Saturday, January 28

A Real Hatchet Job: Shrapnel, A Cautionary Tale

[Note to self (and others). Be sure to grind any flattened edges of a striking surface to keep from do it yourself surgery]

It had happened before, not the day before, but a few decades ago.  I was at a friend’s house splitting wood and was able to take some some to burn if I helped split a few oaks and maples felled over the years. It was good exercise and I was with Kevin as he hammered a wedge in a 30 inch diameter log.  It was the weird Twang I heard and his slowing of his follow through on the sledge that signalled something was wrong.  He said, “oh man” and dropped the sledge, as my eyes picked up on the blood beginning to trickle from his left forearm.  

As he hit the wedge, a sliver of iron had broken off under the impact and rocketed into his arm.  It was a jagged cut and he went to get it removed and the wound stitched, as I kept working on my firewood stash. Not that I wasn’t sympathetic, but it was a one man job and the ex-rugby playing, Sasquatch size Kevin insisted on driving himself.
Stanley Workhorse

Fast forward two decades and I am splitting kindling with an old Stanley hatchet and a ball peen  hammer.  The hatchet was the wedge and the hammer the sledge in this updated version of the earlier tale. Feeling a pinch in my side, I looked down to see blood forming on my shirt.  Yes, you guessed it. The impact of the hammer had produced the equivalent of a flechette and it traveled through my shirt and cut my chest. Ok, at this point, I did have a flashback and should have gone through a cause and effect mental exercise. Breaking out the grinder on the octagonal hammer head of the opposite side of the business end of the Stanley hatchet would have kept this from happening but what were the odds of it happening again?. There was a fire to build and my daughter put on a band-aid and I was good to go.  Until the next day….In the identical position and splitting more wood. Splitting wood is a  zen thing for me and relaxes me, OK grasshopper?

Safety glasses on and swinging hard onto target, I felt my thumb light up in pain. Looking down, I could see the mini missile appearing gunmetal grey under my skin. For some reason, splinters of any and all materials seem to gravitate to me, so I have extensive experience removing them.  X-Acto and magnifying glass at the ready.  I was operating on my left thumb and I am left handed, so I soon realized that I was in over my head and another set of hands was in order.  Post surgery, I was reminded that I needed to do some grinding. It is now back to a smooth octagonal shape.

We all know that a sharp edge is safer than a dull one.  Also keep in mind that as we “mushroom” the head of a tool, we need to reshape it for safety.  

Thursday, January 12

Gear Review: Redi-Edge Tactical Pro Knife Sharpener

While a gear review on a sharpener is not as enticing to the reader as a new knife (reviews in the works), a good sharpener may make the difference between a clean cut and a jagged accident.  

I have a number of fixed blades and folders and use them on a daily basis employing many sharpening systems, including the old school Arkansas stone and Spyderco’s Tri-Angle system.  Few sharpeners have performed up to their marketing copy; many fall flat. 

Redi-Edge Tactical Pro

So I was skeptical, when I picked this up at the Waterfowl Festival last year. It is the Redi-Edge Tactical Pro ( and retails for $23 USD.  It was highly recommended from custom knife maker Bill McCready, so I gave it a try.  It is a simple pull through design with two carbide blades at an angle that results in a utility edge of 20°.  As you pull through, that folded over dull edge is reshaped. After a half dozen strokes, the edge will easily cut paper; after a baker’s dozen with moderate pressure, it is shaving sharp.

Kitchen knives, which were dull as dishwater (channeling my Mom’s expression), were brought back to Ginsu-esque stature.  I am very impressed by the performance of this sharpener. It has held up well and I consider the price to be fair for the quality of the edge I have established.

Buck Woodsman Brought Back to Life!

There are different designs and the Tactical Pro is also available in a 15° (for kitchen knives) and 30° (for machete type use of cutting/chopping).  

As we all know, the sharper knife is safer than a dull one as you use less effort making the cut and there is less chance that a dull edge will “catch”. When pushing the blade forward, there is less control on a dull blade and a slip can result in a trip to the medicine cabinet …speaking of medicine cabinets, who remembers Mercurochrome? With three boys, my parents had a vat behind the house and they just dipped us in it periodically, holding us by the heel (no Greek mythological reference intended).

Saturday, January 7

2011: The Year I Went Green

It came to me as I was rummaging through my gear in the mancave.  Why not recycle some of my old gear? I can go green, or rather get “green” for gear collected and rarely used.

In an earlier stage of my life, I worked as the Production and Technology Manager for a boutique chemical company.  This job allowed me to explore my creative side as I worked side by side with a dear friend. I was in the back making the product; he was up front marketing it to firearms manufacturers, wholesalers and the local gun shop. It was known as Tetra Gun and it worked well enough for quality manufacturers like Walther, Steyr and Para Ordnance to use it in building their firearms.

A side benefit of making so many contacts in the outdoor industry, through hard work and trade shows like the  SHOT (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade) Show, was that we received good  discounts on products. I collected knives at the time and was able to expand my collection, as I was a bachelor and had more disposable income.

In an old wood liquor case, in a small duffle bag in the corner of the mancave, I discovered this trove of cutlery.  Culling the blades and determining which I would keep, I went through deliberations as to what I should keep and why. I finally took the plunge and jumped on the eBay train in early 2010.  Interestingly, eBay was founded by a guy who was a year behind me in high school. Hats of to Pierre, as he devised a great way for get people together to sell goods.

For the year ending 2011, I was able to sell enough cutlery to buy a new bicycle (to replace my 20 year old Specialized mountain bike) and a new shotgun for my son and in doing so cleaned up a small area of the basement.  

It was a fine trade.  The time it took to wordsmith product details, ship and manage the account in exchange for years of cranking away on my bike and watching the Weatherby shuck hulls as he gains knowledge and experience. My time for his wisdom gained.  I will make that trade any day.