Looking Sharp

Some knives are hung in glass display boxes on our walls. These knives are made by various bladesmiths and collected over the course of the past 20 years. As pragmatic pieces of art, we can admire their craftsmanship, or elect to take them out of the display to use them in the field. We all want to be sure that our knives are ready for the tasks at hand. I’m a believer that the tools we use should always be in tip-top shape, ready to perform.

During your adventures, your knife edge will become dull with regular usage. Interestingly, a dull blade is considerably more dangerous than a sharp blade. How is this? It takes more strength and ergonomic dexterity to handle a dull knife. In trying to cut with a dull knife, the blade may slip through unexpectedly and end up cutting you or something else unintended. This is how accidents happen. How often should you sharpen? That is dictated by activity level and wear-and-tear. I usually test the knife sharpness by cutting through a piece of paper.

In order to avoid dull-knife associated accidents, we look to sharpening methods for solutions. One commonly accepted method is using sanding stones such as whetstone, or diamondstone, and mineral oil. The knife should be sharpened using sides with rougher grits and then progress to sides with finer grits. This process will remove more metal from the knife, but will theoretically keep the blade sharper for the longest period of time.

There are some temporary sharpening techniques that can get you by if you don’t have access to sanding stones. One such sharpening method includes using a honing rod for a quicker and less invasive way to sharpen blades. Using a honing rod will not remove as much metal from your knife and will tide the knife over until it can be sharpened using a stone. Even the ceramic bottom of a coffee mug can be used to hone a blade. Glass can be used in a similar way. Just like all sharpening methods, this will prolong the sharpness of the blade. Stropping is a technique that employs a leather or nylon belt as a temporary method used to make the edge sharp and aligned. Grab a newspaper! The black ink acts as polish (due to carbon-based compounds in the ink) and the material has enough grit in it to sharpen a little.

Many individuals enjoy using tools like Work Sharp as a one-stop-shop for knife shaping, sharpening, and honing of edges. For on-the-go sharpening, there are also pocket-sized tools available for purchase that are built complete with diamond sharpening plate and ceramic honing rod. You’d be surprised how well a guided field sharpener works! There are various other brands that have small sanding combos available for purchase as well.

Knife makers and collectors enjoy coming together and sharing their experiences and thoughts about the proper sharpening methods to use. Each knife is different and not all sharpening methods work best for different knives. I’m a big supporter of pocket sharpeners, especially when you’re outdoors, packing light, and miles away from your garage. As always, it’s a pleasure interacting and hearing the thoughts about methods that others have experienced success with. Please share your go-to sharpening methods with me in the comments below and subscribe to this blog if you enjoy reading this content! Thank you!

Boot knife made from 440C stainless steel and blue burl elder wood.

How a Knife Could Save Your Life

What are the most essential uses of blades in survival? Here are 5 survival tactics that we can employ to attain several physiological necessities:

Shelter: You can use the knife to cut branches to the right lengths for building a shelter structure. Once branches of similar sizes are gathered for your survival hut, you can also skillfully put notches into the building materials so that they stay together better. Keep the shelter small and simple, covering the internal stick structure with leaves and debris.

Water: To fashion a vessel for water, the knife can be used to slice bark from a large, non-flaky branch in a rectangular shape (essentially skinning it and peeling the bark off gently). You can fold up and pierce holes in the edges of the rectangle and tie those edges together for a more bowl-like shape. A split stick and small strips of bark can act as clothes pins for each corner.

Warmth: Keeping yourself warm is critical for survival in cold weather. To make a fire, a bow, spindle, and fireboard will do the trick. Firstly to make the bow, a flexible branch is selected and split on both sides so that a twisted string of bark can be strung through both ends. A spindle piece can be carved into a point on both ends. This bow and spindle can then drill into a fireboard that you pre-poke a spot for the spindle to rotate in. The coal produced from the friction that the spindle creates is deposited into shreds of fine bark tender.

Food: After collecting some edible plants or trapping some animals, a knife is used to field dress and cut up portions of food. The knife can also be used as a shovel to dig up roots. In order to create a fishing rod, fishing line can be made by stripping off appropriate plant fibers and weaving them. Antler can be ground in into hooks and grubs can be found to attract hungry fish. Fish can then be processed using the knife to slit the belly and take out the internal organs. If you’re not a fan of sushi, you can put a stick up through the mouth (piercing through to the end of the fish) and roast them over the fire.

Self Defense: In efforts to avoid close contact with predators, pointy spears can be fashioned from sturdy branches. Not all predatory animals are well nourished and may see you as an opportunity for a meal. It’s life or death when fending off dangers like mountain lions, bears, and boars. Having a knife is definitely better than nothing.

You never know when you may find yourself in a rough situation. With the right knowledge and adept skills, a knife can make a huge difference. I know we can all appreciate the many facets of knives! If you like this content, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and subscribe for more!

Hunting/skinning knife made by Big John Blades.

The First Cut is the Deepest

Hello, my name is Kammi Dingman, and I’m all about that knife life! The unique thing about me is that I am a woman knife dealer in a male-dominated market. I equip myself with the knowledge necessary to advise or share my experience in my field. Knives are not only tools, but artistic reflections of our culture and history forged from necessity. A blade is a tool that we can’t live without; a tool for which there is no alternative. Over the ages, blades have earned value based on their performance qualities and artistic presentations. For example, the Kukri is an inwardly curved machete-type blade traditionally made in Nepal and India for chopping and daily utility. Knife shapes, grind styles, and sharpening techniques have become more specialized over time.

Manufactured knives come in all different shapes, sizes, styles, and grinds. Companies like Spyderco, Benchmade, and Kershaw make a variety of products for consumers. Just like painting reproductions, there’s a lot of manufactured knives to go around; They are not necessarily rare or hard to come by. Custom knives are considered to be art and are used and collected by individuals. They are regarded as assets, similarly to how a collector treats prized paintings and sculptures. Skillfully handmade knives are signed or stamped by the bladesmith, just as an artist signs their paintings.

Why do people collect art or things in general? Interest in collecting originates psychologically from the appreciation for the item. These items are seen as assets that communicate value and satisfaction to collectors. Acknowledging an artists work to be pleasing, we want to own a piece.

My husband, John Dingman, is a distinguished bladesmith who enjoys making original custom pieces for our customers. During John’s experiences at Boy Scouts of America, he first displayed his extraordinary talent for wood artistry at a young age. Even after completing the BSA program and achieving the high rank of Eagle Scout, he was still passionate about making eclectic wooden knives, swords, walking sticks, battle axes, and more. In 2018, after drawing out designs and researching the protocols and techniques that the legendary knife makers use, he created his first knife all by himself.

Since then, we enjoy contributing to the western culture and knife communities by participating in forum discussions and trade show exhibitions. We have met such kind people in the knife making community (buyers, makers, and sellers alike) at Blade Shows. I am honest, knowledgeable, and believe that there is nothing like a good custom made knife. Stay tuned for more cutting edge artistry thoughts!

Pictured is a Kukri (Gurkha knife) from India. This tool is a staple for the cultures in Nepal and some parts of India.

kukri pic