Friday, July 29, 2016

Trolling for Hate: 10 Things I Don't Understand

I am feeling extra-snarky, so let's check in on some dumbass trends in the gear world, shall we?

1.  Hinderer/Steel Flame Collab Filler Tabs:  Have we nothing left to spend our money on than collaborations on tiny steel plates to cover up the "unsightly" screw holes with actually unsightly pieces of branded junk?

2.  Door-knob sized lanyard beads:  donuts and spaceship door knobs as lanyards are one thing, but when they are the size of a REAL donut, whoa...things have gotten out of hand.

Usually I am not a lanyard guy to begin with, but this trend of HUGE lanyards is something I don't get.  Compensate much? 

3.  ZT "Limited" Releases:  'Member the good ole days when we'd get stuff like the ZT0888 and the ZT0600?  Now we are "treated" to new colorations of wharncliffe Ecklipses/ZT0392.  Auston I don't care how good a knife it is, I want my ZT Limited releases to be Uber ZTs.  The ZT0454 spoiled me for all time.  

4.  Busse Wait Times:  We don't make the knives you buy, we make the wait times longer.  Oh, wait, I think there is something about 3M (which, despite the slick modern sounding name, stands for Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) in there.  Listen, Jerry, it's a slab of steel that you kinda grind and kinda put an edge on.  Then you glue slabs of G10 on it, cover it in deck paint and ship it.  That can't be a long process.  I'll give you some leeway because, after all, you are making the sheathes for the knives.  Oh, wait...

5.  Fawning over custom tactical knives:  Let's be serious, these should all be users.  Even the ones gilded to the hilt with Moki-Latte-Ti (thanks Dan) are really just the knife equivalent of the King Ranch Fords--gussied up versions of a work item.  Scott Sawby's Swift showed me what the real high end looks like and frankly it is a bit embarrassing for the folks that treat their tactical custom knives like Faberge Eggs.

6.  Politics on Knife Instagram:  I go check out people's knives to ESCAPE the constant drone of the breathless political discussions on the news.  I don't want to know who you think should be president. I could care less about some random dude's political opinions.  You are free to express them and I am free to ignore them and comment on my blog about how I hate seeing them in my feed. I also think there is a large group of knife owners that have a vastly different personal politics than those posting on Instagram.  As a community, let's not devolve into what happened elsewhere in our society--let's stick to the things that we all share, in this case, our love of gear. 

I will note that I am specifically referencing the presidential election.  I am and always will be a big supporter of Constitutional rights--all of them from due process and equal protection to the right to bear arms and be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  I am not a picky-and-choosy person when it comes to constitutional rights.  Well, except that stupid one that was repealed that banned booze.  That one was dumb.

7. Pocket Chunks:  First, we had knives and flashlights.  Then they got all fancy.  Then we got makers producing one metric ton of one piece multitools.  Then they got fancy.  Then makers started releasing the aforementioned giant beads.  They got fancy.  Then folks started gussing up the accessories to their knives with hideous Steelflame clips and the like.  Now we have what I refer to as "pocket chunks".  "Makers" and I am using that term loosely and in quotes for a reason, are releasing what are literally just chunks of fancy material with minimal processing.  Tom Krein, a maker whose work I love, is making copper worry stones (which are quite worked over) and other functionless stuff.  Some guy on Instagram was selling disks of superconductor, not as a handle material, but as um...this thing you put in your pocket?

Then there is the "Lucky Fatman."  Remember the pickle from Bad Santa?  That is what the Lucky Fatman looks like.  There is a portion of this community that just befuddles me. I will carve out an exception for the mesmerizing Torqbar.  Yes, it is useless and expensive but have you seen it spin and spin and spin.  PS: If you know how to get one, drop me a line in the comments below.  

8. "Exotic" Materials:  You know what?  Carbon fiber is not an exotic material.  See--

Someone made a bathtub of it.

Neither is Timascus or Mokuti or even Zircuti (or however you spell that).  These are MANMADE materials.  They cannot be exotic or rare if we can just make as much as we want.  They might be expensive because, unlike the steel used in knife blades, they have no industrial purpose and thus are produced in small quantities, but they aren't rare or exotic.  I also have a sneaking suspicion that they are expensive because people are willing to pay a premium for them.  And can I be 100% candid?  I think Moku Ti is ugly.  There I said it.  I feel much better.  I'd prefer that the yellow, blue, and purple color combination stay on the 90s hit pants Skidz and away from my knives.  Gimme one of the classy and genuinely rare wood inlays from a Mnandi and I am happy as far as adornment goes.  Have you seen the board foot price for Snakewood recently?  And given that it is the interior wood of an already hard to find species, I think it qualifies as actually rare.  And get it while you can, the Mnandi is going to be switching away from it, probably for this very reason. 

9. Early Lock Up: I had a conversation with my brother in law, a mechanical engineer that works for a big defense contractor.  I showed him a bunch of knives with different locks and asked him to pick his favorite, from an engineering perspective.  He liked the Axis lock, but worried about the omega springs (seeing as they have been a problem in the past that BM acknowledged, I think he got it right).  He finally settled on a framelock, but liked the ones with later lock up.  The larger the surface area of the interface between blade and lock the more stable it is.  So while I appreciate, the "craftsmanship" of stable early lock up, I think it is silly to fetishize it.

I don't think it makes a maker a better craftsman or a knife a better knife.  It's like saying a car is slower because of its paint job.  

10.  Tip Up v. Tip Down:  Listen, Mall Ninja, there is just no way this matters.  Unless you have a wave knife, whether the knife is tip up or tip down, just can't be worth any amount of worry.  The speed difference is negligible and so long as the knife is at least competently made, there is no issue with hitting a pointy edge by accident.  If you think this makes a difference, comment below.  And know that you are wrong.  

There you have it.  I am all snarked out. 


  1. Tony unleashed, I like this. Keep it coming!

    I agree with you on almost everything, but tip up vs tip down matters to me because most of my knives (especially Spyderco knives) are wider near the pivot. Tip up places the pivot at the bottom of my pocket where my hand wont scrape it when I reach in my pocket. Other than that, no real difference other than personal preference, I agree.

  2. All these things are the worst, you are 100% right. I would personally add:
    1) the Blade Show Knife of the Year category, as its always wrong.

    2) Youtube reviewers who trade glowing reviews of average gear in exchange for early access and free stuff and their subs growing exponentially (leatherman Signal and Tread last year, millions of average schrade and thrunite products all the time)

    3) That the knife community is seemingly bound to the super intense survivalist community. If they were venn diagrams, they'd overlap about. 60% at least. Most of those guys are waaay too much!

  3. I couldn't agree with you more. The one thing that I will truly never understand is all these massive folders that are incredibly popular for whatever reason (one in particular that has massive finger grooves milled into the handle) it's one thing if you've got a giant fixed blade knife for chopping or whatever else people do with huge fixed blade knives but these multi grind behemoths don't make sense.

    I have one and only higher end knife, a ZT0560, which I love but even it gets left at the house plenty when I actually think I'm going to be cutting a lot of stuff and my D2 RAT-1 (I love that thing) winds up in my pocket.

  4. Alright, I'm with you on most of these, but I'm gonna have to take issue with number 8. In number 5, you talk about how dumb it is to fawn over your knives and treat them like jewelry instead of tools, then you suddenly switch to fawning over snakewood inlays because they're "rare" and in limited supply. That's EXACTLY the reason people baby their custom knives.

    I'll admit a bit of a bias here - I really like carbon fiber aesthetically. But the fact that somebody can make a bathtub out of it doesn't disqualify it as a valuable material - not because it's rare, but because it's an effective material (generally speaking - things like the ZT0999's inlay are admittedly purely aesthetic.) Are G-10 and FRN also effective? Basically, yes, and also much more cost effective. It's simply a matter of diminishing returns, like the difference between making a steel or titanium framelock, and subjective preferences like aesthetics.

    A stick of gum isn't rare. But a stick of gum that I, personally, have chewed and spit out, is (I don't chew much gum.) Which do you want to put in your mouth?

    ...Rant aside, good post. Looking forward to the no-doubt totally family-friendly GGL episode 69 being released.

  5. only disagree with 10) No mall ninja required, it's annoying to have to pull the knife out of your pocket it then flip it around 180 degrees to open it. It's just a simpler more logical process as tip-up. one less thing to think about.

  6. I agree with you 90%.

    You couldn't be more wrong about the tip up vs. tip down issue. I declare that henceforth all folding knives be made with deep carry tip up pocket clips.

    You can sit there in your wrongness and be wrong. Other than that, keep up the great work.

  7. Great read, Tony. Like the others, I agree w/ all but one thing: I do see some value to "pocket chunks." To me, a lot of the love for knives, etc that people edc is a love for their aesthetic or art value, Nutnfancy's second kind of cool. Pocket chunks (great name) are just pure distilations of the second kind of cool. They're pocket art. Which is not to say that they'd take up any of my pocket real estate.

  8. The $300+ "fancy tactical" knives can be neat but the design philosophy is sort of oxymoronic. I've worked with some of the best-trained soldiers and policemen in the country and they carry basic Spydercos, Kershaws, and Benchmades. Sometimes they're issued a Kershaw or Benchmade auto. They don't fetishize these things, they're just tools that get used, abused, lost, stolen, and given away. They don't care about mokumo gane or damascus or other silly stuff.

    If I'm going to justify an expensive knife it's going to need a refined blade shape, grind, and thickness that support actual cutting over some "hard use" fantasy.

    Now for a survival knife you may be able to justify higher costs if they're based on performance. In a survival situation (or something close, e.g. ultralight backpacking or extreme hunting) you may only have the one knife you brought so it may make sense to eek every ounce of performance out of it that you can.

  9. To have a OHO and close knife, clipped to your pocket for smooth, quick deployment and then require the rotation of said knife 180 degrees before you can open it seems counter intuitive to me. Why slow the whole thing down when everything else has been designed for seamless deployment?

  10. I think what he's saying on TU vs TD is not that it doesn't matter to YOU personally, but that it doesn't matter objectively. When people get worked up over a knife that comes one way or the other, or, universe forbid, can only be used one way, it's silly to claim the knife is "bad" in some objective way because it doesn't have a feature configured the way that you like it that otherwise doesn't make any difference in cutting performance.
    I prefer tip-up, because I think it's more comfortable for the way I grab my knives out of my pocket. But I understand why Spyderco configures the larger folders like the PM2 and Millie as tip-down, and when I get one of those I'll probably try it that way to see how I like it.

    I also agree with the over-fetishizing of certain man-made materials. I personally like Titanium and Carbon Fiber aesthetically and functionally, but I don't look down on knives that don't have them, and the lack of them shouldn't be a deal-breaker. I really like the way Spyderco handles that with CF on the Chaparral, Sage, and others: you get a thin layer of CF for the aesthetics, but the handle is really G10 to keep the cost down.

    I can't get mad at the makers for making lanyards and pry bars and pocket chunks and moku-ti/timascus/etc.; if someone wants to pay them for it, great. I blame the people who want to pay them for it, and I'm ok with the makers taking their money so that they can keep making actual knives and such while feeding themselves.

  11. Just a head's up: the slogan/tagline that you attribute to 3M is actually from BASF. "At BASF, we don't make a lot of the products that you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better."

  12. I don't understand the appeal of Timascus or Mokume Gane either!

  13. So weird to me that people actually carry around these "worry stones" - everyone's ADD really getting that bad? I totally get it, cool stuff is cool, but I'm not carrying around 2lbs of stuff in my pockets

    Also, I'm always impressed with the market for Mokume/damascus/mammoth ivory/rainbow titanium/(insert expensive material here) knives - they look very pimptastic - it's the male equivalent of some fancy couture bag in 7 different colors of leather and a maker's logo slapped across the whole thing

  14. Here's a product that has me conflicted:

    On the one hand, it's biologically neutral, doesn't flavor the water, doesn't leach chemicals into the water, will probably be nearly-impossible to damage, is likely lighter than a same-sized steel bottle, and has integrated paracord. So it's probably very, very good.
    On the other hand, it's a $160 Ti WATER BOTTLE.

    I think that if you're a true backpacker or outdoorsperson and you have the funds to get literally the best of everything, this is probably good value for you. For us regular folks, this is just silly. I do think that, cost not being considered, Ti is functionally a good material for this application and isn't just for the sake of aesthetics or cool factor. Still though... $160 water bottle.

  15. I've seen the Vargo Ti Water Bottle in person (not the Para) and there is definitely a "whoa" factor when you pick it up. It's super light, although I cannot attest to its functionality or durability. Then I saw the price tag and I had another "whoa".

    I think, though, there's something to be said for the fact that both you and I can easily imagine a backpacker for whom the Vargo Ti Para bottle could easily be argued to be a rational purchase. I find it hard to imagine anybody justifying the purchase of a lanyard donut.

    1. Oh yeah, totally. It certainly has functionality. But it's also one of those gear items that non-gear folks would look at and say "that's silly", just like I've had someone say to me about my knives that cost more than $10. And if you're not an actual backpacker with an actual use for it, if you're just using it to carry water around in your hipster bag to and from free-range vegan coffee shops, then it's just (the non-pocket equivalent of) pocket frosting.

  16. Here's another one for the list:

  17. I associate the addition of things like steel flame pocket clips and other knife decorations with a particular aesthetic mostly found in biker and military culture, something akin to ancient germanic and nordic warrior cultures where weapons where dressed up in various ways with symbolism that the culture found meaningful. I think the modern "frank lloyd wright" school of design that eschews ornament for cleanliness is always going to be opposed to this. As a person who was mostly in the modern camp who is now gravitating into broader fields I'm starting to see the appeal of this old way of doing things. I think it can be refined, and often people just slap things on with abandon, but I've also seen these ornaments, including those produced by steel flame, applied in ways that are attractive and even beautiful.