Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fine and Fancy Knives at Christmas

Another Christmas has arrived and departed and on the whole it was pretty good.  Not to say it couldn’t be better, but Lord knows it could have been worse.  I was with family of which most are friends; the food and drink was good, and the weather was good for traveling.  We were all warm and had homes to return to and jobs waiting for us today.  Having spent two Christmases in the last eight years unemployed I cannot tell you how nice that is.

I had a chance to handle a spicy little knife from Santa Fe Stoneworks.  The handle isn’t stone (surprise!) but dyed wood.  It’s from their Kaleidoscope collection.  Santa Fe still has a few pre-bankrupt Camillus brand 3-inch lockbacks which they are using up.  It’s a nice knife, especially since you can get it for less than 50 bucks.

Santa Fe Stoneworks Kaleidoscope
I was waiting for my mystery knife.   The clues consisted of a generic policeman and a woolly mammoth.  My Spyderco Police model with blue and green dyed woolly mammoth molar grip arrived!


It arrived as a fully serrated edge and not the plain edge I ordered.


Molar from a woolly Mammoth - amazing, just amazing!

Still, it is a spectacular knife.

 Banging on the Door
Had a minor incident the other night.  Banging on the front door at twilight brought me around to the side door.  A fellow with a hard sell about shoveling and a calcium chloride treatment tried to convince me I wanted his services.  I wasn’t interested, but he didn’t want to take no for an answer.

One of my concerns is the “criminal interview.”  It’s like a shark bumping into you to determine if you’re lunch or another shark.  His hard sell felt like a shark bump.  Of course, standing there with a sharp CRKT Crawford/Kasper folder in his blind spot (with my thumb on the stud) made it a lot easier to bump back.

As my friend Tom says, “No blood, no foul.”

Lanyard Making
My wife has gone back to her oval-hole Benchmade Ascent.  It was made with an opening stud as well as a round thumb hole.  She has both the round and oval hole versions.  She has also discovered how nice a lanyard can be for retrieving the knife.  Since I like to do knotting and such she asked me to make her a lanyard and I was happy to do so.

First we picked out the colors and the pattern (square or spiral) and I went to work.  A lanyard should be fitted to the person and knife, so I started, first with a fitting to make sure the lanyard would lie flat when the knife was in her pocket.

Size does matter!

After a few trial and error starts I got the size of the loop on the knife right and then we were off to the races.

I’m reasonably happy with the way it turned out.  So is she!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Wish - With an Edge

This year I’m not asking for my usual Christmas wish of Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.  I’ve been asking for this for over 40 years and I’m still coming up short on the request.

This year I’m asking for Understanding, Prudence and Fear.

Understanding so that we understand the other person and they us.  From understanding we can begin to solve our problems or at least minimize our conflicts.

Failing understanding, I want prudence, the gift that lets us ask about the outcome of our intended actions.  Maybe then we will think more about the last drink for the road, planting an IED, or launching an attack.  All of which would lead to a better world.

No one should live in fear, but maybe a little fear about the consequences of our actions might make us a little better off.  Whether it’s building an IED, repeating a nasty story about your boss, or the decision to make your holiday money at gunpoint, a little fear about blowback might give you pause to try something else.

Christmas is a schizophrenic holiday.  

For many it is the beginning of a cycle that celebrates an opportunity to connect with our God.  For many of these same people it’s a time to indulge in lavish gifts and Dionysian bouts of eating and drinking.  Economic factors have forced decisions on many people to celebrate the holidays in what they must only consider as unnatural restraint, while others ponder the crushing weight of bills due in January.  And still there are those who choose to make the holidays a time to connect with friends and family. 

Mix all these people together; add the uncertainty of the New Year, spice with enough snow and cold to make doing anything difficult, and you’ll understand why the holidays are so tense.

Despite all that, have a Merry Christmas, and don’t take anything too seriously.  Nobody gets out of this world alive anyway.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Slice of Life

The world is a wacky place.  People have strange ideas, customs and responses to problems.   Add a knife to the mix and we see why you shouldn’t play with a saw blade when it’s working.

Take Helmut Seifert for example.  He’s a factory worker in Bielefeld, Germany, and he has a 17 year old daughter.  It’s natural for a girl that age to have a boyfriend, but a 57 year old boyfriend is stretching the limits of credulity.  Fearing that the older man might have some less than honorable designs on his daughter, Helmut went to the police.

Here’s where the trolley comes off the tracks.  Helmut learned the unfortunate truth about law enforcement.  The police are good at drawing chalk outlines, filling out the paper work, and catching the criminals but not so useful for preventing a crime. 
What’s a father to do?  Who knew what this fellow had in mind for his daughter?  Drugs, prostitution or simply steaming up the windows of a parked car - take your pick of any, all or none.  Helmut had an answer and acted on it.  He castrated the man with a bread knife.


The victim is expected to survive and now goes by the nickname of Wee Willy.

Helmut isn’t ratting out the names of the men who helped him.  Nice to know you have friends like that.  But a bread knife?

Several years ago I got my wife a Spyderco bread knife.  It’s almost a Roman short sword and the serrations can only be described as fearsome.  I use to enjoy the smell of warm bread, but after Helmut’s adventure, the aroma of fresh bread will only make me mentally check my status at home.

The loaf you’re talking about is just bread?   Right??

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cutting Off The World For A While

It was time.  In fact it was past time and overdue.  Getting out of the city, away from WiFi and people texting and driving, away from the normal daily grind that saps our will and drains our soul and reduces us to flotsam on a sea of disaster….  You get the idea, a break was needed.

One of my favorite getaways is a state park in West Virginia.  The cabins have flush toilets, running water, heat and a fireplace. 

Of course, there’s hiking and deer-watching if playing dominoes, cooking with your friends and good conversations aren't enough.  I had hoped for a dusting of snow to cover the ground to hide the wear and tear we humans inflict on nature, but I didn’t get it.  Still it was nice enough. 

As a scientist I know that increasing the surface area while decreasing the volume will make the wood burn better and what’s a fireplace without a fire?  So I split the wood the park provides.  I came prepared with a ¾-length axe and a hatchet.  The first day left me with sore shoulders.  While I expected some soreness, this was medication-level soreness.  Only one thing to do: sharpen my axe!

I typically take my Spyderco Sharpmaker and an EZE-Fold sharpener when I travel.  One side of the EZE-Fold is a coarse diamond.  Flip it over and it’s a fine diamond.  It didn’t take much work to true up my axe edge.  The next day, lots of wood but no soreness.

The trails are marked, but still it doesn’t take much to wander off the path, so it’s prudent to take a few things with you.  The yuppie canteen or water bottle works nice as do a small flashlight, knife and personal space blanket.  Matches or a lighter is also suggested. Most of that stuff fits in a coat pocket, so you don’t look like you’re the last member of the forgotten survival squadron.

The two knives I like (yes two, check the archives for why one is none and two is one) for these adventures are the Buck Nighthawk and DPx H-E-S-T.

The black bladed Nighthawk is on the left and HEST is on the right.  It snowed as I repacked the car for the trip home.

The Nighthawk has the mass and edge I needed to free up a sapling or tackle a big knife job like quartering wood.  It doesn’t work too good for cutting fir sticks.  The blade is too thick, but if I ever needed a big knife, the Buck Nighthawk is a great starting place.

DPx H-E-S-T is a collaboration between Robert Pelton and RAT Cutlery.  H-E-S-T stands for Hostile Environment Survival Tool.  DPx suggests a prescription for Dangerous Places.  I met Pelton several years ago.  He wanted a knife to carry in some of the world's most dangerous places, like Beirut, Sierra Leone or Detroit.  Not too big or expensive that it can’t be conveniently lost or given away and still big enough to attend to survival chores or make hesitation cuts in people. 

My only complaint is the sheath has only a makeshift lashing for belt carry.  Who knows, maybe that’s an advantage in dangerous places.  For me it drops into an outer pocket on my winter coat and stays there until I need it.

It was a good weekend and I’m back to work.  Let’s see how long the recharge works.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Working Kydex

My friend just showed me a silver-bladed Gerber Guardian Back-up he bought. It’s a nice knife. Actually it’s a dagger and while I like the lines, the lack of guards and its double-edged blade always make me a little nervous. Having sliced fingers open before, I would prefer to avoid it in the future.

He didn’t care that much for the original sheath and since he’s been working with Kydex, well, one thing led to another.

He did a nice job.

...And the award for clothing goes to .... Kydex!

The handle locks into the sheath with a positive click and stays there. You have to want to remove the Back-up. It isn’t going to fall out by itself. He mounted a belt loop so that the knife could be carried sideways, kidney position. The clip is also removable so other carry modes are possible.

It was nice to sit down at Thanksgiving and talk turkey with him about working with Kydex. I have at least one project stalled due to weather and ideas for a couple other projects. All I can say is nice work!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

103 Stories High

The glass observation ledges at the Sears Willis Tower lived up to their reputation. It took a little internal pep talk to step out on to the glass floor 103 stories in the air. First it was toes over edge followed by heels on edge. I figured if the glass started to crack I’d have a 50-50 chance of hurling my weight backwards into the building.

The Edge- Willis Style

Finally I got both feet out into space and the teenager next to me started to jump up and down. He almost got a busted nose for that stunt.

It's the next best thing to walking on air and not as windy!

It was vey nice to look out into space and see my college an apparently short distance away. UIC formerly known as UICC has undergone significant changes and it’s easy to see them from the Ledge. Gone are the second story walkways and the addition of dorms is very noticeable. Not so noticeable to the hard science people (because we didn’t spend much time there) is the completion of the Arts and Humanity building. The campus ran out of money and built only half the building. They had a staircase to the second or third floor that ended in a blank wall.

It was slightly overcast, so we could only see a couple miles in any direction, but it still remains one of the great overviews of Chicago.

These feet belong to the reason I'm standing out here.

Later we experimented with the subway and surface buses. People were very nice to us and helped with directions and instructions. My only complaint was that the bus/subway card vending machine only takes cash in dollar amounts. No credit cards! You always end up losing odd bits of money as fares are never whole dollar amounts. Many of the stations are dirty, noisy and congested but proved useful to get around.

I just got my new 2011 Spyderco catalog. Quite a few interesting knives, but it does bother me to see the knife industry cave in to the liberal notion adopted by many cities and a few countries. Of course, Spyderco is not the only company making these knife changes.

The liberal notion? It seems to be a belief in mechanical voodoo. At the core of the matter is the belief that evil spirits live in objects like tools and by making them less safe or harder to use the evil effects are diminished. By requiring that knives can close on your fingers, can’t be opened with only hand, and not clipped to pocket, the crime levels will go down. Told you it was mechanical voodoo.

I like Barrett’s stance on his 50 BMG rifle and California. He will not sell them to California police because the state has outlawed them to the general population. He accepts delivery of these rifles for repair and modification, but will not ship them back to the state agencies. They have to pick them up themselves.

Keep your edges sharp and your wits about you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Chicago Style.

We’re spending a get-away weekend in Chicago. I’m staying just ever so south of the Loop, but still in downtown Chicago. I hope to do the Sears Willis tower. Perhaps if I get my courage screwed up I’ll try the glass booth observation platforms on the 103rd floor. It’s not the height that gives me the willies, it’s the glass floor.

Chicago is an anti-knife town. Spyderco used to make a short-bladed knife called Chicago to reflect the big city’s belief that objects are possessed with an evil spirit. It had an opening hole, but didn’t lock open and had a sub 2-inch blade. In my opinion non-locking blades are more dangerous to the user. As for blade length, well, your surgeon takes you apart with a small sub one-inch blade.

The result of this superstition is the logical belief that if you could get rid of these demon infected tools the city would become a new Eden. Sort of “let’s-not-cast-out-the snake-but-chop-the-apple-trees-down” (check your Bible for cross-reference) approach to crime.

Being dependent on someone else for my safety rubs me the wrong way. Still, I remember what a lawyer told me: it isn’t a crime until you’re arrested. I’m staying under the radar.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Television Knives

Whenever I run out of ideas to write about (Hey, like most of you I have to work for a living and sometimes the Muse gets buried by the day’s activities), I like to see what’s the knife of the day.

You know, what brand of knife is being carried by which fictional TV character in this episode? A couple of years ago Hannibal the Cannibal was sporting a Harpy by Spyderco. I still get requests for that knife. Before that, some now forgotten cable show about Soldiers of Fortune sparked an interest in Newt Livesay neck knives. I know this because I still have one of them hanging from a lamp over my desk.

I was catching up with the recently returned “Burn Notice” last night. This season Michael Westen is sporting an Emerson Sark. Oh, you’d know it if you saw it. It has the Emerson Wave designed to catch on the corner of your pocket and pull the blade open. The blade is a wicked looking curved talon.

Emerson makes many fine combat knives, expensive but worth it!

Michael used it to cut and build a prop bouquet of flowers to further the plot. Not the best demonstration of an Emerson knife, but still not bad.

Last season, I think, one of the characters passed out knives to everyone proclaiming “combat knives for everyone.” The knife? Just happens to be one I carry, the SOG Spec-Elite I.

Ahh, product placement! Usually it’s a car, laptop or cell phone, but it’s nice to see a familiar edge now and again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue"

Veterans Day  November 11 2010

Let’s cut right to the bone on this; I didn’t think of it but I sure wish I did.  The quote belongs to Admiral Nimitz in reference to the Marines on Iwo Jima.  I know it refers to all the men and women of our armed forces.  They served our country then and now, and with God’s Blessings, will do so in the future.

Let’s remember them in our prayers and thoughts while they serve and give them a chance when they return to us.

I, you, we owe them that much.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When Pumpkins Run Wild: Jack-O-Lanterns

I finally got the pumpkin carved to my wife’s our satisfaction. No really, we decided we liked it and I was all ready to hand out candy.

BOOOOOOO!  Are you scared yet?  You will be.

I remember when people made popcorn balls and home-made taffy, but those days are long gone. Even today an adult must be careful about talking to young children. There are too many creeps and sickos, so I limit my conversations to a simple reply “Hello” to children in the presence of their parents.
But on Halloween night, my wife and I can sit in our driveway and talk with the children and their parents. It was a good night.

I had among many superheroes and monsters:
3-1920 flappers (they claim I was the only adult to recognize them),
1- naughty nurse (I thank the gods I don’t have a teen-age daughter),
1- wrapped Christmas package.

Almost all of the Marvel Comic characters with the exception of Doctor Doom were accounted for.   He doesn’t seem very popular. Go figure.

Zombies were big this year as were the assorted and interchangeable monsters from the current crop of horror flicks.  Surprizingly few vampires, which really sucks....
No wonder nobody thinks of jack-o-lanterns as scary. Maybe next year I’ll dress up as an IRS agent coming over for an audit. That ought to scare the beans out you.

I'm from the IRS.  I want to see all your tax returns and records for the last 12 years!


Sunday, October 31, 2010


There was (cue: large animal breathing in background) was a time that a man … (cue: sounds of chains dragging on stone) would take a knife and press it against flesh. And he would try to carve a new face … he would slip and cry out in pain … and … and (Oh the horror of it!) the mouth lost another tooth!

Yes we are. We’re talking about carving gourds, specifically about carving pumpkins. Happy Halloween! BOOOOOOOO!

I read some people use saber saws to jig-saw carve jack-o-lanterns. I know how messy that would be. One year I tried to use a chain saw to get an edgy effect. It took me days to clean the pumpkin guts from my saw and to mop up the splatter.

Go back to the simpler approach, I say. I saw a dad and his son sitting on the front porch today, each carving a pumpkin with a knife. They were surrounded by orange chips and cubes of pumpkin. I miss doing that with my father. He’s in Florida, a little too far to go to carve gourds.

I have a few tools I always fall back on.

I start by laying out the operating table. That’s a piece of plywood covered with newspaper. I use my wife’s pewter-like scoop to scrape out the pumpkin. The yellow wood and red plastic knives are really pumpkin saws. The red one is designed for children. It’s pretty flimsy but the small size lets me cut tighter curves. Next to it is a Columbia River Knife and Tool fixed blade. I’ve had it for years and can’t remember its name, but it’s a new addition to the lineup. I wanted a small, but stiff blade with a guard for the open cuts. Next to it is CRKT’s Big Eddy fileting knife. I really like this knife for cutting flesh… pumpkin flesh that is.

Like any good surgeon I mark the cutting field and then ad lib.

Eeeeuuwww! Pumpkin brains!

My wife and I sketch the mouth; argue about eyes, eyebrows and ears. (I’m opposed to ears, they seem ineffectual in adding more character to the face.)

Say AHHHHH and open wide
Soon we get the face knifed carved out. Because we are working on the outside of a thick-walled, misshapen ball, the features seen on the inside of the pumpkin are smaller than the outside. I need to open up the features so light can come out and I’m after translucent edges. I just think that makes for a spookier jack-o-lantern.

Oops! Got to trim the mucous membranes back a bit

Finally I get it finished and out on the porch. I’m looking forward to talking with the kids and handing out candy. It’s the one time of year I can interact with children like this. I really enjoy talking to them and their parents.

As a child, I thought Halloween was for kids. Now I know it’s for adults.

I can’t wait to see it all lit up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ohio Classic Knive Show

The Ohio Classic Knife Show ground to a halt Saturday and I do mean ground. This isn’t a knife edge judgment that could go either way. The show flopped.

From Saturday noon to 5:00 pm there were always more vendors than shoppers and if you sold a custom knife, well, you were lucky. I didn’t take any pictures, but if you want to know what it was like I have two mental images for you.

Imagine a silver picture frame and now fill it with inky blackness. That’s what the show looked like. If that still leaves you confused, picture a vacuum cleaner.

Why is a good question. In sales, it’s a number game. It’s simple. The more attendees present, the larger the fraction of potential customers. The more potential customers, more chances you have to make a sale. Empty isles mean no sales.

Where was everyone?

I don’t know. Days in late autumn that beautiful are gems to be enjoyed. OSU played Purdue (they won 49-zip - - doesn’t sound like it was a good game) and Cambridge is OSU land. Cambridge is kind of in the middle of nowhere (I’m sorry, I love Salt Folk State Park and the area is lovely, but it’s a destination.) Maybe the knife makers were not national draws and maybe the show wasn’t advertised enough. Maybe it was the free admission to last year’s buyers that had the same saturated customers coming back because it was free and something to fill the day.

A new regime is taking over. We need this show to be a success. It is one of the very few opportunities for purchasers and purveyors to meet in the market place.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Classic Knife Show - - Cambridge Ohio

Today was the opening of the Cambridge Knife Show, or as it is properly known, the Ohio Classic Knife Show.

The show is Friday and Saturday and it was explained to me that Friday was selected for a large group of older, retired folks who want to attend an upscale knife show without the younger, more energetic crowd. Sunday was deselected as the hosting community has a deep religious and family orientation and would prevent attendance on Sunday until at least 2:00 pm. That leaves Saturday.

I believe this explanation based on the old mature crowd we had today. But in all honesty, crowd is not the right descriptive word for the attendees. Sprinkling of, or dusting of people might be the best term.

Here are a few images:

My Favorite Table - All we need is customers

Vendors setting up and trading among themselves

The show had a lot of custom knives. The typical commercial collector knives were present, Buck, Case and such. Not too many current factory produced knives were represented.

Whats missing from this picture? --   You.

One treat was Andrew Denko, the inventor of Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad lock and one of their designers. This mechanism is reported to be one of the strongest locks in the commercial market. He had several of his own knives on display. They are simple but well made, elegant folders designed for hard use over long hours. Keep an eye on him. He’s going do interesting things in the knife world.

If you could find a knife you liked, well you didn’t look very hard.

Something for just about everyone.

Tomorrow is the last day. the weather reports warm, but rain and cloudy. It could be perfect knife show weather.  More later!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bridge Day, Fayetteville WV

It’s a knife edge that separates you from free fall. You lean out and know without looking the river is 876 feet below. You stuff the demon screaming “I want to live!” into an unoccupied corner of your mind, lean out and give in to gravity.

Gravity takes over. You have less than 7 seconds to live. You don’t have to worry about reaching terminal velocity, 161 mph. Your out-spread legs and arms grab the wind knifing by you and slow you to 120 mph. Still too fast! To survive a water landing you need to get your speed down to at least 60 mph. Slower would be better. The odds don’t look good.

Still, you brought the right equipment and you used it to survive last year’s BASE jump at the New River Gorge Bridge, so it should work again.

My name is Knife Guy and on the third Saturday of October my beat is the DLZ.

Preparation starts early. Some say it starts the day after last year's event. National Park Service, Sheriff, State Police, Secret Service, US Marshals, WV National Guard, Rope Rescue Services, Water Rescue, Jan Care (emergency 1st aid and transport), several raft companies, the Governor’s office and Vertical Visions start with an after action report and the paper work builds.

Down in the gorge we wait for the emergency vehicles to arrive.

This year the water is low and moving slowly. Fayette Station rapids are showing more rock than I’ve ever seen. And water rescue places an orange cone on an exposed rock in the water landing zone.

The landing area is taped off…

And the Drop Landing Zone is marked.

Up on the bridge, the platform and diving board are extended.

Look up 876 feet

It’s a long way up, but two rappellers start jumaring their way up to the bridge’s under structure. The climb is noteworthy. One is towing an American flag. The other brings a West Virginia state flag and what might be a club flag.

And at 9 o’clock, they jump.

Some landings are:






And some not without risk.

I had a chance to talk knives with the professional water rescue people. What kind of knife would you carry on a rubber raft if you needed to cut the chute away? Water landing has some risk involved. Lines could get tangled; the chute snags on rocks; the river pulls you under. The rescuers better have knives.

The boss lends out orange Spyderco Rescue knives (C45OR) and Benchmade model 5 Rescue Hooks. Oh, yes, there were other personal knives, but he wants everyone on the river to have a good knife. Study the professionals I always say.

It is an incredible experience. Each jumper lives on the knife edge. A slip the wrong way and tragedy waits. Just to hammer the message home, the last jumper of the day does a head stand on the platform and cannonballs out into space. He straightens out and deploys his chute. It’s a skydiving rig.

Five exits before him three jumpers simultaneously exit and deploy their skydiving chutes and they land safely in the river. The boats fish them out.

The last jumper deploys, but skydiving rigs don’t open as fast as BASE rigs, those rectangular flying wings. His chute takes too long to fill.

The water rescue team takes him out of the river on a backboard and put a cervical collar on him. Everyone is silent and grim as they scurry to get him in the ambulance and to the hospital. I still don’t know his condition.

Life is a knife edge and we are all on it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Customer Watching

Any knife show will bring an assortment of nuts potential customers and over the years I have come to recognize them. I anticipate several novel sightings at the Cambridge Knife Show (Ohio Classic Knife Show) and I’ll blog about them. But the Medina gun show last weekend brought out a different one: the grunter.

We routinely see:

Snapperus excessivnous: This species has two main variants - the major snapper who opens every knife possible with a snap of the wrist once or twice and then leaves. The minor variation is the Little Snapper who selects one or two to open. This species suffers from OCD and would remain handling the same knife until he passes out or is chased away (the charitable thing to do).

Swapus bargainous: With a call sounding like “Would-ya-trade…” this bird attempts to parlay previous purchases into new purchases. This one is very friendly and quite social and never lingers long enough to become a problem.

Usamadeus selectivous: The quite rare variation is the customer who demands his knives are made in the USA and will uncork his wallet and purchase the higher priced knife. The more common variant makes the same demand, but then balks at the price. This one may be confused with the next species.

Priceus notunderstoodous: This is typically an older customer who can’t understand why prices are higher as compared to his first and apparently only knife. The confirming tell is the two-bladed folder he bought in 1948 for $8. If he shows you the knife, at least one half of each blade will be sharpened away.

Holdus internetous: This is a very secretive species and is often mistaken for the rare Genuinus customerous. They typically ask to see high end knives which they have read about and seen online. The goal is to evaluate your product and experience it before they purchase online. These customers are often found in high end bike stores and are known as Tirekickous cheapums.

The newest discovery in the customer ecological niche is Gruntius maximous. This customer signifies his pleasure or disapproval with grunts, snorts and other low pitched throat warbles. Opening each knife is accompanied with a small shrug and vocalization. He doesn’t buy anything either.

I’m applying to the National Science Foundation (http://www.nsf.gov/index.jsp) for a grant to identify, tag and survey this unique population and research why the females of these species are rarely if ever seen. My wife claims it’s because women have more sense.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Cutco: Making the Cut

Labor Day has arrived, passed and signaled the end of summer. Despite the warm temperatures and sunshine, one only needs to look at the brilliant early morning colors of the leaves to know that Ol’ Man Winter is down the road at the end of the block.

But, I am reminded of Memorial Day for some strange reason. For many people Memorial Day is simply a day off from work and an opportunity to cook out and have the family over for undercooked steak and charred hot dogs.

Many of us remember to put the flag out and thank God for the men and women who stood up and told our nation, “Count on me!” A lot of these people never came home and after all these years are still missing. Let’s not forget our children who are serving today and the next generation. We need to teach them about the value of our way of life and what sometimes is required to preserve it.

I find it interesting that knives and the military have always been associated. Probably with good cause. Cicero the Roman railed against the improper use of the Roman short sword. (“Stab!” he used to say. “Don’t cut.”) What is a short sword, but a long knife? As a backup weapon or in extreme close quarters combat, 6 inches of good steel can be the difference between you and your buddies going home or not.

One of the Cold Steel promotional disks features a soldier talking about being wounded and having to kill his assailant with 4 inches of Cold Steel to save his buddies. I’m not ashamed to tell you that tears came to my eyes.

So to celebrate Memorial Day my wife bought a knife. It seems appropriate. It’s a small Santoku style 3-inch paring knife from Cutco. It appears there are some detractors of Cutco, but the knives have a certain charm. See for yourself. (http://www.cutco.com/products/product.jsp?itemGroup=1720)

I like the handle. It reminds me of Ek fighting knives. The handle is longer than the blade providing adequate gripping surface and it has a palm swell to better anchor the knife in my mitt. The knife weight is in my hand and not in the blade. All of which I like.

I am also amused by the use of Santoku in the description. Over the last couple of years it seems to be the hot descriptor. I guess Santoku is the kitchen version of tactical.

                                                    Trimming the blog's extra words out

I’ll soon be blogging about the Cambridge Knife Show in Cambridge, Ohio. (England is too far to go for a knife show, assuming that’s even possible.) The show is Friday, Oct 22 and Saturday the 23rd. Tune in for that.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Santa Fe Stoneworks

One of my favorite knife companies graced the cover of the latest issue of Knife World. What, you don’t read Knife World? How is that possible? No matter, you should. The articles are fun, breezy and enjoyable as well as useful. Borrow a copy and I think you’ll want to subscribe. (In full disclosure, Knife World has published me but I read it before I got published and I renew my subscription every year.)

Santa Fe Stoneworks is featured in a nice article with a lot of color images and stunning knives. I have been interested in Santa Fe Stoneworks for several years after first seeing their work at the SHOT Show. My wife and I always stop by their booth at the SHOT or BLADE shows and buy more than we should. To describe their knives as art would not be inappropriate.

I was always under the belief that Bill Wirtel founded the operation, but it seems a fellow by the name of John Iverson started the company, but it has flourished under Bill. He tells me to watch BLADE magazine for another article.

I need another knife. Well, they are accessories for men.

I’m after a more “artsy” looking knife and it has to be hand made. The maker tells me he’s already working on Christmas orders, so it may be a while before I get it.

What did I order?

Not telling. But I’ll give you a hint:

Here are two images. These are dyed-in-blue wool hints.

Figure it out? No? Well, stick with it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fun at Work

We had a family fun day over the weekend and no, there are no photos. The company has very strict policies about taking pictures inside. So no images of mom at her work station.
Still it was very successful. One department froze bananas in liquid nitrogen (about 321 degrees below zero) and used the super hard fruit to pound nails into a board. Stretchy gummy worms shatter like eggshells at that temp. That was a big hit with the kids.

But it was the robot welding of metal airplanes that was a hit with most adults. The planes were about 8 inches long and the robot welded the wings and tail to the fuselage in seconds. Just snap parts into a jig and press go.

Another demo was a high speed camera used to slow down the impact of a Nerf bullet wiping out an empty soda can. The spongy Nerf bullet would strike the can and compress slightly before the can started to tip up and jump off the table. This was also very cool. (Personally, I would have liked to have seen slow motion videos of the rope cutting at the Blade show. Maybe I’ll suggest that for the next Family Day.)

For our part in microscopy we showed everyone dead bees. A co-worker brought me a bag full of dead carpenter bees. Don’t ask. I don’t why he was saving bees. They were pretty beat up, but I made do. I wanted to show the adaptation of the third leg to hold pollen. I would then segway to yellow pine and prickly pear cactus pollen. The yellow pine reminds most people of Mickey Mouse.

                                              M-I-C-K-E-Y--- Why? because we like you.....
The prickly pear cactus had some very interesting surface morphology. My boss wanted to show insect parts so I had a bee’s head mounted so you could see the compound eye. Unfortunately the head fell off the mounting block and is roaming about in the scanning electron microscope.

                                                    LUKE! There's two Death Stars!!

And for a little more detail on the exhaust port weakness............

"If I can just fly down and plant one in that port...."

We didn’t have any give-a-ways, so I suggested we give each child who asked a dead bee. The suggestion wasn’t taken.

For myself, I liked the laser cutting demo. They were making bottle openers by cutting out shapes in steel with a CO2 laser. The beam cut through the steel like a knife blade in balsa wood. Sparks shot up and out and it was magnificent. The laser power peaks at 3200 watts. That’s like lifting a one pound weight 140,800 feet every second.

I’m not sure if that’s actual beam energy or power consumption. Lasers are very efficient at converting light into heat, but not so hot in converting electricity into light. The beam could have been 320 watts of laser energy consuming 3200 watts of electricity. Still, with that power level the only practical safety precaution against exposure is not to be exposed.


Here’s an example why manufacturers and the NRA preach safe storage of ammo. Safe storage is defined as “clean, dry, cool and away from un-authorized users.” It’s a .223 from Wolf and the steel case has started to rust.

                      Wolf .223 steel case.   I like 'em.  They feed and function...What's not to like?

Sure, you could wipe the case clean (don’t use a penetrating oil or you could kill the primer) and shoot it, but I wouldn’t. You’re never really sure what will happen.

Of course, in all fairness to Wolf ammo, I know how it was stored: in the wet grass overnight for at least two rainy days. No wonder a little rust showed up. I found it out on the range one morning. It was probably ejected from a rifle when the chamber was cleared.

Still it was a good object lesson: remember to wipe off your carbon steel knives after using them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ohio State Fair Cuts the Competition

The Ohio State Fair is over and I miss it already. While I can’t speak for other fair grounds, the Columbus fair grounds are amazing. We took the sky-lift to the far end of the fairgrounds intending to eat our way back to our exit. It also puts us near the poultry exhibition.

Chickens, man, lots of chickens, every place you looked! I really enjoy seeing all the variety of chickens. Some have feathers elongated like swords, while other feathers remind you of fish scales. The colors and patterns of each feather are quite remarkable. Modern chickens are reported to be the descendents of “jungle fowl.” After seeing all the variations, I can believe this.

Doing Hard Time:  20 to life

My wife and I stopped to see the butter cow, another must-see on my list. It’s a life-size cow sculpt from butter. Over the years a butter calf has been added as have various themes. This year the butter theme recognized the Browns and Bengal football teams. Keep that in mind when you see them fumble their way across the gridiron. May be they got the butter football by mistake!

New to me, but not to recent fairgoers - two dairy cows were waiting to give birth. One, the 1100 pound one, looked very uncomfortable. The other, at a petite 800 pounds, looked just bored. The vet was standing by and Bessie’s delivery was going to be public. The vet looked bored too. The only excitement was from the fairgoers.

Traumatize the kids? Perhaps, but then again maybe that’s what we need to see to remind us of our humanity and our connection to the real world. We see the doctor dramas, shoot ‘em ups and splatter films and somehow we forget where we come from and how we got here. Life is special and precious and beautiful. Let’s not forget it.

The only knife vendor was Cutco. I really like these knives, but….Oh, the price! Buy these knives when you’re 25 years old. Then you and your heirs will get real value from your purchase. They are so well made I suspect they will last that long.

Since 9-11, security is the reason for everything. The belief in security as an absolute is a trap for the un-wary. The state fair was no different. Let me make this perfectly clear, as Dick Nixon used to say. I like the police. I couldn’t do their job. They are the line between anarchy and civilization. Having said this, I know they sometimes get stuck with jobs that seem rather silly. Still, they keep as straight a face as possible and do the job.

I was worried about the two knives that I typically carry. I didn’t want to have both taken for security reasons, but I wanted to have at least one on me for security reasons. So I took the one that would be the easiest cheapest to replace and left the other in the car. I stashed my carry knife in my shoulder bag along with my camera.

This joke was on me. Each entrance had ONE metal detector. Just one detector to handle the hundreds thousands that would stream through. You placed your pocket stuff and any carry-in on a table next to the detector and stepped through the little doorway. The officers then handed you back your stuff unsearched, unscanned and un-x-rayed.

I forgot to take my keys and metal kubaton out of my waistband. I left my little flashlight clipped to my shirt, and my shirt pocket was decorated with a small wire-bound notebook and pen, not to mention my metal belt buckle. I didn’t clink when I walked, but it was close. Despite all the metal, I didn’t set off the detector. I suspect there wasn’t any power to the unit.

Security is an illusion. You want to be safe? Keep your eyes open and be prepared for trouble.

Speaking of security, our motel was behind a gentleman’s club. I suspected we might be in for trouble when we arrived at the motel. The door separating the day lobby from the night lobby was a heavy steel door with four of the largest steel hinges welded in place I have ever seen. I have seen high-end safe doors with smaller hinges. Of course the desk clerk is behind 2-inch thick bullet-proof glass. The wavy surface and imperfections in the glass made her look like she’s under water. I thought she was a mermaid.

What caption could I type, that you aren't thinking?

We had a room half way down the side of the motel and the club must have been closed, because we didn’t see anyone. We put a chair against the door anyway.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Remember Sept 11 2001

As we approach the ninth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center, we are only a little better off. The mastermind of 9-11 is in hiding; we have instituted security measures that many suspect are more flash than bang, and we have forgotten that we are in a war.

It’s a war unlike anything we have experienced before. Future battles are being fought today. Our enemy is polarizing and recruiting the disenchanted. They and their supporters are maneuvering ordinary activities to win future propaganda events. They are using the freedoms we hold dear to twist and hamstring us until, they hope, we explode and demolish our way of life ourselves.

Who are they?

They are the people who want to bring us back to the 12th century. They are men and brainwashed women who feel ordinary women are too inconsequential to have a voice in their lives. And yet these inconsequential women are so powerful that ordinary mortal men must be protected from their feminine wiles. Our enemies are those who would return us to a caste system based on religion with themselves, naturally, on top.

Well, I say “Nuts to them!”

In 2002 I was at Goodyear and one of the fellows remembered the first anniversary with the following article. He told me I could use it because it belongs to us all.

Here it is:

“Well, they certainly got our attention!”
Jeff Cooper:  Cooper’s Commentaries; September 2001

On September 11, 2001
The road maps of our lives are marked by the mile markers of life altering events. It becomes easy to retell our lives by reviewing these events. September 11, 2001 was such a marker. My reaction was first of a horrific accident and then of wondering if at war. I remember the shock and concern in my wife’s voice as she phoned me to both share her concerns, to alert me and yes, warn me. I remember the looks of disbelief and confusion on the faces of my co-workers was they numbly moved like ghosts through the building. As the horrors of the day continued to weigh us down, the seemingly endless flow of information continued to flesh out details of what could only be considered an act of war.

We wondered why and how and who would do such a thing. My thought would flit to living, breathing passengers riding to their deaths on those four airliners and wonder what I would have done in their place. But my thoughts could not linger there; the horror was too great. We asked ourselves who allowed this to happen but despite the finger pointing and blame shifting, we were reminded what some of us never forgot:

“The condition upon which God has given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”
John Philpot Curram July 10 1790

We have discovered, or perhaps remembered that we are a nation of activists. Even as the dust billowed outward like a malingering evil fog, men and women were answering the challenge. Ordinary men and women converged on New York to do what they could. Our neighbors started raising funds to send to the survivors and rescue workers. People and companies oftered the use of resources with no thought of personal reward and gain.

We prayed for survivors, but we never really expected any. It is said you never find any atheist in foxholes. It also seems in times of tragedy we also turn to a higher power whether we believe or not. We did symbolic things: we turned on our porch lights; we looked into volunteering for air marshal service; we wondered about forming neighborhood guards. Fortunately these things were not needed, but I am sure we would have answered the call.

“A nation needs heroes. It needs examples of valor so that it will know just how it ought to behave.” Teddy Roosevelt

As the criminals who committed these acts were identified our nation rolled up its collective sleeves and went to work. The current conflict is too close to see clearly in perspective. History will eventually sort it out, but I do believe it is necessary. Freedom has a heavy price. I am reminded of Hitler’s invasion into Poland. If England and France would have stood up to the mad little painter, Nazi Germany would have folded. All three countries were ill prepared for war, but by attempting to appease this mad man the world was forced to pay a bill with huge late payment fines. We were late on that payment too. Think about our actions in Afghanistan. There is a bill to pay here too. Realize not everyone will love us or do we need everyone to love us, they just need to understand our commitment to liberty and freedom.

Where does this leave you and me? Can there be any question that the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon was a crime against America and Americans? The recovered videos by CNN show our enemy preparing to commit additional crimes against English speaking countries. Should it be a surprise that we and our staunchest supporter, England, share the same tongue? I have no suggestions for you, but for myself, I’ll read a little Jeff Cooper, become a little more indignant about crime and resolve that I will not let them get way with it. I recommend this path to you.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Patsy Cline never had a knife like this

I was wrong.

There isn’t much wiggle room on the knife edge and those of us who attempt to live out there have to face one fact: Sometimes you’re wrong and you’ve got to own it.

I don’t like country/country-western/western music. Something about the sameness of the music or the typical rhythms the vocals have. Of course there are the themes: cheating, lost love and unrequited love. Of course that covers also most forms of music.
I never liked Patsy Cline.

Recently National Pubic Radio had a review of a CD, “Patsy Cline: Sweet Dreams - Complete Decca Collection 1960-1963.” I normally would switch stations, reviews of old CW singers don’t rock my boat, but this time I stayed tuned because I was waiting for a later report I was teased with. I don’t remember what that was, but I remember the review.

After listening to a sampler of selections in chronological order, starting with the first and moving to the last, I have to change my mind. Listen to her first “I Fall to Pieces” and then “Crazy” written by Willie Nelson. The difference is impressive. This record also helped establish Willie as a talent to be reckoned with. Then listen to her “Sweet Dreams.”

Patsy Cline died in a plane crash in 1963. She was just about to become the center of a storm in CW music. Patsy Cline would have been the most influential female vocalist of the 20th century, and no doubt, would have changed country western music in ways we can not imagine.

NPR has an excellent review of a newly assembled CD called “Patsy Cline: SweetDreams The Complete Decca Masters”


And of course, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patsy_Cline for much more information.

I was wrong and I admit it – Patsy Cline could sing.

On The Knife Front

I just got my hands on a CRKT Ignitor. It’s an assisted opening knife but what separates it from the rest is the lock. The lock doubles as the opening stud.

Opening stud and lock, two functions in one

Press the opening stud into the blade and it depresses the lock on the other side of the blade.

                                 It takes a little practice to incorporate the press and then the flick,

Now just flick the blade forward and it opens. This knife might be legal in NYC… The blade can’t be flicked open unless you unlock it first.

Open Sezs Me!

Note, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on the radio so carrying this knife in NYC could be hazardous to your bank account. Cheaper to just stay home. Safer too! Besides considering how unfriendly NYC is to the knife and gun culture, why would you want to go any way!

Knife specs? I thought you would never ask:
Blade: 3.38 inches long, 0.11 inch thick and made of 8CR14MOV steel
Handle: G10
You can get it plain edge or that wicked Veff serrated edge
Weight: a nice 3.5 ozs.

I think the assisted knife craze is leveling off. But still, this is one nice knife and I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Duke of Numbnuts and Listing

Unsensible Manly Things

I wanted to write about manly things, but what could be more manly than high speed automobile jumps on your average stretch of I-675? 

Seems the Dukes of Hazard County have moved up to Sugarcreek Township around Dayton. Or a least their half-wit cousin, Numbnuts, has.

Get a load of the video: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2010/08/video-insane-100-mph-crash-caught-on-tape/

The 19-year old genius decided he needed to pass a police car at 100 miles an hour and the grassy median between highways was the perfect place for it. The dashboard camera of the cruiser caught the action as Numbnuts shot past him, used the metal crash barrier as a ramp and catapulted himself and his car up and into a bridge support.     Eee-haw!! Ride 'em cowboy!!

I have been known to state the gene pool needs a little natural chlorination. If you don’t believe me, watch the video again. All we can hope is he left a little highly specialized tissue in the wrecked car and is now out of the procreation lottery. I understand he survived in critical condition. I’m sure someone loves him, but…..

Sensible Manly Things

I have a friend who had list of things he thinks every man should be able to do with some degree of ability. As I remember them and in no particular order they were:

Ride a horse;

Build a fire;

Shoot a gun and hit your target;

Pitch a tent without instructions;

Read a map (I think he meant topographic and not road.);

Sharpen a knife.

Looking at the current crop of young men around me, I have to wonder if their list might be:

Change or recharge batteries in an ipod/pad/phone thingie;

Drive a shift stick;

Open a beer bottle without an opener;

Golf just over par;

Make reservations.

That’s my list drawn from my interactions with them. I’m sure their list isn’t quite so vacuous.

My list from my younger days was:

Darn socks and stitch a button on;

Sharpen a knife;

Build a fire;

Cook a simple meal more or less from scratch (No TV dinners—Do they even make them any more?)

Change a flat;

Put a bit on a horse.

I asked my wife to name 3-5 things she thinks any man should be able to do. I think I caught her off guard. After sputtering a bit she came up with three:

Drive a car;

Cook a subsistence meal (no peanut butter and fried banana sandwiches, men!);

Operate a computer.

Seems modern woman has lower expectation levels than I would have thought.

With time comes maturity or at least some kind of an excuse for it. My basic list now is:

Keep a knife sharp;

Stitch a button;

Drive a stick shift with a clutch;

Build a fire;

Cook a simple meal for two;

Know which target needs to be shot and when.

Of course this is all minimum listing and just a little sexist. Everyone should be able to change a tire or diaper, gas up a car, fill the washer reservoir and burp a baby. I used to say change plugs, replace hoses and belts, but every time I stick my head under the hood my brain spins.

I don’t know about darning socks, but everyone should be able to fix a button, repair a hem or a small rip. This doesn’t seem too unreasonable. Preparing food seems like such a useful skill, but I know people who couldn’t grill a steak or bake a potato if their life depended on it.

You should be able to balance a checkbook, clean a bathroom or a fish (your choice) and paint a wall.

All these lists deal with survival at some level. There also seems to be a note of caution that more primitive skills could be called upon. Maybe I should add knap flint and shoot a sling-shot.

What’s your list? I’ll publish it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On the Edge – Continued!

“Morning comes early in northern Greenland. The bright sun made the igloo walls glow with inner light. The howling wind had abated. I had survived the arctic storm.”

“I pressed on the snow door plug, but it failed to move. I was frozen in. The storm had formed a layer of ice on the igloo protecting me but imprisoning me as well. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. You simply chopped a new hole in the ice wall and crawled out. I reached for my smatchet, knowing the heavy blade would make fast work of this problem. It wasn’t in my sheath. It wasn’t in my sleep bag. It wasn’t loose on the floor. “

“I saw it in my mind’s eye. I had placed it under supplies on the sled last night so I wouldn’t lose it in the darkness. I had intended to slip it back in my sheath before I pulled the snow cork in behind myself. It was still outside.”

“I was trapped. I had no way out.”

Sven paused to let the enormity and irony roll over us. He was trapped in the classic locked room with no way out, but clearly he had escaped.

After a few moments, I was about to break the silence when Rodger spoke up.

“Are you telling us you’re dead? You look very much alive to me.”

“I thought you would immediately see how I escaped my predicament. I needed a knife and didn’t have a knife, so I improvised.”

It must have been clear from our faces we had no idea what he did.

“The solution,” Sven said “was alimentary. I dropped my trousers, had a bowel movement and shaped the still warm excrement into a stout, knife-shaped form. It soon froze and hardened and I chopped a hole big enough to wiggle through. I found my knife where I put it, recovered my gear and freed the dogs from their ice covered dens.”

“The rest of the trip was uneventful.”

Sven went back to his paper and the knot drifted apart. I waited until everyone had left before I leaned over and partially pulled his newspaper down.

“So, how does a turd knife lay claim to the expression of ‘two is one and one is none?”

“It doesn’t. But when I returned to camp, I requisitioned a second knife. The quartermaster wanted to know what happened to the first one and I explained that two is one …”

“I supposed,” I interrupted him, “he gave you one.”

“He was a very intelligent man and immediately saw the sound logic in it.”

Having satisfied my question, Sven sat back to finish his paper, but not before snagging my untouched spare brandy.

I was about to comment on the theft when from behind the newspaper came, “After all, two is one…”