On Knives and Blades

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When I worked as a hunting and fishing guide, I learned early on that when someone showed up with a great big, genuine artificial Bowie blade strapped to their hip, I was more than likely going to have a lot of issues on the hunt. In all my life, I have never used anything more than an Old-Timer with a two-inch blade for gutting and skinning … and have seen many a city slicker sicken themselves as soon as they begin cutting into the innards of a fresh kill, releasing all manner of fecal matter and other less than desirable “products” into the meat and the surrounding air. Perhaps more amazing still to me, was the number of people who had absolutely no idea how to prepare their blades, much less to care for them or to properly sharpen their blades for individual usage.


Mind you, some people tended to think I was a bit hypocritical … and let me preface that by saying I was not always the kindest or most gentle of guides, but I very rarely led an unsuccessful hunt either. Stringing pack horses is a chore in and of itself. Adding a string of dudes on to a string of pack horses will give any cowboy more than a little bit of concern for the duration … or should at least. As such, I generally had a very wide selection of small blades strategically strapped on my body … ten or twelve would probably have been a good average. However, they were always small and always sharpened excessively thin.


The reasoning was very simple, as in a string break, there is no telling what portions of the body will remain free or mobile and which portions will be trapped where, and it may very well be necessary to cut yourself out of the ropes and leather in short order if you are to have any hope of surviving such a string break … much less preventing your charges from becoming seriously injured or even killed. As such, I placed the blades accordingly, so no matter how much of my body may have been trapped under a horse or in my tack and gear, I would have a very thinly bladed slicing knife available to free myself with.


Thicker blades or a heavier edge would have required chopping, which may have only made the situation worse in many instances. The thinner blades were designed and maintained for slicing through rope and/or leather in a hurry … though they were equally well suited for skinning which helped on many more occasions. Fortunately perhaps, I have only personally experienced two major string breaks, and no knives were required on either occasion. Still, it is always better to have the tools and not need them, than to need the tools and not to have them. Though this does bring to mind how different types of blades should be sharpened differently for different purposes.


I have quite an affinity for blades personally, and my collection includes everything from pocket knives to sheath knives (including more than one Bowie knife … even some genuine artificial ones and some that are just prettied up) to swords and even the occasional B’atleth for the geeks who may be interested in homesteading … though these are also amazing fighting weapons and far superior to more simple swords in my humble opinion. My problems rarely stemmed from the fact that somebody had an affinity for the Bowie knife, but that they actually believed that this was a viable tool for the great outdoors and hunting or fishing. These are incredible weapons for armed conflict, but they serve a very limited purpose for hunting and fishing. Generally, the person proudly brandishing a Bowie knife had very limited experience in the woods, and that would be the cause of my problems.


Skinning Knives

Skinning knives should have a very thin, even edge on both sides of the blade, allowing it to sever or slice with the same relative ease as would be accomplished with a razor. To commence skinning any game, a small, counter incision should be made from left to right, allowing for a small blade to be inserted and slice the skin cleanly without cutting into any of the innards. Much of the smell that can be nauseating to the uninitiated can be avoided in this way and furthermore, it will reduce the possibility of contaminating the meat, as the waste residue on the meat will also cause the meat itself to go bad more quickly. Once the long vertical slice has been made, the skin should be peeled back slowly, with the skinning blade serving no other purpose than to separate the skin from the meat cleanly, without leaving excessive amounts of hair on the meat. Trying to shop or whittle with such a thinly sharpened edge will inevitably result in the steel edge “turning” or folding and requiring the blade to be sharpened much more frequently.


Chopping Knives, Cleavers

Heavier and larger blades should be sharpened with one thinner edge and one thicker edge, the thinner edge being used for finer work and the thicker edge for whittling and other work requiring more durability and rigidity of the blade. In the case of heavy knives or cleavers designed for chopping, some people prefer equally thick edges on both sides of the blades, though my personal preference is for one side to be sharpened at about a fifteen degree angle and the other side a little thicker. Which side depends on whether the user is right handed or left handed as well, as both will chop slightly different and from different angles. However, the varied edge allows one side to be more efficient at chopping through meat and the other side more efficient for chopping through bone, without having to worry about the steel edge turning or folding during use.


Hatchets and Axes

I prefer to sharpen both my hatchets and my axes with a varied edge the same as chopping knives and cleavers. This holds true for these as when I chop wood, I tend to notch the wood, making separate types of cuts with each stroke, one down from the right and one down from the left, ideally taking the entire chunk of wood in between the strikes to be removed with the second strike. If in turn, the unfortunate event arises when I need a weapon that is effective against another person, this configuration also allows for the axe or the hatchet to work equally as well under such circumstances, though firearms are generally a much more viable option for personal defense.


Fighting Blades and Bayonets

The aforementioned Bowie knife generally tends to fall under this category, and to be perfectly honest, I do not know many people who are ever going to get into a hand-to-hand combat scenario where they need either of these weapons. However, in the unlikely event that they do, the finely sharpened Bowie knife is going to turn quickly, and unfortunately, also leave a very neat and clean cut that the doctors will easily patch up. Both humans and animals have a striking ability to survive multiple stab wounds, and this is even more pronounced when an exceedingly sharp blade is used. In the unlikely event that I do find myself having to use a knife for hunting, I want it to be relatively dull so that it has to rip and tear its way through, creating a more severe wound cavity that is not so easily healed.


As was previously noted, it is imperative to have the proper tools for the job, but it is also imperative to know and understand how and why to maintain those tools so that they can perform the requisite job function when it is time to put them to use.


opher goodwin Added Jan 23, 2019 - 6:38am
Ward - knives is certainly not something I've had a lot of truck with. As a kid we played with them - throwing knives, whittling knives etc. As a Biologist I used scalpels for dissection. But that's it. You're talking about a different world.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 23, 2019 - 7:08am
I have always had a passion for blades, but yet again, human nature does tend to baffle me. 
Steel Breeze Added Jan 23, 2019 - 8:53am
a large part of my collection is knives/sharpeners, including a wall rack of K-Bars....something i like to do when a sharpening is done is take a fingertip of fine valve grinding compound and polish the edges removing the sharpeners scratches........works great for trigger actions too....
Ward Tipton Added Jan 23, 2019 - 10:57am
I would hot blue some of the blades when I first made them, but after that, mostly just cold bluing ... all really. They tend to get worn down over the years and the bluing does fade.
Leroy Added Jan 23, 2019 - 11:38am
Very interesting article on knives, Ward.
I have carried a knife with me since I was a kid.  Today, I carry a Leatherman Wave.  It's enormously practical for my use.  I don't use it for hunting, although I do carry it with me.
There was a time when I carried a Swiss Army knife.  I switched to a Leatherman then back to the Swiss Army knife because I thought it was better.  Only then did I realize how superior the Leatherman is.
I carried the Swiss Army knife while I was an expat in France.  I remember going through Delta security on a return flight back home.  Delta refused to let me carry the knife on the plane with me for the first time.  I had to stand in line to have Delta put it in a package that I could pick up in Atlanta.  The chief of airport security, a short prick that I had run-ins with several times, approached me and wanted to know why I was standing in that line.  I told him.  He demanded to see the knife.  I don't know why; it just seemed so funny to me the way he said it.  I will never forget, "Dis wittle ting?"
Rusty Smith Added Jan 23, 2019 - 11:44am
Ward Tipton That  principal isn't just limited to knives, it also applies to guns.  Although there are plenty of exceptions I find that people who think they need extra powerful guns tend to be low on experince.  Just as a small blade is much easier to use to dress an animal, so a smaller lighter gun is easier to carry and if know what you are doing, just as effective without spoiling lots of meat.
I like guns and knives, and have a huge assortment including many combat style knives that were mostly given to me as gifts.  Exceptions are a few that I wanted to own, like a real WW2 Marine KABAR because it's part of history, just like my 911 Colt.  
When I was a kid I was impressed by big knives, and had a few but quickly learned they were harder carry, and harder and more tiring to use than the smaller ones my dad and his friends carried.  These days I often carry several when I hunt.  Two pocket knives, one very small and very sharp for picking out splinters or minor field surgery, and a larger one for everything from cutting boxes to opening paint cans.  My sheath knife is pointed and long enough to clean fish easily when I fish, and shorter and more rounded at the tip if I'm hunting.
If I were limited to one I think it would be a carbon steel Green River with a riveted wood handle.  I love the way they hold an edge, are easy to sharpen, and almost indestructible.
Dino Manalis Added Jan 23, 2019 - 12:21pm
 Unfortunately, knives and blades are sometimes used today to stab and slash innocent passers-by!
The Owl Added Jan 23, 2019 - 1:09pm
You're talking, Ward, about the tools of the trade, and having the right tools available for the situation...
Carrying multiple blades accessible from just about any tight spot is just good planning, something that many seem to forget when they get going.  As for the dude with the bowie knife...well...it looks impressive to anyone who can't tell the time of day.
Let me expand a bit on your thinking...A cutting tool is useless if it can't cut.  And, at least in the sailing world, most sailors carry knives, but they work far more like blunt objects. I'm still using a 60-year-old K-Bar rigging knife...Cuts paper just on the weight of the blade.
My other hobby...and a nice source of retirement income...is buying wrecked antiques and restoring them.  I find that the old-time tools... hand scrapers, chisels, hand planes, and a variety of handsaws, all kept lethally sharp, do a far better job and do it faster than all of the bright new ideas for getting things done that are peddled to The People.
But my the bulk of my knives are for the kitchen.  And, if anywhere, the kitchen is a place where having the right knife for the job is key.  The knives I like most are the carbon steel ones a purchased half-a-century ago...one "chef's blade" is now approaching the "boning knife" stage as a consequence of the honing done before every use.
Sharpening, though is an art, and that art has the habit of escaping people...which, in a addition to just not caring about your tools, is a key reason why the tools aren't sharp...
But it takes time and patience to learn, and in this day and age, the latter is in short supply and the former is devoted to texting away on their phones.
Dave Volek Added Jan 23, 2019 - 1:31pm
Nice article Ward
You have a way of reaching people that don't have a lot interest in your outdoor topics.
I like my kitchen knives sharp and bought a set of stones to keep them that way. We have about a dozen kitchen knives and it takes a couple hours to get them into shape. I need only do this a couple times a year.
Other than that, I am not a master of knives. I just grab the first clean knife to chop/cut. Carrots, beef, it doesn't matter. But I know real chefs have their preferences.
BTW, I love watching "Forged in Fire". Not much interest in me taking on this hobby, but it is a fascinating process.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 23, 2019 - 3:43pm
Leroy - Last time I went back to the States, most of the requests were for the local bolos or machetes. I had about ten of them in a box, separated, all sealed up with tape and even strapping for International Travel ... Greyhound when I got back to the States had a tizzy fit because I would not open it to allow them to inspect it ... when it was clearly stamped as having gone through Customs a total of three times. 
Rusty, it depends on the job at hand ... though that being said, there are some of the bigger knives that I cannot imagine needing for anything other than fighting. Is my batleth cool? Yeah. Especially the one I had custom made. Is it practical for anything? About as practical as a well made katana blade. It is functional, but that does not make it practical or something that I would carry around. Certainly not going to argue with Boo Boo when all I have is a two inch blade though, or even just the nine mm. There are times and occasions when a bigger round is beneficial, though I would have to agree ... especially when one needs to engage multiple targets. Again, different tools and different purposes. I have killed more deer with a .22 long rifle or the .22 mag than with any other round, but it is not an optimal hunting round either and I dare say, most people would consistently miss the critically small target area without a bigger round. Mind you, the people carrying the cheap carbon copy (pun intended) rambo knives ... ones that tend to break so easy ... never understood any fascination with them other than perhaps for display. 
Dino, Unfortunately, cars are used to mow people down. 
Owl - My grandfather had a collection of knives and stones that had been worn down over the years, and my dad, while he did use a lot of the modern tools for some of his work, largely used the older tools ... I used to think it was because he did not want to burn fuel in the generator to run the fuel shop, but as I grew, I also learned to recognize and appreciate his mastery of the arts with hand tools. 
Had to look up Forged in Fire but that did look interesting. I am if anything, more particular about my blades in the kitchen ... something my wife still does not understand. She still thinks paring knives and fillet knives have the same purpose. :/
Marty Koval Added Jan 23, 2019 - 6:52pm
Very informative and interesting article on knives. You pointed out the need for various types of knives for different applications, that I never thought about. Thanks for sharing your expertise in the area.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 23, 2019 - 6:54pm
Thank you for joining the discussion Marty Koval, I enjoy our exchanges of ideas and information. I too have learned much from your writing ... always a good thing. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 23, 2019 - 8:57pm
The Owl  I collect kitchen serving cutlery, especially old carbon steel pieces, restore them, sharpen them, used them, and then sharpen them again.  I like to say that I can't really judge a knife well until I've used and sharpened it at least once.  I have a few hundred knives, but also lots of serving forks, cleavers and other assorted holding or chopping tools, from all sorts of companies all over the world.  Most I get for a pittance at garage sales or swap meets, from people who are selling their grandparents old junk.  
I also occasionally come across quality modern cutlery and will also pick it up at a pittance if the price is right so I have had the pleasure of being able to compare old carbon steel cutlery to modern stainless and laminated cutlery.  I do have plenty that sell for over $100 per piece and none of them are any nicer to use and sharpen than a good 100 year old Green River knife.  I have often been shocked by the fact that some of the most talked about modern knives really don't perform all that well... but they sure look nice!
Rusty Smith Added Jan 23, 2019 - 9:06pm
Ward Tipton I believe in the right tool for the job and don't be fooled, I may have a lot of knives that I consider combat style, but have never taken one camping, not even the Marine KABAR that I actually bought myself used.  I like owning many of them, but just as a collector.  
The closest is an old Buck sheath knife my Dad owned, that I have taken camping a few times.  It's not an ideal fishing knife, but it was my Dad's and it makes me good when I carry it, and it is a pretty good trout knife.
I too have done a lot with a 22 long rifle, and sometimes when I wanted quiet even subsonic 22 shorts out of a bolt action rifle.  I tell people that I can kill just about anything up to a big deer with a 22lr, but with bigger game it's going to take time for them to die, and that's true with lung shots.  These days I kill a lot of pests up to coyotes and raccoons with a .177 air rifle.  Not glorious but if you place your shot the size doesn't matter and no one notices when you shoot air rifles.
Jeff Michka Added Jan 23, 2019 - 10:00pm
Ah, it's the return of our Modern day Davy Crockett (hes a crockette-small sized-of shit) Rusted Smith bragging about his great times in the woods and bragging about his sharpshooting, and you're right Rusted, it's "not glorious" but just more rightist "I'm a John Wayne" rightist BS.  Don't cut yourself, Rusted.  Who will wrap up your families heads when MS13 shows up to whack them off with Machetes.  "They" are pouring over "The open border," intent on harming....you, of course.  And in closing, you tell people a lot of things, Rusted, much like Trump does, and most, I suspect, untrue.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 23, 2019 - 11:41pm
"These days I kill a lot of pests up to coyotes and raccoons with a .177 air rifle.  Not glorious but if you place your shot the size doesn't matter and no one notices when you shoot air rifles."
Dan Shaver used to do just that too ... tragic story that one. That being said, yeah, I have to say, even running horse strings, while I do carry a couple of different types of hatchets, and occasionally an axe, the fighting knives tend to stay at home. I like the idea of not being stuck or trapped in a string break, but once you get into camp, camp meat and likely just field dressing are about the only real uses. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 24, 2019 - 11:47am
Jeff Michka Just curious, this forum is about knives, just  in case  you didn't notice.  It's not about MS 13, or border policies.
Do you know anything about knives or have any experince that you might care to share on the forum topic? 
If not I wouldn't blame Ward if he deletes your irrelevant babble.  I have noticed a few authors routinely delete all you comments.
Jeff Michka Added Jan 24, 2019 - 8:28pm
Hey, Rusted, I'm not the ace phony twit you are, so save it.  Ward is in the PI, not ol backwoods 'Murrica you pretend to be in.  At least I'm not a liar like you, phony, trying to male yourself bigger by touting skills you probably don't have.  So better tell Ward to delete me.  He will, particularly if I mention his prepper food sale stuff like Jim Bakker sells his ignorant followers.  Take your knives and open some buckets of Costco mac and cheese, you need more brain matter.  In short, go fuck yourself Rusted rightist liar.  You wqant to know where I'd like to see a knife?  Look closely in a mirror.
Rusty Smith Added Jan 24, 2019 - 10:24pm
Jeff Michka Do you know anything about the forum topic? 
Ward Tipton Added Jan 25, 2019 - 12:12am
"So better tell Ward to delete me.  He will, particularly if I mention his prepper food sale stuff like Jim Bakker sells his ignorant followers."
Except I have never deleted comments from anyone. Though I am still torn about your man crush ... I have never been so admired by a Jim Bakker fan before. 
Jeff Michka Added Jan 25, 2019 - 7:56pm
Well, you may not be a deleter, Ward, but aren't a careful reader. 
Ward Tipton Added Jan 26, 2019 - 12:37am
I tend to ignore people like Vinny Michka who seem to have a fetish and desire to lie with people like Ryan ... and why you seem so obsessed with having me and Jim Bakker visit you? That is beyond strange Vinny. Or do you still want to hide behind the Jeff moniker in public so nobody knows it is really you? 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 26, 2019 - 5:21pm
Jeff Michka  four comments and not one that has anything to do with the forum.  
If you don't know anything about knives, and didn't learn anything from Ward, why are you bothering to add comments that don't have any relationship to the forum?  Let me help you.
I am guessing you use knives at least a little for food preparation, even if they are your mom's, do you have a favorite and why?  Of course if Mommy only lets you use the butter knife so you don't cut yourself, you don't need to reply.
Jeff Michka Added Jan 27, 2019 - 9:28pm
Hey, Rusted, like I said, go fuck yourself.  Yeah, of course I use knives.  Some of them were my mom's but sge's been dead for over 30 years, so your "insult" is just rightist fluffing.  My fav blades are Japanese.  At least I had a mom, not a pig bladder like birthed you Rusted.  How did that work out for your kids?  I gotta go to Costco to buy tons of freeze dried food to fend off the coming apocalypse, so fuck off until then, Rusted.  You aren't any better an insulter than "marksman"  presuming you are just a mark.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 27, 2019 - 11:43pm
We have dozens of blades around the house, going up to my wife's sword collection, but I have only a moderate knowledge of the subject--I only carry a Leatherman in my jacket and fire coat pockets. But my wife ... she's the expert. If I didn't love her so much, it would be terrifying.
Rusty Smith Added Jan 28, 2019 - 10:48am
Jeff Michka  Congratulations you finally said something about knives, and it only took you 5 tries.  
Which Japanese knives do your own and what do you like about them?  I own several myself.
How do you sharpen your Japanese knives, what stones, and what kind of edge profile?
Rusty Smith Added Jan 28, 2019 - 10:51am
Mark Hunter What type of swords does your wife collect?
I only have a few and sometimes it's taken me months to get good information about the history of one.  Does your wife try to find out the history of each piece she purchases?
Mark Hunter Added Jan 29, 2019 - 2:00am
No, she's more of a pop collector. For instance, she has replicas of a katana from "The Walking Dead", and a long sword from "Game of Thrones". There's a ceremonial Marine sword we were given that appears to be legit, and another katana I found at a garage sale of all places, but I haven't tried too hard to track down the origins of either. I also have a cavalry sword that as near as I can determine was used in ceremonies at a high school military academy. She has some swords and other blades given to her by her father, and considering his somewhat questionable gun collection, I'm afraid to really look into where he got them--some look like they came right out of a sword and sorcery movie. Although some are sharp and look ready for action, I doubt any of them were made for actual combat. To me one neat thing my father-in-law gave us is a U.S. army hatchet, World War II era, which has quite definitely been used ... for something.
Rusty Smith Added Jan 29, 2019 - 11:09am
Mark Hunter I have a few old swords, all real, a few are early American but most were military issue in different parts of Europe.  Many of the better swords used in early America were made in Europe.  My sword budget is very small so in order for me to buy one it's got to be free or rock bottom price and all of mine have come from garage sales or people I've met who had one they didn't feel like keeping.   None that I have are worth a thousand dollars.
With knives and swords I don't care for replicas and can't stand fantasy knives and swords so I don't own any.  I do like to own historically significant pieces, which to me isn't perhaps the sword George Washington, or some other famous person carried, but rather a very typical military issued one that soldiers carried in the past.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to own Washington's sword, but it will never be in my budget.
I did almost make an exception for the sword that was Anthony's  in the movie Antony and Cleopatra.  I did work for the person who directed that movie and he owned it.  It is a beautiful piece and historic in a way, just not militarily, so I'd have liked to own it.  He offered to trade it for my work, but at that time I needed the money more than a nice sword.  I examined it and believe it was better sword than the real one Anthony would have owned and used when he was alive, since it was made by a modern swordsmith with modern steel and using modern techniques.  Even so I'd have rather had one the soldiers used at that time. 
When I looked for a Marine KABAR I could have easily bought a modern replica, but instead I bought a used one from a family whose deceased Dad had been issued the knife while he was in the service during WWII.  I have never used the knife, I never take it camping but I do like owning that piece of history.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 29, 2019 - 8:22pm
"I examined it and believe it was better sword than the real one Anthony would have owned and used when he was alive, since it was made by a modern swordsmith with modern steel and using modern techniques."
An interesting note as it has been very challenging even for modern smiths to recreate with any exact measure, the techniques that allowed for the creation of the Katana utilized by the samurai. Apparently not only were there different types of metals being used, but also different temperature requirements for an overly complex reality hiding behind what is a deceptively simple looking sword. 
As for the Kabar, I would have to agree ... that would hold more of a spot of reverence (if not at least great respect) in my home collection than ever be utilized in the field. 
Mark, not only is my wife proficient with blades, but I am forced to help her as she castrates the piglets ... I do not know which disturbs me more ... the fact that she is so good at it or the fact that she seems to somehow enjoy it ... scary indeed. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 29, 2019 - 9:02pm
Ward Tipton I've never owned a real handmade Katana, but held a few and studied all the different ways they were made.  Several things blow me away. 
I still remember my first impression of a real one, it was much smaller than I have previously imagined, and in most tiny flaws are easy to find.  They were also small, but so were the people, so I guess their swords fit them much better than they fit me.  Modern versions are much larger.  An old katana is tiny to hold.
Second, their raw materials were nothing to brag about, they truly made the best possible blades with what they had on hand.  Today's sword makers can buy wonderful blends of steel the old sword makers could only dream about.  I am truly impressed with all the work and skill it took just to smelt the steel, and how close they came to perfection that would not be easy to mach even today.
Third, the manpower it took to forge the sword is tremendous, I once imagined it was all done by one person but historically it took a team. One person might smelt the steel, a team might fold and forge and temper the blade, other people honed it down and polished the edge, and yet someone else added the handle, and others the scabbard.  A real hand made Katana is a tremendously time consuming and expensive sword to make.  A lot cracked when they were being tempered.  I didn't realize the curve was not bent or cut into the blade but rather the warp the blade takes when it's tempered, before that it's straight.  The degree of curve has a lot to do with how it's tempered and that is an art using clay on the back of the sword to slow down the temper there, while allowing the edge become cooled much faster so it becomes much harder.
I was also surprised by how many styles of blades there are, some with different steel in the center, and with how good a job they do shaping and polishing the blades with their relatively crappy stones.  Japan was not blessed with good sharpening stones, they used water lubricated sedimentary stones, and do a fantastic job with them.  That's true even today, even though Japanese sword and knife makers swear by their stones, and they do cost a fortune.  They all wear away far more quickly than than other contemporary stones.
I've not castrated piglets but have other animals using the rubber bands.  Have you ever tried them, or does you wife prefer the old fashioned way?
I mourned for a while after KABAR got bought out by Cutco, I despise Cutco, all hype and not worth what they are sold for.  
Ward Tipton Added Jan 29, 2019 - 9:30pm
Not sure why but your comment made me think of Napoleon and the fact that he "only" stood 5'6" ... which was actually tall for his day. 
If I can ever build to the point where it is possible, I would love to have a forge and the ability to learn but doubt my skills would ever match the current experts, much less the masters of the past. 
Cutco ... Ach ... that reminded me of a Poli-Cartoon I saw at one time with the Army Cavalry Officer standing beside his horse crying ... as he shot his old Colt 1911 with one of the new 9mm Berettas.  
Rusty Smith Added Jan 30, 2019 - 11:41am
Ward Tipton I guess everything is relative.  Lots of people have told me they thought a 911 45 ACP would be too much gun for them, and I heard it was for many WWII soldiers but it's nothing for today's shooters who are much bigger.  The average American Soldier was 5'8" and 140 lbs.  Today that's a high school kids height and weight.
I've never owned a forge but used other people's and welded  professionally.  During that time I've forged a few knives and one sword.  All were rather crude by design, but very effective weapons.  It takes a lot of pounding so I understand why Katanas are forged by a team, not one person.  Today most of the pounding is done by mechanical hammers with heat from gas forges, and using store bought steel which takes a lot of the variables that made things much tougher in the past, out of the equation, and it's still not easy.
I have worked in mechanical fields for most of my life and know lots of excellent mechanics and other people who own and swear by their Cutco kitchen knives.  Out of respect I don't laugh in their face but my personal opinion is that their knives are not the quality they claim and only worth about 10% of what their customers pay for them.  Almost everyone I know who owns them got them from someone they know who got a job selling them despite the fact that they knew nothing about knives before that.  They are a little better than Ginsu knives but not as reasonably priced.   Their saw tooth double D edge might be a blessing to people who don't ever sharpen their own knives or even own a stone, but to me they are a joke.  Their handle design is all hype, I would hate to have to use one of their larger knives for an hour at a time. 
I have a very extensive kitchen cutlery collection and it includes many Cutco knives, all from garage sales where I got them for about a dollar each so that I could include them in my collection.  I know there are lots of people who who never sharpen knives and serrated edges are a blessing for them, but their money would be better spent on a Ginsu knife which would cost far less and stay sharp for about as long.
My personal recommendation for people on a budget who want a decent knife is Victorinox.  They make a good variety of decent knives with comfortable handles, their blade shapes are designed to do the job, and their steel is very good for the price they charge.  They are also pretty rugged, not going to break if you drop it on the floor like many more expensive knives that do break if you're not careful with them.  Many of my most expensive knives were sold to me broken for one  or two dollars and then I got them replaced by the manufacture.
I like Western style guns but must admit my 911 45 acp is my favorite for home defense.  I have a 911 in 9mm but prefer the 45.  Even when the Browning came out with a 13 shot 9mm I still prefered my 45, it's not for long distance shooting and I can change the magazine as often as necessary so I don't see the advantage to a much heavier gun that holds twice as many rounds, if you're in a state where that would be legal to own and use.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 30, 2019 - 11:56am
My 1911A1 I replace the barrel with a six inch barrel with micro grooving and it was awesome. Easy to handle and could readily handle engaging multiple targets with that comfortably. 
The only knives I have ever made, I generally made from Spring Steel from the overload springs ... though mostly with grinders and sanders and a machine shop. 
That being said ... my Dad once made a bear trap out of two full overload springs ... I think the buck must have been running when he tripped it because half of him was about five or six yards up past the trap. Still great for sausage but that was about it ... 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 30, 2019 - 12:43pm
Rusty Smith I replaced the barrel in my 911 45, but not with a better one, just so I wouldn't be carrying one that could be traced easily.  When I bought that one it was registered and the police had a slug they could use for ballistic comparison.  If I do have shoot someone it's easy for me to put the original barrel back in and dump the replacement so my gun won't match the ballistics.
That bear trap your dad made must have been a killer to set.  I assume he needed two big clamps to set it.  I have small jaw traps that I still use, but nothing bear sized.
Mark Hunter Added Jan 30, 2019 - 1:33pm
That budget problem is the bane of all collectors of anything.
Ward, I hope you treat your wife and nicely as I treat mine! I'd hate to hear about you in a crime headline someday.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 30, 2019 - 4:24pm
Hahahahahahahaha She knows and understands about the old abandoned mine shafts back home and is wise enough to make sure nobody ever finds the remains ... so yeah, I try to be nice as possible ;) 
I really do not remember much about the bear trap, that was made when I was still very young ... but I sure remember running across the remnants of that buck and having to pack it back home. LOL
I had not thought about retaining older barrels for that particular use ... I shall have to keep that one in mind. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 30, 2019 - 6:05pm
Ward Tipton an older barrel would only be good for that purpose if it came off a gun that could not possibly be associated with you our anyone you knew.  The one on my 45 came from a surplus store that went out of business years ago, and it was something they don't normally stock or sell.  I saw it in their junk pile and realized what it was so I bought it even though it was long for my gun.  Later I cut it to size and rounded the end with a lathe, and then touched up the bluing.  
Much later I wished I'd threaded the end so I could try a silencer on it, but by then it was too late.  I'm sure it would have been very loud anyway, but any self defense gun I can shoot without ear plugs would be welcome.  That's one of the things I like least about my magnums, hearing protection is a must.
My wife is a big animal lover and not inclined to kill anything but I suppose she might make an exception if I was ever unfaithful.  Fortunately she has no objections to me hunting and enjoys eating meat.  Strangely she likes to catch fish but won't eat them.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 30, 2019 - 6:19pm
Have you ever heard of Numrich Arms? 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 30, 2019 - 6:36pm
Rusty Smith I hadn't but looked them up and they seem to have an impressive selection of parts.
I have some friends who do a lot of gunsmithing and bet they have heard of them.  They are always building and selling custom guns.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 30, 2019 - 6:48pm
Off the record ... actions are not that difficult to machine and build. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 30, 2019 - 11:00pm
Ward Tipton a few months ago I was in a police briefing where they got real excited about some "ghost" guns they found at a home they raided.  The way they spoke about their find and the guns, you'd never have thought they were legal to build and own, but they are.
In some third world countries they make viable firing replicas of many firearms, because they can't afford the real thing.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 31, 2019 - 1:37am
Yeah, we do that here ... I mean, there are people here who make a living that way. Ghost guns, like farm vehicles, if made and kept at home or on the ranch as it were, are not subject to gun laws. Not yet anyhow. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 31, 2019 - 11:15am
Ward Tipton That's also true about bullets, even in places where purchasing them is highly regulated I can still by components and power and then make my own, I just can't sell them legally once they are loaded.  I'm sure the anti gun nuts will try to stop that too.
Funny where I live they want to even limit how many bullets I can bring in from another state to a "box"... whatever that means.  I've bought up to 5,000 in one case, and a bucket of Remington 22lr holds 1,400, and there are something like 550 223s per ammo can.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 31, 2019 - 11:51am
You live in California? In Nevada they never cared. Used to order some rounds five thousand at a time. Black powder weapons we could still order through the mail. Not sure if even that is legal in Cali anymore, but a lot of places are trying to infringe heavily on our ability to defend ourselves. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 31, 2019 - 1:57pm
Ward Tipton The worst is that in many parts of the country, including parts of California regulatory BS has driven so many stores and suppliers out of business that it's now depriving law abiding citizens of their ability to use the guns they have.  There are many calibers like Remington 221 Fireball which can't be bought locally and it's against the law to order ammunition in California.  If you own that gun or even a 264 Winchester Magnum and don't reload you have a perfectly good boat anchor because you can't legally buy ammunition for it anymore.
The laws also make criminals out of most old people, especially widows because you also can't sell your guns privately anymore,  you have to go thought a registered gun dealer.  Of course most old widows don't know about that law, but even if they did, registered gun dealers that still sell pistols, are non-existent in many cities.  Most of the cities around me don't have any, and Grandma is not in any condition to travel to one even if she knew the law.  What's she supposed to do, take a long trip on a bus with all her dead husband's guns, most widows don't drive when they get old enough to have that problem.  As a result we absolutely know that thousands of guns are sold or given to other people every year, because we know they aren't going though the system.
Even worse, I know some gun owners who didn't want to pay the fees for doing it legally so they just sold them on the black market.  If they ever get caught because the gun is used in a crime I'm sure they will insist it's still locked up in their house.... well until they look and report back that it's gone.  
Ward Tipton Added Jan 31, 2019 - 7:29pm
I would say move to Nevada but that is not always an option either. I lived about two miles in from the California border but ... up that far along the 395 corridor ... it was still more like the real world. 
Rusty Smith Added Jan 31, 2019 - 8:27pm
Ward Tipton I pass thought that part of 395 whenever I go camping, hunting or fishing in the Easter Sierra.  Very pretty up there.  I do like the pace and attitude up there better than in the cities.
Ward Tipton Added Jan 31, 2019 - 10:42pm
Susanville was turning into a crack haven when I left, but there were still some beautiful spots outside of those "big cities". I had a 170 acre section of land ... the contiguous land up there, on Honey Lake, just outside of Herndon ... Honey Lake is actually dry ocean bed ... so do not let the name fool you. Lots of good deals on land there through the tax auctions, but any time you want services, better be prepared to take care of them yourself. The City and County both claim "ownership" when taxes are due, and try to push ownership off on the other any time roads or anything else needs repaired. 

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