Saturday, March 30, 2013

Throwing knives

03/30/2013 Throwing knives! I've got 'em, you want 'em.

I have a few sets of throwers right now. They are very simple, a handle (steel, no wood, leather, or anything else) and a point, and just a hint of an edge. They are heavy (1/4” thick) and they land with real authority. Mine are sinking 3 inches into a Cottonwood block. 1 for $20, 3 for $60 plus shipping. Having a set of 3 (or more!) is nice, you can build up some rhythm in your technique.

I'd like to talk a bit about my theory of throwing knives, the knife itself, not how to. I make mine out of mild steel (though the most recent ones are made of T1, and I'll probably keep doing that). I think that if you use hardened steel, even if you draw it way back, you risk chipping, spalling, and breakage. If one of mine hits another blade, or a rock when you miss the target, the worst thing that happens is a small ding, or the tip may bend. A quick smack with a hammer and you're ready to go again.

I don't put handles on them, because, you're going to throw them and handles won't last a season, if that. I don't put any fine work into them, because,'re going to throw them. I grind the sides at about 45 degrees but I don't put real edges on them. They just get dinged up when you throw them anyway. It's not like you need them to cut anything and they might cut you.  

If you want handles, the material is soft, you can drill holes with a hand drill for pins. I wouldn't, but you can.

So why do I make them at all? At best, they are knife shaped objects (KSO's). They are a just about break even item, they buy my coffee and sweet roll. They have the same relationship to a using knife that a picture of food has to real food. But they are good for practice, and throwing knives and hatchets is a blast.

I am doubtful, however, as to the historical use of such things. It's true that knives, hawks and things got thrown from time to time. But so did rocks, sticks, beer mugs, and just about any thing else that will fit in the human hand. If you want to knock over a bunny for dinner, a rock or a stick is a pretty good choice. There are lots of them around, they don't need much work to make them function, they do a good job, and, if you lose them or break them, go get another one. OTOH, a real knife (as opposed to my KSO's) has a fair amount of work in it, so throwing it and losing it, or breaking it, is a real waste of resources.

Throwing a knife in a combat situation has got to be a last resort. There is an account of a man in the 16th or 17th century (I can't remember just now) who fought several duels, one after the other. One of his opponents attempted a stand off and throw knives, strategy. The swordsman chased him down, ducked most of the knives, and then killed him.

Even the best throwers are limited to throws of 25-30 feet, and at that range it's pretty easy for the target to duck. You can try this yourself with tennis balls and a friend. Unless you are King Felix (Go M's!) you are not going to have the 90 mph throw. The best combat throws are in the 0-7 foot range, which is pretty close, particularly if the target is armed.

So, if you have a perfectly good knife, why would you throw it away? Now you've got no weapon, and your opponent has one that he didn't have a minute ago. Second, despite what the movies show, you are very unlikely to bring down an opponent with a single stab wound. For some real world examples of this look at this web site, but don't eat first,

Why do I make and sell throwers, then?  Because throwing at a target is a blast. I use it as a break from grinding and polishing, along with archery and an air gun. It clears my mind and loosens up my back, which gets tired. And there is a real sense of accomplishment when that blade thunks into the target. Geoff

On Blogging, or Why I haven't written

On Blogging.

My intent when I started this blog was to talk about knife making, knives, and the stuff surrounding the making of knives. What I've found is that I have much less to say than I thought I did. Right now I'm STILL working on my ABS MS knives. I don't have anything, of the quality I want, done.

It's really, really hard!

  I am still making knives, and, in some ways, I'm a much better (or at least faster) maker than I was even just a couple of years ago. I've got a line of waterjet EDC's that people seem to like. They are not as much fun for me as a full forged piece, OTOH, I can get them done and off the bench pretty fast. This means that I can sell them for about half of what my bottom end forged pieces go for. Heck, I'm even carrying one myself.

It's the getting done part that I struggle with right now. I get so twisted up in the details of the high end pieces that they tend to sit on the bench for a long time (looooong time).

Right now the Eugene show is on the near horizon, April 12-14. I'm trying to get some new stuff done for that show, a couple more EDC's (they should get handles today) a kitchen set (this is what I hope is the first of a series of waterjet kitchen knives). The set will have a 9 inch chef, an 8 inch general slicer, and a paring knife, all with the same stabilized Box Elder burl for handles. The set will be priced at $700, which is pretty good for a set of (substantially) hand made knives. There is also a bread knife, a narrow meat slicer, and cleaver that are not part of the set, but would go very well with them.

I also hope to have one new damascus piece, it's going to end up like a sgian-dubh/pukko crossover, and some cool little friction folders with textured copper handles. These friction folders are another thing that I can make and get off the bench pretty fast, though even these are starting to get some fancy elements. I'm thinking of versions with bone or ivory slabs, textured silver handles, damascus blades. I'm sure that will lead me to slip joints and there goes the whole simple/fast thing, sigh.

So what does all of this mean? Partly, I'm still trying to find a niche. I have made some inroads into the blackpowder/rendezvous reenactors community, unfortunately, like the Renfaire/SCA folks, they are reluctant to spend the kind of $ that my best work commands. I do have to say that the most recent blackpowder show was a huge success for me. I'm hoping that it's a good sign.

I'd like to think that having $100-$150 pieces on the table will bring in the beginning collector, and the impulse buyer. The truth is, I have no idea what causes a random stranger to spot one piece out of 400 tables of knives and decide to buy that one. I just have to hope that something on my table is what he's looking for.

Thanks for looking,