A poor rhyme

 

Knife makers struggle and yearn for the P

P as in publicity

There’s a maker that wants to be unknown

Signing his work just makes him groan

A strange duck is he, seeming to want anonymity

 

Advice is futile, especially from you

He has his cake and he eats it too

He makes ‘em big, he makes ‘em little

But ask him to sign, and he’s non-committal

To tell it true…he makes what he wants, that’s all he’ll do

 

It’s odd that he won’t sign his work

I suppose it’s some sort of quirk

So back in the woods, in a shop on a hill

There’s a knife maker that does what he will

I’ll quit now and not be a jerk, just in case he should go berserk

 

 

Below are two unsigned knives by the unknown knife maker. The sheaths are by Bob Wiggins who does sign his work on the back, although in VERY small letters.

 

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A new custom pocket knife

 

 

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Mother of pearl handled Daddy Barlow by American Bladesmith Society Journeyman Smith Mike Christenson. This is a big folder, 8 ¾ inches open and 5 inches closed. The flat ground blade is made from 154 CM and is .091 thick at the ricasso. Workmanship is excellent; the blade has a half stop, and is perfectly centered when closed. The bolsters are cut at a 45 degree angle for a matching bevel on the handle scales to fit under. The knife weighs 5.4 ounces. Mike is a friend of mine and lives in the same mountainous area of North Carolina that I do.

Bending the blade

A student at the knife making class referenced in the previous post strains to bend his test blade.

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A smiling student and her test blade that passed with flying colors.

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Gerber E.A.B LITE folding utility knife

DSC_8703 copyGerber E.A.B LITE folding utility knife

I think the Gerber E.A.B. LITE is one handy little liner lock knife! This well-made tool uses replaceable utility knife blades and has a pocket/money clip. The manufactures specs from the package are:

Closed length: 2.85”

Overall length: 5.10”

Weight: 2.4 oz.

Stainless steel handle

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On my example the liner lock works well and there is no play at what I will call the blade holder and handle juncture when open. In fact the blade holder to handle fit when open is better by far than the blade to handle fit of many much more expensive knives that I have owned. This knife is currently available for as low as $12.99 if you shop around and that seems like a bargain to me.

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I get mine at http://www.amosoutdoors.com/

Knife collectors and the forged blade

As far as I can see there are two main ways that custom or handmade knives are referred to. They are “stock removal” and “forged blades” or knives made by bladesmiths. But to be accurate both types normally require stock removal to some degree. There is some dividing line between the two types, at the Blade Show in Atlanta these two types are separated from each other in the room as if to avoid contamination. Why this division exists within the custom knife world I don’t know but imagine that it has to do with egos, jealousies, insecurities, old hard feelings, etc.

When it comes to cutting, slicing, or chopping anything that most of us cut, slice, or chop, there are probably plenty of reasonably priced factory made knives that will do the job just fine. The fact is that relatively expensive custom or handmade knives are not needed by most of us to perform the tasks we normally use knives for. We don’t need them, we just want them.

DSC_7374Forging a blade with hammer and anvil

Most of the custom knives that I have purchased over the years have been made by bladesmiths, and recently I began wondering what is it that draws collectors to the forged blade? I suppose that a lot, maybe most of it is the romance and historical aspect of the forging process. Perhaps the collector thinks that he is getting something that requires more skill or that more work is involved. Maybe he is attracted to Damascus or laminated steel. The collector might believe that the forged blade is a better blade when it comes to performance.

As to the last sentence in the above paragraph. I don’t know of any published, scientific tests performed by an independent laboratory that show a forged blade to be a better blade than a stock removal blade when it comes to cutting or edge holding. Claims are easy to make, proof is apparently not so easy to offer. Besides, the majority of expensive custom knives receive very little hard use if any use at all, and this fact is not unknown to makers.

When it comes to the amount of skill or work involved in creating the blade itself, I would say certainly that more work is involved because the forging process creates another step or steps, and it’s fair to say that additional skills are required to properly accomplish the forging phase. When it comes to Damascus steel, San Mai, or the carbon/stainless laminates that are popular today even more skill is required on the part of the bladesmith.

DSC_7574Grinding a forged blade (stock removal)

Collectors or users should probably keep in mind that most bladesmiths do their own heat treating and the better, more experienced among them probably know what they are doing. Often times though the maker has very little in the way of accurate temperature controls in his shop or a lot of experience under their belt. The processes of forging, laminating, or making pattern welded steels, and then heat treating them offers opportunities for things to go wrong. All knife makers including bladesmiths come in all levels of skill, experience, and aptitude.

R P hollow handle survival knife

Recently I was talking about knives to a friend of mine who is a knife collector and the subject of R P (Robert Parrish) hollow handle survival knives came up. To the best of my knowledge these knives were made in the 1980s at Mr. Parrish’s shop in Hendersonville, NC.  I remarked that I was sorry that I had not purchased one when they were available especially since I knew Mr. Parrish and had visited his shop in the 80s. Over the years I have lost touch with him and I don’t think that he has made knives and offered them for sale in quite a few years.

RP survival3 copy blogR P hollow handle survival knife and sheath

Several days later I stopped by to see the same friend and he said that he had something he wanted to give me. Opening a bag he took out a R P hollow handle knife and handed it to me! He said that he had two and saw no reason that I shouldn’t have one of them. It was a very generous and unexpected gift from an old friend that took me completely unaware. It is something that I will remember.

RP survival2 copy blogR P knife with 8″ blade

At my age it is extremely unlikely that I will ever have any practical use for a hollow handled survival knife but this R P knife now holds a special place in my collection. As far as I know these knives were made in 5”, 6”, and 8” blade lengths. This knife is the 8”X1½”X ¼” blade version and is made from 440C I believe. The metal handle is knurled under the neoprene sleeve and the knurled, threaded butt cap is fitted with an O-ring and lanyard hole. The knife has a bead-blasted finish and the serial number and maker’s mark are on the front of the guard. The serial number indicates that the knife was made in August of 1986 and it was the 628th 8 inch knife made. In addition to the maker’s mark on the front of the guard the ricasso is also marked “RP”. The nylon sheath has a liner of hard plastic that protects the sheath from being torn by the very sharp saw teeth on the spine of the knife. The knife is 13 3/16” overall in length and weighs 20.4 oz.

RP survival copy blogSaw teeth on back of R P survival knife

This is a very well-made knife by an excellent craftsman made during the 1980s “Rambo” hollow handle survival knife era.

Postscript: Amazingly after all these years, I was able to track down Robert Parrish while he was on a road trip, and he told me how to decipher the date and serial number. He also mentioned that he was glad that I was not dead. I’m glad that he’s not dead either. Text and photos copyright Bill North 2013