Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Different as Night and Day

I had a chance to pick up two knives recently.  They are as different as you can get.

I have a friend who is getting up in years.  He’s had an interesting life, but remember, interesting isn’t always good.  He is from that generation of Americans that built bridges, marched across France to kick Hitler in the nuts and saw his children and friends beat him to the Pearly Gates.  Two years ago he organized a program to send knives to our men and women fighting in the Middle East.  I think for an old guy he’s pretty cool.

Despite everything going on in his life he still buys a knife from me once in a while.  He has often remarked he needs to sell his collection because there isn’t anyone to leave it to.  I asked him to let me know when it was time.  I wanted to buy a knife he no longer needed to remember him by.  Well he dropped one off.

Queen red bone trapper
It's a nice friction folder.  I like the long blade, red bone handle and the silver shield.  That shield shape always reminds me of  keystones.

It’s a nice Queen Cutlery single blade trapper (041811) in red jigged bone.  He even had the original box.  I’m very happy to have it.

Queen is an interesting company. According to the 12th Edition of Collector Knives by C. Houston Price, Queen Cutlery was a sub rosa company at Schatt & Morgan.  Following WWI, six senior foremen started pocketing knife components during the day.  At night they assembled them and sold them under the name Queen City Cutlery.  Schatt & Morgan, who by the 1920s was having financial problems, realized they were a house divided and quickly fired the six foremen. 

Brass liners on queen 041811 trapper
I'm not a huge fan of fiction folders, but I like the way this one is made with the brass liners. Everything is flush, tightly fitted and deep red jigged bone is spectacular.

The loss of these six experienced men was like submerging a submarine and leaving the hatches open.  In 1931-32 the six bought the S&M building and equipment and moved into their old workplace, Schatt & Morgan was out of business.  It’s like Jonah swallowing the whale! 

Queen still makes knives in the old factory.  If you like the more classic lines of friction folders, check out Queen Cutlery.

I wasn’t able to find out much about this knife.  Fortunately Queen’s historian, Mr. Dave Clark, (http://www.queencutlery.com/Queen_Historian.html) was able to help me out.  

The tang stamp shows a 92 indicating it was made in1992
The Queen tang stamp has changed over the years making the knives more collectible.  The addition of 92 shows it was made in 1992.  Thank you Mr. Clark!

The 92 stamped into the tang indicates it was made in 1992 and since 1980, Queen has been using 440A stainless steel.  Mr. Clark believes the Rockwell value is around 56-57.  While softer than many blades on the market, it’s not a bad value for an everyday friction folder.

I was surprised about the 440A stainless.  I had expected a 1095 carbon steel.  The truth is 440A is a low cost stain-resistant steel with excellent corrosion resistance.  The carbon level is only 0.65-0.75 % but when hardened properly, it will give you good, solid everyday performance.  Can’t ask for much more in a pocket knife, can you?  And frankly, few of us need ultimate, life-or-death performance from our knives.

The other knife is a NIB Heiho from CRKT.  I bought it from a stranger walking the last knife gun show who had a very good price on it.  It’s another knife I really like.

CRKT Heiho Tactical folder by James Williams
I'm more comfortable with blades that lock open.  I just think they are simply safer!
The Heiho is a James William design aimed at the tactical office worker.  With the manual LAWKS system, the folder is billed as a “virtual fixed blade.”  

The 8Cr14MoV stainless blade is one of the newer Chinese steels that is well received in the steel community. The worst I could find about it was “a steel used by quality knife companies in their budget lines.”  It’s a little insulting, but accurate.  
the back of CRKT Heiho Tactical folder
The clip is mounted so the knife sits deep in your pocket.  I prefer the tip up especially with an assisted-opener.  I wear these things with the blade pressed tight against the back of the pocket where it can't open.

The knife utilizes a coin opener and is assisted-opening.  The blade has a Rockwell hardness of 58-59.

The polished G10 handle has a left/right reversible clip and the knife is carried in my favorite mode, tip up.  Engraved in the G10 are two Kanji style characters.  Oriental characters, in general, always worry me. 

I assume they are Japanese.  I assume they don’t mean, “when two men love each other, you are the one who catches.”  Of course we all know how to break out ass-u-me.

To my surprise the CRKT catalog does not explain the meaning of the characters.  

Are these Japanese figures engraved in the CRKT Heiho Tactical folder?
While I really like the way the fabric shows through the G-10, the Kanji characters worry me.  Could they mean 'fried rice' or something more sinister?

At this point I’m hoping they stand for something innocent like 'fried rice.'  Other websites indicate the 1st character means soldier or military (hei) while the 2nd pertains to technique or strategy (ho).  

Combined, they signify heiho, or method of the warrior.  That’s much better than fried rice.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Trick or Treat

Halloween has arrived and departed.  It’s one of the holidays I greatly relish because it has no significance.  It’s not like Easter/Passover or New Year’s or Independence Day.  All those holidays have deeper and more meaningful significance.  Halloween, with its rich traditions of pagan rituals, celebratory bonfires, the opening of graves so the dead can walk in the world of the living, is so out of place in the modern world.  Halloween now has become an excuse to dress up and extort candy from the neighbors.

And I love it.

For one, it’s acceptable to visit with the kids who come to your door demanding a candy tribute. That’s not anything you can do at the mall or a city playground without looking for trouble.  You can joke with strangers who walk up your driveway and laugh with them about their children. 

The older kids, whose costumes consist of their ordinary clothes and a plastic bag, smirk when they get their candy.  They think they are putting one over on you.  Little do they know we’re wise to them and did the same thing 50 (!) years ago.  The joke's on them if they think they’ve discovered something original.

It was suggested I should dress in a ghillie suit with a sniper rifle (toy, of course) to hand out candy. 


That way when I get the challenge “Trick or treat!” I could choose trick and offer to give them a head start with the advice to zig-zag. That seems a little too aggressive and probably not scary to kids raised on handsome, shirtless vampires.

Man in ghillie suit hidden in weeds
I don't know about you, but I find this pretty scary!!

Best of all, I get to carve a jack-o-lantern.  I described my idea to my wife and got the old, “He’s just flapping his gums again.”  I don’t care.  We joke about pumpkin guts and draw sketches on the newspaper work surface of the eyes we want  before we select one.  It doesn’t matter how little carving talent you have, the pumpkins always seem to turn out properly spooky.

This year I turned to my S&W HRT Team knife (trust me, no HTR uses this knife) to insure my jack-o-lantern turned out right.  I didn’t carve with it.  I stuck it in its ear.  Anyone who asked about the knife, I told ‘em “Yeah, that’s my team knife.  I won’t need it until later tonight so I thought I‘d get a little use out of now.”  Most of them left wondering about that.  Nobody returned their candy, so I guess I didn’t scare anyone too much.

HRT Knife in pumpkin ear
Ouch!  That's going to leave a mark.
My pumpkin carving is highly dependent on three things: a black magic marker that can be scrubbed off with Goo Gone, a stout pewter sugar scoop my wife doesn’t use for sugar, and her father’s Marttiini fish knife. 

Marttini knife on catalog
There's nothing like a thin blade for cutting a face into a pumpkin.

I’ve tried other cutting implements, including a potato peeler and chain saw.  The peeler worked so–so, the chain saw not at all.  It was, however, remarkably therapeutic and satisfying to use the chain saw.  I recommend it to any of you after a tough day at work.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I’ve been working on building a Kydex sheath for my little South African dagger.  I’m using two different colors to make a black and blue sheath. It isn’t that I like the colors, it’s the ease of molding I like.  The black Kydex is 0.06 inch thick and the blue checks in at 0.04 inch.  That small difference really lets the blue Kydex mold detail so much better.

Having played with these materials in the past I decided to mold the belt loop as a continuous part of the sheath.  I cut out a piece of each to the same width, giving myself a lot of extra room.  I made the black backing four inches longer to be folded later into the loop.  Surely that’s enough I thought.  The belt loop template was fabricated by cutting thin Masonite into strips 1.75 inches wide and 3 inches long.

I wanted a drain hole molded in the Kydex and I got the idea of cutting a groove down the center of a small dowel rod and taping it over the blade tip on the central axis to the blade.  It also occurred to me it would create a reference mark when I assembled the two sides of the sheath.  It worked well for those purposes.   

I taped the edges with blue painter’s masking tape and started molding.  The thinner blue Kydex took nice sharp impressions of the little dagger. The thicker black material provided a nice flat back with just a hint of the knife impression.

The Kydex pieces weren’t perfectly matched, but I had cut them oversized so I was able to line up the two halves.  Between the heat gun and the toaster oven I was able to wrap the excess Kydex around the Masonite without affecting the previous molding.  I used a couple of pop rivets and washers in the corners of the excess Kydex to align the two halves for drilling.  I wanted to use small black 0.3 inch eyelets to fasten the two sheets together.  They were the right diameter for the size of the sheath.

Everything went well until I was drilling my last hole.  The drill bit grabbed the Kydex, ripped it out of my hand and boogered the hole.  The eyelets would no longer fit.

Well.  I just decided to pretend I had that planned and used a Chicago screw and o-ring as a compression screw to alter the sheath tightness.
My first Kydex sheath for my South African dagger
The compression screw would work better higher up on the sheath, but it's hiding an oops!

Back: showing the belt loop as a continuous part of the thicker Kydex material
back of the sheath

But I knew what happened. 

I called the first one a prototype and then went to work on another one.  This time I decided I would mold the belt sheath separately so the under construction sheath would lie flat flatter on my drill press and have less chance of hanging up on the bit.

That worked.  With the aid of a set of French curves I trimmed the sheath with my band saw and fastened the belt loop.  A little sanding on the bench sander (that’s why I make everything a little bigger than I need) and I had a relatively nice sheath.

Second Kydex molded sheith.
This worked out nice.  The image is a little nicer than the actual Kydex sheath, but I'm happy with it.

What to do with the first one?  I had a can of textured tan paint from Rustoleum and thought ”Why not?”.  The paint took a while to dry but I like the effect.  The paint gives it sort of a desert sand/camo look.

The second one I decided to leave black and blue.  I’m learning to leave well enough alone!

Both sheaths
I'm not sure which shape I like more, the painted Kydex or the two-tone job.  I'll have to get some black or gray Kydex and repeat these sheaths.
Everything was great.  At least until I suited up with my new knife sheath.  The belt loop fit like a glove, but the loop is so tight the sheath can’t move up or down when I sit.  It also catches on jackets and long coats.

So now I’m thinking about attaching a larger belt loop with a pivot (most likely a Chicago screw) so the knife sheath can move on the belt as well as rotate.

Still, working with Kydex has been fun and I have more than a few knives I want to re-sheath.  I’ll keep you informed.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It’s Kydex Time!

I’ve started fooling around with Kydex again.  I bought some thicker Kydex at the Blade Show and made my first knife sheath out of it.

I’ve owned an original DPX HEST designed by Robert Young Pelton for several years.  I like the knife.  It’s a nice size fixed blade knife: a three-inch carbon steel blade with a four-inch handle.  The knife has a built-in bottle opener and pry bar as well as a small compartment in the handle for survival gear, like folded twenties or fish hooks.  Hey, you survive your way and I'll survive my way.

Kydex sheath that comes with DPX HEST
DPX HEST Original sheath.  Laughing skull in ball cap is Pelton's trademark. 

The original sheath doesn't have a belt loop.  What it has is paracord you use to lash the sheath to your belt.  I was never comfortable with that.  It’s better than simply slipping it in your pocket, 
Other side of knife
Reverse side of knife and sheath.  The washer is to undo the screws in the handle.  Clever, huh?
but it always seemed like an easy way to lose the knife.  Maybe that was the Pelton’s idea.

In the fictional world of Matt Helm, Matt explains to the readers that most undercover agents don’t carry a sidearm in a holster.  Why?  Because you can ditch a gun fast enough, but it might be a little hard explaining why someone claiming to be a harmless tourist is wearing an empty holster.

Maybe the same thing applies to this knife.  Imagine you’re traveling through areas of the world where every other mile another thug claims to be the Supreme Warlord and National President-Elect-for-Life and he has no use for the papers and visas you’re carrying.  If you have to, slip the paracord loose and the knife falls away from you and it becomes easier to convince this or the next warlord you are completely harmless.  No difficult sheath to explain.

Still, I need to hang on to my knife a little longer, so I got out the Kydex and spent a few hours re-learning how to do it.  It’s not perfect, far from it.  
My first attempt in Kydex this year
I got some thicker Kydex and started to work with it.  I just got all black Chicago screws that need to be cut to length and then I'll replace the bright aluminum screws.
The belt loop fits an impossibly thick belt.  I've got to get a thinner form.  Most of my rivets, grommets and Chicago screws are too short.  I just squeaked by with what I have.  The 0.1 inch thick Kydex has a larger radius of bending as compared to my thin blue stuff, so most of my forms don’t work.  It’s also a lot stiffer, so most of the methods I use to lock a knife in a sheath don’t work as well.

I need to work on a thinner belt loop
The thick kydex bends differently and I need a thinner form to shape my belt loops.
Still, I’m happy with the results.  The set of French curves I bought last year really helps in setting out the cut and grind lines as does my band saw and the new-to-me belt sander.  I’ll continue to make sheaths.  I’ve got a sweet little South African dagger that needs a sheath so I can carry it.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What's a Collection?

About a year ago I wrote about box cutters.  I had bought an older box cutter from W.T. Rogers Co.  It cleaned up nice and I also had a box cutter I used in high school so I figured the two of them were worth a few hundred words. 

collection of box openers
Rogers box cutter, the start of my collection

While I was attempting, much in vain, to discover a little bit about the Rogers box cutter I remembered a cutter I had gotten at Lincoln Electric.  That made three.  That left me with a nagging suspicion I had a collection of box cutters.   

We’ve all read about people with the collecting bug that can’t seem to find a niche.  One day their heirs find that they had 2 of these and 7 of those and a couple of everything else, but not one complete set of anything.

So how many of anything makes a collection?

Can we assume it takes more than one?  How about two?  Two is just a pair at best so it’s got to be more than two.  Three is right at the edge of collecting, especially if there is some geographical or chronological difference among all three members of the proto-collection. 

Four.  It takes four objects with something in common to start a collection.

It’s official!  I took the plunge and bought a fourth box opener.  I’ve transitioned from being an accidental collector to purposefully collecting box openers.  

I was at a flea market and saw one in a box of stuff.  It said Jim Beam on it.  The red coloration on the sleeve was in good shape, no nicks from being carried with pocket change or being dropped, and the metal blade holder had a small touch of rust that cleaned up nicely.  (See, I’m already using jargon like sleeve and blade holder, a sure sign of collecting!)

The addition of this red box openers made my collection a real collection
Jim  Beam box opener. Now my collection is on firm ground.

Unfortunately the Beam box opener is completely sterile.  The box opener is completely void of the name of the distributor, manufacturer or any other identifying marks.  Zip! Nada! Nothing!  Clearly a covert box opener!  If it was black it would be tactical.

There may be a database out there somewhere, but I’d hazard a guess it doesn’t exist.  

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.