Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In The Trenches They Were Sharpening Their Knives...

It’s been ‘trench warfare’ at my house for the last month.  I’m having a garage built and running the electrical line for the garage.  This simple act called for me to crawl under my porch, move about a half ton of stone and quarter ton of sandy soil resulting in a trench from the house foundation to the garage.  It would have been a lot easier if I could have removed the full length porch from the back of our house.   If I had those kind of resources, I would just buy a new house, so it was trench warfare.  I ran into an underground retaining wall and had to drill and chisel out enough concrete to make a 6-inch depression for the rigid conduit.  I spent so much time under the porch I found I was enjoying it.  Unfortunately, mole man syndrome set in and I was eating 47 times my body weight, so that had to come to a stop. 

The knife side of this is I cut a little barrier plastic, shaved some roots and truncated cord in the digging process.  All of which took its toll on my CRKT Crawford Kasper folder.  Add a little dandelion subsurface root decapitation (I know, decapitation is the wrong word, but it always reminds a me of a guillotine).  This was followed up by lots of cardboard cutting.  My knife was soon too dull to tear newspaper.

When I need to sharpen something fast, I reach for my Spyderco sharpener.  The stones were getting a little dirty.  So, with a little abrasive cleanser, water, a rag and a little elbow grease, the residue from previous sharpenings was gone and the stones were ready.

Removing old metal helps give the stone more 'bite' and faster sharpening

I like Spyderco's system.  Hold the knife perpendicular to the ground and glide it down and back against the stone and it’s like a magic show. 

Presto-Change-O!  A sharp knife!

It’s so simple that even I can get a sharp edge in under 5 minutes.

Two medium stones, two brass guards, two fine stones and a plastic base.  It goes everywhere.

A good friend of mine recently received a long awaited fixed blade from a local knife maker.  Tim is a reluctant knife maker, so I’ll hold his name.  My friend commissioned a fixed blade in the sub-hilt fighter style and asked the knife maker to give it his interpretation.  It took awhile, but it was worth the wait.  Even the sheath was nicely detailed.

Single Edge Sub Hilt Fighter

The maker did a very nice job.  I wish my photo did it justice, but I had only minutes to set something up.  I also found out that one man’s sheath knife is another’s pocket knife.

I guess the folder in the side pocket is back-up.  Hey, one is none...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blade Show: Comin’ Home

It was a long trip home.  The weather cooperated.  It was in the 80s and overcast.  More importantly, the traffic cooperated except for a little bit of the interstate south of Cincinnati in Kentucky.  KDOT closed a three lane road down to one lane and the traffic was so backed up, we got off and had to find another way.

I felt bad about leaving a day early.  I had looked forward to this show and writing about it.  I almost felt I was cheating myself.  On the other hand, I gained a day to get things (like this) under control before returning to work.

I found some interesting knives for myself.  The slender South African dagger from Safari Consulting in the previous blog just speaks to me.  I’m so glad I got it.

I picked up an unusual knife from Shadow Tech Knives.  The main edge is a straight edge, which should be easy sharpening.  The sharpened false edge is curved downward.  I don’t think it will be too hard to re-edge when the time comes.  The steel is 1095 and the blade is powder coated to help fight rust.  I like the weight and look of the knife.  Most importantly is how good the knife feels in my hand.

Shadow Tech

I met Peter Janda from FIN Designs several years ago at TDI.  I have one of his holsters for CCW and I’ve admired his work in kydex for some time.  He’s been designing knives and has found a home with Ka-Bar.  I didn’t like his early folders.  Oh, the designs were nice.  They felt good in my hand and were mechanically well made, but my thumb and his opener tended to get snared in the handle’s curves.  The FIN Velocity doesn’t have those problems.  The clip is reversible and the knife is tip up, my favorite carry position.  It’s made in China.  Oh, grow up!  It’s a world market and we have to compete.  I understand Europe doesn’t have this country-of-origin hang-up.  Perhaps that’s because they have always traded back and forth.

FIN Velocity Folder from Ka-Bar

Benchmade is advertising using Cerakote Gen II on all their BK and SBK blades made in 2011.  The coating is reported to reduce visibility ~ “…provides a visual, near infrared and thermal management….”  It’s not a Harry Potter cloak of invisibility, but if you need to control/reduce your visibility, it’s a start.  Hint:  I bet you could find a link to a studio that does powder coating with this same material.

Last thoughts:
After talking to Ed Fowler I may have to re-evaluate my thoughts on Randall knives.  Ed reports that Bo Randall wanted to make a sharp knife that didn’t break.  These properties come at the loss of edge retention.  Use it and you have to re-sharpen.   That’s not so bad.  The knife was very successful with the military for this reason. It didn’t break; it just had to be re-sharpened.  Still, 400-500 bucks for a factory knife….

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blade Show: T plus Two

It’s my last day. I was planning to spend all day Sunday at the show, but frankly I’ve seen enough and I’m not seeing anything I can’t live without. I’d rather save some money for making Kydex sheaths.

Okay, I admit it; I bought a few knives just for the sake of ownership. I have always enjoyed Loveless knives from his naked lady period. So I checked the prices. I hope you invested years ago. A nice, well kept Loveless from this period runs around $2400. You will not find any naked ladies from Loveless in my collection.

I did find Bossie Knives now known as Safari Consulting. I bought a little dagger with a black iron wood handle that I couldn’t resist. I bought one last year in giraffe bone. I’m not really a dagger kind of guy, but these little guys just speak to me.

I sat in on Ed Fowler’s presentation. His message to consumers and knife makers remains a constant beacon of sanity. Test your knife to destruction. No one knows what the future will bring and you may need that knife to perform far outside of its intended role. Ed bends his knives back and forth from 90 degrees to 180 degrees without breaking. He expects to be able to do that several times, hammer it flat and still have a usable knife. He differential tempers the steel to create a hard area backed up by a thick soft spine so that a crack only grows to the soft metal and still leaves you with a knife you can use. Of course this isn’t cheap. His knives aren’t very attractive, and they run several thousand. Here’s the catch: use his knife and if you don’t like it, even after you use it, send it back and you’ll get your money back.

Spyderco is always doing interesting things. They see a market in Canada, NYC, California, England even Germany for smaller and sometimes non-locking knives. Many cities are restricting blade length, as if a one-and-half-inch blade is less dangerous than a two-and-half-inch blade. I just know that we legals follow the law while criminals do what they want.

Spyderco isn’t the only company doing interesting things. Most of the knife industry is trying to get their hands on your disposable income. Kershaw is showing off some very thick fixed blades which are a radical departure. Bear Knife is introducing a tactical line complete with an auto opener. Two years ago they were telling me (of course, I’m a nobody in the knife industry) they would never have a tactical line. Things are a-changin’.

I also sat in on the cutting contest. The knives are regulated and carefully controlled in an attempt to make it a skill event. It’s a little artificial, but it is exciting to watch someone cut through a water bottle long ways starting with the cap. Chopping the 2x4 in half is one of my favorite spectator sports. Unfortunately, I’ll never see it on TV so I guess I’ll be back at the Blade Show next year.

What, you don’t think that it’s much of a sport? Okay, here, you try it: With a single stroke, cut a tennis ball into two pieces. Okay, now do it while the ball is rolling. How’s that working for you?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Blade Show: T plus One

We lined up and at the sound of the noon bell they threw the doors open and we rushed in. The land grab of 1889 had nothing on us.

First impressions – not great. Oh, the vendors were nice and the attendees interesting, but the show seemed flat to me. Maybe I’m just jaded.

Lots of Randalls, all at high prices. I understand that I can pay $400-$500 for a new one and wait 2.5 years for delivery or I can pay $700 (and up) now and walk off with one today. I’m not a collector so I tend to sooner or later use and resharpen my tools. I just can’t see those prices for a fixed blade factory knife.

We also found a lot of empty tables. That’s somewhat understandable. What’s sadder are the tables which sold out of everything before the show opened up. You thought the VIPs were first in? You forgot about the trading the night before in the hotel lobby and the selling between the dealers. If you absolutely must have the first access to the sellers, there’s only one answer: Buy a table.

We came across a German knife maker, Robert Kaufmann. This is his second trip over from Germany and each time he has sold a large fantasy knife. His most recent effort was a large take-apart fixed blade. Wow!

The sheath came apart, and the knife handle was pinned and wedged in place so it could be disassembled by hand. The handle held two matching chopsticks and each stick held a thin stiletto. My photo doesn’t do it justice. It was beautiful and a marvel to watch Robert slip the knife and sheath apart and then together.

Mantis has bought the design rights of a ringed knife from the father and son design team of Grant and Gavin Hawk. That Hawk family has some clever ideas. What does the knife look like?

Think of a donut with a hidden blade. The concept is way cool, but in all honesty, I’m not sure of the absolute function of the knife. Still, Mantis wants to rock the knife world and they are doing it.

I stopped by Benchmade to show them an auto of theirs I acquired recently. It’s a Mini-Reflex, but it’s different from the current production. The butterfly is labeled Bali-Song, not Benchmade. The blade is bead blasted not black-coated and the back of the blade says pre-production 1998.

Benchmade tells me they used ‘pre-production’ in place of ‘first production’ which they use now. The blasted blade was used in only a few small lots and Bali-Song is long gone. The knife is somewhat of a collectible, so I will fight the temptation to carry it.

I stopped at Busse/Swamp Rat/Scrap Yard. They didn’t have much on display and were taking orders. Honestly, I’m not impressed with the line-up of these knives. It’s the same as last year, just different handles.

If you want to see different styles of knives, go to TOPS. It’s a shopkeeper’s nightmare. So many different styles or SKUs, no matter what you stocked you won’t have what the customer wants. But if you need a specific shape, use or style of blade and thickness isn’t a factor, you’ll find something there.

I stopped to watch an engraver work on a knife. He used a sharp tool, a magnifying glass and a vice. From there he carefully cut and carved his design

by pressing hard sharp steel against another piece of metal. Five booths down another engraver worked with a stereomicroscope. A camera picked up the image for an overhead screen and he used power enhanced tools to engrave a piece of steel. Modern and more traditional just feet apart. The same contrast is found with hand sharpening on fine stones and powered continuous belts. You’ll find works of art at one table and crude semi-finished knives at another. Perhaps the best thing about the Blade Show is the contrast among people as well as the knives on display.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blade Show: T minus 1 And Counting Down

We’ve arrived at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel, the home of the east coast Blade Show. It’s a very nice hotel, big and comfortable, deserving of a big name. I’m going to call it the hotel.

The Blade Show is setting up and only vendors and display staff are allowed in the hall. Mere mortals like myself are shunned from paradise, at least until tomorrow. I’ve got two Blade VIP passes from a friend at Spyderco which will grant us early entrance tomorrow at noon. This elevated status ends at 2:00 when everyone is let in.

What does it take to be a VIP? Do you have to write an article, sell/buy $20k in knives a year? Nope, just throw money at them or know someone in the business.

Everyone thinks the best deals are made during this 2-hour interval. Nope. The best deals happened prior to the show. Buyers and sellers are just meeting to consummate the deal. It’s like an arranged marriage, but no crying on the wedding night. The second best time is tonight and tomorrow after dinner. People will wander down into the hotel lobby, drink, tell tall tales and show off knives. If you’re in the right place and time with some stories of your own and wad of cash, you could score big.

Here’s the first photo of the Blade Show, the main entrance. From this point on it will never be this empty. Tomorrow through Sunday the entrance will be alive with people.

The trip down here through the rest of Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia wasn’t bad. Hot, but overcast which is not a bad combination for travel by car. I must be used to Georgia drivers. They didn’t seem too bad, so far. Last year I almost got a ticket for safe driving, but I convinced the state trooper to let me off with a warning and a promise to never use my turn signal to change lanes. Seems the local drivers don’t know what to make of proper lane changes.

Blade show 2001

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blade Show – T minus 2

The Knife Guy is on the road. My destination is not Atlanta, Georgia but the Blade Show held just outside of Atlanta. It’s been a good trip. My wife and I stopped in Cincinnati to have dinner with my brother and then it was on to the overnight stop in northern Kentucky.

So far my biggest problem is deciding which knives to carry. The initial decision was to have travel knives and show knives. This resulted in two major decisions. (Hey! To me they were major.). This process is moving me in the wrong direction, but I’m going to stick with it.

Last year I noticed most of the attendees had several knives on them. It was the polite icebreaker to ask, “So what are you carrying?” This required you to be able to show the knife off. More than one person had a belt hatchet but I didn’t see any swords so I figured I’d be safe with pocket knives.

I selected my SOG Spec Elite and my byrd Pelican. The lower case 'b' on byrd is correct. The trade name does not have a capital letter. The Pelican with its sheepsfoot blade has been discontinued, but I still think it’s a fine knife.

The show knives were not as diverse. I selected Spyderco’s PPT and a Santa Fe Stoneworks reworked Police model in blue-dyed mastodon molar. For a third knife I selected Ka-Bar’s original TDI fixed blade self-defense knife.

Since Benchmade is going to be present, I brought a Benchmade auto that has 'pre-production' marked on the back of the blade. I hope to find out what that is about.

It’s been a hot day and beer has been iced down for about half an hour so it’s time to sign off. Tune in tomorrow for another report.