Sunday, June 24, 2018

Mystery Knife

I just want to let you know that no knives were hurt at the Medina gun show this weekend.  In fact, damn few were sold by anyone.  There is something about the June show.  One would think that since there is no May show and following the June show there is nothing until September, June would be busting with buyers needing ammo, targets, supplies, blades and other sundry items.  Not so.

It was a stinky show, so men, stop eating all that cabbage, ‘cause it’s bad enough not having customers, but gassy ones are worse!

Horn handle,  A Beltrame
What appears to be a tang stamp is someone's initial carefully carved into the metal.

I did pick up a horn handled lever lock auto.  It’s completely free of maker marks.  So I searched Google images.  I found an internet reference to SKM A Beltrame in Italy.  This led me to the website from Frank Beltrame and Maniago, Italy.

It seems Maniago, Italy has a long tradition of making automatic knives, especially in the classic Italian stiletto style.  They also make lever locks like mine.  From the little I could tell with my internet search, companies like SKM (Switchblade Knife Works) acted as jobbers making knives for everyone and could, as governed by Italian law, mark the blades with anything or nothing.  SKM is reported to be out of business.  There is no website, but they may have resurfaced with a different name.

Frank Beltrame, Italian Auto
The tab, or lever must be depressed towards the handle to open or close the knife.

lever lock, automatic knife, switchblade
With the lever up against the bolster the knife can't be closed.  When closed this position prevents the knife from opening or unlocking.

Frank sells this knife, but he has no prices on his website and only one picture.  I’ve found other listings of this knife, but the dimensions are a little off.  Was this a bad translation from metric to English?  Or did the jobbers have a range of knives they made that looked the same, but varied in size?

In any case Maniago has what could be a very cool Museum of Knife Making: Art of Manufacturing and Cutlery.

Horned handle lever lock automatic knife, closed and locked.

I’m not sure what to do with his little guy.  It’s in very good shape with a 3-inch blade and 4.5-inch horn handle.  I suspect there is a little more research to be done on this guy. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pilgrimage of Steel

  As much as I love knife companies, I admit they would not be my pilgrimage of the faithful.  I instead would bow down and face Smokey Mountain Knife Works.



You might consider it as well.  Right now SMKW estimates that 1.5 million pilgrims will make the journey this year.  There were two school buses in the parking lot when we arrived.


Walk in and you notice knives and more knives.  The doors are numbered and you’re reminded to note your entry.  That was a clue how big the place is.  You’ll find people buying $3 POS knives, but you’ll also find top shelf Benchmade, Case, SOG and all the rest.  Wander around and look at all the mounted animals, everywhere.  They were collected by one man who hunted every continent in the 50s and 60s.  The walls are lined with cases and displays of old knives and knife collectables.  These wasn’t a plan, it grew (as much as I hate the expression) organically.  The staff squeezed in a display here and there and then someone decided this display would look good near some other display.  And it just kept going.
Indoor at SMKW
We walked in door number 2 and found ....

Smokey Mountain Knife Works, Victorinox
One of many....

Smokey Mountain Knife Works
Esee fixed blades

Mr. Pipes started as a seller of arrowheads and civil war memorabilia and a friend suggested why don’t you try selling a few knives?  It didn’t take too long before the knives out sold the relics.  The original store wasn’t big enough, so they moved, then they added on and it’s still crowded.   But everything is laid out nicely and well labeled.

More collection

Prison Shanks, SMKW
Shanks.  Who collects shanks?


But when you get there, make sure you see everything and then go down into the Relic Room.  Here you find fossils from China and the warm seas that covered Chicago.  You’ll find bullets from the revolutionary war as well as the civil war.  Oh, there is some crystal non-sense about spirit guide stone animals and how a stone with a certain shape will focus your attention and balance your chi.  But you’ll also find Russian coat buttons from the Cold War, binoculars from our western expansion, fired pistol cases from WWI among books listing the local men who enlisted in the Civil War.  How about a commemorative belt buckle from the first reunion of Teddy’s Rough Riders?  I don’t know if anyone knows all the treasures in that room.  I found an issue of Popular Science from March of my birth year.  Guess what the cover story was about?  How to convert your basement to a shelter for the anticipated atomic wars.

Chase Pipes, Smokey Mountain Knife works
One of dozen or more selections of historic relics

The owner of the Relic Room, Chase, is a Pipes family member and is a prodigy for history, both natural and human.  He spoke to us of records and university archeology digs that confirm the existence of a Spanish rendezvous from the 1500s a couple 100 yards from where we stood.  I had no idea the Spanish were ever in this part of the country, but I heard him teach several children (and myself) that the Spanish court required a notary under the control of the Church to travel with their explorers.  Everyday the explorers would diary about the day and the entry would be notarized.  These extensive records are now matched to current digs which confirm the veracity of the findings.


Old, beyond my comprehension
 bought a chunk of the oldest original rock available on planet earth.  It’s Acasta Gneiss from the Hadean Age.  There’s still some of this rock showing on the Acasta River in Canada.  It doesn’t look like much.  It is 4.2 billon years old.  And I can touch it with my fingertips.


That’s beyond cool.


Sunday, June 3, 2018

Blade Show Day 3

There’s a few customers with energy and the counter people are doing the best they can, but it’s day 3 of the Blade Show.  When I’m done I simply walk out the door.  The vendors have to start packing up at 3:01 and it takes a while.  I expect some will be there at 6 tonight.  The life of a traveling sales staff isn’t easy.

I stopped by one of my favorite manufacturers, Shadow Tech.  They have creative new ideas.  Yes, I know I said the Blade Show is row after row of sameness.  But there are innovations.  ST has a small fixed blade neck knife with replacement blades.  No, not replaceable in terms of sharpness, but in terms of blade design.  I got a blade that reminds me of a sharpened eagle claw.  But if I decide I need a different blade, I can purchase one for an amount less than the knife (prices are still being figured out).  The blade is held in place by four Allen screws and some internal geometry.  This is a very clever idea.  The blades are S30V and are about an inch and a quarter long.

neck knife, ST

I stopped off to talk with Mickey Yurco.  Mickey has some of the most interesting ideas on blades and how to carry.  Boker Knife is picking up a second of his designs and I believe they will be using Ultclips.  These are metal spring clip that can anchor a knife sheath inside your pocket.  It’s very clever design.  You can carry an IWB holster or knife sheath without having a belt by clipping a Ulticlip to the fabric of your pants.  Great for women who often go beltless.  I think you’ll see a lot of these in the future.


I never wanted a Pro-Tech Godson.  It seemed too small, a derivative of the classic Godfather auto.  That all changed with the Godson Steampunk.  The copper steampunk art work is designed by Bruce Shaw.  The copper artwork looks great set into the anodized black body of the knife.   ProTech made just 200 of these you better hurry if you need or just want one!

steam punk

I took a few moments and mounted the glass breaker and seat belt cutter I bought yesterday in my car.  It looks good and we didn’t even notice it driving.  I don’t think I’ll ever need it (I hope), but that’s what I say about concealed carry.  If I need it, I’ll have it in place.

Seatbelt cutter

I picked up a few items I need for turning my Spyderco Mule into a working knife.  Jantz is one of the places to go for just about anything you need to make knives.  We’ll see what happens.

Speaking of Spyderco, well, there’s just too much to talk about.  Joyce is always generous to a fault, so I always get some help there.  I am astonished at the interesting designs they are willing to take a chance on.  I’ll have a separate column on them.

I also stopped at Case Knife.  They are making more tactical looking knives and have several collaborations going on.  The Winkler fixed blade they have is sweet.  They are also introducing an assisted opener.

Let me just go off on a tangent.  Quality costs.  So does performance.  If you want a knife that will last 3 years and then needs to be thrown away, you can find them.  Many of us can’t use the full potential of the knives we buy and they become portable temporary collections.  The knife takes a little wear and ends up in rusty tackle box or under a car seat forgotten about.  Cheap knives are everywhere.

If you want performance and an innovative design, expect to pay.  You’ll find knife makers who have a passion for knives.  They want to make the best knife they can for the price they ask.  Joe Caswell is one.  He wants to make the best knife he can.  I found South African Arno Bernard cutting out life size paper models of two folding knives he wants to work on.  He’ll use those models to buy supplies to make prototypes.  Like his fixed blades they will not be inexpensive, but the quality will be there.  He too has a passion for knives.

And it isn’t just designers.  Look at Shadow Tech and Spyderco as just two companies.  They are constantly pushing designs and quality.  They use good steels and constantly strive for improvement.  And it isn’t just US manufacturers.  The Chinese company, WE, does both consignment manufacturing as well as manufacturing under their name.  Look at their knives.  The quality speaks to you.  Every year I see improvement.  They may have trouble with English (they speak English better than I could ever learn Mandarin) but you can see the passion for knives.

Counterfeits remain a problem.  Counterfeit knives, tools, bolts and even food all come into the country and displace quality products because of greed.  If you’re buying solely on price and not concerned about quality and performance, you’re part of the problem.  I’d like to say I hope your sex organs shrivel up and fall off, but I decided it would be better if your little finger died and broke away.  At least then we could recognize you.  There always a chance your sex organs will follow suit.

Read Day 1

Read Day 2

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Blade Show Day 2

It’s hard to summarize.  There are so many vendors and people that everything jams together and blurs into grayness by the end of the day.  Still, I don’t want to miss any of it.

News:  Blade Magazine and the Blade Show are rumored to have been sold.  It’s reported that Gun Digest, owned by Caribou Media, has plunked down the dollars.  I do know that the Blade Show is scheduled to be back at the Cobb Galleria (Atlanta) in 2019.  We’ll see about the rest.


 I purchased a Microtech OTF only because I couldn’t see not having one.  The knife, like many is really more of a barbecue knife that you show off to your friends.  Yes, you can use it; it will cut, stab and kill but most of us will leave it in the safe.  The problem is for most uses, you’ll have the blade orientated up/down which puts the button under your thumb.  Press the button at the wrong time and the blade disappears.  Oops!

box opener
Richmade Knife 3D box opener
Richmade Knives had a clever utility/box cutter they were giving out.  It was made with a 3D printer and is very clever.  The razor blade folds into the body and it has space for two spare blades.  I wouldn’t use it if you paid me.  I have visions of it coming apart and cutting the heck out of myself.

 Do you carry an emergency escape knife in your car?  You know, something with a glass breaker and a seat belt cutter?  I’m always reading about people in Florida who drive into a flooded canal and drown.  I carry one in the side pocket of the driver door, but I know in an accident it will pop out and end up somewhere the coroner will find later.  I bought a little unit that straps around the sun visor. It has a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter.  Best of all it stays where I put it.

I spent an hour with Joe Caswell.  He’s building the coolest knife I’ve ever seen.  Right now it’s a karambit, but future models will have a more traditional blade.  He was at Blade to talk with a manufacturer who want to mass produce them.  The name is a secret and he’s not about to screw that up.  His percentage from the knife and derivatives could be, in his words, “substantial.”

Folding Karambit

Joe Caswell

Folding Karambit
and Bingo!!  Open

Here’s a few more pictures.
Space Fighter  Very Nice

Jenn from Alabama Damascus and Oscar the rat   Only slightly strange.

the Blade Show

Wayne Hensley  One of the Grand Old Men of the knife community.  I have a Subhilt fighter he made for WRCA knife  collectors.

In progress knife from Art Knife.  The handle will be ruby red.  If you have to ask how much, well you can't afford it.

I really love Steam Punk knives.
I don't know who made it, but Knife Legends has it.  They buy and sell investment grade folders ans fixed blades.

Lost knives
Saw this sign on 2 tables (at $650 a pop!)
Not everything about the Blade Show is unicorns and rainbows.  They may get their money back, but they still had to pay for the tables and how can you account for lost customers and lost opportunities.

Tomorrow is my final chance to find gold, it's Day 3.

Read Day 1

Read Day 3


Friday, June 1, 2018

Blade Show 2018 Day 1

The first day of the Blade Show opened with a demo of how to FUBAR knife collectors.

Blade Magazine reduced the hours the VIPs could attend by offering a Super-VIP ticket for $40 which got them in at noon.  The VIPs got in at 1:00 and the great unwashed (paying public) at 2:00.

Registration refused to process anyone’s VIP pass any earlier than 10 AM. Processing consist of taking the VIP pass and $20 from you and giving you a paper badge.  The staff, while polite, wasn’t interested in answering any questions or assisting you.  In fact all the commands and instructions by the staff were to make it easier for them.  They made the whole experience kind of like sleeping with a hooker who just lays there and keeps looking at her watch asking “Are you done?”

We got our VIP passes and were then marched back into another line and told we had to first enter the small, newly added room before we could go to the main room where the Super VIPs were.  This room was largely new knife makers and sellers.

By the time I got into the main room, the Pro-Tech knives I wanted were sold.  I was also very disappointed by the Pro-Tech staff.  Did they bring so few knives that everything popular was sold out by 3:00 on the first day?

We did find a great neck knife for my wife.  The seller just started last January and just made these knives.  He hadn’t even established an account with Square.  Square lets the small business man accept plastic at a very reasonable rate.  So we stood there waiting for him to establish an account.  I suspect he’ll sell out fast.  The neck knives and his jewelry were great.

Blade Show, 2018
Carbon Fiber Handle 

Another example of Jason's work.

I bought a Damascus steel fixed blade from Shadow Tech several years ago.  It came with a very nice kydex sheath.  Unfortunately the texture of the Damascus files the plastic and imbeds it in the open grain of the metal.  I want to carry that knife, so I needed leather sheath.  Of course the Blade Show has them and I found a nice one in black with just the right amount of texturing.

Blade Show, 2018

I stopped by Spyderco and bought a mule.  Fortunately it fits in a small box and doesn’t require anything but a handle and a sheath.  Spyderco makes standard blade configurations with different steels which are tested to give them a better understanding of steel performance.  They had several different steels available and I selected LC200N, a high nitrogen tool steel.  By high nitrogen they mean 0.5%

I spent a little time watching a fellow grind an edge into a blade, creating a shower of sparks.  Another fellow was engraving a knife and I find that amazing.  You cut steel into attractive patterns by hand, using a magnifying glass and steel tools.

Blade Show 2018
Weeee!  Sparks!

Blade Show, 2018

Work Sharp had a demo table set up and I stopped to get corrective advice on the system I bought last year.  I don’t have trouble using the coarse and medium belts, but for some reason the fine always gives me trouble.  I think I’m pressing knife too hard into the abrasive band and changing the angle.  They were very helpful.

The Blade Show is huge.  Unfortunately it is so cruel to the attendees.  There aren’t places to sit, and food facilities are sparse to lean.  I don’t mind paying higher prices, but waiting in line for an hour to get a sandwich seems dumb.  Restrooms are always crowded and often are locked(!), so they, in my opinion, don’t have to be cleaned.

And I’m not sure if this is the place to see new creative knives.  Sheaths, yes; handles, yes; even new steels, but if you’re looking for a new blade shape you’ll find table after table of drop points, bowies and daggers.

People at the show
It isn't just knives.

Let’s see what Day 2 presents.

Read Day 2 

Read Day 3