Showing posts with label knife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label knife. Show all posts

Friday, March 9, 2018

Beauty and the Ugly Knife

Fit, finish and function, the 3-F’s of the knife world.

One might ask does a pretty knife work better than an ugly knife?  

By pretty I mean fit and finish.  Does the knife use phosphor bronze washers, or plastic.  Are grind lines polished out of areas you can barely see?  Are the screw heads countersunk or a little proud?  Does the closed blade sit even between the handles or does it touch one side?  

The Khyber is on the left, note the blade touching the knife liners.
The Buck 110 Hunter is on the right and the blade is centered between the liners.

I see customers not purchase a knife because the closed blade isn’t symmetrical in the handle.  In most cases it doesn’t affect the ability to open or close the knife or the sharpness of the blade.  It isn’t pretty, that’s all.

Enough with the rhetorical questions and dialog.

When you buy a knife the only question you need to answer is, “What is it’s purpose?”

Pro-Tech Rockeye Auto Skull, reigning queen of my safe

I have very nice knife from Pro-Tech.  I paid more than I normally would, but its beauty spoke to me.  The fit and finish is superb.  I don’t plan on ever using that knife, it’s a Safe Queen.

I also have a Khyber I bought 40 years ago.  It was before the current tactical knife age but just after flint knives.  The blade doesn’t have washers; it rides on the metal liners and opens with a nail-nick.  I built a lot of camp sites with that knife.  It’s a tool.

Nick Shabazz in his words “...A reviewer and gripper in the cutlery world…” splits his opinion.  On budget priced knifes he suggests that fit and finish is less important than it is in $100 plus knife.  Nick sees fit and finish as hallmarks and guarantees that the manufacturer knows his business and has produced a quality knife.  Part of Nick’s gig is to act as a gadfly to encourage makers to put the little effort in to improving their knife.

The coarse marks on the top of blade's spine are mill marks.
Early Spyderco Salt H-1 steel  10X  magnification

The fine stippling is the top of the blades spine. 
SOG Spec Elite   10X magnification

I like Nick’s writing and I understand his point.  I can buy a Buck 110 hunter with a leather sheath at Walmart for under $57.  I can live with a slight misalignment between bolster and wood scales.  The spring bar at the bottom of the blade channel shows faint mill marks.  I accept this as I know the manufacturer needs to make a profit and the extra 3-4 steps to make the knife perfect would push the price out of many users reach.  But when I get to $150 plus mark, I want the fit to be perfect and all the machining marks polished out.  But more important, I want durability!

But here’s the thing.  My pricy SOG Spec Elite and my Buck 110 hunter perform the same for me.  I shave wood, build fires, cut rope, chunk meat for cooking, and open envelopes with equal versatility. 

Earnest Emerson sees it differently.  In his blog from April 2013 he states “I’ve never built the knives for looks or for a fancy finish or perfection.”  

His knives are often compared to the knives of Chris Reeves and Sal Glesser and Emerson admits they have fine fit and finish.  But he goes on to say (let me abridge this) none of those knives were present when Somali pirates were killed, when Al Zarqawi killed, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured and Osama Bin Laden was shot dead. 

I also realize that Emerson knives carried by elite teams are purchased by the military.  You don’t think the SEALs roll out on a mission with anything other than authorized primary gear, do you?  So perhaps Ernie’s claim needs to be illuminated with that light.  Still there is no question Ernie makes great, dependable knives.

To Ernie, a knife is tool and needs to be up for the work it faces.  If you are about to embark on an adventure, you want in Ernie’s opinion, a suitable tool.

Olamic Busker, a gentleman's knife 

I understand that as well.  I would never take my Olamic Busker white water rafting, but my Spyderco Salt would be clipped in.  But I wouldn’t take an Emerson knife either.  The possibility of losing a $200 plus knife when you have to pay for it alters your perspective.

3-Fs: Fit, Finish and Function.  These terms only are defined by purpose.  I marvel over art knives.  I own one, but I’d never use it at the range to pop stables out of a target or move meat around in a skillet.

My work knives aren’t always the prettiest but they are tools.   I guess it means I’m pragmatic. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

It's Moonshine!

Taylor Brands was founded by Stewart Taylor in 1975 in east Tennessee.  Originally Taylor had knives made for them under their name, but they gained the reputation as a knife jobber who facilitated the manufacture of knives with different trademarks. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Knives of reasonable quality can be made by many manufacturers with excess capacity.  Taylor made S&W logo knives which were everyday working knives at a reasonable price.  I don’t think anyone expects to turn their working S&W knife over to a grandchild and I don’t know anyone who collects them.  But if you needed a cutting edge, S&W would work.

Many companies, for reasons better left to the studies of economics, found they could not compete in today’s market.  Taylor bought them.  Maybe the best you can say about this is brand names like Schrade, Old Timer, Uncle Henry, and Imperial knives were saved from oblivion.  It’s kind of like the Irish Elk.

Here’s where it gets complicated.  Taylor, as previously mentioned, licenses the Smith & Wesson name.  Smith & Wesson recently purchased Taylor Brands.  So they own, among other things, Old Timer, Schrade, as well as knives made in their name.

Recently I came across a Taylor made knife called the Moonshiner.  It’s a brass handled locking blade with a finger hole for grip.  The tang stamp indicates it’s a Taylor knife made in Japan of surgical steel.

collecting knives
I liked the finger hole but the brass handle as got to go!

I don’t know much about the knife, other than no bootlegger ever carried a knife that said Moonshiner.  The blade is stainless and I suspect it’s a 440 type.  Of the three types of 440, I suspect type C, as it’s the most common.

It came in the original box and the blade doesn’t seem to be used.  The brass looks like it’s been handled a lot.  I suspect it’s a show and tell knife, something you show off to your friends and acquaintances, like I’m doing now.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Man from Kydex

In spite of the stinkin’ hot weather, I’ve been working playing with Kydex.  I’m using the knife a friend gave me.  I really like this knife, but it might not be the best to learn about Kydex sheath skills.

The sheath I have in mind is asymmetric.  That is, the back is largely flat while the front takes the brunt of bulging and forms the blade and knife handle pocket.  I want the back as flat as possible to make attaching a belt clip easy and flat against the sheath so the knife is held in tight to the body.  This handle calls for a lot of Kydex flow.

I also want the sheath to be trim and smartly shaped.  I can already make sheaths that looks like two pieces of plywood nailed together.  I want an organic (I hate that word, but I’m actually working with organic materials, so….) look that suggests the sheath grew around the knife. 

I have quite a ways to go.

To facilitate reaching these goals I’ve bought two new tools.  The first is a small set of French curves.  I used to use them to help draw graphs in math and science.   For those of you who only know Excel or any of the other graphing software there was a time….

A time when a man would place a razor to his throat and he would slip and cry out in pain and blood would well up ….    Oops!  Wrong time!!

What you really did was plot points as x and y coordinates.  If you could connect them with a straight line great, but sometimes it wasn’t possible, so you got out a pack of French curves and found a section of the curves that matched your points and drew the line. 

I’m using the curves to help me trace lines on the Kydex to give my sheath a fluidness and shape that is functional, minimalist and attractive.  

Am I asking for TOO MUCH?

I don’t know, but there is an art, a creative side to sheath making.  Sherlock used to say "Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms” (The Greek Interpreter).  So true.

To help me trim the excess Kydex from the line I can now draw I bought a band saw.  I also bought it to do a little woodworking, but I had Kydex in mind when I purchased it.

kydex, knife
I went to Sears.  It's a Craftsman.  I wanted the 12 HP saw, but it was a little out of my league....

I was quite happy that my first band saw/Kydex sheath project was working out until for some reason, it took a jog sideways, hit a rivet and skittered away. 

blue kydex sheath
The second rivet down on the right shows were the band saw and I departed from the planned operation.

blue kydex sheath with belt loop
Back side.  This is the reason I want the back so flat.  I need the sheath to hug the body.  I've lost too many knives 'cause they canted out from my body and got snagged by a coat or sweater.


Well, practice makes perfect.  My big problem is spacing the rivets and leaving enough Kydex outboard of the rivet so I can cut, trim and polish. The curves don’t work so well on non-flat, irregularly shaped objects and I need a better way to draw on Kydex other than pencil.

I have been working on a Kydex neck sheath for a Delica Salt. 
neck sheath for spyderco kydex sheath
The screw is to control the tension.  I don't know if I need it, but I'd rather have it, set it and forget it than worry about losing the knife.  By the way --- those fingers are from a highly paid hand model.  I spare no expensive for this blog.....

It’s big and I tried it out in the salty Gulf of Mexico and the H1 steel didn’t rust, and more importantly, the knife didn’t fall out.  Now that I have a band saw, it’s time to revisit that project.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Knives

Christmas knives are often new, exciting slivers of steel and polymer (yes, Virginia, unless you have stone or bone handles, it’s a polymer) that catch our attention for a few moments around the tree. 

“Oh! Helen,” he said, over the sound of wrapping paper being shredded.  “It’s a hand-made tactical friction folder from Frantic Forge!  It’s just what I wanted.”

Her comeback was not entirely unexpected.

“Oh, John!” She managed to be heard over the kitchen timer and the sound of bubbling pots.  “It’s just what I wanted!  A hand-made bread knife combination turnip carver from Kitchen Dungeon Forge.”

This scene is played out in front of Hanukkah candles and Christmas trees all around the world.  Trust me, I’ve had a few of these moments myself.

While we’re lost in admiration of our newest knives, there’s a few knives from Christmas past still hanging around.  If, like Marley, I’m forced to drag a chain of knives with me through the next world, I hope these are attached.

Electric carving knives, one of mankind's most enduring inventions

That’s my brother-in-law carving a turkey.  He’s mastered the art of carving a bird.  When I try that my results look like I used a hammer.  I always enjoy watching him make short work of a bird.

If I had one knife to symbolize family and friends it would be a knife like this.

What would a holiday be without family and friends?  I’m sure countless men and women in our armed forces could tell us from past experience.  It makes my eyes water when I think of all of them overseas, so far from family and friends with only their comrades near.  It’s an imperfect world, but I believe the Man Upstairs has a special mark by each of their names in His Book of Life. 

God bless and keep ‘em safe.

The Cold Steel bread knife:  good for cutting bread and fighting ninjas

My wife loves to bake bread.  Could there be anything more fundamental to the human condition than bread?  We break bread with friends.  We welcome new members to communities with bread, and we give bread to loved ones departing on long trips.  “I packed you an extra sandwich,” mothers used to say to sons, daughters and husbands when they departed on a journey.  It’s something I miss.

Christmas spirit – the short version

Whether or not you believe in Christ as Redeemer, can there be any question that his message of peace, love, harmony and forgiveness has value for men and women then and now?

Everyday we hear the Siren song of the modern world.  For a few days at Christmas be like Odysseus’ sailors and pour wax in your ears and ignore the material world just a little.  Enjoy the real Christmas values: Peace, Home, Family, Friends, Harmony, Love and Forgiveness.

Merry Christmas to Everyone!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cambridge Show 2011

I attended the Ohio Classic Knife Show in Cambridge last weekend. The low attendance let me stop and kibitz with the sellers without feeling I was interrupting commerce.

Outside the show a blacksmith demonstrated his skill.

Wide aisles and few people gave you room to have conversations.

Kathy Bone was engraving ivory and we talked about how hard it was getting to buy ivory. She does very nice work on knife handles as well as small jewelry pieces.

Engraving ivory, not for the faint of heart.
She had a money clip with Ulysses S. Grant engraved in ivory. It was very nice, but since I seldom see Grant on any of my pocket money, I passed. You can reach her at if you’re looking for a special piece.

I stopped at Bill Johnson’s table ( Like many custom makers he had a lot of fixed blades. I especially liked one of his green bone-handled blades.

With all the wonder materials available to modern knifemakers, isn’t it odd that some of the most ancient materials are prized the most? Perhaps it’s some ancestral memory, some prehistory hand/mind link that draws us to the materials used to make the first tools. And maybe we treasure them because they are so different from ubiquitous modern materials.

I spent all my disposable cash at Joseph’s Designs and Buckeye Custom knives. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I didn’t have more money on me.

Joseph’s Designs specializes in flint knives. ( No, not the blade but the handle. He gets his flint from Flint Ridge in Ohio, thought to have some of the most colorful flint in the world.

Joe replaces the handles on different knives with an almost semitransparent flint, rich in color and pattern. I found a nice Tree Brand Boker with an etched main blade. The flint handles have a pattern reminiscent of wood. The colors include red, black, white and brown giving it an almost pinkish glow in the translucent stone. I’m not much for friction fit knives, but this one spoke to me.

Flint, in case you’re interested, is a fine grain form of quartz (beach sand). Strictly speaking, it’s classified as a ‘chert’, but it seems to be found only as inclusions, sometimes very large inclusions, in limestone. Flint has two interesting properties. One is hardness. Flint is about 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale. Quartz, found in almost all dust, is 7. This means flint will scratch from normal use so care needs to be taken. The other is flint will strike a spark from iron even when wet. Despite the relative softness of the stone, flint will take a fine polish.

I also bought a nice fixed blade from Pete Winkler ( . The handle is a nice slab of wood called Pacific Madrone. The brass pins and green dyed, stabilized wood gives it the look of polished stone. The 4.25-inch blade is A2 steel with a Rockwell “C” scale hardness of 58. This is the first convex or ‘appleseed’ grind I’ve owned. Pete assures me that with normal use it will not need sharpening, just a stropping with a nice piece of leather he provides. This will be interesting. The knife has no bevel to speak of as the steel flows continuously to the edge. As a result it doesn’t look sharp, but don’t make the mistake of testing it with your thumb, unless you want to be called Tommy Split-Thumb.

Man shapes steel and steel shapes the man.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Unintended Collector

At what point do a couple or three things become a collection? Two birds don’t make a flock. Three people enjoying a couple beers aren’t necessarily a party. So when does a couple of cheese knives become a collection?

I think the question is better defined if we assume a collection has variation. Six identical steak knives isn’t a collection. It could be the beginning of a party, but it’s not a collection. The degree of difference is also an important component.

I have a friend who has a collection of Peterson’s “Field Guide to the Birds.”   Each copy is essentially the same, but one is hard cover with gold leaf edges. Another is a limited printing bound in leather with uncut pages. Others are the 1st through 5th editions, while others are mud stained from use and the last is the large print edition. It is the variation among the books that makes it a collection.

I can speak from experience: I have a similar collection of Sherlock Holmes books in my possession. Sherlock’s knife connection? Holmes uses a jack knife to fix his correspondence to the fireplace mantle. In modern England, he would be hard pressed to find a legal knife to pin his correspondence anywhere.

One day my wife realized she had a nice little cheese knife collection growing in the kitchen drawer.

The Arthurian cheese knife plunged into a block of cheese reads FROMAGE, or French for cheese. No surprise the blade is marked “Le Chef Sympa”. We bought that one on our way to the Finger Lakes region in NY. (Wineries were not on our tour, but the Corning glass museum was and is still an excellent destination.)

Knife number two is unknown; the blade is stamped with a simple “Stainless – Taiwan”. She got it from her mother, but it is not by any stretch of imagination an heirloom.

Knife number three is all plastic and we think we bought it at Cheese Haven in Port Clinton. We were on our way back from Camp Perry and I needed to stock up on fermented cow’s milk.

The fourth knife is another all plastic mystery knife. We bought it at a kitchen store on a trip to somewhere. Kind of tells you how impressed we are with it.

The last knife is made by Rada. It has a brushed aluminum handle which gives me the shivers every time I pick it up. It’s a little gruesome looking. If the blade were a little thicker you’d swear it was designed by Klingons for interrogating prisoners.

Which knife cuts the cheese the best? (Actually I wrote all of this so I could use that line.) The honors go to the untouchable Rada and mystery knife number 3.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cutting Down the Highways

It comes as no surprise that many traffic accidents are the result of divided attention.  Look down to change the radio settings and if someone steps out from between parked cars, you’re in trouble.  Many states have made it illegal to talk on a cell phone or text while driving equating them to driving under the influence.  Ohio tried to pass legislation outlawing texting and driving.  Unfortunately this didn’t pass.

Everyday on my migration from work to home I see evidence of texting and driving.  You can too if you look for it.  Watch for the slow but steady drift into another lane combined with the jerky head bob as the driver looks up to confirm he or she is still on the road.  This activity is occasionally punctuated by the texter jerking the car back into its lane.

But I saw a topper the other day.  It was a man driving an SUV big enough to have its own zip code with his elbows.  No, he wasn’t handicapped, well not physically at least.  He was holding an orange in his left hand and cutting into it with a knife held in his right hand.  See what I mean about how he might have another type of handicap?

I resisted blowing my horn at him to see if I could get him to cut himself.  I was afraid he’d lose control of his metal juggernaut and kill someone.  He still may have.

My wife just got a new knife.  Free!

She was our local supermarket and they were passing out promotional knives.  I’m not going to tell you who made it; I don’t want to give them any publicity.  It’s called Paring–Partner.  It sports a surgical stainless steel blade so dull that if it was used in surgery you’d have a valid malpractice claim.  It was so dull I’m not sure it isn’t really a spatula.

It's sooo dull and it isn't even sharp!

I probed around with a magnet (this stainless is magnetic) trying to find out if it has a rattail tang.  I think it’s a partial tang blade simply molded in plastic.  It’s made in China, and the retail price is $5.00.  I don’t know if anyone would buy this knife at five, but it does suggest reasons why I have trouble selling good knives.