Game of Blades

Who’s ready for GOT? Yes, this is a Lord of the Rings King Théoden Sword. It felt right.
This is my best attempt at GOT. We really need to get some GOT swords!
Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Most of us are quaking in our seats for tonight’s big season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones (GOT). I know I’ve been humming the theme song all day! An integral part of Game of Thrones is their sword fighting choreography. The most famous blades on GOT include Jon Snow’s Longclaw, Arya Stark’s Needle, Ned Stark’s Ice, Joffrey’s Widow’s Wail, and Brienne of Tarth’s Oathkeeper. One of the most famous types of steel in the show, Valyrian steel, is the most prized sword and tool material. In addition to fire and dragonglass, Valyrian steel weapons may be used to kill the white walkers.

Valyrian steel was forged using magic in Valyria. They are lighter, stronger, and sharper than regular steel swords. It is distinguished by its rippled patterns that bear resemblance to damascus steel (folded billets of contrasting metals treated with acid to etch). Forging damascus is an ancient artform involving ingots of wootz steel and lots of folding.

Think about how croissants are made! This type of steel derives its namesake from Damascus, Syria. There’s some rumor that the damascus steel swords cut through the European’s steel swords when they came through Damascus. Many high-end custom blades are made out of damascus steel. Folding the billets is an artform within itself! Ice from GOT is hand-forged by Man at Arms in Season 3, Episode 35. This video is amazing as it shows you the process it takes to make Ned Stark’s Ice.

The blade is dipped in ferric chloride or muriatic acid in order to etch the damascus. There are well known designs such as ladder, reptilian, random, vines & roses, typhoon, raindrop, diamondback, basketweave, herringbone, fireball, etc. Damasteel has a great selection of traditional and original design damascus billets that you can purchase for stock removal. I have written about stock removal methods in a previous blog post of mine.

Damascus steel is very pretty, but it took us a long time to get there. The first swords were forged out of copper and were very quick to dull and bend. Then swords were revamped and made stronger with bronze (an alloy of tin and copper). Bronze is still a soft metal; There wasn’t a decent sword until stainless steels made from iron and carbon entered the scene. Swords are rated for their balance, harness, strength, and flexibility. GOT weaponry has a lot of similarities to the real world materials used in real-life blades. Who will sit upon the Iron Throne as the next Monarch of Westeros?

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Felt cute. Might conquer the Iron Throne later.
Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

My Great-Grandfather’s Knives

My great-grandfather was a kind and simple Oklahoman man. Although I was born after he had passed away, I know he was just like my grandmother who raised me: a hard worker and good advice giver. He had a small knife collection of humble necessities. A collection can be unique and interesting, no matter how big or small. His treasures have been passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to myself. This post is about his every day carry (EDC) knives, which he cherished. It’s important to have a good EDC knife, which I have written about along with my recent selection process experience in a previous blog post.

There are mostly elegant cream and bone colored knives in his collection. The handles are made from plastic composites, micarta, and wood. One of the most interesting knives in his collection is a 1950’s vintage 7″ Colonial Shur-Snap Cream Sabre Ground Blade Fishtail Automatic Switchblade Knife. I think this one must have been his favorite according to the telltale wear and tear on the blade. Another knife in his collection is a 4″ small version of the French Chatellerault Stilleto Fishtail Knives produced in the 1950’s to 1960’s. Although more of a novelty-type knife, it gives off a dainty and elegant aura. Another favorite of his was the Disneyland multi-tool. Multi-tools always come in handy, so the Disneyland collectors edition (which bears a resemblance to a short and compact swiss army knife construction) is a very useful utility knife for any gentleman. Last but not least, he has a well used Old Timer which bears resemblance to some case knives. Cabela’s still sells Old Timer knives with their vintage design! See how Gentleman’s knives have updated their image in Blade Magazine article by Dexter Ewing.

These knives led meaningful lives of daily utility and had a home in my great-grandfather’s pocket. A gentlemans knife is usually stored in their shirt/jacket or pants pocket and used daily. You can tell that my Great-Grandfather loved every gift that my Grandmother (his daughter) gave him by the way he held her gifts close to his heart. If any of you know my Grandmother, she has the best taste in all things décor, clothing, and style. This collection shows me that she is also an expert EDC knife picker!

The purest form of knife collecting is all about the sentimental value of your pieces. If something speaks to you, you should do your research, buy it at a good price and add it to your collection. Many knives appreciate in value if they are kept in good condition or if the custom maker passes away. Of course, this depends on who or what company made the knife, what materials its made out of, how large it is, and how exclusive or common it is. “There never was a good knife made out of bad steel.” – Benjamin Franklin

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My Great-Grandfather’s special knife collection. Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Talking About Tomahawks

As symbols of Native American cultures, tomahawks were single-handed axes originally made from rock or antler based blades and wooden handles. They were made and used by Native North Americans which traded with European colonial settlers in the 17th century. The Europeans made metal axe heads for their tomahawks, essentially improving the design to be more robust. Tomahawk nomenclature originates from Powhatan tamahaac, which translates as “to cut off by tool.” A straight staff or pipe is typically used for the construction of the tomahawk.

Interestingly, pipe tomahawks had a hole drilled down through the shaft and a bowl on the opposite side of the blade and could be used for smoking tobacco. They were designed to be diplomatic gifts from the European settlers to the Native Americans. The pipe side was symbolic of peace; whereas, the axe head was symbolic of war. The pipe tomahawk is a blend of the technologies from the two North American cultures during this time- that of the Native Americans and the new North American settlers. A great review of the best tactical tomahawks is written by Christopher Joseph from Total Guide Best Tactical Reviews.

Tomahawks were used by some United States soldiers in the Vietnam War during the 1950s. They have survival and tactical versatility as they are lighter and slimmer than hatchets. They are also useful in camping and bushcraft related activities. The cutting edge of a standard tomahawk is usually around 4 inches. They tend to feel rather ergonomic when used out in the field.

Tomahawks feature a nice long grip for leverage and good weapon control during chopping tasks and hand-to-hand combat. Similar to the concept of throwing knives, which I have written a blog post about, tomahawks may be thrown for self-defense or attack. Tomahawk throwing is considered to be a constituent of competitive knife throwing. Okichitaw, a martial art created by Plains Cree Northern Native Americans in regions of Canada, incorporates tomahawk (and other traditional indigenous weapon) fighting techniques.

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Decorative mini tomahawk in John’s collection.
Photo Credit: Julie Dingman

The Legend of Master Craftsman Roderick “Caribou” Chappel

Master Craftsman, Roderick “Caribou” Chappel, was a custom bladesmith based primarily out of Washington state. All of his blades were high-caliber works of art. He was an artist that brought his pen and paper drawings to life with ease and dexterity. A trail blazer, his passion for bladesmithing greatly impacted the custom knifemaking industry. His artistry is immortalized through his unique one-of-a-kind knives, daggers, and bowies. He has even been known to make a few hatchets and swords (very rare).

Rod Chappel was of Spanish and Native American descent. A man of artistic and calculating intellect, Rod switched gears from engineering to knifemaking exclusively. He learned some of his skills from working with famous knifemakers Harvey Draper and Gil Hibben as well as Bill Moran. He would make blades with standard cocobolo handles and brass finger guards and pommels. It would cost customers extra to upgrade to a superior handle materials, sub-hilts, and stainless steel finger guards and pommels. Interestingly, due to his Alaskan Native American lineage, Rod was able to legally utilize supreme materials such as walrus tusk ivory or whales teeth for some of his knives.

Rod started his first knife shop in Airway Heights, WA. At one point, he had his knife shop stationed at a shooting range in Mountlake Terrace, WA where he received custom orders for knives and would also serve to regrind and sharpen blades for $5 dollars each in less than 7 minutes flat per knife. The knife shop he established in Spokane called Davis Knives derived its namesake from his maternal grandfather (who we believe was a boat maker). He made hunting and fighting knives of all shapes and sizes that incorporated his elegant grind lines. He had knives ranging from small to very large, all with heft and quality feel. These include the Pioneer, Scout, Pheasant, Quail, Bobcat, Little Wolf, Redwood Forest, Mohawk Warrior, Salmon River Utility-Skinner, Lady Diana, Arctic Fox, Coeur D’Alene Fish Knife, Chief Joseph Utility Knife, Barren Ground Caribou, Micro Mini-Mag, Mini-Mag Bowie, Eagles Talon Boot Knife, Trophy Caper, Mini-Skinner, Sheffield Dagger, Marquis Lagdames De Espina, Hunter’s Bowie, Woodsman Bowie, and Hunting Leopard Bowie. From his smaller skinners to his big bowies, Rod’s artistry contributed timeless pieces to our knife culture. Typically, his blades were clad in beautifully tooled knife cases made by none other than the master saddle maker, Jesse Smith, of Jesse W. Smith Saddlery.

Rod Chappel and John Dingman visiting over lunch in 2015. Photo Credit: John Dingman

Notorious for his ergonomic hand sculpted grips and the superior mastery in his sweeping grinds, he implemented a hollow grind with a rolled convex edge that would be resilient and sharp through many events of usage. He was known for putting his body weight into the grinding wheel with expert sweeping motions during his knife profiling. He believed that there are 200 essential steps that must be executed in the construction of a good knife from beginning to finish and that a masterfully made blade can be made in only 22 hours. He used the stock removal procedure which is generally outlined in this previous blog post of mine. He was esteemed as a top member of the American Knife Makers Guild in the ’70s.

The world lost one of its greatest knifemakers as Rod passed away in 2017, but his elegant and pragmatic artwork remains ever alive and inspiring for collectors and sportsmen alike. He was passionate about inserting his unique knifemaking flare by making products that looked as fantastic as they performed. Many, intrigued by his work, took to Blade Forum’s discussions on Rod’s artistry. It’s great to hear everyone’s nostalgia via experiences with him and how his knives affected their lives. As collectors, we appreciate the hard work and artistry that went in to making these fantastic tools

If you appreciate knives and artistry, please leave a comment and subscribe! This post is dedicated to the memory and legend of Master Knifemaker Roderick “Caribou” Chappel, may he rest in peace.

1999 Roderick “Caribou” Chappel King Hunting Leopard Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Field Dressing Kit

Organic meat beats the hormone pumped alternatives any day. That’s why I support hunting and conservation. Once you receive your hunter’s safety certificate, you are able to purchase a hunting license and tags either through a raffle system or over-the-counter. In Nevada, we have a raffle system. There are different types of game to hunt from small to large. For big game there are various seasons such as muzzle-loader, archery, and regular rifle seasons. 

My brother is actually the one that got me into archery and hunting. He taught me how to shoot a BB gun, 22 rifle, and bow. I find the most enjoyment in doing archery for target practice. Arrows are basically reusable ammunition that last for a while. Archery is more difficult than rifle due to the close range you must be within to harvest the animal. Regardless of the method chosen, a field kit is a necessity for your hunting pack. Even a simple, but good knife can make a difference.

A decent field kit is a must. It will allow you to properly process the animal to the point where you can efficiently transport it to your campsite or kitchen for consumption or freezer storage. Listed are the components of a field dressing kit: caping knife, skinning knife (which may have a gut-hook), boning/fillet knife, bowie knife, wood/bone saw, and game shears. The first three types of knives (caping, skinning, and boning/fillet) are very essential and are the base of most kits. The purpose of a field kit is to essentially be as efficient as possible when processing the game. A variety of tools with plain edges and serrations are used. Here is a review of some popular field dressing knives by James Johnson from 

There are new advancements in field dressing equipment such as the Havalon series of knives. Each time the blade dulls, you are able to easily switch out the old scalpel for a new one. If interchangeable parts aren’t for you, sharpening your blades in advance and packing a field guided sharpening kit for on-the-go sharpening should do the trick! Check out this previous blog post of mine for tools and tips on sharpening your knives!

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Polished damascus steel knife by John Dingman made for our friend, Blaine.
Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Outdoor Chef

We have experienced false Spring, second Winter, and will be slowly transitioning to Summer here in Nevada. As things begin to warm up, BBQ or smoked meat and veggies sure hit the spot. When camping, taking a hardy knife will make the task of cooking a lot easier. If you don’t want to take your fancy chef’s knives from home, you can invest in a decent cooking all-around camp knife, which I talk about in a previous blog post, or knife kit that will aid you in your food preparation tasks. If you do want to bring your nice knives to the outdoors, just be aware of the rusting that the environment inflicts on the steels with higher carbon content.

From onions and meats to twine and sticks, the robust camp kitchen chef’s knife will perform and prove its worth in more than just the camp kitchen activities. Chef’s knives are the bigger and more robust knives in the kitchen. Rubberized handles make it easier for you to clean and sanitize the knife between tasks. After your adventure, these blades can usually be put in the dishwasher to deep-clean and sanitize at high temperatures. Let’s not underestimate the usefulness of a good camp kitchen paring knife. Paring knives are smaller knives that are great for peeling skins in addition to chopping fruits, vegetables, cheese, and sausages. I would also greatly recommend bringing tin foil and a pair of tongs to pull things off of the grill or fire so that you don’t burn your hands during your outdoor cooking experience.

Of course, we can take our nice cutlery to the wilderness, but we shouldn’t expect some of the indoor oriented knives to perform well in the conditions of the environment. For instance, some blades like the Japanese carbon steel gyuto knives require really stringent drying and maintenance, otherwise the blade will rust. Also, the patina must be maintained for aesthetics. Chef’s knives constructed from stainless steels are the much lower maintenance option that are better for the outdoors. Wusthof, Zwilling J.A. Henckels, and Shun have great options for everyone. I’ve owned a lot of cooking knives and I really enjoy the Wusthof brand.

Camp kitchen cutlery knife sets are reviewed from Gerber Freescape Camp Kitchen Kit ($35 on Amazon), GSI Santoku Knife Set ($35 on Amazon), and Opinel Nomad Cooking Kit ($85 on Amazon) in a post written by Cameron Martindell from Some even come in hard cases that are designed to double as cutting boards. When you’re on the go, sometimes you’re in your car and in between destinations. It’s much easier to make a sandwich or prepare a good snack with a trusty camp kitchen set that was born for the job! Multi-utensils, like those made by Light My Fire, are great because they offer the knife, spoon, and fork all-in-one ($10 for four on Amazon).  Don’t forget the java with the portable AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker ($30 on Amazon). Happy outdoor cooking!

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Happy Camper

There’s nothing like a trip to the great outdoors to put you in good spirits! With nature all around you, fresh air, greenery, and wildlife is abundant. No matter what the season, the environment is harsh if you do not have the right tools. Amongst the most important tools to bring with you on a camping trip is a camp knife. In fact, some people bring a variety of knives such as a camp knife, hatchet, fish fillet knife, multi-tool, and a mid-size survival knife.

A decent camp knife is usually an all-in-one versatile knife with extreme durability. Camp knives generally have a blade at least 5 inches in length and can have a full-tang or hidden-tang handle. Campsites are dirty and you can imagine how grimy and dull a knife will get after repeated usage. I strongly recommend packing a pocket sharpening tool (I like Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener) for proper blade sharpening on the go!

Camp knives can be used for batoning (splitting wood), cut tender, prepare food, notch poles, and other common camp-oriented tasks. Ergonomics are very important in the wilderness, so it’s vital to make sure that the knife you are purchasing is comfortable for your hand. Features like jimping (little groove cutouts for the thumb on the back of the blade) can provide increased control. Serrations are another factor to take into consideration; knives can be partially or completely serrated. Although they can be used like a saw to gradually slice through thick objects, the cuts are less clean than plain edge knives. Knives with partial or full serration are also more difficult to sharpen than plain edge blades. Blade HQ experts provide a review of some popular camping knives.

Camp knives demonstrate more strength during big tasks versus their smaller pocket knife counterparts. They are usually fixed blades, but can also be folders with more robust construction. Liner lock knives are not recommended for activities such as batoning as they usually buckle up and can injure the user. Also, just because it’s a burly camp knife doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty. I prefer a plain edge with mirror polish or stonewash finish. Knives can be easily stored in a leather or kydex sheath that attaches either on your belt loop or the side pouch of your backpack.

Thank you for reading this camping knife blog post and please let me know what kinds of knives you take camping in the comments below! If you like this content, please don’t forget to subscribe.


Camp knives from John’s collection.
Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

EDC Knife Hunting Experience

Recently, I went shopping for a new EDC (every day carry) knife, so I thought I’d share what criteria I used and the thought process that I had during my selection experience. Before purchasing a knife, I perused the internet to do online research on various brands and models that met the standard features I was looking for. I used BladeHQ as a major source, which offered a lot of unboxing videos along with commentary on the features of the blades. They sell blades through their website so they provide a lot of detailed specs and information concerning each product!

First of all, I wanted a light, but sizable EDC folding knife with an assisted opening mechanism for fast deployment. The liner lock feature is also something I have always been super comfortable with since childhood. A stonewash finish was also a requirement, as they are easier to maintain and look better aesthetically over a long period of time. I prefer to have an EDC with me at all times for so many reasons (utility, hunting, survival, etc.) After all, you never know when and how a knife could save your life.

After I picked out some appealing candidates and went out to Scheels sporting goods store to physically try them out. I personally like to window shop, feel, and try before I buy. After examination of a few Kershaw, Benchmade, CRKT, and Gerber knives, I found a Zero Tolerance to be particularly exceptional. I had heard of the brand before and knew that it had a good reputation. I also utilized EDC Ninja Zero Tolerance Knife Reviews to my advantage. Now, I was going to make an informed decision.

Zero Tolerance 0770CF offered a SpeedSafe assisted opening flipper, liner lock, carbon fiber handle, CPM S35VN stonewash finish, and reversible deep-carry pocket clip. With an overall weight of 3 oz., it’s size of 7.5 in. in length looks very deceiving. It’s also made in the USA! I purchased it, took it home, made a paracord retention lanyard for it, and we have been inseparable ever since.

The carbon fiber handle made this knife robust, and yet light enough for me to pack as an EDC. The drop point blade is made from durable and edge-retaining CPM S35VN powdered steel. CPM indicates that the steel is made via Crucible Industries. Metallurgy details aside, the S35VN blade is essentially a premium wear and corrosion resistant stainless steel. Zero Tolerance Knives (established in 2006) is a brand made by Kai USA, which also makes cutlery globally via brands Kershaw, Shun, and Kai Housewares. In addition to EDC knives, they also make cooking knives, tactical pens, and other house ware oriented items.

Thank you for reading this blog post and I invite you to subscribe and comment! I’d like to learn more about what EDCs you like.


Zero Tolerance 0770CF. Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Knife Building- Stock Removal Procedure

I enjoy watching my husband make knives using the stock removal method. Stock removal means that you are essentially carving out a knife and removing the excess metal from a slab. First, he begins by drawing blade designs on paper, and after some amendments, cuts out the shapes using plexiglass (acrylic glass). Always save your plexiglass blade figure for your portfolio. Then he traces the image in marker and profiles out the knife from the steel stock.

Once the knife has the desired shape, it’s time to drill holes for pins and grind into the steel to actually thin the knife out. John creates a hollow grind on his blades using a Burr King grinder. Rough grits should be used first to shred away a majority of the metal. Once the blade is properly ground, it’s time to heat treat it. This is the procedure where the steel gets hardened. Various steels have different heat treating protocols. Hardness can be tested using the Rockwell scale.

After heat treating, knives are ground using fine sandpaper grits and polished up using a polishing wheel and compound. We can also engrave dates, names, and logos onto the blade. If John is making a full-tang and using scales for the handle, he proactively anticipates the location of the pins and how much material he will need in order to shape the handle. After a lot of sanding and testing the grip, he sharpens the blade. Sharpening is the last step and should be carefully performed. My previous blog post, Looking Sharp, discusses the popular sharpening methods used in this stage.

There is a helpful knifemaking article published on Blade Website by Wayne Goddard called Knifemaking 101- Read This Before You Make a Knife. The article addresses how to set up shop and advises on what materials to use. Whether or not you’re a prospective bladesmith, this literature is a fantastic read. Thank you for reading and please share and comment if you enjoy the artistry of knives!


Epoxy step for a custom hidden-tang knife. Photo Credit: Kammi Dingman

Don’t Throw Shade When You Can Throw a Blade!

Despite common beliefs, throwing knives are actually not very sharp. Throwing knife dullness decreases the risk of self-injury and helps with sustainability of the blade edges. Throwing knives do not usually have bulky handle grips as they get in the way of aerodynamics and technique. The knife thrower may have to hold or touch the blade during the performance of some throwing techniques. They are also somewhat heavy and robust for their size compared to other knife types, which has to do with balance and durability. Usually composed of stainless steel or some other carbon-based steel, a weight of 300g for a throwing knife is recommended. Stainless steel, although pricier, is better quality than the more carbon-based steels. There are even boot knife models that are built for throwing and concealability available for purchase. Wood, cardboard, or other foam materials are used to absorb the impact of the knives during practice. The talent of throwing knives is definitely an underrated art. Form is important when hurling a knife, much like in archery. Balance and back muscle recruitment is the key in executing a precise throw.

Japanese kunai knives were originally made for farming purposes and were used as hand shovels. The kunai were made out of unhardened (not heat treated) and unsharpened metal. The hole on the top was originally for finger stabilization while turning up crops. Animes and mangas like Naruto romanticize the usage of kunai knives in throwing and stabbing. Let’s not forget the flashy shurikens! Shurikens also called “throwing stars” and “hidden hand blades,” were used by Japanese samurai and ninjas to distract their opponents. These shurikens were fashioned from the old tools available in the village. Throwing stars were sometimes dipped in bacterial substances to fatally wound opponents.

Here are the Top 10 Best Throwing Knives of 2019- Reviews by author Scott Webb. He also points out what key qualities to consider while shopping for throwing knives, such as aerodynamics, ease of use, and the price tag. Let’s examine the main pros and cons of throwing knives and shurikens. The pro is that you can use either a throwing knife or shuriken to stun a target and close a distance gap. The con is that once you throw your blade, you instantly lose your weapon! There’s also the fact that you can’t always anticipate the penetration that the throwing knife will achieve upon striking the target.

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Throwing knives! Photo Credit: Blaine Bradshaw (our awesome friend).