Thursday, December 27, 2018

Souvenir Knives

 When it comes to souvenir knives, I’ve got to go with historic references.  A knife that simply says Disneyland doesn’t float my boat.  But given the option of an event occurring at a specific time and place, well I’m a sucker for it.  

I can easily understand military collectors.  There are so many extraordinary events happening to ordinary Joes and Janes and their stories are told in the badges and mess kits they carried.

So when I had the chance to buy a brass-sided knife from the 1982 World’s Fair held in Knoxville, Tennessee I bought it.  The tang stamp identifies it as made by Parker Cutlery in Japan.

brass sided knife
The letters are so small I needed a magnifying glass to read them.

The 1982 World's Fair, formally known as the Knoxville International Energy Exposition, was themed "Energy Turns the World."  It opened on May 1, 1982, and closed six months later on October 31, 1982.  The Sunsphere, a 266-foot tower topped with a five-story gold globe, still remains and can be seen in Knoxville.

Souvenir knife 1982 worlds fair knoxville

James F Parker founded the company as a sideline to his employment as a paint sales rep.  He was one of the first to effectively utilize direct mail services to buy and sell collectable knives in the 1970s.  He used a stylized logo of an eagle with its wings spread.  He helped start Frost Cutlery by partnering with James Frost in a short-lived partnership. 

one of several designs
One of the more recognized tang stamps from Parker Cutlery

The commemorative knife business can be very confusing.  Parker had knives made by both Schrade and Rodgers-Wostenholm in addition to his own production.  As his business evolved the tang stamp changed, reflecting involvement with his brothers, purchasing of the Japanese company Imia and then Rodgers Wostenholm USA Ltd which gave him the right to use the IXL trademark.  In January of 1989, Parker purchased the W.R. Case and Sons Cutlery Co.

There can be no doubt that James Parker was a player in the knife world stage!  Knives ranging from good to yuck quality were produced both for the souvenir market and cutlery trade. 

In 1990 James Parker declared bankruptcy.

I find it interesting that I am unable to find a Wikipedia entry about Parker or his knife company.  Even Case knife histories fail to mention their brief ownership by Parker.  All I could find out through my limited search of the Internet was Case is currently owned by Zippo Lighters.

(Most of my information on Parker was liberated from Collector Knives by C. Houston Price.)

After that little historic jaunt, I’ve still got a very nice historic souvenir worth five dollars on E-Bay.  It doesn’t look like the blade was sharpened and I’m going to leave the brass with its patina.   Now, if I can only find an elongated penny from the fair, I would be a happier camper.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Yule Message

Merry Christmas!

I love those nature programs.  Watching this desert lizard that keeps lifting a different foot to avoid the hot sand set to music is hysterical.  But it’s the predators I find amazing.

Most of the day, predators are sleeping or walking round looking for opportunities.  Some are pack members so they have to spend time maintaining gang status, while others are solo creatures.  It’s their difference and sameness that makes them interesting.
danger, predator and prey
The decision on who's lunch isn't completely made, yet!
The solo predator often needs to do an interview to establish the hunter/victim order.  Maybe you’ve seen the mountain lion checking out a badger.  They just kind of sniff at each other and then the badger suddenly lunges at the cat, biting its nose, clawing at the cat’s face and quite unexpectedly the mountain lion decides there is an easier lunch somewhere else.

That’s an instinctual decision-making process of weighing food value and availability against hunger and potential damage.  It’s a question of who is actually lunch and who’s the top predator at the moment.

Pack animals will do this too.  The pack will surround a herd and attempt to spook them.  In some cases the predator will discover a “mule kick” to the face from a zebra means the diner bell hasn’t rung yet.  In other cases the herd panics and leaves the old, injured and inexperienced behind.

Often there is an “interview” to size up the relationship between prey and predator.  Sort of an ‘accidental’ bump to see what the response is.  I once saw a cartoon where a lion comes upon some small furry ball of protein eating grass.  Unsure he hesitantly reaches out and touches it.  The little fuzz ball whirls about metamorphosing into some creature composed of spikes, knives, a chain gun, several pistols, claws and spiked chains.  The last panel show the little guy back grazing.

This is a legitimate concern to all predators.  They may be king of this block, but not so much two streets over.

You’re thinking this is a weird Christmas/New Year’s post and you may be correct.  But I’ll get to the point.

These relationships between you and predators remain the same despite the holiday season.  In fact, it may be worse. 

We travel in some of our best clothing with jewelry and other decorations visible presenting a higher target profile.  Who would you rob - some guy in faded Carhartt jacket, worn leather shoes wearing a paint-splattered Timex watch and talking on a flip phone, or the guy with a knee length leather coat with black wing tip shoes, wearing a Breitling wrist watch talking on an i-phone?

During the holidays, actually all the time, practice a little tactical mimicry.  Zebra’s stripes help them blend into the brush and confuse a predator when they bolt for escape.

Don’t wear your best out without giving it some thought.  Excuse yourself and in the safety of the bathroom stall or destination, slip the watch, gold krugerrand ring or necklace out of your pocket and put them on.  The diamond studs can go on now and you can safely check whatever you need to see on your i-phone.  Reverse the order for departure.

Be boring in public.  Ordinary.

True story.
I was in Hyde Park, London years ago carrying two 35mm film cameras.  I stopped to sit a bench to take a break.  Four Bobbies descended on me.  A journalist had a camera stolen at a press event nearby.  I looked out of the ordinary and they wanted to know everything about me.  Despite the fact I had the serial numbers recorded in my passport locked in the hotel safe and offered to take them there and show them the numbers, I was just too interesting to ignore.  Even after it was confirmed that the stolen camera didn’t match any of mine, the police just couldn’t believe I wasn’t up to something.  I guess two cameras and not being in a Japanese tour group was outside their experience.

My mistake was not being invisible.

I don’t have to tell you to be aware of people, things and your surroundings.  When you’re distracted thinking about what you need to do to get Aunt Mime’s approval, did you remember your boss’s mother’s holiday greeting card, and is a half-gallon of scotch enough, you are even more vulnerable.

I want all of us to have a great holiday, no matter the celebration: Christmas, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Yule, the Roman Satunalia or simply New Year’s.  Stay aware, Stay safe and Keep your wits about yourself and we can all look forward to another year together.

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Rose By Any Other Name

By now most people realize that descriptive words don’t mean anything, or rather mean only what the author would like them to mean.  One author I’ve been reading describes men’s aftershave as “peppery” whatever that means.

Knives are a similar situation.  Editors and authors will agree that it’s a folding knife, but is it a jack knife, pocket knife or the mysterious tactical knife?

Almost everyone will agree on the following definitions:

Slip joint folder:  This is the simplest of folding knives.  Friction between the blade and bolster holds the knife open.  Early Roman knives were like this.  I suspect you needed to hold the blade’s spine pinched between thumb and index finger to use the blade.  A step up would be the 16 century peasant knife in which a metal tang would fold against the back of the handle when open and your grasp would keep the knife open.

Friction folders:  These use a spring, sometimes called a back spring to maintain pressure on the blade to keep it open or closed.  These are very common today. 

Locking or Clasp folder:  Knives in this category use a mechanism that actively prevents the blade from closing until that mechanism is altered to release the blade.   These have morphed into the term “tactical” which means they cost more.

Once we get past these basics we start creating new descriptors of knives.

I recently pick up a… well, I’m not sure what to call it.

It’s a gent’s knife, which means it’s largely a vest pocket toy carried for only the most superficial cutting tasks.  This term is often applied to small knives worn on a watch chain or carried just to trim loose threads, file a torn fingernail or cut a bag of potato chips open.

The term has been upgraded by vendors like A. G. Russell to include higher quality locking knives.  

My new lobster style knife

This one has steel blades in a brass handle, so you know it’s not designed for heavy work as brass is not the strongest material available.  It is decorated nicely with raised surfaces and dark black designs.  Some gent’s knives use precious and semi-precious materials like gold, ivory, exotic stone and tropical woods as well as steel for a handle.

This one is decorated in what is described on the internet as Toledo style, even though it has no connection to Ohio or Spain.  There are three tools in this knife, a large blade, a smaller one on one side, and folding scissors on the other side.

The spring is in the center of the handle where it tensions all three tools.  One end appears to forked, giving the smaller blade and scissors the needed spring force.

I guess it resembles a lobster, maybe?

The pattern or artistic style, for lack of a better name, is a lobster.  Since two of the tools open on the same end, but opposite side, if you look at it from the right angle, close one eye and squint with the other, you might find some passing resemblance to a lobster with its two claws. 

You might describe this knife as a Toledo lobster gent’s knife.

The handle is composed of two thin sheets of brass.  It has a gold color so I suspect it’s coated with a dyed lacquer.  It was a common occurrence with the old brass microscopes.  Different lots of brass would have different colors, so manufacturers lacquered the scope to give it a uniform colour appearance.  Very common with English microscopes.

Fine detail of brushed surface  The marker bar is 5mm or half a centimeter

The handles aren’t scratched, but brushed to give the brass a softer look.   Again it’s attempting to pass as gold or at least golden.

Inox means stainless steel

The blades are marked “Inox, Solingen, Germany”, but that doesn’t mean the knife was made there.  I couldn’t find any other marks or identification on the knife.  This suggests that is was a low quality product made by jobbers.

Still, I like the darn thing.  The handle is in a relatively undamaged condition, and I like the pattern on the brass handle as well as the proportions of the handle.  The two blades are clean with original edges and the scissors looks nice.

Unfortunately there are no compelling reasons for knife manufacturers to set down and hammer out descriptions the industry would use.  So, until they do, I have a Toledo lobster gent’s knife.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Christmas Reading

I can’t imagine Christmas without a new book.  They are one of my favorite gifts and some have become lifelong friends requiring several readings over the years.

Here’s a list of books that you might find want to find in your Christmas stocking.


  The Tactical Folding Knife   Bob Terzuola
A detailed approach to knife making from one of the masters, Bob Terzuola.

A Primer on Folding Knives  Steven Roman
Overview of knives, steel heat treatments and sharpening.  With the exception of types of steels used for blades, there is probably nothing more contentious than sharpening.

Pocket Knives –A Compete Study Guide  Bernard Levine
It’s a nice introduction to knife collecting illustrated by color photo examples.  Almost every level of knife fancier will enjoy this.

The Complete Encyclopedia of Knives  A E Hartink
Of course, it’s not complete.  It is a snapshot of knives and some makers at the time of publication.  But it is a coffee table book you’ll enjoy picking up again and again.

The Craft of the Japanese Sword  Leon and Hiroko Kapp
Fascinated by Japanese swords?  Like many of us we have an imperfect view of the creation, finishing and style of these swords.  This book will give you insights and appreciation for the classic Japanese sword.  And why it takes a village to make a sword.

Art of the Knife   Joe Kerzmzn
Art knives are curious.  Makers take one of man’s earliest tools, the edge, and turn them into objects of art.  You can own a copy of Piet Mondrian’s painting called Composition No. 10, but by its nature you can’t own a copy of an art knife. It is or it isn't.  But you can explore them.

100 Legendary Knives  Gerard Pacella
Make a list of the top 10 knives; now expand it to 100 universally accepted standards.  It’s hard to imagine the complexity of such a task.  You may disagree with this list, but you will not be disappointed with it.

Modern Knives in Combat  Deitmar Pohl
You might be surprised by the knives men and women carry into combat.  You’ll find designer edges and ones you see at any gun show in America.  Gives you a different view of the tactical knife.

Contemporary Knife Targeting  Christopher Grosz and Mike Janich
Is there anyone who has never picked up a knife and not asked themselves, “Could I defend myself with this?”  We’ll always go places you can take a knife but not a gun.  Just saying……

Counterfeiting Antique Cutlery  Gerald Witcher
It’s not a how-to book, but more of a they-did-it–to-you book.  If you’re thinking of collecting in the high end or rare collectable market, you really should read this book.

Merry Christmas to you and keep your edge and your knife sharp!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Figuring The Angles!

If you use a knife there comes a time, regardless of the steel, that the edge needs touching up.  Many of us return our knives the company for resharpening or take them to a professional sharpener.

Even thinking of this brings to mind a childhood memory of an itinerant knife sharpener on the south side of Chicago.

He had a push cart that he walked behind and sang out “knife … scissor sharpening” as he traveled down the street.  It had little bells that tinkled and jingled as the cart rolled.  He would sit at the stone which was powered by a foot treadle and sharpen.  I remember my mother with a pair of scissors that needed sharpening as well as all the women in the neighborhood coming out to see this old man and his grind stone.

Not the same one, but similar

I always wondered where he came from and how he got into the business. 

Companies make all kind of sharpening aids.  I had a guide that clipped on the blade of a Buck knife and held it at constant angle.  I didn’t say correct, just constant.  Both sides are worn down from years of use.  I have a Lansky that also clips on the blade and lets you select one of several predetermined angles.  The Spyderco Sharpmaker currently has two predetermined angles, one for back beveling the blade (30 degrees) as you sharpen into thicker and thicker steel and their standard (40 degrees) for sharpening.  Of course you can use either angle for your sharpening your knife.

Some of us can hold a constant angle on a flat stone and simply select an angle based on their experience.  I’m not one of those, but I can free-hand a dull edge into something significantly less dull.

The Work Sharp sharpener comes with several different grit belts but the really attractive part is the dial-an-angle feature.  Simply turn a knob to a predetermined value and you have your angle.  It’s up to you to hold the knife against the supports to get that angle, but it’s not that hard.

powered sharpening
The numbers are the angle and you can swap different grit belts.  The system produces what people call an appleseed or hamaguri grind
Sharpening connoisseurs claim you should find a specific angle for the steel and hardness of your blade and your applications.  I remember a fellow collector, who had the resources of a world class lab at his bidding who addressed this question.  He purchased throwing knives from a single vendor to get the same steel and hardness, and sharpened them with many different angles and types of abrasive grits to determine the “best” angle and method.  Then he had to establish a reproducible cutting test that measured the friction through leather.  Scanning electron photomicrographs were taken of edges before and after testing.

I suspect he determined the best way to sharpen that particular knife and not the one in your or my pocket.

Still it’s the angle you need to know.  Audacious Concept, located in Lappeenranta, Finland has the solution for you.  It’s a little dog tag that has precision cut angles from 5 to 45 degrees by fives.  Simply slip your edge into each slit until you find the best fit.  Best fit seems to be when the edge wiggles the least in an angle.

And you get a beer bottle opener!
You can estimate values in between if two adjacent angles both seem to have the same wiggle.

This lets you set your sharpening system to the factory angle or what you have discovered for your knife and use. 

Sure, you could just select any angle, or you could engrave the factory angle somewhere on each blade.  You could keep a notebook with the name and description of each knife with the factory angle and your sharpening angle.  You could do a lot of things.

Or you could just buy one of these little dog tags and keep it with your sharpening supplies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A. G. Russell

A.G. Russell recently passed away.

If that name doesn’t mean something to you, you’ve led an impoverished life.  It may not have been financially poor, but your soul hasn’t been nourished enough.

Russell started making knives when he was nine.  In 1968 he started selling after-market knives but continued to have his designs made.  His wife, Goldie, helped publish a slick glossy catalog containing photos of knives of amazing beauty.  Knife fanciers refer to it as “knife porn” as we anxiously await the current issues which would be studied, pawed over and each knife’s detailed description memorized.

The catalog is still in production and I still look forward to seeing it.

I met A.G. years ago at one of the S.H.O.T Shows, along with 100 thousand other people.  But a recent article of mine in Knife Magazine on his Gent Folder II brought us back into contact.  We talked and he showed me how he could flick open virtually any knife.  He said he enjoyed my article.

One of A.G. Gent Knives

He joins a select group of knife giants. Some of the names should mean something to you.

James Parker Sr. who once owned Case Knife and founder the National Knife Collectors Association (NKCA)

Bill Scagel who inspired so many other designers and makers like Bo Randall, the founder of Randall Knife.

Bo influenced Bob Loveless who inspired countless other makers.

Robert Terzuola who invented the term Tactical Knife.

The environment they created let people like Blackie Collins flourish with his innovative designs.  Blackie was also a founding member of the Knife Makers Guild as well as the originator of Blade magazine.

Bill Moran, the rediscoverer of pattern welded steel and founder of the American Bladesmith Society isn’t excluded from this group by any means.

And of course, A.G. Russell, who opened the world of art/collector and working knives to everyone.  Let me remind you he produced the first production knife with a thumb stud.  His Sting boot knife still inspires both art knives and fighting designs.

I know there are others I’ve missed and skipped, but I there is no question that A.G. Russell will be on anyone’s list of knife milestones.

A.G. Russell, III passed away Friday, October 12, 2018 at Northwest Medical Center in Springdale, AR at the age of 85.  The knife community will miss him.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Random Walks

Well, it’s been knife, knife and more knives recently.

My favorite knife club, WRCA, has obtained several really nice knives for their raffle at our yearly fund raiser.  It’s a knife show of course and it’s the weekend after Mother’s Day.  That’s May 18 and 19, 2019.

We want to gather as much attention as possible with the hope that this will translate into attendance.  You see, attendance is the lifeblood of any show, knife, gun or model train.  It’s obvious that vendors will only rent table space from you if they have a good chance of making sales.  The promotor can’t guarantee sales, but he can (and should) shoulder much of the blame for poor attendance.

Here's the initial flyer for the WRCA show.  If you make, sell, collect and would like a table, call Darlene.

The question is how to get people interested in attending?  The best way is to tell the general population and remind them constantly.  This is how blockbuster movies do it.  They create interest by constantly telling you through the media, internet, weekly magazines that the blockbuster of the season is coming.

Not having the budget they have, we’re going tackle the problem by guerrilla advertising.  One step is to get pictures and information out about our yearly knife raffle.

I had to set up my photo booth and take some photos.  It’s not a real high tech operation.  I use a thin white cloth as a diffuser and two of the brightest fluorescent lights I could find.  With the help of several reflectors and the all-important tripod I try to get studio quality images.  It’s been known for some time that great images make lasting impact.
My photo set up and chop saw..........

So these will be on our website, on my blog and Facebook page with the hope of attracting potential customers who want to take a chance on winning as well as attending our show May 18 and 19, 2019.

I believe this is first prize.  I think it is one hell of nice knife.  More on this topic in the future.

Speaking of shows, I just attended the Lehigh Valley Knife Show.  It’s within spitting distance of New Jersey and (almost) New York.  We get a lot of traffic from these states because of their draconian knife laws.  It’s tough to be a collector when you feel harassed about your hobby.  I had a number of potential customers after specific products, like Spyderco’s rust-proof H1 steel, but unable to purchase it because the blade is too long.

One customer uses the thinking that most, if not all criminals, use cheap kitchen knives and other POS knives.  His defense is to tell the police officer, “Look, it’s a $200 knife.  I have a car with another $800 dollars’ worth of tools I use on my job, so it isn’t likely I’m holding up or mugging people outside of bars to make $30.”

He claims it works so far…..
At the show I ran into a fellow who run knife classes for Girl Scouts.  It’s based on a Swedish program, sadly now extinct, that taught a quarter of the grade school population how to cut with a knife.  His students learn how to make cuts like a V-cut or stop cut.  When they are done I understand they have a little carved figure.  Very cool.

Imagine grade school children learning how to carve in a society where a drawing of knife gets you sent to the principal’s office.  Amazing.  I wish him good luck!

While I was at the show I passed out flyers for the WRCA show at the Massillon K of C Hall, May 18 and 19th.  (I bet you were wondering if I would get around to that again.)

Look, it’s five hours away, for some of these vendors it’s an additional 2-3 hours on top.  It’s a long way to go to sell knives.  Part of my sales pitch was, “Look, come sell knives on the weekend, visit the FootballHall of Fame on Monday and by the way, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is just up the road in Cleveland.  You could have a great time.”

One guy told me he hates football, okay what about rock and roll?  He hates that, too.  Okay, I can give it back, too.  I said, “What you hate football?  Are you un-American?  What are you?  A Commie?”

Well, he started to laugh and said “Okay, give me a flyer.”

I’ve said this before.  Life is hard and everyone is working hard to get by.   If someone offers you a flyer to participate in an activity you are currently involved with, just say thanks and take the damn thing.

Here are a few images of the knife show.

My table 

Early Sunday Morning.  Sundays are always slow and thus a good day to bargain.

Grinding knives and axes at the show, or 4th of July fireworks early.

Friday, September 21, 2018


Move over Swiss Army knives!  You’re got company.

Swiza is a relatively new knife company, but they have a long history as a clock maker.  Louis Schwab established the Swiza clock factory in Moutier, Switzerland where they have a long reputation as a premiere clock and watch maker.  But change comes to everyone. 

In 2006, the Schwab family transferred ownership to Bedonna Holdings.  Who are they?  Good question.  Bedonna appears to be a holding company whose business is making money.  Like all holding companies, they own several companies that make products the public wants.  Kind of like angels on “Shark Tank.”

At some point Swiza got involved with estragon, a design company.  Yes, it’s a lower case “E,” all very artsy fartsy.  But Dirk Fleischhut and André Lüthy appear to have the chops.  They helped Swiza get into the knife game with a very interesting knife. 

green handled Swiza
The Swiza C04 in Khaki, or as I call it green

They opened a plant in Jura, Switzerland, and in Oct 2015 started making Swiza knives, a creditable challenger to the Victorinox/Wenger Empire.

Here’s a little aside I found interesting: the geology term "Jurassic" is derived from the Jura Alps, which date to that era.  Knives and fossils in the same blog, must be a record of some kind.

Here’s a Swiza D06 in leafy green.  Let’s talk turkey, err… rather knife. 

The first thing you notice is the nail nicks or blade openers.  They are elongated trapezoids holes that penetrate the blade or tool.   The second thing you notice waits for you to pick it up.  The bolsters have a soft silky feel.  Rub your thumb over the closed knife.  There aren’t any sharp edges with the exception of the back end of the tweezers.  You’ll find a curious double step that lets you grab and remove the tweezers very easily.

Siza Khaki knife tweezers  D04
Curious looking back end of the Swiza Tweezers, but easy to extract from the knife 

The 3 inch blade is milled from 440C stainless steel and has a Rockwell “C” hardness of 57.  The blade locks open, a touch I have always liked.  The release is hidden under the white Swiss cross on the handle.  It takes a little effort, but that’s actually desirable in a locking knife.

Various tool configurations are available.  This knife has in addition to the tweezers and main blade, a #1 Philips screwdriver, a #1 and #3 flathead, bottle opener, can opener and a reamer with sewing awl eye.  I’ve always been curious about the sewing awl eye.  If you’re using that function, that’s going to be a very coarse repair which will probably do more damage than the rip, or the fabric is so coarse you can wiggle it through without cutting large holes.

Swiza swiss army type knife
I seldom need a can opener, but the screw drivers and bottle opener are life savers!

The tools appear to have been hardened to 54HRc.  Why such relatively low hardness, you ask?

It’s not low.  We’re spoiled by pricey super steels with Rockwell values in the 60s.  At these levels bending the blade is likely to break the blade.  As Ernie Emerson once wrote, a bent blade is still a knife, a broken blade is just expensive junk.  (My apologies if the quote is wrong.)

At these levels of hardness you should be able to resharpen the edge with a fine grain rock.  A number of years ago, I attended a mini-class where it was claimed you could sharpen a blade with mud. That is, if you had enough time, and if the knife was dull enough that even a slight improvement was desirable.  I’d look for a fine grain, flat rock first.

All in all, I think you’ll find the Swiza up to all your urban cutting needs.  This Swiza, with its leafy green scales has a suggested manufacturing price of around $56. 

Monday, September 3, 2018


"A knifeless man is a lifeless man.”  Nordic proverb.

I recently bought a set of puukko knives.  The set has the curious name of Double Big Hunting (Knives) and was designed by Harri Merimaa.  Harri is from Bothnia, a providence of western Finland and is a third generation knife maker.  I think they are very nice knives and I'm very happy to have them.  Nice job, Harri!

Harri Herimaa
Double Big Hunting Puukko set

The blades are high carbon steel, the smaller knife is 84 mm (3.3 inches) while the larger is 154 mm (6 inches).  Both rest in a single brown sheath.  It’s the handles I found especially interesting.  Each handle is chiefly dyed curly birch capped with elm wood.  The rakish cut of the handle butt provides a stop to prevent your hand from sliding off.

Nordic Scandinavian Finland knife set

Puukko knives are so characteristic of Nordic countries, it’s hard to mistake them for any other knife.  Surely you recognize them?  Most puukkos have a slight shoulder but no ricasso because where the edge ends and the handle begins is where most power can be applied.  The blades have a long flat edge with no secondary bevel.  To sharpen, the bevel is place flat on the stone and then polished.

Puukko knives

Nor do puukkos typically have a guard to protect your fingers.  A puukko knife is primarily a cutting and building tool and not a tactical weapon. 

A classic blade would be the width of your palm, but you’ll find them 90-120 mm (3.5 to 4.7 inches) long.  This creates a market for both men’s and women’s puukko knives.  Women’s, (hey, it’s a sexist world) are typically shorter bladed for ease of food preparation.

In the Nordic countries, the puukko is an everyday knife that is used for everything from hunting, fishing, and garden work to opening boxes in the warehouse.  Despite being an everyday item, receiving a good puukko as a gift is considered a great honor in Finland.  Both Boy and Girl Scouts consider the puukko their scouting symbol as well as a handy tool.

In 1977 Finland banned carrying knives in public because, (wait for it…) they could be used as a weapon!  This law appears to be seldom enforced.  In my opinion, any law that depends on the personal outlook of a police officer is discrimination.

As an aside, the puukko is the only civilian item which can be openly worn as a part of a soldier's combat gear without breaching the regulations of the Finnish Defense Forces.  Because puukkos are traditionally considered to be very personal items, the military does not supply conscripts with them, and most bring their own with them.  It’s hard to imagine basic training with knives, but what do I know?

Sunday, August 26, 2018


Take a look at these.  Just ordinary pocket change, like you get from a thousand different purchases.  Or is it?

secret edge
Penny for your thoughts?  Here's 48 cents worth of opinion.

Now take a look at this picture.  Same coins but something is significantly different. 


That’s right, the nickel has a blade.  It’s a very sharp blade.  It’s sold by Shomer-Tec.  I got mine from a good friend, Bob.

This is one of many products you’ll see aimed at people who travel in third world and failed countries.  In these locations kidnapping, abduction and murder are relatively common and quite anticipated.  FARC is a perfect example.  The great majority of their funding (even revolutionaries need to be paid) came from drug running and ransom kidnappings.  Having a hidden or non-detectable blade could be the difference between self-rescue and spending three years with an ear cut off while your family attempts to negotiate your release.

Think I’m blowing hot air up your skirt?  Check with your friends who travel to these countries for big companies.  They have hostage insurance and training for the traveler to look less like a target as well as special security.  Tell me again why you think you’re safe at Cozumel?

You don’t really use this blade.  It’s designed to help free yourself from cord or zip-tie imprisonment or as a last ditch effort to escape during the initial stage of an abduction or assault.

coin knife
1986 was a very very rough year as witness the coins.

It does remind me of the devices invented by OSS and others to help Allied prisoners-of-war to escape.  I have a plastic copy of a lapel knife worn in a sheath sewn in jacket lapels or in coat sleeves.  The originals were metal and quite deadly.

Growing up in the 50s there were a lot of articles about these efforts.  I remember jacket buttons that would unscrew to reveal a simple compass.  When the Nazis caught on they made them with reverse threads so it was righty loosie, lefty tighty.  Uniforms were redesigned so simple alteration would make them resemble men’s suits and ballpoint pens containing an ink that would dye a re-tailored uniform to typical suit color.

I think you could drop this in the change bowl at any metal detector and it would pass.  You have to notice the dot between In and God 

Escape tools aren’t anything new.  Still, this is a very cool knife.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Two-Way with Benchmade

In this corner we have Benchmade’s Anthem and in the opposite corner we have Benchmade’s Bugout.  All right, I want a clean fight.  No clip gouging, no biting and no hitting below the axis lock.  Okay?  Now go to your corners and come out on the bell.


This is an unfair fight.  But let’s see how it shakes out.

The Anthem is a manual opener with Benchmade’s famous AXIS lock.  Introduced in 2017, its unique feature is the handle is machined out of a solid billet of titanium.  For the same strength, titanium is 45% lighter than steel.  So this knife weighs in at 3.66 ounces.  The titanium handle is sculpted in a chevron pattern that is pleasing to the touch and attractive to the eye.  The knife is set up for tip up carry and the titanium clip is left/right reversible.

Anthem knife
Hey, good looking...

As soon as anyone uses the term wonder steel, a new one appears on the horizon.  Still it is the correct adjective to describe this steel.  Let’s talk composition.

20CV is a martensitic steel containing 1.9% carbon, 20% chromium and a whopping 4% vanadium with 1% molybdenum and a smidge of tungsten.  The high concentration of carbon and vanadium produces a high volume of incredibly hard vanadium carbides.  These carbides strengthen the steel and give it wear resistance which benefits any knife blade.  The chrome rich steel has excellent corrosion resistance. 

Starting as a powder steel 20CV has small grain and uniform distribution of tiny carbide grains.  But machining is difficult, having only 35-40 percent of the machinability of 1% carbon steel.  Hardening, annealing, tempering operations are complex and time consuming.  Despite these complications the Anthem’s blade reaches 59-61HRC.

Anthem folding knife
The screws in the spine anchor the AXIS lock
The opening stud is easy to find and is spaced nicely from the body allowing easy access.  The blade glides open on what looks like bronze washers.

It’s a beautiful knife.

If I had to summarize Benchmade’s Bugout, I would have to say: “Now for something completely different!”  I also have to add different isn’t bad.

The Bugout was introduced this year, 2018.  It too is a manual opener with an AXIS lock.  It’s thinner, lighter and more compact than the Anthem.  The steel is CPM S30V, another super steel.

S30V is a martensitic steel containing 1.4% carbon, 14% chromium and also 4% vanadium with 2% molybdenum. The rest of course is iron.  Vanadium reacts with carbon to produce very hard carbides.  Harder than chromium carbide.  Generally, steel has to contain 10.5 % chromium to be considered stainless.  One factor to consider in this equation is how much of the chromium is removed from the metal as carbides.  Fortunately, as chemical reactions go, vanadium carbides are the favored product, so most of the chromium is available for protection from oxidation or staining.

Bugout in your Bug-out Bag
A nice Introduction to Benchmade quality knives.

Powdered metal products, in general, have smaller grain size and a better distribution of the carbides than cast steel.  It’s reported to be as easy as D2 steel to machine, which according the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, isn’t all that easy. 

Hardening, annealing, tempering operations seem to be relatively straight forward.  Bugout’s blade reaches 58-60HRC.

The handle is a glass fiber filler nylon called Grivory.  It one of many types of engineering nylons and its properties are well understood.  There will not be any surprises here.

The knife is set up for tip up and the metal clip is reversible left/right and set up for deep pocket carry.

Partial Steel Liners Bugout
You can see the steel liner ending just at the top finger.  there's a second one on the other side.

The knife doesn’t have full handle metal liners.  The metal liner is about 1.7 inches long and it looks like it’s injection molded into the handle and then screwed at the tail end for additional strength.  The opening stud has a nice blue color but it’s held near to the grip making the knife a little more difficult to open as compared to the Anthem.  The AXIS lock is also tucked into the handle and the blade doesn’t swing free when the AXIS lock is used as does the Anthem.

As Gin Wigmore says “going head to head”:

Handle Material
Titanium Billet
Blade Hardness
58-60 RHC
59-61 RHC
Blade Length
3.24 inches
3.5 inches
Closed Length
4.22 inches
4.56 inches
Lock System
1.85 oz.
3.66 oz.
Reversible – deep carry
Tip Up
Tip Up
CATRA Edge Retention
145% of 440C
180% of 440C
$135 MSRP
$500 MSRP

CATRA edge testing is one of the new witchcraft testing procedures to produce a reproducible, operator independent, meaningful edge retention value.  The problem with many of these types of test is finding a test material that is also constant and reproducible.  In any case it’s better than you and buddy shaving leather or cutting steaks.

So, what do I think?
These are knives designed for different needs and different people. 

The Bugout is a nice “Welcome to Benchmade” knife.  It’s small and compact but provides enough cutting ability for most uses.  It’s the knife I would carry in places I couldn’t carry a knife.  Places I thought I might lose a knife.  If I was packing a true hell-for–leather bugout bag, one of the knives would be a Bugout.  If I was going to stash a knife, a couple hundred in twenties, compass and matches in a sealed wax container… you get the idea.

The Anthem, well, it a great knife and for me it would a “barbecue” knife.  Something I’d pull out of my pocket to show off.  I’d carry it in places where I never intended to use a knife.  It would be a status symbol for me, if I used those kinds of status symbols.  But look, if you need to get the most out of a knife, if you use a blade hard and need every possible advantage of edge, weight and durability, the Anthem could be your answer.  It’s pricey, but I think it would hold up better than the Bugout to hard, brutal use.