Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Blade Blog -or- My Knife Journey

MY JOURNEY with steel/titanium:

Everyone has their favorite knife -- if you own and keep knives, you'll have a favorite. If you don't this won't mean much to you. In the world of blades there are nearly endless options and uses. I think it's also true of chefs - because in the reality cooking shows I've seen, contestants are asked to pack their knifes and get off the set if they don't 'make the cut'.

This is how I came to select the knife I carry every day. I could start at the beginning of time - which began when I was born. But I won't bore you.

During Operation Desert Shield/Storm in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (1990-1), I carried a very nice double edge knife when I served with SEAL Team 5 and SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team 1.

I looked younger then (above/left) -- and I was younger then, but my hair was mostly gray.

The knife I settled (circa 90-91)on was a custom knife made by Rick Hill
Note D2 Steel, double edged with a sharp skull spike on the hilt of the knife.

This is a photo of the same knife in the jump-certified scabbard. 
The rings are attached to a garrote wire that is kept in the pouch 
on the outside of the knife for situations where it might be required.

At that time, the official SEAL knife was made by Buck Knives and was constructed of a titanium-beryllium alloy. Nobody liked to carry it because when you sharpened it, and microscopic pieces of metal lodged under your skin, they produced tumors. 

In late 1991 or early 1992. Don't hold me to a date because it was 20 years ago, I was at NAVSPECWARGRUONE (Naval Special Warfare Group One, Coronado, CA). The Joint Special Warfare Command (McDill AFB, Tampa, FL) just stood up and an Army general took command. Since we were all subordinate to the US Army, there was money to spend - where the Navy was very parsimonious with the SEALS up to that point. The new funding allowed us to buy newer and presumably better knives than the models that caused us to develop cancerous tumors.

Original MPK - Note the distinctive mud-colored titanium alloy. 
No, it's not rust. This knife will never corrode or rust. In the two 
decades since that these knifes have been in service with the 
Navy, not one has broken. The general issue knife has a gray 
blade with attribution to the manufacturer. This one has no markings.

A knife competition (called a knife-off) was held and various manufacturers were invited to submit their knifes to Group 1 to be tortured and tested. A number of different knives were submitted and the only one to remotely meet the criteria was the Multi-Purpose Knife (MPK) entry from Mission Knives (then owned by Rick Schultz of Mission Viejo, CA). The SOG Seal knife, made of steel, scored well, but (a) it corroded because it was made of steel and (b) it had a magnetic profile (made of steel) that would set off a naval mine.

Time passed and Rick Schultz sold his knife company. The new manufacturer took input and suggestions from various United States Special Operations personnel. The MPK would remain the issued knife to SEALs, but maybe a light weight, high strength, non-magnetic, no-corrosive tool—a titanium bladed knife—with a more compact and thinner silhouette, and with a “higher speed and lower drag coefficient” could be made.  Enter the Multi-Purpose Tactical Knife (MPT)

Note the grooved section on the blade’s spine, which gives a better non- slip surface when applying pressure to the blade with the thumb. The MPTs ergonomic hilt was specifically designed to feel comfortable in either hand, and, at the same time, can easily be shifter into any aggressive grip style needed to meet any challenge. The parrot’s beak shaped butt of the hilt allows the user maximum purchase when using the blade in either the standard (hammer) grip, fence’s (sideways) grip, or ice-pick (reverse)grip.

This is the knife that I've chosen to carry on a daily basis. It's great for trimming fingernails and opening mail.

I'm an older guy now, nearly helpless in my dotage (right). Somebody asked F. Scott Fitzgerald a question and he said that it was better to be rich than fascinating. I suspect that if you become a knife-blogger you may not end up as either one.  

But I thought you all might enjoy reading about my knife journey.


Coffeypot said...

For some reason I don't see you as 'nearly helpless in my dotage.' Old, maybe, as we all are, but not helpless.

innominatus said...

My only experience with knives like these are when vets want them engraved. Doesn't matter what kind of military knife comes in the shop - it seems like ALL of them are harder than the Hubs of Hell and a major pain to engrave. But still kinda fun.

Opus #6 said...

Great pics. You look sharp.

LL said...

innominatus - Titanium knives are VERY hard to sharpen and never get as 'sharp' as surgical steel, but they aren't easily blunted either. I took this particular MPF to the factory to get the grind on the blade modified because, I have particular tastes. They try to keep a low profile, but I showed up in person, explained my needs and they put a guy on it. He spent three or four hours grinding it to my specs (a very long time to you non-knife types).

Coffeypot - Ok, maybe not completely helpless. Like an old tiger who can still cut one out of the herd when required.

Opus - Thx.

Euripides said...

OK, now I want an MPT to open my mail as well....

I just counted up the knives in the bag I take to work - two folding knives from S&W, a small Buck penknife, a Swiss Army knife (official) with a toothpick, and a Springfield XD 40S&W Service.

The Springfield, by the way, is lousy for opening envelopes.

LL said...

Euripides, I must confess that I also carry a pocket knife.

Race Bannon said...

Knives for me, are like sunglasses and flashlights...I will break them, or lose them. I have several, but my favorite was a gift, a small double sided boot knife from Gerber, simple and to the point.

darlin said...

LL your hilarious, and no I don't imagine that being a knife wielding blogger will make you rich but you are fascinating.

I am in awe of your photo of you in your younger years, just wow and I'll stop at that! Okay I won't stop at that, your daughters really do look a lot like you, now I can really see it. Good looks run in the family, one day I'd love to see a photo of your wife, if she will allow you to post without getting into your collection of knives. ;-)

WoFat said...

When I play with knives I usually cut myself. Then I cry.

Brandon Buck Knives said...

Thanks for sharing. I enjoy reading about knives and the stories that come with them. I enjoyed the part where you mentioned the competitions for the knives. I really love buck knives. Great post!

Brighid said...

Yes your older, but you still look like TROUBLE.

Davyboy49 said...

I was looking up Rick Hill Custom Knives and came across your blog. I have the same knife. Can't remember where I got it but it is exactly the same.

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