Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Glass City Knife Show

Toledo isn’t that far away.  I know several great restaurants and attractions so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice to skip the weekend yard work and put the chore list away and head out to the first annual Glass City Knife Show.

My only question at this time is “Will there be a second one?”

The show was great.  The empty aisles made for easy walking and the dealers were happy to talk with anyone who wasn’t a fellow vendor.

Saturday morning Glass City Knife Show
We arrived at the show at 9:30.  It opened at 9:00.

I stopped at Spartan Blades.  They make high-end fixed blades with the extreme needs of the military in mind.  I stopped to find out more about their unique CQB tool.  Here’s the inside story.

You don’t just send people to war without providing mission specific training.  One of the frequent observations in mock drills and actual urban combat is you’re going in through doors while other people are trying to come out the same door.  Following these collisions you may end up on the ground wrestling with someone who wants to kill you.  Firearms are not always useful as your buddies can’t shoot them off you and your weapon is often trapped between you and the bad guy.  You need a knife.

CQB Spartan blades
I stole this from the internet, but the actual CQB Tool and sheath is way cooler!
Special Forces were taking half a pair of scissors, grinding sharp edges and carrying them high near the midline of their vest. The large ring made for a useful no-slip grip with gloves.   

Spartan Blades recognized the need and developed their CQB Tool.  The blade is 2.8 inches of sharpened 154cm steel attached to an almost skeltonized handle with a ring.  Spartan tempers the blade to 57-58 HRC.  The Kydex sheath can be lashed to a molle vest with para cord.  

Experience taught the military high center line is the best place.  To stay in practice (you want stay sharp with life-saving skills), a trainer is available and it fits the sheath, so once you’ve gotten it in place you can just move the live blade out and the practice knife in.  Very convenient! 

So now you know about the knife inspired by broken scissors.

I have been looking for a neck knife for some time.  I wanted something sedate, but with a classy sheath.  I found what I was looking for at Lee Beene’s table.  Lee is from Mesa Arizona and has a wide line of interesting knives, canes and gun holsters. But I only had eyes for a polished bone handle knife in a manta ray sheath.
My neck knife from th eGlass City Knife Show
Polished horn handle (I believe) and manta ray sheath.

The 2-inch blade is a fine steel file that has been cut and sports a shallow hollow grind.  The handle is polished bone, but I think it’s actually horn.  It has a translucent gradient of color I’ve never seen in bone.   I’m a little disappointed there’s no maker mark on the knife, but you find your treasures where you find them.

You can find Lee’s website at www.leecutlery.com

Mikey Yurco had a table set up and it’s always fun to stop and talk with Mickey.  He’s a very innovative knife maker who brings his martial arts experience to his designs.  He’s not afraid to experiment and produces a wide variety of blades and sharply pointed objects.  

We had a nice discussion of knife carry modes for self-defense and the need to be able to access a knife with either hand.  It’s a difficult task to develop a high degree of dexterity in both hands.  As Mickey says “I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.” 

I especially like the knife Mickey designed for Boker.  It’s saddled with the clumsy name of 'Boker Plus Yurco.'  A trainer is available for this knife in either aluminum or red plastic.  If you get a trainer, get the red plastic.  The red and blue colors are associated with police and military practice gear.  More on this knife at a later date.

I found out Mickey is quite a fan of para cord and has several interesting knots and applications for them.  I especially enjoyed his Dragon knot.

Blind Horse was there.  They are making quite a splash for themselves.  My wife owns their orange-handled Colt knife she uses in the kitchen.  It’s very nice.  I have been noticing their combination leather and Kydex sheaths. 
Wide range of knives from Blind Horse Knives
I really like the combo sheath to the far right.  It's a leather/Kydex combination with a fire starting stick.
The blade doesn’t jiggle in the sheath or make noise when you draw the knife and the blade is protected from salty, corrosive sweat.  The sheath protects you from accidental punctures from slips, falls and improper knife reholstering. You can visit their website at www.blindhorseknives.com/index.htm

I don’t buy a lot of custom-made knives for myself.   The prices are too steep and there always seems to be a better use of the funds.  This show was different.  Phil Booth from Ithaca Michigan makes little folding knives he calls Twerps. 

Phil Booth's Twerps at Glass City Knife Show
Phil had two Twerps and I later bought the top one.  I liked the overall look of the top one better.  If the lower one had a finishing bar in the groove I would have bought that one instead.

The 2-inch blade is a flat grind with a high grind line and a false edge made from 154 CM stainless steel.  Phil uses thrust bearings to make the blade glide open and the knife has the customary snap when opening or closing the blade.  The almost lime green handle is G10 and he incorporated a moonglow spacer.  

Moonglow?   It’s a plastic with long life phosphorescence.  You’ve got to love phosphorescence.  It’s associated with "forbidden" energy state transitions.  It just sounds so science fiction!

Even without the moonglow, I had to have one.

Will there be a second Glass City show?  I hope so, but that's one tough question.   Stanahan Hall in Toledo is beautiful.   Crystal chandeliers illuminate the area, the restrooms are neat and clean and carpeting on the floor and the suspended ceiling keeps the noise down.  But….. 

Glass City Knife Show three hours later
We left around noon, and this is what attendance looked like.  The vendors still out numbered the customers.

A table was a $135 for half day Friday, all day Saturday and most of Sunday.  Most people have to sell a lot of knives to have a profit of $135 plus room and board for two nights and three days.  Advertising was bad, actually criminal.  There wasn’t a sign out front where traffic could see it.  The hall had a message board-like sign but the knife show had to share billing with several plays and other activities.  Parking was plentiful, but in back of the building, so no one knew anything was going on.

Steam punk knife at Glass City Knife show
A  Stream Punk knife.  I think these are great.  They remind me of the days of Super Science Fiction where engineers and scientists cobbled together machines and devices and won the day and the girl.  And if she didn't work out, they'd build a new one!!!
Fliers were passed out at several gun and knife shows as advertisement.  I got one at WRCA’s knifeshow in the spring.  I’m not sure this is the best bang for the advertising buck.  The dealers needed a lot of foot traffic.  I’ve read books on selling that indicate you’ll make one sale for every ten cold calls.  In knife land, despite the fact show attendees are almost pre-certified buyers, I think the ratio is one to twenty.  And that doesn’t count the attendees who are doing walk-about sales.

I was willing to travel the three hours it took to get there, but I believe a show like this needs to be supported by local traffic.  So the question becomes how do you attract local potential buyers?  It’s a question best answered by asking, “What other attractions are available locally so people can make a day of it?”

From a customer point of view, low attendance had some value.  I've been at shows where all the selling was between vendors.  Nobody makes any money, we just trade product.  Glass City dealers were skunked and sales were few and far between.  That makes them more willing to negotiate. 

I believe an aggressive buyer could have gotten some great deals.  Of course, I also believe what goes around comes around, so I’m careful not to make an a@@hole out of myself.  I may want buy from these guys again.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Your Granddad's Sports Drink

When I think of summers past I think of fireflies in bottles with holes punched in the lid so they can breath, running through the sprinkler and watermelon.  Now that I’m an adult, I’m charmed to see fireflies.  They are becoming rare with all the lawn care.  Kid are now taken to special camps to learn water polo or synchronized swimming to protect lawns and get them out of the house.  Things change.

But I haven’t lost interest in watermelon, especially with the new sweet seedless varieties.  I do miss the watermelon seed spitting contests, but my wife would never let me do that in my backyard with company.

I picked up a special knife for cutting watermelon.  It’s a very aggressive blade and cuts a melon open with ease.  I especially like the little watermelon seeds printed on the knife blade.  You can find these at many places for less than 10 bucks.

knife and watermelon
Ice cold watermelon and a knife.  What more could I want on a hot July afternoon?


The blade has a semi-chisel cut.  The knife is hollow ground on both sides but the cutting edge is a chisel grind.  This does several nice things for you.  The shoulder from the hollow grind forces the thick watermelon rind away from the cutting edge, so pushing on the knife just cleaves the melon and protects the edge.  Sawing with the knife makes watermelon juice, but it sure reduces a melon to slices quickly.
I make the first cut.  The knife works like a charm.

However the chisel grind on the left side of the blade tends to push the knife to the right when you’re cutting.  It might not be the optimal blade for watermelon decorative carving.  Next time I sharpen it, I’ll start a back grind on the right side to balance the cutting edge a little better.

The photo is from the second melon we had.  The first went to club activity we ran on the first really hot day of July.  After 6 hours in the sun we were cooked.  I’m here to tell you ice cold watermelon beats any sports drink for reviving your spirits and rehydrating!

Go watermelon!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A 3-way: TOPS vs Ka-Bar vs Shadow Tech

Just about any knife can cut string or trim a coupon out of the paper.  But let’s get down to specifics.  There are knives designed solely for self-defense.  Not knife dueling, like Tommy Lee Jones and Steven Seagal in “Under Siege,” but an honest to Gawd cut-them-off-of-me defense.

The three I have in mind are Ka-Bar’s TDI knife, Shadow Tech’s QRT and TOPS California Cobra.

The first thing you notice is they’re all fixed blades.  Despite what you think or practice, rolling around and fighting for your life makes it difficult, almost impossible, to produce a folder, get it open and use it.  It takes practice.  A lot of practice.  A fixed blade makes that aspect so much easier.

The TDI knife is well known.  John Benner designed a knife that police could carry behind their magazine pouch.  The curved shape lets you stab and slice with the wrist in the neutral position.  This is a powerful position as the cutting edge is parallel to the long bones of the arm.   
TDI knife with sheith
Ka Bar's TDI Knife
It’s made in Taiwan but it’s a Ka-Bar so you know the quality is built in.  The curve and oval handle keeps the blade centered in your hand and prevents you from sliding forward on the knife. 
The reverse grip has become popular. Weak-side carry, draw the knife with weak-side hand, slice your way free.
It’s never a good idea to cut yourself when the chips are on the line.  It also works very nicely in a reverse grip.  Just drag your fist over anything that’s not you and it is cut. 

I picked up Shadow Tech’s QRT at this year’s Blade Show.  

'shadow Tech QRT knife with sheith
Shadow Tech QRT.  That's Quick Response Tactics to you.

They were still smoothing out a few of the wrinkles but I recognized it’s coolness from a distance.  I only had to hold it to realize its potential.   

The Bowie style blade is almost perpendicular to the handle.  Again the wrist can stay in the neutral position and not be hyper-extended in the saber grip.  Hyper-extension of the wrist robs strength from the fingers. 

The oversize hole really gives you an almost unbreakable grip and the coarse jimping on the top provides plenty of grip surface for the thumb.  It’s another knife you won’t slide onto the blade if you stab into something hard. 

Trust me, this knife isn't going anywhere I don't want it to go.

Unfortunately the hole is too small for my hands in winter gloves.  There’s a little choil under the ring that can be utilized by the gloved index finger.  It’s right next to the blade so be careful and hope that between the glove and the handle jammed against the palm of your hand you will not get cut.  It’s a poor knife that only cuts one way, so a reverse grip can be utilized.  Again, just practice and learn to cut anything that’s not you.

TOPS California Cobra is a nasty little piece of work.  Oh, it’s quality and I’m sure it works just like they claim, but one look at it would be enough to discourage me.   
TOPS Cobra with sheith
TOPS Cobra.  It almost hurts you to look at it.
The knife has three useful edges.  Useful to you that is, not the target.  One is a sharpened pyramid at the bottom of the guard.  TOPS calls it the sting, the less lethal option. 
TOPS Cobra sting
Sharpened Steel Sting  Get the point?
I can imagine jabbing someone with it and convincing them they should let go and find someone else to hurt.  Both blades are referred to as the fang, or more lethal part of the knife.

Both blades?

Yes.  It’s a bent dagger.

The knife comes with an over-xeroxed booklet called the “Dirty Dozen and Then Some.”  The booklet shows you several self-defense techniques with the knife.  The normal grip for the Cobra is a saber grip and to bring the blades to play, you need some degree of hyper-extension. 

the normal grip put the thumb near the top blade.
Be careful where you move your thumb to!

The Cobra, like almost all knives including the TDI and the QRT, can be held in a reverse grip.  In the reverse grip your wrist is in the neutral position.

Does the hyper-extension wash the Cobra out?  Nope, but it’s a consideration.  Another consideration is the fact that your thumb can slide onto the top blade if you extend it too far.  On the plus side the handle has sufficient distance from the blade to accommodate heavy winter gloves.  

The cobra doesn’t look like a knife in its sheath, a feature it shares with the TDI knife.  I find this to be valuable asset when I wear one in public.

Let’s look at the box scores:

TDI Knife
California Cobra
QRT Quick Response Technique
Shadow Tech
Single edge
Single edge
Blade length
2.3 inches
Upper Blade 1.75 inches
2 inches with 1.75 cutting edge

Lower Blade 3.0 inches

Blade Thickness with Coating
0.12 inch
0.19 inch
0.2 inch
Blade type
Spear point
Double edged skinner (???)
Bowie shaped
Overall length
5.6 inches
6 inches
5 inches.
Steel and hardness
AUS 8   RC 57-59
1095   RC-58
1095 RC   57-58
Hard plastic

I left the price blank.  If you shop around, you should be able to find a deal on any of these three.
My last impressions.

These knives target (if you pardon my expression) the police market.  The uniform and gun make police a target of opportunity.  Criminals know there is a gun present and exactly where it is.  Holding a bad person at gunpoint, an officer could be jumped by anyone from the guy's mother to his baby sister.  These same problems may apply to the armed civilian.  Having a fixed blade could make all the difference between regaining control and being found dead on the side of the road.

We throw a blanket statement of “It’s a tool, just a tool,” over any knife we carry.  I think you might find it difficult to explain to a jury what kind of tool the Cobra is.  It looks so wicked and excessively punishing you better have good reasons you can verbally and convincingly express.

I like the raw look to the QRT.  I think the blade needs a little polishing.  There’s a balance between so sharp it has a brittle edge and being robustly dull.  I think my QRT was a little too robustly dull. I polished the edge a little and I’m quite happy with its cutting ability.

The TDI knife is the standard by which all weapon retention tools are measured against.  It’s well made and has a refined elegance.  It doesn’t look menacing, doesn’t look dangerous and it’s likely it will not be noticed until it’s performing its designed function.  It’s my first choice, but I have sentimental reasons to like it.