Sunday, October 28, 2012

OGCA at I-X Center

The Ohio Gun Collectors Association (OGCA) held their only meeting in the northern part of the state at the I-X Center in Cleveland.  It is a gun collectors meeting and not a gun show (even though it looks, talks and walks like a gun show), but I was disappointed by how few knives were present.  I was even more disappointed by the prices and lack of attendance.

The IX center is a cave–like building.  The impossibly high ceilings and open spaces need a lot of bodies to fill it.  There were 800+ tables but very little foot traffic.

One dealer had two Warther WWII fighting knives.  The blades were scratched, not unexpected as Mooney Warther made metal sheaths 

Wather fighting knives used metal chevrons to hold the blade in the sheath
Mooney Warther's fighting knife.  He stopped working on fighters the day peace broke out.

that used folded chevrons of metal to retain the knife.  I didn’t ask, but I’ve been told that these knives sell for over $9000 in mint condition.  I didn’t ask the dealer his price.

I stopped off at another dealer who had a nice selection of Randall knives.  He had a smallish one with a black micarta handle and a 3 to 4 inch blade.  I thought “Why not?” and asked the price.  He wanted $600.  I was thinking I’d spend $150-$200.  Oh well, if everyone could afford them, collectors would not be interested in them.

My knife table backed up to  LT Wright and his wife from Blind Horse Knives  They are both nice people and good gun show neighbors.

We had some interesting conversations about knife shows, sales and knives.  My wife ordered a nice flat grind knife from him and it will take a little time, but she (and I) think it will be worth it.  I’ll post pictures when it arrives.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bad IHOP Experience

The restaurant business is tough.  Always a new competitor, constantly changing tastes, and let’s not even talk about reliable employees.  

But enough is enough.  I had to walk out of the 24-hour IHOP at 1920 Harper Road, Beckley WV.  

The reason?

Poor service.  The manager got us seated right away.  It was 4:45 am.  We got coffee and menus right away.  They had a hostess whose job was to serve coffee and water.  She was great.  She also told us our server would be right out.

But 15 minutes later still no waitress.  I had to be in a car caravan by 6:15 AM to be escorted down to the landing zone at Bridge Day.  If I’m not there when the caravan starts down I will not be allowed down.  Since I feed the landing zone people it’s important I honor my commitment.  I’m not important, but feeding the landing zone crew is.  Without those volunteers, Bridge Day, the largest single-day money-making activity in the state of West Virginia might not be.  People come to see the BASE jumpers.  And they leave their money behind.

I know a lot of the patrons in this IHOP past 3 am are drunks trying to sober up over an endless cup of coffee.  I’ve been there a number of times over the years and I’ve seen it.  Service is slow.  I understand the servers don’t need to pay them attention.  That wasn’t the case Bridge Day morning.  There were only three tables occupied and everyone sounded sober to me.  That was a rarity at that place.  I was sure my wife and I would have no trouble meeting our deadline.

After 15 minutes of being ignored, I put 2 dollars on the table for coffee and left.  On the way out we explained to the manager, heard the waitress explain that she was in the back and nobody told her she had customers.  Despite the entreaties there was no reason to stay.  I didn’t hear the one thing that would have gotten us back into those seats.

It wasn’t about free food.  I always prefer service over free.

Promise to do better next time means nothing.  Next time doesn’t feed the cat today, does it?

What I needed to hear was the staff will rush your order through and get you out of here in record time.

So there you have it.  If you want to be ignored or treated like a drunk, go to the IHOP at 1920 Harper Rd in Beckley WV.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Around and about town

My father called me the other day from Florida with a question about math.  I suspected it might be about work or taxes.  Of course I’m flattered.  What child wouldn’t be when a parent asks for help?

“So,” he says, “how much dirt is in a hole 4 ft by 4ft by 4 ft?”  Now I’m thinking about footers and dry sumps and buying fill to plug a Florida sink hole.  Did someone cheat my dad by selling him 600 cubic feet of soil for a 64 cubic foot hole?

I tell him.  64 cubic feet.

“There is no dirt in a hole,” he responded.
So true.
Well, at least it wasn't this deep!

I’ve started ordering knives for upcoming shows.  I have a table at the Medina Knife gun show as well as a table at the upcoming OGCA show in Cleveland.  The Ohio Gun Collectors Association is one of the biggest gun shows in Ohio and our adjacent states.  It used to be in Cleveland at the IX Center, a big empty, hulking building used by General Motors to build bombers during WWII and later tanks.  That should tell you it’s big. 

I’m not sure who owns it now, but it was incorporated into Cleveland and of course Cleveland wanted nothing to do with guns, so good-bye to tax dollars, good-bye to local income from vendors, visitors who need to eat, sleep somewhere and buy gas.  I used to have a table there every show.

Well it’s back.  And frankly, the attendees have a little more pocket money and know that price and value are connected.   
This little guy  has a retail value of $40,000.  Yeah, that's a comma  not a decimal point.
They often buy a better knife.  So my dilemma is if I under-stock the expensive knives, I could run out.  If I over-stock expensive knives, I might not have a market for them anywhere else.

The opposite of expensive is cheap.  There is market for cheap, but... do you really want to be known a a cheap knife buyer.  Me?  I want to be known as a quality knife owner.
Purchasing knives is always a gamble.  Granted, if you’re big enough, what doesn’t sell in Ohio could be a hot item in Maine or Wyoming.  The problem is how expensive is it to get those knives out of your Ohio stores, ship somewhere else, and then sell ‘em.  

If you’re a little guy, well, all you can do is drop your price and hope the right person comes along.

I just placed an order and we’ll see if I guessed right. 

I just read that Servotronics has sold Queen Cutlery to Daniels Family Cutlery.  I understand DFC is in southern Ohio.  I had no idea that Queen was owned by another company, especially one that is a “distributor of fasteners and electro-mechanical hardware for aerospace, military, medical and commercial industries.”
I wish them Good Luck!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Medina Gun Show

I was at a knife gun show last weekend.  There has hasn’t been a show in this area for several months so I expected a good turnout of tire kickers and browsers. 

I used to do the same thing myself.  For a 5-spot I could look at stuff, ask questions, swap lies and have a good time.  I’d take a little extra cash in case I saw something I liked, but my little extra was 60 bucks.  I seldom found anything I couldn’t live without for under 60 bucks.  Under 500 bucks, there are a lot of once-in-a-lifetime deals in that range but beer budget doesn’t support champagne taste.

On the whole I enjoyed the show.  I sold a few knives and swapped a few stories. Bumped into a few-off the-wall conversations with customers.

“Got any full automatic knives?” he said.
“Yes, I just happen to have two.  One from Spyderco and one from HK.  Benchmade makes the HK line.”  I did my Vanna White imitation and gestured at the knives.  She is much better at that than I am.  He looked confused.  So I picked up the Spyderco and plugged on.

“I like the Spyderco because they put the safety next to the release button.”

He takes the knife opens it and said, “But you have to close this yourself!”

He grins and shows me a Microtech out-the-front and flicks it in and out.

“Very nice.”  I said.

“And your prices are too high.  I paid a lot less,” he gestured with the open knife blade, “for this than you’re asking for that.”  He points to my price on the Spyderco.

I try being nice, but I like the role of the curmudgeon too much to not play that part.

“That’s great.  Too bad you didn’t buy two of them when you had a chance and then you wouldn’t have to spend your time bothering me.”

Well, as Groucho Marx said, or maybe it was Karl, “Don’t just leave in a huff, leave in a huff and a half.”  And he did.

Later I see a fellow check my prices online with his smart phone.  That almost always means I won’t get the sale.

“Will you take $15 for that knife?”  Something about gun shows makes people think it’s a flea market and we will haggle like two Armenian rug merchants.  I’ve gotten used to it to some degree.

I look at the price.  I’m asking $24 for a nice Kershaw folder.  I typically mark my prices reasonably below MSRP.  I also pay sales tax out of that and of course I have to pay for it in the first place.  I don’t have a lot of room to wiggle.

“No sir, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

“Well, I can get it on Amazon for $17.”  (I checked later.  It’s a close-out and it’s a good price but you have to pay shipping and tax.)

“Well sir, in that case I think you should.”

He wandered back a little later and said, “Don’t you want to make a little money right now?  I want that knife, but I don’t want to wait two weeks for delivery."

Of course the answer was I couldn’t help him.  I also didn’t tell him that SIR stands for Simpering Imbecile Retard.  (No, it’s not politically correct, but it is true.)

If I was smarter I would have said something like:

“Yes I’d like to make a little money.  I’ll sell it you for the internet price of $17 but I have to charge you $7 shipping and handling, a buck for tax, grand total $25.  Oh, and you have to pick it up at my house in two weeks.  Or you could just pay me the $24 now and walk out owning it.”

That’s what I write this blog for.  To get it out of my system.  Someday, I’ll actually say that to some hairball.

I over heard this snippet of conversation at the show:
One man to another:
“I have to get home before the third quarter to protect my TV from my wife.”
“Oh, is she a football fan?”
“No.  She’s a Browns fan.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Be Prepared!

Living on the knife edge isn’t about doing crazy things or throwing yourself into the unknown willy-nilly.  It’s about taking manageable risks and experiencing everything life can offer.  The key phrase is manageable risk.  It’s different for everyone. 

Take Daniel Samuelsen.

ABC news reports he fell into a tunnel, near the mouth of Parleys Canyon and broke his leg during a hike on Wednesday morning and spent four days and three nights trapped in a drainage tunnel.

His cell phone died or was broken in the fall so no 911 call ("Excuse me operator, but I fell in a tunnel and broke a leg.  Could you send someone to rescue me?") to get the troops moving. 

He wasn’t able to attract the attention of any of the passers-by, but the acoustics of banging a rock inside a buried pipe can be daunting.

After four days without any food or water, he decided he would have to self-rescue if he wanted to survive.  The news media has confusing reports at this point in the saga.  He either made a splint and crawled out of the tunnel or got out and then splinted his leg.

Once he got out he was able to find someone who could help him.

Daniel made some mistakes and he may still lose his leg over them.  He didn’t apparently tell anyone who cared enough where he was going so they could look for him when he didn’t come home or into work.  His biggest mistake may have been to delay self-rescue!

He didn’t take any useful survival equipment, not a pack of crackers, not even the Yuppie Canteen, the plastic water bottle.

Okay, I don’t think you need to gear up with three days of rations and a three-season sleeping bag to walk through the local metro park, but depending on your cell phone to save your butt following an accident is stupid. 

Telling anyone you’d be back in three hours should have them thinking about what happened to you after a day has gone by.  Even leaving a note in the front windshield of your car about your hike could make a difference.  Surely, packing a shoulder bag, or stuffing a pocket with a mini-thermo blanket, carrying a button light and a power bar isn’t too much of anchor to Dullsville?  

I bet Daniel wishes he’d taken a whistle.  

I am reminded of what my co-worker Stan once said:  “Maybe your purpose on earth is to show someone what not to do.”

Don’t be that person.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Boxcutter Action

Seoul police report a little excitement at one of the subway stations Saturday night, 18 Aug 12.

Seems a fellow with a box cutter and insufficient supplies of cardboard went on a stabbing and slicing rampage at subway station.  The Akron Beacon Journal reports the incident occurred outside of Seoul, South Korea and lasted 10 minutes.  This one person cut and slashed 8 people before making his getaway.  None of the injuries were fatal or life threatening.  The police, it is reported, arrested a man running away from the station. 

I was first surprised.  I’m predisposed to think of Oriental countries as the home of martial arts, of empty-handed combat.  Was there nobody with training who could take that blade away in one, two and done?!

And then I remembered how deadly a blade can be.  Yes, even black belts will think twice about going up against a knife empty-handed.

We collect them, take pride in them and even feel some form of affection towards the knives in our collections.  Isn’t it odd?  They’re all killers’ tools.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Box cutters

I spent a good part of my high school experience stocking shelves for an independent grocery store.  I was in charge of filling the beer cooler, sorting the returned glass soda and beer bottles (Yes, we were recycling then, but we didn’t call it recycling.  We called it getting our deposit back.) and making sure the shelves had product on them.  The store provided a white apron, if we wanted it, a price stamp and a box cutter.  The status item among the stock boys was the box cutter.  
A box cutter is a simple tool consisting of a frame to hold a single edge safety razor and a flattened metal tube which held the frame shut and could be slid forward to protect you from the razor blade.
Even then, some product lines had sales reps whose job was to make sure their product was displayed properly and utilized all the shelf space available, especially if they could steal space from their competitor.

open boxcutter
A good score for a stock boy!
Sometimes if you were especially helpful or they felt expansive (a big dose of flattery helped) they would give you a box cutter with a product logo on one side.  

In those simpler times or at least to our simpler concerns, that was a high status item.  The store preferred you leave your box cutter at work so it would be available and not forgotten at home.  You never left your high status cutter at work.  Never!

At the last WRCA Dover knife show, I found an old box cutter from W.T. Rogers Co. in Madison Wis.  An internet search produced a copy of a lawsuit which indicated Rodgers made plastic office trays.  Later W.T. seems to have been absorbed by Newell Rubbermaid. 

closed boxcutter
W. T. Rodgers boxcutter.  I thought I would cut a finger off trying to get the razor blade in it.
The cutter is pretty simple, just a folded piece of aluminum metal with cutouts.  The razor slips into the frame by way of the cut outs and is slid out to cut.  This cutter gave this old stock boy the jitters.  I see that blade cracking and blood everywhere.  The cutter comes with a nice plastic case colored red, blood red.  I don’t think the color was chosen on purpose, but you need the case.  If you drop this cutter without the case into a pocket the blade will inch open and you’ll soon need new pants and band-aids.

 I got it open without cutting myself.  I'm sure you could cut cardboard and fingers with the same effort.

I also got another box cutter at Lincoln Electric from my former boss, Jeff.  It’s a nice one, made from heavy gauge metal.  It’s hard to think of product improvement for a box cutter, but this one has a little groove in the flattened handle and a bump on the frame which prevents the frame from being pulled out forward. 

A sturdy, well made box cutter.  It will give you years of cardboard cuttin' fun.  But it doesn't have the flash and jazz the Tropicana cutter has.
You use a cutter by dragging the blade backward through cardboard or plastic.  If the frame is too loose and the blade catches, the cutter could pull apart.  Very unprofessional.  And at Lincoln it means lost productivity while you reassemble your tools.  Bad Ju-Ju.

What’s a utility knife but a box cutter on steroids?  The industrial strength razor blade usually sits in a moveable frame which locks into several pre-determined positions.  The handle is usually stout enough to hold a few extra blades and can take a lot of hand pressure.  I’m constantly putting mine in a safe place.  So safe that I can’t find them.  So the last time I bought one I got a bright orange.  I can find this one.

utility knife open
Its bright orange and I can always find it, at least by the time the job is finished.
At one time it was promoted by several knife writers as the perfect camping knife.  Razor sharp, essentially a fixed blade, one handed operation, no need to resharpen - you change blades when dull; it was almost the perfect camping knife.  Except the blade is too small, too fragile, too hard to clean (you trim a raw steak and see how easy it is to clean!).  Just the wrong application for the tool. 

But it does share some of the attributes of a tactical knife.  One handed operation, the blade locks open, it’s very sharp and easy to hold and you can cut people with it.   

Is it any wonder the “Stanley” as the British papers call it, is vilified in the British press and provides grounds for arrest if the police find one on you.  Oh sure, you can argue that as a glazier or rug installer you need one, but you and your employer need to come before a judge and explain it.  And if the judge doesn’t think you should have two with different blades, or that he just doesn’t think you need one at all, well, too bad.

Of course in this labor-saving day we can’t spend time sliding the blade out of the handle.  That might take 1.5 seconds.  We could save 1/10 of a second with an assisted opening one.

open Husky assisted utility knife
My co-worker carries this one.  Let's see: assisted opening, locks open, has a pocket clip so it stays where you put it.  Hey!  It's Tactical!  If it was black it would be a tactical box opener.

The razor blade clips in and the opening is spring assisted.  For my hands the opening stud is in the wrong place.  It’s not a very smooth opener either.  Not as smooth as my Benchmade, or my Spyderco, but smoother than my Hartville utility knife.  Get caught with this little guy in England and you better be on the job opening boxes.  Come out of a pub with one and you might find SWAT (or the English equivalent -  SAS?) waiting for you.

Of course all of this starts with a razor blade.

Single edge safety razor blade.
In my more impressionable years I read of a fighting technique that used a safety razor blade with a match stick through the center hole.  You carried the blade between the fingers with the blade facing outwards from your palm.  The match stick prevented the blade from sliding backward when you slapped and cut your opponent.  I remember (don’t ask me how) this was reported as the favorite technique in the black quarters of New Orleans.

What a hairball idea! 
Of course I tried it right away.  I couldn’t keep the stick in place, the razor kept falling out and I was convinced I would be the only one cut with it. That was my introduction to “all knife writers are pathological liars.”   

That knowledge has served me well.