Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mini-Onslaught

I got my first Bob Lum knife by accident.  I saw Spyderco’s Chinese Folder and fell for the leaf-shaped blade and green handle and bought it.

I’m not a big collector of Lums.  I like the functionality and graceful lines but it’s difficult to justify custom knife prices, so I settle for selling the factory versions of them.  You might uncharitably call me a knife pimp -  I make a little money from the transaction, but I thoroughly enjoy getting quality knives into appreciative hands.

I’m quite excited about Benchmade’s Mini-Onslaught that just arrived today.  It’s a Bob Lum design and it’s quite a little charmer.  One side of the blade has the Benchmade butterfly logo and the other side has Bob’s chop.

The 3.45-inch blade is sharpened from 154CM steel with a Rockwell C hardness of 58-61.  The curved grip is black G-10 which is reinforced by stainless steel liners.  I looked at the handle and I would swear it’s micarta.  Of course, G10 has changed over the years from short chopped fibers in resin into glass fabric.

I really like the Axis lock Benchmade uses.  The modified clip point blade simply glides open and the thumb hole (licensed from Spyderco, I understand) is 0.43 inches in diameter.  That’s large enough to easily capture your thumb for opening.  Benchmade says the Mini-Onslaught weighs in at 3.9 ounces.
Benchmade's Mini-Onslaught by bob Lum
The left side showing the famous Benchmade butterfly.

Bob Lum's Mini-Onslaught by Benchmade
This is the right side of the knife with Bob's chop.  I always thought it would be cool to have a family/personal stamp.


The knife is set up for tip-up carry, my preferred method.

The Mini-Onslaught’s curved handle helps anchor the knife in your hand during a slash and presses the handle into your palm during a stab, but doesn’t allow for a reversible clip.  That's the one drawback.  

I saw a Cold Steel knife with a similar problem, but Cold Steel solved that by drilling and tapping both sides and included a second clip.

Benchmade retails the knife for $170 on their website.  I suspect I’ll be able to do better.

Sadly, Bob Lum passed away Dec 2007.  In his thirty years of knife making, some of his designs were never released to the commercial market.  It’s kind of  nice knowing that even after he’s gone, we’ll still see a few new Lums in the future.

Monday, February 10, 2014

But is it a sport?

the Winter Olympic Games at Sochi 2014
The Winter Olympic  Games at Sochi, Russia  2014

I don’t enjoy some of the Olympic winter games.  Team ice dancing, snowboarding or free-style snowshoeing hold no interest to me.  (There is no free-style snowshoeing.)

I find downhill skiing, luge, and even curling to be much more interesting.

What?  You’d rather watch people sweep the ice to get better glide from a large metal puck, than beautiful women and handsome men gracefully moving over ice while performing feats of strength and impeccable timing?

Yes, I would.  I’d rather watch a Biathlon or even plain cross-country skiing events than snowboarding.

It’s because many of the winter Olympic events aren’t sports.

Here’s my list:
Sports
  • Alpine Skiing
  • Biathlon
  • Bobsleigh
  • Ice Hockey
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Curling
  • Luge
  • Nordic Combined
  • Short Track Speed Skating
  • Skeleton
  • Ski Jumping 
  • Speed skating


Non-sports
  • Freestyle Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Figure skating


What makes the difference?

Am I one of those guys that figures a sport has to have a ball?  The only thing close to a ball in my list above is curling and that’s like ice bowling with brooms.

Do I need speed?  The rush of air past my face from hurling down a mountain or do I need a chase like in speed skating?   No, that’s not it either.

Let’s sharpen the edge of this monologue and cut to the core.  Sports don’t have style points. 

It’s that simple.  Pick any conventional sport: baseball, soccer, American football, golf.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a team event or a single person.  The winner is determined by total points.  In golf low score wins; in bull's-eye shooting it’s high score.  The scoring is direct and measurable.  There are no style points.

Sochi 2014 winter olympic show boarding in mid air
Do you gain or lose points because the arms are bent differently?   

Style points?  What do you think is happening when the judges award scores on whether they thought your toes were pointed sufficiently or deduct points because your back was arched too much?  Those are style points.

Yes, I believe figure skaters and freestyle snowboarders are athletes.  


Four speed skaters at the Sochi Winter Olympics
Speed skaters.  You can tell who's in first and who's in last place.  In fact if they did this one person at a time you know the winner by the best time for the event.  Or do you think that number 18 should lose points cause she has to touch the ice and number 14 doesn't?

There’s no question about that.  I’m not sure you could claim the two middle people on a 4-man bob-sled team are athletes.  Seems to me all they need to know is how to quickly fold their bodies around the other team mates and have a low center of gravity.  I don’t see them or curlers out doing 10-mile runs or bench presses to stay in shape.  But I could be wrong on that.

You don’t have to have a league or a stadium/arena to have a sport.  You don’t have to have followers.  You do have to have measurable results, not opinions. 

I used to fence with a foil.  Who the heck follows fencing now a days?  I would if it was on TV.

You had five judges to score hits or touches as they say.  The competitors were supposed to own up to feeling a touch.  What made that subjective activity a sport was three touches won the match.  Nobody got style points for a loud appel, a flamboyant balstra, or graceful riposte.  You got points and won by countering your opponent’s defense and offense and scoring three touches in the target zone before they did.

Then what are these events if not sports?

They are performance art.

It’s not the costumes, the music or rehearsals.  It’s the scoring.  Anytime you have judges tell you the timing of the performers was off, or a leg wasn’t fully extended, or the 360 revolution was too high, you have an art form.

You want further proof?  I've got it.

Anytime you have compulsory movements, you have an art.  I’ve never been to a martial arts event where the contestants were required to do a front leg sweep or reverse punch.  You did that stuff for determining rank/belts, but competition was always decided on points scored by hits.

Could the Swan Lake ballet be a sport?  By the Olympic standards, yes.  You have a limited time to perform, there are compulsory moves, and the performers have a variety of costumes and are evaluated on style points.  The performers are beyond a doubt athletes. 

Tremendous performance, but did they get all the style points possible or are her legs crossed too high, his hand too closed?  And how do you compare that to last year's performance in front of different judges?

But truly, would you consider Swan Lake a sport?



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.