Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fine and Fancy Knives at Christmas

Another Christmas has arrived and departed and on the whole it was pretty good.  Not to say it couldn’t be better, but Lord knows it could have been worse.  I was with family of which most are friends; the food and drink was good, and the weather was good for traveling.  We were all warm and had homes to return to and jobs waiting for us today.  Having spent two Christmases in the last eight years unemployed I cannot tell you how nice that is.

I had a chance to handle a spicy little knife from Santa Fe Stoneworks.  The handle isn’t stone (surprise!) but dyed wood.  It’s from their Kaleidoscope collection.  Santa Fe still has a few pre-bankrupt Camillus brand 3-inch lockbacks which they are using up.  It’s a nice knife, especially since you can get it for less than 50 bucks.

Santa Fe Stoneworks Kaleidoscope
I was waiting for my mystery knife.   The clues consisted of a generic policeman and a woolly mammoth.  My Spyderco Police model with blue and green dyed woolly mammoth molar grip arrived!


It arrived as a fully serrated edge and not the plain edge I ordered.


Molar from a woolly Mammoth - amazing, just amazing!

Still, it is a spectacular knife.

 Banging on the Door
Had a minor incident the other night.  Banging on the front door at twilight brought me around to the side door.  A fellow with a hard sell about shoveling and a calcium chloride treatment tried to convince me I wanted his services.  I wasn’t interested, but he didn’t want to take no for an answer.

One of my concerns is the “criminal interview.”  It’s like a shark bumping into you to determine if you’re lunch or another shark.  His hard sell felt like a shark bump.  Of course, standing there with a sharp CRKT Crawford/Kasper folder in his blind spot (with my thumb on the stud) made it a lot easier to bump back.

As my friend Tom says, “No blood, no foul.”

Lanyard Making
My wife has gone back to her oval-hole Benchmade Ascent.  It was made with an opening stud as well as a round thumb hole.  She has both the round and oval hole versions.  She has also discovered how nice a lanyard can be for retrieving the knife.  Since I like to do knotting and such she asked me to make her a lanyard and I was happy to do so.

First we picked out the colors and the pattern (square or spiral) and I went to work.  A lanyard should be fitted to the person and knife, so I started, first with a fitting to make sure the lanyard would lie flat when the knife was in her pocket.

Size does matter!

After a few trial and error starts I got the size of the loop on the knife right and then we were off to the races.

I’m reasonably happy with the way it turned out.  So is she!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Wish - With an Edge

This year I’m not asking for my usual Christmas wish of Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men.  I’ve been asking for this for over 40 years and I’m still coming up short on the request.

This year I’m asking for Understanding, Prudence and Fear.

Understanding so that we understand the other person and they us.  From understanding we can begin to solve our problems or at least minimize our conflicts.

Failing understanding, I want prudence, the gift that lets us ask about the outcome of our intended actions.  Maybe then we will think more about the last drink for the road, planting an IED, or launching an attack.  All of which would lead to a better world.

No one should live in fear, but maybe a little fear about the consequences of our actions might make us a little better off.  Whether it’s building an IED, repeating a nasty story about your boss, or the decision to make your holiday money at gunpoint, a little fear about blowback might give you pause to try something else.

Christmas is a schizophrenic holiday.  

For many it is the beginning of a cycle that celebrates an opportunity to connect with our God.  For many of these same people it’s a time to indulge in lavish gifts and Dionysian bouts of eating and drinking.  Economic factors have forced decisions on many people to celebrate the holidays in what they must only consider as unnatural restraint, while others ponder the crushing weight of bills due in January.  And still there are those who choose to make the holidays a time to connect with friends and family. 

Mix all these people together; add the uncertainty of the New Year, spice with enough snow and cold to make doing anything difficult, and you’ll understand why the holidays are so tense.

Despite all that, have a Merry Christmas, and don’t take anything too seriously.  Nobody gets out of this world alive anyway.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Slice of Life

The world is a wacky place.  People have strange ideas, customs and responses to problems.   Add a knife to the mix and we see why you shouldn’t play with a saw blade when it’s working.

Take Helmut Seifert for example.  He’s a factory worker in Bielefeld, Germany, and he has a 17 year old daughter.  It’s natural for a girl that age to have a boyfriend, but a 57 year old boyfriend is stretching the limits of credulity.  Fearing that the older man might have some less than honorable designs on his daughter, Helmut went to the police.

Here’s where the trolley comes off the tracks.  Helmut learned the unfortunate truth about law enforcement.  The police are good at drawing chalk outlines, filling out the paper work, and catching the criminals but not so useful for preventing a crime. 
What’s a father to do?  Who knew what this fellow had in mind for his daughter?  Drugs, prostitution or simply steaming up the windows of a parked car - take your pick of any, all or none.  Helmut had an answer and acted on it.  He castrated the man with a bread knife.


The victim is expected to survive and now goes by the nickname of Wee Willy.

Helmut isn’t ratting out the names of the men who helped him.  Nice to know you have friends like that.  But a bread knife?

Several years ago I got my wife a Spyderco bread knife.  It’s almost a Roman short sword and the serrations can only be described as fearsome.  I use to enjoy the smell of warm bread, but after Helmut’s adventure, the aroma of fresh bread will only make me mentally check my status at home.

The loaf you’re talking about is just bread?   Right??

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cutting Off The World For A While

It was time.  In fact it was past time and overdue.  Getting out of the city, away from WiFi and people texting and driving, away from the normal daily grind that saps our will and drains our soul and reduces us to flotsam on a sea of disaster….  You get the idea, a break was needed.

One of my favorite getaways is a state park in West Virginia.  The cabins have flush toilets, running water, heat and a fireplace. 

Of course, there’s hiking and deer-watching if playing dominoes, cooking with your friends and good conversations aren't enough.  I had hoped for a dusting of snow to cover the ground to hide the wear and tear we humans inflict on nature, but I didn’t get it.  Still it was nice enough. 

As a scientist I know that increasing the surface area while decreasing the volume will make the wood burn better and what’s a fireplace without a fire?  So I split the wood the park provides.  I came prepared with a ¾-length axe and a hatchet.  The first day left me with sore shoulders.  While I expected some soreness, this was medication-level soreness.  Only one thing to do: sharpen my axe!

I typically take my Spyderco Sharpmaker and an EZE-Fold sharpener when I travel.  One side of the EZE-Fold is a coarse diamond.  Flip it over and it’s a fine diamond.  It didn’t take much work to true up my axe edge.  The next day, lots of wood but no soreness.

The trails are marked, but still it doesn’t take much to wander off the path, so it’s prudent to take a few things with you.  The yuppie canteen or water bottle works nice as do a small flashlight, knife and personal space blanket.  Matches or a lighter is also suggested. Most of that stuff fits in a coat pocket, so you don’t look like you’re the last member of the forgotten survival squadron.

The two knives I like (yes two, check the archives for why one is none and two is one) for these adventures are the Buck Nighthawk and DPx H-E-S-T.

The black bladed Nighthawk is on the left and HEST is on the right.  It snowed as I repacked the car for the trip home.

The Nighthawk has the mass and edge I needed to free up a sapling or tackle a big knife job like quartering wood.  It doesn’t work too good for cutting fir sticks.  The blade is too thick, but if I ever needed a big knife, the Buck Nighthawk is a great starting place.

DPx H-E-S-T is a collaboration between Robert Pelton and RAT Cutlery.  H-E-S-T stands for Hostile Environment Survival Tool.  DPx suggests a prescription for Dangerous Places.  I met Pelton several years ago.  He wanted a knife to carry in some of the world's most dangerous places, like Beirut, Sierra Leone or Detroit.  Not too big or expensive that it can’t be conveniently lost or given away and still big enough to attend to survival chores or make hesitation cuts in people. 

My only complaint is the sheath has only a makeshift lashing for belt carry.  Who knows, maybe that’s an advantage in dangerous places.  For me it drops into an outer pocket on my winter coat and stays there until I need it.

It was a good weekend and I’m back to work.  Let’s see how long the recharge works.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Working Kydex

My friend just showed me a silver-bladed Gerber Guardian Back-up he bought. It’s a nice knife. Actually it’s a dagger and while I like the lines, the lack of guards and its double-edged blade always make me a little nervous. Having sliced fingers open before, I would prefer to avoid it in the future.

He didn’t care that much for the original sheath and since he’s been working with Kydex, well, one thing led to another.

He did a nice job.

...And the award for clothing goes to .... Kydex!

The handle locks into the sheath with a positive click and stays there. You have to want to remove the Back-up. It isn’t going to fall out by itself. He mounted a belt loop so that the knife could be carried sideways, kidney position. The clip is also removable so other carry modes are possible.

It was nice to sit down at Thanksgiving and talk turkey with him about working with Kydex. I have at least one project stalled due to weather and ideas for a couple other projects. All I can say is nice work!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

103 Stories High

The glass observation ledges at the Sears Willis Tower lived up to their reputation. It took a little internal pep talk to step out on to the glass floor 103 stories in the air. First it was toes over edge followed by heels on edge. I figured if the glass started to crack I’d have a 50-50 chance of hurling my weight backwards into the building.

The Edge- Willis Style

Finally I got both feet out into space and the teenager next to me started to jump up and down. He almost got a busted nose for that stunt.

It's the next best thing to walking on air and not as windy!

It was vey nice to look out into space and see my college an apparently short distance away. UIC formerly known as UICC has undergone significant changes and it’s easy to see them from the Ledge. Gone are the second story walkways and the addition of dorms is very noticeable. Not so noticeable to the hard science people (because we didn’t spend much time there) is the completion of the Arts and Humanity building. The campus ran out of money and built only half the building. They had a staircase to the second or third floor that ended in a blank wall.

It was slightly overcast, so we could only see a couple miles in any direction, but it still remains one of the great overviews of Chicago.

These feet belong to the reason I'm standing out here.

Later we experimented with the subway and surface buses. People were very nice to us and helped with directions and instructions. My only complaint was that the bus/subway card vending machine only takes cash in dollar amounts. No credit cards! You always end up losing odd bits of money as fares are never whole dollar amounts. Many of the stations are dirty, noisy and congested but proved useful to get around.

I just got my new 2011 Spyderco catalog. Quite a few interesting knives, but it does bother me to see the knife industry cave in to the liberal notion adopted by many cities and a few countries. Of course, Spyderco is not the only company making these knife changes.

The liberal notion? It seems to be a belief in mechanical voodoo. At the core of the matter is the belief that evil spirits live in objects like tools and by making them less safe or harder to use the evil effects are diminished. By requiring that knives can close on your fingers, can’t be opened with only hand, and not clipped to pocket, the crime levels will go down. Told you it was mechanical voodoo.

I like Barrett’s stance on his 50 BMG rifle and California. He will not sell them to California police because the state has outlawed them to the general population. He accepts delivery of these rifles for repair and modification, but will not ship them back to the state agencies. They have to pick them up themselves.

Keep your edges sharp and your wits about you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Chicago Style.

We’re spending a get-away weekend in Chicago. I’m staying just ever so south of the Loop, but still in downtown Chicago. I hope to do the Sears Willis tower. Perhaps if I get my courage screwed up I’ll try the glass booth observation platforms on the 103rd floor. It’s not the height that gives me the willies, it’s the glass floor.

Chicago is an anti-knife town. Spyderco used to make a short-bladed knife called Chicago to reflect the big city’s belief that objects are possessed with an evil spirit. It had an opening hole, but didn’t lock open and had a sub 2-inch blade. In my opinion non-locking blades are more dangerous to the user. As for blade length, well, your surgeon takes you apart with a small sub one-inch blade.

The result of this superstition is the logical belief that if you could get rid of these demon infected tools the city would become a new Eden. Sort of “let’s-not-cast-out-the snake-but-chop-the-apple-trees-down” (check your Bible for cross-reference) approach to crime.

Being dependent on someone else for my safety rubs me the wrong way. Still, I remember what a lawyer told me: it isn’t a crime until you’re arrested. I’m staying under the radar.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Television Knives

Whenever I run out of ideas to write about (Hey, like most of you I have to work for a living and sometimes the Muse gets buried by the day’s activities), I like to see what’s the knife of the day.

You know, what brand of knife is being carried by which fictional TV character in this episode? A couple of years ago Hannibal the Cannibal was sporting a Harpy by Spyderco. I still get requests for that knife. Before that, some now forgotten cable show about Soldiers of Fortune sparked an interest in Newt Livesay neck knives. I know this because I still have one of them hanging from a lamp over my desk.

I was catching up with the recently returned “Burn Notice” last night. This season Michael Westen is sporting an Emerson Sark. Oh, you’d know it if you saw it. It has the Emerson Wave designed to catch on the corner of your pocket and pull the blade open. The blade is a wicked looking curved talon.

Emerson makes many fine combat knives, expensive but worth it!

Michael used it to cut and build a prop bouquet of flowers to further the plot. Not the best demonstration of an Emerson knife, but still not bad.

Last season, I think, one of the characters passed out knives to everyone proclaiming “combat knives for everyone.” The knife? Just happens to be one I carry, the SOG Spec-Elite I.

Ahh, product placement! Usually it’s a car, laptop or cell phone, but it’s nice to see a familiar edge now and again.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue"

Veterans Day  November 11 2010

Let’s cut right to the bone on this; I didn’t think of it but I sure wish I did.  The quote belongs to Admiral Nimitz in reference to the Marines on Iwo Jima.  I know it refers to all the men and women of our armed forces.  They served our country then and now, and with God’s Blessings, will do so in the future.

Let’s remember them in our prayers and thoughts while they serve and give them a chance when they return to us.

I, you, we owe them that much.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When Pumpkins Run Wild: Jack-O-Lanterns

I finally got the pumpkin carved to my wife’s our satisfaction. No really, we decided we liked it and I was all ready to hand out candy.

BOOOOOOO!  Are you scared yet?  You will be.

I remember when people made popcorn balls and home-made taffy, but those days are long gone. Even today an adult must be careful about talking to young children. There are too many creeps and sickos, so I limit my conversations to a simple reply “Hello” to children in the presence of their parents.
But on Halloween night, my wife and I can sit in our driveway and talk with the children and their parents. It was a good night.

I had among many superheroes and monsters:
3-1920 flappers (they claim I was the only adult to recognize them),
1- naughty nurse (I thank the gods I don’t have a teen-age daughter),
1- wrapped Christmas package.

Almost all of the Marvel Comic characters with the exception of Doctor Doom were accounted for.   He doesn’t seem very popular. Go figure.

Zombies were big this year as were the assorted and interchangeable monsters from the current crop of horror flicks.  Surprizingly few vampires, which really sucks....
No wonder nobody thinks of jack-o-lanterns as scary. Maybe next year I’ll dress up as an IRS agent coming over for an audit. That ought to scare the beans out you.

I'm from the IRS.  I want to see all your tax returns and records for the last 12 years!


Sunday, October 31, 2010


There was (cue: large animal breathing in background) was a time that a man … (cue: sounds of chains dragging on stone) would take a knife and press it against flesh. And he would try to carve a new face … he would slip and cry out in pain … and … and (Oh the horror of it!) the mouth lost another tooth!

Yes we are. We’re talking about carving gourds, specifically about carving pumpkins. Happy Halloween! BOOOOOOOO!

I read some people use saber saws to jig-saw carve jack-o-lanterns. I know how messy that would be. One year I tried to use a chain saw to get an edgy effect. It took me days to clean the pumpkin guts from my saw and to mop up the splatter.

Go back to the simpler approach, I say. I saw a dad and his son sitting on the front porch today, each carving a pumpkin with a knife. They were surrounded by orange chips and cubes of pumpkin. I miss doing that with my father. He’s in Florida, a little too far to go to carve gourds.

I have a few tools I always fall back on.

I start by laying out the operating table. That’s a piece of plywood covered with newspaper. I use my wife’s pewter-like scoop to scrape out the pumpkin. The yellow wood and red plastic knives are really pumpkin saws. The red one is designed for children. It’s pretty flimsy but the small size lets me cut tighter curves. Next to it is a Columbia River Knife and Tool fixed blade. I’ve had it for years and can’t remember its name, but it’s a new addition to the lineup. I wanted a small, but stiff blade with a guard for the open cuts. Next to it is CRKT’s Big Eddy fileting knife. I really like this knife for cutting flesh… pumpkin flesh that is.

Like any good surgeon I mark the cutting field and then ad lib.

Eeeeuuwww! Pumpkin brains!

My wife and I sketch the mouth; argue about eyes, eyebrows and ears. (I’m opposed to ears, they seem ineffectual in adding more character to the face.)

Say AHHHHH and open wide
Soon we get the face knifed carved out. Because we are working on the outside of a thick-walled, misshapen ball, the features seen on the inside of the pumpkin are smaller than the outside. I need to open up the features so light can come out and I’m after translucent edges. I just think that makes for a spookier jack-o-lantern.

Oops! Got to trim the mucous membranes back a bit

Finally I get it finished and out on the porch. I’m looking forward to talking with the kids and handing out candy. It’s the one time of year I can interact with children like this. I really enjoy talking to them and their parents.

As a child, I thought Halloween was for kids. Now I know it’s for adults.

I can’t wait to see it all lit up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ohio Classic Knive Show

The Ohio Classic Knife Show ground to a halt Saturday and I do mean ground. This isn’t a knife edge judgment that could go either way. The show flopped.

From Saturday noon to 5:00 pm there were always more vendors than shoppers and if you sold a custom knife, well, you were lucky. I didn’t take any pictures, but if you want to know what it was like I have two mental images for you.

Imagine a silver picture frame and now fill it with inky blackness. That’s what the show looked like. If that still leaves you confused, picture a vacuum cleaner.

Why is a good question. In sales, it’s a number game. It’s simple. The more attendees present, the larger the fraction of potential customers. The more potential customers, more chances you have to make a sale. Empty isles mean no sales.

Where was everyone?

I don’t know. Days in late autumn that beautiful are gems to be enjoyed. OSU played Purdue (they won 49-zip - - doesn’t sound like it was a good game) and Cambridge is OSU land. Cambridge is kind of in the middle of nowhere (I’m sorry, I love Salt Folk State Park and the area is lovely, but it’s a destination.) Maybe the knife makers were not national draws and maybe the show wasn’t advertised enough. Maybe it was the free admission to last year’s buyers that had the same saturated customers coming back because it was free and something to fill the day.

A new regime is taking over. We need this show to be a success. It is one of the very few opportunities for purchasers and purveyors to meet in the market place.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Classic Knife Show - - Cambridge Ohio

Today was the opening of the Cambridge Knife Show, or as it is properly known, the Ohio Classic Knife Show.

The show is Friday and Saturday and it was explained to me that Friday was selected for a large group of older, retired folks who want to attend an upscale knife show without the younger, more energetic crowd. Sunday was deselected as the hosting community has a deep religious and family orientation and would prevent attendance on Sunday until at least 2:00 pm. That leaves Saturday.

I believe this explanation based on the old mature crowd we had today. But in all honesty, crowd is not the right descriptive word for the attendees. Sprinkling of, or dusting of people might be the best term.

Here are a few images:

My Favorite Table - All we need is customers

Vendors setting up and trading among themselves

The show had a lot of custom knives. The typical commercial collector knives were present, Buck, Case and such. Not too many current factory produced knives were represented.

Whats missing from this picture? --   You.

One treat was Andrew Denko, the inventor of Cold Steel’s Tri-Ad lock and one of their designers. This mechanism is reported to be one of the strongest locks in the commercial market. He had several of his own knives on display. They are simple but well made, elegant folders designed for hard use over long hours. Keep an eye on him. He’s going do interesting things in the knife world.

If you could find a knife you liked, well you didn’t look very hard.

Something for just about everyone.

Tomorrow is the last day. the weather reports warm, but rain and cloudy. It could be perfect knife show weather.  More later!