In addition to pursuing my cellular and molecular biology research and medical professional careers, I am a knife artistry dealer. My husband and I started Big John Blades in 2018 with a mission in mind: Everyone needs a sophisticated cutting edge. I think that everyone deserves the best quality knives; I’m here to deliver the education and product. I’m a believer that quality and price are highly correlated. As a custom knife collector with a scientific mind, I continually research the market and invest in high quality knife-making materials. I'm here to listen to the customers expectations and help them create their custom knife.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, survivalist, hunter, adventurer, camper, hiker, or connoisseur, an exceptional knife is an asset to any collection. Retail stores can't offer the unique artistry and quality a custom blade will. Custom knives hold their value and in certain instances, increase in value over the years. They are distinguished pieces of art passed down through the generations.
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.
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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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!
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.
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.)
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!
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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My husband, John Dingman, inspired me to share about wood carving artistry culture. Even before he started making knives, John has always been an avid wood carver. It was a creative outlet where he could make anything he wanted. He carved out wooden knives, bowies, neckerchief slides, walking sticks, katana, broadswords, and battle axes. I’m pretty sure he has a PhD in wood carving. A regular plain edge paring knife is typically used for wood carving. Many wood carvers may use fixed blade or folding knives depending on the situation. Palm chisels (which have specialized edges and scoops) may be used for detail work. Just like a small paintbrush for detailed painting, a long and thin knife can get into tight spots on what you’re sculpting. Understanding three main techniques and practicing good safety, anyone can start basic woodcarving! According to John, there are three main carving techniques: stop cut, v-cut, and paring cut. You use the stop cut to score a line and cut toward that line so the knife won’t go any further past it. This method is used for precision when chipping away material. The safety stops are established so that knife blade will stop at the pre-determined score. You are essentially control the depth of the cut. The next essential technique is the v-cut; A proper v-cut is performed by cutting a wedge into the wood using two diagonal cuts to create an angular indentation. Using this method is great to contour a piece of wood. Last but not least, the simple pear cut is executed like you are peeling a potato. You can pare slice out away from yourself and also slice toward yourself. Be careful when paring toward yourself because that’s where most accidents in wood carving occur.
There are books that will teach you all of the basic cuts and show example diagrams. You can also get step by step guidebooks that direct you from start to finish during your wood carving projects. Bill Burch known as “Scouting’s Whittler” of the Boy Scouts of America, made artistic caricature neckerchief slides. The crowd of Boy Scouts would gather around him while he whittled to watch as he made small blocks of wood come to life. According to my sources, it took him 20 minutes flat to make a detailed neckerchief slide. Wood carvers are few and hard to come by. Wood carving time-lapse videosby Viral Maniacs with various artists and projects let us see all of the detail that goes into making these unique pieces of art.
With wood carving it’s always important to keep your knife sharp. It’s not the sharp knife that’s dangerous, it’s the dull knife you need to worry about. The dull knife doesn’t cut very well, so you press harder, slip by accident, and cut yourself. Themain sharpening methodsand some additional honing techniques to keep your knives in tip-top shape are examined in a previous blog post of mine. When cutting with a sharp knife, cuts should be smooth and clean, with minimal effort. Always check the blood circle, with your folding knife closed or fixed knife sheathed and stick your whittling arm out to make sure that nobody is within arms reach. That way, if your blade slips, nobody else in your proximity will get hurt.
When it comes to wood carving, it’s always a better idea to use soft woods. The more minimal grain in wood, the better. If there more grain lines, it’s more difficult to cut through precisely and you may end up removing more wood than you bargained for due to the weakness of that section in connectivity to the rest of the wood. Wood carvers try to avoid these common pitfalls by planning the best way possible and adapting to the textures of the wood. To plan your project, draw a stencil or draw on the object to help create the profile. You have to really plan three dimensionally. Safety is dramatically increased by wearing a Kevlar glove in your holding hand. The Kevlar glove should be the first thing you purchase if you want to begin wood carving. If you can help it, always cut away from yourself. John advises to always have a first aid kit nearby and wear your Kevlar, as his many hand scars illustrate the accidents he experienced throughout his artistry. We can really appreciate the hard work that goes into these rare and eclectic artistries.
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Let’s travel back in time to the Muromachi Period in Japan (approximately 1392-1573 AD). The samurai of ancient and feudal Japan used curved, svelte, single edged swords called katana on the battlefield and in martial arts. Katanas were carried around upside-down with the cutting edge facing upward for quicker draw. The first to draw and slice the opponent was typically the victor. Wakizashi (smaller swords) or tanto (dagger) were often paired with the katana. The signature of the maker on the blade (mei) were meant to be worn facing outward. The samurai carried the katana and wakizashi pair called “daisho” as an illustration of honor and social rank.
The katana is typically 24 inches or more in length, 1.2 kg in mass, and has a long grip for two-handed wielding. The hand guard, called the “tsuba,” separates the handle portion from the blade portion of the sword. Katana are traditionally made from Japanese steel called “tamahagane.” Tamahagane steel is made by smelting (heating) iron steel on charcoal at low temperatures. The katana contains layers of different carbon concentration: a softer core steel of lower carbon content called “shingane,” and a hard exterior jacket of higher carbon content called “kawagane.” This construction gave the katana a strong and flexible architecture, and very sharp edges. During the purification process, steels are folded, welded, and hammered to create a unified material. Once purified, the steel is drawn out into a billet and hammered to become longer.
The sword doesn’t get its notorious curve until the hardening/quenching process. Differences in the densities of the steels microstructures cause the blade to bend during the hardening process. The edges of the katana receive a thinner coat and the spine receives a thick coat of special clay slurry. Black rice straw ashes are used as a coating to retain carbon content. The blade is heated, then quenched using water. The distinct design along the sides of the blade called the “hamon” are made using clay; every sword makers hamon is a distinguishing artistic mark unlike any other. Polishing stones are used to make the hamon stand out against the rest of the blade. For the blade to perform at its full potential, it must be sharpened using a whetstone process I describe in a previous blog post.
To test katana sharpness and strength, Samurai would slice condemned criminals or those who insulted their honor in half. Bushido was the code of honor and self-sacrifice for Samurai. Adherence to Bushido was dynamic; some truthfully followed it and some merely acknowledged the principles. In addition to having a katana, wakizashi, and tanto, Samurai regularly practiced archery.
How do I get a katana? Authentic Japanese katana can cost thousands of USD! John and I were intrigued by the Cold Steel katanas at last years Blade Show. Although they are not custom made in Japan, their feel and functionality makes for an affordable alternative. They are made out of 1095 spring steel or 1095/1060 folded damascus. This Cold Steel video provides demonstrations of the Emperor series tanto, wakizashi, and katana. Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.
If you enjoy blade artistry and Japanese katana, please say hello and leave a comment below!
Multi-tools can be extremely helpful in a myriad of circumstances. Unfortunately, we can’t have our toolbox everywhere, at all times. The multi-tool was created to be portable, durable, and functional. Almost every major knife company out there makes their own multi-tool. They may contain but are not limited to: a large blade (flat or serrated), pen blade, screwdrivers (flat and Phillips), pliers, scissors, file, fish scaler, corkscrew, magnifier, bottle cap opener, can opener, awl, tweezers, toothpick, wire cutters, wire strippers, saw, and cutting hook. A multi tool with knives and various other tools incorporated could be a serious life-saving instrument, as I’ve written about in a previous blog post.
When we think of multi-tools, the golden standard Victorinox Swiss Army Knives might be the first thing that pops into our mind. Victorinox was founded in 1884 (135 years ago) by Karl Elsener of Ibach, Switzerland, and is considered to be the world’s largest pocket knife manufacturers. “Victorinox” was named for his late mother, “Victoria,” combined with “inox,” an abbreviation for stainless steel in French. His knives and surgical instruments were constructed from German and French steels and made for the utilization of the Swiss Army. The warranty they provide is a lifetime guarantee against manufacturer’s defects and workmanship (no charge to the customer).
Leatherman was in 1983 founded by Timothy Leatherman and Steven Berliner in Portland, Oregon USA. They called their first multi-tool the “pocket survival tool” or PST. Leatherman’s goal was to design a “Boy Scout knife with pliers.” He did just that and sold his first PST multi-tools through Cabela’s and Early Winter’s mail-order catalogs. They are both designed and manufactured in Oregon. I know for a fact that Leatherman stands behind their products with their 25-year guarantee warranty. They have excellent customer service that aligns with their brand values. If you send your leatherman in, the company will either completely fix the problem or will replace the whole tool with a new one (no charge to the customer).
I have my eye on the new Leatherman Free P4 (the new king of pragmatic pocket tools). It goes for about $139.95 on Leatherman’s website. It has 21 tools configured in an all-in-one easy to open multi-tool. The tool was actually created to be operated with one hand. This means no nail grooves and struggling to get the tools out. The engineers really put together a new beast and I’m so excited to try this tool out. They call it the “ultimate problem solver,” for a reason.
We have the Top 10 Multi-Tools for 2019 by Jordan Carter from Gear Hungry to help guide our new multi-tool selection process. Gear Hungry has always given me great product reviews so that I’m educated on the pros and cons before I go shopping. I also watch all the YouTube Videos I can find before making a purchase. Blade HQ provides an authentic review of their products online with either an unboxing or functional video to accompany each.
Leatherman Free Collection Review by Blade HQ:
I hope you enjoyed this post on multi-tools! Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below!