Knife Artistry with John Dingman

My husband, John, started making knives in 2017. He had always been a talented wood artist, making wooden swords and axes with ease. Let’s just say the Boy Scout’s woodcarving badge was cake for him! He enjoys making avant-garde blades for people to use, admire, and treasure.

Knife Artistry with John Dingman
Knife Artistry with John Dingman
Follow the life of the “Sonora” blade from beginning to end!
Video Credit: Hunter Rand

John never thought about working with metal until he met with his Uncle Doug and Rod Chappel. The curves on John’s knives are unique, inspired by legendary knifemaker, Roderick “Caribou” Chappel, who I’ve written about more extensively in a previous post. They are designed to be ergonomic and artistically inspired by the curves of the womanly figure.

We wanted to take you on a blade’s journey from start, to finish. John works out of our garage in a space that is approximately 10′ x 6′. In this video you will see that he uses a commercial size (Burr King) belt grinder, bench grinder, drill press, metal files, and spindle sander in order to fashion this blade. He dreams of having a spacious workshop dedicated to his knifemaking business one day. John is heading in the right direction!

He appreciates an assortment of artwork, from blades and wood carvings, to drawings and paintings. John enjoys creating things from scratch. This is his passion, and he is striving for perfection and uniqueness in every blade.

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The Sonora Knife by John Dingman
This is the end product!
Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

That’s a Wrap!

Zero Tolerance 0770CF with a paracord lanyard Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Paracord is basically yarn for outdoorsy people. There is much enjoyment to be found in braiding paracord bracelets, slings, and knife lanyards. Having no prior experience, I looked up the directions and learned from videos on the internet. Paracord is amazing in that it can be used for shelter, hammocks, snare traps, fishing line, fish netting, fire, bear bags, and more. It’s easy to underestimate the innate utility of something so simple.

There are paracords that can hold 550 lbs, 620, or even up to 750 lbs of weight. A really interesting type of paracord is the SurvivorCord by Titan Survival Company that functions as waterproof fire tender, fishing line, and also snare building material. The flammable thread core burns readily, there is plastic cordage for up to 25 lbs of weight for fishing line, and hearty wire to compose a snare trap. You’ve probably seen the survival bracelets with a compass or flint built in, and perhaps some small tools such as fishing hooks and line hidden inside of the weaves of the bracelet. These are nifty to have, especially when you’re out in the woods.

A decent paracord wrap can improve the grip on your knife, especially if the knife is like the ESEE Izula. The ESEE Izula is one of ESEE’s most popular knives and can be purchased either with or without scales. It’s all personal preference. There are methods called the easy wrap, basic criss-cross, sword style, etc. Some knifemakers pre-wrap their skeletonized blades with paracord of the customers choosing.

Paracord can be knotted and used as an extension of the knife, especially if the knife handle isn’t very long. The snake knot can be used to make this extension. People have even used the snake knot technique to make strong zipper pulls for bags and clothing. More tactical and less tacky! Here is an instructional video by Blade HQ on how to make a snake knot lanyard!

That’s the tea! Thank you for reading and please feel invited to leave a comment and share this post with friends!


3 Ways to Get a Grip!

The Importance of Grip

Let’s be honest, the last thing you want is unnecessary hand blisters. Our bodies adapt to nature, just as your tools should. Did you know that in water, our hands shrivel up like raisins due to osmosis and also in order to increase our grip in wet environments? Survival is all about adaptation and performance in ever-changing environments. Maintaining homeostasis is the goal. The best knives for any environmental conditions will perform comfortably, hold an edge, and decently avoid corrosion. You can check out more important qualities to look for in a blade by reading my previous blog post. Grip matters, so here are three grip specs to look for in your next knife purchase!

1- Handle Material

The quality of handle material matters a lot to me. I prefer a decent wood, g-10, or micarta handle. Hardwoods or stabilized burl woods may be used to construct a robust knife handle with the beauty of natural wood. G-10, an exceptional performer, is a stable laminate composite, epoxy-filled woven glass fiber. G-10 is light, strong, durable, impervious to many chemicals, and resistant to changes in temperature. Micarta is very similar to G-10 and is made up of composites of linen, canvas, fiberglass, paper, or carbon fiber in phenolic resin or thermosetting plastic. Micarta is also smoother than G-10. Whatever handle you choose, make sure you like the feel and the looks!  

2- Ergonomic Shape

Ergonomics is another important feature- you won’t want to use a knife if it doesn’t feel comfortable in your hand. You don’t want the knife to rub blisters on or strain your hand during use. Your hand web between your thumb and forefinger should rest on the top of the knife while your fingers wrap around the knife naturally. The fit relies on the geometry of the knife, the shape of your hand, and the working motions performed when using the knife. Ambidextrous versatility of a knife is great, but people tend to use their dominant hand for most tasks.

3- Balance

The best knives have good balance established. There is no uniform balance point, because blade shapes and lengths are all different. Some are made blade-heavy, and some handle-heavy. The balance is all about personal preference. Some of us choke up on grips, some of us sink into the back of grips depending on how light or heavy, long or short the knife is. Handle thickness (or thinness) and material also plays a role in how the blades balance. The balance also dictates where and how you apply force to do work most efficiently. Think physics (Newtons Law, etc.)

Guide to knife handle materials by Knife Informer gives a super comprehensive look at each of the handle materials and a sample knife to go along.

Here are some of the most notoriously comfortable knives with awesome handles that have honorable mentions:

Morakniv Companion ($14.66 on Amazon)

Ontario Rat ($27.08 on Amazon)

Gerber Bear Grylls ($39.30 on Amazon)

CRKT Hissatsu ($58.15 on Amazon)

ESEE Izula ($65.00 on Amazon)

Gerber Strong Arm ($67.89 on Amazon)

KA-BAR Becker BK2 ($82.00 on Amazon)

Benchmande Mini Griptilian ($93.50 on Amazon)

ESEE Knives 6P ($108.44 on Amazon)

Zero Tolerance 0350 ($139.99 on Amazon)

Tops Knives Apache Falcon ($146.12 on Amazon)

Helle GT ($154.00 on Amazon)

ESEE Knives 5P ($158.24 on Amazon)

Tops Knives Bushcrafter Kukri ($172.00 on Amazon)

That’s the tea! Every time I do one of these reviews, I see more blades that I am tempted to add to our collection. I enjoy both factory made and custom.

Thank you for reading this post, and don’t forget to subscribe. Please let me know what types of knives and handles you prefer in the comments!


Me, casually grinding blades under the watchful eye of my husband. I always love to pick out the custom grip material. Always wear your protective gear!

Photo Credit: John Dingman

Sword Swallowing Spectacle

Plastic sword swallowing with John Dingman!
Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Sword Swallowers: Human Sword Sheaths

Have you ever seen a knife or sword swallowing performance? It’s a dangerous, yet intriguing art. The pointy end of the sword goes all the way past the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, and touches down into the stomach. The sword swallowing performer must suppress the gag-reflex. People have died from improperly swallowing swords. The art of sword swallowing is said to take anywhere from three to ten years to master, and only certain individuals can train their physiology to allow it.

How Do They Do It?

Some sword swallowers eat and drink a large amount before their performance so that the stomach takes on a more elongated shape that the sword can fit into better. You have to really understand the delicacy of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the tissues that could be accidentally sliced, punctured, scraped, or perforated. Damaged tissues could cause internal bleeding or be prone to infection. They can use stainless steel or damascus steel swords that I talked about in a previous blog post of mine, but they should be ones that are small enough to fit into the mouth and GI tract.

The Origins of Sword Swallowing

Sword swallowing was originally practiced by Indian Fakirs and Shaman priests who also exercised other interesting arts such as hot coal walking and snake charming. Sword swallowing travelled from India to Greece, Rome, China, Japan, and Europe as a new component to accompany the other traditional entertainment acts in theater and street performances. Many festivals in these countries incorporated fire breathers and sword swallowers. Indian sword swallowing advertisements first appeared in an English magazine in the 1800s and was regarded as prime entertainment. Interestingly, Scandinavians outlawed the act of sword swallowing in 1893.

Modern Sword Swallowing

29-year-old Professional Sword Swallower, Alex Magala, was winner of Russia’s Got Talent in 2014, Finalist in Italia’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got Talent, Semi-Finalist in Ukraine’s Got Talent and Quarter-Finalist in America’s Got Talent. You have to see his death defying sword swallowing performance from America’s Got Talent. That performance still gives me chills!

And that’s the tea! Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment and subscribe for more knife knowledge.


3 Reasons Why You Need a Car Knife

TAC-Force blade in my emergency medical kit. Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Why should you keep a knife in your car? There are 3 main reasons that immediately come to mind. Rescue, survival, and self-defense. My Father inspired me to always keep an emergency knife in my car. There are really cost efficient knives with a seatbelt cutter and window breaker built in. I like to keep mine in my glovebox or middle compartments of my vehicles. You can even velcro it for secure storage. Some knives even have small flashlights and fire starters incorporated into their design! A tactical type knife can be considered a car knife. A GearHungry article on the 10 Best Tactical Knives in 2019 written by Jordan Carter lists the top rated tactical blades.
TAC-Force produce extremely affordable knives with lots of potential. Right now it’s $7.40 for the cheapest all-in-one TAC-Force knife (knife, seatbelt cutter, and glass breaker). You’d be paying that much money for the seatbelt cutter and glass breaker as a combo tool by itself. At least you get a knife with a serrated edge when you buy the EMT type knife. A car knife doesn’t need to be expensive, but if you want something better quality, you can invest in something like the Kershaw Barricade or Blur, or a Leatherman Signal, depending on your needs. The Leatherman Signal has an emergency whistle along with a knife, saw blade, sharpener, hammer, and screw driver heads. Read more about multi-tools and their extreme utility on my previous blog post.

TAC-Force Knife on Amazon (Approximately $7.40)

MTECH Knife on Amazon (Approximately $8.99)

Kershaw Barricade (Approximately $23.19)

Kershaw Blur (Approximately $69.10)

Leatherman Signal (Approximately $95.95)


A seatbelt cutter can come to your aid just in case your seatbelt mechanism isn’t working. Seat belts can malfunction and cause entrapment during accidents or other emergencies. If someone is trapped and their door won’t open, the window breaker can be used to create an escape route. These tactics don’t just apply to cars but to other scenarios as well if someone is trapped in a room with glass windows or tied up.


Call me the paranoid preparer, but I always bring extra water, food, clothes, blankets, and a medical kit when I go on road trips. The idea of being stuck somewhere without supplies is not appealing to me. You can build a fire, shelter, and prepare food thanks to your emergency car knife. Always remember, a sharp and clean knife is a happy knife. Don’t forget to keep a small portable sharpening tool in your camping survival pack, medical kit, or bug out bag.


If your vehicle is non-functional, escaping danger via your car is no longer a viable option. I always keep a car knife in addition to my everyday carry (EDC) knife. We don’t expect to be in bad situations, nor can we anticipate what will happen on a road trip or in the spur of the moment as we are travelling to our next errand. A car knife could be the tool that helps you get away from or subdue an attacker. I really like tasers for this purpose.

Thank you for reading this post. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about keeping a knife in your car and what other purposes it may serve for you.


Femme Fatale

Drawing the katana Photo Credit: John Dingman

My dad surprised me with a plastic sword from Disneyland when I was young. I also had a retractable lightsaber… You know, just all the girly essentials. I would sit in the back seat of the vehicle and look through the karate weapons catalog that my dad got in the mail every year. I would circle the prettiest swords, sais, nunchaku, escrima sticks, and bo staffs. Pageants just aren’t my thing, guys! I sought to learn more about the strong women warriors in ancient legends and emulate their good qualities. Let’s explore some of the most famous swordswomen that impacted history.

One of the earliest swordswomen, Yuenu (“Lady of Yue”) from Zhejiang Province, China lived around 496-465 BCE. She learned archery and the art of the sword from her father, who took her hunting regularly. She impressed the King of Yue and ended up training his army in swordsmanship. Her art of the sword is one of the earliest recognized and has influenced martial arts. Although she didn’t know it at the time, her instruction has been immortalized and succeeded in traversing time itself.

Legendary warrior of the 15th century, Saint Joan of Arc, started out as a peasant who had no money, no sword training, and no military strategy lessons. She attained each of those things with much passion and her inspiration from God. She wielded a banner and sword in battle, mostly giving out strategic advice to the warriors. She obtained her sword of from the church of Saint Catherine of Fierbois, which is rumored to have previously belonged to Charles Martel. Contrary to popular belief, she is known for her short-fused temper and volatile speech, but did not kill any Englishmen. The English ended up burning her at the stake and she died from smoke inhalation.

Tomoe Gozen was a samurai woman from 12th century Japan. She is known for her exceptional bravery and loyalty during the Genpei War at the Battle of Awazu. She was beautiful, skilled in the sword, masterful in archery, and able to handle unbroken horses with expertise. Another game changer, Nakano Takeko was a Japanese Warrior of the Aizu Domain during the 19th century. She trained in martial and literary arts from a young age and specialized in bladed pole and one-sword fighting. She had killed 172 samurai before she got shot with a bullet to the chest and died in the Boshin War.

I believe that anyone can do whatever they set their mind on. If someone wants to learn the sword, they will practice the techniques repeatedly until the actions becomes second nature. Not surprisingly, most female warriors from Japan wielded katana. If you want to learn more about the katanas used in feudal Japan, give my previous post a read. Also check out this young woman warrior, Karate Kid Jesse Jane McParland, performing with her katana at WAKO 2018 by WAKO Kickboxing YouTube Channel.

Thanks for reading! If you like the sword arts and culture please subscribe and leave a comment!


Photo Credit: John Dingman

Don’t Knock Neck Knives

John’s neck knife by maker Michael Rader (Seattle, WA). Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Neck knives are typically a lightweight, slender fixed blade knife. They don’t normally consist of any moving parts (just solid construction) and are often encased in a Kydex (thermoplastic) fitted sheath. The sheath is tight fitting so that no accidental deployment of the blade occurs. The handle may have a skeletonized core with a paracord wrap for lightweightedness and grip. Usually these knives are carried inverted with the blade facing upward and handle facing downward.

People even hike and run with neck knives for protection and survival. The neck holster is usually suspended by a ball chain necklace like the soldiers wear military dog tags on. That way, if something or someone pulls your chain, it should break without damaging your neck or obstructing your breathing. My husband used his neck knife for wood carving, which is a great use for a neck knife while out camping. These minimalist-oriented neck knives can be used for kindling and small tasks around the campsite.

They have karambit neck knives that feature an inconspicuous way to carry a fixed blade for self defense. Karambit neck knives are inspired by the traditional karambit from Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia). Forged in Fire Judge, Founder and Owner of Marcaida Kali, and Edge Impact Weapons and Combat Specialist, Doug Marcaida, illustrates the true potential of the karambit neck knife in this video by Max Venom (the company that makes the DMax karambits).

Doug stressed that retention in the hand is a big problem for small neck knives. You don’t want to lose the grasp you have on the handle, especially in a self-defense situation. Karambits feature a ring at the end of their handle, which makes the knife easier to draw and retain. The advantages are that the knife is not bulky and will not bring any attention to the person carrying it. The disadvantage is that knife drawing quickness may be hindered when worn underneath clothing. I discussed knife fighting and some implications in my previous blog post.

There are also push dagger neck knives available for purchase. You hold this blade handle in between your forefinger and middle finger and the use is primarily for self defense. Again, you never know when you may need a cutting edge. I prefer a lightweight neck knife like John’s made by Michael Rader (Seattle, WA). It has a paracord wrapped handle and is extremely light. Although I don’t have one, the Esee Izula seems to be a great neck knife with a solid architecture.

Thanks for stopping by and reading this post. If you enjoy neck knives, martial arts, and the great outdoors, please subscribe for updates and leave a comment below!


Neck knife with Kydex sheath and paracord wrapped handle. Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman