Friday, January 31, 2014

New Tradition: Give a knife on the year of the Horse



Today is the Traditional Chinese New Year.  It’s the year of the Horse.  Wouldn't it be cool if the Chinese had a year of the Knife?



Anyway,…..Happy New Year!



Let's cut to the knife stuff.


What? 
 Didn’t anyone have a pocket knife?   Oh, that’s right it’s Canada.

A woman died Thursday after her scarf and her hair got caught in the teeth of a Montreal metro escalator and the scarf then apparently strangled her.

The Montreal Gazette reports that the incident occurred when the 48-year-old’s scarf got caught in the escalator Thursday morning.
“The woman’s scarf got caught in the escalator and then she bent down to try to get it out and her hair got stuck, too,” Constable Jean-Pierre Brabant told The Gazette.

“A bystander called 911 and by the time police arrived, she was declared dead.”



From that universal source of reference, Wikipedia:

“Certain knives are designated as 'prohibited weapons' pursuant to the Criminal Code of Canada. Section 84(1) defines such knives as "a knife that has a blade that opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by hand pressure applied to a button, spring or other device attached to or in the handle of the knife". By law, only those who have been granted exemption by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police via the Canadian Firearms Program are allowed to possess (but not acquire) prohibited weapons.”

I'm not sure how you can possess but not acquire?  



A great many knives can be opened by centrifugal force, including my Spyderco Endura.  The above reference goes on to say:
 “… no length restriction on carrying knives within the Criminal Code of Canada; the only restriction is for concealed carry.”



So it’s up to the police officer on whether or not that pocket knife is concealed or not. 


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

At the Show

It was a pretty good knife gun show.  I ran a sale on most of my fixed blades hoping to sell the Buck gut hook, the two knives from TOPS and Benchmade’s Bone Collector caping knife.  I even entertained ideas of selling the damascus blade from Mr Maan.  No luck.  Finland’s Marttiinis sold well and quite a few of the folders hitched rides to new homes, so it was a good weekend.


My goal is to help each customer find the right knife for them, even if I don’t have it or carry it.  Your knife should meet several personal criteria.  It should feel good in your hand and deploy from your pocket or sheath the way you want it to.  It should be able to provide the all the performance you are capable of demanding of it.  Your knife should be a quality product, but I know that quality is handmaiden to purpose.
 
If you’re heading for a two-week, self-guided Alaskan hunting trip, you might want something better than the knife you found in the '2 for $3' bucket.  But if you’re looking for gag gifts (heavy on the gag) those knives might be right for you.

At this show I thought I’d try to have a little fun with some customers.  Sellers attempt to qualify potential customers into: tire kickers, buyers and circus audience.  Tire kickers might become customers if treated right, but circus audience will always be interested only in entertainment.  I firmly believe their spouse gave them a fiver and told them “Don’t come back until suppertime.”

There are a few subgroups not represented by the above big three.

I exclude most children from the above categories.  I like talking to kids about knives.  They aren’t buying unless dad has more money than sense.  Who would buy a fifth-grader a $200 Benchmade?  But I do enjoy showing them how a knife works and asking about their fledgling knife collection.  

If I had started putting away nice pocket knives when I was in fifth grade, I could have a very nice, and perhaps impossible to duplicate, collection now.  But even then I carried, used and eventually lost everything I bought.

I also enjoy the quirky, but harmless fellows that frequent these shows.  One of my favorite is the guy (women have more sense) who opens every knife on the table.  I had some spectacular openers this weekend.  They would politely and quietly pick up every knife and with two hands open the blade on each knife to about 45°, stare at it for 10-15 seconds, close it, put it down and move to the next.  I like to ask if they're looking for anything particular and the answer is always the same, “Nope, just looking.”  

It makes me wonder if there is a knife watching society somewhere and members are making a life list of blades seen.

Someone from the circus audience asked about American made knives.  I showed him the Bucks, a few Gerbers, lots of Benchmades and a couple of Kershaws.  He almost beamed with pride and then he said, “These are pretty expensive knives.”

“Yes, sir,” I said.  “They’re American knives made by American workers paid an American living wage.”

He walked away strangely deflated.  I guess he thought companies had American workers accepting Chinese wages.

Another audience member worked his way down the line and stopped at the Benchmade knives.  He had indicated he was a knife collector but he looked at the blue Benchmade boxes and said, “I’ve never heard of Benchmade.”

Usually that statement is a tell that a purchase of any knife will not be made today.

“That’s because they are too much knife for you,”  I said.

That answer seemed to make a lot of sense to him and he left the table smiling.

I often regret I’m not a sociologist.  I think there is room for a ground-breaking study of the knife shopping segment of the gun show culture.  At the very least there’s a lifetime of potential grants here.

First Peek.
Every year the Western Reserve Cutlery Association (in Ohio) holds a big knife show/expo and they sell an Expo knife. Each year a different knife is selected.  Here's this years. 


Victorinox  Expo knife Secretarty silver AloX
Two-bladed pen knife 
  The Expo will be April 26 and 27 at Breitenbach Winery.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's in Forida

Some people think I decided to visit my father in Florida over New Year’s because it’s 21 degrees in Ohio and it’s a fine 75 down here.  Let me put the rumor to rest.  It’s true.

It’s also the best time to fit together the holidays and my vacation from 2013 and 2014.

People I rented to pose by Christmas tree

He lives in independent care so he has a little one bedroom apartment.  He has a small ship’s galley-like kitchen, dining/living area as well as a nice bedroom and big walk-in closet.

The complex gives new meaning to warehousing the old.  The facilities are very nice, very clean and filled with healthy elderly.  They have assisted, but no hospital care.  Get to the final stages of life and you’ll find yourself on the curb.  Since they don’t take Medicare money they don’t have to provide the required beds for the terminal.  Things may change; I understand they are building a housing unit for Alzheimers.

The complex, which shall remain nameless, has several large buildings surrounded by small houses of various sizes.  The facility provides at least two meals a day which are part of your monthly rent and rent is in the $2800+ per month range.


My father is in the ‘hotel’ area of complex.  The hallways sport art work on the walls and the residents place decorations by their door alcoves that brighten the hallways.  You find Ohio State flags, teddy bears and statues of dog and cats, at least I think they are statues.  So far no groundhogs.

A neighbor's door
Me?

I’d have a little IDPA target on a stand with moveable bullet holes.  Assuming my wife would put the kibosh on that, I’d buy a taxidermy dog, preferably a beagle.

We are staying in guest quarters in a second, but connected building.  The central core is an open air atrium so the apartments are entered from a covered walkway and face outward to the park-like grounds. 


Very nice in a spooky kind of way

Most of them have screened-in porches, a nice feature in what can be overly sunny Florida.

The central core is decorated with living plants and flowers. They and my wife and I might be the only living things in the building.  We haven't see a single person coming in or out, much less walking around, in several days.  Where is anyone???

The building has a metropolis of death feel to it.  We have not seen a seen another living person.  It’s like living in a mausoleum.  I assume people live behind the doors we see, but I could not swear to it.  


What does it mean when vultures roost on your house? 

One might find, if you could open any door, the dried desiccated remains of former inhabitants carefully stacked on shallow bunks lining the rooms.

We sat out last night on a bench facing the apartment mausoleums and enjoyed a second beer. 




An excellent beer!
It was a little spooky.  Kind of like whistling when you walk through a graveyard.

In the hotel side they have rooms set aside for specific purposes.  You have to be careful not to play scrabble in the women’s craft room, even if there is a complete absence of crafts at that moment.  The residents have a highly developed since of propriety.  The complex has a card room and on one night, one specific night only, they play a game called Hand and Foot.


I’ve played this game for 30 years.  The rules are a bit complicated; different cards have different values and it’s a bit like canasta, requiring you to meld, create runs or books of cards.  I expected the game to have slightly different rules.  Different location, different culture and so different rules.  I wasn’t disappointed in that respect.

So we played.  My father wanted us to play, in fact it’s all we heard about since we arrived.  I was looking forward to a couple nice games with my dad but when we got there he palmed my wife and I off on two older (there are no younger people here) women.  They were very nice, but I’ve never seen someone wear a green-tinted accountant shade to play Hand and Foot before. 

There wasn’t any money involved, but I was reminded of the scene in “The Seventh Seal” where the knight plays chess with death to give everyone in the castle a chance to escape.    These women took it that seriously.

Me?  Well I kept looking for Captain Kirk.  I figured we were playing Fizbin. 

The rules had changes so much that it wasn’t the same game I knew.  Basically the only similarity was we were playing with cards.

We played a couple hands, escaped to my Dad’s apartment for a beer (see above picture)  while we waited for him to finish playing cards with his friends.  When he came back we grabbed two more beers and that’s how we ended up drinking back at the mausoleum.

Post script:
Happy New Year!
I never thought I’d be sitting outdoors (central atrium) and typing.  This is way too nice.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Photographs


I’ve started working on a new writing project involving Boker’s Yurco.  It’s a nice self-defense knife and I like the its lines and feel.  An additional plus is I’ve met Mickey Yurco.  He's a member of a local knife club, so I think that will add another dimension to the article.

It’s a phobia of mine.  I always photograph the knife first.  Then I evaluate it, cut with it, carry it, sharpen it and test it.  This way if the blade or handle picks up scratches, discolorations, or other damage, I’ve got good images for the article.

Taking the photos isn’t always fun.  I don’t have a dedicated photographic studio so using guidelines from Knife World and ideas from Eric Eggly’s DVD, I cobbled together my studio.

Photographing a knife at my studio
It’s sort of the photographer’s perspective of Bismarck’s comments on making laws and sausages.

It isn’t pretty and I hate spending all the required time setting up, ironing backdrops, trying to find wedges to stick under the knives to get the angles I want and then cleaning up.  But it does work.

   

Innovation Theory of Knives

I subscribe to the 'Tupperware theory'* of knives. That is, descriptions and names of knives are made by manufacturers.  Knife use is defined by the purchaser.  Just because it’s called some type of knife doesn’t mean it can’t be used for other purposes.

I once pitched an idea for an article to an editor.  He indicated since it was a bushcraft knife the article had to be about using the knife to make snares, fires and other survival activities.  I wanted to talk about how the knife worked on a daily basis.  Did it create hot spots and blisters after a few hours of cutting?  How did it resharpen or clean up after cutting meat for dinner?  And could I use it for self-defense?  We never did come to terms.

Some knives are constructed in such a manner they can only be used for a limited task.  TOP’s California Cobra is a great example of that.  

A hand full of Cobra from TOPs
Other than angry, what else could you say?
Sure you could open a letter with it, and maybe make a fire stick with it, but the best description of it came from a customer of mine.  “It’s an angry looking knife.”

So I guess it should come as no surprise that my wife found that cutting her roll-up Christmas cookies was a dream using her ceramic food preparation knife.  

A Stone river ceramic knife
Stone River ceramic knife.  Note: she's using a plastic cutting board.  Always use a plastic or wood cutting surface with a ceramic knife ~ if you want to keep an edge.

Previously she had confined it to slicing vegetables, thin enough to read a newspaper through. 
   
Who would have thunk it?



*My wife learned years ago that just because Tupperware calls it a 'bread keeper,' that doesn’t mean it will not work for ice cream, cookies, etc.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Swiss Army Knife

Not every knife I own is a tactical blade.  I actually own at least two traditional pocket knives.  They were from different companies which are now the same.  I, of course, refer to the famous Swiss Army knife made by Wenger and Victorinox.  More about these companies can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Army_knife

(What would we do without Wikipedia?)

It is interesting that before the turn of the 20th century both companies were aware of the power of advertisement and the impact of negative ads.  They agreed to share the Swiss Army Knife business and branded themselves as Wenger the Genuine Swiss Army Knife and Victorinox the Original Swiss Army Knife.  If only modern politicians could get along so well.


Swiss Army victorinox and wenger
The red is my older Wenger and the silver is the Victorinox.  Two great Swiss Army knives.


A number of years ago these two companies combined under one management to sell both brands.  Recently it has been decided that the Wenger brand name would be sacrificed to the pressure of global manufacturing.
   

So, soon there will be no more Wenger, only Victorinox knives.

I bought my scarlet handled Wenger over 40 years ago in preparation of a Canadian fishing trip.  It seemed like a sensible thing to do.  The knife contained cork screw, tapered metal spike, primary blade, fingernail file, a saw blade, bottle opener/straight edge screwdriver, and can opener.

Wenger Swiss Army knife showing blades
Eight functions, not counting the lanyard.  MacGyver would be proud!


I really wanted just the blade, can opener, bottle opener and saw.  A second blade would have been welcome and I toyed with the idea of sharpening the nail file. 

I’ve got to admit this can opener is one of the worst designs ever incorporated into a knife.  It requires you to press the opener up through the metal lid of the can.  The problem was inserting the point into the can initially.  I almost instantly collapsed the opener into my finger creating a nasty cut.  I’m not the only one.  Within a few years the can opener was replaced by the older, more traditional press through the metal lid type.

worse can opening on left and the more traditional on the right
Even with the little diagram on the Wenger on the left, it's a terrible can opener.  The newer Victorinox has a much nicer can opener.

The main blade is only 0.5 mm thick.  That’s half the thickness of a dime.  I bent my tip years ago.

the victorinox has a thicker blade as compared to the wenger
The Victorinox on the left has a thicker blade than the Wenger on the right.  That thin blade has some advantages if your're cutting the right things.  I sold several to a hunter heading for South Africa.  The thin blade makes it easy to cut the thorns you pick up in the brush out of your skin, so he claimed.
I got my Victorinox after a beer camp in which I was always looking for a bottle opener.  One of the beer tasters gave it to me.

Beer Camp?
 
That’s an easy one.  Several of us got together and made a long weekend at a cabin at a state park.  We brought many, many different brands and types of beer and sat around the table with munchies and tasted beer.  (I wonder what happened to the notes we took?) We’d open a bottle, pour a little into everyone’s glass and taste.  We only had one rule.  If you didn’t like it you had to pour it down the sink.  That’s where I discovered I didn’t like German smoked beer.  Yuck!!!

Victorinox showing off its blades
MacGyver might not want this knife with it's selection of tools, but its not bad for camping or even lost in the woods.

The Victorinox has a shiny checkered aluminum handle and sports a blade, a can and bottle opener each with a different size straight edge screwdriver and an auger for leather or soft wood.  This blade is a healthy 1.1 mm thick.

The interesting thing is the two knives weigh the same, 70 grams.

Do I have a favorite?  Nope.  They both come with a set of memories that still make me smile.  It’s seldom I have them both together.  Most of the time one’s in a shoulder bag and the other in a car.  You never know when you might need a bottle and can opener.

Even the term Swiss Army knife has come to mean compact do-it-all.  I bet if we ever land a man on Mars he’ll have a Swiss Army knife on him.

On a more personal note. 
A distant relative was struck down in the prime of life leaving a wife and two young boys.  Funerals for old men and women are sad, but the survivors console themselves that the departed had a full life.  Not so much when the person is only 43. 

I stood in line waiting to speak to the widow and as customary the parlor played an endless loop of photos of him.  He never smiled.  Never.  The best was a micro smirk.  I felt bad for his boys and wife.  They don’t have a picture of their dad and husband smiling.

So, make an effort to smile more as you go through life.  You don’t have to stand in front of the mirror and practice.  You’re not the next king of England or a next hot leading man.   We just have to have a natural smile that we display. 

We never know, but the best memory of us might be of that smile.

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. 

Why?

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.