyderco Sharpmaker.



If these abused knives were all we had, I’d spend a day working the missing tip into something pointed and polishing the micro-chips out of the blade, but there are better systems for that.  After you’ve sharpened knives for a while it becomes clear that no one sharpener works for every knife.  Anyone who claims their sharpening system does it all, isn’t the sharpest knife in the box.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Blade Sunday and a Random Walk



Blade Show Sunday is the finish line.  Most of the pressure is off, sales made, promises swapped, and bargains available, if you can recognize a bargain.  

It’s a good time to talk to vendors about knives and the industry.  I stopped at Spyderco to talk with Joyce.  Long ago Joyce sent me a congratulations note on my first article which was about Spyderco’s Bob Lum with the anodized green handle.  We think of her as a friend.

Spyderco is one of my favorite companies, along with Shadow Tech, Benchmade and Böker. 

So what new is with Spyderco?  The answer is lots.

Remember the H1 steel.  Rust proof in salt water.  I ran my own test by slathering a salt paste on the blade and keeping it in a moist warm environment overnight.  No rust.  H1 steel has some hardenable issues but the steel can be worked hardened.  Every time you sharpen it, the edge gets a little harder.  Now they are using LC200N as is many other blade makers.  Oh, yes, did I mention they have altered the Caribbean Salt so it has the 4-position clip?

LC200N is low carbon, high chromium with enough nitrogen to give you RC values of 60.  This should be a very rust resistant steel.  They are releasing it mid-year as their Caribbean series, a yellow and black alternating striped handled knife with a flat grind blade.  It will be Endura size, but way cooler.

The Military with Spyderco’s patented top compression lock is very popular, but big.  So several years ago they released the Para Military, but even that was large.  So get ready for Para 3.  It’s about Delica size but with the same wide flat ground blade.

For mid-season they are introducing 30 new products.  Add that to their already expansive product line and you have a shop keeper’s nightmare.  Which do you stock?  How many of which?  Which one or two are just there to draw customers over to the counter, but aren’t expected to sell?

I got a silent agreement that Spyderco has too many SKUs for most vendors.  I found out that every year they have an SKU meeting and they decide which SKU will go to make room for new ones.  People get passionate about this.  “Which child will you kick out to bring in a new one?” They ask.  I’m glad I don’t have to make these decisions.

Sharpening is always controversial and the show has many systems ranging from simple Arkansas stones to sharpening systems that suggest a degree in engineering is required.  As steel blades increase in hardness more sophistical materials are needed.  Cubic boron nitride?  Industrial sintered diamond? Recrystallized unobtanium?  These are the sharpening material of today and tomorrow.  But these are still challenged by the water stones of Japan, the fossil clay of Italy and the slabs of soapstone.

Google search for edges.  How many will you find?  Flat grind, secondary bevel, hollow, apple seed, chisel, chisel with back bevel?  Now let’s consider angle. The smaller the angle the sharper it is.  It’s also more delicate.  A stout angle may work fine on an axe, but not so good for filleting trout for dinner.  Most of us expect to have to resharpen a shallow angle more often regardless of the super steel or secret heat treatment.

Angle leads us to blade thickness.  You can find Tou-tube videos of people attempting to chop through a branch with a blade only a 16th of an inch thick and people attempting to carve tinder with what can only be described as an edged car leaf spring.  Somewhere in the middle are the compromisers trying to create one edge with two different profiles.  They attempt to make the front half of the blade eye surgery sharp and the back edge coconut cracking dull.  Most of the time, they fail.  I would suggest setting your edge geometry and sharpness to your average cutting expectations.



And you know what?  It’s all wonderful.  Let me suggest that through exploring edges, sharpening and sharpening, whatever your final edge is you will create new appreciation for the humble knife.

  Enjoy. 

Here's a few more images from the Blade Show:





You can always find raw material to make the knife you want!



I wish I had bought a few of the screw pins used to hold handles together!






Buck Club 75th anniversary
It's Buck's 75th anniversary and the Buck clubs went all out!


Fireworks and Grinding
 Let's end with fireworks!







Friday, June 16, 2017

Do you?

If you believe George Clooney, a day without Nespresso is day without sunshine, without oxygen, without … (insert any hyperbola you want).  But has he ever wondered where all those single-use capsules go?  Maybe they are being compressed, shrunk and crushed until they reach the density of degenerate dwarf star material.  Another rumor has it they are taken back to Switzerland to fill in the caves the Swiss dug to protect themselves during WWII.

Actually they are being swallowed by Victorinox and spitted back out as a special edition of Swiss Army knives called Nespresso Pioneers and they are very cool.

Both Victorinox and Nespresso are Swiss companies located near each other.  Victorinox is a very environmentally conscious company.  “Sustainably-sourced and produced products are at the heart of the Victorinox business model,” says Renee Hourigan, North American Director of Marketing for Victorinox.

So what, you say.  Companies make this claim even if they burn scrap in bonfires instead of sending it to landfills.  That may be true but Victorinox is different.  They are recycling 600 tons of steel from its grinding sludge every year, equivalent to 25% of the steel it uses annually.  So several years ago they started making deep blue handled knives from recycled Nespresso coffee capsules.  Twenty-four recycled Nespresso coffee capsules to be exact, per knife.

11,650 Nespresso Pioneers have were released for sale, (as a value added activity, calculated how many cups of Nespresso George Clooney would have to drink to supply all the aluminum) but you have to go to Switzerland.  They aren’t sold here.  (Email George and see if he can do something about this…)

NespressoPioneer


But that was last year, this year 250 special purple Nespresso Pioneers will be released in the US.  Get ‘em if you can.  They are so cool on so many levels.

In case you’re wondering about Keurig’s K-Cup coffee pods, they were recently banned in Hamburg, Germany, with sales in North America slumping.  Keurig’s promise to make 100% of its pods recyclable by 2020 is ‘too little, too late’ for many German and American households that want to enjoy guilt-free coffee in the morning.




Saturday, June 3, 2017

Blade Show Day 2


Has the Blade Show become a victim of its own success?

Saturday is always a bad day.  Any knife fancier within 4 hours of driving can work a full week and drive here on Saturday and make it home for church and family brunch on Sunday.  Saturday is a packed day.  Despite the convention’s efforts, you’ll find a number of people walking and selling.  No surprise there, with tables costing over $500 you have to sell a lot of knives to break even.  So, you find people selling to tables.

The exhibition hall is packed and the only redeeming grace is to remember sardines don’t die in the can, they die in the open sea.  Air conditioning struggles to keep up but with 90+ temperatures outside and hundreds and hundreds of people inside it can’t keep up.

Blade is the knife show by which all others are measured.  The show’s location needs a rich environment to support it.  There may be bigger venues in the cornfields in Kansas, but it will never have the support Atlanta has.

Blade Show
The contestants warning up
Is there an association of Balisong Flippers?  Beats me, but Blade hosted the first national competition.  They used live edges and flip free style, but the MC warned that kicking the knife with your knee was outlawed at this event.  The flippers were set up in the back parking lot where the cutting would take place and it was single elimination.  Three judges, well known by the crowd, selected the winners of the each round. You can tell they were expecting a lot of dropped knives.  Each competitor stood over a sheet of cardboard.  I didn’t stay for the entire competition.  It just seemed too silly to me.  Every completion heat I saw, the loser dropped his knife at least once if not more.  I have to wonder if some of the flippers will create moves so unique that in the future the move will be named after them, like the ice skating Hamill Camel.

bones at Blade
Giraffe Skull, what else could I say
One of the knife supply houses had a skull of a giraffe on display.  It appears that giraffes can become a nuisance animal requiring culling.  The meat is sold and made into sausage (I can’t believe there aren’t a few steaks involved!), so the supply house buys camel leg bones for knife handles and just for giggles asked if they could get a skull.  The joke was on him.

It took a lot of boiling and bleaching, but the complete skull is available and on sale.  For $500 bucks it can be yours.  I wanted it for over the TV cabinet, but wiser heads prevailed.  A word of warning, it’s a lot bigger than you might think it is.

From Nepal, a fighting knife
A different EDC
I bought a mini-khukuri.  The seller has them made in Nepal by Gurkhas.  They use truck leaf springs and its steel needs to be taken care of or it will tarnish.  I have a full size one made in India and this will make a nice addition.


Buck display at Blade 2017


It’s Buck’s 75th anniversary and Buck collectors are pulling out the stops.  In the public area of the hall they have about a row of double sided tables as long as city block set up.  You’ll find everything from complete run of Bucks to experimental prototypes and exotic one of a kind buck knives.  Each display is different, some cruder than others but all a testimony to Buck knives.

Blade Show
Mantis neck knife or upside down stargate
We bought new neck knives at Mantis Knives.  It’s hard to describe Mantis.  They make some really silly knives, but they are so freshly original you can’t dismiss them.  Our neck knives look like an “O” with a T coming out of them.  Put your finger into the ring and pull, a curved blade emerges from the metal ring.  Frankly, the blade looks too flimsy and curved for fighting or cutting.

It might be time to skip the Blade Show.  You will not find too many of the unique knives and blades seen on Forged in Fire.  What you’ll see are the typical, safe designs: drop points, Bowie, spear, Hawksbill and Wharncliffe blades.   The steels are the usual suspects: high carbon, D2 and the stainless families.  I was impressed that I found one smith with forged titanium blades.

Prices remain high but bargains can be found if you work at it.


Here's a few more pictures.



Blade Show
Another high carbon steel blade to worry about


Blade Show
More knives!

Tomorrow’s the last day.  I have an appointment and one or two items and it’s off we go.