Monday, September 19, 2011


The UPS man just delivered a box of knives.  I have to wonder what he thinks about all the knives that arrive.  It’s only human nature to try to form a picture of a person based on what little you know or at least what you think you know.  

I remember reading about an OSS (Google it!) training drill in which you searched a room and based on what you found, construct a picture of the unseen occupant.  One trainee found a blond wig and a hypodermic needle and announced the occupant was a transvestite drug-user.  Turned out the drill was a test to see how you use your imagination.

I wonder if the UPS driver thinks of me as a human porcupine brisling with edges?

One of the knives that just arrived was an ESEE-3 from Randall’s Adventure.  It’s a nice knife.  8.25 inches of 1095 carbon steel with a greenish gray micarta handle.  A fine line of green separates the micarta  from the epoxy-coated steel.  Very tastefully done.  The blade is 3.75 long so you have enough handle to use the knife.  I was surprised to find the false edge wasn’t!  About half of the top of the blade was razor sharp.

It's a nice looking knife and felt good in my hand.

The green layer adds a touch of color to an otherwise dull gray handle.

I like stainless in guns, but more and more I find I like high carbon steel in knives.  The carbides in the iron make bigger and more sparks with a ferrocium fire starter rod than stainless does.  Of course, carbon steel rusts, so the blades are often coated with epoxy or other finishes, but you still need to take care of them.  I just wish they would leave a little one-inch saddle of uncoated steel on the spine.  It bothers me to have to use the blade to generate sparks.

I really like the sharpened false edge.  More and more of my knives sport a sharpened false edge and a dull spot I can press on for more force.  Of course you really have to think that through.  Slipping onto the edge will injure you and complicate whatever you were attempting to do.

I wanted to compare the look and feel of the ESEE-3 to my DPxGear HEST knife.  The HEST is a little specialized.  The handle is hollow with just enough room for a couple fish hooks and monofilament line, maybe a lead shot sinker or two.  The blade is shorter than the ESEE but thicker.  A reflection of anticipated prying needs.  It too is a single piece of 1095 steel.

Never will be twins separated at birth, but maybe distant cousins.

The HEST is a sweetheart for me.  I met the designer (and author) Robert Pelton.  Read his book “Dangerous Places.”  I found it riveting and not all the places are in third world countries.  Some are just a state over from you.  His goal was to produce a classic “bug-out” knife.  One that could be used to make little cuts in people surrounding you trying to pick your pockets.  Not much more than paper cuts and still pry a lock off a door, pound through a plaster wall, discourage your enemies and still open a beer bottle with your friends.

It’s a lot to ask of a knife.  But if you have the skills, then the HEST has the chops.

I hate both sheaths.  The ESSE has a pukey tan Kydex sheath called coyote.  The HEST has a nice but wide Kydex sheath in black.  Both come with molle adapters.  Both can be lashed onto a strap or other things  and neither has a system for a belt loops.  Yuck!  I belt-carry more then I molle-carry.

Sure you can lash both to a belt.  Who knows?  Maybe there is some advantage to being able to untie a knot and let the knife and sheath slip away quickly and without any fuss.  I guess it’s hard to proclaim that you’re unarmed and peaceful when they find a fixed blade knife sheath on you.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blackie Collins: Among The Eternals

Blackie Collins the knife maker passed on last week. 
He never seemed to get the publicity, I always thought, like Randall or Loveless.  Perhaps it was because he didn’t make exclusive fixed blades.  Instead he designed knives and sold the rights to manufacturers.  Of course, when manufacturers cheapened the design, took manufacturing short-cuts and produced less than ordinary products, you know who got the black eye. As a result it seems much of his talent was relegated to the position of spear carrier while the stars took the center stage.

Still, he founded Blade Magazine, one of the leading voices in today’s knife culture.  His Strut’N’Cut knife helped fuel the assisted opening knife craze.  And there cannot be any doubt this self-taught knife maker influenced what you carry in your pocket.

I had the opportunity to meet him years ago at a SHOT Show in Las Vegas.  I was at the Meyerco booth when the factory rep said:
“Do you know Blackie Collins?”
“I’ve heard of him, but I don’t know him.”
“Would you like to meet him?

Of course I said yes, expecting a short hello, a hand shake and a few seconds of idle chatter.
I got the hand shake and more.

“Would you like to see my newest design?  Blackie asked, while unrolling a 6-foot long sheet of paper.  There, in large scale, was one huge drawing of a knife he was designing.  He explained the design, talked about the steel and manufacturing problems.  It was wonderful and I still regret I didn’t have my present understanding of steel and knives.  I would have been able to understand the significance so much more. 
Then he posed for pictures with my wife holding his knives.

Graciousness.  That’s an attribute that fitted Blackie Collins.  I’ve meet other designers.  Talked with knife company owners, even gotten a few freebies to try out.  They have been nice, charming and interesting, but I don’t associate graciousness with anyone else.

I did a quick Google search and found a quote I want to share with you:
“There’s no high like creativity.”  Blackie Collins.

Rest In Peace, Blackie.  We’ll miss you.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Late Arrivals

I just received a late shipment of knives.  Trying to anticipate what the consumer wants seems futile.  Well, we all know what the consumer wants: top quality name brands at dirt cheap prices with full and total lifetime warranties against all damages, misuse and loss.  Heck, I want that myself, but I’m not likely to see that either.

But part of the fun of selling knives is guessing the market and trying to get quality products in front of the consumer.  Here are some knives I like:

TOPS FDX mini-axe

It’s too small to be called an axe, even a hatchet.  It’s more like a cleaver.  The FDX is made of 1095 steel, so you’ve got to take care of it, but it should make better sparks with a ferricium flint compared to stainless steel.  It’s 3/8-inch thick and has a 2¾-inch blade and is 7¼ inches long.  I see it shaving wood tinder, chopping small kindling, disjointing or quartering a freshly caught meal.  I also see it as a great comfort in a dark alley.  I think it needs a cord-wrapped handle and a lanyard. 

CRKT’s Kommer Fulcrum has always attracted my attention.  The open blade unlocks like any liner/frame lock but opening it is a little different.

Slide the bolster towards the blade and magic happens.

To open, slide the bolster towards the blade with your thumb.  This action starts the blade opening.  Now slide the bolster back to its original position and the blade is locked open.  That’s the only way you can open it.  It can’t be flicked open.  

I have a serious bitch with New York City.  With all the social problems they have, the elected officials are attempting to sidetrack the voters with flick and tactical style knives.  There’s a witch hunt for sellers of these types of knives.  Us tool carriers are also on their radar.  So, if you’re going to NYC, this could be the knife to carry, better still…. STAY HOME.  NEW YORK DOESN’T WANT YOU.

The Kommer Fulcrum is an attractive knife, but then I’m partial to blue and clever mechanisms.

My last knife is also from CRKT.  It’s a little neck knife called the Folts Minimalist.  

I always like neck knives, but having an unbreakable noose around my neck is troubling.  Still, having a 2-inch stainless steel blade on me is a comfort.   

Add a button-battery light and another survival tool of your choice and you have a leg up on getting home.

Partial list of suggested tools:  flint, whistle, dog tag signal mirror, fire-starting glass, compass, P38 can opener, Kydex-sheathed saw blade.   Must I go on…?

The Minimalist also comes with a belt adapter.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In The Trenches They Were Sharpening Their Knives...

It’s been ‘trench warfare’ at my house for the last month.  I’m having a garage built and running the electrical line for the garage.  This simple act called for me to crawl under my porch, move about a half ton of stone and quarter ton of sandy soil resulting in a trench from the house foundation to the garage.  It would have been a lot easier if I could have removed the full length porch from the back of our house.   If I had those kind of resources, I would just buy a new house, so it was trench warfare.  I ran into an underground retaining wall and had to drill and chisel out enough concrete to make a 6-inch depression for the rigid conduit.  I spent so much time under the porch I found I was enjoying it.  Unfortunately, mole man syndrome set in and I was eating 47 times my body weight, so that had to come to a stop. 

The knife side of this is I cut a little barrier plastic, shaved some roots and truncated cord in the digging process.  All of which took its toll on my CRKT Crawford Kasper folder.  Add a little dandelion subsurface root decapitation (I know, decapitation is the wrong word, but it always reminds a me of a guillotine).  This was followed up by lots of cardboard cutting.  My knife was soon too dull to tear newspaper.

When I need to sharpen something fast, I reach for my Spyderco sharpener.  The stones were getting a little dirty.  So, with a little abrasive cleanser, water, a rag and a little elbow grease, the residue from previous sharpenings was gone and the stones were ready.

Removing old metal helps give the stone more 'bite' and faster sharpening

I like Spyderco's system.  Hold the knife perpendicular to the ground and glide it down and back against the stone and it’s like a magic show. 

Presto-Change-O!  A sharp knife!

It’s so simple that even I can get a sharp edge in under 5 minutes.

Two medium stones, two brass guards, two fine stones and a plastic base.  It goes everywhere.

A good friend of mine recently received a long awaited fixed blade from a local knife maker.  Tim is a reluctant knife maker, so I’ll hold his name.  My friend commissioned a fixed blade in the sub-hilt fighter style and asked the knife maker to give it his interpretation.  It took awhile, but it was worth the wait.  Even the sheath was nicely detailed.

Single Edge Sub Hilt Fighter

The maker did a very nice job.  I wish my photo did it justice, but I had only minutes to set something up.  I also found out that one man’s sheath knife is another’s pocket knife.

I guess the folder in the side pocket is back-up.  Hey, one is none...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blade Show: Comin’ Home

It was a long trip home.  The weather cooperated.  It was in the 80s and overcast.  More importantly, the traffic cooperated except for a little bit of the interstate south of Cincinnati in Kentucky.  KDOT closed a three lane road down to one lane and the traffic was so backed up, we got off and had to find another way.

I felt bad about leaving a day early.  I had looked forward to this show and writing about it.  I almost felt I was cheating myself.  On the other hand, I gained a day to get things (like this) under control before returning to work.

I found some interesting knives for myself.  The slender South African dagger from Safari Consulting in the previous blog just speaks to me.  I’m so glad I got it.

I picked up an unusual knife from Shadow Tech Knives.  The main edge is a straight edge, which should be easy sharpening.  The sharpened false edge is curved downward.  I don’t think it will be too hard to re-edge when the time comes.  The steel is 1095 and the blade is powder coated to help fight rust.  I like the weight and look of the knife.  Most importantly is how good the knife feels in my hand.

Shadow Tech

I met Peter Janda from FIN Designs several years ago at TDI.  I have one of his holsters for CCW and I’ve admired his work in kydex for some time.  He’s been designing knives and has found a home with Ka-Bar.  I didn’t like his early folders.  Oh, the designs were nice.  They felt good in my hand and were mechanically well made, but my thumb and his opener tended to get snared in the handle’s curves.  The FIN Velocity doesn’t have those problems.  The clip is reversible and the knife is tip up, my favorite carry position.  It’s made in China.  Oh, grow up!  It’s a world market and we have to compete.  I understand Europe doesn’t have this country-of-origin hang-up.  Perhaps that’s because they have always traded back and forth.

FIN Velocity Folder from Ka-Bar

Benchmade is advertising using Cerakote Gen II on all their BK and SBK blades made in 2011.  The coating is reported to reduce visibility ~ “…provides a visual, near infrared and thermal management….”  It’s not a Harry Potter cloak of invisibility, but if you need to control/reduce your visibility, it’s a start.  Hint:  I bet you could find a link to a studio that does powder coating with this same material.

Last thoughts:
After talking to Ed Fowler I may have to re-evaluate my thoughts on Randall knives.  Ed reports that Bo Randall wanted to make a sharp knife that didn’t break.  These properties come at the loss of edge retention.  Use it and you have to re-sharpen.   That’s not so bad.  The knife was very successful with the military for this reason. It didn’t break; it just had to be re-sharpened.  Still, 400-500 bucks for a factory knife….

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blade Show: T plus Two

It’s my last day. I was planning to spend all day Sunday at the show, but frankly I’ve seen enough and I’m not seeing anything I can’t live without. I’d rather save some money for making Kydex sheaths.

Okay, I admit it; I bought a few knives just for the sake of ownership. I have always enjoyed Loveless knives from his naked lady period. So I checked the prices. I hope you invested years ago. A nice, well kept Loveless from this period runs around $2400. You will not find any naked ladies from Loveless in my collection.

I did find Bossie Knives now known as Safari Consulting. I bought a little dagger with a black iron wood handle that I couldn’t resist. I bought one last year in giraffe bone. I’m not really a dagger kind of guy, but these little guys just speak to me.

I sat in on Ed Fowler’s presentation. His message to consumers and knife makers remains a constant beacon of sanity. Test your knife to destruction. No one knows what the future will bring and you may need that knife to perform far outside of its intended role. Ed bends his knives back and forth from 90 degrees to 180 degrees without breaking. He expects to be able to do that several times, hammer it flat and still have a usable knife. He differential tempers the steel to create a hard area backed up by a thick soft spine so that a crack only grows to the soft metal and still leaves you with a knife you can use. Of course this isn’t cheap. His knives aren’t very attractive, and they run several thousand. Here’s the catch: use his knife and if you don’t like it, even after you use it, send it back and you’ll get your money back.

Spyderco is always doing interesting things. They see a market in Canada, NYC, California, England even Germany for smaller and sometimes non-locking knives. Many cities are restricting blade length, as if a one-and-half-inch blade is less dangerous than a two-and-half-inch blade. I just know that we legals follow the law while criminals do what they want.

Spyderco isn’t the only company doing interesting things. Most of the knife industry is trying to get their hands on your disposable income. Kershaw is showing off some very thick fixed blades which are a radical departure. Bear Knife is introducing a tactical line complete with an auto opener. Two years ago they were telling me (of course, I’m a nobody in the knife industry) they would never have a tactical line. Things are a-changin’.

I also sat in on the cutting contest. The knives are regulated and carefully controlled in an attempt to make it a skill event. It’s a little artificial, but it is exciting to watch someone cut through a water bottle long ways starting with the cap. Chopping the 2x4 in half is one of my favorite spectator sports. Unfortunately, I’ll never see it on TV so I guess I’ll be back at the Blade Show next year.

What, you don’t think that it’s much of a sport? Okay, here, you try it: With a single stroke, cut a tennis ball into two pieces. Okay, now do it while the ball is rolling. How’s that working for you?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Blade Show: T plus One

We lined up and at the sound of the noon bell they threw the doors open and we rushed in. The land grab of 1889 had nothing on us.

First impressions – not great. Oh, the vendors were nice and the attendees interesting, but the show seemed flat to me. Maybe I’m just jaded.

Lots of Randalls, all at high prices. I understand that I can pay $400-$500 for a new one and wait 2.5 years for delivery or I can pay $700 (and up) now and walk off with one today. I’m not a collector so I tend to sooner or later use and resharpen my tools. I just can’t see those prices for a fixed blade factory knife.

We also found a lot of empty tables. That’s somewhat understandable. What’s sadder are the tables which sold out of everything before the show opened up. You thought the VIPs were first in? You forgot about the trading the night before in the hotel lobby and the selling between the dealers. If you absolutely must have the first access to the sellers, there’s only one answer: Buy a table.

We came across a German knife maker, Robert Kaufmann. This is his second trip over from Germany and each time he has sold a large fantasy knife. His most recent effort was a large take-apart fixed blade. Wow!

The sheath came apart, and the knife handle was pinned and wedged in place so it could be disassembled by hand. The handle held two matching chopsticks and each stick held a thin stiletto. My photo doesn’t do it justice. It was beautiful and a marvel to watch Robert slip the knife and sheath apart and then together.

Mantis has bought the design rights of a ringed knife from the father and son design team of Grant and Gavin Hawk. That Hawk family has some clever ideas. What does the knife look like?

Think of a donut with a hidden blade. The concept is way cool, but in all honesty, I’m not sure of the absolute function of the knife. Still, Mantis wants to rock the knife world and they are doing it.

I stopped by Benchmade to show them an auto of theirs I acquired recently. It’s a Mini-Reflex, but it’s different from the current production. The butterfly is labeled Bali-Song, not Benchmade. The blade is bead blasted not black-coated and the back of the blade says pre-production 1998.

Benchmade tells me they used ‘pre-production’ in place of ‘first production’ which they use now. The blasted blade was used in only a few small lots and Bali-Song is long gone. The knife is somewhat of a collectible, so I will fight the temptation to carry it.

I stopped at Busse/Swamp Rat/Scrap Yard. They didn’t have much on display and were taking orders. Honestly, I’m not impressed with the line-up of these knives. It’s the same as last year, just different handles.

If you want to see different styles of knives, go to TOPS. It’s a shopkeeper’s nightmare. So many different styles or SKUs, no matter what you stocked you won’t have what the customer wants. But if you need a specific shape, use or style of blade and thickness isn’t a factor, you’ll find something there.

I stopped to watch an engraver work on a knife. He used a sharp tool, a magnifying glass and a vice. From there he carefully cut and carved his design

by pressing hard sharp steel against another piece of metal. Five booths down another engraver worked with a stereomicroscope. A camera picked up the image for an overhead screen and he used power enhanced tools to engrave a piece of steel. Modern and more traditional just feet apart. The same contrast is found with hand sharpening on fine stones and powered continuous belts. You’ll find works of art at one table and crude semi-finished knives at another. Perhaps the best thing about the Blade Show is the contrast among people as well as the knives on display.