Thursday, January 29, 2015

S&W vs Benchmade

Sounds like a mismatch, doesn’t it?  S&W knives are made by Taylor Brands, makers of flashlights, Uncle Henry and other products.  Benchmade makes, well, they make really good knives. 

Let me introduce our two challengers, S&W MP1600 an auto knife and Benchmades AFO II Auto.

Out of the box, each knife looks different, and the differences are more than skin deep.  The S&W has a relatively smooth, graceful black handle with a sliding lock next to the opening button.  The button itself is fully exposed on the handle.  There is no jimping to increase the friction between handle and hand.  The front bolster offers scant protection to prevent your hand from sliding forward onto the blade.   This may not be a big concern to you.   If your perceived use is cutting fir sticks, butchering a rabbit, opening cardboard boxes this handle will have no surprises in store for you.

S&W automatic knife
An S&W automatic knife.  The safety is right next to the opening button.

 But if you envision needing to cut a coconut open, making a violent, full power stab into something with hard spots, as well as open your mail, this knife may bite you back.

The AFO II has a dull black surface that feels gritty.  For me, it’s like running my nail over a chalkboard.  Jimping on top and bottom of the handle tip and tail provide additional friction surfaces.  The lines of the handle aren’t as smooth or flowing and a swelling at the bolster helps keep your hand away from the knife edge.  This knife also sports a metal glass breaker tip.  The lock is on the spine 90 degrees away from the opening button.

AFO II knife
Benchmade's AFO II   Jimping provides extra friction surfaces.  Glass breaker is small and not painful if you accidently palm it.
The AFO II clip is interchangeable to four positions, including the button side.  In the tip down position the knife rides high in your pocket.  Move the clip to my favorite position, tip up, and the knife rides a little lower in the pocket.

The S&W clip can be removed, but it’s drilled and tapped only for right side tip up.  It lets the knife ride low in your pocket, virtually unnoticed to the casual observer.

Lets looks at the numbers!
S&W 1600
Open length
8.2 in
Blade length
3.7 in
Blade Steel
Blade Thickness
0.134 inch
58-61 HRC
5.8 ounces
4.8 ounces
Made in

All and all pretty even except for price.  The big surprise was the S30V steel in the S&W.  Almost as big of a surprise was the differences in spring tension.

Any automatic knife that doesn’t have enough spring to push the blade to the locked position is a pretty sad knife.  The auto’s only reason to exist is to propel the blade to the lock position, otherwise you have an ordinary one handed opener.  But what if something momentarily stops or blocks the blade from reaching the full open position?

One of two things can happen depending on the spring.  The spring has enough strength to kick the blade into the lock position or the blade just dangles until you add a flip with your wrist.  I don’t have scale or a testing device that can measure spring strength, but let’s look at it from another way.  How much do I have to cock the blade so if I release it from that position, the blade will return to the locked open position?

For the S&W, about 110 degrees from full open.

For the AFO II I couldn’t find any blade position that did not return the blade to the full open locked position.
In other words, the AFO II will always open, even if the blade meets obstructions as soon as the blade clears the obstruction.

The S&W, not so much.  If the blade is stopped in the first 80 degrees of opening, it should finish opening.  Be prepared to wrist flip it open in another position.

The other big difference is the safety.  The safety on the S&W locks the blade closed.  It can’t be bumped off and the blade can open.  The safety doesn’t do anything in the open position.  The AFO II safety will lock the blade open or closed.  When the safety is on, that blade isn’t moving from its open or closed position.

Both knives are available in tanto and drop point as either serrated or plain edge.  And both have a lanyard hole if you chose to use that.

Since neither knife belongs to me I can’t test the edge.  But I have always found that other Benchmade knives cut better and retain an edge longer than their significantly less expensive S&W brothers.  But with the use of a high end steel, S30V, that might no longer be true.

Who wins?

One important lesson to remember is, function should define form.  In a combat role were self-defense is the card that trumps all others, I would go with the AFO II.  It has a heaver spring that, in my limited tests, always opens.  The lock is smaller and on the spine but I would feel more comfortable carrying the knife in a pocket or tucked in my waistband.  The shape of the handle and it’s surface finish will help you keep your grip.

The large and easy to find safety and the highly exposed button on the S&W would make me uncomfortable throwing myself down behind cover or fighting in small confined area.

However, there is an $80 dollar difference.  If your world consists of relaxed fit pants, gathering at the barbecue to swap lies, and the most stressful situation you think you’ll be in is pulling the guideline of a tent with one hand and cutting the rope with the other, the S&W 1600 could be the right knife.

I very much liked the Benchmade AFO II over the S&W.  But don’t be fooled by this statements.  If you somehow slipped me an S&W 1600 when the fecal material hit the impeller, I would be very grateful!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Side of the Table

It was an interesting knife gun show this month.  I typically only do one show a month because weekends are so valuable.

Saturday at Medina was packed.  At one point all the parking spaces on pavement were filled and only the brave with 4-wheel drive parked in the soupy, muddy fields surrounding the area.

I’m always amazed by the people that pickup a knife, study it, then announce it’s exactly what they are looking for, only to put it down and walk away without another word.  If it is exactly what you want, why are you…?  I guess people simply don’t know how to say thanks and put the knife down.

I have found a way to deal with that species of shopper, the Common Flicker.  You’ve seen them, maybe you are one. 

They pick up a knife and flick it open and flick it open and flick it open endlessly.  I wonder if we let them, if they would still stand there forever caught in an endless cycle of flick-close, flick-close.  A distant cousin also tries to see if the blade wiggles in the frame after four or five clicks.  In either case this cycle will be repeated.

When I observe this behavior, I state that they really seem to like that knife.  I usually get an agreement to that statement, so I simply ask them if I can wrap it up for them.  That pretty much halts the behavior and causes them to vacate the area around my table.  Several left so quickly, a thunder clap occurred when air rushed in to fill the space they had previously occupied.

Look, I don’t care what kind of torture test you want to carry out on your knife, but until you buy it, they are my knives and you can’t treat my property with disrespect.

Sunday the really interesting buyers came out.  A father stopped by with his 10 (?)-year old daughter who likes to throw knives.  They have a target set up for her in the backyard and it’s reported she pretty good at it.  Should be interesting when she starts to date and the boy gets a little too handsy.  I wonder if she’ll give him a head start.  She also collects knives, but she’s a little shy and doesn’t like to handle them.  She saw several she liked, but turned down dad’s offer to buy her one when she found out they were liner locks.  She doesn’t like to close the knife around her fingers.

Later we were treated to couple of women who looked at several knives but wanted to shop around a bit.  When they came back we got treated to about a half hour of lesbian drama.  One woman could not decide which of the two knives she wanted.  I wasn’t about tell her which to buy; it’s much too much a personal decision.  Her partner tried to empower her to buy one or the other or both.  Sadly, I knew after the first 5 minutes this sale was going nowhere and it did.  At least it was entertaining.

Frankly, I liked the two women, they seemed very nice.  In earlier times they would have been described as “sharing the same pillow.”  Sounds romantic to me.

Later we had an elderly man walk up to the table.  He wordlessly picked up a Spyderco Tenacious and studied in great detail.  After several moments of complete silence, he took out a magnifying glass and studied it even more! 

Finally he put the glass away, put the knife down, pivoted on his heel and walked away, mission complete.  I still don’t know what was going on. 

The Tenacious is made by Spyderco in China.  I have always thought their byrd line was a practice run at making quality products in China.  If they had been unable to do it with byrd, they would have, in my opinion, dropped the line and went else in search of cheaper labor.

Later we had a fellow ask try to negotiate a $17 knife down to a $15 knife.  I said no, but he bought it anyway.  
Trust me, it's worth $17... period.

Many people see gun or knife shows as a flea market or mid-eastern bazaar and want to negotiate.  I can’t blame them, money is still tight.  But after listening to him tell the table next to me how much money he makes, I wasn’t too sympathetic to his attempt to negotiate less money in my pocket. 

Sunday was winding down, when the peace was broken with a loud “BANG!” and everyone’s thoughts turned to the accidental shooting we had little over a year ago.  I didn’t think it was a gunshot as the sound wasn’t sharp enough, but the place still got very quiet.  

I walked over when it appeared that nothing significant had happened.  I didn’t smell gun or flash powder, but it was announced that someone with a nasty sense of humor set off some kind of firework.  They also warned that if they found out whom it was the police would arrest him.

In any case it was an interesting week-end!

Thursday, January 15, 2015


The WRCA had their January 2015 monthly meeting recently.  We’re moving closer to the big Expo Knife Show May 16 and 17 at the Buckeye Event Center.  We still have tables available.  See my side pages for an application for table rental.  An 8 foot table for two days for $50 is a great deal.

It will be a great opportunity to buy as well.  We’ll have factory, custom and collectable vendors displaying their knives.

Each club meeting is also an opportunity to buy/sell/trade knives.  In the past, the club has bought estate collections and resold them and we currently have a retired club member in Arizona who wants us to sell his knives for him at a set commission.  That brought up an interesting topic.  Namely buying and selling collections, or at least the ethics of buying and selling collections.

Here’s the scenario:  A club member dies and leaves their spouse with an unwanted knife collection of unknown value.   You respond to information that they want to sell the entire collection and you make them a fair and honest offer for the entire collection.  They accept.

Later you sell the collection for a lot more money.  I mean 2 and 3 or more times what you paid for it.

So what do you think is the ethical thing to do.

During the discussion we found out some people felt we hypothetically cheated that seller, we should have paid them more.  Others thought that because we made so much money we should give some of it to the seller.  Things got a little excited for a while, but no chairs were thrown!

Part of this, I think, was because each member is internalizing their passing and the sale of their collection by their surviving spouse.  We all want to think our fellow club members wouldn’t take advantage of our widow (it’s a mostly male club).  Widows always remind me a of thin, gaunt women dressed in black unable to pay the bills.

Of course, our imaginary spouse might be sitting on a beach sipping mimosas because hubby left her well off and she wants nothing to do with her dead husband’s collection.  Before you showed up, she was 10 minutes from dumping the whole damn thing in the trash!

There is a second side to this story.  What if it turns out the collection isn’t worth the money you paid for it?  What do you do?  Do you go back to the widow and tell her she cheated you and you want some of your money back?  Is your name Simon Legree?

Here’s part of the dilemma, ethical behavior isn’t the same as moral behavior.  That seems odd, doesn’t it?  A professor of ethics once explained to me that ethical behavior wasn’t difficult.   

“Say what you mean, do what you say you’ll do and treat everyone the same.”  Of course the details are what makes ethics a challenging topic.

Since I will not be going back to the widow and asking for money back, I will not be sending her more money either.  There is nothing wrong with making money, especially in an honest, ethical manner.

Of course that all changes if I had agreed to sell the knives for her at some percentage to myself.  But that’s a different premise. 

I’d like to suggest that most of us think our collections are worth more than they are.  I know an elderly fellow who collected stamps.  He had maybe a million stamps counting canceled and first day of issue.  The collection was only worth the value of the relatively few uncanceled stamps he had.  First day of issue, not worth the paper they were printed on.  Canceled stamps, a drag on the market.  Foreign stamps, not much interest.  

If you want your collection to increase in value you need to buy things already valuable.  Even that depends on what people want to buy when you’re selling.  Ditch the beanie babies now.

If you think your collection is valuable, hire someone who makes a living at it and get an appraisal.  Document the knives and the purchase history.  Don’t attempt to appraise your collection yourself, as this activity is self deluding.  Don’t be too surprised if your WWII British Navy issue lifeboat knife collection isn’t as valuable as you thought.

One last thought experiment.  Imagine you are sorting though a tray of old foreign coins marked 25 cents each.  You find, because of your specialized knowledge and training, a rare Icelandic Krona worth significantly more to the right collector.  You:
A Buy it and resell it,
B Tell the owner and convince him to charge more for it,
C Walk away empty-handed and say nothing,
D “Look!  It’s Elvis!”  and steal the coin when he looks away. 

Why would buying a knife collection be different?

We also got to see the 2015 WRCA Expo knife.  It’s a Victorinox Sentinel.  And it’s a left-handed knife!  

2015 WRCA Expo Knife- Left Handed
2015 WRCA Expo Knife (hasn't been blade etched yet)

The serrations are on the front half of the stainless steel blade and located on the right side of the blade.  The knife can be easily opened with either hand, but one-handed closing works best with the left hand.

I want one.  I don’t care if the blade is etched or not.  It’s very cool, but I don’t see any real potential increase in value over the years.  So that’s one less worry my estate has!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Adventures in God's Waiting Room Part 3


Different cultures have drastically different concepts of time.

Many Native Americans have trouble adjusting to the dominant live-by-the clock society we live in.  For some, work starts when everyone is ready and finishes when it proper to be done.  We laugh at our neighbors to the south about their manana approach to work. 

But let’s not get too smug about our sense of time.  Admiral Gallery writes of being stationed in Iceland running aerial anti-sub patrols in the north Atlantic during WWII using a three-day calendar.
The three days?  Yesterday, today and tomorrow, of course.  He claims this worked so well they had to assign a yeoman the job of keeping track of the actual calendar date for official paperwork.

So this trip I learned about Dad’s time.
Dad: “Let’s go out to breakfast tomorrow.”
Me: “Great!  What time do you want to go?”  (I’m hoping for 8:30ish)
D: “How about 10:30?”
M: “That’s a little late, Dad.”
D: “Well, I want to sleep in a little.”
The phone rings at 8:30 the next morning.  I’ve slept in and I had to fumble for the cell phone.
Dad:  “Where are you?”
M: “I’m on the third hole of the Greenbrier golf course putting for a double birdie.”
D: “I thought we were going for breakfast?”
M: “We are.  You said 10:30.  It’s 8:30 now.”
D: “Well I got up at 6 and I thought you might be ready to go.”
That’s how I found out about dad time and I understand it’s a condition chronic to retirees.

The trip is over and I’m soon heading home.  I’ve got to admit I’m not looking forward to the drive.  I’m especially not looking forward to Ohio cold either.

These are my feet on Jan 3.  What did yours look like?

People in Florida love to boast about the nice winter weather.  “December was a bitch,” they say.  “The average high was only 65 and partly sunny.  Why at night it got down to 51 degrees!!” 

Of course, I like ask them about May, June, July, and August. 

 “We get used to the heat.” I’m told.  “Really? I respond.  “Then why do you all have air conditioning?.”  “Well,” they reply.  “We don’t like the excess sun. So we stay in during the day.”

Traveling down to Florida I did notice some states and counties have different ideas about roadside bill board signs.  Ohio has relatively few of these giant skyscraping advertisements.  Still, Ohio is not as bad as some.  In California I noticed a lot of advertisements for breast enhancement and lawyers for help you with your botched boob job.  In Florida it’s all about senior living and lawyers who help you with your botched medical procedure.

The Florida biosphere is really different.  The birds and palm trees are wonderful but I’m just crazy about the little lizards that live everywhere. 

The Florida sun bringer?

I had developed a theory that lizards cause sunshine.  Yes, it could be true, because every time I saw these guys, it was sunny.  But then again I might have it backward.

My wife and her flock

I was enjoying the view by the pond and a flock of birds found me in their constant search for a hand-out.  Of all the white plumed birds, one bird was clearly a rebel.  While I was observing the lone non-conformist rebel, a woman stopped in her car to talk with me.

Rebel punk bird!

  As I explained before, the residents are very much interested in who you are.  Residents wear badges with their name on it.  But visitors remain completely anonymous.  Security appears to be almost non-existent and anyone could walk in and enjoy the coffee and continental breakfast, stroll around the pond or take books out of the honor system video and book library. 

This time the conversation went from the polite ‘Are you visiting someone?’ and “How long are you staying?’ to the third degree.

When she got to  “Where were you born?” I had decided I had enough.  Either this woman needed to pull a badge or find someone else to practice water boarding on.

“Where was I born?”  I repeated.   “In a hospital….Because I wanted to be near my mother.”  And I went back to Hammett’s “The Thin Man.”

The trip home was long and greatly helped by the book tape we were listening to.  I don’t remember the title, but it involved lost love regained, trains, snow storms, Hollywood directors and thievery.  All and all a very satisfactory listen.

The only real bump in the road was a fill up at the WV-Ohio state line.  The pump indicated I had to see the inside clerk if I wanted a receipt.  I believe these non-available receipts are a scam with the goal of getting you in the store and confronting you with items you neither want nor need, but must have because you don’t have one.  I got in line at the register.   I had to wait for Bubba in front of me.

Bubba: “Got any vapor refills?”  I assume he was asking about the e-cigarettes.
Clerk: “Yeah, I got Red and Blue.”  
B: “What size?”  Apparently Bubba knew what red and blue tasted like.
C: “Don’t know.  I’ll check.”  She walks over to a plexiglass case, opens it and studies the contents like it would be the final question on judgment day.  Comes back and announces “I got big and small.”  
B: “How much?”
C:  I don’t know.  I’ll have to check.” She repeats the size performance.

While this is going on I’m thinking “Please, please, pleasepleaseplease finish!  I just need a receipt from pump 7 and I can be gone!”

C: “Well, the big is 9 bucks and the small 7,”  Bubba had to think about it and check his wallet.  
B: “I take the small.  Oh, I want a lottery ticket too!”

Here’s a hint.  If you have to debate the 7 dollar addiction compared to the 9 dollar addiction, you can't afford lottery tickets.

Twenty minutes later I’m back on the road thinking if I could show the security tape to a jury, they would never convict me.

After I’m home I call my dad to let him know we are safe and no longer on the road.  The conversation ends with…

Dad:  “I’m glad you’re safe.  Boy, I really miss you two!”

How incredibly sweet!  It was an expensive trip, took a lot of time and involved hard work to get everything organized, packed and ready to go.  We spend a lot of hours behind the wheel to travel about 2400 miles.  Suddenly all the work and effort seems so light and easy.

Me:  “Well, thank you, Dad.  We miss you too!”
Dad:  “Yeah, I don’t have anyone to play cards with now.”

Part One

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Adventure in God’s Waiting Room part 2

I’m changing the name of these postings.  My wife suggested it and it occurred to me it would be a great name for a blog about life and adventure.  After all, aren’t we all in God’s waiting room?

Retirement village
Retirement Village or City of the Dead
Last night we were back at the Gulf watching an extended family light and launch the little hot air luminaries to the setting sun.  Buoyed by hot air the little miniature balloons were sent on a one-way trip into the Gulf.  

Launching?  Dreams, good byes, hopes or just having fun?

I’ve read of cultures that write the names of loved ones lost the previous year on them.  Or perhaps you just want to send your prayers, cares and wishes to the universe on the beginning of the new year , this might be a good start.  It sounds very solemn, peaceful and almost religious.

This extended family was just having fun, cousins talking to aunts and uncles, mothers and dads, sis and brother, all laughing and getting splashed by waves as they tried to launch each one.  I’m sure they were creating memories and drawing closer to each other.  Hmmm, maybe it was religious after all.

First sunset of 2015
First Sunset of 2015.  What lies ahead?

The first sunset of the 2015 was underwhelming.  I had hoped for some insight to how the year would unfold, but Dame Fortune revealed nothing to me.  Maybe that is the message.  The year 2015 isn’t written and we each have chances to take and fortunes to dare!

Back at the retirement village, I’ve seen too many people to claim I’m staying in the city of the dead.  Still, it’s eerie to sit at the entrance to the floor and at 5 pm never see anyone.  The darkness closes in on you and all you can hear is the bubbling of the fountain below on the third floor.  Occasionally the automatic doors whoosh open, but you never hear footsteps.  Maybe the sensors see things mortals don’t.  It’s peaceful and a little spooky.

The residents pass me in the hall or notice me at the coffee/bagel breakfast bar and give me a curious look.  I’m too young they think (maybe, I could have made a fortune and hired a doctor to keep me young) to be a resident but they’re not sure.  Maybe I’m visiting and then again, well, who knows.  I’m sure they are thinking that youth is wasted on the young.

There’s a small pond outside and I enjoy feeding the birds.  There are common ducks (a few), and several orange faced Common Moorhens.  I’m sure , if it could, that bird would not choose to call itself that if anyone have consulted with it. 

The flock arrives for feeding!
There also several small white, long legged wading birds with a longish curved bill. not in the bird book I found.

The pond is also home to several large soft-shell turtles.  These guys must be the SEALs of  the turtle world.  All you see are two eyes and a nose above the water.  They approach the target under water, pause to check six, and gulp! the prize just disappears without a ripple.  Mission successful, one fed turtle.

Last night was movie night.  That’s not an experience to miss.  The movie was “Father of the Bride” with Spencer Tracy.  It was interesting to see how Hollywood saw or at least portrayed the upper middle class family in 1950.

Question?  Does anyone still wear a suit when eating dinner at home anymore?  Do you ladies still wear pearls to eat with the family?

It was also interesting to experience the movie with the old folks.  One woman thought the movie was too loud and when it was made softer, she wanted closed captions.  Everyone wants a different volume and didn’t hesitate to speak out, preventing anyone from hearing anything.  The collective wisdom of the audience decided that while a room temperature of 74 degrees was too cold, they could tough it out.  Several wondered where the popcorn was.

Me?  I had a beer.  I needed a second one.

Thinking about a Christmas or Birthday present for a retired parent or favorite aunt?  Let me suggest silk long underwear, electrically heated slippers and a megaphone. 

They would be useful for movie night.

Part One

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Adventure in Gods Waiting Room

Any trip to Florida in the winter is an adventure.  Especially over the holidays when everyone is double nuts to enjoy every minute even if it kills them.

Where I-77 crosses from West Virginia into Virginia is the East River Mountain Tunnel.  Last year a rock slide on the Virginia side closed the north bound lane.  This year flashing signs warned the south bound tunnel was closed.  Cars were already backed up into a parking lot.  I could picture some tragic accident involving several cars which would close the tunnel while they checked the structural integrity of the mountain.  A process which could take 3 days  (it was the holidays after all) and would result in a parking lot reaching north to the Ohio river.

Fortunately we were in the right lane and could duck off at an exit which dumped us off where only God and our GPS knew where.  And they were not very expressive about it.

Between the tablet and the GPS (Thank God for technology!) we found ourselves driving up the side of the mountain in a fog and snow storm on route 598.  The route put us back on I-77 below the tunnel only to find the entrance closed by the state troopers.  Seems the interstate was closed while a construction crew moved a large overhead road sign about.   Closing the tunnel was a natural pinch point for this same operation.  At least there were no fatalities there.

So Close!  

We finally arrived at my father’s apartment.  We knocked on the door and it opened to be greeted by chemical warfare. Great clouds of BenGay and cat urine rolled out the door and damn near knocked us on our collative asses.

It was good to see my Dad.

One is my dad the other Santa. Take your best quess.

I finally convinced him to crack a window to let a little fresh air in.  No sooner had I done that then Lilly, his cat, rushed out of hiding and launched herself at the window ledge.  Prostrating herself with her nose out the screened opening I was afraid her whiskers would irreversibly lock in to the window screen.  My father claims Lilly likes to lay on the window ledge.  It is my contention that the cat is simply hoping for some stray air leakage around the window.

I cautioned my father not to apply any more liniment to his knees as the diners in the restaurant might not enjoy their food as much as they could in the aroma’s absence.  I also called Sharky’s and moved my reservation from inside to outside were the Gulf ocean breeze soon defeated the problem.

Sharky’s is one of the better seafood restaurants in this part of Florida.  People travel from great distances to come to Venice and one of their first stops is Sharky’s.  I had wonderful coconut shrimp and my wife is still talking about her grouper.   

My father had a hamburger.

Next year, God willing, I’m going to take him to McDonalds.

We returned to join the New Year’s party that was scheduled to run from 7:00 to 8:30.  Dad couldn’t wait.

The staff brought in at least 40 bottles of sparkling wine and made the mistake of opening them.  For retirees, these folks sure know how to pack away the booze.  By 8:00 you could only find the non-alcoholic sparking apple juice.  Nobody was drinking that!

The Baby 2014s
Our collective (if we are lucky) future New Years.
(The rest of the empties are under the table)

We made it to midnight to see Taylor Swift outside in Times Square freezing her butt off.  She admitted her choice of a bare midriff outfit was a little too skimpy for New Year’s Eve in freezing weather.  Talented but not too bright.

Happy New Year to Everyone!

Part Two