Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bridge Day 2014

Landing on a small LZ
Small landing zone

Bridge Day is always the third Saturday of October.  Don’t let that fixation on date fool you.  Every Bridge Day is unique in its own way.

Start with the river.  The New River is one of the oldest rivers in the world.  Yeah, it’s up there with the Finke and Rhine. The Nile is a youngster compared to the New.  It also runs south to north, so you should expect a few idiosyncrasies.  The water level is affected largely by the weather conditions in North Carolina and release rates at the Bluestone dam at the bottom of the state.

The weather has a big part of any Bridge Day.  Winds at the bridge are often different than at the landing zone.  The boundary between the wind conditions creates a zone of shear at tug the jumper one way and the chute another.  Sometimes this problem  is hardly noticeable, but other times it wrenches the jumpers sideways and threatens the stability of their chute.  Bridge days have been rainy, cold, sunny, as well as blue skies with white cottony clouds.

This year it was cloudy, cool, and misty with gusts of wind.  Yuck!  The river was high and fast running.  The high water made the landing zone tiny.  

Landing Zone (LZ)

The wind gusts made landings interesting, at least to the observers.  I’m sure it makes the jumpers very nervous, if not frightened.  None of which makes for a good Bridge Day.

How high was the water?  Here’s a photo of a Rock I often climb out onto to take pictures of water landings.  It’s a little island by itself.

normally a walk to rock
High Water
During the briefing we were told that the water rescue people were anticipating difficulty in retrieving all the water landings because of the fast current and this may slow the jumping down.

Early morning getting set to put out into the New river
Water rescue boats
I happened to notice the rescue knives carried by the water rescue teams.
Spyderco rescue knives
Older Spydercos
That’s right; they are orange-handled Spyderco rescue knives.  That’s what the professionals use, but I’ve got tell you, most jumpers would rather lose an arm then have their rig cut up.  

water landing
Nothing like an early morning dip to wake up, or jumping off a bridge!

The water rescue guys did a great job, most of the time.  Rushing to get to a jumper still selecting his landing point, one boat got too close and a gust of wind, a spin of the boat’s steering wheel and a collusion of man and machine occurred.  It sounded like someone hit a bowling ball with an axe.  He went to the hospital.  I’m not sure if the aluminum hulled boat needed to have a dent pounded out or not.

Early morning ambulances arrive
Ambulances arrive, good thing, they are going to get used.
If events like Bridge Day could have themes, some would be “Drifting on Clouds” and “Splendor of the Leaves.”  This one would be “Wood.” 

There is a chute under those tree branches

The small landing zone also affected the support people at the LZ.  The ambulances were moved to a new location to make room, but not everyone picked up on that lesson.  At least not right away.

Jumper bounces off roof of  rescue vehicle parked in secondary handing zone

Help on the way

Learning:  Let's move the golf cart out of the landing zone!

The National Park Service is charged with preserving the uniqueness of each of our National Parks.  It’s not an easy job.  Ham-fisted clods, like myself want to walk off trail, climb down river beds, and in general disturb the pristine wonderfulness they preserve.  They aren’t entirely wrong about it.  But I’ve got to say, I can’t see any problem with chopping down one tree at the landing zone.  

That particular tree was quickly decorated by parachutes which still there when I left at the end of the day.  Several jumpers made attempts to tear that tree down limb by limb by landing on it.  Most got their chutes back, but other jumpers made a more permanent donation to its winter ornamentation.  It wasn’t the only tree catching jumpers.

First decoration --More to come!

Same tree as above but with a second decoration!

Not having enough soaring time, one jumper rented a plane and jumped with an American flag.  Very Cool!  It brought cheers from the crowd in the landing zone which quickly turned to a gasp when he got snagged by a tree.  The tree dropped him like a fashionista with last year’s shoes. Fortunately he was all right and we treated him to a free ride to the hospital.

Flying the flag, Bridge Day style

Rough landing, caught in a tree and dropped like a rock.

The trick was to land low on the beach and avoid the trees.  
Like this guy

Or just short of the beach

Some missed the beach by accident or design.  Others chose the softer and safer water landing.  In front of the landing zone an area or relatively calm water allowed jumpers to land and safely wait for boat pick-up.  But considering the air temp, I was wondering about hypothermia.  You can get hypothermia standing wet in the cold windy air after being pulled from the river.  There isn’t a shelter where wet jumpers can warm up or get out of wet clothes.  

Still quite a few people had nice rides and made the local birds jealous.  
Gliding in
It was a bad Bridge Day.  No sun, cold, high water, tricky winds, but still wonderful to watch.  Even a bad Bridge Day is better than day at home.

Sail On!

Post script:
I get asked about security.

It’s a complex subject.  The jumpers are profiled by police as are staff.  No question about it.  We all need picture IDs which we have to wear, jumpers get background checks, they and their packs are checked with sniffing dogs.  It’s never been explained what the police and dogs are looking for. While missing this year, in the last two previous years the FBI placed a 360 degree camera at the landing zone.  Beats the hell out of me what they were looking for.  The WV state police want to run fingerprints next year.  

None of these conditions apply to the vendors or visitors.

In the landing zone I saw WV state troopers, Park Service Police, US Marshals, local police and TSA and it was rumored the FBI had undercover agents present.  I’m not exactly sure who or what they expect to find.  I will say a police presence is welcome. One never knows what can happen in crowds and with over stimulated people.  I’m just not sure we need so many in the landing zone.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Few industries are rumor free.  The knife industry isn’t even close.  Here's a few I've picked up that have some credibility. 

Rick Hinderer is breaking ground for an improved, expanded facility.  A grinding company I know reports they see a multitude of Hinderer blades for grinding after heat treatment.  Perhaps Rick wants to keep it all in house.  I have seen at least one potential misfire.  But in all honesty, the question remains, was that a real ZT Hinderer or did a Chinese knock-off get picked up by the distributor?

Starting now and finished by January 2015 Zero Tolerance will drop their distributors in favor of factory direct to brick and mortar stores.  I hope I’m wrong.  Some people claim that this generates exclusivity and protects their stocking dealers from Internet sales.  Benchmade went this route several years ago and there are plenty of new Benchmade on EBay.  I think this causes them to just lose market shares.

Shadow Tech is working on a folder and hopes to have it ready by the 2015 SHOT show in January.  If not SHOT certainly by the Blade Show!  It almost seems a natural progression to start with a simpler fixed blade and then progress to the more complicated folder.  I suspect the market for folders is larger than that of fixed blades.  Most of us carry a folder every day, but the fixed blade makes our co-workers nervous.

Stag prices have increased and custom knife makers are already increasing prices.  It seems unfair, but they have to replace a consumable with a pricier version.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Neither Here or There

I’m getting ready for another weekend of knife sales.  The Medina gun show doesn’t run over the summer months, chiefly, I suspect, because attendance in nice weather is too slim to be profitable.  Since I’m not attempting to make a living with it, that’s okay with me.  I like having my summer weekends. 

But the return of crappy weather signals a return to knife sales.  I ordered a few replacement items for things that have sold.  It’s very hard to stock inexpensive quality knives.  Knife prices are zooming upward and the influx of counterfeit knives is ruining the market.  But it isn’t always the counterfeit that’s hurting everyone.

I use to carry Kershaw’s Leek.  It’s a great knife, thin and sleek with an attractive blade.  They always sold too, but for the last couple of years Wal-Mart has been selling them.  Selling them cheap too, perhaps too cheap.  Wal-Mart has a reputation of shaving quality out of products to lower their price point.  Maybe they turned over a new leaf.  Maybe Kershaw only cares about profits today and well, tomorrow might be someone else’s problem.  In any case you can find the Leek at Wal-Mart.

So I don’t carry Leeks anymore.  Between online shoppers and Wal-Mart there is no market I can tap.

I read a number of blogs and people send me links and I’m amazed at what I must call stupid money items.  An everyday carry knife for thousand bucks?  An improved flash hider for an AR in the hundreds?  Flashlights that will light up a stadium for 90 minutes on high for 200 bucks?  Even my beloved Spydercos and Benchmades are beginning to come with a loan application.   It’s no surprise.  Costs are going up faster than disposable income.

The question I, and perhaps you, have is answer is, do I really need those items?  I’m not sure a $400 knife will serve me better than an $85 knife.  I know the wristwatch with build-in calculation for drop correction will not make me a better shooter and I seldom have the need to light up a stadium for even a minute.  I suspect  the answer will be found in careful use if a need/want/anticipated use table.

Last weekend was pretty nice so I escaped to the West Side Market in Cleveland.  That area is known as Ohio City and it’s beginning to thrive.  There are quite a few interesting store and activities there.

I’m a sucker for new and unusual vegetables or fruit so I bought a Pitaya or Dragon Fruit.  They are actually cactus fruit originally native to Mexico but also grown in East Asian and Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia as well as Okinawa, Hawaii, Israel, northern Australia, southern China and in Cyprus.

I noticed too late that none of the vendors had prices listed.  I normally don’t pay silly money for fruit, but ….

Half a Dragon Fruit. It cuts easy.

It’s a strikingly good looking fruit, reddish rind with green tipped fleshy ends.  You eat it like a kiwi, cut it in half and scoop it out.  The flesh is white with little black seeds.  Again very impressive.  Taste is another matter.

Inside Dragon Fruit.  Just use a spoon to scoop it out.
Totally bland.  Well, there was a little resemblance, maybe a hint of something suggestive of kiwi.  But I’d skip it completely if I were you. 

I took my wife to see “Gone Girl.”  The audience was mostly women, but I wasn’t the only man there.  It’s a story about two sociopaths who marry.  The wife, Amy, is a much better sociopath.  Better doesn’t always equate to good.  I found it frightening as Amy exploits the tragic flaws in all of us.

What was more frightening was the responses of the women in the audience to Amy.  Amy’s plots resonated with many them and I found myself scrunching farther and farther down in my seat.  I never heard so many women give out a throaty, deep, almost subvocal “yeah” every time Amy’s well planned scheme digs the hole a little deeper under her husband and his sister.

the hole Amy dug for her husband
This is the best image of the hole Amy dug for her husband, but I got to say, he jumped in.

I will say, it’s just coincidence that I’m trying out cold weather sleep gear in the garage this week or maybe for the rest of the year.  I have mentioned my unattached garage locks from the inside, haven’t I?

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.

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!