Showing posts with label WRCA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WRCA. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Spike Knife

The WRCA annual knife show ran May 19 and 20, 2018.  There were amazing knives and my friend, Skip gave me spike knife.  I’m still smiling when I look at it.

airedale custom blades
Skip's Spike
Skip does some amazing blacksmithing and like almost every blacksmith he has made more than a few railroad spike knives.  RR spikes are described as “…the most widely recognized pieces of railroad equipment by the general public.”  They were invented by Colonel Stevens who was also the inventor of the current rail configuration.  You’ll find them in different lengths, widths and thicknesses depending on the manufacturer, installation location as well as the type of wood the ties are made of. 

I was surprised, but I should have realized it, there are many collectors of RR spikes.  Some spikes have the year they were made molded into their head,  Historically different manufactures used different dimensions that changed over time, all of which makes them collectable.

Standardization came with the mechanical age and American Society of Testing and Materials was a big part of it.  ASTM 65-07 (2013) currently regulates the quality of railroad spikes.  ASTM is a for-profit organization and not being a member, I can’t access the standard.  However, I was able to find out that there are two types of RR spikes: soft and high carbon.

As carbon levels increase, strength increases but so does brittleness.  It would be a poor spike that cracked every time a train rode over a section of track.  The soft spike should contain no more than 0.12% carbon and the high carbon has a wopping 0.3%.  To put this in perspective, 1095 steel has 0.95% carbon and many super stainless steels have very high carbon levels.  For example, the super steel CPM S90V steel has 2.3% carbon. 

So, a RR spike might be able to be sharpened, but the low carbon levels prevent it from retaining its edge.  Fear not, you can change that, but you better be fearless.  You can case harden your spike knife.  Case hardening introduces increased levels of carbon to a thin layer of steel, essentially creating a sheath of high hardness material.  One relatively straight forward method is cyaniding.

Cyaniding is a case-hardening process that is fast and efficient; it is mainly used on low-carbon steels like RR spike knives. The part is heated for 20 to 30 minutes at a temperature of 1600-1750 °F in a bath of sodium cyanide and then is quenched.

This process produces a thin, hard shell (0.01 and 0.03 inches thick) which is harder than the layer produced by carburizing.  Magazine lips on early Colt semi-automatics were treated this way in the early 1900’s.  The major drawback of cyaniding is that cyanide salts (and I’m speaking as a chemist here) are very poisonous.  I told you that you needed to be fearless. 

No, I’m just going to enjoy my spike knife just as Skip made it.  You can find Skip at Airedale Custom Blades on Facebook.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Around and About

The Western Reserve Cutlery Association had Wayne Hensley custom make a sub-hilt fighter to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Anniversary sub-hilt fighter
Wayne never meant for us to carry this one, it didn't come with a sheath.

I have to admit 40 years is a funny anniversary.  It’s a multiple of the 10th celebration, but it’s not 4 times more fun than the 10th anniversary.  Still, an anniversary is a good reason to buy a custom knife.

I’ve always been interested in sub-hilt fighters.  The most noticeable feature is the extra hilt or “trigger” as some people call it.  I understand this design was developed by Bob Loveless in his “Big Bear Classic.”  I suspect other people had previously devised this type of handle/hilt, but for whatever reason it never took off.  The last really “new” thing I ever heard of was logarithms and that’s way off topic.

The upper edge of the Hensley sub-hilt is semi-sharp.  As I think of a sub-hilt fighter, the upper edge should be razor sharp, making the knife more of a dagger.  For me that makes the knife a little less useful as I often find myself pressing on the back edge to get more force into the cutting stroke.  Try that with a dagger and you’ll get more get more cutting all right, but not where you want it.

The Hensley sub-hilt blade is 4.5 inches of sharpened ATS34 steel and an ebony hard wood handle with bird head butt.  The stainless steel guard was to be stamped/engraved/etched with series number.  WRCA had ordered 15 for their members, but through some mishap all the knives got marked “1/15”.  I guess that is true enough, any one of these knives is one of the 15 made for the club.

We had requested a plaque or shield in the side of the ebony handle, but somehow that too fell through the cracks.

We’re also in the process of selecting a club knife for 2017.  These are often, but not always folders.  They are, almost exclusively, boring “old man knives.”  That of course is my opinion.  Two and three bladed friction folders don’t really ring my bell, but other club members love them.  Frankly, I think it’s more of a cost function.

I understand it.  I remember when I could by a Spyderco for half the current cost.  What I also remember is I used to buy gasoline for a half a buck and I was making $2.57 an hour then.  Scale the cost of that folder you bought in 1953 by fuel cost and you’ll find modern knives are still a bargain.

WRCA is also getting ready to launch the 2017 Knife Expo at the Knights of Columbus in Massillon, Ohio.  The show will be May 20 and 21, 2017.  I drove out there to see the building and found it in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  I was depending on my GPS to get out of there, so I followed its instructions and after a couple of blocks it informed me I was off roading.  Well, I was making such good time I didn’t want to stop.  Fortunately, I got to a major intersection, rebooted the darn thing and it showed me the way to go home.
I wish we could find a nice stable place to hold our show, but it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon.

At the last gun show in Medina (that’s a local community not too far from me) I picked up an Arno Bernard fixed blade with sheath.  Arno Bernard is from Bethlehem, South Africa, and he uses some rather interesting and exotic materials for handles and sheaths.

Scavenger series Wild Dog
It's a classy knife and it's never been used.
This knife is one of his more plebeian issues.  It’s from his Scavenger series called the Wild Dog.  It available in several interesting handles, but mine is G-10.  His website is a little apologetic about using G-10 but as he claims, customers ask for it and it’s damn near indestructible.  The sheath is water buffalo leather and very interesting.

Water Buffalo sheath
I like the deep sheath which retains the knife in brush.  There is more than one American manufacturer who could make deeper sheaths.

He uses N690 steel which is similar to VG-10, but with a bit more chromium and cobalt and a little less vanadium.  My research indicates N690 can be hardened and tempered to 58-60 HRc. 
Bernard started making knives in 1979 and it’s a family run operation with the kids and their wives involved.  I’m always impressed with how one person can start something that grows to supports their family as well as other families in their community. 

I’m not going to keep this knife and you’ll find it on my table next year. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Making a New Cut

My favorite knife club, WRCA, has gotten a new website.

They want to be a gateway to interesting and useful links for the knife community.   It looks like they up-graded their photography and writing.  My spies tell me they are looking for source material from their members, always a dangerous proposition.  What do you say to an active club member who can’t write but has been asked to contribute?

Will I contribute?  I don't know.  Maybe on tactical knives.

So, with the old one still up,  running like an abandoned steam engine on a downhill grade (they can’t find the password to get in and take it down) and the new site, struggling to get it’s feet, we’ll see what happens.

You can find their new website at!

If you find any interesting knife related links, pass them onto me and I’ll give ‘em to the boys!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

knife club

Most of us belong to a knife club of some sort.  It may be local or a national organization like the Kershaw Collectors.  If you collect a specific type of knife or brand you will find a club that caters to your refined taste.

I’m a generalist and the best fit I could find was Western Reserve Cutlery Association.  We just had our November meeting and the topic was carving knives.   Before I go any further I’d like point out I’m this year’s vice-president, so I have a bit of a bias.

I will say the best part of the monthly topic is not the knives, but the personalized translation of the topic.  One member changed carving knives into carved knives and brought out a pile of knives carved out of wood.  Denny also a nice collection of pliers carved out of wood by Mooney Warther

Wooden knives and Moony pliers
You're right the knife at 12 o'clock is real, but the rest are wooden.

You can still find them on EBay.  They are rather simple, but Mooney used to sit and with nothing but a pre-cut length of bass wood (I think it was bass) and a carving knife make these pliers to the delight of visitors to his shop.

We’re also getting ready for our Knife Expo May 16 and 17 2015 at the Buckeye Event Center off of route 30 in Dalton, Ohio.  It’s a nice place.  I’ve been there for gun shows and have always been impressed with the clean facilities, wide aisles, large parking area and general professionalism of the staff.

Here’s a link to the form.  Just fill it out and mail it in.  We’ll do the rest.

If you’re a knife maker or dealer, you should attend this show.  An 8-foot table for two days with optional setup on Friday evening costs just $50.  I’ll be there with my knives.  If you’re a collector this is also the show for you.  It’s $5 to get in and the food service is worth the price of admittance.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

At the Show

It was a pretty good knife gun show.  I ran a sale on most of my fixed blades hoping to sell the Buck gut hook, the two knives from TOPS and Benchmade’s Bone Collector caping knife.  I even entertained ideas of selling the damascus blade from Mr Maan.  No luck.  Finland’s Marttiinis sold well and quite a few of the folders hitched rides to new homes, so it was a good weekend.

My goal is to help each customer find the right knife for them, even if I don’t have it or carry it.  Your knife should meet several personal criteria.  It should feel good in your hand and deploy from your pocket or sheath the way you want it to.  It should be able to provide the all the performance you are capable of demanding of it.  Your knife should be a quality product, but I know that quality is handmaiden to purpose.
If you’re heading for a two-week, self-guided Alaskan hunting trip, you might want something better than the knife you found in the '2 for $3' bucket.  But if you’re looking for gag gifts (heavy on the gag) those knives might be right for you.

At this show I thought I’d try to have a little fun with some customers.  Sellers attempt to qualify potential customers into: tire kickers, buyers and circus audience.  Tire kickers might become customers if treated right, but circus audience will always be interested only in entertainment.  I firmly believe their spouse gave them a fiver and told them “Don’t come back until suppertime.”

There are a few subgroups not represented by the above big three.

I exclude most children from the above categories.  I like talking to kids about knives.  They aren’t buying unless dad has more money than sense.  Who would buy a fifth-grader a $200 Benchmade?  But I do enjoy showing them how a knife works and asking about their fledgling knife collection.  

If I had started putting away nice pocket knives when I was in fifth grade, I could have a very nice, and perhaps impossible to duplicate, collection now.  But even then I carried, used and eventually lost everything I bought.

I also enjoy the quirky, but harmless fellows that frequent these shows.  One of my favorite is the guy (women have more sense) who opens every knife on the table.  I had some spectacular openers this weekend.  They would politely and quietly pick up every knife and with two hands open the blade on each knife to about 45°, stare at it for 10-15 seconds, close it, put it down and move to the next.  I like to ask if they're looking for anything particular and the answer is always the same, “Nope, just looking.”  

It makes me wonder if there is a knife watching society somewhere and members are making a life list of blades seen.

Someone from the circus audience asked about American made knives.  I showed him the Bucks, a few Gerbers, lots of Benchmades and a couple of Kershaws.  He almost beamed with pride and then he said, “These are pretty expensive knives.”

“Yes, sir,” I said.  “They’re American knives made by American workers paid an American living wage.”

He walked away strangely deflated.  I guess he thought companies had American workers accepting Chinese wages.

Another audience member worked his way down the line and stopped at the Benchmade knives.  He had indicated he was a knife collector but he looked at the blue Benchmade boxes and said, “I’ve never heard of Benchmade.”

Usually that statement is a tell that a purchase of any knife will not be made today.

“That’s because they are too much knife for you,”  I said.

That answer seemed to make a lot of sense to him and he left the table smiling.

I often regret I’m not a sociologist.  I think there is room for a ground-breaking study of the knife shopping segment of the gun show culture.  At the very least there’s a lifetime of potential grants here.

First Peek.
Every year the Western Reserve Cutlery Association (in Ohio) holds a big knife show/expo and they sell an Expo knife. Each year a different knife is selected.  Here's this years. 

Victorinox  Expo knife Secretarty silver AloX
Two-bladed pen knife 
  The Expo will be April 26 and 27 at Breitenbach Winery.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Adventures in Knife Land

It was a knifie kind of weekend for me.  I was selling knives at the Dalton, Ohio gun show.  
The Dalton show is a very nice venue.  It's a large open structure, well-heated with clean, well taken care of restrooms, wide aisles, excellent and reasonably priced food.  I don’t know why WRCA doesn’t want to move our show there.  We can’t stay at the Dover Armory with its tight space, limited parking and unpredictable schedule shuffling.  WRCA just doesn’t like Dalton.  It’s not Dover.

I had a conversation with a young fellow that was very enlightening, but I found him to be a bit of a dim bulb.

Him:       “How come nobody at the show carries Kershaw?”

Me:        “Kershaw is a great knife but the knives are a little expensive.  Walmart sells them and it’s hard to compete on price against them.”

He takes out his Kershaw Blur and flicks out the black, partially serrated tanto blade.  I have the identical one on the table marked at $88.00.

Him:       “You’re right about that.  I just bought this one at Walmart for $66.00.”

Me:        “So you’re the answer to why nobody at the show carries Kershaw.”

Him:       “Huh?”

I also had a left-handed M-21 from CRKT on my table.  It’s in the reduced inventory pile.  I know about 10% of the population is left-handed.  I’d sure buy a knife designed specifically for me if I was a lefty.  I would have snatched it up in a New York minute.  (This reference in no way signifies any recommendation or suggestion you should visit NY.)

Left handed pocket knife the M21
I just rotated the clip.  I like 'tip up carry' even for my left-handed knives.

I was explaining to a second rocket scientist that it was left-handed.

Him:       “Are all your knives left handed (including the fixed blades)?

Me:        “Yes, we are from a mirror image universe.  That’s why I’m talking backwards to you.”

What makes it left-handed?  Easy.  The liner lock pushes to the right.  Go ahead.  Check your knife to see which way the liner lock pushes.

I sometimes speculate on used knives, oh excuse me,  previously owned knives.  It’s an expensive activity.  Mis-guess the potential resale or take in a knock-off and you could be waving good-bye to your cash.  It’s worse than Vegas.  At least at Vegas you know you’re going to lose all your money.

I had a chance to purchase a classic Italian switchblade in mint condition.  It was a limited edition production (no. 1 of 100) with polished mammoth ivory handles.  It was incredible.  It was also $500.


I sent him to my friends Dale and Mike.  They took a pass too.  If you want to make money buying and selling you need to remember the golden rule, “Buy low and sell higher.”  It’s very hard to do that above the 500 bucks range.  The owner needed to find a collector, not a seller.

But it wasn’t a completely wasted weekend.  I settled on keeping the left-handed knife for my left pocket.  It was my best deal of the show!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dover Knife Show Postponed!

The March 2 and 3, 2013 Knife Expo hosted by Western Reserve Cutlery Association has been canceled. 

Fear not.  

We will be holding the Knife Expo later this year, April 6th and 7th at the Dover National Guard headquarters.  Same place as before, same times, different calendar page, that’s all.

I don’t know what happened.  It was suggested that the National Guard’s plans changed, or the old business manager forgot to tell the new business manager, or maybe somebody with rank just wanted to throw their weight around.  It doesn’t matter.  

The new show will be April 6 and 7.  The weather should be nice and everyone will have a good time.

If you show up in March, I'm not sure what you'll find, but it will not be the knife show!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

China Knives and AG Russell

Had an interesting event at the April meeting of the WRCA knife club.
Call to order and a reading of the minutes

One of the officers stood up and showed off two very nice AG Russell knives he just purchased. 

No clip, no stud, no lock, but it felt very good in my hand.

He claims each knife was under $50 online.  The interesting thing was both were made in China.  I took a close look at the knives.  The finish was first rate, the handles and bolsters met nicely and I couldn’t feel any separation or mis-alignment.  They were very well made knives!

I really like the wharncliffe blade. And its nail nick is on the other side so you don't have to fight with the drop point blade to open it.  I see a lot of American knives without that feature. 
I really like the knives and that’s odd for me.  Very odd.  Neither knife locked open nor did they have a pocket clip.  And they both used nail nicks to open the blades.  This makes these knives totally un-natural for me.  But you know, if the blade locked open, I’d carry them.  I’d give up the clip and one-handed opening.  That’s how nice they were.

Many people at the meeting felt that any product made in China was junk.  I see that perception at my knife table at the shows.  But it’s not so.  AG Russell doesn’t sell junk.  Spyderco doesn’t make junk, here or elsewhere, nor does Ka-Bar, to name a few. 

True, some companies are bringing some of their lines back to the USA. I suspect this has two causes.  One, they didn’t have enough oversight watching production and quality slipped.  The second reason and perhaps the hardest to remedy, too much of their customer based is rooted in the equation:

China = Junk

I don’t think that equation is unconditionally valid.  I think quality companies can produce a quality knife in China if they choose to.  Of course, one should expect a relationship between cost and quality. 
A $2 dollar knife made in China or the US will be junk.  

A $30 knife made in China by a quality company will not be equal to the quality of a $150 knife made by the same company in the US, Germany or Japan.  It will match and perhaps exceed a $30 knife made anywhere else.  

I advise my customers to buy quality in relation to their needs.  Your 11-year old son in Scouts doesn’t need an $80 Benchmade, but a $27 CRKT might just be the perfect starting place. 

A three-month trapping expedition to Alaska merits a TOPS fixed blade knife and maybe several SOG or Cold Steel folders.  Scrimping on price and quality here could be disastrous!

So, who are the people opposed to quality Chinese knives?  I don’t know.  I suspect they had problems with a counterfeit product, or bought cheap and found out they only bought trouble.  Perhaps they see the Chinese worker as a direct threat to their employment. 
China is far from perfect.  I don’t like their government; I don’t like their economic system and some of their labor practices sound like indentured slavery to me.  But the Chinese want a standard of living approaching ours.  And they know that quality is the way to get there.

These subjects are far above my pay grade, but I suggest to keep an open mind about products and their country of origin.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dale Warther Memorial Knife Expo - 2011

I found my Spyderco Salt.  We both looked at it but it was hidden under several flat bags of disposable ear plugs.  My wife claims I keep them around to block her out, but the truth is I take them out of my pocket at the end of the day and forget them the next day.  Somehow the Salt slipped under a few pairs and was overlooked.

You can imagine my chagrin when I moved the box of Kleenex next to the ear protectors and noticed a hole looking out at me.  So, Lassie has come home and I for one was glad to see my knife.

The Dale Warther Memorial Expo is in full swing.  Several club members have their Warther knife collections on display, but the family is showing knives which may have never been seen in public.

I find these closet knives very interesting.  Don’t get me wrong, but sometimes I think there are 5 maybe 6 basic patterns to the depth of the Warther knife universe.  This is clearly wrong.  On display is a one of only four sets ever made of three knives.  One of them is a Bowie with the traditional Warther jeweling.  I hope to find out more about them tomorrow.

Here are a few images to enjoy.  Frankly, if you’re a knife person and you’re within two hours, it would be worth your drive.  Sunday is our last day until next year.

One of the knife vendors specializing in factory new

Flint handled knives by Joseph’s Designs

Ohio has some of the most colorful flint in the States, possibly the world.  The patterns are one of a kind and I love look into the handle by way of translucent patches of stone.

The entire knife is under an inch and a half!

Miniatures are hot!  The three or four Jack Hatton had were gone within hours of the opening bell.  You can see why too.

By the end of the day the customers had petered out and there were more vendors than buyers.  This makes for good deals if you know how to bargain.  Sunday promises to be a good day for buyers.

Behind every successful event there is a core group of worker bees to keep everything running smoothly and on course.  One of the many the show can’t do without.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Getting Ready: Dale Warther Memorial Expo

It’s been a hard day and a long drive home and the Muse has taken the evening off so I’m typing solo.  I think he’s out carousing again.  When he gets back I can smell beer and sawdust.  It doesn’t bother me too much, but I’d rather be out with him than at work.

The last couple days have been interesting; I put two knives up for auction on eBay.  I wanted to help out a friend who wanted to sell them, but didn’t feel comfortable doing it online.  

The pink Delica with a plastic clip had a reserve price and the bidding just, and I mean just, made the limit.  Spyderco hasn’t made a plastic clip knife in quite sometime.  This one was squirreled away in a dresser drawer and never carried.

The other was a nice NRA knife made by Benchmade.  I was hoping it would go for a little more, but my friend is happy with the sale.  I like the knife, but the position of the lock made the knife, in my opinion, difficult to thumb open.  Still, it’s made in America and a Benchmade to boot.  What’s not to love?
I thought both knives were worth more than the winning bid but I’ll concede you have to find the right buyer.  I am also reminded of the sign I saw at a flea market:

“Why is my stuff sh*t while everyone else’s sh*t is stuff?”  

I’m not sure it makes sense, but try selling stuff and I’ll bet you come to agree with it.

It was exciting to anticipate the bidding.  Most of it happened in two phases, one right after the knives got posted and the other in the last 10 minutes.  There is something addicting about watching the auction.  Every time you check you expect the bid or the numbers of watchers to increase.  When it doesn’t happen you worry and second guess yourself. 
Ahhhh, but let the price increase and it’s drinks-on-the-house happy.   During the last three minutes you’re constantly refreshing the screen, like a down-on-his-luck gambler sticking quarters in a Vegas slot machine.  We both are convinced this time will be the one.  Wow!  That’s a lot of excitement over a sale.

Speaking of sales - -  The Dover Knife Expo, now named in honor of Dale Warther will be this February 12 and 13 at the Dover Armory (2800 N. Wooster Ave., Dover, Ohio).  Use the link in the sidebar for WRCA for more information.  There will be a nice selection of used, new and custom knives on display and for sale.

I’m stocking up on knives for the upcoming show in Medina, OH this weekend.  So I came home to find the following waiting for me. 

I'll take one from the right, two from the middle and one from the front row!

It was a lot of work to get everything priced and entered into the inventory sheet but my wife helped me and it went fast.  I’m not really complaining about it.  You see, it was a lot like Christmas all over!