Wednesday, May 1, 2019

On the Edge

Legal News

The Texas Senate on Monday (April 29) passed Knife Rights’ “Location-Restricted Knife” Reform Bill, SB 2381, by a bipartisan vote of 19-12. The House companion bill, HB 2342, received the unanimous vote of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence last week.

restricted carry of large knives in Texas
Big knife, hopeful fewer restriction on carry in Texas

These bills would reduce number of places where Location-Restricted Knives (blades over 5 1/2 inches) are banned.  This includes restaurants and bars, amusement parks and places of religious worship.

Good news for anyone in or traveling in Texas with a knife in their pocket.  I would have never thought that Texas would have legal restrictions over knife length.  I means it's Texas, for God's sake!

Böker News

Durand prefers a unmarked, simple blade, hence no opening stud or nail nick.

Böker has new releases from three of their designers. Serge Panchenko, Raphaël Durand, and Kansei Matsuno who are back with more for the Solingen, Germany manufacturer.

Serge Panchenko has opened his own production label, Serge Knife Co., and collaborated with Böker before on the popular Lancer model.  His new knife for Böker is the Gust with a 2.8-inch D2 blade, a stainless steel frame lock, with an anodized front scale embellished with a seashell-groove machining pattern.

Raphaël Durand’s new models are the Frelon and Boxer.  Both require two hands to open as neither features a nail nick.  However, both the Frelon and Boxer are locking knives, equipped with the tried and true back lock, 3 inch blades and new steels: the Frelon comes with VG-10, while the Boxer is sporting N690.

Kansei Matsuno brings a liner lock to the LRF design, but maintains the same elegant lines that defined his first release with Böker.  His penchant for twists on opening mechanisms is displayed here. Matsuno has incorporated a symmetrical ‘horned’ front flipper, with small tabs protruding from either side of the pivot. The near-3-inch blade is made from VG-10.

They all sound sweet!

On the down side:  Böker has announced that “On 1 May 2019 our grinding machines will be shut down and delivery times may be extended accordingly. Our sales department will not be available either.” 

While this may just mean a temporary pause, to upgrade, fix, repair or move we hope it’s just a very brief interval. I own several Bökers and they are an underappreciated knife and reasonable in price.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Drahth Knives

Recently I came upon knives from Drahth Knives Company.  I was impressed with both the beauty of the knives and their motto: “Life is too short to carry an ugly knife.”

mini-bowie, Damascus steel
Mini-Bowie in  Damascus

I contacted Andy the owner and asked a few questions about his knives and his company.  It’s always interesting to me to find out how small businesses get started.  I’ve already stated my belief that small businesses are the spark plug of the American economy.  Its true Ford and ATT contribute more in total dollars, but they all started with a dream to create prosperity for a small group and their families.
Sheath knives,
All of the sheaths have the same attention to detail

Andy started grinding knives for himself at a machine shop owned by his father and grandfather when he was eleven.  Of course, those were for himself and a few friends.  But other interest took Andy out of the shop and until recently in different directions.

In 2014, chance gave Andy the option to start making knives again.  Combining his and his friends experiences about blade shapes and handle lengths, Andy started making knives.  He’s partial to blades with longer handles which make for a much more controllable knife.

Basic utility knife
The long handle gives you plenty of grip and control over the blade

The blades are typically 1095 steel shaped by stock removal.  This steel has a lot to recommend it even in view of today’s world of super steels.  The 1095 blades can be hardened to Rockwell c values of 55 to 60 and still have some of the inherently flexibility an outdoor knife needs.  As noted knifemaker Ernie Emerson said of another steel, “A bent blade is still a knife, a broken blade is junk!”

1095 steel can be resharpened with ordinary stones available in just about any hardware, big box or sportsmen store.  It throws great sparks with a Ferro rod for fire making.  All the steel needs is a little coating of oil coating to prevent rust.  Use a food safe oil just to be sure.

Elliptical blade, Canadian Belt knife
The elliptical blade reminds me of the classic Canadian Belt knife, but this sports a thumb rest for more control.

A variety of wood handles are available ranging from walnut to exotic wenge.  Wenge is a legume tree from the Congo and Cameroon.  (Legume wood means the tree has seed pod.  Who would have guessed it?)

Are they perfect?  Why would they be?  I’m far from perfect myself, but they are pretty damn nice.  The leather sheaths are well sewn and fit the knife well.  I like how the knife sits deep the sheath where it will stay secure from grasping vegetation as you move through the fields and forests.  The logos stamped into the leather are sharp and well-defined.  The knives are easy to grasp and have an instinctual feel to them.  The full tang construction is slightly raised of the wood grips.  You can barely feel a slightly raised edge of the steel over the wood.

We’ll just have to wait to see the evolution of his knives.

Where can you get these for yourself?  I’d go to his website; or contact him at

Sunday, April 14, 2019

First Look: Shadow Tech's Trail Blazer

 Imagine a holster company designing a holster and not having a gun to fit.  Improbable?  Maybe not.  What if the company wants to start competing in a new area but needs something to fit it. 

Stoner Holster contacted one of my favorite knife companies, Shadow Tech, with a request, “Can you build us a knife to fit this sick leather sheath we want to make?”

The answer appears to be yes!

ST's Trail Blazer
My first look at the Trail Blazer

I saw the prototype; ST calls it the Trail Blazer.  It’s mega cool. 
The saber grind blade is 5.75 inches long and a quarter inch thick at the spine and sports aggressive cross-cut saw teeth.  The full tang handle is also 5.75 inches long and features Micarta grips providing a solid and substantial grip.

fixed blade

The blade is 8670 steel used in the lumber industry for large circular saws because of its toughness and edge retention abilities.  The blade has a 60 Rc hardness.  The blade isn’t stainless and the powder coating helps protect the blade.  You have to do your part with a little oil on the exposed metal. 

Those are some aggressive saw teeth! 
The leather sheath can be adapted for a tactical molle system, or different width belts.  The sheath contains a small pocket and a loop for a fire starting ferro stick.  The one I got to see had a small diode light and a permanent match.

Back of Sheith showing arrangement.  Note the diode light. 

This is a prototype so expect changes.  I understand Dot Snaps will replace the current ones to give the sheath more reliability.  John tells me the grip will change slightly with a slight swelling to help grip the knife.

I don’t know if the leather and micarta will stay these colors or if options will be available.  I also don’t know how the blade cuts or will resharpen.  Will the handle fit my hand or will hotspots develop after a couple hours of work needs to be answered later.  I would not be surprised if the dimensions change a little in length.  Again, this is a prototype.

I would have liked to seen a small sharpening stone.  8670 steel may have great edge retention, but all steel loss sharpness during use.

Still this is a very cool knife and it will be available in May.  Hey, that’s next month, so if you want one, you better preorder now or expect you’ll have to wait later on.

Go to to order your own Shadow Tech Trail Blazer. While you're there take a look at some of the other knives they have. You can also call them at 614-648-1297. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Truck Driver Trapper

I don’t have a type.  I mean there are virtues and disappointments everywhere, but this one must have been singing my song because I heard it loud and clear.

The knife has been carried, but never used or resharpened.

It’s a trapper pocket knife with a coal truck embossed into the jet black handle.  Trappers typically have two blades and mine is no exception.  It sports a traditional 3 inch clip point blade and a funky 3 inch spay blade used to neuter stock animals and occasional bad guys in novels.

Etched and colored main blade
You can see the tang stamp on both blades

The clip point is etched in red with “American Coal Haulers.”  Both blades are tanged stamped with a crown and the reverse is stamped “Hardin Germany.”

It’s a well-made knife.  Separate springs for each blade with no half open stop but a positive inclination to close and snap when the blade opens.  The liners are brass and even the springs inside the knife are mirror polished.  The blades don’t have any wiggle and whoever owned it before me took good care of it.

Who made it is a more complex story.  It seems there is no knife company called Hardin nor is there any town in Germany which goes by that name.

Tang Stamp
One of the knife forums suggested the crown logo is the key to unlocking this mystery.  It appears the crown is the trademark for the Friedrich Olbertz Knife Company in Solingen Germany.  It was founded in 1872 and produces brands such as Bulldog, Fighting Rooster and Eyebrand.

Still in existence, they are a knife jobber specializing in small knife lots.  The current management team is fifth generation family members.  The current minimum order is 600 units. 

So who is Harden? That took a little more work.

They are Harden Wholesale located in Kenova WV.  I called them and the staff remembers the knife as being ordered by George Smith in the 1980s, but nothing else.  I tried the phone number given to me, but Mr. Smith remains a mystery.  Maybe the phone number and name is just good old boy WV humor.

Made in Germany

Hardens Wholesale appears to be a seller of dry goods.  The photo I found showed plastic flowers for grave decorations, Carharrt clothing and Wolverine work boots.  I’m sure a trapper pocket knife celebrating any aspect of the WV coal mining industry would be a hit.

In any case, I’m happy to have it.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Edging Along

Ceramic knives have amazing edges.  By amazing I mean sharp with long term edge retention.

Basic folding ceramic pocket knife
Ceramic knives are typically made from zirconium dioxide (AKA zirconia).  Many manufacturers produce these blades through dry-pressing followed by firing of powdered zirconia. 

The resulting blade has a hardness of 8.5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.  At the top of the scale sits diamond with a 10 while steel ranks 4.5 for normal steel  This means a ceramic knife blade is significantly harder than steel edges.  So the resultant blade stays sharper longer.  The downside is it is less elastic and more brittle than a steel edge.
These knives are typically designed for food preparation like slicing boneless meat, vegetables, fruit and bread.  The non-reactive nature of the zirconia means it will not be affected by acid foods like lemons, apples or tomatoes.

Like many minerals, zirconia undergoes several phase transitions which can weaken the blade.  Minerals like calcium, magnesium and/or yttrium oxides can be added to stabilize the blade.  These produce a white ceramic.  A black-colored blade results from adding a hot isostatic pressing step, which increases the toughness.

The blade is electrically non-conductive and non-magnetic so it isn’t seen by metal detectors.  You’ll often find small ceramic blades sold as part of a self-extraction kit hidden in your clothing in those countries when kidnapping is a national sport. 

The factory new edge looks like this:

up close with a zirconia blade
I'm guessing each of these defects are about 200 um in length.  Could be from having blades in contact with each other  at the factory.
new zirconia knife edge
Looking straight down on the edge, even at +63 X magnification, the edge is difficult to find.

But even here small defects from manufacturing can be found.  While very tiny, they could be beginning of larger ones. 

After enough years your edge will have sections like this:

Used zirconia knife edge
Seven year old edge,the big defect looks about the length as the new edge, but deeper. 

Dirty Harry once said a man has to know his own limits.  With care the blade will last for years before sufficient damage forms to the blade edge making the knife unusable.  The edge photographed to show you these defects still has years of cutting left in it.

used zirconia knife edge
Despite the 'dull' spot this edge has plenty of life left.

Last word, don’t try sharpening it yourself.  Even with fine diamond powder, any uneven pressure will only cause more damage.  Many of the manufacturers have a sharpening program you can take advantage of. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Chinese Lum

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I thought I would do something in green to commemorate the saint that drove the snakes out of Ireland and caused so many others to see them.

It was October 2002 and Knives Illustrated published my very first knife article. It was about the green handled Spyderco Lum.  I wonder what I would say now if I was writing the article.

Knife illustrated
2002 cover with my article, and no, I didn't make the cover.

I’d tell you more about the steel.  Its Japanese steel designed by Takefu Special Steel Co. Ltd aimed at Japanese chefs.  But since the steel is cooked with 1% carbon, 15% chromium, 0.2% vanadium, 1.5% cobalt, and spiced with 0.5% manganese and 1% molybdenum, it was soon popular with many knife companies.

Spyderco Lum folder

At the time it was a super-steel but now is considered simply really good steel.  It compares well with ATS-34 and 154CM but the higher vanadium levels produce smaller grain size and better stain resistance and toughness.   We’re talking edge retention improvement here.  Spyderco told me the hardness was in the 58-60 Rc range.  The blade was offered as a plain edge as mine was or fully serrated.

The blade is a flat grind with a tapered leaf shape associated with many of Lum’s designs.  The green Almite-coated handle is chamfered to soften both the looks and provide a comfortable grip.  The knife is set up for right carry with an option to alternate between tip-up and tip-down.  I’m a big fan of tip-up carry so I never changed it.

Back of Lum folder, spyderco

Almite is an anodic oxidation process of aluminum with very good hardness.  

Bob Lum was born and raised in Astoria, Oregon and between hunting and fishing and his work as a freelance photographer he developed a keen eye for blade shapes and edges.  He started making knives in October 1976 and is considered the popularizer of the "tanto" style which he based on older classic Japanese style.  The interest in tantos has not faded.  They have generated a love-hate interest in the knife community and will remain an important blade option. 

spyderco lum
Bob Lum's chop.  A nice touch of class.

Lung cancer took Bob on December 4, 2007 at age 64. 

Shakespeare wrote “..the good is often buried with their bones.”  He is wrong in this case.  Many of Bob’s designs and sketches are still being uncovered and sold to top end knife companies.  His son and wife are involved with producing his ideas and you can find them at

I still carry my Lum.  It has become a dress knife and I wear it for weddings, funerals and anytime I need to notch up my attire beyond business casual.  Spyderco still has Lum designs, but if you want a green Lum Chinese folder, you’re in for a search.  Good Luck!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Remington Knives

 Most of us think of shotguns when we read about the Remington Arms Company.  Founded in 1816 in upstate New York, Remington holds the record for the nation's oldest continuously operating manufacturer.  It still operates in the original, but updated plant, in Ilion, NY.

Remington also makes some of us think of knives as well.  It’s only natural that a cross-over product is popular with the blade and gun crowd:  the Bullet Knife.

Bullet, knife
Has a buck look, doesn't it

The first Bullet knife was introduced in 1922. Many variations of this collectible knife have been created since that time.  These knives are often produced in limited qualities creating demand and keeping the price up as well.  They are highly collectible.   More modest lines are also created for users with limited resources who want a quality knife, but not a special edition.

It should be no surprise in this day and age that Remington does not actually make their knives.  Like S&W they license their brand.  I will not say anything unkind about S&W knives.  For the price they are a serviceable knife.

Buck Knives has the current license and will be producing the 2019 Remington Cutlery lineup.  In 2017 they acquired the Remington license and have continually produced quality knives with the Remington stamp.

Tactical knife

It should come as no surprise that 420J2 blade steel will be the principle blade steel.  Buck has extensive experience with it and produces a solidly performing blade.  420 steels range in carbon content between .15% and .40% with 12-14% chromium.  The steel reaches a hardness of 57RC after suitable heat treatment. Buck is famous for their proprietary heat treatment.  420B ( 420J2 ) is an economical, highly corrosion resistant stainless steel also used in diving knives.

A super steel?  No.   But one you can count on?  Yes.

Remington is doubling their Buck-produced tactical knife line for 2019.  You can find assisted opening, tanto and partial serrated blades as well as the classic drop point and plain edge, all with 420J2 steel

Remington knife
A nice EDS knife

EDC Line
While I carry what might be considered a tactical EDC, Remington also has a smart line of EDC.  These are medium to small pocket knives you can utilize at work, church and play without anyone thinking twice about it.

All Remington products are backed by a Lifetime Warranty. Find out more at

Friday, March 1, 2019

Knife Review: ZT450CF

Ah…Belarus, a small Eastern European landlocked country best known for its Stalinist architecture and grand fortifications.  If you’re stopping for a tour, make sure you visit KGB Headquarters looming over Independence Square and the many Great Patriotic War monuments commemorating the country’s role in WWII.

Sounds bleak, doesn’t?  Especially the tour of KBG headquarters which could last 20 to 30 years.

Zero Tolerance, Knife, Belarus
I really like the carbon fiber handle.

From this country comes Dmitry Sinkevich, knife maker and artist.  His knife designs are snapped up by companies like Spyderco and Zero Tolerance.  It only takes a simple look to see why.

Let’s look at his design, the ZT 450CF for example.  The knife sports a 3.25 inch slice of CPM S35VN.  More on this steel later.  The blade is a saber grind, drop point with a long false edge and flipper.  The blade glides open on KVT ball bearings.  The front of the handle is carbon fiber and backed with titanium.

The clip is reversible and provides a relatively low profile look when pocketed.

This makes for a very trim and graceful knife weighing in at 2.45 ounces. 

The lock mechanism is a standard frame lock, but because titanium can’t be hardened to the same values as steel, the locking bar sports a small steel insert that serves two functions in addition to locking the knife open.  One, it takes the wear of contacting the steel blade and two, acts as a stop to prevent the bar from being pushed out beyond its elastic limits.  The insert, in case you were wondering, is replaceable.

Dmitry Sinkevich, knife
The carbon fiber is striking.  This is a very nice Gent's Knife.

S35VN is martensitic steel which contains 3% vanadium and 0.5% niobium in addition to chromium.  All three elements are carbide formers, but chemical properties favor the formation of vanadium and niobium carbides over chromium.  These two carbides are harder and finer in size than chromium carbide and reinforce the steel more. 

Tests by CPM indicate the steel has better edge retention, less wear and more corrosion resistance than many steels including 440C and D2. 

I like the open back and the green spacers are just for fun and very cool.

The knife is strikingly impressive in my opinion.  It fits my hand and the blade flicks out on the KVT ball bearing.  The knife is set up for tip-up carry and the clip is reversible for left or right carry.

I can’t take it for a test run, as it’s not mine to use.  If ZT would like to send me a writer’s sample, I’ll run some cutting tests and expand this. 

The Sinkevich ZT450CF is light, trim and comfortable to use knife which is, bladed with a techno steel to give you long life and edge retention.  Frankly, at the retail price of $245 it looks like a bargain. 

Monday, February 25, 2019


A recent episode of the “The Rookie’ shows one of the characters showing his last resort knife to his training officer.  It resembles a Benchmade 175BK push dagger.  It’s a short story arc that helps support the longer main arc.   

Still, one can see why real LEOs will carry a last resort weapon.  They don’t have a room of script magicians to write them out of the problem.  These weapons are usually very simple to use.  Any tool that requires year to learn and five years to master will fall outside the definition of ‘tool-of-last-resort.’

Karambits have this tool potential.  The ordinary user can slip his little finger onto the loop and hold it in a hammer fist and simply claw his way out of danger trouble.  Placing your thumb on the back of curved spine will give you a little more feedback.  Are we not trained to touching things with our thumb?  The same almost autonomic reflex helps guide the blade.

Held in the reverse grip, the blade juts out of our fist like a prehistoric claw, perfectly situated for close infighting moves. Small wonder folding karambits are so popular.  Closed, they are easy to conceal, a basic impact weapon and open, it becomes so much more.

In the hands of someone with more training than I, the karambit has multiple applications.  The dull spine can be used use to trap and control opponent’s arms and balance, making a range of other physical responses available.  The razor edge lets you transition from physical control to higher levels of force almost instinctively. 

Folding karambits have some problems.  Opening isn’t always easy and fingers can get in the way of the edge.  Lock and pivot points wear and fail from applying load on the spine or side of the blade.  All knives direct the load into the handle but the twisting load generated by using the blade as a control device can cause handle failures.

Joe Caswell, karambit
CRKT's Provoke, designed for LEO and people in dangerous places

Many of the devices used to open the blade as you remove it from your pocket don’t assist you opening the karambit if you are holding it in your hand as an impact tool.

CRKT has taken Joe Caswell’s design and produced the Provoke It is a unique knife that may change how we open and close folding knives.  Your fingers are never in the path of the blade when opening or closing.  The blade is firmly locked in place by two stout arms.

closed Provoke, knife, karambit
The front of Joe Caswell's innovative folding karambit 

The problem is opening from the pocket draw.  The optimal opening has the index finger through the ring and the dull spine against the palm of your hand.  The thumb presses the back pivot point and the blade pops open.

Caswell, folding karambit
Back side of the Provoke.  The clip holds the knife deep in the pocket.  What you see doesn't look like a clip.

Here’s a right and left hand draw with opening showing the finger movements I use.  It looks clumsy when shone slowly to reveal finger movement.  It’s not.  Practice for ten minutes and it will feel completely natural to you.

Left side opening.  I needed to pivot out of the camera view to show the opening.  You really don't hold it like a soiled tea bag. 

Right side opening.  The knife must slide from the thumb to the index finger

It’s not an inexpensive knife and has limited general application.  Its cutting edge design and manufacturing has built in a high degree of reliability.  It is last-chance-tool to claw your way out from under the casket lid. 

Find yours at  MSRP is $200.00.  Cheap at that price.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Finnish Butterfly

After college and having found a real job I discovered I had a little extra spending money.  I was entranced by a red handled folding knife that could be best described as a butterfly knife from Finland.  Of course I satisfied that itch.

Puukko Folder, Finish butterfly knife
Hackman Folding Puukko

The blade doesn’t have a tang stamp and the only identification is “Hackman Finland” molded into the red plastic handle.  The 3.75 inch blade is a saber grind with a small secondary bevel that forms the actual cutting edge. 

The blade is an unknown stainless steel.  I’ve had it for years and no evidence of rust has appeared, despite the minima care I’ve given it.  And the plastic has also held up quite nicely.  I filed a small choil in the blade to separate the edge from the ricasso.  It was thought, with some justification, that without the choil you would damage your sharpening stone by chipping away it’s edge. 

In retrospect I realize was all I really accomplished was to add a stress riser in the blade.

Hackman was a cutlery and cookware company founded in Finland in 1790.  Later it was bought by the Iittala Group.  In 2007, littala was swallowed by the Fiskars Corporation.  Fiskars never, in my opinion, understood the American knife market and even now needs to make up for lost ground.

Finnish, Folding knife, linkkupuukko
The folding Puukkko closed and latched

The Hackman butterfly knife was better known in Finland as Linkkupuukko, or "latch-knife". The marketing boys positioned it as a retkiveitsi or "camping knife" and later as Eräpuukko or "wilderness puukko."  By now you should associating puukko with Finnish for knife.

The Hackman story begins when Johan Friedrich Hackman was awarded the right to establish a trading house in the Hanseatic city of Vyborg.  He soon had a successful timber goods business on his hands, but like most businessmen he sought out new opportunities.  West of him was the territory now known as Finland.

In the early 1800s Hackman bought Sorsakoski – a small factory community in eastern Finland.  The purchase included a sawmill, flourmill and a brick factory.  Hackman’s cutlery business began in nearby Vyborg in 1876, headed by his son also Johan Friedrich Hackman.

Junior moved their entire cutlery manufacturing business to Sorsakoski in the early 1890s. The factory community was a mirror of Finnish society at the beginning of the twentieth century.  Companies like Hackman took full responsibility for providing basic services to their employees.  Sounds a little like the American coal mining companies and the company store, doesn’t it?

In 1902 Hackman began manufacturing new low-cost cutlery items forged from a single workpiece. The introduction of quality stainless steel in the 1920s revolutionized the entire cutlery business.  By the 1960s design legends like Kaj Franck and Bertel Gardberg had designed iconic cutlery collections for Hackman.

The black handle version of the knife seems to have a sordid past or excellent present day marketing.  There are rumors, highly unsubstantiated rumors, that CIA agents were issued the knife for Vietnam.  If anyone has any real knowledge I’d sure like to hear from you.

This makes some limited sense.  The knife isn’t made in the USA and being caught with one might not brand you as an imperialistic agent.  The mechanism is simple and robust, perhaps perfect for undercover work.  Being inexpensive, ditching the knife if you were being followed or mouse-trapped didn’t require a huge sacrifice on your part.

However, it isn’t likely you can call up the CIA and speak to the quartermaster and expect to get a straight answer.  That’s where the marketing comes in.  It’s easy to say on ebay that the knife is from the CIA / Vietnam issue era.

Recently, Spyderco added some credibility to this story in their April Newsletter:
" While the Finnish Hackman Camp Knife, a balisong-style folder rumored to have been issued by the CIA in Vietnam..."

There’s a story here and perhaps one day we’ll know it in its entirety.