Monday, February 22, 2016

Gifts

There are few gifts nicer than a pocketknife. 

If you don’t agree with that statement it is probable because no one ever gave you a pocket knife.  Recently I’ve been gifted with two.   Honestly, it’s impossible to determine if I like one more than the other.  It’s quite possible I like both of them equally.

My friend Tom sent me a nice Buck Slimline from customer appreciation days at Buck HQ.  As I understand it, many of the knives available at these days are of limited production and one and done uniqueness. 

Buck knives

Thanks Tom! 
The Buck Slimline is a nice one hand opening lock blade.  The steel is 420HC that has been cryogenically quenched.  Buck likes this steel a lot and with good reason.  It makes a great blade for general use.  420HC contains 0.45% carbon and 13% chromium.  The cryogenic heat treatment helps ensure the best combination of steel phases.  This all adds up to a stainless steel blade with a RHC of 58.  The blade is stain resistant and is hard enough to hold an edge, not be brittle and can be sharpened with ordinary stones. 

I love the black handle with blood red drizzle.  My love of Bucks started in college with the Buck 110.  I can’t tell you how many camp fires I’ve built with that Buck.  Now I have another, but it’s just too pretty to use!  I’m deeply touched by this Buck.


1996 Bullet
1996 Bullet Knife

My friend Paul passed on a number of years ago.  I met him because I was a shooting buddy of his wife and we grew close. Paul was a soft spoken man and I always found him to be dependable and keeper of his word.  These are virtues I value.  

I recently got his Remington 1996 bullet knife.  It’s in great shape, Paul seldom carried anything he thought was too fancy.  The knife has a master blade as well as a smaller blade.  It also comes with an awl, corkscrew, bottle opener/straight blade screwdriver and a nasty looking can opener. The blades are 440 stainless and the bolsters are nickel silver, a copper alloy containing copper, nickel and zinc, but despite its name, no silver.

The boxed knife lived in a drawer mostly because Paul, I suspect, was saving it for when he would really need it.  But I saw a very different connection.  The knife is called the Trailhand and Paul was a good man to ride the trail with.



P.S.  That is pretty tacky of you, Kevin, to post your price list as a comment on my blog without asking me.  If I had to guess, I would suspect you're friendless and will probably die alone and forgotten.  Make changes now while you still can.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Shadow Tech’s Claw


ST Folding Karambit
The large prototype folding Karambit
Originally, like so many martial art weapons, the karambit originated in southeast Asia. Inspired by the claws of big cats, the natives initially used this design for mundane activities, like raking roots, gathering threshing and planting rice.  Over time. circumstances forced the development of farm and every day implements into weapons of self-defense.


“The karambit is held with the blade pointing downward from the bottom of the fist, usually curving forwards however occasionally backwards. While it is primarily used in a slashing or hooking motion, karambit with a finger ring are also used in a punching motion hitting the opponent with the finger ring. Some karambit are designed to be used in a hammering motion. This flexibility of striking methods is what makes it so useful in self-defense situations. The finger guard makes it difficult to disarm and allows the knife to be maneuvered in the fingers without losing one's grip.
The short Filipino karambit has found some favor in the West because such proponents allege the biomehanics of the weapon allow for more powerful cutting strokes and painful "ripping" wounds, and because its usability is hypothesized as more intuitive, though there continues to be debate about this matter.”
It takes hardly any effort to find self-promoting YouTube videos of how to use a fightin’ karambit.  Any of these complete videos can be purchased, …our operators are standing by…

The problem with fixed knives is they are not easy to conceal, a necessary condition of modern society.  Shadow Tech has been making fixed blade karambits for some time now.  They are currently, in a secret laboratory/dojo, developing two folding karambits.  And joking aside, they look pretty great.  I’ve only seen prototypes but they were very close to production models. 

Two almost ready for manufacturing prototypes
Make that 2 to go, please.
I expect a there will be a little tweeking before and possible after release.  After all it is only mythology in which Venus springs forth from the ocean in all her perfection.  I do know the knives will be made from Crucible’s 154CM steel.  Some of the best knife companies use 154CM steel for their blades.  ST is using it for liners, liner lock and clips also.  The clip will be reversible and the knife rides tip up.  At least that was the plan when John and I talked about it.


liner lock has full thickness of lock behind the blade
Many knives, many fine knives have only a portion of the liner lock behind the blade

The liner lock will throw its complete thickness behind the blade spreading out the force of folding over a wide surface.  My limited experience suggests that may require a little more effort on your part to unlock the knife.  Pushing the liner lock over may require you to dig your thumb a little deeper in the lock, but you can image the painful consequences of having the lock fail.

ST tells me they will have two sizes, a large aggressive blade,
Large size

And a smaller blade. 

The small size

John tells me there will be several ways of snagging the blade’s opening stud and/or geometry to open the blade as you draw it from your pocket.  That’s very cool.  

Still remember what one veteran told me:
“I carry in my pocket.  If there could be trouble I move the knife from my pocket to behind my belt.  If I think there is going to be trouble, the unopened knife is carried in my hand.”

A karambit has the potential to increase even an unskilled person’s survival potential.  Give that and Shadow Tech some consideration.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Benchmade CLA

I just got my hands on Benchmade’s auto knife, the CLA.  I kept thinking the C stood for something military, or governmental-like, central or clandestine.  Instead it stands for the plebeian word, composite.  But don’t be fooled by that.  It may say Composite Lite Auto, but it’s a sweetie by any name.

Benchmade auto knife CLA
The CLA is a relatively new addition to their black class of autos.

The heart of any knife is the steel.  The CLA has a 3.4 inch blade made of 154CM.  That’s Crucible Industries’ martensitic stainless steel.  Martensitic?  So much about steel can be laid at the feet of carbon.  If steel has a low enough level of carbon, the iron is arranged in patterns called ferrite, but it can’t hold very much carbon.  Hot iron can dissolve more carbon than cold, so as the metal cools out of the furnace, a form called austenite develops.  It can hold more carbon than ferrite, especial when hot.  Cool the hot austenite and it has to get rid of the excess carbon like a bad check.  Unfortunately by then everything is frozen solid, so austenite does the only thing possible: it changes shape to martensite.  This change in crystal system is what gives classic samurai swords their curved shapes, but that’s for another time.

The blade is tempered to 58-61 RHC.  Martensite can be made harder, but it also becomes brittle.  Brittle is the arch enemy of any blade.  Being a stainless the blade contains 14% chromium, which forms a transparent oxide film protecting it from all but the harshest conditions.  It’s called stain-less and not stain-proof for that reason.  The main difference between 154CM and 440C is the higher level of molybdenum.  Moly, as she’s known, also forms carbides like chromium.  These carbides help stabilize the crystals in the steel from deforming under pressure, which provides edge retention as well as strength.  The blades come as plain or partially serrated.  I normally prefer the plain edge based on looks, but the partial serration looks damn good too!

Enough about steel.  I never worry if knife companies like Benchmade, SOG or even Case are using the right steel.  They wouldn’t still be in business if they couldn’t get the best possible properties out of the metal.

CLA open on benchmades black class box
Note the safety next to the large button.  The button is off set to add a layer of security.

The CLA’s handle is 4.45 inches long, under a half inch thick and curved to better fit your hand.  The scales are composed of G-10.  This material is a composite of woven glass cloth and epoxy resin cured under pressure.  It is very mechanically stable and resistant to most acids, solvents and bases as well as being an electrical insulator.  It’s entirely possible when cockroaches have replaced humans as the dominant species on earth, G-10 will still be hanging around.

Like all Benchmade autos the spring is stout enough to open the blade with authority.    Even a superficial examination of the knife shows the safety lock next to the release button.  I’ve always liked that.  You can off-safe it with your thumb and then simply roll on to the button to open the knife.  That’s nice!

The open box construction makes it easy to clean and oil.  Note the jimping at the back of the blade.

The pocket clip is left/right reversible and the knife is designed to be carried tip up.  The clip is placed to give you relatively deep pocket carry.  A hole next to the clip provides an attachment point for lanyards and retention devices.  It’s a nice knife and if I carried it over water or deep snow I’d use a retention line too!

The back of the blade has several lines of jimping which are carried onto the knife handle.  Jimping provides an additional friction surface as well as another tactile indicator of knife and blade orientation. 

I wish I could tell you how it cuts, but frankly it’s not necessary.  Benchmade knows how to sharpen an edge and how to correctly temper 145CM steel.  This knife is going to cut.  Besides, is slicing up a strip of cured horse hide really going to tell you how sharp it is?

I like the way the CLA feels in my hand.  I wouldn’t hesitate to carry this knife for everyday chores as well as off the beaten path contingencies.  If trouble comes looking, you might be very happy to have your own CLA!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Stay Sharp in 2016

New Year’s Day calls for a roasting pan full of pork, smoked sausage and sauerkraut at my mother-in-law’s house. The food preparation is relatively simple, but conflicts do arise. 

I am convinced that my martial arts instructor got it wrong.  He once told us the Chinese ideogram for trouble was two women under the same roof.  He’s wrong.  It’s an elderly mother and her daughter under the same roof.

Despite that, everything went fine except for the knives.  I have never seen two kitchen knives so dull.  Fortunately, I had my Spyderco Sharpmaker available.  Even more fortunately, I own a pair of coarse diamond sharpening rods.

Diamond sharpening rods and santoku  knife
The silver diamond rod and a dull santoku

Spyderco has made diamond rods for a number of years, but the cost for diamond-impregnated rods was above and beyond affordable.  Recently breakthroughs have brought the cost down so mere mortals like myself can afford them.  A retail cost of $80 for two rods isn’t terrible.  They also make a cubic boron nitride for the same price.  

The key, Spyderco’s Joyce Laituri told me, is not to bear down hard, but to let the diamonds do the work.  It only took a few swipes on each side to get the knife which wouldn’t tear paper to one that cut paper.

I've worked through the medium and ended with the white fine stone.  Spyderco makes an extra fine, but I suspect I really don't need it.
From there it’s working through the dark medium stones and the white fine stones.  I would suggest not always starting the sharpening stroke at the back of the edge or choil, but also at the knife tip.  I find that gets a better edge faster.

Years ago I was told about another knifemaker who used his Spyderco Sharpmaker backwards.  He started down at the bottom of the V formed by the two stones and brought his knife upward as well as towards himself.  

This makes sense.  You want to draw the wire edge, where the real sharpness is, outward from the blade.  When you strop an edge on leather or the cardboard backing of a paper pad, that’s what you are doing.

You can do the same thing with a fine stone too!

That edge doesn't have a micro-serration.  It's just badly damaged.  (It's a crappy photo, hard to hold the knife at the right angle and camera.)

The little santoku knife was dull, but the little Spyderco paring knife was beyond dull.  Holding the knife upside down and staring where the edge should have been was unusual.  I’ve never seen an edge that looks like tiny polished diamonds before.  Fortunately, the diamond rods took the chips and gouges out right away and let me work to the fine stones without too much trouble.

You see the side of the blade, but the not the edge.  It isn't because I've sharpened to a sub-atomic edge, but because its sharpen enough to come to an edge smaller than the resolution of the eye. 

I’ve always enjoyed sharpening knives.  There is a rhythm that seems to resonate with me.  It’s peaceful, calming work.  I stand or sit and under my finger pressure steel turns into an edge, one of man’s oldest and most important tools.  There is a connection between me and first person who wondered if they could make a favorite tool work again.  I like that.

Have a Happy and Sharp New Year in 2016!



Spyderco 204D a pair of diamond rods or 204CBN a pair of cubic boron nitride rods:  $58 plus shipping  Contact me.  Searcher12@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Collecting

The recent (Dec 2015) stabbing in London by some Other Dickless Asshole (ODA) will surely result in a call to de-fang the British citizenry even more.  There has already been a call by English doctors to eliminate pointy kitchen knives.  Even the presence of a Stanley utility knife in your work belt can land you in an English jail until you can explain to the judge’s satisfaction why you needed one.  I hope your employer feels like appearing in court to bolster your claims you have to cut up cardboard boxes as part of your job.

It’s hard to understand how anyone could think they can eliminate pointed knives.  Fleming’s James Bond pauses in “Dr. No” to sharpen a purloined dinner knife into a sharp point before escaping from his cell.  It just took a concrete surface and a little time.  This is a basic prison skill known to, unfortunately, millions.

Here in America we also have our share of ODAs and the incidents they create.  While the anti-knife people are present, so far they haven’t made too much of an impact.  Part of our protection is granted by the 2nd Amendment.  This amendment isn’t only about guns, which aren’t mentioned.  It talks about arms, which can be guns, knives, spears, axes, clubs, canes, bow and arrow and other material objects.

But given the right circumstances an anti-knife backlash is possible.  One only has to recall The Woman’s Home Companion’s article about switch blade knives, “The Toy That Kills.”  Following movies and plays like “Rebel without a Cause” and “West Side Story” the media published stories about violent youths and changing sexual mores and conservative America demanded to be protected.  The politicians of that era responded by making Switchblades illegal.  How a switchblade is more deadlier than any locking knife or fixed blade was never explained. 

Politicians, fearful of exhausting their political power and prestige by addressing the real causes of crime, did/will scapegoat inanimate objects as a way of placating the voters.  That object could be your knife collection.  What’s a collector to do?

Pick up a copy of Knife Laws of the U.S. by attorney Evan Napper.  It’s worth $25 and a couple hours of your time.

One of his interesting ideas is to join a knife collecting club.  I suspect it would be better to join a physical one with meetings you can attend rather than an e-club.  Another valuable step is creating a listing, either spreadsheet or index cards with each knife entered, date obtained, value and written description.  This extra effort could help validate your claim that you are an active trader/purchaser and a “official knife collector” as well as make collecting more enjoyable.

One word of advice.  Use a ‘scientific’ description of your knife.  It is an early Vietnam era, serialized, survival knife by Gerber and not just Gerber seven-inch stabby thing.

Speaking of stabby things, did you know the classic KA-BAR fighting knife was made in Cleveland, among other places?  At the last knife gun show I ran into a fellow who told me how he built up stacked leather washer handles on KA-BARS working his way through college.  Since he was my age that ruled out WWII and Korea.  He indicated he had quite a few seconds at home, as a nick or chipped blade couldn’t be sold.


I don’t know if it’s a true story, but it would be interesting to see what he considers ‘quite a few.’

I just attended a local knife club meeting and one fellow denied he was a knife collector, but was rather a knife gatherer. That description fits me much better than collector. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

On Display

Attended the museum show at Medina last weekend.  I thought it was a gun show so I brought my knives and set up.  Boy, was I wrong.

But I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know it was a museum show.  Just about all the displayers thought they were going to be vendors.  We were so wrong.  Still i had fun that week-end.

I have several favorite knife companies; Spyderco, Benchmade, Ka-Bar, Boker and Shadow Tech.  Sure there’s a few others, SOG, Buck, TOPS and I like them too, but I have a soft spot for Shadow Tech.

It’s a two man company and Dave still finishes all the blades by hand.  I just bought a fixed blade made from Alabama Damascus' Buckshot Damascus steel.  It’s a US company  and they make their Damascus from 4 layers 5160 steel, 3 layers 203E steel, 3 layers 52100 steel, and 3 layers 15N20 steel folded 5 times.  If you do the math, that gives you  a 416 layer Damascus pattern.


Damascus blade, Shadow Tech Damascus
Shadow Tech


I’m just tickled over it.  It’s a wonderful knife.  Of course, you need to keep it oiled.  Etched steel has a tendency to rust but I can live with that minor inconvenience.

I had a chance to see some early prototypes that John had with him.  Shadow Tech is working on a folder that’s quite interesting, but it is the folding karambit prototype that’s exciting.  It will have a wave opener and ambidextrous studs.  You can catch the wave on pockets and open it or use the studs.  The studs will be positioned so your thumb naturally travels to it and glides the blade open.  A second opening mode is available to anyone who carries on the inside of their waist band.  The stud will catch the seam and open while you draw it.  Will it take some practice?  Sure, but it didn’t look like a skill set too difficult to master. 

Many fixed blades and folders sport a glass breaker or impact point.  It is a nice accessory.  All across America people are discovering a need to suddenly open a car window to rescue a child or pet.  On a 70 degree sunny day, temperatures in a sealed car can reach 120 degrees.  Following an accident, breaking a window may be the only way into or out of a car.  Most knives put the impact point on the back of the knife where your hand wants to sit.  This can limit the amount of force you can apply to an open knife because the point digs into your palm.  The ST karambit will have the impact point situated on blade spine on the front of the knife for easy use with the knife closed. 

There’s still talk about an auto with a hidden split bolster opener.  Made here in Ohio.  How cool would that be?

I’m so excited about seeing these, maybe by the Blade Show?   Who knows.

I’m only kidding about the museum show.  We had a few real customers and a few real weirdo’s.  The one that best comes to mind was a nicely dressed fellow inspecting knives.  He settled in on Benchmade’s Nakamura Axis folder and then zoned out.  It’s a nice knife, worth pondering if you have a few seconds.  The 3–inch blade is made from M390 super steel with a RHC 60-63.   The handle is dressed in black contoured G-10 with steel liners.  Of course it has that great axis lock I’ve come to really appreciate.  It’s a great knife.

He visually inspected it.  Touched every part he could several different times.  He opened the knife half way put it next to his ear and listened to it, did another intense visual inspection and I swear to God, even sniffed it.  I was watching him like a hawk.  If he tasted it, I was calling the cops.  Fortunately it didn’t come to that!

I never saw anyone inspect a knife so closely and then wordlessly, put it down and walk away.


What a show!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

SOG’s Aegis

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I open the box containing the SOG Aegis.  I like the new pillbox style container, but the real importance is what’s in the box.

The company SOG was started in 1986 in California by Spence Frazer.  Frazer, who didn’t have direct military experience, was inspired by a the SOG knife carried in Vietnam.  This knife fired his imagination and following its re-creation, he built a top-end knife company.

What about the original knife that inspired him?  We can thank Wikipedia for the background. 

It was Vietnam.  Highly trained men slipped behind enemy and neutral lines on dangerous and often one-way missions.  They were given a code name that wouldn’t say anything: Studies and Observations Group (SOG).  Kind of sounds like a group of professors in some college think tank.  Of course now we know how misleading that was. 

They needed a knife.  It’s hard to beat a knife for silence and up close interaction.  It’s hard to beat a knife as a basic survival tool.

Benjamin Baker, the Deputy Chief of the U.S. Counterinsurgency Support Office (CISO) wanted a sterile knife that would give no clue to the nationality of its owner.  He designed a knife with a blade pattern featuring a convex false edge similar to the clip point of a Bowie knife.  It’s been long established in knife lore that stacked leather washers gave the best grip when your hands got wet or bloody, so he added that.  Finger groves were cut/molded into the leather washer handle.  The blade was made from SKS-3 steel hardened to a Rockwell hardness of 55-57.  We might consider that a bit low by today’s standards, but Baker wanted a knife that would bend instead of break.  A small sharpening stone was added to the leather sheath. Lastly, the blade was blued to reduce sunlight glinting off the steel and reduce rust. 

The knives were made in Japan and issued.  They are now quite a collector’s item.


That’s quite a bloodline for my little Aegis to live up to.  Lets take a look at it.

Drop point Sog Aegis
It comes top up right hand out of the box.


The knife is an assisted opener.  The opening isn’t as explosive as I’m used to, but there isn’t a tendency to jump out of my hand either.  The 3.5 inch blade of AUS-8 steel
 is hardened to Rc of 57-58.  The blade is coated with a Ti-N which reduces reflection and adds a “tacti-cool” look.  The relatively high level of chromium gives AUS-8 good rust resistance, but remember it’s just resistance, not proof.

The knife has a safety, which I tend to ignore.  I carry my knives pressed against the pocket’s  back seam so the blade is pressed into the knife.  They seldom if ever open on their own in my pocket.

The blade has a thumb stud on both sides which facilities the tip-up carry.  You can reverse the clip for right and left side.  The clip lets the knife ride completely submerged in your pocket.  This may create problems with local ordnances about “concealed weapons.”  I know if you’re arrested, the nail clipper in your pocket will be written up as a concealed weapon.  Give it some thought and be careful.

I don’t know if the SOG arc-lock is the strongest lock in existence.  There are a lot of claims about lock strength in the knife market.  It really depends on how you run your test and how you define strongest.  Previous ownership of SOG arc-lock knives make me trust it as much as I trust any locking folder.

The black zytel handle has a pattern of raised features to increase the friction between the hand and handle.  More importantly, it felt good in my hand. 

I don’t own this knife, it’s going on my sales table marked at $87.  I can’t do any cutting test but I’d sure carry it.