Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Politics Seen From The Knife Edge

Obama returns salute with coffee cup
The sunglasses don't bother me, but the coffee cup seems so damn disrespectful!

You've seen the picture.  No?  Well, look up.

Our Commander-in-Chief returning a salute to his honor guard with a coffee cup, WTF!

I don’t like President Obama.  I don’t think he’s the right man for the job and I look forward to voting for what I hope will be a better man or woman. 

BUT, he fills the office of the Presidency and the office deserves a measure of respect from every American.  Respect cuts both ways.  The Marines that serve as President Obama’s honor guard take an oath as do all of our enlisted men and women.

“I (state name), do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United stated against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me according to the regulations and uniform code of Military Justice, so help me God.”


That’s a pretty powerful oath and there’s no expiration date.  I respect those Marines; they volunteered to take that oath.  I was born an American citizen, just like the President.  I’m not required to take an oath.  In fact in some circles the idea of taking an oath of loyalty is considered uncultured and a trespass on intellectual freedom. 

I need a cup of coffee as much and sometimes more than the next guy.  But even I would ditch that cup to ensure I could return that salute.

Let’s get right out to edge of life, where our vision is the sharpest and ask the question that needs to be answered.
If our Commander–in-Chief shows so little respect to men and women he commands, what must he think of us?




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Twitchy EOD

Another knife gun show has rolled past.  I get a lot of compliments on the quality of the knives I sell, but the sales go to the guys with the buckets of 6-dollar knives and the knock-offs.  Still, as much as it bothers me, I’d rather be true to my vision of quality and needs, than to know somewhere a knife I sold is failing someone.

The weather was beautiful, the show was slow.  I suspected something was wrong when two guys walked up to the table shorting after opening and I greeted them with, “Feel free to pickup any of the knives”.

They stood there, frozen like deer in the headlights, not even an ear twitch.
Two deer, no knives
Yeah, that's what they looked like!

I looked at my wife, she looked at me, and then we looked at the two statues.  I don’t think they were breathing.  For a split second, I wondered if this was some Candid-Camera moment and then one blinked.

The two men walked off and I never saw them again.

I did see a lot of Shadow Tech.  They came up to the show from the Columbus, Ohio area.  ST is one of my favorite local knife companies.  I’ve got to admit, I’m impressed with people who start manufacturing businesses.  I’ve said it before, small self-starting businesses are the sparkplug of American well-being.


I had a chance to see their EOD.  It’s a 10.5 inch slice of 1085 steel currently being used by the EOD teams in Afghanistan.
Shadow Tech EOD Fixed Blade with sheith
Shadow Tech's EOD.  Note "glass breaker'" and form fitting sheath.  This is one knife that isn't popping out by accident. 
Let’s talk, shall we?

The blade is 5 inches long with a 5 inch handle and a glass breaker/skull crusher for a total of 10.5 inches.  The steel is high carbon, a 1085 and I would suspect, hardened to 56-58 Rockwell C.  That’s a good hardness for that steel and field use. 

Shadow Tech EOD Fixed Blade in my hand
Camera angle makes the knife look small, or I have a giant hand.
Extending outward from the top and bottom of the handle’s spine are small regular bumps.  I didn’t think I’d like them.  I thought they would distract from the feel, but despite my preconceptions, my hand liked them.  The knife sports an integral guard with sharpened ends.  I don’t know if they have a purpose, or just part of the aggressive combat nature of the knife.  Shadow Tech builds the sheath so you’re protected from the points when carrying the knife.

I had just enough time to finger it and photograph it, but I still liked it.  The knife was a little blade heavy for my taste.  I like a little more weight in my hand as it makes the blade livelier, at least in my opinion. 

 close up of Shadow Tech EOD Fixed Blade's guard
It's a stout knife.  You can pry, dig, chop and slice with it and the EOD looks like it's up to it.

It might be a little big for wearing to the store for a gallon of milk, (Yes I know Soldier of Fortune says you should be able to conceal 12 inches of fighting steel under your sport coat.  They didn’t say anything about sitting in your car.)  But I’d pack it if I was heading off the paved trail any day.

I was told it was evaluated for a month in California and is now issued to Explosive Ordinance Disposal Teams in Afghanistan.

Complete honesty: I’ve bought several Shadow Techs for myself, and I’ve sold a few on my table.  They have never given me one, but for the money I’d recommend them to anyone.  Keep your eye on them.  I keep hearing rumors of collaborations and autos in the future.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Dad's Japanese Bayonet

I recently “discovered” a Japanese type 30 bayonet my father brought home from WWII.  It wasn’t so much discovered as re-discovered.  I knew I had it, but it was tucked away as I didn’t have much interest in bayonets.

However, I admit to now experiencing a certain electric spark that seems to jump the almost 70 years between my father holding it and me holding it in my garage.  He was stationed in Japan after the war for a short time.  I believe he was transporting a load of Japanese service weapons to a destroyer, from which they would be pitched overboard into deep water.  He asked if he could take one and I’m sure the answer was something like “it’s no skin off my nose, buddy…”

What seems interesting to me now is the armory markings.  I recently helped a friend with his bayonets so I thought I’d do a little research myself.  


Arsenal marks-Japanese Bayonet
Stacked cannon balls and a prism.  Who would have guessed?



It’s a type 30 Japanese bayonet with a sharpened, polished blade.  I checked several sources and frankly, the internet can be a very misleading place.  The best I can figure is the bayonet is from the Hikari Seiki Seisakusho arsenal.  I suspect it was, like so many wartime products, made by some company under the supervision of the arsenal.  (When I started at Goodyear, I was told by some of the old-timers that Goodyear also made ammunition during WWII as well as aircraft.)

The overlapping spheres, which remind me of a flower are the top down view of stacked cannonballs.  It’s probably better to go into battle with cannonballs on your weapons.  The other is described as the Tokyo hourglass.  I did a little more research which indicated it’s actually a prism.  Maybe.  I see it as light rays passing through a lens showing the curvature of field.  Maybe that week of crystal optics is still on my mind.

In any case, the question is to sell or keep?  I’m going to keep it, at least for a while longer.  It’s a historical connection to my father from before I was born.  I can’t help wonder about the Japanese soldier it was issued to as well.  Did he live to see Japan surrender?  Did he live to see Japan become a manufacturing powerhouse?

In any case, I have a new appreciation of the re-enactors and collectors assembling a complete, original and authentic military kit.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Knife Show this Week-end


This is the second year for this show and it is building momentum.  Last year the attendance was low and I got some great bargains.  You might find some yourself this year.

The show is Friday Aug 8 and Saturday Aug 9 located at Stranahan Great Hall at 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd, Toledo.  Admittance is a pittance.  You get both days for $10 or one day for $6.
 
http://www.glasscityknifeshow.com/

It’s safe to drink the water in Toledo, the show should be great and if you spend a few hours with the vendors you may be able to negotiate a few deals yourself.  

Or not.  In any case I’m sure you’ll have a great time.

In the interest of total openness, I have no connection to the show.  Gun shows in this part of Ohio are almost a dime a dozen (well, maybe a dollar a dozen) but true knife shows are few and far between.  If you have a need for an edge, this could be the right show for you.  I wish I could see you there but I can’t attend.  Maybe next year!

Stay tuned for Battle of the Blades Oct 17 and 18 in Cambridge, Ohio!

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.