Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dover Knife Show Postponed!

The March 2 and 3, 2013 Knife Expo hosted by Western Reserve Cutlery Association has been canceled. 

Fear not.  

We will be holding the Knife Expo later this year, April 6th and 7th at the Dover National Guard headquarters.  Same place as before, same times, different calendar page, that’s all.

I don’t know what happened.  It was suggested that the National Guard’s plans changed, or the old business manager forgot to tell the new business manager, or maybe somebody with rank just wanted to throw their weight around.  It doesn’t matter.  

The new show will be April 6 and 7.  The weather should be nice and everyone will have a good time.

If you show up in March, I'm not sure what you'll find, but it will not be the knife show!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chisel Sharp

I discovered I needed my chisel for a woodworking project.  I’m taking a course in hand-cut dovetails.  I need a special saw, which I have courtesy of my grandfather.  The chisel I have courtesy of myself.

I bought it maybe 30-35 years ago.  It’s a Stanley 5/8 inch wood chisel made in the US.  The steel?  Beats me.  I bought it at a time when Stanley stood for quality and that was enough for me.

I took it once to a community theater when I did technical theatre.  We were building a set with lots of doors, so that mean lots of passage sets (aka doorknobs and locks).  I looked up and found a co-volunteer using my chisel to hammer small nails out of wood.  

I’d like to say that he was able to use his hands after a few years to therapy but I’d never hurt anyone that bad over tools.  Fortunately I put a halt to his activity before too much damage had occurred.  I just took it home and kept the damaged edge as a reminder never to lend any tool I cared about. 

Now it was time to rehabilitate that tool.  So I got out my stones.

Just in case you don’t know, most wood chisels are sharpened on only one side.  Hence the term, chisel-grind.  The flat edge lets you cut straight through the wood, while the beveled edge clears the wood away from the cut.  If you sharpened both sides, yes it would be sharper, but it would drift away from the cut line.

I have a nice Norton combination coarse/fine stone I bought years ago.  It’s 11.5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide and I really like that size.  It’s hard to get the right angle for each stroke, but once you get it, 11 inches gives you a lot of sharpening distance.

I oiled it up and started on the coarse side, but it wasn’t taking the metal off as fast as I wanted.  So I switched to my little DMT combo diamond stone.  These stones use water as a lubricant so it’s easy to clean up and store.  I bought the DMT so I could touch up an axe or knife blade in the field.  The coarse diamond worked great, but the relatively small size made the job tedious.  I also thought the ratio of diamond material to open polymer made the effective sharpening area significantly small and reduced the metal removal efficiency.

My selection of sharpening stones
On the left the Norton combination stone; the red is the fine grit. The EZE Lap, and the right is my diamond DMT Combo.
I pulled out my EZE Lap, a six inch long fine diamond stone.  That really took the edge down.  Before long I had worked out all the edge damage and had a nice wire edge. 

Now it was back to the Norton stone.  I continued on the coarse side, which made finer marks than the fine diamond EZE Lap.  I guess it makes sense.  The coarse stone is less abrasive than the fine diamond.

I first flat polished the wire edge away on the back of the chisel and did a second uniform one across the chisel’s edge and moved to the other side of the Norton stone, the fine side.  ("Come to the fine side Luke!  I am your father…") Again I removed the wire edge and repeated the sharpening until I had a third wire edge.  I carefully polished the back of the chisel and was finished.

Almost a perfect job, the right edge isn't perfect, but it's very good
It's a pretty good edge, but the right tip isn't perfect.  I suspect its part of the way I put pressure on the chisel during sharpening.

Did I get it sharp?  I think so.  I shaved a few curls from a block of yew wood I had in the basement and was very happy with its action.

Sharpened chisel shaves yew wood
I shaved a few small shavings with my chisel.  I wanted to see how thin I could make them and how much effort it took.

Could I get it sharper?  Maybe.  Depends on the steel.  I could have gone to an ultra fine polish and left the face mirror shiny.  But would the edge hold up?  Steel for chisels is selected for impact and bending properties not necessarily hardness or even edge retention . Some woods are so hard the best you can do is to slowly remove a 32nd inch thick shaving at a time.  Most woodworkers would rather have to resharpen more often than break a chisel.

I’m happy with the way this sharpening project turned out.  I got a uniform edge at about 25 degrees, with a straight, sharp cutting edge.  

In the spirit of complete honesty I used a little wheeled gismo that holds the chisel at a constant angle.  I don’t have any idea where I bought it, but for sharpening a chisel or wood plane blade, it’s the bomb!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

You can have quality or cheap, pick one.

I had an interesting conversation at the last gun show with a fellow shopping for a knife.

Me: How can I help you sir?

Him: I’m looking for a knife I can carry tip up.

M: That’s very doable.  Let me show you a few I recommend.

H: I want a partial serrated blade.

M:  Take a look at these.

H: I want a quality knife, .... that’s cheap.

M: I think you need to try a few of other the vendors.  The ones with the 2-for-5 bucks baskets, sir.  

I’m still amazed by that conversation.  Some people don't know the difference between quality and price, so they are always looking for that magic combination.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


We all start somewhere.  What’s that expression?  Oh yes!  Even a mighty oak starts from a little acorn.  Of course we don’t discuss the acorn is a little nut…
I stand next to Teddy Roosevelt:
“The credit belongs to the man … who strives valiantly, who errs , because there is no effort without error or shortcoming,, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly,...."          "Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.

I hope Teddy will forgive me for truncating his humongous run-on sentence.  But I believe in what he said.  So I’m pretty excited.   I just got my hands on a knife made by Brian Davis.  It’s an early attempt, in fact it’s his second attempt.  But it’s a glorious attempt!

fixed blade knife from Brian Davis
That's over 10 inches of honest knife.  You could do a lot worse than to have this on you.
The blade is quarter inch thick, 5.5 inches long and 1.75 inches wide.  It appears to have been ground out of a solid piece of steel.   

It's a handful of fixed blade
I liked the balance and the thick blade is awesome!

The handle is black micarta on a full tang with front and rear bolsters.  It’s pretty awesome!  The blade is so close to a full length flat grind it takes a straight edge and a good light to see the slight curve at the blade edge. 

Strictly speaking the blade is a drop point design, but the point has a shape which reminds me of the belly on a skinner.  With all the metal behind the point, this is a blade you can pry with if you had to.

It was described to me as a camp knife.  I can see it in use at a deer camp or cabin.  The overall length is 10.75 inches and the balance point is right on the index finger when you hold it in a hammer grip.  I prefer the weight in my big knives in that position.  I feel it gives me the most control over the knife.  And with a knife this big, control is a vital.

The blade is finished nicely, but one of the problems with Kydex sheaths is grit gets trapped in the plastic and scratches the blade.  There is evidence of that on the blade.  The blade is sharp, but if you examine the edge with a strong light you can see how the edge faces don’t quite meet.  A little touch-up on a diamond stone will set that right.

The micarta isn’t quite symmetric about the handle, but it’s nicely done with the micarta flowing gracefully into the rear bolster. 

the mirarta is not even
The slight asymmetry in the handle didn't seem to affect my grip.
I'm a sucker for these dressier pins!
The handle sports two nice compound pins seen on fancier and more expensive knives. I don’t know the steel, the Rockwell C hardness, or the price.  I do hope to see more of these knives in the future.

Brian, I like your knife.  I think it needs a lanyard hole and a complete flat grind to a shaving edge if the steel and hardness will support it.  But even more, please start marking your blades, even if you have to use a vibratory engraver to scratch your name in the ricasso.  

Remember what Teddy said and do it!

You can reach Brian at  I'm sure he'd be interested in talking about future projects.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Every Knife has a Story

Before I get too far: 

Happy New Year! 

May the New Year find you healthy and happy.  If you have those two you are truly wealthy.

Now, let’s jump into knife stories.

I typically carry folders.

That’s not to say I don’t like fixed blades.  I do.  It's just in the urban environment most fixed blades tend to alarm the rabbit people.  I like to keep a low profile.  If there is trouble I want to slip away before it gets to me, so not being on the forefront of anyone’s cerebrum is good.

In my collection, and I’ve been known to carry and use them, are three of my favorite fixed blades.

left to right, S&W HRT, Gerber mk I and my Woo
From left to right: S&W's HRT, the Gerber MKI and Livesay's Woo

The first is the classic Gerber MK I, a double-edged dagger.  Gerber introduced this fighting knife in 1976, but had to call it a survival knife so they could sell it on military bases.  Wouldn’t want those men going overseas to fight to own a fighting knife.  Who knows, maybe fightin’ knife sounds un-American?

Mine’s a black blade.  I purchased it sometime after 1984.  The blade is described as a high carbon surgical steel with a Rockwell C hardness of 58.  Unfortunately Gerber didn’t keep track of the serial number as well as they did with the MK II.

I’ve got to admit as a camping or survival knife, it’s the pits.  Every time I carry it I have to remember not to push on the back of the blade with my palm to get extra force on it.  

I bought the S andW HRT at the famed Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot.  The shoot is just one giant excuse to spend money.  (I loved every moment there!)  Oh, and how you can spend it.  At the time $50 would let you shoot 50 rounds of .50 cal BMG ammo from a machine gun.  You didn’t even get to keep the fired brass.  So I bought a knife.  Cheaper, and I walked away with it. 

It looks a little like Gerber’s Guardian, but to avoid any legal complications the 3.5 inch dagger-like blade is sharpened only on one side.  The other side is tapered to a nice rounded edge.  It wouldn’t take much to sharpen that edge, but the blade’s thinness would leave very little metal behind the point.  I’d think twice about sharpening the false edge.

The blade locks in a molded plastic sheath that secures the knife upside down.  Unfortunately the belt clip isn’t reversible or removable.  At least not removable more than once.  You can cut it off and then lash the sheath anywhere you want.  I’d keep the belt clip.  It’s nice to have options.

Steel? Hardness? Quality?  Beats me.  It’s made by Taylor Cutlery
in China and it’s called the HRT.  Do you really think that after the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team is outfitted with $2000 handguns the agents then carry $14 knives?  If so, please contact me.  I have a option on an uranium mine I want to talk to you about.

Still I like its looks, and 3.5 inches of sharp steel can get me in more trouble I would want.

The last is my Newt Livesay Woo. 

It’s a bare bones 7.5-inch long tanto neck knife made from 1095 steel.  The blade is a 3.25-inch high chisel grind that makes for easy care and resharpening.  

Once upon a time there was a cable show called SOF or something like that.  Almost every program featured a scene with a main character needing his neck knife, his Newt Livesay neck knife. Needless to say, they were HOT! with the civilian tactical crowd.

I use to sell the Woo along with two other neck knives from him.  The initial order was under $500 and that made you an authorized dealer.

Now, Newt was the knife maker, but his daughter was the business manager.  After the cable show was terminated with extreme prejudice, sales of these knives cooled off.  So I thought I’d carry a few of his other fixed blades.  After all, I’d been an authorized dealer for at least two years and bought a lot of those knives.  

Not so fast college boy….The daughter insisted I do another buy-in of $1000 to be an authorized dealer.  That was the end of that.
Despite having a noose with a breaking strength of 500 pounds around my neck making me nervous, I liked the idea of a bare bones knife tucked safely away under my shirt.  The knife was lightly parkerized to resisted rust.   The straight-edge tanto is easy to sharpen.  It’s a nice knife.  It reminds me of the knife the government agent carried in “Death of a Citizen.”  

(PS: Take a look at the price on that paperback: 25 cents...!)

Oh yeah, she lasted about 3 paragraphs before Matt Helm found her dead.  I’m going to think on that.