Friday, October 30, 2015

Beauty in Black Steel

Serious knife folks, collectors and makers, know the differences between Wootz, Damascus, patterned-welded and folded steels. They look similar, and sometimes overlap in how they are made, but there are differences.

Originally, the pattern-welded and folded steels came about because the metals were sometimes poor, and one can increase the strength and edge-holding abilities of a blade by blending and making a steel that is more than the sum of its parts. 

You get a hard section for the edge, more flexible for the body, like that. Heat it, hammer it, and forge a better tool. 

A lot of cultures played with these, the Japanese, the Vikings, the Indonesians, and they all added this or that, hammering and folding and coming up with blades that worked better and looked better. The Indonesians have books that deal with the patterns of pamor, there are hundreds of them, with different meanings.

These days, with the excellent steels available, pattern-welding and Wootz and such aren’t necessary, and this kind of thing is done more for the look than the function. 

I have several knives and a small collection of older kerises and kerambits with the traditional patterns, and some of them are quite striking.

Here is the latest addition to my collection, a small pocket folder with what is called “Raindrop Damascus.” Gorgeous … 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Silat Las Vegas 2015

So, a quick review of the Silat Sera Plinck seminar in Las Vegas this past weekend …
It was a small, but advanced group, serious players, and the event was ably put together by Don Lee. He was aided and abetted by Victoria Blackwell, and we couldn’t have asked for a better crew to run the show. For those of you who wanted to go but couldn’t, Don has a great selection of T-shirts and shorts, and if want to offer your support, drop by Maha Guru’s website and order some stuff. All high-quality materials, and cool-looking.
There was a whole bunch of quality-teaching going on, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but again, if you wanted to go but couldn’t, Guy Bowring videoed the seminar and once they are edited, the vids will be availed from Resonant Video. If you are a Sera Plinck student, you will get a whole lot out of these; if you are a serious student not in the Sera lineage, you might be able to get Maha Guru’s approval and buy a set, and that would be a great introduction to the art. Plus Guy has some other excellent videos of various silat teachers. Check it out:
We had students from the Portland group, the Italian mob, and the Colorado players were well-represented. A bunch of nice guys and gals all around, and dedicated to their training. 
It goes without saying that Maha Guru Plinck’s teaching was outstanding. He has forgotten more than most of us will learn, and his intuitive grasp of what to teach and how is always impressive.
Guru Louis Compos, a gentleman and a scholar, was also on hand to show material from a variety of arts at which he is expert, and clearly is a man who knows and loves what he does. 
There were some instructors who couldn’t make it, due to injury or other commitments, and we send all best wishes to Guru Vanatta, who is on the mend from surgery.
Cotten Blackwell was honored by Maha Guru, and deservedly so; (I was also honored, though less deserving.) 
Cotten demonstrated the eighteen djurus on the pantjar platform, up and and down, *both* sides, that’s 72 djurus total, and we were all mightily impressed. I was going to be called on to demonstrate my djurus, but fortunately, I managed to pull a hamstring Sunday morning, and had to practice old man silat for the rest of the sessions. Good, because I wouldn’t have wanted to follow Cotten …
We ate well, drank a bit, socialized, and I, for one, came away feeling like I’d had a visit with family, because that’s what we were in this art. Next time one of these comes up, you want to think seriously about attending. It was a hoot.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Seminar in Las Vegas

Silat Sera Camp 2015

Las Vegas, Nevada

Mark Your Calendars and sign up soon!

Maha Guru Steven Plinck

October 2015:  23, 24 & 25
Double Tree by Hilton Las Vegas Airport
7250 Pollock Dr; Las Vegas, NV  89119
Don’t wait, availability will go fast! Guru Plinck has blocked rooms for your convenience to ensure everyone will be able to reserve accommodations at a discount.
Bring a buddy; share a room.  Double or single occupancy.
Room Rate (per night):  
$129  ($145 with tax or $72.50 with roommate)
King bed or (2) queen beds available 
Complimentary Services to Include: 
  • Shuttle Service: 
    • 24-Hour McCarran Airport courtesy shuttle
    • Scheduled courtesy shuttle to & from the Tropicana Casino Hotel on the Strip 9:00am –11pm
  • 24-Hour Precor Fitness Center & Heated outdoor pool
  • DoubleTree Full American Breakfast Buffet in the CafĂ©

Friday, May 29, 2015

More Knifery


ZT flipper, top; DPX Heat, bottom

So I have a few folding knives, most of them with relatively short blades, not illegal to carry locally. One of these is a ZT Titanium Flipper, a nice knife, but a bit heavy in the pocket.

3.5" (8.9 cm) blade, 4.7 inches (11.9 cm) closed, 8.2"(20.8 cm) total opened, about 6 ounces, 164 grams in weight. Elmax steel blade.

So I went looking for a shorter and lighter folder. Some places won't let you carry a knife with a blade more than two-and-a-half inches, and I found a nice custom I liked, but couldn't get in contact with the maker, so I came across this instead. A lot cheaper, and in several ways, better.

DPX-Heat. Blade is an inch shorter, than the ZT; the overall length two inches shorter, and it is a couple ounces lighter. Niolox steel, which is kind of like D2, holds a nice edge. Thumb stud instead of a flipper, but a solid, compact knife for EDC, opening packages, cutting up boxes and such. 

Plenty of room for a full grip, leastways if you have small hands like mine, no hot spots, feels good, even has a glass-breaker on the butt.  (Glass-breakers are for when you absolutely, positively have to open a window and it won't open. Like if you were trapped in your car and going to the bottom of the lake, or you were trying to help somebody else trapped in their car get out before it burned up, like that.) 

Sunday, May 24, 2015


So, I'm a knife guy. Carried a pocketknife since I was eight or so, have had camp knives, diver's knives, throwing knives, all kinda knives. Most of the martial arts I have studied nodded at knife stuff in passing, but once I got into Silat, an art that most of you know is based on the blade, that got ramped up. 

I don't have any expertise with the things, but I have had a chance to train with different kinds. These range from tactical folder-length, to krises, machetes, parangs, up to swords, all like that.

All of which is to say I appreciate a nice knife. Recently, I felt the need for a shorter folder than the (legal length) one I usually use for EDC. Great tool, but a little on the heavy side. (A technical term, that : EDC = every day carry.) I didn't really need a new knife, but, you can't have too many, so ...

I shopped around, and came across one that called to me. Short, stubby blade, liner-lock, one-handed operation, thumb-stud on the blade. Really liked the look, it was a high-quality steel, titanium handle got good reviews.

Thing was, the knife was a semi-custom, i.e., made in small batches from a single-man shop. I went to the guy's website, read his philosophy about the craft and customer service, and was impressed. Looked at the list of dealers, and went to go see what kind of deal I could get.

Turned out, no kind of deal.

Six retailers, none of them had it in stock, didn't know when they'd get one.

Oh, well, back to the source. Found the maker's contact info, sent an email: Hey, love this knife, but none of your dealers have any. How can I get one? You have a wait list?

Week passed, nothing.

Well, the guy is undoubtedly busy, and maybe my email got lost in the aether. So I called his number, got his machine, left my number and the same message.

Another week passed. Nada.

Okay, so maybe he's on vacation, or he had an accident or something, shit happens, right?

Found a Facebook presence, and from the tone of his posts, he wasn't stove up, nor on vacation. So, I'll ask him again, I figured. Hey there, I really like your work. Can I maybe get on your list for one of your next batch?

And once more we have crickets and tumbleweeds ...

So, it has been two more weeks, and while I know life gets the way as often as not, this does not bespeak good customer service. How many times do you knock before you realize nobody is coming to the door?

Rule of three. All done.

This experience as opposed to another first-class knife guy who go back to me the same day when I queried. Or a top-rated luthier with a long wait list who responded within a few hours.

What this kind of interaction does for me is kill my interest. Yeah, it's a nice knife and all, but after this? I don't want one any more. It wasn't meant to be. Could be a great guy, others might not have this experience, but back in my hippie days, I would have shaken my head and chalked it up to bad vibes. Sometimes, you just can't get there from here. 

You know what? That still works for me ...

Friday, May 15, 2015

New Steel

New small fighter knife (top)' by Jeff Crowner, one of a handful of expert knifesmiths it has been my pleasure to get to know. Shown next to my ZT flip folder, for a size comparison, Excuse the dog hair in the picture -- dog hair is a condiment at our house ...