Monday, February 25, 2019


A recent episode of the “The Rookie’ shows one of the characters showing his last resort knife to his training officer.  It resembles a Benchmade 175BK push dagger.  It’s a short story arc that helps support the longer main arc.   

Still, one can see why real LEOs will carry a last resort weapon.  They don’t have a room of script magicians to write them out of the problem.  These weapons are usually very simple to use.  Any tool that requires year to learn and five years to master will fall outside the definition of ‘tool-of-last-resort.’

Karambits have this tool potential.  The ordinary user can slip his little finger onto the loop and hold it in a hammer fist and simply claw his way out of danger trouble.  Placing your thumb on the back of curved spine will give you a little more feedback.  Are we not trained to touching things with our thumb?  The same almost autonomic reflex helps guide the blade.

Held in the reverse grip, the blade juts out of our fist like a prehistoric claw, perfectly situated for close infighting moves. Small wonder folding karambits are so popular.  Closed, they are easy to conceal, a basic impact weapon and open, it becomes so much more.

In the hands of someone with more training than I, the karambit has multiple applications.  The dull spine can be used use to trap and control opponent’s arms and balance, making a range of other physical responses available.  The razor edge lets you transition from physical control to higher levels of force almost instinctively. 

Folding karambits have some problems.  Opening isn’t always easy and fingers can get in the way of the edge.  Lock and pivot points wear and fail from applying load on the spine or side of the blade.  All knives direct the load into the handle but the twisting load generated by using the blade as a control device can cause handle failures.

Joe Caswell, karambit
CRKT's Provoke, designed for LEO and people in dangerous places

Many of the devices used to open the blade as you remove it from your pocket don’t assist you opening the karambit if you are holding it in your hand as an impact tool.

CRKT has taken Joe Caswell’s design and produced the Provoke It is a unique knife that may change how we open and close folding knives.  Your fingers are never in the path of the blade when opening or closing.  The blade is firmly locked in place by two stout arms.

closed Provoke, knife, karambit
The front of Joe Caswell's innovative folding karambit 

The problem is opening from the pocket draw.  The optimal opening has the index finger through the ring and the dull spine against the palm of your hand.  The thumb presses the back pivot point and the blade pops open.

Caswell, folding karambit
Back side of the Provoke.  The clip holds the knife deep in the pocket.  What you see doesn't look like a clip.

Here’s a right and left hand draw with opening showing the finger movements I use.  It looks clumsy when shone slowly to reveal finger movement.  It’s not.  Practice for ten minutes and it will feel completely natural to you.

Left side opening.  I needed to pivot out of the camera view to show the opening.  You really don't hold it like a soiled tea bag. 

Right side opening.  The knife must slide from the thumb to the index finger

It’s not an inexpensive knife and has limited general application.  Its cutting edge design and manufacturing has built in a high degree of reliability.  It is last-chance-tool to claw your way out from under the casket lid. 

Find yours at  MSRP is $200.00.  Cheap at that price.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Finnish Butterfly

After college and having found a real job I discovered I had a little extra spending money.  I was entranced by a red handled folding knife that could be best described as a butterfly knife from Finland.  Of course I satisfied that itch.

Puukko Folder, Finish butterfly knife
Hackman Folding Puukko

The blade doesn’t have a tang stamp and the only identification is “Hackman Finland” molded into the red plastic handle.  The 3.75 inch blade is a saber grind with a small secondary bevel that forms the actual cutting edge. 

The blade is an unknown stainless steel.  I’ve had it for years and no evidence of rust has appeared, despite the minima care I’ve given it.  And the plastic has also held up quite nicely.  I filed a small choil in the blade to separate the edge from the ricasso.  It was thought, with some justification, that without the choil you would damage your sharpening stone by chipping away it’s edge. 

In retrospect I realize was all I really accomplished was to add a stress riser in the blade.

Hackman was a cutlery and cookware company founded in Finland in 1790.  Later it was bought by the Iittala Group.  In 2007, littala was swallowed by the Fiskars Corporation.  Fiskars never, in my opinion, understood the American knife market and even now needs to make up for lost ground.

Finnish, Folding knife, linkkupuukko
The folding Puukkko closed and latched

The Hackman butterfly knife was better known in Finland as Linkkupuukko, or "latch-knife". The marketing boys positioned it as a retkiveitsi or "camping knife" and later as Er├Ąpuukko or "wilderness puukko."  By now you should associating puukko with Finnish for knife.

The Hackman story begins when Johan Friedrich Hackman was awarded the right to establish a trading house in the Hanseatic city of Vyborg.  He soon had a successful timber goods business on his hands, but like most businessmen he sought out new opportunities.  West of him was the territory now known as Finland.

In the early 1800s Hackman bought Sorsakoski – a small factory community in eastern Finland.  The purchase included a sawmill, flourmill and a brick factory.  Hackman’s cutlery business began in nearby Vyborg in 1876, headed by his son also Johan Friedrich Hackman.

Junior moved their entire cutlery manufacturing business to Sorsakoski in the early 1890s. The factory community was a mirror of Finnish society at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Companies like Hackman took full responsibility for providing basic services to their employees.  Sounds a little like the American coal mining companies and the company store, doesn’t it?

In 1902 Hackman began manufacturing new low-cost cutlery items forged from a single workpiece. The introduction of quality stainless steel in the 1920s revolutionized the entire cutlery business.  By the 1960s design legends like Kaj Franck and Bertel Gardberg had designed iconic cutlery collections for Hackman.

The black handle version of the knife seems to have a sordid past or excellent present day marketing.  There are rumors, highly unsubstantiated rumors, that CIA agents were issued the knife for Vietnam.  If anyone has any real knowledge I’d sure like to hear from you.

This makes some limited sense.  The knife isn’t made in the USA and being caught with one might not brand you as an imperialistic agent.  The mechanism is simple and robust, perhaps perfect for undercover work.  Being inexpensive, ditching the knife if you were being followed or mouse-trapped didn’t require a huge sacrifice on your part.

However, it isn’t likely you can call up the CIA and speak to the quartermaster and expect to get a straight answer.  That’s where the marketing comes in.  It’s easy to say on ebay that the knife is from the CIA / Vietnam issue era.

Recently, Spyderco added some credibility to this story in their April Newsletter:
" While the Finnish Hackman Camp Knife, a balisong-style folder rumored to have been issued by the CIA in Vietnam..."

There’s a story here and perhaps one day we’ll know it in its entirety.