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I may go to the Dark Side: What is Tactical?


Kevin Colwell

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Hello All,

 

Please forgive me. I need money, now that I have a wife and stepson.

 

Professors do not get paid a great deal, especially when one considers we have as much or more training than MD's.

 

I have, for years, poked fun at the Tactical Knife movement. Doing things like naming a simple full tang 4" dropped hunter the, "thermonuclear, kill, death, kill, kill, tactical knife."

 

Another understated edged tool I named the, "genocide facilitation implement."

 

Yet, after the good fun, it has become evident that working for several months to make a beautiful (I hope) sword for the amount that swords cost is not an economically-viable venture.

 

It occurs to me that, if I were to make a few simple knives and sell them every month or two, then I would be free to pursue the swordsmithing and not be shorting me or the family.

 

So, um... what exactly is, "tactical, in terms of design features?

 

Input is welcome. Please, please, tell me your ideas.

 

thanks,

kc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/

 

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

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well okey why not, my idea is knifes that are all terrain, robust suited as army gear.

Don have the fancy materials bc looks should be muscular and tough.

More sharp or cutting edges are bonus combined whit "irregular " shapes of blade.

Kydex seems to be the preferred sheath material.

 

I think i passed the test ;)

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Tactical means whatever you want it to mean, because in reality, it has no meaning. It's all about marketing, selling someone something that yesterday

they didn't even know about and today, can't live without.

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Yeah. "Tactical" is a use, not a type. If you use a plain yellow #2 pencil to stop a crime or an enemy via planned physical action you have a tactical pencil. The armchair adventurers won't buy it unless it's got sharp angles, a bad point, and painted black or dark gray with a carbon fiber sleeve.

 

The stuff James Helm is making is a nice way to maintain a forged, handcrafted aesthetic while incorporating the actual functional aspects of military gear.

 

Or you could always start grinding angular crap out of whatever the current wonder steel is, having it ceramic coated, and slap some G-10 or paracord on it. Put a chisel ground tanto point, an inch of serrations, and maybe a spokeshave notch on the blade, add a spike on the butt, stamp the steel type on it (CPM S30 V sounds impressive, doesn't it?) and as mentioned above be sure to make it nonreflective. Kydex and MOLLE stuff is mandatory.

 

Or you could just start bead-blasting and osphocoating your hunting knives, and maybe put black canvas micarta slabs on. That way you would still be yourself, but would incorporate some of the "tactical" aesthetic.

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Kevin have you thought at all about "bushcraft" knives? They seem to have a large following and still can play around with the artistic side of things... just look at how many ways you can make a puukko! Just a thought :D

-Michael Lenaghan

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A friend of mine described the angular nature common to "tactical" knives as being "pointy in the wrong places." That concludes the sarcastic part of my post, the rest is a good-faith effort to be helpful. :D

 

Based on my own experience, the guys who make up the market segment you're looking at appealing to are very concerned with the ability of a knife to pry open a door, or, failing that, to puncture said door; the thicker the blade, the better. They also tend to go for saber-ground blades, probably for the same reason.

 

There seem to be two extremes in tactical (just assume I'm using quotes whenever that word comes up) knife design: really simple, straight blades with a very utilitarian look, like the Eickhorn KM4000, or really elaborate blades with complex lines and angles and jimping and saw teeth, like the Tom Brown Tracker by TOPS Knives.

 

As an aside: Kevin, sir, you make such beautiful swords, and it makes me quite sad that such labor isn't appropriately valued by the society in which we live. I hope you find a way to make it all work for you.

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Kevin, Google tactical knives, go to images and here are some ideas!!! When I think tactical my mind goes to military, survivalist, apocalypse, etc, etc, and usually accompanied with Kdex style sheath!

 

https://www.google.com/search?q=tactical+knives&espv=2&biw=1280&bih=918&site=webhp&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjJ9IrUzNPRAhVMTCYKHRFgAMcQ_AUIBygC

C Craft Customs ~~~ With every custom knife I build I try to accomplish three things. I want that knife to look so good you just have to pick it up, feel so good in your hand you can't wait to try it, and once you use it, you never want to put it down ! If I capture those three factors in each knife I build, I am assured the knife will become a piece that is used and treasured by its owner! ~~~ C Craft

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There are two ways to define tactical, as it applies to knives and gear.

 

I once carried a two ft section of shovel handle in my truck, it was useful for many things... I drilled a thong hole in one end, wrapped it with black electrical tape, and it was thereafter referred to as 'the tactical stick'. Most knives that were called tactical were simply black. In a way it harkens back to the ninja craze of the 1980's, it's just a pair of numchucks, but if they're black they instantly became ninja chucks, and cost $5 more.

 

The other way, and I think best way to define it is a no frills workhorse, a soldier's knife plain and simple. A durable steel, a durable finish, a durable handle, and a durable sheath, with practicality and low maintenance in mind. It doesn't have to be black, but it doesn't need to be shiny either. It needs to be stronger than it needs to be, if you catch my drift. Overbuilt, but not ridiculously so. A knife that you'd not only feel confident taking into battle, but also would be comfortable carrying on a day long hike. Easy and fast one-hand access is a must.

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George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."
Buffon


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Seeing as my son seemed to enjoy the "Tactical" type of knives I would say that if it's ugly, black, and all manmade materials i.e g-10, micarta, paracord , kydex. You got yourself a Tactical knife.

A question for the Professor......Why are there Federal grants that support the arts for people who display jars of urine, and feces smeared religious Icons, or for "performing artist who mastrubate on stage with vegtables......But not for people to create beautiful edged weapons? Must one be a political and moral radical to be truly called an "ARTIST"? Every detailed piece I do is always at a loss . I feel your pain. You make beautiful swords because you just have to. even if your not being paid. In many respects the satisfaction of a finished work is in itself a great payment. Unfortunately that satisfaction is not legal tender for the Electric and Gas companies !

www.hoyfamily.net

Isa 54:16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.Lu 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Mr 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
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Also Kevin, just want you to know your not alone... I'm a welder by day and love making my swords but it's at the point that I haven't bought steel in a long time or belts... and my press cylinder just tore itself apart and been looking at making some kitchen knifes or camping knives for like 100 dollars just so I can buy steel for patternwelding and sword blades...

-Michael Lenaghan

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Maybe something easy to forge and produce that lots of people seem to like would be a good idea as well. Kiradashis or small all steel neck knives. They don't have to be complex, can have a forge finish, and might sell decent because they are at a price point that most people can stomach.

 

Honestly, I think that producing what most people see as tactical (angular, multiple different grinds on the blade, synthetic materials, blade coatings) would be expensive to produce for exactly the reasons that Michael mentions above. Materials, especially belts, would be murder.

Edited by Wes Detrick

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer."  -Albert Camus

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Kevin,given what you do for a living,your question is surprising:)

 

It must've been a while since you've read all your Joseph Campbell,et c.

 

Surely,All fascination with knives(let alone swords! :),relates entirely to our Myth-making propensity as humans?...(i'm currently reading the new(to me)translation of The Poems of the Elder Edda,by Dr.Patricia Terry,i can recommend it most emphatically,(in addition to Campbell:)

 

So,if you're a good,flexible wizard,and can adopt your mind to the Great Camo-sexual Myth,why...go for it! :)...The mysteries of accesorising the camo-sexual will then be revealed to Thee! :)

 

It's after the winter Solstice,true,but the evil spirits still stalk the landscape,the light is only beginning to come back...It's a good time for planning,and for studying the classics,if one has that luxury...I'd definitely refresh my views by reading William Morris,on the Craftsmanship of Risk,or really anything by that brilliant man....

 

:)

God is in his heaven,and Czar is far away...

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Tactical is really not all that different from a lot of what we do. It has a lot of very strict aesthetic and functional needs to be rite.

 

There is a definite reality to tactical, but also a huge Fantasy.

 

You will have to soak yourself in it and come at it from a point of educated honest integrity.....

 

So I guess this begs the question, and I am being blatantly blunt here. Because this is a question that all of us face in our own work if there is any element of it having to pay for its self.

Do you want to prostitute your craft ( by making something you seem to not be interested in) or would it be easier to find money another way and keep the more limited time you spend on the craft exactly how you want........

 

Managing the elements that you want to do in a craft with what you need to do can be hard. There are a lot of other avenues than tactical, kitchen cutlery, blacksmit'd stuff (way way easier than blades) .

 

And also.....what do you charge for a sword? Could you charge more? Or could you make them faster.

 

Or put it another way how much do you need to charge?

 

I recon that there is a whole world of tactical that could be pretty cool to explore, but it is most probably another rabbit hole.

 

We have so much of our personality wrapped up in what we do it can be quite hard to dismantle our choices , aesthetic, work ethic, efficiency ,acceptable quality and price.

 

 

Making is really the easy part. Best of luck making it work.

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forging soul in to steel

 

owenbush.co.uk

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First,

thanks everyone.

 

Alan - you know, I hate all those stupid angles, which is sort of why I asked here. You guys are at least knowledgeable enough to help me try to see past the hype. The only thing I have come up with is to make something about like a Loveless hunter with ospho treatment. I can't lower myself to any of that other crap (in fact I have tried to get others to stay true to historical work in the past). You did make me laugh a lot, because I have gotten into minor online arguments (I won't get into a major online argument, I have better things to do) about that stuff in the recent past.

 

George- I no frills work knife I can get behind. One of the chisel/tanto/concave belly knives I can't do. Not with my stamp on it.

 

Michael - I know, it sucks. I will find something to intersperse between the swords. I have to make the swords, that's part of what it's all about, but I want to mix in some simple knives. If I can find something simple that will sell, so much better. By the way, I have two elaborate Swedish/Finnish derivative blades on my bench right now I need to finish. I have given that sort a lot of thought, and I am thinking of making more.

 

Adam - that for the kind words and the info. Here is the real issue, I am slow and I probably need to charge more for my swords. I will be raising prices in the future but I hope for a way to make things I can sell so I don't have to worry about rushing, or how fast I sell, with swords.

 

Hoy - those grants all died out, as did almost all other grants of any kind. There haven't been many grants available for scientists or artists since the end of the Cold War. i get them from time to time with my deception research, but nothing for the art/craft. I have thought about it, believe me.

 

Jake - I haven't read Joseph Campbell in some time, but I studied his work closely enough for long enough that it isn't something I'll forget (until the big forgetting). That is really the crux of the question - is it all just psychology. Sort of like the Emperor's New Clothes, or is there anything to it. I have, in my searching into this, found people that are making copies of WWII military blades, calling them tactical, putting Tero-tuff on them, and blackening the blades, and selling them for $800 as fast as they can make them.

 

I am good at making small daggers, especially if you don't have to make a guard to go with it. So, if making a 20th Century design, and putting micarta on it and painting it black means I can sell it for triple what I could sell if for if it had a guard and wood for a handle... well damnit, it's tempting.

 

So, that's where I am.

please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/

 

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

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Owen,

You are quite insightful from your side of the pond.

 

I took a commission that has take months as a favor to a friend, and it is horribly cheap. I shouldn't have done it, but I let them talk me into it. So, I am trying to make up a bit for the double curse of a very hard project that takes forever, for which I am making almost nothing.

 

In general, I have to charge more and work faster. I won't be happy making things that don't seem right, and the fantasy aspect doesn't do it for me.

 

 

The dream world appeal doesn't do it for me. Not that sort of dream world (my fantasy world is more suited to messers and daos and such). Back when real fighting was done with blades.

 

 

I spent years working with military and intelligence and police. I don't get even the slightest rush of out dreaming those dreams. It turned me off, in a big way. I walked away from lots of money because it didn't sit well with me to work in that world. Believe me, they would love to pay me to teach them about deception... .

 

I guess what I am really wondering is where I can find a niche that will allow me to make some simpler blades from time to time as a counterpoint to the swords. Of course, if I was able to get to a better balance with pricing and speed with swords, then this would be a non-issue, because that is where my heart is.

 

But, essentially I need to make a few simpler blades and get the bladesmithing back on an even keel and then I will probably make another dao or messer, because those make me the happiest.

 

thanks everyone. I am shocked and impressed by the humor, insights, and plane intent to help a fellow smith trying to sort things out.

please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/

 

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

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I'm just going to throw some ideas out there...

I've often noticed a subtle similarity between puukos and some Japanese blades, mostly in geometry and blade shape. With that in mind, I've wondered about crossbreeding a puuko with a kwaiken, I think the results would be interesting, and would appeal to the tactical and bushcraft crowds if done right. I don't think I'll ever capitalize on the idea, but you may be able to use it.

 

The Japanese style is over-represented in post modern blades, IMO. I've wondered how well classic Persian designs (kard, jambiya, etc) might translate over to the modern treatment, especially if the unique blade geometries could be capitalized on... I don't recall ever seeing it done, and someone should. I would if I had the time, but lately I've been going in a very different direction. But just imagine a curvy Indian-style khanjar in natural g10... I think it would work.

 

I've always wondered why brut de forge one-piece knives have never been marketed to the tactical crowd. If you want indestructible that is a good way to get there. Just rust-blue it and dress it in kydex....

Edited by GEzell

George Ezell, bladesmith

" How much useful knowledge is lost by the scattered forms in which it is ushered to the world! How many solitary students spend half their lives in making discoveries which had been perfected a century before their time, for want of a condensed exhibition of what is known."
Buffon


view some of my work

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I think this image sums it up for me:

RamboKnife002.jpg

 

It's all about the bells and whistles! :P

 

Seriously though, I think that a brut-de-forge knife would work very well in that market. The blade needs to look mean, like something with a downwards curve. You also have to take into account that many people are absolutely convinced that they need a "full tang" knife so they can see the strength of the knife along the seams of the handle. Those darn full-length hidden-tang knives will break like toothpicks! ;)

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"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man" -The Dude,

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I'm just going to throw some ideas out there...

I've often noticed a subtle similarity between puukos and some Japanese blades, mostly in geometry and blade shape. With that in mind, I've wondered about crossbreeding a puuko with a kwaiken, I think the results would be interesting, and would appeal to the tactical and bushcraft crowds if done right. I don't think I'll ever capitalize on the idea, but you may be able to use it.

I literally had the exact same thought to do this like two days ago and made a mental note to give it a whirl as soon as I finish a couple of my current projects. I wanted to do a spine bevel like a Japanese blade with wrought san mai, maybe Hira Zukuri geometry with patinated copper fittings and a peened tang, kolrosing on the grip and a puukko style sheath with some designs carved into it...

 

Edit: This isn't to say "It's my idea and none of you can use it!" just thought is was funny that George and I had the exact same idea.

Edited by Collin Miller

“If you trust in yourself. . . believe in your dreams. . . and follow your star. . . you will still get beaten by the people who have spent their time working hard and learning things, the people who weren't so lazy.” ~ Terry Pratchett

 

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Wes - I love it. That is why I called the 4" knife the thermonuclear death kill thing.

 

Thanks for the serious ideas too.

 

George and Collin, i have often wondered how much transfer of information there was along Northern trade routes. The Northern Europeans to the Ainu in Japan, and to the Proto-Mongolians in China. The shapes came from China, so it may have been that everything flowed outward from there originally. Not sure.

 

But, I have had a good bit of practice with puukko blades. Only, they would have to be thicker.

 

 

Actually, I have been reviewing Bob Engnath's catalog of knife blanks (it is online, you can google it). I will definitely borrow from it in the near future to get some designs.

 

I really don't think I can do most of what passes for, "tactical." But, the stuff Bob did has style and was designed with efficiency and utility in mind

 

I am always impressed by the kindness and thoughtfulness.

please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/

 

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

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There is tactical, and then there is "wannabe tactical"

 

I'd never fault anyone for making a nuclear tipped zombie Slayer with a spiked knuckle guard and skull cracker. It can be great fun even if it is a bit disingenuous. It's sort of like those $400 .22lr AR15 lookalikes I keep eyeballing. Fun, but no purpose.

 

Then there are tactical knives that people use in tactical situations. These are honest knives that need to be well made. It's not my style, but I hold the kind of work Stormcrow does with high esteem.

 

Both are fine expressions of knife making. Only the maker can decide what is inside themselves that they want to express.

-Brian

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I think 'tactical' is a marketing and function aesthetic. It lends itself well to production. None of that is bad, in and of itself. I wonder how easy it would be to compete in the established tactical market where some companies are spending millions, and other competitors are using questionable hype.

 

Personally, I gave up on blades of any kind for money a long time ago, and it has worked out better for me. Don Fogg, when I was just starting out, said here on this forum that surviving as a blade smith meant having multiple income streams. It has turned out to be true in my case, to the point of even selling honey from my Summer hobby / back-up economic plan. ;)

 

Basically, with my shop and my inclinations to avoid straight up production work, I generally think of blades as something I like making, but something I'll be lucky to break even on. I burned out trying to make them for money and for a few years, I didn't make any as a result. Most of my income comes from the jewelry these days, but even there, the factory production model is encroaching. It may be an opportunity to refine and specialize in higher end and more profitable work, but for now it's cutting into sales. I'm looking for more paid teaching opportunities and about to spin a ton of honey, and anything else I can think of. I've accepted that this is the norm. ;)

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I have sat back and watched this conversation unfold. Partly because I was truly interested in hearing what everyone had to say, before I tried to put my foot in my mouth, but mostly because I have thought about the same thing many times. Most recently, this weekend at the AABA demo & meet, I was in a conversation with another bladesmith (fairly well known) and he said "It's not hard to make money as a bladesmith, it's easy. Just make what people want and forget about everything else."

 

Anyway, when ever I hear the term "Tactical Knife" I remember what Kevin Cashen said about them. He said that the Quillon dagger is the original tactical knife. Now I see that Kevin (the professor) says this: "I am good at making small daggers, especially if you don't have to make a guard to go with it. So, if making a 20th Century design, and putting micarta on it and painting it black means I can sell it for triple what I could sell if for if it had a guard and wood for a handle... well damnit, it's tempting."

 

There is something uniquely timeless about daggers. They will never loose their appeal. So if you have to dress one up in modern day clothing to increase the marketability and your share of the buyers, why not? Especially, if you can enjoy making them. Small daggers are the perfect self-defense item. I'll also add that a knife is not complete without a sheath, and finding a way to sheath a small dagger so it can be worn inconspicuously would be a selling point in my opinion. I'm picturing something that allows the person to wear it horizontally on the belt or under a jacket like a shoulder holster, or clipped to the shoulder holster of their small frame 40cal. (for times when you don't want the big "boom")

 

Here is my suggestion. See how quickly you can whip out a couple of small (4-6 inch blade) daggers with a simple sheath that slides horizontally on the belt. Use whatever materials you have on hand, or buy a sheet of G-10 or micarta for scales. You could even buy some Caswell's black oxide to darken the blades (no stainless). Go full tang and see if they sell on Etsy, Craig's list, or wherever. Test the market & see what happens.

 

Just remember to call it the Tactical Nuclear Zombie Apocalypse Self-defense model. ;)

 

I forgot to add, price them high. If you don't think they are worth that much, then nobody else will either.

Edited by Joshua States

“So I'm lightin' out for the territory, ahead of the scared and the weak and the mean spirited, because Aunt Sally is fixin’ to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I've been there before.”

The only bad experience is the one from which you learn nothing.  

 

Josh

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Thank you for the thougthful and funny reply.

 

I have been making jian (22-31" double-edged blades) so the idea of making a 5" double-edged blade is relaxing.

k

But, I also have my pride and love of history.

 

I am leaning toward making a couple of Bob Engnath's patterns or something similar to what TK Steingass does - either mortised handle or slab handle with full tang. I think I will try your advice and make a small dagger that is a knockoff of the Gerber Mark III. I have a couple of pieces of black and green micarta, so I will try that.

 

That is the plan at present. I suck at leatherwork, and may not have much. I will look, and maybe make a simple sheath. I think you may be on to something. I may be able to come up with some full-tang designs and play with the sheath to make it versatile and thereby make it more sellable.

 

God, I hate capitalism, though. I really, truly, thoroughly detest it (which is why I don't make much money, I bet).

 

I began this whole thing poking fun at myself to help cover the distaste. But, many of us face this same issue, we need to find a way to sell our work for a decent price. Man, do I wish the current fad was puukkos, or Wostenholm-styled bowies. Or the Chinese fighting knives with the huge brass pommel that looks like a mace head. Alas...

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please visit my website http://www.professorsforge.com/

 

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” E. V. Debs

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But, I also have my pride.

 

God, I hate capitalism, though. I really, truly, thoroughly detest it (which is why I don't make much money, I bet).

 

 

I sorry, I don't understand "But, I also have my pride" I loving forging, but I don't think any less of myself for making a hook instead of a elaborate gate. And I love capitalism, which might be why I make money. People often ask me what I like making the most, I always tell them "Money"

There can and should be as much pride in the making of a simple knife as a fancy one. Or am I missing the point?

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Thank you for the thougthful and funny reply.

 

 

That is the plan at present. I suck at leatherwork, and may not have much. I will look, and maybe make a simple sheath. I think you may be on to something. I may be able to come up with some full-tang designs and play with the sheath to make it versatile and thereby make it more sellable.

 

...

You could try making a simple wooden scabbard and base it upon the current bayonet scabbards to give it that "tactical" look even lash a small honing steel onto it to make it multipurpose.
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