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!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Redneck Is A State Of Mind

The term 'redneck' describes a state of mind, not a state of residence.  It implies a rejection of certain civilized mores, like not sitting down to the table in a sleeveless shirt or asking for foam in your latte.  In a very real sense the redneck is the anti-metrosexual (though to be honest the redneck as a species existed long before the metrosexual came along, and the term 'metrosexual' really describes the anti-redneck).  Are we getting too esoteric here?  OK, moving along.

There's a guy on YouTube that likes knives and hunting, and he's not shy about it.  He posts a lot of videos about knives and knife use.  But unlike a lot of the knife review crap you see on YouTube, this guy is the real thing; he actually uses his knives to field dress deer and he shows you, in graphic detail, how well they work or don't work.  He's also not shy about calling an expensive knife a piece of junk; if it doesn't work it doesn't work regardless of how much it cost.

Virtuovice is his YouTube name and he has one heck of a following - a virtual cult hero.  The guy is seriously into hunting, guns, blades and fresh meat.  And beer.  Lots of beer.  Put him in a sleeveless t-shirt and drop him into a stadium to watch an Alabama football game and he'd fit right in.

Except that... he's Japanese!  I don't mean that he's of Japanese descent, he's Japanese born and raised.  In Japan.

So we have a beer (and sake) drinking, knife loving hunting nut who does own and wear sleeveless shirts. Sounds like a redneck to me.  Who cares if he's Japanese.  Like I said, redneck is a state of mind, not a state of residence.  But then get this - the guy is a medical doctor!

Now we have a beer drinking, knife loving, hunting nut Japanese medical doctor redneck. How cool is that! Even cooler, he's not shy about applying a little medical technology to one of the great questions of our time - how well is my knife constructed?

Every once in a while Virtovice will toss a bunch of knives into his x-ray machine so we can get a look inside the handles to see just how well the knife is constructed.  Here's just one of his x-ray videos:

The results can be surprising.  A lot of folks who buy a knife thinking they are getting a full tang blade may be disappointed to find their knife has a lot less metal in the handle than they thought.  Now, there's nothing wrong with stick tang knives (a 'stick tang' refers to a design were the tang is just a narrow piece of steel enclosed in the handle).  If properly designed a stick tang knife can be nearly as strong as a full tang design, and certainly strong enough for general use.  However, poorly designed stick tangs have a nasty habit of snapping where the blade enters the handle.

In this video Virtuovice x-rays a couple of my favorite knives.  The Fallkniven F1 is, as I already knew, a (nearly) full tang design.  It is easy to see why this knife blade is a favorite of custom builders, who buy the blades without handles from Fallkniven and put their own fancy handle scales on them.  The Ka-Bar USMC knife is a surprise to me because of the width of the stick tang.  In past posts I've criticized this particular knife because of the tang design, but I'm heartened to see so much steel inside the handle. Looks like I'll have to re-evaluate it.

And last, the Buck Vanguard.  Although this has the narrowest tang of any of the knives in this x-ray the way Buck designed the transition from the full blade to the stick tang means it is a very sturdy design.  The sloped transition from the blade to the tang means there still plenty of meat at the highest stress point where the blade enters the handle.

A great video, and there's lots more out there on Virtuovice's YouTube channel.  His English is a little rough and his accent can be a little thick, but the guy knows his knives and he puts out good, informative (and occasionally humorous) videos.

Stay sharp!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Blade Of The Month - The BuckLite Max Folder

When people write about knives, either in print or on the web, they tend to extol the virtues of the newest, sexiest designs.  There's little to be said for pedestrian, inexpensive knives.  It seems the more money someone spends on a knife the more compelled they feel to write about it.  A lot of it is crowing to help them feel better about dumping so much money into a blade.

Yet there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of low cost quality knives made by major manufacturers that work so well they become the favorites of those that carry them.  A knife doesn't have to be expensive or forged out of unobtanium to be effective.  It just has to work well.

One knife that has emerged as one of my favorites is a simple $20 knife from Buck.  The BuckLite Max model 482.

BuckLite Max 482.  This is the medium model - my favorite.
I like is so much I had C.J. and Chuck Buck sign the blade
at the 2012 Blade Show.

Why does it work so well for me?  For my daily needs it is the perfect combination of size, weight, blade shape and features.  This knife has been in my pocket almost continuously for the past year.  All other lockback folders I've tested for daily use have fallen by the wayside, mainly because of weight, size or blade shape issues.  Here in the deep South, when you are wearing lightweight shorts during the extended hot summers you do not need or want a heavy, overly large blade in your pocket.

What keeps the weight down is the knife's simplicity of construction.  It is just two glass reinforced nylon handle scales mated to a blade.  There are no handle liners or bolsters to add weight.  Of course the blade lacks the sophisticated pivot support found in more expensive (and heavier) folding knives.  This makes the knife, in theory, less rugged and more prone to breakage under heavy use.  Again, in theory.  In a year of use I have had no problem with this knife blade loosening around the pivot pin.  Of course I don't abuse it.  If I've got to do some cutting that will put a lot of torque on the knife handle I'll go get a fixed blade knife.

No, you won't be able to pry your way out of an armored personnel carrier with this knife, but for general cutting chores it's just about perfect.  For a mere $20 (eBay vendor price) it can't be beat.

Stay sharp!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

While Waiting On Corporate To Make Up Their Minds...

My last post described my troubles with a new Svea 123 gas stove.

Notice the thin red ring?  It bubbles when the stove is hot!

Since that posting a few things have happened.

Right after I wrote the blog post I decided to contact the vendor,, for a replacement stove.  Since this stove was purchased through Amazon (Backcountry is an authorized Amazon vendor) I used Amazon's normally outstanding exchange/return system to notify Backcountry that I wanted an exchange.  Well, four business days ticked by with no contact from Backcountry.  Hmmm...  I checked with Amazon and confirmed that Backcountry had received the request.  It was starting to not look good from a customer service perspective.

About day four I got tired of waiting and decided to contact Primus (the manufacturer of the stove) directly through their website to see if they could do anything for me.  The next day I got an email back from Primus asking me to send the stove in for evaluation.  I did, and as I was walking out of the Post Office after having sent the stove off I got a call on my iPhone from Backcountry asking if there was anything they could do for me!  I didn't take the call, but later that day they got an email from me letting them know I was clearly dissatisfied with their service.  Is one sample point an indication of a trend?  No.  Backcountry may offer outstanding service and I'm the unlucky outlier who fell through the cracks.  However, a quick Google search for reviews of Backcountry's customer service reputation reveals they've got some issues.  I'll think hard about ordering from them again.

Well, Primus has had my stove for just over a week now and no word yet on how they intend to handle the issue.  Here's hoping for a new stove!

In the meantime...

On one of my nocturnal laps around the internet I happened to stumble on a very used Swedish Optimus 8R stove for sale on eBay (or evil-Bay, as many call it).  I put in a low bid and to my utter surprise I won.  I started to wonder why nobody outbid me - did I miss something in the listing that should have warned me off?  I didn't notice anything, so I waited fretfully for the stove's arrival.

Just a few days later the stove showed up.  I unboxed it and gave it a quick visual check.  It was well used, but not abused, and appeared to be more dirty than anything else.  I tore the stove down to it's major components, scraped all the soot off and went after the major parts with Brasso.  The steel case needed a good scrubbing in soapy water and came out looking fine, with just a little paint loss.

Optimus 8R after a good clean-up

But would it light up and run properly?  That's always the big question with used stoves.  These brass stoves are very simple devices and there's not much that can go wrong on them, but if they don't work properly replacement parts can be hard to find.

So I filled up the tank with Coleman gas (the only fuel you should use in these stoves, by the way) poured fuel in the priming cup and touched it off to heat up the vaporizer tube.  After a few minutes the priming flame had burned down and it was time for the big test.  I opened the fuel valve and held a match to the burner head and - flame!  A few seconds of smoky yellow flame then the burner settled down to produce a beautiful blue ring of flame and the wonderful roar these old stoves are noted for.  The thing runs like a champ.

Flame On!

Putting out some steam!  Since this is a knife blog I threw a
Cold Steel Mackinac Hunter into the shot to keep things kosher.

There seems to be some minor pressurization issues that I hope will be solved with a new gasket for the fuel tank cap (ordered all they way from Merrie Olde England) and this gal should be good for another 20 years of service.

But this Optimus is a 50+ year old design.  How well does it stack up to more modern pressurized liquid and gas canister stoves?  We'll take a look at that another time.