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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Kammi

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

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!

Kammi


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

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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Kammi

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

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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Kammi

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

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.