Sunday, June 3, 2018

Blade Show Day 3

There’s a few customers with energy and the counter people are doing the best they can, but it’s day 3 of the Blade Show.  When I’m done I simply walk out the door.  The vendors have to start packing up at 3:01 and it takes a while.  I expect some will be there at 6 tonight.  The life of a traveling sales staff isn’t easy.

I stopped by one of my favorite manufacturers, Shadow Tech.  They have creative new ideas.  Yes, I know I said the Blade Show is row after row of sameness.  But there are innovations.  ST has a small fixed blade neck knife with replacement blades.  No, not replaceable in terms of sharpness, but in terms of blade design.  I got a blade that reminds me of a sharpened eagle claw.  But if I decide I need a different blade, I can purchase one for an amount less than the knife (prices are still being figured out).  The blade is held in place by four Allen screws and some internal geometry.  This is a very clever idea.  The blades are S30V and are about an inch and a quarter long.

neck knife, ST

I stopped off to talk with Mickey Yurco.  Mickey has some of the most interesting ideas on blades and how to carry.  Boker Knife is picking up a second of his designs and I believe they will be using Ultclips.  These are metal spring clip that can anchor a knife sheath inside your pocket.  It’s very clever design.  You can carry an IWB holster or knife sheath without having a belt by clipping a Ulticlip to the fabric of your pants.  Great for women who often go beltless.  I think you’ll see a lot of these in the future.


I never wanted a Pro-Tech Godson.  It seemed too small, a derivative of the classic Godfather auto.  That all changed with the Godson Steampunk.  The copper steampunk art work is designed by Bruce Shaw.  The copper artwork looks great set into the anodized black body of the knife.   ProTech made just 200 of these you better hurry if you need or just want one!

steam punk

I took a few moments and mounted the glass breaker and seat belt cutter I bought yesterday in my car.  It looks good and we didn’t even notice it driving.  I don’t think I’ll ever need it (I hope), but that’s what I say about concealed carry.  If I need it, I’ll have it in place.

Seatbelt cutter

I picked up a few items I need for turning my Spyderco Mule into a working knife.  Jantz is one of the places to go for just about anything you need to make knives.  We’ll see what happens.

Speaking of Spyderco, well, there’s just too much to talk about.  Joyce is always generous to a fault, so I always get some help there.  I am astonished at the interesting designs they are willing to take a chance on.  I’ll have a separate column on them.

I also stopped at Case Knife.  They are making more tactical looking knives and have several collaborations going on.  The Winkler fixed blade they have is sweet.  They are also introducing an assisted opener.

Let me just go off on a tangent.  Quality costs.  So does performance.  If you want a knife that will last 3 years and then needs to be thrown away, you can find them.  Many of us can’t use the full potential of the knives we buy and they become portable temporary collections.  The knife takes a little wear and ends up in rusty tackle box or under a car seat forgotten about.  Cheap knives are everywhere.

If you want performance and an innovative design, expect to pay.  You’ll find knife makers who have a passion for knives.  They want to make the best knife they can for the price they ask.  Joe Caswell is one.  He wants to make the best knife he can.  I found South African Arno Bernard cutting out life size paper models of two folding knives he wants to work on.  He’ll use those models to buy supplies to make prototypes.  Like his fixed blades they will not be inexpensive, but the quality will be there.  He too has a passion for knives.

And it isn’t just designers.  Look at Shadow Tech and Spyderco as just two companies.  They are constantly pushing designs and quality.  They use good steels and constantly strive for improvement.  And it isn’t just US manufacturers.  The Chinese company, WE, does both consignment manufacturing as well as manufacturing under their name.  Look at their knives.  The quality speaks to you.  Every year I see improvement.  They may have trouble with English (they speak English better than I could ever learn Mandarin) but you can see the passion for knives.

Counterfeits remain a problem.  Counterfeit knives, tools, bolts and even food all come into the country and displace quality products because of greed.  If you’re buying solely on price and not concerned about quality and performance, you’re part of the problem.  I’d like to say I hope your sex organs shrivel up and fall off, but I decided it would be better if your little finger died and broke away.  At least then we could recognize you.  There always a chance your sex organs will follow suit.

Read Day 1

Read Day 2

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Blade Show Day 2

It’s hard to summarize.  There are so many vendors and people that everything jams together and blurs into grayness by the end of the day.  Still, I don’t want to miss any of it.

News:  Blade Magazine and the Blade Show are rumored to have been sold.  It’s reported that Gun Digest, owned by Caribou Media, has plunked down the dollars.  I do know that the Blade Show is scheduled to be back at the Cobb Galleria (Atlanta) in 2019.  We’ll see about the rest.


 I purchased a Microtech OTF only because I couldn’t see not having one.  The knife, like many is really more of a barbecue knife that you show off to your friends.  Yes, you can use it; it will cut, stab and kill but most of us will leave it in the safe.  The problem is for most uses, you’ll have the blade orientated up/down which puts the button under your thumb.  Press the button at the wrong time and the blade disappears.  Oops!

box opener
Richmade Knife 3D box opener
Richmade Knives had a clever utility/box cutter they were giving out.  It was made with a 3D printer and is very clever.  The razor blade folds into the body and it has space for two spare blades.  I wouldn’t use it if you paid me.  I have visions of it coming apart and cutting the heck out of myself.

 Do you carry an emergency escape knife in your car?  You know, something with a glass breaker and a seat belt cutter?  I’m always reading about people in Florida who drive into a flooded canal and drown.  I carry one in the side pocket of the driver door, but I know in an accident it will pop out and end up somewhere the coroner will find later.  I bought a little unit that straps around the sun visor. It has a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter.  Best of all it stays where I put it.

I spent an hour with Joe Caswell.  He’s building the coolest knife I’ve ever seen.  Right now it’s a karambit, but future models will have a more traditional blade.  He was at Blade to talk with a manufacturer who want to mass produce them.  The name is a secret and he’s not about to screw that up.  His percentage from the knife and derivatives could be, in his words, “substantial.”

Folding Karambit

Joe Caswell

Folding Karambit
and Bingo!!  Open

Here’s a few more pictures.
Space Fighter  Very Nice

Jenn from Alabama Damascus and Oscar the rat   Only slightly strange.

the Blade Show

Wayne Hensley  One of the Grand Old Men of the knife community.  I have a Subhilt fighter he made for WRCA knife  collectors.

In progress knife from Art Knife.  The handle will be ruby red.  If you have to ask how much, well you can't afford it.

I really love Steam Punk knives.
I don't know who made it, but Knife Legends has it.  They buy and sell investment grade folders ans fixed blades.

Lost knives
Saw this sign on 2 tables (at $650 a pop!)
Not everything about the Blade Show is unicorns and rainbows.  They may get their money back, but they still had to pay for the tables and how can you account for lost customers and lost opportunities.

Tomorrow is my final chance to find gold, it's Day 3.

Read Day 1

Read Day 3


Friday, June 1, 2018

Blade Show 2018 Day 1

The first day of the Blade Show opened with a demo of how to FUBAR knife collectors.

Blade Magazine reduced the hours the VIPs could attend by offering a Super-VIP ticket for $40 which got them in at noon.  The VIPs got in at 1:00 and the great unwashed (paying public) at 2:00.

Registration refused to process anyone’s VIP pass any earlier than 10 AM. Processing consist of taking the VIP pass and $20 from you and giving you a paper badge.  The staff, while polite, wasn’t interested in answering any questions or assisting you.  In fact all the commands and instructions by the staff were to make it easier for them.  They made the whole experience kind of like sleeping with a hooker who just lays there and keeps looking at her watch asking “Are you done?”

We got our VIP passes and were then marched back into another line and told we had to first enter the small, newly added room before we could go to the main room where the Super VIPs were.  This room was largely new knife makers and sellers.

By the time I got into the main room, the Pro-Tech knives I wanted were sold.  I was also very disappointed by the Pro-Tech staff.  Did they bring so few knives that everything popular was sold out by 3:00 on the first day?

We did find a great neck knife for my wife.  The seller just started last January and just made these knives.  He hadn’t even established an account with Square.  Square lets the small business man accept plastic at a very reasonable rate.  So we stood there waiting for him to establish an account.  I suspect he’ll sell out fast.  The neck knives and his jewelry were great.

Blade Show, 2018
Carbon Fiber Handle 

Another example of Jason's work.

I bought a Damascus steel fixed blade from Shadow Tech several years ago.  It came with a very nice kydex sheath.  Unfortunately the texture of the Damascus files the plastic and imbeds it in the open grain of the metal.  I want to carry that knife, so I needed leather sheath.  Of course the Blade Show has them and I found a nice one in black with just the right amount of texturing.

Blade Show, 2018

I stopped by Spyderco and bought a mule.  Fortunately it fits in a small box and doesn’t require anything but a handle and a sheath.  Spyderco makes standard blade configurations with different steels which are tested to give them a better understanding of steel performance.  They had several different steels available and I selected LC200N, a high nitrogen tool steel.  By high nitrogen they mean 0.5%

I spent a little time watching a fellow grind an edge into a blade, creating a shower of sparks.  Another fellow was engraving a knife and I find that amazing.  You cut steel into attractive patterns by hand, using a magnifying glass and steel tools.

Blade Show 2018
Weeee!  Sparks!

Blade Show, 2018

Work Sharp had a demo table set up and I stopped to get corrective advice on the system I bought last year.  I don’t have trouble using the coarse and medium belts, but for some reason the fine always gives me trouble.  I think I’m pressing knife too hard into the abrasive band and changing the angle.  They were very helpful.

The Blade Show is huge.  Unfortunately it is so cruel to the attendees.  There aren’t places to sit, and food facilities are sparse to lean.  I don’t mind paying higher prices, but waiting in line for an hour to get a sandwich seems dumb.  Restrooms are always crowded and often are locked(!), so they, in my opinion, don’t have to be cleaned.

And I’m not sure if this is the place to see new creative knives.  Sheaths, yes; handles, yes; even new steels, but if you’re looking for a new blade shape you’ll find table after table of drop points, bowies and daggers.

People at the show
It isn't just knives.

Let’s see what Day 2 presents.

Read Day 2 

Read Day 3

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Baker’s Dozen

My friend Aron was telling me he found a successful way of reducing the clutter he’s accumulated.  He asks one question of each item: Does this make me happy?  If the answer is no, it’s gone.  Here’s a bakers’ dozen of some of my favorite folding knives.  

In no particular order:

1:  Benchmade Griptilian  
It was a Christmas present from Karen and I’ve always liked the shape and feel of the Griptilian.  The 3.5 inch blades is 154CM steel and it sports what might be considered Benchmade’s most distinguishing feature, the Axis Lock.


2:  Twerp by Phil Booth
The sub-2 inch blade is anchored between steel liners with a moon glow plastic spacer.  Moon glow has quantum mechanical forbidden energy transitions.  I just love that.  Coming off the lanyard hole is a small noose, but unfortunately it is a 12 turn and not the traditional 13 turns of lynchings everywhere.

Knife maker

3:  Kershaw ET
It is one of the strangest knives I’ve seen or owned.  While the design is alien, ET really stands for External Toggle.  It was Knife Magazine’s 2005 winner for the “Most Innovative American Design.”  Also the scariest.  Opening the knife is not for the timid; if the blade doesn’t have sufficient momentum it will stall half-way open and close regardless of what you have in the way.  It came with a CD to show you how to open it.  Now that’s scary!

External Toggle

4:  Spyderco Citadel
It was first automatic knife from Spyderco I heard of.  In fact they often denied they made autos.  Sal didn’t like ‘em and the violence he associated with them.  They would make them when a government organization requested them, but as soon as the overrun was sold that was the end.  The Citadel sports a 3.25 inch blade of CPM S30V steel.  Sal is getting on in age and his son, Eric seems to be more involved with the company and more states are legalizing automatic knives, so we’ll see what happens.  I was assured at the last Blade Show (2017) their policy on autos would remain the same.  Like they would tell me.

Citadel  Auto knife

5:  Buck Lighting II
I like the look of the mottled green aluminum handle and the ease of one hand opening. 

Buck knife

The 420HC steel blade is 3 inches long and despite the tip down carry, I bought a second in all tactical black.

Tactical Black knives

6:  Blackjack’s Mamba
I bought this from the original Blackjack Company.  I don’t know what speaks to me, the 3 inch curved blade, the shapely handle or the cool-dagger-in-cards logo, but I had to have one.  Maybe its fixed blade big brother convinced me to buy the folder.  That’s a story for another time.

Mamba Folder

7:  Spyderco Delica
My first of many Delicas was a green plastic clip made in Seki City, Japan.  The blade doesn’t bear the Spyderco trademark.  The type of steel wasn’t stamped into the blade and remains an unknown. 
Green Delica folding knife

I was drawn to the ease of one handed opening, a clip to make it easy to find and of course the lock.  It was the beginning of the tactical blade movement and cops were picking up fast on Delicas and its big brother, Endura.  Pronounce it  ‘dee-leak-a’ and you’ll get a grin out of me every time.

Green Spyderco Delica

8:  Schatt and Morgan
This is a red bone jigged slimline Trapper made by Queen.  It’s a non-locking folder, typically called a slip-joint.  The American history of slip joints is an incestualized weave of father, brothers and uncles, buying, selling and taking over names and designs.  Even today you’ll find company X making knives for company Y.  Raymond gave me this knife.  He wasn’t young when I met him and he used to come by my table and we would talk blades.  Later he’d sit behind the table catching his breath and regathering his stamina before finishing the show.  He died on a New Year’s day and now I have this knife to remember him by and that makes me smile.

Red bone

9:  Gerber’s Paul Knife
Yeah, it’s not the original Paul Knife, but it’s still pretty damn cool.  Gerber was, (and still is) owned by FISKERS, an English company that apparently knew nothing about America or American knives.  The blade is a 2.5 inch-long piece of 400 series stainless.  I read it was originally designed for ranch hands who needed a folding knife that could open one-handed while riding a horse.

Push button lock, folding, knife

10:  Spyderco Howard Viele
There are few of us that don’t need a dress knife.  The Viele, with its elegant blade and lines fills that requirement for me.  It’s not a perfect knife; the opening hole is small and hard to access and it’s almost impossible to open left handed.   The blade is 3.5 inches of AUS-8 steel.  I’ve had it for over 20 years and it still reminds me of Connery’s Bond standing at a roulette wheel.  

Dress carry, tactical classy

11:  Benchmade Mini-DeJavoo
It’s a Bob Lum design sporting 3.25 inches of S30V steel inside steel lined scales of black, cloth micarta.  It is a liner lock and its good looks give it an everyman’s elegance.  It’s set-up for left hand carry and despite the fact it’s carried tip down, I use it for my left hand dress knife.

Dress carry, Benchmade

12:   Spyderco Chinese Folder
This Bob Lum designed knife has a special spot in my heart.  This was the knife I published my first article about.  It also had an early innovation, the clip was reversible so you could carry right side, tip up or down.  

Chinese,  folder,

The Chinese green curved handle makes the knife feel like an extension of my hand.  I liked it so much I bought a second one in a steely gray Spyderco calls blue.  I have these as my back-up formal wear knives.

Folding knives, Spyderco

Luckly number 13:  Gerber Multi-Plier 600
My Father left me many things, mostly memories, but I found a Gerber multi-plier and the belt case in his salt-water tackle box.  When I did community theatre in the 80s, the union stage hands were crazy for Gerber multi-tools.  You could depress the locking button with one hand and the tool would open.  This was invaluable when you were on an the last wrung of an A-frame extension ladder 35 feet in the air hanging on to a flood light with one hand and needing to loosen a bolt with the other.  It took me a while to erase the rust and oil it up, but it has straight and serrated blades as well as screwdrivers and the all-important coffee can and beer bottle openers.  Most importantly, it was my Dad’s.

Gerber, tool, folding pliers

Could I have found more knives? 

I have one with scales composed of clear epoxy resin filled with eggshells.  Eggshells are a semipermeable membrane made of calcium carbonate but not, I believe, the common calcite.  It’s a biological form called aragonite, a different crystal arrangement.  That is just too cool!

I have a fixed blade from a day long bonding trip with my new in-laws that I purchased to let them know I’m a little off center.

So yeah, I have other knives that make me smile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Spike Knife

The WRCA annual knife show ran May 19 and 20, 2018.  There were amazing knives and my friend, Skip gave me spike knife.  I’m still smiling when I look at it.

airedale custom blades
Skip's Spike
Skip does some amazing blacksmithing and like almost every blacksmith he has made more than a few railroad spike knives.  RR spikes are described as “…the most widely recognized pieces of railroad equipment by the general public.”  They were invented by Colonel Stevens who was also the inventor of the current rail configuration.  You’ll find them in different lengths, widths and thicknesses depending on the manufacturer, installation location as well as the type of wood the ties are made of. 

I was surprised, but I should have realized it, there are many collectors of RR spikes.  Some spikes have the year they were made molded into their head,  Historically different manufactures used different dimensions that changed over time, all of which makes them collectable.

Standardization came with the mechanical age and American Society of Testing and Materials was a big part of it.  ASTM 65-07 (2013) currently regulates the quality of railroad spikes.  ASTM is a for-profit organization and not being a member, I can’t access the standard.  However, I was able to find out that there are two types of RR spikes: soft and high carbon.

As carbon levels increase, strength increases but so does brittleness.  It would be a poor spike that cracked every time a train rode over a section of track.  The soft spike should contain no more than 0.12% carbon and the high carbon has a wopping 0.3%.  To put this in perspective, 1095 steel has 0.95% carbon and many super stainless steels have very high carbon levels.  For example, the super steel CPM S90V steel has 2.3% carbon. 

So, a RR spike might be able to be sharpened, but the low carbon levels prevent it from retaining its edge.  Fear not, you can change that, but you better be fearless.  You can case harden your spike knife.  Case hardening introduces increased levels of carbon to a thin layer of steel, essentially creating a sheath of high hardness material.  One relatively straight forward method is cyaniding.

Cyaniding is a case-hardening process that is fast and efficient; it is mainly used on low-carbon steels like RR spike knives. The part is heated for 20 to 30 minutes at a temperature of 1600-1750 °F in a bath of sodium cyanide and then is quenched.

This process produces a thin, hard shell (0.01 and 0.03 inches thick) which is harder than the layer produced by carburizing.  Magazine lips on early Colt semi-automatics were treated this way in the early 1900’s.  The major drawback of cyaniding is that cyanide salts (and I’m speaking as a chemist here) are very poisonous.  I told you that you needed to be fearless. 

No, I’m just going to enjoy my spike knife just as Skip made it.  You can find Skip at Airedale Custom Blades on Facebook.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Get Real!

Counterfeit products are the bane of modern life. Would you want to land in a Boeing 737 if you knew counterfeit bolts were used in the landing gear and brakes?

Sure, you got a great deal on the Spyderco counterfeit the guy was selling outside the entrance to a county fair. What, did you really think that you could buy a Paramilitary 3 for 30 bucks because it didn’t have a box? And when the lock fails or the blade snaps I hope you are not doing anything important, like building a fire when you’re lost or some other dire circumstances.

Buying online isn’t a guarantee either. Here’s a slightly truncated version of an article from the March 28 2018 edition of Knife News.

A recent study by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that consumers who buy from third-party sellers on major online e-commerce websites risk ending up with counterfeit products.
Although no knives were included in the GOA investigation, they report that more than 40% of purchases made through third-party sellers on sites like Amazon, WalMart, eBay, and Sears turned out to be counterfeit. Amazon, the largest online retailer in the U.S., has more than 3,000,000 such third party entities participating in their Marketplace. Sales through the Marketplace make up nearly half of Amazon’s total business.

According to industry watchdog The Counterfeit Report, “Amazon’s 13 global websites operate under a huge legal loophole, virtually immune to prosecution. The foreign sellers are difficult to identify and escape liability.” The glut of sellers and inconsistency of product listings make it hard to discern fake from genuine products. “Amazon also utilizes a crafty approach to avoid removing reported counterfeit listings claiming ‘Your trademark must be in registered status in [each country the item is sold in],’ ignoring their own counterfeit policy,” The Counterfeit Report points out.

According to The Counterfeit Report, Amazon emulates the notorious eCommerce outlet Alibaba, which has been on the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s Notorious Markets List multiple times, most recently in 2017.

(I found Randall knife look-alikes several years ago at Alibaba. If you didn’t buy your Randall knife from Randall, are you sure it’s real?)

Other products are shipped from and sold by Amazon directly. Buyers often assume these products are the real thing, but in 2016, Apple found that 90% of chargers it purchased directly from Amazon, using official Apple imagery on the product listings, were fake and even dangerous.

As early as 2015, Spyderco said they could not authenticate or otherwise guarantee the genuineness of any knife purchased from Amazon “due to their practice of co-mingling inventory with their 3rd party marketplace vendors.”

(Still don’t think counterfeits are a problem? Where did you buy that protein powder and health supplement from anyway? Could they not only be worthless, but actually harmful?)
But, if you want to reduce the risk of ending up with counterfeit knives, your best option is to buy from a reputable knife dealer.

(I can’t think of anything else to add.)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Beauty and the Ugly Knife

Fit, finish and function, the 3-F’s of the knife world.

One might ask does a pretty knife work better than an ugly knife?  

By pretty I mean fit and finish.  Does the knife use phosphor bronze washers, or plastic.  Are grind lines polished out of areas you can barely see?  Are the screw heads countersunk or a little proud?  Does the closed blade sit even between the handles or does it touch one side?  

The Khyber is on the left, note the blade touching the knife liners.
The Buck 110 Hunter is on the right and the blade is centered between the liners.

I see customers not purchase a knife because the closed blade isn’t symmetrical in the handle.  In most cases it doesn’t affect the ability to open or close the knife or the sharpness of the blade.  It isn’t pretty, that’s all.

Enough with the rhetorical questions and dialog.

When you buy a knife the only question you need to answer is, “What is it’s purpose?”

Pro-Tech Rockeye Auto Skull, reigning queen of my safe

I have very nice knife from Pro-Tech.  I paid more than I normally would, but its beauty spoke to me.  The fit and finish is superb.  I don’t plan on ever using that knife, it’s a Safe Queen.

I also have a Khyber I bought 40 years ago.  It was before the current tactical knife age but just after flint knives.  The blade doesn’t have washers; it rides on the metal liners and opens with a nail-nick.  I built a lot of camp sites with that knife.  It’s a tool.

Nick Shabazz in his words “...A reviewer and gripper in the cutlery world…” splits his opinion.  On budget priced knifes he suggests that fit and finish is less important than it is in $100 plus knife.  Nick sees fit and finish as hallmarks and guarantees that the manufacturer knows his business and has produced a quality knife.  Part of Nick’s gig is to act as a gadfly to encourage makers to put the little effort in to improving their knife.

The coarse marks on the top of blade's spine are mill marks.
Early Spyderco Salt H-1 steel  10X  magnification

The fine stippling is the top of the blades spine. 
SOG Spec Elite   10X magnification

I like Nick’s writing and I understand his point.  I can buy a Buck 110 hunter with a leather sheath at Walmart for under $57.  I can live with a slight misalignment between bolster and wood scales.  The spring bar at the bottom of the blade channel shows faint mill marks.  I accept this as I know the manufacturer needs to make a profit and the extra 3-4 steps to make the knife perfect would push the price out of many users reach.  But when I get to $150 plus mark, I want the fit to be perfect and all the machining marks polished out.  But more important, I want durability!

But here’s the thing.  My pricy SOG Spec Elite and my Buck 110 hunter perform the same for me.  I shave wood, build fires, cut rope, chunk meat for cooking, and open envelopes with equal versatility. 

Earnest Emerson sees it differently.  In his blog from April 2013 he states “I’ve never built the knives for looks or for a fancy finish or perfection.”  

His knives are often compared to the knives of Chris Reeves and Sal Glesser and Emerson admits they have fine fit and finish.  But he goes on to say (let me abridge this) none of those knives were present when Somali pirates were killed, when Al Zarqawi killed, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured and Osama Bin Laden was shot dead. 

I also realize that Emerson knives carried by elite teams are purchased by the military.  You don’t think the SEALs roll out on a mission with anything other than authorized primary gear, do you?  So perhaps Ernie’s claim needs to be illuminated with that light.  Still there is no question Ernie makes great, dependable knives.

To Ernie, a knife is tool and needs to be up for the work it faces.  If you are about to embark on an adventure, you want in Ernie’s opinion, a suitable tool.

Olamic Busker, a gentleman's knife 

I understand that as well.  I would never take my Olamic Busker white water rafting, but my Spyderco Salt would be clipped in.  But I wouldn’t take an Emerson knife either.  The possibility of losing a $200 plus knife when you have to pay for it alters your perspective.

3-Fs: Fit, Finish and Function.  These terms only are defined by purpose.  I marvel over art knives.  I own one, but I’d never use it at the range to pop stables out of a target or move meat around in a skillet.

My work knives aren’t always the prettiest but they are tools.   I guess it means I’m pragmatic. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Why Is A Penny Like A Knife?

I had hoped to shoot a Saturday evening match, but I started working on my father’s coin collection and lost track of time.  Most of his coins are from circulation so they have little collection value other than face value.  It was the excess coins that troubled me.

What’s a lot of pennies from 1949 to 1960 worth?  Let’s start off with the fact they are ‘wheat backs’ which are no longer minted.  Also understand they minted millions of each wheat penny each year.  Nobody knows if they will be worth anything for at least 150 years.  I base that on a large penny I have from 1848 in good condition that might be worth $3 bucks.   

Current pennies are a copper clad zinc coin, but these are solid copper.  I checked the selling price of copper, the weight of a penny and 158 pennies could earn you around 2 bucks.  I suspect many US metal recyclers will not want to handle pennies, afraid of laws about defacing US currency.  Factor in the cost of a trip to Canada where a US penny just is a disk of copper, and I suspect you need to take tons to come out ahead.

Many of the coins in circulation have features raised above the coin’s rim and are quickly eroded way along with their value.  Most Indian head nickels have lost their date and you might be able to sell such a worn coin for 8 to 10 cents.  It seems during the Depression, hobos would carve an Indian head nickel to resemble some other figure and would try to trade their handy work for a meal or shot of Ol’Red Eye.  So there is still a small market for the coin as artistic media.

So it goes with most coins in circulation, a dime without silver is worth 10 cents.  A Kennedy post 1964 half dollar might be worth a few cents more to a collector or someone who want to imitate George Raff flipping a coin.

The only real way to make money on most circulated coins, other than to spend ‘em is to sell them to other new collectors who can no longer find a 1941-S penny.  From my knife selling experience, forget ebay.  You could rent tables at coin, hobby, and flea markets, spending a lot of weekends to make peanuts.  You should prepare to spend years to sell circulated coins with a face value of $100.

So what does this have to do with knives?

Knife collectors are kind of in the same situation.  If your heirs aren’t interested in your collection, they will want to sell it.  So what’s a fair price?  There aren’t that many people willing to plunk down bucks for used Case knife.  If you have one from the 1930s, it may be valuable to the right person, but you’ve got to find that person.  Even custom and semi-custom knives go out of style and drop in price as the maker becomes more obscure.

Yes, there are exceptions.  Loveless, Randall and others are still in demand, partially because the organizations still exist and are still making knives.  Others aren’t so lucky.  Most factory made knives only drop in appreciation as newer design and more sophisticated steels are introduced. 

collecting and value of engraved knife
It is a nice little knife in its own right.  Does the blade engraving make it more valuable or less valuable?
I think more to me, less to everyone else.

As knife collectors we are told to list or provide documentation to our heirs to help them understand what we believe the knife is worth.  We are often guilty of over-evaluating our collection.  We would like to believe the club knife or special event knife should be worth more, especially if only a few were made and it’s old.  The same with knife lines no longer manufactured.  Scarcity and age do not determine price.  Price is determined by the transaction between seller and buyer.  And it can be different on any single day depending on who’s at the table and how much each wants to buy and sell.

So, do I have a solution to the coin and knife collector?  Of course I do!

It’s a two part solution.  The first is selling your collection yourself.  You enjoyed putting it together; now enjoy haggling and selling it.  You’ll make, lose or break even on the deal, but at least you’ll have fun doing it.  The second part is don’t worry about it.  Enjoy your collection while you can and let the heirs deal with it.  So what if the kids sell your custom made ivory handled Fairbairn-Sykes combat dagger for 50 bucks and threw in a sharpening stone. 

It isn’t like you can use the money, is it?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Off The Leash

Since when do we find weather the new source of chills, goose bumps and scary things that go creak in the night?  Why do we find it entertaining when the weather person gets on the tube and tells us it could be bad weather ahead, (assuming the parameters don’t change over the next three days) and the facebookers announce that they have traded their car for a two-person dog sled and 100 pounds of potatoes.  

I use to work with a bunch of Texans, who at the mere mention of snowy driving conditions, would raid the vending machines and horde candy above the ceiling tiles in their office.  And I want to say  categorically, no evidence of cannibalism was ever suspected or even found.  At least they had good reasons.  They never saw snow before, but the rest of us? 

Anyway, the Medina knife gun show was pretty empty.  A lot of vendors got snowed in at home, frightened off or just plain figured it would be poor show.  And they were right.  Saturday was very empty, but I don’t know why.  It took me about 45 minutes to drive in because I slowed down to 40-45 but the roads were drivable.  It would have been a good day for bargain hunters.  Most of the vendors needed a sale and could be talked down to a better price.

By Sunday the roads were clear and we got a few more walk-arounds and quite a few more walking sellers.   I don’t know if it was the need to raise cash for Christmas bills, got a better one for Christmas, or had too much money tied up in weapons.  Many people had simply stocked up in anticipation of a presidency that would order out the troops to go house to house in search of guns, bullets and any knives other than the plastic ones you get at Mickey D’s.

Don’t sit there smug you muzzle loaders, you and those 1776 assault rifles would have been next!

I welcomed one man to my table, telling him he was free to handle the knives.  He confessed he was just looking, cause he didn’t have any money.  I told him that’s okay, because none of the knives were for sale. 

I’ve got to give him credit.  He came back with “Except for what sticks to my hands,” but I informed him that I was sure that I and the police would manage to get the knife free.  He didn’t buy anything, but then again he said he didn’t have any money.

One of my potential customers had some specific needs and no matter how I tried I couldn’t find the right knife for him.  He was, or perhaps I should say, is an elderly fellow with a bad case of the shakes.  The shakes rob him of both strength and dexterity.  He wanted a knife that he could open with one hand and it would lock open.  It had to be a small, quality knife with a pocket clip and of course it had to be cheap.

Now cheap is an interesting word.  Some people think an $8 dollar steak meal is expensive and others think a $45 steak meal, without bar bill, is cheap.  I understand it.  But personally, when I have to purchase something to make-up for my inabilities I expect to pay more, rather than less.

I had a small, Gerber with a great price, but it was too hard to open and didn’t have a pocket clip.  I showed him a Spyderco Delica, too big and too hard to move the blade with his fingers.  I showed him several others but they were too hard to open single-handed and he insisted it had to be a one-hand opener and small.  Frankly, small was his enemy.  With his loss of strength and dexterity, a larger knife would have given him more surface to grip and better leverage, but he insisted on small.  I skipped over the Benchmades with flippers and showed him a nice sized auto.  I thought I had a winning card for this fellow.  Boker makes a small auto for 45 bucks.  Too expensive for him.  I had to admit defeat and send him on his way.

automatic boker knife.
Boker Auto

I don’t think he’ll find a knife to match his rigid expectations.

I also had a fellow with an absolutely beautiful damascus knife that he wanted to sell.  I don’t have a picture of it, but let’s give words a try.

It had a shape similar to a Gurkha Kukri made from 250-some fold damascus steel.  The damascus had strong lines and formed a raindrop pattern.  The blade edge was split into front and back edges by a decorative structure resembling a single 3 inch row of corn kernels still on the cob.

It only took one look to realize that it was a classic wall hanging, ‘barbeque knife’ for the man cave.  My seller confided in me, when I indicated that as much as I liked the knife it wasn’t right for me, that he was in a financial bind.  He just bought a gun and owed his buddy 80 bucks.  Still, there wasn’t a maker’s mark or name stamp on the knife and it just looked too good.  I knew that even for 80 bucks, it might take years to find the right buyer. 

Did I miss the bargain of the show?  Did someone sell everything they had to buy this pearl of great price?  I don’t know.  But I doubt it.