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Simplicity.

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by Carl Levitian, Aug 2, 2008.

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  1. Carl Levitian

    Carl Levitian member

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    They say if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your front door.

    Maybe I'm becoming one of those old guys people call a cumudgeon. Like that puppet Walter, always seeing the worst case senerio, and being kind of a grouch about life in general. But it also seems to me that there is this trend in knives, like alot of things, to make it more complicated than it has to be.

    A knife is to cut. Pretty simple a task, and man has been making knives for thousands of years. Flint, bronze, iron, and steel. We've been using steel for a couple thousand years, and over that time, man has made plenty of weapons from it as well. In fact, man being a war like creature, has tried just about every blade shape you can think of in an effort to make his steel blade more deadly. The slim stilleto, Bowie knife, Roman Gladius, rapier, cutless, claymore, trench knife.

    With 2000 years of steel blade designed for letting out the other guys blood, I don't ever recall seeing any of the designs I see now gracing the covers of th collective knife magazines. Swoopy recurve blades, weird tip shapes, serations, and stuff that looks more like a Holliweird Kingon fantacy thing than a usable knife.

    Has the knife world gone over the top in a quest to artificially stimulate sales, even to the extent of marketing almost useless designed knives?

    I'm thinking of older times where a man's life depended on a good blade and his skill in using it. World wide, exept for Japan, the blade developed into a pretty strait forward thing of simple design. Oh, they got dressed up according to the owners status, but the overall design was simple. A strait blade with a pointy tip. None of the "stuff" one sees in the pages of publications calling themselves knife magazines.

    Rope cutting? Serrations?

    I don't know of anyone who would need a good rope cutter more than the old seamen on the square rigged sailing ships rounding the horn. Yet when I look at the display of sailors clasp knives at the cutlery museum, not a single seration in sight. British or American knives. I would think with Sheffield being the capital of knife making of the 1800's, their sailors would have had the most up to date knives available.

    With life being still somewhat primitive in the 1800's in some places, knives should have been more advanced. The old mountain men who went into the wlderness of the rocky moontains for months of winter on end, should have something more effective than a plain looking butcher knife that was the Russells Green River Knife. I recall the remark of one young guy who is a devoted disiple of the knife rags, and buys anything they say is the knife of the month. I invited him on a fishing trip with some of my friends thinking the education may do him some good. When I pulled out an Old Hickory butcher knife to clean fish with, he asked what I was going to do with that old s--t knife. I invited him to cut away with his tanto tipped, thick wedge ground tactical wonder knife. It wouldn't cut a fish belly. I handed him the Old Hickory and he couldn't understand why it sliced so deep, so easy. The old sodbuster only confused him more. He got an education that weekend.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else thing knives have gotten a bit too far out in the design department. ?
     
  2. Al Thompson

    Al Thompson Moderator Emeritus

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    Marketing. :) A knife is a wedge, so you have to put lipstick on that pig. More do-dads, more sales.


    :neener:
     
  3. JShirley

    JShirley Administrator Staff Member

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    Eh. Carl, I don't know that I can agree with this:
    IMO, some of the wildest blade designs came from Africa, the Middle East, and China. Most of the Japanese blade shapes I've seen are quite straightforward.

    Carl, it almost sounds like you're saying you've been around for 2000 years. Anyway, my point is that other cultures worldwide have had a collection of odd (to us) blade shapes.

    John
     
  4. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    No, Carl, It's you. And it's definitely me.

    To give you some background, most people (usually younger and in their dating years) care what people think. They deeply care. For example, this can be a pretty macho place from time to time. Call somebody a poser and it's darn near warfare.

    Then one morning you go to get out of bed and something hurts. Or it takes more than one cup of coffee to dull the twinges. You run into an idiot and his normal ration of BS and he simply isn't worth the trouble to smack.

    Then at some point after this, you find you have a strong opinion about something. And frankly, you've kept it bottled up for some period of time. You run into this idiot, and your mouth gets away from you. But rather than feel sorry about the issue--as you might when in your twenties or thirties--it feels good to finally openly declare yor honest feelings.

    And fear lessens to the point where it is non-existent. Last year my wife wanted to go eat at 1500 or 1600. I hadn't planned on going that early, and I was in shorts, puttering around the house. Rather than strap on all of that denim and leather, I went out into the world with a crappy Harley T-shirt, shorts and Teva sandals. I had never been out in public before in shorts except to get the mail.

    I square my shoulders to idiots and posers, no apology. I write what I think here. A ban is a ban, but a lie is dead weight. My bike is a tribute to 1970s esthetics--in other words, it's built for me, "my bike." I sleep late because it's good for me. I say "no" more often than in the past. I wear disgusting clothes to the gym because impressing young girls is flat out boring--and I hate the cracking of chewing gum.

    In blunt language, I've long since passed the point of being a curmudgeon, I'm a loud a-hole.

    Who cares. Most opinions means nothing. The prattling of youngsters is 'white noise.' Most contemporary custom bikes wouldn't make it fifty miles down the road. I'll call on idiots for the posers they are and never look back.

    However, consider this. If I'm your friend, it's an honest condition.
     
  5. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes, there are some silly designs out there from a practical using perspective. There are some "exotic" ones that do work. How far out are you thinking?

    No, not actually. Like John said, there are plenty of "exotic" blade shapes from Africa, China, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East. It doesn't take much time at the forge and anvil to be amazed at what the steel wants to do under the hammer. Now, the goofy fantasy knife sculptures that catch the eye and imagination don't have much practical use, but that doesn't stop marketing goobers from adding them to "using" knives.

    Because they didn't have the technology to do them easily. You need a serrating wheel to make serrations practical. Old time sailor men used saws and axes on tarred ropes.

    Not entirely correct. Sheffield makers fought modern steel making and industrial methods. That's why they were bumped from preeminence by the Germans and Americans. The history of Sheffield blade makers is very interesting and kinda sad.
     
  6. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    hso, I agree. That's why Emersons and Grahams are so popular. They are a high quality blade on one end and a practical handle on the other.

    I have never, ever, ever, ever opened a UPS box and marveled at the trend setting design of a space-age, designer enhanced, trendy cutting tool.

    In fact, I am usually drawn to all of the reasons why a knife is useless and hard to use.

    I think Syderco made its bones because serrations cut when the rest of the knife is dull, and simply because the client doesn't know how to sharpen.
     
  7. Mongrel

    Mongrel Member

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    That ^ my friends is pure wisdom...
     
  8. wheelgunslinger

    wheelgunslinger Member

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    I'll second that.
     
  9. shecky

    shecky Member

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    You say that like it's a bad thing. A knife that continues to cut even when dull represents quite an advance.
     
  10. Valkman

    Valkman Member

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    I've said the same thing Carl, and I think knife companies are loaded with CNC machines and they want to show off what they can do. They put all kinds of fancy cuts along the spine and lots of extras like a "helicoptor canopy cutter". Ugh.
     
  11. P97

    P97 Member

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    I think the most of it is buying and selling the product, that applies to most things. If it is the same old style, the buyer wants something new or different when he buys, so they can show their friend that they have something different. The Seller realizies this and handles new and different products. How many people would go into a store and buy a knife that had looked the same for x number of years, when there was this new design, different one that they could buy? :)
     
  12. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    Essentially you are complimenting something for disrepair. That's like saying your car tires run another 1,000 miles when flat on the rim. My first question would be, "Air?"

    If you're a sailor at sea, an EMS first responder or perhaps an over-the-road driver, I can see the need to loosen wet things in a big hurry. That's not what we're talking about here.

    I have never been attacked by a UPS box. And even if a UPS box is wet, I still have a few minutes to sharpen my knife.

    The serrated portion of the knife is made from the same alloy as the plain portion. If one is dull, then so is the other--unless you're the kind of guy who saves serrations for "something special."

    In that case, you paid twice as much for the half of the knife you use.
     
  13. sm

    sm member

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    I have been past the curmudgeon level for y-e-a-r-s.
     
  14. Goblin

    Goblin Member

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    I like them simple myself!!!
    1235_large1.jpg

    Been trying to find one of these locally for a while!!:)
     
  15. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    Goblin, would that model be a KA-1235?

    If so, contact me PM.
     
  16. Fred Fuller

    Fred Fuller Moderator Emeritus

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    Someone was talking about stone blades in an earlier thread. That's about as simple as it gets- strike a blade (a large flake) off a core, use it till it's dull, and toss it.

    Some years ago I was looking at oddities at a rock and gem show, and for the first time ran across Libyan Desert Glass. Seems that about 25- 30 million years ago, something from space slammed into the desert and created a lot of glass from the impact. Or maybe it was a prehistoric Alamogordo, what do I know.

    Anyway, this glass is clear to yellow in color, and very much like obsidian in character (with occasional inclusions too) save for the color. One of the pieces for sale at the show was a Paleolithic blade, which had been struck from a core. It exhibited the typical ridged surface on one side and a slight concave on the other that I was accustomed to seeing on such artifacts (pics of similar items at http://www.topgeo.de/english/desert_glass_artefact_blade_palaeolithicum.html ). It was a weird enough combination of natural history and prehistory that I spent a few dollars on it and brought it home.

    It's a sliver of glass about two inches long and half an inch wide. It looks very much like the one pictured at http://www.topgeo.de/english/artefact_libyan_desert_glass_5031.html , though larger. It probably was used to dress someone's kill, or cut a piece of meat off a kill scavenged from some other predator.

    I have no idea how old it is from the standpoint of when it was made- it lay on the surface of the desert long enough, enough times over, to get the sandblasted smooth frosty look of beach glass.

    Was it made a thousand years ago? Ten thousand years? Twenty thousand? A hundred thousand? I have no clue. And there really wouldn't be a lot of difference no matter who made it, or when. The same materials, using the same techniques, would yield a very similar tool today. And it would be equally effective, while it lasted.

    And there's the rub. It wouldn't have lasted too long under tough use, cutting through tough dirty hide, or sinew. But that was not a big problem, the user would just take out the contemporary equivalent of a Swiss army knife- a core and hammerstone- strike another blade off the core, and get on with fixing dinner.

    Up until Europeans arrived in the Americas, that's pretty much how it was done here, by everyone who was here until then. America went pretty much from Stone Age to Iron Age in one fell swoop. Yes, there was some native copper, but not much, and copper was very highly prized in every culture I am aware of. It didn't get utilitarian use to speak of.

    And if you think about it, a person really doesn't need much more blade than my old chunk of Libyan desert glass. About two inches of good sharp steel will do an awful lot of cutting. My Spyderco Dragonfly is a good example of that. So's the Pocket Razel that Chico is so fond of.

    Nice thing about good steel is, it can be resharpened, so it's worth putting a good handle on. That makes it more comfortable to use and gives better leverage when cutting as well.

    Simplicity. Our ancestors understood it for all of human history. Too bad it just plum escapes so many modern homo sapiens...

    lpl
     
  17. Dave McCracken

    Dave McCracken Moderator In Memoriam

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    S'funny, the Scallion in my pocket is the functional equivalent of my Grandad's old two blade Western. He died in 53. Both work for cleaning nails, cutting toothpicks and defending me and mine from UPS boxes.

    Pop's old Case is quite efficient at some of the fine work involved when dressing out deer. The model is still for sale last time I looked but it's a cutting edge far from the cutting edge. It does hone up nice.

    The most usable gralloching/field dressing knife in a house full of good ones is a Helle Tor, a design refined before Red Eric saw Greenland.

    Pete Inoyu, Japanese American bowhunter, uses some bronze tanged arrowheads he found at a flea market made up in bamboo shafts and propelled by a laminated bamboo longbow to take some nice whitetails.

    Some old stuff still freakin' works......
     
  18. sm

    sm member

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    Don't mind me...
    I am the 53 year old with a youth single shot shotgun, in 20 ga, custom knife made from a old bastard file in a old classic design, messing with a 60's era Emerson AM Transistor radio, drinking "Sun" tea out of a mason jar, having fresh butter beans and cornbread, and fresh peaches for dessert.

    *burp*

    Excuse me

    Oh, does anyone recall what AM station and at what time Amos & Andy and The Texaco hour comes on?

    <sticks one ear plug in ear, turns station finder wheel...>
     
  19. shecky

    shecky Member

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    If it can go for another 1,000 miles, I'd argue it isn't disrepair at all.

    Look, if a particular shape of a blade, in this case, serrations, can make it cut for longer time without sharpening, then it's an improvement.

    This, I think, highlights the difference between knife users, which pretty much includes everyone, and knife nuts, a subset that will actually contribute to internet forums on the topic of knives.
     
  20. Mongrel

    Mongrel Member

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    Here's my take on serrations and what I believe The Tourist meant by what he said...

    The idea of serrations is at least as old as a typical serrated steak knife. So Sal or someone else at Spyderco said "hey" what if we incorporate them into a working knife? And so the 'spydie edge' was born. Now, that's not a bad thing and it does offer superior cutting on rope (notice I didn't say twine or string...) and other things that benefit from a sawing type of cut. Not only that, you have the added advantage of a larger (longer?) cutting surface which due to it's design will remain useable longer than a traditional non-serrated edge. The disadvantage is that there's an art to sharpening it that requires a totally different set of tools (stones or rods...) and skills than those required to maintain a standard edge. I will also point out that serrations make it impossible to work up close to the hilt\joint where many traditional cutting chores are best handled. That's a subject for another day though.

    OK-so now we have a really cool edge that tears things up real good and will cut 'longer' (or so some think) than a standard blade.

    Where The Tourist's comment comes in is right here:

    You have at least two generations of youngsters who flat out cannot sharpen a standard edge knife properly. Worse, most of them could care less whether they can or not because they've bought into our throw-away society mentality. Along comes the 'Sypdie-Edge' and wow! This thing cuts forever dude! Well, right up to the point that it doesn't that is... So what happens? Well it's simple-you just go and buy another knife with that serrated edge and the problem is solved!

    I guess I should add here, that it isn't just 'younger' people who have fallen into this trap.

    Now, the serrated edge has a definate purpose and use in the grand scheme of things that need to be cut. First responders, police, military, sailors, and others who deal in webbing, rope, and other similar materials are very much aided by this type of edge. However, the wood worker, skinner, tinkerer, and similar folk are at a disadvantage with such an edge because it just isn't efficient at cutting those types of materials.

    Well how about the best of both worlds in one package-yes and no I guess. I have some combo edged knives, but I prefer either a full straight edge or a full serrated edge. Spyderco came close with the Dyad, but I found that it wasn't worth the bulk and awkwardness of carry. What they need to do is offer a primary blade with a 'hole' in either plain or serrated and leave the secondary blade with just a nail-nick to keep the profile more reasonable.

    Well, I've obviously drifted a bit but that's my take on it
     
  21. Carl Levitian

    Carl Levitian member

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    Oh sure, some places came up with some outlandish designs, like the Ethiopian shotal, I think its called. but by and large, pick any period of history and look at the blades used by the majority. Usually it will be the ruling majority. The knives and weapons will be pretty strait forward and simple. It seems as though actual use and experiance resulted in simple designs, both military and civilian. The shotal and such was the minority of working blades. Two whole days in the British Museum looking at blades from the bronze age on, there was a repeating of basic form. In fact, I saw one bronze age sword that was a perfect stand in for a Roman gladius. And a mongol sword from the 1000 to 1200 A.D. period was very similar to a early 1800's English Hussars cavelry saber.

    In working knives, the 1700's navaja blade is very similar to the 1800's bowie knife blade of America. A French shepards knife of the mid 1800's seems almost identical to a 1950's Mercator K55 knife, exept the shepards knife did not have a blade lock.

    I just feel like a heck of alot of modern knives designs, are plain ungly greed driven hype.

    I don't know if a modern suburban concrete comando needs more of a knife than an 1870's cowboy who lived in the outdoors, and got by with a three bladed cattle knife that evolved into the modern stockman. Or the modern survival guys with the rambo knives needing more of a knife than a fur traper of the 1830's.

    I just look at the whole modern knife thing and shake my head. I admit I don't understand it.

    But then I got by hunting for 40 years with a H&R 20 gauge break open shotgun or a lever action Marlin .22.

    Maybe old dogs can't learn new tricks.:D
     
  22. Mongrel

    Mongrel Member

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    Carl...

    SHHHHH!

    "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain..."

    :fire:

    DON'T


    :evil:

    LET

    :D

    THE

    :p

    CAT

    :eek:

    OUT

    :uhoh:

    OF

    :cuss:

    THE

    :scrutiny:

    BAG!

    :neener:
     
  23. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Member

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    A lot of new stuff is garbage. Some of it is quite good. These observations are by no means in conflict with one another.

    How many of us carry a leatherman or similar multitool? How much do you suppose that little marvel would have sold for in 1940? I use it so often I'm afraid to leave the house without it.

    I remember when a Buck 110 folding hunter was a state-of-the-art folding knife. Carried one for years, and loved it. I still have one, but I don't carry it now; I prefer a knife with a belt clip and a thumb stud. That old Buck got put away the day I first strapped the leatherman on, and decided I didn't like having two pouches side by side.

    The belt clip fits neatly into the edge of that leatherman sheath, placing the knife securely behind the pouch. The thumb stud allows me to grab something, decide it needs cutting, and then cut it, without letting go. Oddly enough, this seems to happen quite often.

    Just yesterday I measured a piece of 2x4 against an opening, placed my thumb right where I wanted a mark, and then realized I left my pencil out of reach. My little one-hand belt knife saved the moment yet again.

    I could have done it with a sodbuster, too. I could have done it with a rock, or my thumbnail, or I could have even gone inside and got the damn pencil from where ever it was that I left it. But I would have felt the loss, now that I am accustomed to having a small knife grow instantly big without effort or thought.

    I like the thumbstud, and I'd hate to live without my multitool. If that's wrong, I don't wanna be right...
     
  24. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    Mike, you're talking about the positive aspects of innovation. I also owned a Buck 110 when that knife was considered a marvel. But in that era stainless steel had a reputation of not being as sharp as carbon steel. I secretly think carbon steel cutlers saw the handwriting on the wall.

    But look at the things we have today. I remember seeing a "theater room" in an episide of "This Old House" that Norm and the guys were doing for some rich guy. The TV in my house now is bigger than the screen they used.

    I have an electric start Harley. Heresy in the 1960's.

    My Dad was an engineer for 40 years. They used pencils and made blueprints. They had 30 guys working in the Master Lock engineering section. Now we would use two or three guys and a CAD program.

    In many ways, I'm finding things too complicated and/or easy. I went for a ride tonight just to get onto the highway in the dark. It was one of the first times I used my new "high intensity" lamp, and I must admit I was a bit worried. Of course, it turning into "daylight" when I hit the high beam! You'd have to remember little bulbs, and the very good advice to carry a spare in your leathers.

    But as you know, I carry a Razel. And today at Capital I also checked out the belt sheaths of the guys streaming to Sturgis.

    More Buck 110's than anything else.
     
  25. sm

    sm member

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    Bikes, simple and all that...

    Old boy I know with a Harley, was on this Gold Wing, with the trailer one day.
    I was cracking up.
    Just picture Yosemite Sam on a Gold Wing, and you are close.

    He just got a wild idea to drive one, and was allowed to drive one a nice couple has.

    The windshield had bugs, the headlight had bugs and he has his Buck 110 and .44spl.
    We decided shooting the glass was not the best way to remove the bugs...

    I have my Carton Cutter, just the simple "push to open-push to close" type that uses a single edge razor blade.

    He looks at me, and grins..."bro' how come I forgot about those?" he asked.

    This carton also converts to a scraper. Simply pull the insides out, remove blade and insert into butt of handle designed to hold the single edge razor.

    I have always kept one in the vehicles I drive. These are great for scraping bugs off head lights, and windshields amongst other things.

    Bugs get scraped, then the windshield brush at the gas station can better clean the windshield.

    This is safety tip, especially if one travels.
    Single edge razor blades, when used for cutting, can be flipped to the other other corner if they get dull, or broken...
    Even a blade with a broken end will scrap...

    $2 at the hardware store, buy some, toss one in your bike saddlebag, the vehicles...

    *smile*
     
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