Sunday, July 14, 2013

Your Granddad's Sports Drink

When I think of summers past I think of fireflies in bottles with holes punched in the lid so they can breath, running through the sprinkler and watermelon.  Now that I’m an adult, I’m charmed to see fireflies.  They are becoming rare with all the lawn care.  Kid are now taken to special camps to learn water polo or synchronized swimming to protect lawns and get them out of the house.  Things change.

But I haven’t lost interest in watermelon, especially with the new sweet seedless varieties.  I do miss the watermelon seed spitting contests, but my wife would never let me do that in my backyard with company.

I picked up a special knife for cutting watermelon.  It’s a very aggressive blade and cuts a melon open with ease.  I especially like the little watermelon seeds printed on the knife blade.  You can find these at many places for less than 10 bucks.

knife and watermelon
Ice cold watermelon and a knife.  What more could I want on a hot July afternoon?


The blade has a semi-chisel cut.  The knife is hollow ground on both sides but the cutting edge is a chisel grind.  This does several nice things for you.  The shoulder from the hollow grind forces the thick watermelon rind away from the cutting edge, so pushing on the knife just cleaves the melon and protects the edge.  Sawing with the knife makes watermelon juice, but it sure reduces a melon to slices quickly.
I make the first cut.  The knife works like a charm.

However the chisel grind on the left side of the blade tends to push the knife to the right when you’re cutting.  It might not be the optimal blade for watermelon decorative carving.  Next time I sharpen it, I’ll start a back grind on the right side to balance the cutting edge a little better.

The photo is from the second melon we had.  The first went to club activity we ran on the first really hot day of July.  After 6 hours in the sun we were cooked.  I’m here to tell you ice cold watermelon beats any sports drink for reviving your spirits and rehydrating!

Go watermelon!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A 3-way: TOPS vs Ka-Bar vs Shadow Tech

Just about any knife can cut string or trim a coupon out of the paper.  But let’s get down to specifics.  There are knives designed solely for self-defense.  Not knife dueling, like Tommy Lee Jones and Steven Seagal in “Under Siege,” but an honest to Gawd cut-them-off-of-me defense.

The three I have in mind are Ka-Bar’s TDI knife, Shadow Tech’s QRT and TOPS California Cobra.

The first thing you notice is they’re all fixed blades.  Despite what you think or practice, rolling around and fighting for your life makes it difficult, almost impossible, to produce a folder, get it open and use it.  It takes practice.  A lot of practice.  A fixed blade makes that aspect so much easier.

The TDI knife is well known.  John Benner designed a knife that police could carry behind their magazine pouch.  The curved shape lets you stab and slice with the wrist in the neutral position.  This is a powerful position as the cutting edge is parallel to the long bones of the arm.   
TDI knife with sheith
Ka Bar's TDI Knife
It’s made in Taiwan but it’s a Ka-Bar so you know the quality is built in.  The curve and oval handle keeps the blade centered in your hand and prevents you from sliding forward on the knife. 
The reverse grip has become popular. Weak-side carry, draw the knife with weak-side hand, slice your way free.
It’s never a good idea to cut yourself when the chips are on the line.  It also works very nicely in a reverse grip.  Just drag your fist over anything that’s not you and it is cut. 

I picked up Shadow Tech’s QRT at this year’s Blade Show.  

'shadow Tech QRT knife with sheith
Shadow Tech QRT.  That's Quick Response Tactics to you.

They were still smoothing out a few of the wrinkles but I recognized it’s coolness from a distance.  I only had to hold it to realize its potential.   

The Bowie style blade is almost perpendicular to the handle.  Again the wrist can stay in the neutral position and not be hyper-extended in the saber grip.  Hyper-extension of the wrist robs strength from the fingers. 

The oversize hole really gives you an almost unbreakable grip and the coarse jimping on the top provides plenty of grip surface for the thumb.  It’s another knife you won’t slide onto the blade if you stab into something hard. 

Trust me, this knife isn't going anywhere I don't want it to go.

Unfortunately the hole is too small for my hands in winter gloves.  There’s a little choil under the ring that can be utilized by the gloved index finger.  It’s right next to the blade so be careful and hope that between the glove and the handle jammed against the palm of your hand you will not get cut.  It’s a poor knife that only cuts one way, so a reverse grip can be utilized.  Again, just practice and learn to cut anything that’s not you.

TOPS California Cobra is a nasty little piece of work.  Oh, it’s quality and I’m sure it works just like they claim, but one look at it would be enough to discourage me.   
TOPS Cobra with sheith
TOPS Cobra.  It almost hurts you to look at it.
The knife has three useful edges.  Useful to you that is, not the target.  One is a sharpened pyramid at the bottom of the guard.  TOPS calls it the sting, the less lethal option. 
TOPS Cobra sting
Sharpened Steel Sting  Get the point?
I can imagine jabbing someone with it and convincing them they should let go and find someone else to hurt.  Both blades are referred to as the fang, or more lethal part of the knife.

Both blades?

Yes.  It’s a bent dagger.

The knife comes with an over-xeroxed booklet called the “Dirty Dozen and Then Some.”  The booklet shows you several self-defense techniques with the knife.  The normal grip for the Cobra is a saber grip and to bring the blades to play, you need some degree of hyper-extension. 

the normal grip put the thumb near the top blade.
Be careful where you move your thumb to!

The Cobra, like almost all knives including the TDI and the QRT, can be held in a reverse grip.  In the reverse grip your wrist is in the neutral position.

Does the hyper-extension wash the Cobra out?  Nope, but it’s a consideration.  Another consideration is the fact that your thumb can slide onto the top blade if you extend it too far.  On the plus side the handle has sufficient distance from the blade to accommodate heavy winter gloves.  

The cobra doesn’t look like a knife in its sheath, a feature it shares with the TDI knife.  I find this to be valuable asset when I wear one in public.

Let’s look at the box scores:

TDI Knife
California Cobra
QRT Quick Response Technique
Shadow Tech
Single edge
Single edge
Blade length
2.3 inches
Upper Blade 1.75 inches
2 inches with 1.75 cutting edge

Lower Blade 3.0 inches

Blade Thickness with Coating
0.12 inch
0.19 inch
0.2 inch
Blade type
Spear point
Double edged skinner (???)
Bowie shaped
Overall length
5.6 inches
6 inches
5 inches.
Steel and hardness
AUS 8   RC 57-59
1095   RC-58
1095 RC   57-58
Hard plastic

I left the price blank.  If you shop around, you should be able to find a deal on any of these three.
My last impressions.

These knives target (if you pardon my expression) the police market.  The uniform and gun make police a target of opportunity.  Criminals know there is a gun present and exactly where it is.  Holding a bad person at gunpoint, an officer could be jumped by anyone from the guy's mother to his baby sister.  These same problems may apply to the armed civilian.  Having a fixed blade could make all the difference between regaining control and being found dead on the side of the road.

We throw a blanket statement of “It’s a tool, just a tool,” over any knife we carry.  I think you might find it difficult to explain to a jury what kind of tool the Cobra is.  It looks so wicked and excessively punishing you better have good reasons you can verbally and convincingly express.

I like the raw look to the QRT.  I think the blade needs a little polishing.  There’s a balance between so sharp it has a brittle edge and being robustly dull.  I think my QRT was a little too robustly dull. I polished the edge a little and I’m quite happy with its cutting ability.

The TDI knife is the standard by which all weapon retention tools are measured against.  It’s well made and has a refined elegance.  It doesn’t look menacing, doesn’t look dangerous and it’s likely it will not be noticed until it’s performing its designed function.  It’s my first choice, but I have sentimental reasons to like it.