Sunday, July 20, 2014

More Blade Show

One of the interesting factoids from the Blade Show is Emerson Knife is a small company.  They have only a handful of employees.  I find this surprising.  I’ve always assumed (there’s that word) that Emerson was a large company.  Of course, large and small are vague terms at best and can be quite meaningless.

This explains the disclaimers seen in catalogs “Due to high quality standards, Emerson produces a limited number of knives per year…”  I suspect it isn’t because of Emerson’s excellent quality that limited numbers are available.  It’s because the physical limitations of the company limit the number of knives manufactured.

In an effort to promote the Emerson brand outside of knife circles, Ernie has sold several of his designs incorporating the quick opening ‘wave’ to Kershaw.

I stopped at the Emerson booth and asked if this was a sort of collaboration between Kershaw and Emerson.  That brought people to their feet quickly.  I’m just glad there was a counter between us.

“No!” I was told.  “Those designs were bought by Kershaw, will be manufactured by Kershaw, marketed by Kershaw, and all warranty work will be handled by Kershaw.”  If there was a sink present he would have washed his hands.

I was told Ernie wants more name recognition in the general public and Kershaw will be selling these through Wal-Mart and other mega-stores.  I found them in Kershaw’s 2014 catalog as the Kershaw-Emerson knife.  Their SKU will be the familiar CQC-1 through 8 followed by a K. 

A couple weeks ago I had a chance to handle one.  I thought it was stiff to open.  The blade was made from 410 steel instead of 154CM and in general, it’s a smaller knife.  The price difference could be as much as $230 retail.  I suspect they will be made in China. 

Frankly, I never really trust Wal-Mart.  Too many past stories of them selling junk and damaging companies and communities.  The Rubbermaid story is a cautionary tale.

It’s like Emerson is making their own counterfeits.

Counterfeits are a big problem in the knife world.  The Chinese are making counterfeits that are virtually perfect down to the printing of the product insert.  I went to one website that sells (no, I'm not telling) knock-offs.  They had a fixed blade, with a leather sheath that looked just like a Randall knife.  The image was low quality, on purpose I suspect, but it looked like the metal snap on the retaining strap said Randall.
If you want to buy more than 30, you can get them for under $100 each.  Each one could be sold at a gun or knife show for over $500.  Since many of these will end up in a drawer or display case it’s almost a victimless crime, right?

Except for the fraud, except for the person who buys it and uses it, right?  When it fails and at best it will give diminished performance, who’s going get the bad rap? 

It can also happen accidently.  The seller sells it as a knock-off, but by the time it gets to the third or fourth buyer that fact is misplaced.  Randall is not the only one sniped at.  Spyderco, Benchmade, Emerson, CRKT, Gerber and the rest, they’re all being knocked off.

Customs doesn’t seem to care. They come right through.  I spoke to a fellow whose knife was ripped off.  Sure, he could take the case to the Chinese courts.  Spend a lot of money, do battle for several years and in the end the courts might say, “You win.  Now tell us how many knives you didn’t sell because of the knock-off so we can assess damage. Was it 10, or 1000 and where’s your documentation?”

The Blade Show had a display of knock-off Spydercos, among others.  Only by holding them side by side could I tell the difference between the marked counterfeit and the real deal.  The counterfeit spider on the clip was more like a spider, the real mark looks more like a tick.

Two spyderco knives on box
Can you tell which is real?  The bottom one is counterfeit.


I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that brand X is no damn good.  They had one and it broke.  I ask what they paid and who they bought it from.  The answer is typically 30 bucks from a guy standing outside the show with a box of them.  "Oh," I say.  "You paid 30 bucks for a $180 knife from some guy who didn’t want to pay to get into a gun show and you’re surprised it broke?"

“Well,” they sniff.  “I thought I was getting a really good deal.”  Do me and yourself a favor.  Check out the retail prices on websites and if some website or guy in a hoodie wants to sell it at 60% below retail, you should know it’s a counterfeit. 

I also had a chance to talk to a future knife designer.  He’s there with a protoype of a folder with a blade bigger than the handle.  He uses the clip to protect the end of the folded blade extending out of its handle. 

A truly large bladed folder

What seems to be unique to this knife is the clip is spring loaded so it snaps down the back of the folder’s handle to give you a normal size handle when the blade is open. 

I'm holding the knife by its pocket clip.  No.  I'm not putting that in my pocket!



Here's the back in the closed position.





It reminded me of a high tech Marble’s Safety folder.  I wish him well, but (open mouth – insert foot) it’s a stupid idea.  The bigger blade might be useful, if the pivot will support the load and if you don’t cut a finger off trying to get it closed.

One wonders if primitive man carried an assembled stone axe or if he just carried the knapped stone and made the handle and then tied the stone to the handle when he needed it.  I suspect he carried it already assembled.  And do you know why?

Because when you need an axe, there usually isn’t time to assemble one. 


Add handle and instant axe!  Almost.


I saw a high tech axe head that acts that way.  When you need it you first need to cut a suitable size tree limb.  You can use the sharpened axe head by holding it in your hand and flailing away at a branch.  

axe head on wooden shaft
Please note the handle isn't a branch. but a manufactured piece of hickory.
Then you need to cut a groove down the center of the branch of sufficient width so the axe head can slide down the middle of the shaft without cracking the shaft.  Using clever, claw-like clamps you can tighten a grip on the branch so the head doesn’t fly off while you’re using it.  Now you’re ready to chop wood.

The inventor wanted to peddle it to the hiker/camper/survivalist market.  All you need is the axe head, which is light weight and small and you can make an axe.  No reports from anyone who tried to chop wood with it.

The handle appeared to be cut on a band saw.  This would make the perfect gift for that outdoors person you didn't want returning. 

I suspect it will end up in the bottom of a go-bag waiting for the collapse of civilization.  Look, I could understand if the inventor suggested pre-cutting wood to fit the axe head.  The axe would be easy to pack and it is lightweight.

But if you need to make shelter NOW!  Or need a fire NOW!  spending an hour or two making this axe is going to cost you.  I suggest if you carry one, the first thing you should do when you get lost is stop, get the head out and start making an axe.  Use that time to calm down, think about your plan, your immediate needs and then work your plan which now includes cutting wood for fire, snares and shelter.

One thing for sure, the Blade Show is never dull.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Knife and Blade Show

The knife gun show at Medina, Ohio was interesting.  While I sold gave away (almost) some old stock, a lot of the fun comes from watching the people.

I saw one man wearing a tee-shirt saying: Revolutionary War Veterans Association.  He didn’t look that old.  I found out later it seems to be a shooting society dedicated to remembering the more or less forgotten participants of the American Revolutionary War. 

I also told a friend I’d help him price several bayonets his buddy’s dad left behind.  To my surprise I found more than I expected about bayonets.

Both bayonets were Japanese type 30 from WWII.  One was rather crudely made and I expected it to be from production late in WWII.  I found out it was a training bayonet which were often made at schools and homes.  There was no interest in making a quality training bayonet as these were never expected to see combat.  They were often made from cheap, poor quality steel and came with equally shabby scabbards.  These were unsharpened.



WWII souvenirs
WWII souvenirs
The other bayonet was a little gem.  It had the Jinsen Arsenal mark stamped on the blade.  This arsenal isn't rare, but is not considered common.  The best way to describe it I was told was 'un-common.'



the upper is a issue bayonet.  Lower is issue
The issued bayonet show quality workmanship.  The lower is the poor quality trainer. 

Unfortunately they were poorly taken care of.  Both scabbards were rusty and pitted.  The blades were in the same condition.  It’s hard to understand why dad didn't run a coat of oil on them years ago.  I brushed them down with a brass brush and a little WD-40 and took a lot of surface rust off.  I guess they were not important to him.


Japanese bayonet from  Jinsen armory
The stamp indicates its from the Jinsen armory.  The training bayonet doesn't have any kind of marking. 

Included in the bundle was a German fireman's dress bayonet.  Yeah.  You read it right.  Fire fighters dress bayonet. 


German Fireman's dress bayonet in poor condition.
Fireman's bayonet?  What?  He stabs the flames?



German fireman's dress bayonet  No slot for rifle
The key was the polished blade and the absence of a mounting slot.


There’s no slot to attach the bayonet to a rifle.  That’s because German firefighters didn’t have rifles.

Now, I have no tolerance for Nazi collectables.  I hate those guys, but I’ll give the devil his due:  the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany sure understood symbols and the trappings of power and how to use them.


I also ran into John from Shadow Tech.  He was at the Blade Show and my wife liked one of his damascus fixed blades with an ivory colored micarta handle.  She wanted a minor modification and John and Dave agreed to it.  We paid for it and they had it at Medina.  It’s a ‘double’ Blade Show knife for her.  She ordered it at Blade, but they had to buy ladder damascus from Alabama Damascus at the show to make it.  It’s a sweet knife and the faux carbon fiber kydex makes it pop!

My wife's ivory micard
Shadow Tech - My wife's new knife.


Keep your eye on Shadow Tech.  John told me they are going to be covered by unamed national magazines.  A collaboration between ST and Colonial knife is in progress.  I understand Colonial is getting some of Shadow Techs’s patterns and they are going to make some autos for them.
Dave and john blade show
Dave and John from Shadow Tech at the Blade Show with a few good knives!
I can't wait to see their auto!

While not a lawyer, I understand that the Feds regulate shipping of autos and the states seem to decide if automatic (AKA switch blade) knives are legal.  It seems silly in light of the fact most states have CCW and more than one police officer tells me that if they arrest you even that cheap nail clipper with file in your pocket will be written up as a concealed weapon.  I keep running into a woman who swears her community made her take a 12-hour class and get a permit to carry a knife in the city limits.  I understand there was a fee for the class and ‘license process.’  

Speaking of government interference, the proposed ivory ban has people worried.  I’m told there are only 8 sources of ivory: elephant, mastodon and mammoth (both extinct), walrus, hippo, narwhal, sperm whale and warthog.

Here’s where it gets confusing.  We stopped importing whale products in 1986.  We stopped importing elephant ivory 30 years ago.  Nobody cares about fossilized tusk and mastodon tooth because the youngest stuff is 20,000 years old.  And currently wild boars are a problem.  So we should be okay on any ivory in the country.  Right?


Hammond at Blade Show on Ivory Ban
Jim Hammond at Blade Show talking about the ivory ban and President Kennedy's love of scrimshaw.

Well, no.  See, the Chinese and Russia still have this unquenchable thirst for ivory.  So the U.S. and others think by punishing American ivory consumers and owners we’ll send a message to the rest of the world.  By not allowing the internal sales of legally obtained ivory, it becomes worthless.  

The government sees us as the bottom level of a vast Chinese crime syndicate. (If so, I need a raise!!)  By pressuring you to give up your source of illegal ivory, they can trace it back to Lo Fat Way or some other imagined ganister and terrorist.

Sandra Brady talking about the impact the ivory ban will have.
Sandra Brady, scrimshaw artist supreme, at the Blade Show talking about the impact the proposed ban on ivory will have.

Your source?  That’s the Vatican cameo your grandmother left you, soon to be made worthless.  Uncle George’s ivory handled revolver from the Spanish American war - can’t sell it with those grips!  The possibilities go on.  This includes all those scrimshaw ivory handles that decorate knives, jewelry and musical instruments. 

Now frankly, it’s not too important to me.  I don’t own any ivory.  My family doesn’t own any ivory.  My retirement or future plans don’t revolve around ivory.  I just dislike the fact the government can seize your property on mere suspicion and you are forced to prove your innocence.  If you cannot, you may go to jail.  

In any case you’ll lose your property just to make a ideological statement to China, Japan and Russia that killing elephants for ivory is unacceptable.  Remember the world banned hunting whales, but Japan still takes about 60 whales a year for “research.”  


The only one concerned with world opinion seems to be the U.S.
You want to save the elephants?  Great!!!!

Tell your government to send the money they would spend enforcing these ridiculous and un-American laws to the African agencies who are in the field protecting elephants from poachers.  That will make a difference, not confiscating ivory from an animal dead for 30 years. 

Oops!  Looks like rant mode was on!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Switchblades

Switchblades. Auto knives. Push button knives.  Flick knives.  No matter what you call them, fully automatic knives have an undeniable appeal.

They aren’t new.  The first ones were made in the mid 1700s.  Following the U.S. Civil War, knives became factory products made in quantity. 

Knife sales increased thanks to the internet of its time, the catalog and advertisement.   In 1892 George Schrade invented the first really practical auto knife.  We’re still re-inventing the auto knife.  The Blade Show featured the so-called dual mode and hidden auto which could be opened manually or automatically with a hidden release.

HK duel mode knife
HK's dual mode Scorch.  Open like a manual knife or use the hidden release.  And it's made in the USA!
So far so good!

In search of more readership, Women’s Home Companion published an article in 1950 about switchblades called “The Toy That Kills.”  Did you hear that sound?  No, it wasn’t the click of a knife opening.  That was the opening shot of the war on knives.

The image of a hoodlum standing in the mouth of an alley smoking a cigarette, wearing a black leather jacket, and shockingly tight pants with an Italian switchblade in his back pocket and dating your daughter was too much for our legislators.  Especially when their wives began to think these Hollywood romantic bad boys were cute!

In 1958, The Switchblade Knife Act was passed making the sale of auto knives, but not possession, illegal.  Many states also passed laws banning autos, dirks, Bowie knives, short swords and butterfly knives.  The U.S. is not the only nation in the world that feels their citizens can’t be trusted with a knife much less one that opens by pushing a button. 

Traveling overseas with almost any of our ubiquitous knives could land you in jail.

Let’s zip forward to today.

Since then some states have passed knife rights laws to allow their citizens to buy, sell and own autos.  We have groups like Knife Rights and AKTI to thank for that.

Two of my favorite knife manufacturers package their autos with dire warnings about the proper documentation needed if you return your auto for service or warranty work.  With many states making it legal to own autos, I wanted to know how these companies would treat legal autos in need of service.

Spyderco requires a letter (on letterhead!) stating you are authorized to possess one of their autos and a restricted item return form.  They will not return your knife to you without all the paperwork.  They really don’t like autos and currently only carry one at the request of the U.S.Coast Guard rescue swimmers called the Autonomy.

This policy will remain in effect regardless of state laws, so if you own a Spyderco auto, unless you’ve got current paper, don’t bother sending it back.

Not that I blame them.  Several years ago when imported butterfly knives were banned, Spyderco was making them here in the U.S.  One part, that little latch on the bottom of the handle, was imported from overseas.  They had paperwork from Customs saying it was okay and legal.  All the lawyers on both sides were in agreement.  It was all good.  Then ICE decided the little latch was contraband, seized the shipment and all the other knives associated with the shipment.  People almost went to jail and fines were levied.  It wasn’t very nice.

I’m actually surprised they even make an auto given the complexity of the legal system.  We tend to think of the Federal government as a great monolithic organization.  It often acts as individual organization and has little if any interest in cooperating with other departments.

My next stop was Benchmade.  They make a fine line of autos 

Benchmade Auto AFO II, a great automatic knife.
Benchmade's AFO II.  They upgraded this knife two years ago and it really performs!

and this year have introduced more covert autos in which the blade can be opened like a manual knife, or pressing a hidden button springs the blade open.  Look at the gold class 7505 Sibert or the black class 5400 Serum if you’re interested.

They too have restrictions on sending autos back.  You cannot send it back via the post office and you must have or sign their Auto Opening Knife Acknowledge form available on their website.  Benchmade recommends you take your auto back to a registered Benchmade dealer and arrange to have them ship it back for sharpening and tune up. 

Just in passing they suggest you send any of your Benchmade knives in every two years for resharpening and overhaul.  You paid for the service when you bought the knife, you should take advantage of it.

It doesn’t matter if you have a CCW, or if your state allows autos or if your old unit/department passed them out like sticks of gum.  Each vendor has different rules that they think will keep them out of legal trouble.

Is right?  Frankly what do I know about the law?  I don’t even write radio dialogue for lawyer commercials.  Find out what they want and work with them.

Still want an auto?  I don’t blame you.  I like them too.  If you carry one, just keep your wits about you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blade Show 2014

The 2014 Blade Show is over.

A sick laptop prevented me from reporting from Atlanta, GA.  Over the next couple of weeks I’ll review some of the highs and lows of Blade.

But here’s a taste.

While not the providence of the Blade Show, one has to reflect on the Cobb Convention Center.  I will say that if the standard of Atlanta is poor service, the Cobb lived up to it.  The adjoining hotel was overbooked, so everyone associated with the show had to check out Sunday morning because a new convention was arriving that day.  The breakfast area in the hotel, which was open only for a rather nice, but expensive breakfast, was torn down and under construction.  I don’t know where hotel guests ate breakfast.  I was lucky.  I stayed off-site and will again.

At the Cobb Convention Center, the escalator down to the poorly staffed and unorganized food court was partially broken.  You could get down, but not back up to the show.  The elevator for wheelchairs and elderly was also broken.  If there were stairs they were well hidden.  So you had to walk out of the building, around to the front, reenter the building and take the (soon to be also broken) lobby escalator up to the show floor.  Despite it being Friday, no evidence of workers was present.

The restrooms were poorly managed.  Several restrooms off the beaten path were clean and quickly locked once the staff discovered people were using them.  Fortunately there were no riots over toilet paper.  In the hallways there were no places to sit, except in the one-way food court, and most of the meeting rooms with chairs were kept locked.  Soon people sprawled on the floor and leaned against walls.  I spent so much time on my feet that they felt like sore marshmallows every morning despite icing them down in the evenings.

What about the Blade Show, or am I going to just bitch about the facilities?


The line to get into the 2014 Blade Show
The VIP line 3 hours before the show opened!

The first thing you need to understand is there aren’t many changes you can make to a knife.  A knife is basically a sharpened edge and a handle.  Normally some way of protecting the edge from the environment and your fingers is included.  The two most popular ways are a sheath and folding/retracting the blade into the handle.  Most manufacturers use one or both of these methods.  But not always.  Busse Knife Co. sells all their knives sans sheath.  Just a cardboard tube to protect you from the edge.

Given this basic concept it quickly becomes apparent that most if not all the tables have some variation on this, like everyone else.

The differences become apparent in the types of material used, the skill of the craftsman, the artistic vision and the execution.  Truly originally ideas are rare.

The next most exciting thing to see is the positioning of each company in the knife market.  For example:
Kershaw has purchased several designs from Emerson.  It’s always best to talk to people on Sunday at Blade.  By then they’re tired and often the true story, or at least part of it, is told.  More on that later.  Just know that:
  • Emerson’s CQC-7 with Wave retails at $225
  • Kershaw’s CQC-7K with Wave retails at $60.


Spyderco reports that more and more countries are banning friction folding knives as well as locked blades.  The slip joint market is growing.  New designs like Spyderco’s PITS (Pie in the Sky) by British knife maker Mike Read show promise.  Mike’s design is such that the more pressure you place on the spring while cutting, the harder it is to close the blade.  Was this a purposeful design feature?  I asked Joyce Laturi about that.  Joyce suggests,  “…People decide to do what they can within the letter of the law so they can carry a knife…”


Still waiting!  


Are you a criminal?  Maybe not, but you could soon be an outlaw.  The domestic ivory ban, President Obama’s directive 210 makes it illegal to sell ivory harvested before the 1980s ban passed by Congress.  While the directive is focused on elephant ivory collected after the ban, enforcement is given sweeping powers to declare you guilty and force you to prove your innocence.  While the US Fish and Wildlife service stated in Sept 2012, “...Illegal ivory in the U.S. was not significant,”  they are now working for the “virtual elimination of all commercial trade in elephant ivory,” according to Dan Ashe, Director USFWS.  You’ll being seeing more on this later.

CRKT Imported Knife of  2014.  It's a nice knife!  


I learned how to turn an impossibly dull knife into a workable dull knife with 'mud-on-a-stick.'  I'll have more on that too!

The Blade Show isn’t about knives.  That’s just the excuse.  It’s really about people and their knives.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Fist Full of Cord


fist full of paracord survival bracelets
Can one of these spell the difference between coming home after an unplanned outdoor activity or being found a year later by someone's dog?


It’s hard to think of survival gear and not think of a knife.  No matter if we are thinking of late night in a dead-end-alley survival or where-the-hell-are-we lost, one of the tools we would like is a knife.

Certainly there are other items we might want.  It's way too easy to compile a most wanted list: handgun, compass, matches/flint, ‘space’ blanket, button light, cell phone, warm clothes, water, food.  The list seems endless.  Even intrepid TV survival experts would not survive for long in most environments without some equipment.

It is with some curiosity I see paracord survival bracelets 
being hawked at gun shows, websites and worn about town.  In agreement with my policy on true transparency I’ve got to say, I make ‘em, too.  I wear them as well.  It’s sort of a fashion statement that the wearer is committed to staying alive and has the rope to prove it.

Let’s take a look at this.

I put long brightly colored lanyards on tools like Leatherman, axes and some fixed blade knives.  To me that makes a certain amount of sense.  

Orange and green paracord lanyard on pocket tool
Yeah, the tool is purple, because the diamond file only came in purple handles.  Still, put your thumb over the tool and see if you can find it.  I bet you can.

I drop something in the snow, mud, leaves or just put it down next to me and the cord helps me locate it.  In a water environment I could undo the cord and re-use it to tie the tool to my belt.  Any survival tool you lose when you use it has limited value.

A lanyard loop assures the knife will hang from my wrist when I need my fingers and will give me that little bit of extra security when I’m holding something by the very end to get a little more leverage out of it.

Lanyards, like the bracelets, also contain useable cord just in case.  In case of what you should ask?

My bracelets use about 6 feet of cord.  Much of it isn’t the classic 550paracord  containing 7 small lines with a breaking strength of 78 pounds each. (The kermantal adds to the strength too.)  Frankly, I think that breaking strength is urban legend.  Much of it looks like paracord but is filled with a one irregular, fluffy mass of fibers.  There’s no reason not to use this material if you just want to look cool or need a clothesline.  Just know what you have.

With 6 feet you could make a snare.  With your knife you could use a foot here and a foot there to secure the ends of an impromptu shelter.  Of course you could use it to tie someone’s hands and feet if you had to, but they better be unconscious while you unweave your bracelet. 

You could cut off about 3 feet and pull the inner core strings.  With 550 cord you would have 7 three foot long strings to tie into fishing line or to sew with if you have a stout needle or sharp thorn.  I’m not sure what you could use the kermantal for.  If you went with 750 cord, you’d have 11 strands! 

Using the entire cord you could tie several large branches together to make personal floatation aid or you could make a fire bow.  That’s a good tool to warm yourself twice with the same wood, once starting the fire and the second time burning the wood.

Still six feet isn’t a lot of cord.  So if you were to make/buy a belt 40 inches long you might have 24ft.  You’re not going to climb down much of anything with that unless you leave it behind.  A big log raft would still be out of the question, but you could make several personal rafts with more buoyancy.

What you need to remember is all knots degrade the strength of rope as does exposure to sun, moisture, dirt, and salt.  And what is a paracord bracelet, but knotted rope exposed to salty perspiration, water, sun, soap, dirt and other chemicals?  Maybe a survival bracelet isn’t the answer.

If you’re heading off the pavement pack a coil of 50
feet of 550 paracord

50 feet of paracord
The bright metal strip is a 6 inch ruler in front of 50 odd feet.  You can rebundle 50 feet of cord in any shape you want.  Long to fit in your game or forager pocket, a ball to fill that empty spot in your day pack.  You could even run it back and forth like a yoke to fit in your jacket.
along with your knife, compass, handgun, and other accoutrements. The right tool for the job is always easier than makin’ do.

And take your survival bracelet.  I once used half of mine to replace a broken shoe lace.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Ax and You’ll Receive It

Do you remember when you first saw it and knew it would be the only one for you?  You tried out others, but they just weren’t right.  Oh, you could make it work, but it wasn’t fun and the moment you let up, things went to hell in a hand basket. 

The balance was off; it felt wrong; the look was just wrong.  In the entire universe there was only one, and you had to have that one.

I’m talking about hatchets.  What did you think I was talking about?

I first saw the hatchet for me in Boy Scouts.  It had a black rubber grip bonded to a bright metal handle which was attached with a red collar to the black ax head.  The only silver metal on the ax head was the bevel face.  It was called the Jet Rocket!  What a name!

Made by Ames True Temper, it only took hammering a few tent pegs into the ground and splitting a little kindling to know I needed this.  The only other object I needed that bad was a HP 35 calculator and that waited until college.

Over the years I used and abused it, sharpened it and chopped it dull again.  I never should have used it to hammer steel wedges to split wood.  Over the years I deformed the axhead butt, and finally I thought I was seeing a few metal cracks in the metal.  The dire messages of my Scout leaders about damaging my hatchet flooded back and I started worrying the hatchet would fail when I needed it.  Clearly it was time to retire it.

About two years ago I started searching for a new one.  I want a new copy of what I had, but that was futile.   The moving finger of time had moved on.

After several years of admiring cuties like the Firestonebelt ax or Condor Greenland pattern, I was almost seduced by Wetterling’s hand foraged small hunting ax.  Still I held back.

I’d been around the block, made piles of wood chips and I still remember how those wood handles felt when you hit a nice solid piece of wood.  I also remember how slippery wood handles felt and the crush grip required to control the hatchet and how my hand felt after several hours of making chips.  No, I wanted a high friction rubber grip. 

Sog Camp Axe and Jet Rocket hatchet
The SOG is on top and my Jet Rocket on the bottom.  Years ago I had to replace the sheath on the Jet Rocket.



SOG Camp Axe and Jet Rocket hatchet mano y mano or monkey to monkey
Let's go face to face.


SOG’s Base Camp Axe looked like it would fit the bill. Here’s the specifics:


  • Steel                                   1055C
  • Hardness                            RC 50-55
  • Weight                               33 ounces
  • Overall length                    16 inches
  • Blade length                       3.4 inches (curved edge)
  • Axe blade shape                Straight

I don’t have much information on my Jet Rocket. 

  • Steel                                   carbon steel, I guess
  • Hardness                            ??????
  • Weight                               24 ounces
  • Overall length                    13 inches
  • Blade length                       3.2 inches (curved edge)
  • Axe blade shape                Convex


The only three significant differences are the weight, overall length and blade shape.  The longer lever arm and weight should give me more mechanical advantage in splitting wood, but it could result in less control in splitting ultra fine kindling.

Looking down and the b lade shape of Jet Rocket and SOG Camp Ax
 Jet Rocket hatchet is on the left and the SOG Camp Hatchet on the right.  Really different shaped heads.

The perceived difference in ax head shape is a mystery to me.  The thinner shape of the Jet Rocket allows me to sharpen the edge like a razor, but that also makes for a fragile edge.  After all, I’m not slicing. I’m chopping.

Last winter I packed both hatchets and headed to a winter cabin in West Virginia.  I took pre-cut lengths of pine 2x4s to test the hatchets on.  I selected commercial lumber because I thought it would be more uniform in physical properties and make the comparison easier.  I left the wood out in the weather and the next day went to work on it.  The goal: convert big wood to little kindling and compare the hatchets.

the poll or butt end of Jet Rocket and SOG Camp Hatchet
The Jet Rocket is on the left and the SOG on the right.  Big difference in striking surface!

I think it was a draw.  Maybe the Jet Rocket came out a little ahead because it’s so familiar to me.

The longer and heavier SOG made fast work of reducing big wood to small wood.  But it worked my wrist more and I found myself choking up on the handle to have more control over it.  Pointing wooden stakes was easier with Jet Rocket.  I think the less weight gave me more control over it.  The bigger poll (that’s the hammer side of the hatchet, but don’t let a Scout catch you calling it that!) makes for easier stake pounding.

The pre-kindling stage which is followed by christmas tree-like fir sticks. 

I think the SOG straight face made splitting chores easier than the Jet Rocket’s concave face.

My bottom line?
Okay, I admit that I have a sentimental attachment to utilitarian objects that have served me faithfully.  Primitive man felt that a spirit would resided in each object and that our handling and close proximity to the tool created a bond between that person and that spirit.  The tool would work it’s best only for its owner.  Another good reason to personalize and decorate your tools.

I don’t believe that.  But what if I’m wrong?

I like the Jet Rocket a little better than the SOG Base Camp, but I’m going use the SOG.  I’ll keep both axes together and keep both of them oiled and sharpened. 

Maybe magic will happen.

Maybe my hand and brain will connect with the SOG.

I’ll learn to love it.  After all, it’s my hatchet.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

WRCA Knife Show

The 2014 Warther Memorial Knife Show is over.  It was held at Breitenbach Winery in the lovely Breitenbach Tool Shed.

WRCA knife show
The Tool Shed

I couldn’t squeeze the show in as a vendor, but I did drop in on Sunday.  I had several interesting conversations and found a few things I couldn’t live without.

If you work with ivory, collect ivory and even own ivory you should be concerned about President Obama’s Executive Order banning ivory.

No, I’m not anti-elephant.  African elephant ivory has been prohibited from import since the early 80s.  Most of the illegal ivory trade is currently driven by the Far East and laws controlling this practice aren’t enforced by their governments.

This Executive Order bans ivory from animals killed before the ban.  Oh, you can sell pre-ban, if you have the paperwork proving it’s pre-ban.  You saved that bill of sale from the 80s, didn’t you?

There’s exceptions for fossil ivory, mastodon ivory, walrus and others, but the responsibility is on you to prove it as well as documentation of the port it entered the country.  You got that as well, right?  And forget about DNA.  No matter what you saw on CSI, ivory has no DNA.

The scariest part of this is the adoption of assumed guilt until proven innocent.  The enforcement agent can simply suspect you’re guilty and seize your property and arrest you.  You then have to prove your innocence.  That’s just plain wrong. 

I see this as just another step demonstrating the government’s drive to neuter our rights.  Today it's ivory, tomorrow it might be guns, then books and the realization you live at the pleasure of the government.

Enough politics, but I’ve got to say, I’m glad I’m old. 

Did I find any treasures at the show?

Knife show inside Tool shed
The Shed is also used to store wine.


I picked up a hatchet from Mickey Yurco.  It’s a small hatchet just over 7 inches long with an OD green and black striped micarta handle.  The blade is curved and sub-three inches in length and made from 440C steel. 

My new Yurco hatchet
It's small, but it's aimed at the emergency bug-out bag.

440C is the best of the 440 steel series and represents a middle grade of steel in the knife community.  It’s a good steel, rust resistant, durable and can be resharpened without special equipment.  It’s a good choice for a bug-out bag which is what Mickey had in mind.  One thing to remember, 440C is magnetic and will affect compass readings.  Just a word to the wise.

The hatchet comes with a Kydex sheath.  I like Kydex for its durability, but this sheath is a little hard to remove. 

the Kydex cover on the yurco hatchet
The cover fits tight, not a bad thing, but I have to jerk it out of the the sheath, so don't stand too close! 

Maybe a summer Kydex sheath making project will solve my problem. 

I also picked up an older doctor’s knife made for W. Bingham Co in Cleveland Ohio.  The knife was, my internet search tells me, made by Ulster Knife Company.  That may explain why both the main and secondary blade are stamped. 

I admit it took me a while to convince myself it was a doctor’s knife.  It’s doesn’t have the spatula and the handle has an offset more typical of a gun stock pattern.  Still the blade shape and the pill crusher end convinced me.

doctor knife with two blades
The handle is more of a black with dark green highlights.  Do you see the little curve in the handle?

The handle has a faded green and black motif to it, so it must have the effect of nice weather and grassy fields that had me thinking about green and black.

Both the hatchet and knife are sweet!

How was the show?

I’m told Saturday had 280 attendees.  I left around 1pm on Sunday.  It was pretty bleak then but several vendors reported that while the count was down, sales were strong.

Even though my wife and I had driven to the winery earlier in the year, we still had trouble finding it.  The signage was poor and as you drove up the empty, winding gravel road you got the feeling as one retired LEO suggested, you were being set up for a robbery and car-jacking. 

Tucked away in Dover, the knife show was a destination.  Most of the Amish community is shut down on Sunday and Dover was no exception.  The winery was closed and if you were looking for a restaurant, well you better head to Canton Ohio. 

If you didn’t know about the show you wouldn't see anything to suggest it existed.  Nothing could be seen on Interstate-77, so the show didn’t have any impulse attendees.

I will say, if WRCA doesn’t do something, I predict there will be no Dale Warther Memorial Knife show in less than ten years.