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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.

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

Q Branch Knives

WWII wasn’t the first war to have enemy combatant’s dressed as civilians. But it is the war we seem to most associate with covert weapons and spies.  The problem for agents and spies is a weapon found on your person discredits your claim that you’re something harmless and can be ignored.  Yet having a last resort weapon could be the difference between torture then death and escape.

OSS and later the CIA developed little hideaway last resort tools for their agents as did many other domestic and foreign agencies.  We are fascinated by the James Bond devices.

training page OSS, Thumb dagger, lapel dagger.
Agents tied a small cord around the metal to provide them with a loop and more friction surface.
There probably isn’t anything more fascinating then the OSS “lapel dagger.”  It was just a small thumb-size flat piece of sharpened steel that could be sewn behind lapels, inside pockets, or just about any place. 

The key to placement seems to be to:

One: sew it where it wouldn’t be found in a quick search,

Two:  sew it where arresting officers would expect you to place your hands in response to their orders.

I had always wanted an authentic one, but twenty years ago A.G. Russell came out with their version of a undetectable lapel dagger.

A. G. Russell stealth lapel dagger

It is about 3.75 inches long with a 2.5 inch double sided blade.  It’s made of plastic and frankly, I don’t think it would survive more than a couple quick stabs before the blade snapped.  But that’s all you might need to get your feet under you and escape.

Undetectable weapon, stealth lapel dagger
I don’t believe it has the weight or strength for the two techniques shown above
It came with two plastic sheaths so you could move the dagger between coat and another location.  One can almost see Bond moving it from his suit coat to his pants pocket unnoticed.  Each sheath has small holes to facilitate sewing.
At the time Russell also came out with a dagger shaped like their Sting but made from nylon filled with glass fiber.  It was advertised as a CIA letter opener.  I remember the claim that you could resharpen it with a coarse file.

The knife is about 6.75 inches long with a 3.25 inch blade and 3.5 inch handle.  It is substantially sturdier than the lapel knife.

AG Russell CIA letter opener.

Both of these were on sale during the very early days of metal detectors at airports.  At this time you could carry a smallish knife like a Spyderco Delica through security.  You declared the knives by placing them in a small basket with your wallet which bypassed security.  There was often some question about partially serrated edges, but most of the time the knife passed and you carried it on the plane.

Don’t even think about it today!

But at this time they are out of stock.

Cold Steel makes a variety of plastic knives that are almost undetectable.  They used to come with removable metal rings to ensure they could be seen when x-rayed.  They may have simply given up on the pretense of detectability and saved the customer the problem of removing the metal rings.

Lansky also makes a very passable plastic dagger they promote as a box or letter opener.

I guess they assume your opponents will be named Box or Letter

TOPS – 3 Bros First Look

Have you noticed how things come in threes?  Three leaf clovers are common.  Winning card hands can be three of a kind, or perhaps menus give you three choices from three different selections each containing three different dishes.  Maybe you have three bourbons on the shelf?

Why not knives?  TOPS thought.

3 Bros   Knife
Don’t forget TOPS trademark whistle!

Face it; most of our cutting chores are small.  We need a small utility knife, but considering the world we live in, we want max performance.  Why not put three different blade configurations, Hunter’s Point (spear point), Tanto and Sheep’s Foot blade in a small belt carry package.  Well, that’s what TOPS Knives has done.  They call it 3 Bros.

So who is TOPS?

In 1998, TOPS Knives was founded to create the highest-quality knives using the extensive knowledge and real life experiences of Military Operatives, Law Enforcement Officers, and outdoor professionals.  Perhaps the best part, all TOPS knives are manufactured and hand-finished at their facility in the Rocky Mountains, USA.

TOPS Knives have been requested and deployed in “Hot Spots” all over the world. Numerous individuals who are or were Field Operators have used these knives and report top performance and reliability when their lives depended on the tools they had with them.  That’s a pretty hard claim to top.

The 3 Bros are also very easy to carry everyday. Even in the sheath, one of these knives only weighs 2.8 ounces.


Overall Length     4.27 inches

Blade Length       2.00 inches

Cutting Edge        2.00 inches

Blade Thickness  0.120 inches

Blade Steel          1095 steel hardened to RC 56-58

Handle Material    Black Canvas Micarta

Knife Weight        1.9oz

You can purchase one, two or all three.  For a little extra you can go with serrations and/or camo finish.  I’d hate to break up a family, so I got all three.

TOPS fixed Blades
The small size was not found to be a limitation with daily chores.

Each knife has three deep depressions on the spine.  It’s a little aggressive for naked skin but fine for the glove hand.  Each knife has a deep bolster which acts as a finger guard to prevent hand injuries from sliding onto the blade.  The edge goes just about all the way to the bolster and there is no ricasso. 

The blades are a flat-sided saber grind ending at a shoulder about one third of the way on the blade.  This provides sufficient room to grip the blade by thumb and forefinger while the ring and social finger grip the Micarta disk on each side of the knife.  The disk provides a nice anchor point even if you are wearing gloves.

TOPS 3BR tops knives
The small sized was not a factor wearing gloves.  The micarta disk provided sufficient grip as did the massive jimping.

TOPS blades are made of 1095 steel and they recommend an 18-20 degree sharpening edge.  These knives can be sharpened with ordinary stones but can also be sent to TOPS for a new factory edge.  The warranty card spells it out for you.

I’ve never owned a TOPS knife that didn’t perform.  The 1095 steel will hold an edge, but will need resharpening with use.  The steel needs to be taken care of with a protective coating of oil or corrosion inhibitor.  If you anticipate needing it for food preparation or consumption, make sure you use food safe oil.  Nobody likes the trots!

You can get yours at:

A single knife is $70, but they’ll deal you all three for $160.00. 

Suminagashi Tanto Knife

Handmade damascus knife , blade forged out of a piece of japanese suminagashi steel with 23 layers. 61 HRC Hardness.

The handle is a combination of copper, antiqued deer antler and grenadilla wood.
The dimensions are: 30 cm total length from which 14 cm is the blade.

It comes with a  sheath made out of  vegetable leather.

Price 200 €

Engraved Hunic Knife

Handmade knife, the blade is forged out of a piece of old file, clay temper heat treat.

The handle is sculpted and engraved out of a piece of ostrich femur, with  antiqued copper in the front and the end of the handle.

The dimensions are: 30 cm total length from which 17 cm is the blade.

It comes with a leather sheath with a strip of deer fur in the middle.

Price 200 €

Damascus Utility Knife

Handmade design knife forged out of suminagashi damascus steel.
Blade length: 7 cm
Total length: 15 cm
Handle: ebony wood, brass spacers
Price for a similar one is: 120 €

Engraved kitchen knife

Blade length: 18 cm

Total length: 31 cm

Blade: Hand forged 52100 carbon steel(ball bearing steel)

Handle: brass, engraved deer antler, wenge wood

Price for a similar one: 150 €

Western Style Gyuto

Hand made knife, forged out of ball bearing steel (52100)

The handle is made out of brass and wenge wood.

Dimensions 31 cm out of which the blade is 18.5 cm , thickness is 2 mm at the base, 5 cm wide.

Price for a similar one 130 €

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