Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Every Knife has a Story

Before I get too far: 

Happy New Year! 

May the New Year find you healthy and happy.  If you have those two you are truly wealthy.

Now, let’s jump into knife stories.

I typically carry folders.

That’s not to say I don’t like fixed blades.  I do.  It's just in the urban environment most fixed blades tend to alarm the rabbit people.  I like to keep a low profile.  If there is trouble I want to slip away before it gets to me, so not being on the forefront of anyone’s cerebrum is good.

In my collection, and I’ve been known to carry and use them, are three of my favorite fixed blades.

left to right, S&W HRT, Gerber mk I and my Woo
From left to right: S&W's HRT, the Gerber MKI and Livesay's Woo

The first is the classic Gerber MK I, a double-edged dagger.  Gerber introduced this fighting knife in 1976, but had to call it a survival knife so they could sell it on military bases.  Wouldn’t want those men going overseas to fight to own a fighting knife.  Who knows, maybe fightin’ knife sounds un-American?

Mine’s a black blade.  I purchased it sometime after 1984.  The blade is described as a high carbon surgical steel with a Rockwell C hardness of 58.  Unfortunately Gerber didn’t keep track of the serial number as well as they did with the MK II.

I’ve got to admit as a camping or survival knife, it’s the pits.  Every time I carry it I have to remember not to push on the back of the blade with my palm to get extra force on it.  

I bought the S andW HRT at the famed Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot.  The shoot is just one giant excuse to spend money.  (I loved every moment there!)  Oh, and how you can spend it.  At the time $50 would let you shoot 50 rounds of .50 cal BMG ammo from a machine gun.  You didn’t even get to keep the fired brass.  So I bought a knife.  Cheaper, and I walked away with it. 

It looks a little like Gerber’s Guardian, but to avoid any legal complications the 3.5 inch dagger-like blade is sharpened only on one side.  The other side is tapered to a nice rounded edge.  It wouldn’t take much to sharpen that edge, but the blade’s thinness would leave very little metal behind the point.  I’d think twice about sharpening the false edge.

The blade locks in a molded plastic sheath that secures the knife upside down.  Unfortunately the belt clip isn’t reversible or removable.  At least not removable more than once.  You can cut it off and then lash the sheath anywhere you want.  I’d keep the belt clip.  It’s nice to have options.

Steel? Hardness? Quality?  Beats me.  It’s made by Taylor Cutlery
in China and it’s called the HRT.  Do you really think that after the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team is outfitted with $2000 handguns the agents then carry $14 knives?  If so, please contact me.  I have a option on an uranium mine I want to talk to you about.

Still I like its looks, and 3.5 inches of sharp steel can get me in more trouble I would want.

The last is my Newt Livesay Woo. 

It’s a bare bones 7.5-inch long tanto neck knife made from 1095 steel.  The blade is a 3.25-inch high chisel grind that makes for easy care and resharpening.  

Once upon a time there was a cable show called SOF or something like that.  Almost every program featured a scene with a main character needing his neck knife, his Newt Livesay neck knife. Needless to say, they were HOT! with the civilian tactical crowd.

I use to sell the Woo along with two other neck knives from him.  The initial order was under $500 and that made you an authorized dealer.

Now, Newt was the knife maker, but his daughter was the business manager.  After the cable show was terminated with extreme prejudice, sales of these knives cooled off.  So I thought I’d carry a few of his other fixed blades.  After all, I’d been an authorized dealer for at least two years and bought a lot of those knives.  

Not so fast college boy….The daughter insisted I do another buy-in of $1000 to be an authorized dealer.  That was the end of that.
Despite having a noose with a breaking strength of 500 pounds around my neck making me nervous, I liked the idea of a bare bones knife tucked safely away under my shirt.  The knife was lightly parkerized to resisted rust.   The straight-edge tanto is easy to sharpen.  It’s a nice knife.  It reminds me of the knife the government agent carried in “Death of a Citizen.”  

(PS: Take a look at the price on that paperback: 25 cents...!)

Oh yeah, she lasted about 3 paragraphs before Matt Helm found her dead.  I’m going to think on that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

BHK's Maverick Colt

Christmas arrived a few days early for my wife.  She asked L.T. Wright from Blind Horse Knives to make her a little kitchen knife. 

Blind horse logo next to blaze orange handle
I really like the way they worked BHK into a logo of a horse.  It’s a little bit of pizzazz!

My wife and I found ourselves sitting back to back with L.T. and his wife at the OGCA show in Cleveland and business was slow.  Of course this meant we spent a lot of time talking and handling the knives on both of our tables.  My wife really fell for BHK’s short bladed Maverick Colt.  The blade was right, the handle length right and the balance was right.  It should have been an easy sale.  But she wanted it in blaze orange!

shows blind horse knife with the kydex sheath
I like the tight, compact look to this sheath.  The knife fits well and feels secure. 

Why blaze orange?  We like get-away weekends in state park cabins, but the kitchen cutlery at most public cabins is from hunger.  Dull, bent blades and broken handles are the unfortunate reality of most state park kitchens.  Long ago we learned to take can-openers, sharp knives, ladles and serving spoons with us.  Oh, sure we could make do, but I never want a get-away weekend to turn into survival camp.  A sharp knife and a serving spoon isn’t that much of a luxury.

To make sure we leave with the same number of knives we arrived with, my wife realized that colored handles made for an easy spot check.  After packing up for the trip home, a quick look in the kitchen drawers told you if you missed anything.

L.T. was more than happy to make one for her.  We opted for a Kydex sheath.  I like the protection it gives a knife blade and a belt sheath clip because it gives you options.  Because L.T. knew it would be a kitchen knife he made the blade from stainless steel.

Knife in kydex sheith
The orange handle makes it easy to find.  My wife and I think it's a winner!

The blade is flat ground and is almost 2 ¾ inches long.  The G-10 handle is just over 3 ½ inches long and is decorated with 3 two-tone metal pins he calls fisheyes.  The knife weighs in at 80 grams or 2.8 ounces.   It’s a nice knife, well made and sharp.  I like a little more weight in the blade, but it isn’t my knife.  My wife, who knows what she wants, likes it and I’m overjoyed to have a Blind Horse in the house!

Blind Horse Knives has made a name for themselves with quality knives and reasonable prices.  To no surprise a cadre of followers has formed.  BHK is very astute in utilizing the internet and social media.  And while I hope they aren’t insulted, their gains come from hard work, quality and an eye for functional knives and not their internet savvy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

FreeHand by Meyerco

I just got a FreeHand.  That’s different from a glad hand or a hand out.  My FreeHand is a small pocket knife designed by Blackie Collins.

I met Walter Wells Collins, also known as Blackie, at the first SHOT Show I attended.  I stopped by the Meyerco booth and they introduced him.  He was gracious, warm and put up with me asking questions and posing for photos.  He had a true love of knives and knife making.  

As most of you know he died when he crashed his Triumph motorcycle July 20, 2011.  He was 71 years old.

I recently decided I needed wanted a Collins so I bought a FreeHand.  Blackie Collins designed the knife exclusively for Meyerco and I’ve always liked its looks.  The button release, matte silver blade and round silver medallion containing a BC set in shiny black handles has always appealed to me.

Blackie Collin's FreeHand knife
It could be the right size to carry just about anywhere you go.

The 2.5-inch blade is made from 154CM steel and is housed in a glass filled nylon 3.5 inch handle.  A button releases the blade and your index finger can flick the blade out. 

Yes, it took a little practice, but not much.

One handed opening of Meyerco's FreeHand
With a little practice you can open the knife with one continuous finger pull or walk it open with several shorter pulls.

 Push the button again and you can close the blade with your index finger or simply wipe it closed.

The blade is too light for a wrist flip to open the knife, but I’ve read that people are converting these to auto-knives with a little work.  I wasn’t able to find a spring kit or video but I really didn’t look that hard.  I did find you can take the clip off.  The knife is set up to be carried tip down and the knife handle doesn’t look like you can reverse it.  Without the clip you can drop it in your pocket and go about your business.  Not every knife has to be a hide-in-dark-shadows-tactical knife.

I’m not going to change this little guy.  I just want to keep the knife as it is to remember Blackie Collins.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Case Knives and the Fruit Tester

I opened the newspaper the other day to see what I had missed on Black Friday other than voluntarily lining up in frigid weather to buying things I don’t need.  After perusing the newspaper ads I discovered I hadn’t missed anything.

I did however note that our local outdoor store had Case knives on sale.  I also noticed that several of the knives had pocket clips and a thumb stud.  I couldn’t tell from the pictures, but it didn’t look like the knives locked open.  I searched the Case website, and yes, they do have lockable knives with pocket clips!  But only a few.

So why not more?  I always knew not every knife needs to be a tactical knife, but an article on infobarrel suggested that a tactical knife was originally any knife that was issued by the military for use as a weapon and as a tool.  Later marketing took the idea and hasn’t stopped running with it yet. 

Case introduced tactical knives several years ago at the SHOT Show.   I always considered Case a stick-in-the-mud company, but the announcement made me reconsider.  Several years later, I’m still not seeing tactical knives in catalogs or knife press.  The Case website doesn’t find “Tactical” during a knife search.

I guess they don’t feel it’s a market they want part of.  Of course I still think Case is really a collector company like the Franklin Mint.  With all the SKUs Case carries, it would be impossible very difficult to have all the representative knives in any one store.

Credit where credit is due:  Their date system is a stroke of genius for keeping the collectors interested and driving up prices due to scarcity.

I recently picked up a long skinny non-locking folder.  Yes I know, what am I doing with a friction lock knife?

fruit testing knife on target background
I've had a few misses, but I think this knife from Gurrentz International Corporation (it's a meat company!) is a hit.

The truth?  Well, it looks like one my father used to keep in his fishing tackle box.  He said it was a sausage testing knife and the cream colored handle and long skinny silver blade fascinated me.  It looked too sharp for me to use without cutting off a leg or some other equally important body part.

I later learned the knife was also called a fruit testing knife.  The long slender blade always seemed too fragile to cut open a cantaloupe or watermelon.  A peach yes, a strawberry of course, but why did that type of knife need such a long blade for such small fruit?  But cutting open the casing to inspect the grind and mixture on a length of sausage, I think that knife would shine at that. 

Maybe fruit tester had higher job status than sausage tester.

Anyway, the knife went missing years ago and my father has no idea where or when is disappeared.  When I saw the knife on the seller’s table it reminded me of fishing for bluegills with Dad.  I have a picture I took of him standing on a dock holding a walleye he caught in Canada.  He was a little younger than I am now when I took it.  That knife takes me back to standing there with my camera snapping the photo.  I’m glad to have that knife.

This knife? The blade is stamped stainless (good for handling fruit or raw meat) and is made by the Colonial knife company.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Post-Obama Gun and Knife Show

I expected the first gun show after the election to be a crazy place.  I’ve heard stories of people rushing in to buy ammo with two-wheel trucks following the first election of President Obama.

Heck, I’ve heard of people buying ammo for guns they don’t have.  I guess they anticipated either all ammo sales would dry up and they could find the right gun later or they were already planning to buy the appropriate gun.  Who knows?  Maybe they planned on using it as trading wampum following the zombie apocalypse.  

I didn’t see the frenzy this time.  Either people are still overstocked from the pre-election feeding frenzy or this election hasn’t alarmed them as much.

What I did see was a lot of was knife sales.  Used, new or collector, they were all there.  I seldom buy used knives.  For one, most people want back what they paid for it.  I can’t do that.  Many of my sales are impulse buys.  It’s a new knife; you haven’t seen it before and it beckons to you.  Unlike Ulysses, the songs of the Sirens prove too much and a purchase is made.  Well, it’s not quite that pleasant but impulse buys are a big part of my business.

Older knives almost always need to be marked down to sell.  It may surprise you, but I am in business to make a profit.  If I pay you top dollar, I can’t sell the knife.

Collectables are another story.  Many of them are too valuable, or rather too expensive to buy at “market price.”  I can’t buy your collectable at market price if I want to make some small but fair profit.   

collectable randall knife
The collectable Randall knife

You bought it for the pride of ownership, for the status, for the physical appeal and maybe for the investment.  I have to speculate the market will remain hard long enough for me to get my money out of it. 

I did run into one fellow who wanted to sell a knife, so he claimed, made by Kershaw.  It was some sort of “collectable” but he left the knife at home.  Instead he brought a crappy picture of the knife which he displayed on a smart phone screen.

Not interested – Pass!

I also had a person ask me why Benchmades are so expensive.  I’m not sure how to answer that.  The big question is why do things cost what they do?

That’s a cosmic question.  It deals with how we value things and the sliding scale we use to trade hours of our work for hours of someone else’s work.  Honestly, in the face of that question I’m often at a loss for words.  Can I explain our economic model to him?  I don’t fully understand it myself and I’m in it, like most of you. 

I could just ask him if he’s filled his gas tank recently.  I think I’ll ask next time how did you get here from the 1950s?  Please don’t park your time machine near my car, ‘cause it always resets my radio stations.

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  www.blindhorseknives.com.  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.