Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Photographs


I’ve started working on a new writing project involving Boker’s Yurco.  It’s a nice self-defense knife and I like the its lines and feel.  An additional plus is I’ve met Mickey Yurco.  He's a member of a local knife club, so I think that will add another dimension to the article.

It’s a phobia of mine.  I always photograph the knife first.  Then I evaluate it, cut with it, carry it, sharpen it and test it.  This way if the blade or handle picks up scratches, discolorations, or other damage, I’ve got good images for the article.

Taking the photos isn’t always fun.  I don’t have a dedicated photographic studio so using guidelines from Knife World and ideas from Eric Eggly’s DVD, I cobbled together my studio.

Photographing a knife at my studio
It’s sort of the photographer’s perspective of Bismarck’s comments on making laws and sausages.

It isn’t pretty and I hate spending all the required time setting up, ironing backdrops, trying to find wedges to stick under the knives to get the angles I want and then cleaning up.  But it does work.

   

Innovation Theory of Knives

I subscribe to the 'Tupperware theory'* of knives. That is, descriptions and names of knives are made by manufacturers.  Knife use is defined by the purchaser.  Just because it’s called some type of knife doesn’t mean it can’t be used for other purposes.

I once pitched an idea for an article to an editor.  He indicated since it was a bushcraft knife the article had to be about using the knife to make snares, fires and other survival activities.  I wanted to talk about how the knife worked on a daily basis.  Did it create hot spots and blisters after a few hours of cutting?  How did it resharpen or clean up after cutting meat for dinner?  And could I use it for self-defense?  We never did come to terms.

Some knives are constructed in such a manner they can only be used for a limited task.  TOP’s California Cobra is a great example of that.  

A hand full of Cobra from TOPs
Other than angry, what else could you say?
Sure you could open a letter with it, and maybe make a fire stick with it, but the best description of it came from a customer of mine.  “It’s an angry looking knife.”

So I guess it should come as no surprise that my wife found that cutting her roll-up Christmas cookies was a dream using her ceramic food preparation knife.  

A Stone river ceramic knife
Stone River ceramic knife.  Note: she's using a plastic cutting board.  Always use a plastic or wood cutting surface with a ceramic knife ~ if you want to keep an edge.

Previously she had confined it to slicing vegetables, thin enough to read a newspaper through. 
   
Who would have thunk it?



*My wife learned years ago that just because Tupperware calls it a 'bread keeper,' that doesn’t mean it will not work for ice cream, cookies, etc.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Swiss Army Knife

Not every knife I own is a tactical blade.  I actually own at least two traditional pocket knives.  They were from different companies which are now the same.  I, of course, refer to the famous Swiss Army knife made by Wenger and Victorinox.  More about these companies can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Army_knife

(What would we do without Wikipedia?)

It is interesting that before the turn of the 20th century both companies were aware of the power of advertisement and the impact of negative ads.  They agreed to share the Swiss Army Knife business and branded themselves as Wenger the Genuine Swiss Army Knife and Victorinox the Original Swiss Army Knife.  If only modern politicians could get along so well.


Swiss Army victorinox and wenger
The red is my older Wenger and the silver is the Victorinox.  Two great Swiss Army knives.


A number of years ago these two companies combined under one management to sell both brands.  Recently it has been decided that the Wenger brand name would be sacrificed to the pressure of global manufacturing.
   

So, soon there will be no more Wenger, only Victorinox knives.

I bought my scarlet handled Wenger over 40 years ago in preparation of a Canadian fishing trip.  It seemed like a sensible thing to do.  The knife contained cork screw, tapered metal spike, primary blade, fingernail file, a saw blade, bottle opener/straight edge screwdriver, and can opener.

Wenger Swiss Army knife showing blades
Eight functions, not counting the lanyard.  MacGyver would be proud!


I really wanted just the blade, can opener, bottle opener and saw.  A second blade would have been welcome and I toyed with the idea of sharpening the nail file. 

I’ve got to admit this can opener is one of the worst designs ever incorporated into a knife.  It requires you to press the opener up through the metal lid of the can.  The problem was inserting the point into the can initially.  I almost instantly collapsed the opener into my finger creating a nasty cut.  I’m not the only one.  Within a few years the can opener was replaced by the older, more traditional press through the metal lid type.

worse can opening on left and the more traditional on the right
Even with the little diagram on the Wenger on the left, it's a terrible can opener.  The newer Victorinox has a much nicer can opener.

The main blade is only 0.5 mm thick.  That’s half the thickness of a dime.  I bent my tip years ago.

the victorinox has a thicker blade as compared to the wenger
The Victorinox on the left has a thicker blade than the Wenger on the right.  That thin blade has some advantages if your're cutting the right things.  I sold several to a hunter heading for South Africa.  The thin blade makes it easy to cut the thorns you pick up in the brush out of your skin, so he claimed.
I got my Victorinox after a beer camp in which I was always looking for a bottle opener.  One of the beer tasters gave it to me.

Beer Camp?
 
That’s an easy one.  Several of us got together and made a long weekend at a cabin at a state park.  We brought many, many different brands and types of beer and sat around the table with munchies and tasted beer.  (I wonder what happened to the notes we took?) We’d open a bottle, pour a little into everyone’s glass and taste.  We only had one rule.  If you didn’t like it you had to pour it down the sink.  That’s where I discovered I didn’t like German smoked beer.  Yuck!!!

Victorinox showing off its blades
MacGyver might not want this knife with it's selection of tools, but its not bad for camping or even lost in the woods.

The Victorinox has a shiny checkered aluminum handle and sports a blade, a can and bottle opener each with a different size straight edge screwdriver and an auger for leather or soft wood.  This blade is a healthy 1.1 mm thick.

The interesting thing is the two knives weigh the same, 70 grams.

Do I have a favorite?  Nope.  They both come with a set of memories that still make me smile.  It’s seldom I have them both together.  Most of the time one’s in a shoulder bag and the other in a car.  You never know when you might need a bottle and can opener.

Even the term Swiss Army knife has come to mean compact do-it-all.  I bet if we ever land a man on Mars he’ll have a Swiss Army knife on him.

On a more personal note. 
A distant relative was struck down in the prime of life leaving a wife and two young boys.  Funerals for old men and women are sad, but the survivors console themselves that the departed had a full life.  Not so much when the person is only 43. 

I stood in line waiting to speak to the widow and as customary the parlor played an endless loop of photos of him.  He never smiled.  Never.  The best was a micro smirk.  I felt bad for his boys and wife.  They don’t have a picture of their dad and husband smiling.

So, make an effort to smile more as you go through life.  You don’t have to stand in front of the mirror and practice.  You’re not the next king of England or a next hot leading man.   We just have to have a natural smile that we display. 

We never know, but the best memory of us might be of that smile.