Awww geeze, not another blog!

Welcome to A Fine Blade!

This blog will focus one of my lifelong passions and one of man's most basic tools - the knife!

As time and events permit we'll tiptoe into other territory where we can use the knife as a metaphor in discussions about current events and have a little politically incorrect fun.

Because you see, knives rank just below guns as the most politically incorrect subject on the web today.

Guns & Knives = Bad. Gay Marriage & Recreational Drug Use = Good

We'll see if we can't have some fun with that.

So stay tuned, and welcome aboard!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Now THAT'S a Knife!

As Mick Dundee demonstrates to us in the video above, a big knife has a quality all it's own.

Impressive, intimidating and unapologetic.  These are all useful traits found in big blades.  In today's world it's just too difficult to intimidate someone with a pen knife.  Only a big blade will do.

From a practical standpoint the era of the big blade ended in the 1970s.  Before then big blades were common sights on camping, hunting and fishing trips.  Our collective national experience, fed by westward expansion, the Civil War and two World Wars told us that big blades were what you needed when afoot in the wilderness.  This necessity hearkened back to the days when firearms were unreliable and slow to reload.  You got one shot with your gun and then it was back to the blade to finish the fight.  It didn't matter if you were attacked by a bear or were set upon by wild savages, nobody finished fights with pocket knives.  You turned to the sword or a large knife.    

But America's infatuation with big knives can actually be traced to a single historical incident.

In 1827 Jim Bowie attended a duel where many of the attendees carried pistols.  The incident quickly devolved into a riot and everyone carrying a gun emptied it early in the fight.  Things were ended using large knives and sword canes.  This was the infamous Sandbar Fight near Natchez, Mississippi and the incident cemented the legend of Jim Bowie and his large blade in American popular culture.  After the story of the fight hit the eastern newspapers the demand for large 'Bowie's knife' style blades became insatiable.  No self-respecting woodsman would venture beyond his front yard without a large Bowie-style blade on his belt. 

The famous studio shot of Teddy Roosevelt in his buckskin
outfit with a large Bowie-style blade stuck in his cartridge belt.
Legend has it he bought the knife from Tiffany's!

It took almost 150 years for American tastes in outdoor knives to change.  I believe this was driven by two influences.  First was a flood of laws that made carrying large knives in public illegal.  Some jurisdictions went even further and simply banned them outright.  Many of these laws had been in place for years in places like New York City but enforcement was expanded in the wake of the civil unrest of the 1960s.  Suddenly carrying a large knife drew suspicious looks, even on camping trips.  The pressure was on to abandon the large blade.

However, I attribute the real change to the influence of custom knifemakers like Bob Loveless and Jimmy Lile.  These men were experienced hunters who championed the concept of the smaller drop point hunting knife.  Large volume knife manufacturers picked up on the trend and soon you had companies like Gerber putting out affordable, high quality drop point knives.  This trend is still going strong, and the drop point hunter blade style still rules.

And yet, the large Bowie-style blade is still immensely popular.  In terms of volume sales it is probably as popular as it was 50 years ago.  The reasons are simple - there are just some chores only a large blade can handle.  As the late Ron Hood was fond of saying, "You can do small things with a big blade, but you can't do big things with a small blade."  The other reason is that, well, the Bowie knife is just so damned American!  American history and outdoor culture is so tightly intertwined with the Bowie knife that it is impossible to separate them.  Anybody with any interest in American knives will one day own a big Bowie-style blade.  It is a cosmic inevitability.

Knife manufacturers around the world are happy to supply the American addiction to the Bowie knife.  Virtually all domestic and foreign manufacturers have a Bowie-style blade or two in their lineup.  Some manufacturers seem a little embarrassed with their Bowie knife offerings, hiding them at the back of the catalog and referring to them as a 'clip point' style or the currently popular 'combat knife' (like that's any more politically correct than 'Bowie knife').  Others are up-front and in-your-face about their Bowie knife offerings. Loud and proud.  No apologies or genuflections to political correctness.  The bigger the better.  Almost a big, fat middle finger to the anti-knife bed wetters.

Perhaps the most up-front, in-your-face, unapologetic big knife purveyor in the market today is Cold Steel Knives.  Cold Steel's founder and president Lynn Thompson just loves big blades and the Cold Steel catalog is chock full of swords, machetes, kukris, tantos and, of course, some of the biggest Bowie-style blades available on the market today.

One of the Cold Steel blades I'm particularly taken with is the Trailmaster Bowie.  In my opinion it is one of the best modern interpretations of the classic Bowie knife.  This is a big piece of steel - the blade is 9 1/2" long and 5/16" thick - but it is surprisingly well balanced and quick in the hand.  The blade sports a long false edge, or swedge and ends in a well formed clip point.  The double brass guard perfectly complements the blade.  The Kraton handle is a nod to modern materials and manufacturing, but the shape is reminiscent of the classic 'coffin-style' handles.

Cold Steel Trailmaster Bowie.  This particular model is made out of carbon steel.
I included a Case medium stockman pocket knife for scale reference.
Cold Steel has these manufactured in Taiwan, but the design is all American and
is very well executed.

As Mick Dundee would say, "THAT'S a knife!"  Loud, unapologetic, intimidating and so uniquely American in design.  Just what you need to finish an argument.  Or conquer the West.

Stay sharp!


Sunday, December 11, 2011


There's a lot of heavy breathing that goes on in knife and knife-related forums regarding the concept of the EDC knife.  In case you are not up to speed on web-speak, EDC = Every Day Carry; that is, the knife you chose to carry with you every day.

Seems a lot of internet commandos just can't bear the thought of leaving the house with anything less than an 11" combat Bowie strapped to their side 'just in case'.  In case of what I'm not sure.  Perhaps a zombie attack.  Or an asteroid impact.  Or an instantaneous world-wide Ebola outbreak.  Or...  well, you make something up 'cuz some of their reasoning resides at the far edges of normal human imagination and paranoia.

Now I'm not against big knives.  Lord knows I've got my share of them in my collection.  But I don't wear them to Wal-Mart.  However, I do carry a pocket knife regularly.  Roberta would perhaps say compulsively.  I normally won't even go out to the mailbox or walk the dogs without a knife in my pocket.  Or go to Wal-Mart, or on a day hike, or out to do yard chores, or out to do some fishing.  A pocket knife is part of my daily 'kit', and goes into my pocket before my car keys or wallet.

I simply can't imagine daily life without a pocket knife.

Earlier this year I wrote about my search for a suitable replacement for my venerable Uncle Henry pocket knife. At the time I sang the praises of the Chinese-produced CRKT Pocket Classic Stockman.  It was and still is a great knife.  Perhaps the best value in a pocket knife available today.  But the Chinese connection started to weigh on me more than I thought it would.  I started looking for a replacement for my replacement.

After a few weeks of searching I decided to give an old American classic another look and I picked up a new Case medium stockman to try out.  Since I'm wary of carrying a highly finished pocket knife around with me, particularly one that costs as much as a nicely finished Case, I settled on Case's line of working pocket knives that sport the synthetic G-10 handle material.

Case Pattern 10316 SS Medium Stockman

At first glance this knife lacks the elegance of other Case pocket knives.  The G-10 scales (similar to Micarta) are somewhat blah looking and the blades have a rough satin finish.  But on closer inspection it's clear Case put the effort into finishing the knife where it really counts.  The bolsters are nicely rounded and polished which means the knife won't be poking holes in your trouser pockets.  The knife includes brass liners which helps the blades open and close smoothly.  The blades all have a good (though not great) 'walk and talk'.  Overall the knife is well fitted, with the scales blending nicely with the stainless steel bolsters and the brass handle pins nicely flushed and polished to the handle scales.

It is a very nice working knife.  A worthy EDC knife, and one that is made in the USA.  I can now sleep guilt-free.

So the next time you see me at Wal-Mart ask to have a look at my knife.

Stay sharp!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

I Like Ike

Dwight David ('Ike') Eisenhower is one of my personal heroes.  An outstanding soldier, statesman and outdoorsman, and a rabid golfer and football and baseball fan.  His story is classic American.  A kid from a lower middle class family, through talent, hard work and just a bit of luck earns a slot at West Point and is launched on a career that takes him to the pinnacle of military success and ultimately the White House where he becomes one of the most successful and beloved presidents ever to serve.  Then, like George Washington, he wanted only to return to his farm to tend his cattle and get in the occasional round of golf.  And a few hands of poker.  And maybe some fly fishing and pheasant hunting.

Ike was a guy's guy.

Eisenhower's official White House portrait

Sometime in the early 1950s Ike picked up a pocket knife from a dealer in Texas.  It was a Case Pattern 63 double ended pen knife.  Apparently Ike fell in love with the knife and ended up giving examples away as rewards and mementos.  He even had the blades engraved with his initials and date for special events like Presidential Dinners.  I won't dive too deeply into the relationship between Eisenhower and this knife since the knife author Gary Moore covered the topic in a great little article he wrote for Knife World Magazine in 2006 titled 'Ike's Knives'.  Follow the link and have a read.  It's a great story!

A week ago I was visiting my favorite knife store and I spied this little beauty.

Case Pattern 6263 'Eisenhower'

I'm not sure how much I like the lime green handle scales, but the history of the knife and Eisenhower's engraved signature on the blade meant it had to come home with me.

Apparently this pattern is very popular with Case collectors.  Case produces it in a number of styles, varying the handle materials and releasing them with and without the engraved signature.  Seems collectors can't get enough of 'em, and Case makes small variations from year-to-year to keep the addiction going.

Historical connection aside, this is just a great little knife and makes a great gentleman's pocket knife.  It is small and carries easily and inconspicuously in the trouser pocket and the rounded bolsters means it won't wear through the pocket.  The main blade is just long enough to be useful - cutting string, pulling staples, slicing an apple, carving up a steak (one of Eisenhower's favorite activities) or whittling on a pencil end.  Just a great little knife.  No wonder Ike loved 'em.

So that's it.  I like Ike and his favorite knife!

Stay sharp!