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By now most people realize that descriptive words don’t mean anything, or rather mean only what the author would like them to mean.  One author I’ve been reading describes men’s aftershave as “peppery” whatever that means.

Knives are a similar situation.  Editors and authors will agree that it’s a folding knife, but is it a jack knife, pocket knife or the mysterious tactical knife?

Almost everyone will agree on the following definitions:

Slip joint folder:  This is the simplest of folding knives.  Friction between the blade and bolster holds the knife open.  Early Roman knives were like this.  I suspect you needed to hold the blade’s spine pinched between thumb and index finger to use the blade.  A step up would be the 16 century peasant knife in which a metal tang would fold against the back of the handle when open and your grasp would keep the knife open.

Friction folders:  These use a spring, sometimes called a back spring to maintain pressure on the blade to keep it open or closed.  These are very common today. 

Locking or Clasp folder:  Knives in this category use a mechanism that actively prevents the blade from closing until that mechanism is altered to release the blade.   These have morphed into the term “tactical” which means they cost more.

Once we get past these basics we start creating new descriptors of knives.

I recently pick up a… well, I’m not sure what to call it.

It’s a gent’s knife, which means it’s largely a vest pocket toy carried for only the most superficial cutting tasks.  This term is often applied to small knives worn on a watch chain or carried just to trim loose threads, file a torn fingernail or cut a bag of potato chips open.
The term has been upgraded by vendors like A. G. Russell to include higher quality locking knives.  

My new lobster style knife
This one has steel blades in a brass handle, so you know it’s not designed for heavy work as brass is not the strongest material available.  It is decorated nicely with raised surfaces and dark black designs.  Some gent’s knives use precious and semi-precious materials like gold, ivory, exotic stone and tropical woods as well as steel for a handle.

This one is decorated in what is described on the internet as Toledo style, even though it has no connection to Ohio or Spain.  There are three tools in this knife, a large blade, a smaller one on one side, and folding scissors on the other side.

The spring is in the center of the handle where it tensions all three tools.  One end appears to forked, giving the smaller blade and scissors the needed spring force.

I guess it resembles a lobster, maybe?

The pattern or artistic style, for lack of a better name, is a lobster.  Since two of the tools open on the same end, but opposite side, if you look at it from the right angle, close one eye and squint with the other, you might find some passing resemblance to a lobster with its two claws. 

You might describe this knife as a Toledo lobster gent’s knife.

The handle is composed of two thin sheets of brass.  It has a gold color so I suspect it’s coated with a dyed lacquer.  It was a common occurrence with the old brass microscopes.  Different lots of brass would have different colors, so manufacturers lacquered the scope to give it a uniform colour appearance.  Very common with English microscopes.

Fine detail of brushed surface  The marker bar is 5mm or half a centimeter

The handles aren’t scratched, but brushed to give the brass a softer look.   Again it’s attempting to pass as gold or at least golden.

Inox means stainless steel

The blades are marked “Inox, Solingen, Germany”, but that doesn’t mean the knife was made there.  I couldn’t find any other marks or identification on the knife.  This suggests that is was a low quality product made by jobbers.

Still, I like the darn thing.  The handle is in a relatively undamaged condition, and I like the pattern on the brass handle as well as the proportions of the handle.  The two blades are clean with original edges and the scissors looks nice.

Unfortunately there are no compelling reasons for knife manufacturers to set down and hammer out descriptions the industry would use.  So, until they do, I have a Toledo lobster gent’s knife.

Christmas Reading

I can’t imagine Christmas without a new book.  They are one of my favorite gifts and some have become lifelong friends requiring several readings over the years.

Here’s a list of books that you might find want to find in your Christmas stocking.



The Tactical Folding Knife   Bob Terzuola

A detailed approach to knife making from one of the masters, Bob Terzuola.

A Primer on Folding Knives  Steven Roman

Overview of knives, steel heat treatments and sharpening.  With the exception of types of steels used for blades, there is probably nothing more contentious than sharpening.

Pocket Knives –A Compete Study Guide  Bernard Levine

It’s a nice introduction to knife collecting illustrated by color photo examples.  Almost every level of knife fancier will enjoy this.

The Complete Encyclopedia of Knives  A E Hartink

Of course, it’s not complete.  It is a snapshot of knives and some makers at the time of publication.  But it is a coffee table book you’ll enjoy picking up again and again.

The Craft of the Japanese Sword  Leon and Hiroko Kapp

Fascinated by Japanese swords?  Like many of us we have an imperfect view of the creation, finishing and style of these swords.  This book will give you insights and appreciation for the classic Japanese sword.  And why it takes a village to make a sword.

Art of the Knife   Joe Kerzmzn

Art knives are curious.  Makers take one of man’s earliest tools, the edge, and turn them into objects of art.  You can own a copy of Piet Mondrian’s painting called Composition No. 10, but by its nature you can’t own a copy of an art knife. It is or it isn’t.  But you can explore them.
100 Legendary Knives  Gerard Pacella

Make a list of the top 10 knives; now expand it to 100 universally accepted standards.  It’s hard to imagine the complexity of such a task.  You may disagree with this list, but you will not be disappointed with it.

Modern Knives in Combat  Deitmar Pohl

You might be surprised by the knives men and women carry into combat.  You’ll find designer edges and ones you see at any gun show in America.  Gives you a different view of the tactical knife.

Contemporary Knife Targeting  Christopher Grosz and Mike Janich

Is there anyone who has never picked up a knife and not asked themselves, “Could I defend myself with this?”  We’ll always go places you can take a knife but not a gun.  Just saying……

Counterfeiting Antique Cutlery  Gerald Witcher

It’s not a how-to book, but more of a they-did-it–to-you book.  If you’re thinking of collecting in the high end or rare collectable market, you really should read this book.

Merry Christmas to you and keep your edge and your knife sharp!

Figuring The Angles!

If you use a knife there comes a time, regardless of the steel, that the edge needs touching up.  Many of us return our knives the company for resharpening or take them to a professional sharpener.

Even thinking of this brings to mind a childhood memory of an itinerant knife sharpener on the south side of Chicago.

He had a push cart that he walked behind and sang out “knife … scissor sharpening” as he traveled down the street.  It had little bells that tinkled and jingled as the cart rolled.  He would sit at the stone which was powered by a foot treadle and sharpening.  I remember my mother with a pair of scissors that needed sharpening as well as all the women in the neighborhood coming out to see this old man and his grind stone.

I always wondered where he came from and how he got into the business. 

Companies make all kind of sharpening aids.  I had a guide that clipped on the blade of a Buck knife and held it at constant angle.  I didn’t say correct, just constant.  Both sides are worn down from years of use.  I have a Lansky that also clips on the blade and lets you select one of several predetermined angles.  The Spyderco Sharpmaker currently has two predetermined angles, one for back beveling the blade (30 degrees) as you sharpen into thicker and thicker steel and their standard (40 degrees) for sharpening.  Of course you can use either angle for your sharpening your knife.

Some of us can hold a constant angle on a flat stone and simply select an angle based on their experience.  I’m not one of those, but I can free-hand a dull edge into something significantly less dull.

The Work Sharp sharpener comes with several different grit belts but the really attractive part is the dial-an-angle feature.  Simply turn a knob to a predetermined value and you have your angle.  It’s up to you to hold the knife against the supports to get that angle, but it’s not that hard.

powered sharpening
The numbers are the angle and you can swap different grit belts.  The system produces what people call an appleseed or hamaguri grind

Sharpening connoisseurs claim you should find a specific angle for the steel and hardness of your blade and your applications.  I remember a fellow collector, who had the resources of a world class lab at his bidding who addressed his question.  He purchased throwing knives from a single vendor to get the same steel and hardness, and sharpened them with many different angles and types of abrasive grits to determine the “best” angle and method.  Then he had to establish a reproducible cutting test that measured the friction through leather.  Scanning electron photomicrographs were taken of edges before and after testing.


I suspect he determined the best way to sharpen that particular knife and not the one in your or my pocket.

Still it’s the angle you need to know.  Audacious Concept, located in Lappeenranta, Finland has the solution for you.  It’s a little dog tag that has precision cut angles from 5 to 45 degrees by fives.  Simply slip your edge into each slit until you find the best fit.  Best fit seems to be when the edge wiggles the least in an angle.

And you get a beer bottle opener!
You can estimate values in between if two adjacent angles both seem to have the same wiggle.
This lets you set your sharpening system to the factory angle or what you have discovered for your knife and use. 
Sure, you could just select any angle, or you could engrave the factory angle somewhere on each blade.  You could keep a notebook with the name and description of each knife with the factory angle and your sharpening angle.  You could do a lot of things.

Or you could just buy one of these little dog tags and keep it with your sharpening supplies.

A. G. Russell

A.G. Russell recently passed away.

If that name doesn’t mean something to you, you’ve led an impoverished life.  It may not have been financially poor, but your soul hasn’t been nourished enough.

Russell started making knives when he was nine.  In 1968 he started selling after-market knives but continued to have his designs made.  His wife, Goldie, helped publish a slick glossy catalog containing photos of knives of amazing beauty.  Knife fanciers refer to it as “knife porn” as we anxiously await the current issues which would be studied, pawed over and each knife’s detailed description memorized.

The catalog is still in production and I still look forward to seeing it.

I met A.G. years ago at one of the S.H.O.T Shows, along with 100 thousand other people.  But a recent article of mine in Knife Magazine on his Gent Folder II brought us back into contact.  We talked and he showed me how he could flick open virtually any knife.  He said he enjoyed my article.

One of A.G. Gent Knives

He joins a select group of knife giants. Some of the names should mean something to you.
James Parker Sr. who once owned Case Knife and founder the National Knife Collectors Association (NKCA)

Bell Scagel who inspired so many other designers and makers like Bo Randall, the founder of Randall Knife.
Bo influenced Bob Loveless who invented the term Tactical Knife as well as inspired countless other makers.

The environment they created let people like Blackie Collins flourish with his innovative designs.  Blackie was also a founding member of the Knife Makers Guild as well as the originator of Blade magazine.

Bill Moran, the rediscoverer of pattern welded steel and founder of the American Bladesmith Society isn’t excluded from this group by any means.

And of course, A.G. Russell, who opened the world of art/collector and working knives to everyone.  Let me remind you he produced the first production knife with a thumb stud.  His Sting boot knife still inspires both art knives and fighting designs.

I know there are others I’ve missed and skipped, but I there is no question that A.G. Russell will be on anyone’s list of knife milestones.

A.G. Russell, III passed away Friday, October 12, 2018 at Northwest Medical Center in Springdale, AR at the age of 85.  The knife community will miss him.

Random Walks

Well, it’s been knife, knife and more knives recently.

My favorite knife club, WRCA, has obtained several really nice knives for their raffle at our yearly fund raiser.  It’s a knife show of course and it’s the weekend after Mother’s Day.  That’s May 18 and 19, 2019.

We want to gather as much attention as possible with the hope that this will translate into attendance.  You see, attendance is the lifeblood of any show, knife, gun or model train.  It’s obvious that vendors will only rent table space from you if they have a good chance of making sales.  The promotor can’t guarantee sales, but he can (and should) shoulder much of the blame for poor attendance.

Here’s the initial flyer for the WRCA show.  If you make, sell, collect and would like a table, call Darlene.
The question is how to get people interested in attending?  The best way is to tell the general population and remind them constantly.  This is how blockbuster movies do it.  They create interest by constantly telling you through the media, internet, weekly magazines that the blockbuster of the season is coming.

Not having the budget they have, we’re going tackle the problem by guerrilla advertising.  One step is to get pictures and information out about our yearly knife raffle.

I had to set up my photo booth and take some photos.  It’s not a real high tech operation.  I use a thin white cloth as a diffuser and two of the brightest fluorescent lights I could find.  With the help of several reflectors and the all-important tripod I try to get studio quality images.  It’s been known for some time that great images make lasting impact.


My photo set up and chop saw……….

So these will be on our website, on my blog and Facebook page with the hope of attracting potential customers who want to take a chance on winning as well as attending our show May 18 and 19, 2019.

I believe this is first prize.  I think it is one hell of nice knife.  More on this topic in the future.

Speaking of shows, I just attended the Lehigh Valley Knife Show.  It’s within spitting distance of New Jersey and (almost) New York.  We get a lot of traffic from these states because of their draconian knife laws.  It’s tough to be a collector when you feel harassed about your hobby.  I had a number of potential customers after specific products, like Spyderco’s rust-proof H1 steel, but unable to purchase it because the blade is too long.

One customer uses the thinking that most, if not all criminals, use cheap kitchen knives and other POS knives.  His defense is to tell the police officer, “Look, it’s a $200 knife.  I have a car with another $800 dollars’ worth of tools I use on my job, so it isn’t likely I’m holding up or mugging people outside of bars to make $30.”

He claims it works so far…..

At the show I ran into a fellow who run knife classes for Girl Scouts.  It’s based on a Swedish program, sadly now extinct, that taught a quarter of the grade school population how to cut with a knife.  His students learn how to make cuts like a V-cut or stop cut.  When they are done I understand they have a little carved figure.  Very cool.

Imagine grade school children learning how to carve in a society where a drawing of knife gets you sent to the principal’s office.  Amazing.  I wish him good luck!

While I was at the show I passed out flyers for the WRCA show at the Massillon K of C Hall, May 18 and 19th.  (I bet you were wondering if I would get around to that again.)

Look, it’s five hours away, for some of these vendors it’s an additional 2-3 hours on top.  It’s a long way to go to sell knives.  Part of my sales pitch was, “Look, come sell knives on the weekend, visit the FootballHall of Fame on Monday and by the way, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is just up the road in Cleveland.  You could have a great time.”

One guy told me he hates football, okay what about rock and roll?  He hates that, too.  Okay, I can give it back, too.  I said, “What you hate football?  Are you un-American?  What are you?  A Commie?”

Well, he started to laugh and said “Okay, give me a flyer.”

I’ve said this before.  Life is hard and everyone is working hard to get by.   If someone offers you a flyer to participate in an activity you are currently involved with, just say thanks and take the damn thing.

Here are a few images of the knife show.

My table 
Early Sunday Morning.  Sundays are always slow and thus a good day to bargen.
Grinding knives and axes at the show, or 4th of July fireworks early.

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