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!