Monday, August 1, 2022

Color me Anodized

I like anodized titanium.

Titanium anodizing is an electrolytic finishing process that creates varying thicknesses of a titanium oxide layer on the metal surface.  The titanium item forms the anode (positive electrode) of an electrolytic cell, hence the name “anodize.”

Spyderco's Shaman in anodized titanium

Anodizing titanium has been around for almost a century.  It was first used in 1923 to protect British seaplane parts from salt-water corrosion.  Aerospace companies continue to use anodizing processes today to protect metals from the effects of aging, wear and corrosion.

There are three types of anodizing.  The first is a high-temperature process.  I used to etch titanium wire with molten sodium nitride into amazingly sharp points.  I would find little splotches of concentric color on portions of the metal.

The second is called type 2.  Type 2 is used chiefly to protect the metal surface against the effects of wear.  When untreated titanium parts rub against each other, they produce titanium dust.  Titanium dust is not a major health problem, unless it builds up in joints utilizing orthopedic implants.  Type 2 anodizing provides a wear-resistant surface and helps prevent seizing or friction between sliding titanium surfaces.  AMS 2488E has the engineering specs if you’re interested.

Shaman tear down - remove the clip

Type 3 is the color.  You’ll find colorful titanium used in the orthopedic field to help surgeons ensure the correct plate, screws, and what-nots are used.  You’ll also find colorful titanium in jewelry.

The color is not produced by dyes, but by manipulating the oxide layer to create an “illusion of color.”  This is similar to the rainbow colors an oil film forms on water.  These layers are very thin.  The entire range of colors is produced over a 30 to 55-nanometer range, very small stuff indeed!

The process isn’t complicated.  The titanium part is immersed in a trisodium phosphate (TSP) solution and a direct electrical current is applied.  Most people use a specialized rectifier to convert AC to DC and control voltage and amperage.  Since it is just a thin, durable coating, color mistakes can be stripped off with the right detergent, and you can try again.


The prep for industrial products can be a bit daunting.

Sean Krizan at Meton Boss ( produced anodized titanium scales for Spyderco’s Shaman.  The scales were engraved to resemble an interlocking jigsaw puzzle, with the ‘pieces’ having different anodizing colors.

It was amazing, and I threw money at him to make it mine.  I didn’t have a Shaman yet, but that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

It was the beginning of the Covid age of supply shortages.  I placed an order for one from a knife seller.  A year later, I was still waiting.  I called Spyderco and was told the knife was still in production, but supply shortages ..yadda…yadda…yadda.

What if they were discontinued?

What if I couldn’t find one?

Was I FUBARed?

Yes, Igor threw the switch - Is it alive?

I purchased a fully serrated Shaman, despite wanting a plain blade, just in case.  Now that I had one, even if it was a plan B option, I could relax.  Eventually, I finally found a plain edge at a knife show and bought it.

I had to dissemble the knife to remove the original scales, voiding Spyderco’s warranty.  I took lots of snapshots of the process, just in case I ended up with an extra washer or screw when I was finished re-assembling my Shaman.  I worked on a pile of newspaper for the cushion and used painter’s tape for surface protection.  I also discovered I was all thumbs.  Still, it all worked out.

I get nothing for showing his card.  Still. there are some amazing products there!

It's alive!!

The Shaman is spectacular!


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Bury the Hatchet

Have you seen the announcement?  I saw it on Facebook first and haven’t seen it anywhere else.  But I’ve seen its effect.

TOPS Cockpit Commander

It appears TOPS and Fred Perrin have had a disagreement.  A disagreement that has lasted 20 years.  Not being a deep insider, I can only wonder.  I’ll let you make up your own mind. 

TOPS has announced that this disagreement has lasted 20 years and they have decided to put an end to it.  TOPS Cockpit Commander is retired, effective immediately.

As of my typing, you can still find it on Amazon, but the major retailers, Smoky Mountain, Blade HQ, Knife Center and others, no longer have the Cockpit Commander for sale.  I found two sold on ebay as recently as July 15, prior to the announcement.  Many internet commandos have declared it an instant collectible.  It is a rhetorical question, but can any mass-produced factory knife be an instant collectible?

Fred Perrin is an interesting fellow.  Fred has been a world-vetted Tae Kwon Do and stick-fighting champion, a French Army Commando, professional writer, martial arts instructor and one of France’s most recognized professional knifemakers.  I have two of his knives, a LaGriffe neck knife from Emerson and a Fred Perrin PPT from Spyderco.  Both are excellent knives.

Fred posted on Facebook, and I take that as a small window into the ‘misunderstanding.’

“I want to say how much I appreciated this move, it is very rare that a brand recognizes its mistake…   I will gladly design something for TOPS that is really my idea and not an "interpretation" of my work, as it’s often put to work around this design.” 

I carefully edited Fred’s statement with replacement of what I assume were accidental capitalizations and missing punctuation.

I like TOPS Knives and I hope this problem is truly resolved. 

Speaking of TOP knives, I saw signs at the Blade Show asking people to essentially ask about their custom shop.  The story I got was Leo Espinoza, TOPS’ President/Owner, while a great businessman, is more interested in the creative process of making knives than running a business.  After several years of talk and consideration, he walked in one morning and decided to pull the trigger.  A nearby structure, a pole barn, was bought, a floor poured, electrical and HVAC run, and equipment moved in.  Different steels were ordered, as were other materials and Leo started making unique, yes, let’s say it, custom TOPS Knives.  Eventually, maybe if things work right, a customer could order special steel or handle material, specify the finish or perhaps the sheath.  

Experience tells me it isn’t going to be cheap.

Right now, I was told, a limited number of unique steels, or handle material or grind lines might become available.  TOPS website has a tab marked Specials (, but I don’t see anything like custom knives.

Instead, go to  I found four knives, all sold.

Keep your eye on the custom website and your credit card fully charged; you might be able to get a true collectible, a one-of-a-kind knife if you’re sharp.


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Opening Knives

 Videos make instruction so much easier.  Instead of line drawings or pictures that take 10K words to explain, or pages of text carefully written and rewritten by a technical writer, a couple of short videos show you how to repair a leaky faucet, change an oil filter, and perform open-heart surgery.  Well, maybe not the last one.

Let me show you two short videos on opening knives.

The first is Rick Hinderer’s XM-18, his and Ohio’s first legally manufactured auto.  If I was to annotate the video, I’d say, “Press.”

The second is a unique design called the Warlock Sorcerer Supreme from Paragon Ashville Steel.  Here I would annotate this video with, “Squeeze!”     

Now you know!



Friday, June 24, 2022

Artistic Interactions

One of the thing not described in most descriptions of the Blade Show are the interactions with artists.  Yes, artists.

I was so busy looking at knives I didn’t recognize Sandra Brady selecting beautiful warthog ivory-handled knives from Arno Bernard.

Arno Bernard lives in South Africa and makes amazing knives.  These will become Sandra’s canvas.  Sandra Brady is a fantastic scrimshaw artist.  I have, or rather my wife has, one of her pieces and it is stunning.

I asked her if the Bernard knives were part of a project, and she said no, she wanted them for future commissions.  Her display held a wide subject range of scrimshaw art.

“What’s your favorite subject to work on?”

After a moment, she told me, “I like doing eagles and hawks, but I love a challenge.”

The Green Man

To demonstrate she showed me a Dozier knife with a Green Man on it.  Drawn only in black on white the intricate man was made of plant leaves.  The Green Man is a legendary being belonging to many cultures worldwide and across time.  He has his roots, in the symbolic rebirth of every spring.  I vaguely remember him associated with the Arthurian legend from college studies.

I asked the price and Sandra told me $1350.  You might think it’s a lot of money for a knife, but I think it’s reasonable for art.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Blade Show 2022 Day Three

Everyone is a zombie this morning, myself included.  The Blade Show closes at 2pm, and will be long empty by the time you read this.  Many of the vendors from overseas have left to make connecting flights.  Some of the American vendors have packed up and are about to hit the road.  Pro-Tech and several others have completely sold out.  Several, like Benchmade, have made the decision not to bring stock, but to sell on the internet.  Their tear-down is easy.

Smoky Mountain Knife Works has spread out their remaining knives to suggest they still have plenty, but you can find the empty spots on their, and just about everyone’s, display.  Some custom knife makers sell out in hours on the first day.  Others go home with most of what they made.  The Blade Show is a crap shoot.  Roll the dice and take your best shot, but I suspect the odds are in your favor.  There will always be someone who likes your work and style.

I’m pretty tired and I wish I could unscrew my feet and stick them in the freezer for a couple of hours.  But despite that, I’m sorry to be heading home.  Walk around the show and you will see some of the best new and collectible knives in the world.  Say what you want about only buying American products, but the world produces amazing knives.  I stopped by Condor Knife.  They are in El Salvador and their products have taken a major step up.  I’ll be buying some of their products.  I went by Artisan Cutlery, QSP, and so many others and marveled at their knives.  It was exciting.

But in a day or so I’ll return to that provincial mindset of people who look only at the country of origin and when told the price of knives made in Japan, China, and other places, grunt, “I think these foreign knives are cheap.”  The Blade Show is like overseas travel.  It opens your eyes and challenges your concepts.

We left around noon and saw two young men buying a day pass for the remaining two hours of the show.  I’m not sure what they paid, but considering the stripped tables and shelves, they paid too much!

Here are a couple of pictures, but frankly, nobody was doing anything interesting.

The engraving art

Medford Knife and Tool's  Marauder full size with S35VN steel  $1160

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Blade Show Day Two 2022

 Saturday is the busy day at the Blade Show.  Everyone who couldn’t get Friday free comes today.  The lines to purchase passes and will call seem to stretch to the horizon.  

Knife enthusiasts lining up

I start my day with a class on decorative file work by Kyle Daily.  Kyle is teaching how to do his 5 five favorite patterns.  There is a lot of interest.  

Kyle's Bubbles

Nice file work can kick your crafted knife up a notch or two in price.  The class doesn’t go the way I expect:  I’m looking for more of an introduction to handling the file.   Still, there was a lot to learn.  Line layout of everything in detail is a must, as is using sharp files and dumping them when they go dull. He uses a black epoxy to make his file work pop and it does.  The other ‘students’ wrote down every name, file description, and website Kyle gives them.  Some are hoping the magic is in the tools and not the user.  Others want to avoid reinventing the wheel.  He gave out some scrap samples of steel for those who what to practice.  I have a couple.  You never know….

Then it’s out to the show floor.  There are some amazing knives and others that are works of art.  Gravity knives are hot.  Reate Knives has perhaps the coolest gravity knife on the market. 


Opening or closing

Balisong flipping knives remain hot for the younger set.  Companies have come into existence dedicated solely to flipping, offering tune-up services and customization.  It is not uncommon to see someone just standing in a corner spinning and flipping a high-tech balisong knife.

Adjusting the butterfly knife so it is goldilocks right for the owner

The show is also the place to people watch.  I’ll have more on that later.  In the meantime, here are a few (snicker) images for you to enjoy.

No Dalmatians were killed in the making of those pants.

Attendance in every aisle

People come to sell the $10.00 knives too!

Pressing hot steel

In case you need to behead a water buffalo

I got a lesson in sharpening at Worksharp

Beats me?

My two classic Italian switchblades from KC Italy

I ended my day with a bushcraft class called “Unique and Advanced Knife Techniques” by Joe Flowers.  Here too I was a little disappointed.  

No Joe is not pictured in these three images

The PowerPoint presentation he planned to give got lost. The older one we saw was buggy and the video images distant and poor quality.  Joe is machete-centric, so smaller knives were a lesser part of his presentation.  My limited experience is not too many people carry machetes in the woods.  Perhaps we should. 
The real Joe Flowers

Joe is an entertaining speaker and arrives carrying at least 30 large knives and machetes.  Perhaps the most important part of the presentation might be to work with safety stops and position the cutting as well as your body so you will not cut yourself if the blade travels farther than you expect.  It is a lesson I learned cutting up tires at GY tire.  Perhaps that’s the most important part of his talk.

One more day to go and then I’ll be forced back to the normal world.


Apologies.  It seems 

the software is channeling e.e. cummings

Friday, June 3, 2022

Blade Show 2022 Day One

 The Blade Show 2022 opened with its usual whimper.  Neither Cobb Galleria nor the people from Blade are unable to figure out how to handle the crowds.  The Customer Appreciation Passes were not available until 10 am this morning, and the Show opened to us at 11:00 ~ a LONG line to get in the building and then another line (they called out last name letters alphabetically!) to get the actual badge!  It would have been much simpler if the CAP passes were available Thursday afternoon/evening, then anyone could have picked them up at their convenience.  

This was the line in front of us, and we were 1.5 hours early!

The line standing in the Georgia sun would have been much more manageable.  Still, I was able to pick up my pass and make it to my 10:30 class on Cryo-Quenching.

The class was run by Larrin Thomas, a Ph.D. in metallurgy who works in the automotive industry.  Perhaps more importantly, he is the inventor of MagnaCut, the new hot steel everyone is going crazy over.  

Larrin and carbide grain sizes with SEM

I have a lot of notes, but perhaps the most interesting is the rate of converting austenite into martensite occurs at the speed of sound.  It isn’t a chemical diffusion process, so it also happens at liquid nitrogen temperatures.  After an hour of graphs, images, and explanations, I’m still a little confused.  It reinforced how complex carbide size and location, metal crystal phase, and time is to temper a steel blade.  I’ve said it before, the heart of a knife may be the blade, but the soul is the heat treatment.

Many foreign companies were in attendance this year, Covid restrictions have lessened and countries are allowing overseas travel.  One of my favorite overseas visitors is Grace Horne.  She’s been making scissors for the last couple of years, and she sells out almost instantly.  Fortunately, some of the buyers let her display some of her scissors so you could see them.

Perhaps the most exciting news for me was the release of Rick Hinderer’s new automatic knife, the XM-18.  I’ve waited since April of 2021 for this hot puppy and it is finally here.  Rick is celebrating his 35 years as well. 

Here are a bunch of photos for your consideration.

Hinderer's new auto Just released at Blade Show

Santa Fe Stone Works

CRKT's new SPEC   I really liked the handle!

CRKT's Curfew   The white portion of the handle has an Ivory feel, but it is not


Not every knife is what you call practical

This Chili Pepper is coming home with us - by Kizer

Winkler Knives

Italian knives from MKM designed by Jesper Voxnaes

The last two from Grace Horne  Who says scissors are boring?

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Mickey's Knife

 In an effort to get ahead of my summer fitness cycle, I have started walking with a 15 pound backpack.  I chose a single sling pack from Maxpedition with my special attachment, one of Boker’s collaborations with Mickey Yurco.  It is called The Pocket Knife.  The Ulticlip allows you to clip it inside a pocket making it easy to carry and access a fixed blade.

Boker's Pocket Knife on my pack

I like the knife.  The elongated egg-shaped handle is depressed by about 26 degrees from the center blade line.  This allows the knife to be held in a neutral wrist position.  This is perhaps the strongest, most stable position for your wrist when holding a tool.

The blade isn't quite so long, all due to accidental camera angle magic

Two knives held in the same position with my wrist at the neutral angle. The Boker extends outward more aggressively

We are, after all, tool-bearing mammals and a knife is just a tool.

The blade is a graceful saber grind drop point blade tapering to a point made from 440C stainless steel.  It is 3.3 inches long with a 0.15 inch thickness and the overall length of the knife is 6.8 inches. 

The handle is constructed of black G-10 and has a slight palm swell making it easy to grip.  The finger detent in the steel and the palm swell make gripping this knife easy and comfortable.  It is in the running for the easiest and most comfortable using knife I’ve ever owned.

The Kydex sheath

The Kydex sheath secures the knife upside down and close to the body.  I don’t have to worry about bushes or brambles plucking at my knife in an effort to detach it.  The Ulticlip lets me clip the knife on the padded shoulder strap about the middle of my chest.  This is just about where a surprise or fear reaction instinctually brings the hands to.  The clip allows almost instant removal should I need to move the knife and sheath to a different location.

Why a knife?  Because sometimes I can’t get to a firearm fast enough.  If I had a dime for everyone who told me they would simply draw their blaster and shoot their knife/club attacker I would be a rich man.  While a subject for a different blog, attacks are usually done by surprise, without warning, and with a high level of violence.  Awareness is the key to survival, followed by having a tool and skill with the tool.

The Ulticlip allows you to move the knife and sheath from location to location quickly.  

If you are not familiar with Boker, or only think of the lower spectrum of their knives, think again.  Boker makes some very high and middle-level knives at reasonable prices and excellent quality.   Mickey has at least two knives in the Boker catalog.  I find the Yurco Pocket Knife one of my favorites.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022


I recently picked up a Boker Joule. The name interested me. A Joule is a unit of energy or work. What’s a Joule, you ask? It’s the classical physics definition of the work you do when you lift a medium-size apple one meter off the ground. In other words not much. That’s not true of this knife.

Boker Joule

The design is by Michael Reinhold, whose designs are seen in several high-end companies like Boker and Spyderco. Michael is a part-time knife designer set up in Crooked Lake, Indiana. He started making knives from old circular saw blades and fell in love with bladesmithing. 

The 2.4-inch D-2 blade is a flat-grind Wharncliffe blade. The blade sports Michael’s maker’s mark, a stylized hummingbird. Why a hummingbird? I don’t know. Perhaps the mark doesn’t know the words. 

The handle is black G-10 and stainless steel. I like the reinforced lanyard hole and the frame lock. And that’s where the problem lies with my knife. My Joule doesn’t always lock open. It’s not uncommon. The tolerances required to allow the frame lock to come about halfway across the width of the tang square end are tight. Many knives require you to open the blade forcefully so the blade flexes slightly past the fully open position. This allows the frame or liner lock to fully engage.

I'm pointing to the partially engaged frame lock

 I could have sent the knife back, but I always need something to blog about, so let’s try fixing it ourselves. 

 I took the clip off to get it out of my way, removed the pivot screw, and then… It was at that point I noticed the knife was working perfectly. The frame lock slipped nicely across the square tang end like it was designed to. 


What could I do? 

I put the Joule back together and called it a day. All I can say is it must have been some tension distortion I relieved when I removed that screw. 

It’s a nice knife. The removable clip lets me carry it the way I like to, tip-up in the right pocket. You might want to get one for yourself. It’s a nice urban/office/going-to-church knife. Boker has it for $59.95, but you can search around and find a better price.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Doctor, Doctor

I'm a big fan of doctor or physician knives.  They usually come with a spear point blade and a spatula.  The knife butt, on the best of them, is a solid flat end cap used to grind medications and materials.  There was a time when doctors would make house calls, especially in the more remote parts of the country.  Sometimes they need to open their black bag and formulate medication by absorbing a liquid into a solid and solids to ointments.  This called for a spatula and a way of grinding materials.  Hence the doctor’s knife. 

Rough Ryder's Doctor Knife

“…this was entirely done by hand. The pill mass was rolled into the form of a cylinder, placed on a graduated tile and divided by means of a spatula into measured lengths calculated to contain the required amount of active ingredients. These were then rounded between finger and thumb to give the final product.”  Hong Kong Medical Journal 2015.

Of course, the blade was needed to lance boils and carbuncles.  Medicine in the early 1900s was not for the faint of heart.

I’ve always been fascinated with spatulas.  As a chemist, I used a variety of sizes to weigh out chemicals and unknowns.  Then I turn around and see a chocolate maker use the same tool.  Take a step and you’ll find printers keeping the ink in the printing bank mixed and evenly spread out with spatulas.  You’ll find them in kitchens, paint and pigment stores, in labs and pharmacies, but you’ll seldom find them with doctors.

I don’t see too many doctor knives around, especially the older ones, so I was happy to find one from Rough Ryder.  Yes, they changed their name from Rider to Ryder.  I don’t know if it was the condom association or Teddy Roosevelt.  Perhaps the change was just a public relations move to get more notice.

I think of that blade as more of a sheep foot blade, but there is a high degree of freedom in naming blades 

The knife is 3.6 inches closed and has nickel silver bolsters.  It has a spey blade and the traditional spatula.  The handle is malachite and pearl from Stoneworx.  The knife has brass liners and the two blades are separated by brass as well.

All and all, it is a really nice doctor’s knife and I really like it.  Rough Ryder has an upscale group of knives, and this is one of them.  It is a nice example of knife art at a reasonable price.  You can buy one for the princely sum of $26.00.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Friday, November 5, 2021

Sea Snake

I finally got around to breaking out and using Artisan Cutlery’s Sea Snake.

Artisan Cutlery, sea snake, G-10 handle
Artisan Cutlery's Sea Snake

I came across it at the 2021 Blade Show and it followed me home.  I’m sorry I waited so long to break it out. 

Artisan Cutlery is a Chinese company making innovated blades as well as using interesting steels.   My Sea Snake was crafted from AR-RPM9, a proprietary powdered metal steel.


The formulation?  Well, it’s proprietary, but few compositional secrets remain secret for long.  Here’s what I found on the Internet:

0.9% Carbon,

18% Chromium,

1.0% Molybdenum,

0.45% Manganese,

0.1% Vanadium,

0.30% Cobalt,

0.2-0.8% Silicon,

less than 0.40% Nickle,

less than 0.05% Rare Earth.

I’ve never seen anyone list or express concern about rare earth composition.


Chemical analysis can tell you what’s in a product, but not necessarily how it performs.  Looking at these numbers, I could do this analysis with a half decent SEM and EDS.  There are no significant elements below 0.1%.  But like Coca-Cola, it’s how it’s cooked that makes the difference.  That would take some real research into metallography to unwrap those secrets. 

In any case, enjoy this steel, because I am.


The 3.15 inch flat ground Wharncliffe blade is fixed to a G-10 clad handle giving the knife a total length of 6.78 inches long.  The blade has a RHc value of 59-61.

I like the feel of the knife in my hand and I can’t stop playing with it.  The balance point is back in the handle and the finger groove provides plenty of grip and prevents you from sliding onto the blade.  That’s always important to me.   There is a secondary finger groove carved into the blade shortening the actual cutting edge to just under 2.5 inches.  Using the two finger grooves and the jimping on the blade’s spine locks the knife in my hand and gives me fine control over the blade.


The knife is designed by Mike Embler.  Mike is from eastern Ohio and spent 18 years in the  Navy.  He studied multiple forms of self-defense, including Japanese swordsmanship while stationed in Japan.  This helped shape his views on knives as tools and weapons.  It was in Japan he discovered the joys of flat grinds.

You should keep an eye out for him, I think you’ll be seeing more of his work.

Dressed-up accessory, neck knife, Wharncliffe blade
Dressed up  and ready for a night out.

I got the green G-10 handled knife in the khaki green sheath.  It seemed like the right color for a Sea Snake.  But the black para cord it came with was the pits.  Not content with that, I dug out some woodland camo paracord and found an almost matching green and orange glass bead and dressed up the sheath. 


Neck knives are becoming a fashion accessory for men; women too! 

Yes, I know they started out as a hidden weapon, worn under a shirt or blouse, a tool of last resort, likely to be missed in a fast pat-down.  But really, those days are gone.  Everyone checks around the collar for the tell-tale cord, pats the chest and under the arms.  Then there’s the metal detecting wand.  Just wear it as a fashion accessory.

Besides do you really want to go into combat with an unbreakable noose around your neck?


You can get you’re Sea Snake at for $39.98.  They currently have a limited issue made with S35vn steel and another with a carbon fiber handle at prices reflecting the more exotic materials.