Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Day 2 blade 2016

The calendar retired people use works remarkably well at the Blade Show.  There is only yesterday, today and tomorrow.  By the end of the second day you’ve seen just about everything and plunked down your hard earned cash, at least I hope you have.  There will be no bargains on Sunday, Day 3.
Esnyx paid $500 to have an empty table for half the show.

By noon Saturday Busse was down to 2 knives and 1 tomahawk.  Microtech has only the knives nobody wants and many of the custom knife makers have sold all their knives. 

 Some manufacturers don’t sell at this show.  Neither Spyderco nor CRKT sell, partially to prevent their retailers from taking it on the chin, partially to reduce the shipping problems.  There are some nice discounts from vendors.  It’s also a lot to pack, ship and return to the main warehouse.  Benchmade does it, but then they only sell to brick and mortar stores.

Empty counter
Busse and empty counter by noon on day 2


Shipping has its own risk.  I overheard Emerson Knives ‘lost’ all their custom knives they auction off.  They just disappeared in transit.  Of course it doesn’t take much to look at the label and read Emerson Knives Co. and Blade Show and realize there’s a lot of easy-to-convert loot in that box.
James Knife, a relatively new company with very modern and clean lines, reported that two of their knives disappeared during shipping.

At some point, after the 150th table, you realize that for most knife blades (let’s exclude the art and fantasy knives) form and function are bound into a tight circle.  There can only be so many variations of a blade.  You’ll soon find yourself only noticing the handles.  Here the range of materials, finish, shape and combinations give the artist more latitude.  Don’t believe me?  Entire displays are devoted to just dyed wood.  But there is a cure for this.  Visit Mickey Yurco’s table.  He has a table of innovative blades and impact tools that is actually joyful to look at.  He’s always one of my favorite stops.
Sandy Brady, the scrimshaw artist, had her work on display.  She had several CRKT turtles (now discontinued) in which she replaced the original plastic shell with scrimshaw ivory.  They are just wonderful.  She’s also very active in the effort to prevent the ivory ban.  It’s not that she hates elephants, it just very little of illegally poached ivory finds its way to our country.  Most ends up in China and other Far East countries.  Banning ivory from animals that died between 1980 and 40000BC has no impact on today’s conservation efforts.

Micky always has a fun table!

engraved scrimshaw
Sandy's wonderful artwork


I bought a few things as did my wife.  I’ll have pictures later. There is an old parable about packing.  It says lay all your clothes and money out on the bed before packing for vacation.  Leave half the clothes and double the money.  It is so true at the Blade Show.  While there are few bargains, they aren’t cheap.  I purchased a handmade auto.  The handle is specially laid-up carbon fiber.  The maker uses a double strength steel coil spring for positive opening.  All the load bearing points are stainless steel imbedded in the carbon fiber.  The opening button is oversized and requires a spring loaded safety to be retracted before it functions.  Each knife is numbered with its own unique serial number.  Most of these knives are made for two government contracts, the FBI being one.  I suspect the eight he had to sell were contract overruns and he offered a great deal.  Still they were not cheap!

The aisles were filled with people, and it seemed attendance was up.  This year the new products were labeled ‘no photos.’  The new product area is where companies display some of their newest products which they hope will be award-winning world beaters.  I guess Blade got tired of having bloggers releasing images before they could.

I went to hear Murray Carter talk about sharpening knives.  He’s an interesting person.  He claims to have sharpened 125,000 knives all by hand.  He uses two water stones for basic sharpening, a course and a fine. 
Hand sharpening
Murray and his elaborate sharpening system, a bucket, board, towel and a stone with two grits

With these two stones using a seven step method he gets razor sharp knives.  He believes that all knife blades should be thinned and the only acceptable grind is a flat grind.  Grind angle?  Don’t make him laugh.  The best angle is the angle that works the best for your purpose.  Since it only takes him a few minutes to resharpen, he’ll try one angle then another and see which works best.  Sort of suggests having a pocket full of knives with different purposes written on each.  He’s very pragmatic about sharpening, but he has the reputation for it.

I stopped at ZT.  They make amazing factory knives.  I picked up one which has both a flipper and a thumb stud.  The flipper worked fine, but using the stud I couldn’t get the blade to move.  Now, I don’t know why the thumb stud is present, as it doesn’t work.  Maybe, at least in my imagination, there is a legal reason.  “Yes, your Honor/Officer/Boss, it has a flipper that lets you open it lightning fast, but it also has a thumb stud so this knife cannot be an auto/dangerous ordinance/ballistic/forbidden by the Geneva code of ‘civilized’ warfare.”

ZTs!
So I asked one of the sales reps about why it doesn’t open with the stud.  He seized the knife out of my hand, muttered some words indicating I didn’t know if my ears were bored or punched and dug his thumb deep into the space between the stub and frame.  With a mighty effort that turned the knuckle of his thumb white and caused me to move out of the way of the debris that would surely result from his exploding joint, he couldn’t could get the knife to pop open either.  And with finger speed and dexterity that would only be seen with the top tier of prestidigitators, he managed to roll his thumb over onto the flipper and pop the blade open.  He muttered a few words about grit and discovered something else somewhere else that needed his immediate attention.

The knives at the Blade Show are amazing, but it’s the interpersonal interactions that are so much fun!
Here’s a few photos!


Blade show 2016



Big time Buck collector!



Knives from Painted Horse



Friday, June 3, 2016

Blade Show 2016 Day One

The first day of the Blade Show came off without a hitch, at least from my perspective.  By the end of the day I got a lead on a new article for Knife Magazine, and found out my Benchmade article will be published in the July issue, so that’s all good.

I purchased a tactical tomahawk from the Australian company Hardcore.  Since the story from 9/11 of the window washer who battered his way through a plaster wall to save himself, I’ve been wondering what I would do.  This is even more significant because of work.  In the almost five years I’ve been there, they have never had a fire drill and when I asked about where my department meets for a head count following a disaster, nobody seemed to know.  I think self rescue should be my middle name.

We lined up about 10 o’clock for the opening at noon.  Two guys (women have more sense) lined up at midnight the previous night to be the first in.  Men 3 and 4, it was reported, lined up at 2am.

What was the rush?  There are many answers.  Microtech has some very good deals on autos you could cash in on if you got a couple thousand set aside.  Same with Busse.  They have a huge following.   There are quite a few custom knife dealers with high end prices and only a few knives to sell.

I could not get to see any Microtech knives, the line to buy was too thick.
Many of these knives will re-emerge on the resale market in a few days.  The prices will be higher and many will disappear quickly.  It’s hard to believe the following some knife companies have.

At noon they started letting us in the main door.  You had to have either a VIP pass or pay an additional $20 to get in early.  We had passes.

Shadow Tech has released their first folder.  Right now they are all made by hand and have an interesting construction.  John wanted special components togive it more strength and improve on its performance and he’s got a pretty nice knife.  I expect a few modifications over time; nothing is made perfect the first time.  His karambits are very interesting.  The large handle maybe bigger than many other manufacturers, but it feels solid and locks open when you hold it.  John and Dave have designed several interesting ways of snapping them open during the draw.
The new Shadow Tech folders


I was disappointed by CRKT last year.  What a difference one year has made.  They have some very exciting new knives which should be reaching the market soon.  CRKT always over-engineers their knives and I didn’t see any change in that.  This could be the year you should buy a CRKT.

I stopped off at a new company called James.  They have two ‘gentleman’ knives they are offering.  The lines are very modern and the knives are very nice.  The name reflects their belief that this is the style knife Ian Fleming’s Bond (not the movie ones) would carry in the casinos at Monte Carlo.  They are design engineers and not machinists, so it’s been an interesting adventure for the two of them.

James Folders
We stopped long enough to see one knife from Popl Custom.  It was quite lovely and a table auction starts at $5000.  That’s dollars, in case you were confused.  I didn’t even touch it to get a better picture.

It is a crappy picture, but I was afraid I touch it and the handle would fall off, I'm not buying that thing!


No Blade Show is complete without demos and classes.  I sat in on one by Abe Elias on machetes as bush knives.  While I’m not ready to rush out and buy one (I already have one in the basement) it’s amazing what you can do with one.  Abe talked about proper cutting, safety and showed techniques to accomplish many of the basic cutting techniques.  It was well worth the hour.

I also paused long enough to watch a short demo of knife grinding with a Burr King grinder.  It was like the 4th of July as it shot sparks everywhere.  The really impressive thing is how smoothly the demonstrator moved the knife grinding the edge.



More Blade tomorrow.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Boker vs Godzilla


I just got a new Boker Plus knife in to inspect.  Unfortunately for me, it’s for sale.  The Boker Urban Trapper is a great looking knife.  It’s very lightweight, partially due to its thin slender blade and partially due to its titanium and G-10 handle. 

Dress knife
The knife has a nice hand feel and good balance.  

The knife uses a small flipper to open and it depends on an IKBS ball-bearing pivot for its smoothness.  Not familiar with IKBS ball bearing designs?  Man, have you been hiding under a rock?


The design is so ingenious and so simple that most home hobbyists could make one.  Since they act like ball bearing races they let knives glide open.

So lets talk specifics:
Length open
7.75 inches
Blade length
3.5 inches
Blade thickness
0.1 inch
Steel
VG-10
Blade
Hollow ground clip point
Handle
G-10 over titanium
Handle thickness
0.4 inches
Weight
1.9 oz or the weight of a double rye whiskey, neat

VG-10 steel is one of the darling steels of the knife industry.  Originally marketed to Japanese chiefs, VG-10 was quickly adopted by the knife culture as a potential super steel.  It’s lived up to that promise. 

If you want to make some yourself, start with nice clean iron and add 1% carbon, 15% chromium, and 1% vanadium.  Add 1.5% cobalt and a pinch (just a 0.5%) manganese.  Mix well and allow to cool under precise conditions.  Ingredients are easy, cooling and heating are the key.  Just buy a Boker Urban Trapper.  It is already razor sharp!

The knife utilizes a frame lock to lock the blade open.  Titanium has wonderful properties, but excessive springiness isn’t one of them.  The G-10 scale limits the outward motion of the titanium frame lock.  It’s a clever solution to prevent over extension of the lock.

The removable, but sadly non-reversible, pocket clip also looks like titanium.  The knife is set up for right hand, tip-up carry.  The pocket clip provides for deep carry both to help retained the tool as well lower its visual profile.  I like to carry in my right side pocket, but drop this knife in any pocket and it will work well for you.

I don’t own this one, but I should.  This thin knife has a dressy business look that will work in the office, at urban play and more formal activities like funerals, weddings and board meetings.  It’s not the knife I’d pack away for elk hunting in Canada, but I’d carry it as a back-up when I was hunting.

It’s a good knife but VS Godzilla?  Well, it just my sense of humor, but several years ago there was a short cartoon video called Bambi VS Godzilla.  It showed Bambi standing alone when it was suddenly crushed by a giant lizard foot.  If Bambi had an Urban Trapper the cartoon might have ended differently.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy birthday Ka-Bar!


Fixed Blade Ka-Bar
Nice sheaths!  Leather doesn't make any noise when it catches on a thorn or bramble bush.
It’s been pointed out to me that this is Ka-Bar’s 118th anniversary.  In a world where planned obsolescence is the goal, it’s hard to believe any company could last so long.

It was a Thursday, April 29 1897, in Pennsylvania, that a small company called Tidioute Cutlery came into existence.  That was the birth of Ka-Bar.  Several years later its assets were sold to start another company.

The buyer, Wallace R. Brown was the grandson of JR Case.  As with many of the traditional companies, Ka-Bar started with a different name and changed hands many times.  Starting as Union Razor Co., friction folders were made stamped with “Olcut” or “Keenwell” as well as “Ka-Bar”.

Almost all knife collectors have read or heard the story of the semi-illegible note received from some mountain man trapper who “kil a bar” with his knife.  The trademark KA-Bar soon became so famous and in such demand that the Union Cut Company changed their name to Ka-Bar.  During WWII, fighting knives were in demand.  With a little advice from the Marines and a little retooling, KA-Bar won a contract to make a general utility/fighting knife. 

Sargeant Dave E. Werner at Phu Bai.  Note the unstrapped Ka-Bar on left shoulder.  

The big beefy blade was attached to a rattail tang, which became the backbone of the stacked leather washer handle.  Even today, hunters of men and animals swear a leather washer handle works the best when your hands are covered in blood.

During WWII, I’m told, the knife had detractors claiming if you slapped the knife sideways you could snap the blade free of the rattail tang.  These detractors fail to mention we were also making ships that suddenly cracked for no apparent reason.  Metallurgy was just starting to make progress with metal processing and heat treatment and was still poorly understood.  They also don’t mention the relative short expected life span of the newbie in combat.  The cost accountants in the government were not about to give a $25 knife to man with a 12-minute life expectancy.  If you lived long enough you could always get a new knife off of someone who wasn’t a fast learner.  Today’s metallurgy turns 1095 carbon steel into a tool you can depend on when life is on the line. 

If the Buck 110 folder is the quintessential American locking folder, the Ka-Bar fighting/utility knife has fills that role for a fixed blade. 

You should own one.  One with a leather sheath, because it is quieter in the bush.

Aside:
Over 20 years ago Soldier of Fortune claimed you could safely conceal 12 inches of fighting knife in your waistband under a sport coat.  Might be time to start thinking about that again.  



Monday, April 18, 2016

Spyderco Spydercard


the open Spydercard
It's a funny looking knife, but it inspired the designers of other wallet hide-out knives.
I recently came across a Spydercard( C01).  They were very popular and people still collect them partially because of their scarcity, partially for the story associated with the knife designer.

First the knife. 

The Spydercard is the size of a credit card and 0.2 inch thick.  That’s about the thickness of 4 credit cards.  Designed to slip into your pocket or wallet, this 3.4 inch long knife opens to exposé a 2.4 in cutting edge.  The handle lock, like that used on the Square Head, secures the blade in the open position as well as the closed position. 

The AUS6 steel it is made from, was at the time, an entry level steel.  To keep costs down and provide reasonable performance, many knife manufacturers used AUS6.  This steel is comparable to 440A with a little extra kick.  The kick is vanadium.  This element forms tiny particles of vanadium carbide at the steel’s grain boundaries increasing hardness and edge retention.  The 14% chromium not only forms carbides but also forms an important transparent thin film of chromium oxide that protects the steel from oxidation or staining better known as rust.

Spydercard’s most popular blade configuration, as I remember it when I sold them, was the partially serrated.  On a small blade, especially with a hard-to-hold handle, increased cutting performance is critical.  This isn’t the sort of knife you pack for hiking the northwest Cascades, but you might pack it if you thought you might have to cut something to escape.

Wallet size knife
That's my wallet, a little over stuffed for my taste, but I could lose a few cards and squeeze that knife in.

The Designer
I wasn’t able to find much about the designer, Eduard Bradichansky.  He is described as a Russian Jew who immigrated to Israel, I assume, to escape the repressive Russian government.  He has been described as a gunsmith and jeweler who later worked with Spyderco designing what became known as the Spydercard and the Shabaria (C59).  He was apparently killed in a Hamas attack so brutal that identification was made based on dental records and the presence of Spydercard and Shabaria prototypes.  Sounds mysterious doesn’t it?

Well, I’m not going to ask Spyderco what really happened and wasn’t it just too convenient he had the prototypes on him.  I’m not into conspiracies.  I’ve always found that any conspiracy involving more than two people breaks down over time.


Look at those serrations!
A little better look at the Spydercard's serrations



You know what they say, two can keep a secret especially if one of them is dead.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Poking the bear

The last knife gun show was a little slow at times, but I try to have fun with the prospective customers.  But sometimes things get out of hand…..

After inspecting every knife and asking such penetrating questions like what does Rockwell scale mean and what’s the name of the miner who dug the chromium, he started to walk off.

“Enjoy the museum show, sir.”  I said

He paused mid-step.  “Museum show?  Don’t you mean gun show.”  He had an amused look on his face.  Why not?  After all he just caught someone with a little mistake that might be amusing to him.

“No sir.  We’re the Lippincott Valley Satrap, largest recreationist group in the United States.  Once a year we put on our great show.”

“This isn’t a gun show?” 
“Thank you for the compliment sir.  We strive for perfect fidelity.”

“I don’t understand.  This isn’t a gun show?”

“This year we are recreating a gun show.  Last year we did a road rally that was so good, it took honors.  We’d like to do it a second time in a row." 

“So you’re telling me this stuff isn’t for sale.  Is that what trying to say.”

“No sir, I’m not trying.  I’m telling you, everything you see is owned by our members and part of their personal collections.  Nothing is for sale, well, almost nothing.”  I paused for a second and gave him my fingers-in-the-candy-bowl guilt look.  “A few guys have a small museum store.  You can buy stickers, pins and membership, but that s about it.”

“What about the guy over there selling raffle tickets?  Are you going tell me those are phony too.”

“No sir, those guys are real.  We always let NRA and Friends of the NRA set up and sell.  It adds a dimension of reality, doesn’t it?” 

He hadn’t fallen completely yet but I could tell he was having doubts, so I stopped talking and waited for him to step into it.

“What about the hawkers in the aisles holding guns?  I saw two men transfer money…”

“Part of the set up.  “It’s funny money we buy from a movie prop house.  Look, did you try to buy a gun from someone walking about?”

“Well, I talked to one guy, but he wouldn’t come down…”  I could see understanding was beginning to break through.

“That’s because he didn’t recognize you.  These guys set it up in advance with other members and everyone gets their stuff back, including the faux greenbacks.”

“I don’t believe you,” he said.  But I knew it was time to set the hook..

“Look buddy, I don’t care what you believe.  It’s no skin off my ass.  Go ask the ticket seller what kind of show this is.  But I got to tell you, if this is some kind of scam to get your money back, that’s not going to fly with them.  The club president assured me the sign outside the door would be clearly marked.”

I’d like to use that old Groucho Marx line about him leaving in a huff and a half, but he didn’t.  He just turned around and walked calmly and directly to the front of the show and the ticket window.  I’m not sure how that went.  I heard sirens shortly after he left my table.  I don’t know what happened, and I’m not going ask, either. 

It’s fun to go to the zoo, but you mustn’t tease animals too much.  You never know who’s really in the cage, do you?

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.