Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Other Side of the Knife Edge

I missed the Blade Show.

My mother passed away unexpectedly and we had to hightail it down to Florida.  It was a long two-day trip hampered by rain and traffic jams.

Every family does it differently.  Mom wanted to be cremated and returned to the Gulf.  She loved the ocean.

Cremation isn’t that easy.  The funeral parlor is required to wait 48 hours.  Concurrently, the doctor has 72 hours to sign the death certificate.  Some sign right away, others don’t.  Only after the death certificate arrives can they put Mom in the queue for cremation. 
Cremation is very popular in Florida.  It’s legal to dispose of the ashes off any pier, bridge, boat, shore or toilet.  No wonder.  With the high percentage of elderly, the high cost to transport bodies to family plots would be quite a handicap to many families and Florida would run out of land if everyone wanted to be buried there!

Because of the backlog, we had about a week between her death and the services.  My wife and I spent that time organizing and cleaning the kitchen and laundry room for my dad.  I knew my mother was a pack-rat, but this was ridiculous.  We found hundreds, really hundreds of clean, used bread bags stored in other clean used bread bags.  And why pen caps?  Not pens, but a shoebox full of mis-matched pen caps.  

Several years ago there was a science fiction-fantasy show about a missing room in a desert motel chain.  "Artifacts" from the room had strange powers and effects on people.  One of the more humorous ones was a bus ticket which deposited the holder on a road somewhere in Nebraska.  

My mother must have had the one that returns lost pen caps to her.

We scheduled a special trash pickip for all the trash bags
We scheduled a special trash pick-up for all the stuff Mom had packed away.  One exception was a defunct grass cutter which scavengers had already picked up.
We will not even begin to talk about all the open bars of soap she liberated from motel rooms when they traveled!

Father Pat should have presided over the small service my father wanted.  He was strangely unavailable and out of communication with us or the funeral home.  The rectory was closed, nobody was home, messages not returned.  A really different way to run a ministry.    At the last minute Farley Funeral Homes got a fill-in, Father Mike.
Father Mike was an older priest with curly white hair and the map of Ireland written on his face.  He said hello and the service started.

You read off a prayer sheet with little notations like (his/her) or (departed) inserted in the text.  The priest inserts the name or gender of the person to make the ceremony a little more personal.  After all, the normal “donation” is 100 bucks for less than a half hour of work.  That’s a rate of $400K per year if you can find steady work.  In Florida you can come pretty close.

We prayed for a while and he said, "...we pray for Debby."  Mom was June, but my sister Debby was handling a huge part of the burden of arrangements, finding accounts, overseeing so much, she needed a few prayers too, so I didn’t think too much about it.  After about the third time, we realized he had the wrong name……   We corrected him.

Funerals are for the living.  Part of the ceremony is to pray for the living.  So when he got to mentioning my father, “Jack”, we were a little jarred because his name is Frank. 

 We got that straightened out right away.

“Please!  My father’s name is Frank,”  I interrupted. 

My sister Debby, who apparently had been buried earlier in the ceremony, chimed in with “His name is Frank!”

So Father Mike looks at Dad and says “When I met you I called you Jack.  Why didn’t you correct me?”

Dad looked at him and said, “I didn’t want to be rude.” 

I suspect my father’s poor hearing didn’t let him hear correctly so he just assumed the priest had the right name.  I still think we should have given the priest a blood alcohol test.  I bet the level of the cooking sherry was down an inch or two back in the rectory!

The next day everyone wanted a small portion of Mom’s ashes.  This wasn’t unexpected so I searched earlier in the week for small metal containers.  My wife thought she knew where some were sold, but they didn’t have any.  My father's response was to start pulling out amber-colored prescription bottles he uses for small screws and nuts.  I said no to that.

We finally found small metal cans with a clear plastic window in the lid and a magnet on the bottom.  I’m told they are spice containers and the magnet helps them stick to other containers.  Spice containers?  I was out of ideas.   So I told everyone it was a window that Mom could see out of and they could stick it to their refrigerator.  The idea of having your mother’s ashes watching you from the kitchen refrigerator door was strangely comforting to my sisters.  I don’t know where they got this quirky outlook on life from, but my father chose an empty camera filter case to hold Mom’s ashes.  Go figure…..

My absent brother wants to have his own service with Dad, so I planned to leave some ashes in the original container, but my sister said no.  It wasn’t elegant enough.  She chose a thick ceramic container with a metal latch.  Okay….

So the rest of my mother’s ashes are in an old ceramic cheese jar.  Who are these people?

We went to a pier where Mom and Dad fished at, found a nice spot and mindful of the wind, we slipped her ashes into the Gulf and said good-bye.

Mom's finial resting place in the Gulf of Mexico
Mom's at rest in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was a strange and peaceful moment.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Blade Show and Counterfeit Spyderco

I’ll be attending and blogging from the Blade Show in Altanta next month. 

The Blade Show isn’t really a trade show like the SHOT Show.  Yes, large orders will be placed and taken by different vendors and company representatives, but it’s really a show for knife lovers.  They will also have the annual cutting contest.

It’s true.  Name an activity and somebody will make a contest about it.  I’m told that NASCAR has its roots in bootleggers outrunning the feds.  I don’t know if it’s true, but makes for a great story.

A tough lie.  It's in the rough and it looks partially buried.  Must have been soft ground.

I don’t know the roots of the Blade cutting contest, but contestants have a variety of objects that have to whacked off, cut through, bisected, and separated from the rest of it.  The knives are closely regulated.  I remember discussions with participants over the best place for a lanyard.  I remember several older winning designs that had points.  Most of the knives today have round noses because there is no stabbing event and the point was wasted knife.  They don’t look like the kind of knife you would carry for daily use.

The general comment seems to be that the cutting contest will result in the design of better steels, blade grinds and theories about how things are cut.  All of which will improve your knife.  Hmmm, that’s a lot to ask.

Golf ball cut in half at Blade cutting contest
Tougher than you think.  A golf ball cut with a single swing.

I worked for a tire company that used to claim what they learned from making essentially 500 miles of left hand turns with tires designed differently for each of the car's wheels produces a better passenger car tire.

That’s BS.  It produces advertisement and brand recognition.  So with that background in mind let’s just say I’m cynical about blade improvement from cutting golf balls and hacking through a 2x4.

cutting contest at blade show, gold ball cut in half, single stroke
I saw this ball cut in half with a single chop.  Impressive as hell!!!!  I wonder if the ball has a cut proof guarantee?

Still it’s amazing to watch!!!!

My friend bought this at a gun show.  The seller had a box of them and was selling them significantly below wholesale.  All the knives were without boxes.  It looks like one of Spyderco’s SLIPITS.  All the markings look good.

Suspect  spyderco knife  Slipit
Looks like a Spyderco SLIPIT.  For those cities and nations that think locking blades are TOO DANGEROUS  for the common man.
And the price!  It was just so good that he couldn’t resist.  The problem is the price was too good.  Is it or is it not a real Spyderco?

The blade is stamped with Spyderco CPMS30V  the steel type

Close up of knife with origin stamp.  Looks real
The flip side.  Still looks good to me?

I’m taking it to the Blade Show to ask Spyderco.

Stay tuned for more…………

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sheep Skinner

My friend Derrick has been working with knives and airguns for some time.  He has become quite expert at building, repairing and refinishing these big boy toys.  Frankly, more and more women are admitting to an interest in knives and what's not to love about a gun you can safely shoot in your basement all winter long.  This is an email he sent me and I got his permission to publish it on my blog.  I really enjoy his work and I wanted to share it with you.  
I'm having a little trouble with most of the images, but life is an adventure so here goes!!!

I've had this Russell sheep skinner blade for almost a year and finally found both the time and the inclination to move forward.  

Got it from Jantz Supply.  I liked the shape and found it vaguely reminiscent of the Grohmann pattern Canadian knives.   It's not like I want to skin a sheep.   As it comes, there's no actual point.  It's rounded and the point is completely unsharpened.  The rest of the blade was honed to shave.  I'm not sure how to describe the polish on the blade.  Crocus cloth maybe?  Kinda wavy.  I like it.  It's a high carbon steel.  Probably 1095.  After re-drilling a handle pin hole and filing 10 thumb notches in the back of the blade, it's gotta be in the upper 50's on the Rockwell hardness scale.  I reshaped the blade to create a point and slimmed down the handle.  Reshaping the handle resulted in the rear pin hole being off the centerline.  The new hole location was going to overlap the existing hole slightly, so I filled the hole with a tiny stub of steel rod, staked it in place, then ground it flush.  Spot annealed with a torch for the new hole and through drilled.

Since I still had some green canvas micarta from the Gerber project, I elected to just use it up.  If Woodcraft was closer...  Some areas of the tang still need some final polishing to remove all the tool marks.  Filing the thumb notches was a bitch.  I didn't bother to measure or mark them--just did it by eye with a needle file.  A diamond needle file would've been a luxury.  So, now it'll need a sheath.  I think the kydex is a no go this time around and I'd like to try to make a leather sheath.  Try to scrounge up some 8 oz. saddle leather locally.  Pat Catan's maybe?  Here's the pics of the knife.  I figure it's 90--95% finished.

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.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dover Knife Show: Part Two

The show?

It was fun.

The hard part is the set up.  The tables are in place when you arrive.  You start setting up, knowing you have a 6 foot table to fit 8 feet of stuff.  You haven’t met your neighbors yet; the customers haven’t arrived yet and soon the vendors will be trading among themselves.  Everyone is excited!

Is this my table?  No!  Well, where the-shut-the-front-door is it?
 Every kind of knife can be found here.  From the used and abused collectibles…

 the ultra high-end knives made by Master Bladesmiths. 

Interested?  Email

The WRCA club staffs the administrative duties and they go out of their way to help both the vendors and customers.
You say the missing dog has 3 legs, blind in one eye, missing an ear and answers to "Lucky"?

I found a great new knife made by Larry Withrow from Charleston, WV.  Both his leather work and forged blades are incredible.

The steel is a high carbon 1095 San Mai with a Desert Ironwood handle.  It just caught my eye and I was quick enough to beat out several other buyers. Lady luck smiled on me.

The blade is so slightly hollow ground it takes a straight edge to see it.  Larry tells me the knives are in demand with hunters in the Texarkana region.

Author, new knife and his table.  I've got two folders, one clipped in each pocket.  How can anyone have enough knives?

One of my favorite people is Joe Kinches, who is the only Ohio Flint Whisperer in existence.  He must be.  What he coaxes out of the flint, which is a flawed, brittle rock, is amazing.

Contact Joe at or go to his website

His display won Best Display 2012.   I like his work and I think it was well deserved.

Here’s a few pictures of the show.

Sunday mid-morning: plenty of room to shop

What can I say?  The vendors had plenty of time to talk with the customers.

No matter what your taste, collectible knives were available.  Mankind's oldest and perhaps first tool, how you have changed and still stayed the same.
My Favorite Table.   I'd never be embarrassed to be found with these in my pockets.

Two custom knife makers checking out the other vendors

 I’m sorry you missed the show.  The vendors are friendly, helpful and love talking about knives.  You would have enjoyed it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Dover Knife Show - 2012 Edition

So, how was the Dover Knife Show?
It depends on your definition of success.  My answer is colored by the poor sales most of the vendors (and I) had.  One insider told me the head count for Saturday was 160.  That means the ratio of potential buyers to people behind the tables was anywhere from 2 to 4.  Potential sales depend a lot of foot traffic and a high ratio like 20-50.

It also means on Saturday the most the club could make in gate receipts was $800.  Not so hot considering the work that goes into organizing.

Sunday was worse.  The majority of sales were between vendors.  It’s nice to sell, but it’s kind of like kissing your sister.  It’s a kiss but you’re not getting anywhere.

I didn’t hear of any of the Warther family showing up either and that was a disappointment.  Especially considering it’s the Dale Warther Memorial Knife Show.  It begs the question, is Warther Knife a spent force in the knife community?

Classic Warther Folders No Longer Made
One insider told me that not only has production of Mooney Warther’s fighting knife stopped (Mooney stopped at the end of WWII, but nobody picked it up after he died), but so has production of folders.  There doesn’t seem to be any interest in new steels or increasing the number of knife lines.

“Maybe when the kids graduate from college…” was the most optimistic statement I could find in regard to production or changes.  Maybe.  And just maybe the company will just be treated as a cash cow, you know, leave it alone and milk it.

It’s easy to bitch but difficult to come up with solutions but I’ll try.
It seem that increased foot traffic comes from advertising.  This could be expensive, but there are some things to try:

Put a sign in front of the armory a week before the show.  If that’s prohibited I’d stick a sign in the front lawn the day of the show and plead ignorance if confronted. 

Create a Facebook presence for both WRCA and the show.  I’m old, but social media seems to be the drug of choice of the younger set. 

Get on community calendars on the different medias.  I’d stress the collector and art aspects of knife collecting and pitch it as a public service.

Ask the vendors to advertise their presence at our show on their websites, blogs, tweets and Facebook.  After all, it’s to their advantage to get their fans out to see them.  And what about e-clubs?  All those forums and clubs that have no physical reality other than people on their end of the internet.  Surely we can generate some interest.

I’d collect e-mail addresses from everyone by having free door prizes drawn at the next WRCA meeting, winners to be notified by e-mail.  I’d get the door prizes from the vendors and use the e-mail addresses to blast out updates and reminders about the next show.

The thing to remember is no one person has to be in charge of everything.  Just ask someone to do one small thing like create a Facebook page for the show and help the officers update it.

I bet there are a lot of ideas I haven’t thought of.  I also bet some will work better than we suspect.

Enough of that, what was the show like?

To be continued!!!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

CRKT Box Scores, a Hit and a Miss......

I just received two new knives from Columbia River Knife and Tool and I have mixed feelings about them.

I was very excited about the Fire Spark. 
CRKT's Assisted Opening Fire Spark

It’s a new addition to their black box professional line.  (Gee, I wonder who they are copying.)  I really like the way the knife looks.  Spear point blade with false edge, black blade and outburst opening system which opens the knife with a little thumb pressure.  Very nice indeed.   

Has both the LAWKS and Fire Safe systems.  A nice combination of features.

But then add the Lake and Walker Knife Safety System (LAWKS) which prevents the open knife from unlocking during use and the knife should be a world beater.  The metal handle has a nice G10 insert and is tapped to accept the clip in all four locations, tip up or down and left and right.  I talked to CRKT years ago about doing that on their knives and was stonewalled.  I’m glad to see the change. 

And it's tapped to move the clip to any position.
All and all, it’s a good looking knife.

Except it doesn’t open very well.  On my knife, the blade only opens part way.  No, I’m not hampering it with my fingers and I’m giving it enough of an opening shove.  I also don’t like the way the spring rattles in the knife when it’s open.  That’s preferred to rattling when closed, but still knives shouldn’t rattle.

What really has me spooked is it doesn’t match the images on the CRKT website.  Maybe the images are from prototypes.  Maybe there’s been a design change.  Maybe, maybe and maybe….

Nope, it’s going back!

I also got an M21-02GL.  It’s a true left-handed knife.  
It's not just for Lefties, but it's great for them!

With most liner lock knives your right hand thumb pushes the liner lock to the unlocked position and you close the blade.  For lefties their thumb must pull the liner lock over.  That’s not easy, but it’s not impossible; it just takes a little more practice.  This knife has it reversed.  The left thumb pushes it to the unlocked position.
Photoshop sucks at annotating, but it's a left liner lock.

The Auto-LAWKS is located on the left side so the left thumb doesn’t accidentally bump it off as you move the knife around in your grip.  It’s also easier to manipulate with your index finger when closing.

Like all the M16/M21 knives it has the flipper that enables you to open the knife so fast, so easy and efficiently you’ll wonder what’s all the hubbub about automatic knives.  The G-10 scales are textured and give you great grip.  But the knife is set up for only tip down carry.  Bummer.  I guess they haven’t gotten the message after all.

Okay, I’m not a lefty.  My sister is and I remember the bad old days when everyone forced you to be a righty.  She had it pretty hard in school and the world doesn’t make too many products for southpaws.  So I’m very happy to see the possibility of a line of real left-handed knives.  

CRKT's Left-Handed M21 next to my right handed Kasper

It was funny, but not fun, to watch right-handed people try to use this knife.  I practice with my left hand a lot.  I struggled a little.  Maybe the best reason to own this knife is to remind us of tolerance for people who have difficulty doing a task we find easy to master.

If you carry a knife in the left pocket, you might want to check it out.