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Knife selection process
#1
Will Rogers once wrote that he never met a man he didn't like.  I will paraphrase.  No gun magazine writer ever met a gun that he didn't like - and when you scan the rest of the magazine, you learn that the manufacturer just happens to have a full page advertisement.  So, it is with knives as well.

I was a knife dealer and I will provide you with some thinking points in the process of knife selection for yourself.

Over the years, I have purchased dozens of TSA and police confiscated knives.  This means that a person was probably carrying the knife on his person when it was confiscated.  Universally, they were dirty and dull.

Before you even buy a knife, learn how to clean, lube and sharpen.  Go to youtube and watch videos.  Oh, you want me to give you a cheap shortcut.  Ok.  This is for a rank beginner.

I received two used Spyderco Enduras that were "stainless steel" in the last two weeks.  One was expressly described as dull and I was the only bidder.  The other had a loose clip and was dull.  Fine.  Now for the cheap approach.  I took a que tip and flattened the head on one end with a pair of pliers.  Now, I had a soft tool to work the crevices and clean the knife.  I used vinegar and you could use plain non drinkable alcohol.  They were dirty!!!   I took a $15 plastic handheld angled sharpener and sharpened a knife with just two passes.  The next time, I happened to be working on multiple knives and used a Worksharp.  None of the bs about being a man and handsharpening on a stone!  Then I used tuff- glide to lubricate.  I also have a professional level set of torque wrenches that cost all of $30.  I use the Waha set to work on watches/computers/knives/and tiny screws. One had a few serrations. well, a belt sanding belt has to edges. Hold a serration vertical to the edge of the belt and one pass on each serration did the trick.

You mean I have convinced you that you can easily maintain a knife?

Next, think about the application.

While you were freezing on the east coast yesterday, I was walking in mid-town Los Angeles wearing workout shorts and a tank top.  I was going to neighborhoods I did not know.  I carry a different knife then when I take a walk with the dog around the hill at home wearing the same clothes.

So let's breakdown the application a bit.

First, let's address the "defense" application and be done with it.    Knife fights are over within seconds.  They don't last very long like in the movies.  You are most likely going to be attacked from ambush. Situational awareness practice is much more important than the features of the knife.  If you don't know how to deploy your knife, carry your knife or when to deploy your knife, you shouldn't be selecting a knife based upon some fancy feature. 

I explain.  You can be trained to deploy a knife from a pocket carry on a clip on blue jeans to having it deployed at the base of a person's throat in 1.1 second.  It takes about a day of paid instruction.  Women have better nerves and will do it faster.  You won't be able to do it without instruction.  If you have situational awareness, as I had in Red China years ago, I had my knife deployed and concealed before entering the danger zone in the middle of the night.

Have you had paid instruction in stick fighting, khukuri knife fighting, folder fighting or with an entrenching tool?  Just having a switchblade and displaying it is a losing proposition.  I think it was 1959.  Sequoia Jr. High (now closed), Reseda, CA.  Knife fight.  Kid pulled a switchblade and deployed it.  Other kid kicked it out of his hand, picked it up and won!

If I am carrying a defensive folder, I chose one that can be used as a yawara stick without having the blade deployed.  You take the time and look up yawara stick.  Ok.  I give an example.  A Buck 110 folder is heavy, has been produced for years.  It doesn't have pocket clip.  It doesn't have a speed release, big cut out on the blade and requires two hands.  If I am carrying it and approaching a danger zone, I take it out of my pocket and carry it my hand.  It is largely concealed.  I have been trained to use a yawara stick.  It is non threatening and might catch a person off guard who is attacking you.

Now that we have dealt with defensive fantasies, let's go back to the selection process.

Where are you going to carry the knife?  In a boot, on a belt, hanging off a clip on blue jeans, deep in a pocket, on a leg, horizontally, on a weak side, in a pack?  Where?  Think about it before buying a knife.  Oh, you are going hunting?  Ok.  And you are going to carry a pistol?  All right.  Now try carrying both the handgun and the knife in vertical sheaths/holsters at the same time on the strong side!!!  Dumb!

Some knives, like the Esee line, can be purchased without a sheath.  Then you find the appropriate sheath.

Too many knives are sold with a poor sheath.  Or the sheath material will not stand up.  Now, here is something to learn.  The ka-bar knife sheath is issued with a weak snap because it is anticipated that a Marine would be wanting a fast deployment.  However, I wanted a secure sheath and would replace the snap.

Just because some knife reviewer says a sheath is poor, doesn't make his comment correct.  I carry a Swedish designed air force survival knife, fixed blade, the F-1 model, in the original ugly plastic sheath in a suit pants pocket.

The primary purpose of the sheath is to protect the knife and to protect the person from the knife.  With a few deliberate exceptions, if you asked to see my knives, almost all have a sheath.  I address just folders.  Raine and Benchmade make bidirectional sheaths.  You can carry the knife horizontally or vertically on a belt.  The Benchmade sheaths come in only two sizes.  They are soft.  They do not have snaps.  They are comfortable in a pocket.  The Raine models come in about 7 sizes.  They are not comfortable in a pocket.  So, you understand that one selection does not fit all applications.

I have a lot of Victorinox folders.  I would rarely carry them in the city.  I would wear them on a belt.  I don't need a sheath with Victorinox label on it.  I found a distributor of leather seconds with snaps in various sizes - 7 sheaths for $22 delivered. 

Somewhere along the way, I picked up a pile of cheap, small, velcro, soft knife sheathes for about $2 each.  Crummy, but perfect for a small Victorinox thrown in a pack or glove compartment.  Similarly, I found I had a pile of bombproof, highly uncomfortable nylon snap sheathes that would break a hip if you fell on it.

I just opened two sheathed knives at the computer.  Both sheaths are Benchmade bi-directionals.  One has a Bob Lum designed Japanese Seki cut knife.  The other has a discontinued Kershaw stainless Model 1840 with speed safe.  If I had to, I could scoop up one and put it ina pocket,.    I walked across the room and opened a drawer.  A Spyderco Endura in a neck sheath and another in a Benchmade bi-directional.  On a coat hook, upside down is a knife of my design made by knife maker Barry Dawson.  I pull downwards and the knife comes out.  Two handed tanto.  Why?  Because I was widowed with an enfant and did not want a loaded gun in the room.

Sheaths.  Everything needs to be protected.  And the sheath needs to be carefully chosen.

Now I turn to a list of other considerations:
1.  who is going to use the knife;
2.  what is the skill level of the person;
3.  will more than one person use the knife;
4.  right or left handed;
5.  height and weight of the person;
6.  typical clothes worn by the person;
7.  physical disabilities of the user;
8.  likelihood that the user will use proper maintenance;
9.  importance or lack of importance of a warranty;
10.  use of the knife as other than a knife.

Now I made a few comments under each point:

1.  who is going to use the knife;

     I carried a knife in elementary school.  Simple jack knife for cutting things and playing mumbly peg.

2.  what is the skill level of the person;
     My girlfriend cuts the turkey at Thanksgiving with her grandmother's knife.  However, I have to sharpen it because she doesn't know how.


3.  will more than one person use the knife;
      That folder tossed in the trunk of the car or in the tackle box is going to be used by more than one person - and your expensive knife is going to handled by heathens.


4.  right or left handed;
     Makes a lot difference in the sheath choice.


5.  height and weight of the person;
     Goes without saying.


6.  typical clothes worn by the person;
     I wear shorts most of the time.  I wear pants and shirt and carry a brief case to school.  Rarely wear my tailor made suits anymore.  Don't war blue jeans anymore.  Wear tuxedos a couple of times a month. 
     A few years ago, a guy started at one end of town shooting and killing people and ended up on campus where he was shot to death after shooting people.  So, the school put up "hide" instructions in every classroom.  I happen to carry a serrated Endura in the briefcase and a plain blade Endura on my person.  I will take the next guy with me.


7.  physical disabilities of the user;
     I have never been able to master opening an Endura with one hand despite the best efforts of instructors.


8.  likelihood that the user will use proper maintenance;
     Zero chance that anyone other than you will maintain a knife.  Who?  Your kids?  You wife or girlfriend?  You are going to look for a knife servicing guy at the weekly outdoor fresh food market who would charge you $40 an hour to maintain your knife?  Get real!  You have to learn.
9.  importance or lack of importance of a warranty;
     Esee makes great knives.  Boasts about a lifetime warranty.  Ok.  After shtf and I somehow break one of my Esee knives (that really don't break and I own a few), how am I going to mail it back to the factory?


10.  use of the knife as other than a knife.
       I service/repair hatchets and axes as a hobby.  They come in with heads used as hammers and they need to be squared.  I bought a used knife a few months ago for a few bucks that had the tip broken off.  Now how did that happen?  Two weeks ago an Ontario sp18 knife sold at auction for $450.  This week, there was one starting at auction for $75 with a broken tip.  For $75 plus, I am not sure that I would buy it despite having made tips for other knives.  I look at the blade on a hatchet.  Oh!  Look!  The guy hit a rock instead of using proper backing when cutting.  I have never figured out how some knives come in with multiple scratches all over a blade.  However, you can not fix a knife that has had the temper taken out of the blade.  Time to start over.

My mentor was a paratrooper in the 1950s.  He carries some knives that I fixed up and gave him.  He goes further in sharpening because he is an outdoorsman.  When shtf where I live, I am not going to have that opportunity, despite having been an Eagle Scout.  It isn't in the cards.  He carries three folders and they very sharp because he has specific applications and doesn't want to sharpen in the field.  He lives rural.

I don't live rural.   I sharpen my carry folder blades to roughened condition.  If I ever decide that I want the knives sharper, I have non electrical sharpening equipment that work.

You will read a lot of hype about blade steels/blade configuration/Rockwell hardness.  Personally, I have never know a person who had a knife fail on him if he used the knife properly. 

So let's review the usual complaints:

1.  my combat knife was bought new and is dull.
     Ok.  Combat knives are delivered dull to the user deliberately.  It has to do with the application and not the low bidder.
     Let me give an example.  The American airforce Ontario model 499 and now Sp2 in the update gets a lot of complaints.  The top part of the knife is not for fire starting.  It is for cutting the aluminum body of a plane!  Duh!  The blade is not sharp because you are cutting through an aircraft body!  Again, duh!
     Solutions - 1.  match what you want with what the knife was designed to do. 
                       2.  Learn how to sharpen a knife.  With the SP2, you cut off the top part of the now rubberized guard and you have an excellent survival knife (without a fire starting top) when you sharpen the same.  Or you can pay 2.5x the price and get the Swedish designed F-1.
2.  the sheath is crummy.
     Solutions - 1.  Hey.  You were asleep at the switch.  Now, go spend $50 on eBay for the sheath that matches your need.
                      2.  Learn how to mold a kydex sheath or make a new leather sheath.  PITA.  I don't do this although I have made sword sheaths , hatchet and axe sheaths.
                      3.  Learn how to modify the sheath the knife came with in the first instance.  Ok.  This works and may be unattractive.  Go to youtube.  Learn how to modify a sheath - like - how to attach 550 cord/a survival kit/a sharpener/ a smaller knife.  Learn how to add an additional restraining piece on a knife sheath or how to replace a snap.  Sometimes the restraining straps are too tight when delivered.  Replace it.  Sometimes, I learn that a different and more desirable sheath can be adopted to a knife.  Spec-Ops makes outstanding combat knife sheaths.  I sent a new one to my mentor.  He complained that his Glock knife rattled inside.  I described how to modify the sheath to deaden the rattling. 
                              I give you some more challenges.  I have a sheathed Wakazashi sword.  I am not going to carry it at my side, go into combat and fall on it.  Ditto on some machetes.  Say I want an over the pack or over the back carry.  If you spend a fortune, you might find a sheath maker.  Or you go to youtube and learn how to make it yourself.
                              I restored a couple of sabres.  How do you carry a two point sabre sheath.  It hangs down log on the leg when you are on horseback.  You don't want that when you are walking around.  In fact, how would you carry a sword on a waist???  Good grief!  And they are not designed to be carried across the back.  So, I went on line and took my time researching because I knew I wasn't the first person with the problem.  Moreover, I didn't want to re-invent the wheel.  So, I found a prop house that rented and sold props.  Ok.  So you have actors moving about a stage with fake guns and fake swords.  Aaah!  They had reduced sized two point hangers for stage work.  Bought a couple of sets.  When they come in, I will do the next step of attaching them either to a standard blue jeans belt or a separate belt around the waist.
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#2
I think we have all probably had the experience of trudging through youtube and google to find decent reviews.  Typically, some guy might buy a knife and describe the knife while unpackaging it.  The other week, I found a website that is the best site I have found with an objective description of a knife selection process without including the usual big name, poor quality knives that are usually supplied as options.    "Knife  Den".   There was a discussion of a knife brand that I had never heard.  Ok.  I tried some research and nothing was out there.  However, I decided to take a risk and order a Banner knife fixed blade.  Not expensive and I was bidding at the same time on another ZT 0170, a no complaints discontinued knife.

Well, the banner knife came in.  Wow!  About $40.  I didn't win the ZT knife and it sold for $155 plus shipping vs. $40 and if I were buying another fixed blade it would be the Banner. 

So, I researched.  The guy wasn't tooting his own horn.  I had to look on line for shipments for example, before I could determine the Chinese plant making the knife.  It was a reputable factory that makes a number of American designs.  It turned out that "Banner" was a guy like in Idaho who designed a knife and is having it made in China.
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#3
Wow, great info.

My state recently legalized auto knives. While I rarely carry anything other then a SAK, I was thinking of getting one just because. Any suggestions?

Also my 27 year old daughter has expressed interest in carrying a knife for SD at times. I needs to be slim. I've given her some options but am interested in other opinions. She has been trained in personal protection and the use of striking instruments (tactical pens etc) but a knife would be the next step up when dealing with creepy guys while on a date.
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#4
(05-08-2018, 07:52 PM)mac66 Wrote: 1.  look at knives on blade Hq.
2.  after selecting some in your price range, look at reviews on youtube, check confirmed reviews on Amazon, and don't buy from Amazon or eBay or it may void a warranty, if any.  If you do buy from eBay, make sure that the person has been in business for years and has few negative ratings.
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#5
Illinois legalized auto blades and I have bought my wife two of them.

Question on oil, I have FrogLube and Ballistol. I decided to use Ballistol for lube/protection on my Esse knives, so far it seems to be working just fine, no rust. So, I'm assuming Ballistol is fine for knife blades?
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#6
I have used food safe mineral oil for my knives for 40+ years never had a problem with rust, the key for me it is "food safe". I was taught to use it by my father even on stainless steel blades, be aware not all mineral oils are food safe.
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