Monday, June 29, 2009

Sharps: Patina

We had a family meal last night, our first in several weeks -- lemon chicken on the grill, sweet corn, and fresh berries and cream over angel food cake.

As preparations were getting underway, I was finishing yesterday's post. At one point my wife ducked into the office and asked if there was a particular knife I'd like the boys to use for slicing and chopping -- and since the new Mora was sitting right there on my desk, that's what I gave her.

The older spawn returned with the knife about 15 minutes later.

"Um... are you gonna be writing about this?" he asked, handing it to me with some hesitation. "I was slicing strawberries and the blade turned weird colors -- like, even black."

I pulled the Mora from its sheath and smiled, admiring the beginnings of a warm patina that eventually would give the steel its character.

I explained to the puzzled teenager that this is what happens to carbon steel when it's exposed to an oxidizing substance -- like the acids in strawberries, for example.

Having been spoiled by stainless, he had no idea. I sheathed the knife and handed it back to him. Mrs. KintlaLake wanted to use it to cut up a lime.

Ah, more patina, more character -- just two of the many reasons why I love carbon steel.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sharps: A Solo & a Viking

The local post office was closed by the time I got there yesterday to find a yellow card in my P.O. box -- a package had arrived, but it was too big to leave in the box.

Fortunately, I happened to catch a postal worker on his way out the door, and he cheerfully went back inside to fetch my parcel. (Gotta love small-town life.) As I suspected, the package held the two inexpensive knives I'd
ordered a week ago -- a Victorinox Solo Alox and a Frosts Morakniv Viking 640.

The Solo is exactly what I'd expected -- a rock-solid 93mm knife with good snap and no wiggle. Since it's destined to live in a PSK, and because I'd also considered the Victorinox Bantam Alox, I decided to compare them side-by-side.

The differences between the two aren't all that striking, although the Solo is visibly beefier. (In the photo, that's the Solo on the left and the 84mm Bantam on the right.) In the hand, the consumer-grade Bantam clearly is no wimp, but the heavier Solo feels significantly more solid, owing to its Soldier lineage.

Taking a closer look at components and construction reveals why the Solo (top, left) feels more like a working knife -- thicker scales and a backspring that's stronger and much heavier.

It's almost unfair to compare the two.

I'll continue to carry the Bantam in my dress-pants pocket. The single-blade Solo, however, is the better choice for my personal survival kit. It's a keeper.

While I knew pretty much what I'd be getting with the Victorinox Solo Alox, the Mora Viking 640 was something of an experiment. I like experiments.

I'd heard all about the simple utility of Mora knives, but I'd never so much as held one in my hand. So when I pulled this Viking from the shipping box, I went exploring.

The carbon-steel blade's Scandinavian grind was quite sharp, and I found the hollow-plastic handle to be surprisingly comfortable in my relatively large hand. Holding the knife up to a bare light bulb, I could see that the tang extended less than halfway into the handle. (Note to self...)

And then there's the sheath, a thin plastic bucket that uses light friction to hold the knife in place -- barely. I mean, I have travel-size toothbrushes that are more secure.

That said, I can't forget that this is an $8 knife. I predict having a helluvalotta fun with it around the house and yard, and I can see why some wilderness-survival schools issue the Mora to students.

Considering the minimal investment, I think it'd be a great "first knife" for a kid -- provided the sheath gets tossed, followed by teaching the youngster a bit about leathercraft.

I'll have more to say about the Mora later, as I get into using it.

Earlier posts
Sharps: Hunting & gathering
Sharps: Cheap therapy
Sharps: A modern-day Soldier

Frosts Mora
Swiss Army (USA)

Addendum: Looks like I'm not the only blogger who got Swedish steel in yesterday's mail -- our friend American Bushman took delivery of 15 Mora knives. Now he has a very cool project in mind.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


This blog gives me a chance to observe, opine and express. As a communicator by trade, I've found it to be a great way for me to exercise my creative muscles -- not all of them, however.

The professional part of my brain, the part that knows business communications -- marketing, promotion, public relations and the like -- is still intact, but for the better part of two years it hasn't seen much use.

Until a couple of days ago, that is.

A series of events unfolded, an exchange of correspondence followed and a promising business relationship was established.

I'm working again.

Without going into detail, I'll say simply that it isn't the sort of work that puts food on the table, at least not today. No, the best part of this bit of professional serendipity is that I'm stretching myself for the first time in many months. I'm rediscovering my business acumen and I'm contributing.

It feels good.

Friday, June 26, 2009


In a world of latest-greatest goops and concoctions, the KintlaLake family tilts toward the familiar -- and I mean the stuff that my wife and I used when we were kids. (Hell, most of what I'm talking about was around when our grandparents were kids.)

Honestly, I don't know what's gotten into me this morning, but for some strange reason I feel compelled to offer KintlaLake's Top Five Old-School Preparations.

#5 Unguentine

By far the best first-aid salve ever invented, Unguentine should be in every medicine cabinet and kit. Maybe its best benefit is that it draws -- infection doesn't stand a chance. Made in USA.

#4b Clubman Talc
I'll admit that I use Clubman and include it on this list because its distinctive fragrance reminds me of weekly haircuts at Louie's Barber Shop when I was a kid. It's good at soothing razor burn, too. (Yes, I said weekly.) Made in England.

#4a Gold Bond Powder

If it chafes or itches, no matter the reason why, Gold Bond is the cure. Just ask a baby -- or if you can't get the baby to talk, ask a bicyclist. The lotion is good, too, but the original powder is amazing. Made in USA.

#3 Dickinson's Witch Hazel

How can something so naturally simple be so versatile? It's an astringent, a cleanser, a treatment for scrapes and insect bites and more. After 200 years, I'm pretty sure that Dickinson's got it right. Made in Essex, Connecticut.

#2 Corn Huskers Lotion
Especially in the wintertime, my hands get so dry they're painful. Anyone who works outside in cold weather knows exactly what I'm talking about.

I've never found anything that works as well as this simple, glycerin-and-water potion. Remarkable stuff, made in USA.

#1 Bag Balm
Created in 1899 to soften the chapped udders of dairy cows, Bag Balm is the ultimate old-school therapy for irritated or scraped human skin.

Yeah, so it smells a little funky, but don't mention that to rescuers (human and canine) who used it day after day while digging through the World Trade Center rubble after 9-11. It's not just good -- it's da balm. (Sorry.) Made in Lyndonville, Vermont.

Honorable mention
Epsom salt, Vaseline and Vick's VapoRub.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program -- which, if you've managed to read this far, is probably a re-air of a Paul Harvey radio show.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A pair of pinups

Thirty-six years ago, grown men wept -- or at least they sighed.

Betty Grable, the beloved pinup girl of their youth, was dead at 56.

She'd posed for the iconic image in 1943 at the age of 27. She was adored by American men of the World War II era, especially those serving in the military.

In 1973, at 16 years old I had no idea what made Betty Grable or that pinup so special to my dad's generation. Both the person and the photograph seemed pretty ordinary to me, almost quaint in black-and-white.

Three years after Betty died, a TV star was adorning the bedroom walls of guys my age -- life-size, living color. It was 1976, and Farrah Fawcett was 29.

My own generation's pinup girl died today at 62, and we wept -- or at least we breathed a sigh for our lost youth.

I can't help but wonder -- is it possible that my teenage spawns look at that frosted blond hair, that clingy red swimsuit and those... well, you know... and see Farrah Fawcett the way I saw Betty Grable?

Over my shoulder

In the 15 months since KintlaLake Blog's debut, this site has attracted a modest following, mostly through my participation in forums like M4Carbine, Trailvoy, KnifeForums and BladeForums.

My impressions of the KSF Leather Holt prompted an unexpected post by "okbohn" yesterday on KnifeForums:
"I don't know who this is, but they did a nice review of the KSF Leather Holt:"
The discussion that followed was entertaining -- in the physical world, "okbohn" is Derrick Bohn, proprietor of KnivesShipFree -- and what's more, forum members' comments about this blog were quite complimentary.

Judging by messages both public and private, it looks like KintlaLake Blog has a bunch more readers today that it had yesterday. At the risk of sounding like a radio host who's just landed a new affiliate, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to those KFers just now dropping in.

I'll try to live up to your kind words, folks. I can promise you that you won't always agree with what I have to say, but you can count on me to shoot straight -- it's the nature of independent critical thought.

Well, it's my nature, anyway. Stay tuned, ok?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Addenda: BTDT & PSK

It's time to address questions and comments that followed "Been there? Done that?" and "Hunting & gathering."

I don't have a yard, I don't have a garden and I don't often have a chance to go camping. Any suggestions for other ways to get comfortable with my knives, short of dressing out my pets?

Leave...the cat...alone.

My first thought would be to use your go-to knife (or knives) in the kitchen -- chop vegetables, dice stew meat and peel potatoes. Practicing the culinary use of sharps can develop familiarity and dexterity like nothing else, really. It also can expose a knife's weaknesses -- better to find out in the kitchen than in the woods.

Buy a bundle of firewood and practice batoning, stripping bark and other bushcraft skills on the patio or in the parking lot. Be ready to get some strange looks from the neighbors, though.

Fuel efficiency is only one aspect of maximizing a vehicle's SHTF potential, isn't it? What about learning where its limits are, so that when zombies attack...?

(You knew it was bound to happen, sooner or later -- "zombies" have made their first appearance on KintlaLake Blog.)

That's a good point -- driving like a blue-haired retiree isn't the whole equation, not by a mile (per gallon).

Before the time comes when you must drive your vehicle hard and fast, it's not a bad idea at all to see just how much you can wring out of it -- without being stoopid about it. The best place to define a vehicle's envelope -- and a driver's -- is under pro supervision at the track.

I speak from some experience, having driven and ridden shotgun with a few championship-winning road-course drivers myself. Sure, track days can be expensive, but there's simply no substitute.

If that's not an option, do what you responsibly can to explore cornering, acceleration and yes, even fuel economy at the outer limits. If it's a truck or SUV, learn how much ground clearance it has by rolling over curbs and dividers. If it's a 4WD, take it off-road intentionally before you have to do that to evade and escape.

I take no responsibility, by the way, for speeding tickets earned, bodily injury suffered or property damage inflicted while you're pretending to be fleeing imaginary undead. You're on your own.

You mentioned tending to an injury without medical help but didn't elaborate. When I'm "going there" before "there" is "here," how do I tell the difference between a boo-boo that I can treat and something that requires a doctor or an EMT?

Common sense, mostly -- and training.

I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV, but I firmly believe that completing Red Cross training in first aid, CPR and disaster preparedness is time well spent. Make it a family affair if you can.

In my opinion, part of a preparedness mindset is being okay with being uncomfortable. Personally, I fast one day a month.

Experiencing hunger regularly is a good thing, especially for a prepared person, whether it's skipping a meal or going a whole day without eating. Most people don't deal well with simple discomfort. Getting familiar with it (and continuing to function) is one thing that separates a survivor from a statistic.

A caution, however: Don't go without water -- drink plenty of fluids. And it's always best to check with a doctor before undertaking such a "practice fast" or any similar exercise.

My family and I don't want to be hamsters, so every now and then we hop in the car and we go exploring. No GPS, only paper maps, and we don't pull those out unless we get lost. We usually don't go too far from home, and we make it a game for the kids -- "Where does that road go?" is something they look forward to now.

That's an excellent idea -- I couldn't have said it better myself.

I have what I think is a Victorinox Solo, but it doesn't look like the picture on your blog. The handles are red and they're textured plastic, not silver metal.

That would be a hard-to-find single-blade model in 108mm. It'd be a great choice for a compact PSK, but I've judged it to be a bit too big for the kit that I'm putting together.

Because it's made of unobtainium (or nylon, actually), it's twice as expensive as the 93mm Victorinox Solo Alox. The Safari (Solo) Adventurer currently is available for $30 from our friends at FelineVet. Get 'em while they last.

Earlier posts
Been there? Done that?
Sharps: Hunting & gathering

Secret Order of Swiss Army Knives

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Shopping bags

My wife and I walked into a local Target store Sunday evening with slightly different shopping lists.

She: "I'm going to look for a new purse. Want to come along and help me pick one out?"

Me: "I'll catch up in a minute, hon' -- I need to grab a box of breast-milk storage bags."

Oh, there are a few things in our lives that really suck right now -- our bank balance and the 17-year-old's attitude, to name two -- but no one in the KintlaLake family is actually nursing.

So why in the Sam Hill is this (arguably) otherwise normal fifty-something guy on the prowl for breast-milk bags?

I learned that they make dandy water-storage containers for personal survival kits like the proto that I'm putting together. Sterile, compact and re-sealable, they'll replace the oven bags I'd been including in our own PSKs.

A few years ago, my Morgantown missus and I pledged our lives to each other, no matter what. I doubt, however, that she ever imagined that her husband would be cruising the breast-feeding aisle at Target.

Needless to say, she's very understanding -- and I'm one lucky man.


For reasons apparent to regular readers of KintlaLake Blog, I no longer own a credit card. These days I pay for my over-the-counter purchases by cash, check or debit card. Online I use EFT, PayPal or, occasionally, my debit card number.

I just got off the phone with my bank -- my debit card has been compromised.

According to the bank, which called me within minutes of suspecting a breach, it had nothing to do with merchant security or careless use of the card. The fraudulent transaction -- in the amount of $1.01, from a merchant I'd never used -- is the typical product of robo-software that constantly scans random sequences of 16-digit numbers and financial institutions, looking for acceptance.

If a small transaction goes through, the software comes back later for another bite -- a bigger bite -- at the account.

My card has been blocked, and I'll get a new one (with a new number) in a day or two. I don't love banks, generally speaking, but I sure love mine right now.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tin, man

Over on BladeForums, Jeff Randall of RAT Cutlery is trying to raise the bar on the forum's regular contests. Yes, the word "extreme" has come up a time or two. (Natch.)

It looks like contestants must live in the woods for three days with:

"No extra tools except for what's in [an] Altoids short, nothing extra in your pockets, around your neck, in your ears, through your nose, etc."

"A blade (one only), anything you can fit into an Altoids tin (standard size for the all the smart asses), standard clothing for the season and environment, notepad and pencil, camera and extra batteries. If you need to take a tripod for self-portraits, no problem. Cell phone and/or [personal locator beacon] for emergencies."

As of this writing, points will be awarded for:
1) Kit innovation.
2) Actual use of the blade and the kit's tools in the wilds.
3) The most survival tasks accomplished while in the wilds...
4) Photo documentation and note-taking of the whole trip.
It sure sounds like big fun, doesn't it? Whatever you do, don't tell any personal-injury lawyers about this -- and don't look for KintlaLake among the entrants this time around, but rest assured that I'll be watching with great interest.

Now, about that Altoids tin -- I must be one of those "smart asses" Jeff mentioned, because this is my hip-pocket personal survival kit:

Contents of "The LOVE Tin" are listed on a label affixed to the outside of the lid. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) I do that, as well as seal the tin, in case it gets tossed to another member of the family, just so they know what they have.

This big little PSK works for me -- disqualification notwithstanding, of course.

* * *
Update, June 23rd, 8:32am: This morning, RAT Cutlery canceled its three-day
BladeForums survival contest, for reasons of participant safety and company liability.

"The more I think about this whole contest, the more I'm seeing it was a bad idea," RAT's Jeff Randall said in a
post this morning. "This contest is canceled."

I'm disappointed, naturally. I also believe that pulling the plug is a brilliant business decision.

Been there? Done that?

"Son, act like you've been there before." (Paul Brown, legendary football coach, to a player who had danced in the end zone after scoring a touchdown)
It's been almost a year since I was reminded that I live among hamsters, that rainy morning when flash flooding exposed many of my neighbors as totally clueless about their surroundings.

They didn't have the knowledge, experience or attitude to confront unfamiliar circumstances -- because they hadn't been there before.

That's inexcusable. There's no reason not to expect the unexpected because, sooner or later, trouble of some sort will find us.

A major traffic accident or a chemical spill will close the freeway. The power will go out some summer evening. An ice storm will leave us without heat for hours, or even days, in the dead of winter.

Traffic jams and weather events might well be on our personal radar, but sometimes the threat is greater and the stakes are higher -- much higher. An intruder will invade our home in the night. We'll suffer an injury at a place or time when medical help isn't available.

And at the risk of sounding like a tin-hatter here, consider this: A natural disaster will hit or civil unrest will boil over when we're miles from home. Could we defend ourselves? Find water and shelter? Build a fire? With or without a vehicle, could we get home?

For a graphic description of such a scenario, see "Cold, cold water."

Dealing effectively with these and other what-ifs depends largely on mindset. The biggest mistake we make, I think, is believing that we can wait 'til the last minute to conjure our must-do SHTF attitude.

Put another way, we can't "act like we've been there" if we've never even been close.

Whether we like it or not, personal preparedness is a full-time job. Fundamental to success -- and survival -- is actively and continually cultivating a working familiarity with tools, skills and surroundings.

It can start with something as ridiculously simple as spending time each day living in the dark. (No kidding.) There's nothing wrong with switching on a light, of course, but how often do we do that out of habit rather than need? By being aware of my using artificial light unnecessarily, I've seen how often I can do without it -- which, as it turns out, is most of the time.

My practice has given me confidence and familiarity (as well as night vision) that come in handy every time the power winks out. Obviously, keeping everything in its place helps. I mean, there's nothing quite as pathetic as needing a flashlight to find the candles -- or the batteries.

Our electric bills are a bit lower, too.

The time may come when embarrassment and utility bills would be the least of my concerns. If an armed intruder were to threaten my family and me in the middle of the night, I can lay my hands on everything I might need -- phone, eyeglasses, defensive weapon, etc. -- in ten seconds or less.

I know that for a fact because I do low-light, dry-fire drills at least once a week. Practice, promise.

When the fuel gauge on our vehicle starts approaching E and we're not sure when we'll see the next gas station, we start driving much more conservatively. We've all done it, trying to squeeze as much mileage as possible out of those last precious fumes in the tank.

The question is, what could we learn by driving that way -- on purpose -- more often? Or all the time? If the SHTF and we're stuck 25 miles from where we want to be with only enough gas to go 20 miles, maybe we could actually get there. Through practice, we stand a good chance of replacing "maybe" with "probably."

In eight months with my Chevy TrailBlazer, I've managed to increase overall fuel efficiency by 20% just by changing the way I drive. I wasn't a maniac to begin with, by the way, nor do I now pose a rolling hazard to my fellow motorists. The bottom line is that it is possible.

Firesteels and knives are essential survival tools, and a handgun can be an effective means of personal defense. Even the best tools are useless, however, if we don't practice with them long before our life depends on the outcome.

Building a fire in a Weber or backyard pit with only found materials, and then lighting it with a firesteel, hones what could be a lifesaving skill. An acquaintance likes to do it while being showered by a lawn sprinkler, to simulate doing it in the rain -- now that's an attitude.

The folding knife in our pocket or the fixed blade we carry in our last-ditch kit someday may be called upon to fashion an emergency shelter, a splint or a deadfall trap. Using those knives for ordinary lawn-and-garden chores, leaving fancy saws and pruners in the shed, can show us what can be done long before it must be done. The experience, albeit ordinary, can prove invaluable.

As for firearms, once again I defer to Col. Jeff Cooper:
"You are no more armed because you own a gun than you are a musician because you own a piano. The instrument is not the answer; the skill to use the instrument is the answer."
Rust is lethal. Get to the range, dammit. 'Nuff said.

There's much more, of course, but I believe I've begun to make the point that being prepared for the unexpected involves more than a full pantry, fresh batteries and a well-stocked bug-out bag. Since circumstances could turn against us any day, preparedness is a mindset we must live every day.

That's not paranoia -- it's only common sense.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What I know & what I don't

I know that I feel compassion for the people of Iran.

I don't know how I, an independent citizen-patriot who cherishes my liberties, could find the government of Iran anything but repugnant -- typical of a theocratic faux democracy, the Islamic Republic of Iran oppresses its people, indisputably brutal and shamelessly dictatorial.

I know that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is an asshole.

I don't know that reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh would be preferable to the devil we know -- that choice is (or should be) up to the citizens of Iran.

I know that so-called "social networking" media are, right now, our only windows on the protests and violence in Iran.

I don't know -- in fact, I have no way of knowing, and neither do the mainstream media -- whether or not these anecdotal reports, gut-wrenchingly compelling though they may be, fairly portray the situation on the ground.

I know that the Obama administration's response to the strife in Iran has been altogether proper and measured perfectly, a refreshingly intelligent approach to international relations.

I don't know why so many Americans insist that Pres. Obama speak to the world like he's addressing a small-town VFW meeting -- pride flaunted is arrogance, and it's a culture of official arrogance that's made a mess of U.S. foreign policy.

I know that the people of Iran have only their voices with which to resist a powerful government.

I don't know how any American can advocate the trampling of the Second Amendment, thus robbing this free and independent people of our unique ability to preserve Liberty.

I know that the unrest in Iran is half a world away.

I don't know how we can be so complacent as to suggest that heavy-handed government suppression of rights never will visit our shores -- or how we can be so naive as to believe that it hasn't already begun.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sharps: Hunting & gathering

Although I haven't said much lately about financial and professional matters, my wife and I have been putting a foundation under a business of our own.

The concept focuses on preparedness, both tools and skills. As regular readers of KintlaLake Blog might expect, the business would mine local resources and take advantage of the Web's potential.

We're realistic -- we have no illusions. Right now we're up to our chins in defining the business and securing suppliers. I spend much of my time noodling ideas, evaluating products and looking for reliable sources.

It's at once frustrating and invigorating. We're still a couple of months away from going live, though, perhaps a bit more.

Related to our business, at least peripherally, I devoted this morning's surfing to choosing a folding knife for a personal survival kit. For my own personal purposes, eventually the knife will live in an OtterBox carried in the KSF Leather Holt I wrote about last week, but whatever I select also could become part of a PSK we'd offer for sale.

It's common for pre-fab kits to include a small, last-ditch razor knife, which definitely would fill the bill in a pinch. In the interest of product differentiation, however, I wanted something more, something better -- I was looking for a real pocketknife.

It had to be sturdy and compact with a useful blade. My very first thought was the ultra-thin Victorinox Bantam Alox (MSRP $24, street $16) with its spear-point blade and screwdriver-caplifter tool, but I settled on the single-blade Victorinox Solo Alox (MSRP $23, street $15).

While the Bantam is an 84mm Victorinox, the Solo, like the Farmer and the previous-generation Soldier, is a 93mm knife. The Solo's blade is longer and thicker than the Bantam's and its backspring is stronger -- and yet it's nearly as thin and only a few grams heavier.

And so an hour ago I added one Solo to my shopping cart at a favorite online retailer. When I checked the total, I noticed that the shipping charges were pretty steep compared to the price of a single item -- no surprise there, but ordering two Solos wasn't part of today's plan. It looked like I had about nine bucks to play with.

I decided to fill the gap with something I've been curious about for some time -- a Frosts Morakniv Viking 640 in carbon steel (street price $8). Mora knives have a reputation for being excellent values, the fixed-blade equivalent of the folding Opinel.

The simple Mora might be just the kind of product we'd like to offer through our business. Even if it's not, I think I'll have fun finding out how much real-world worth can be packed into an eight-dollar knife.

Watch this space for hands-on impressions of the Swiss-made Solo and the Swedish Mora.

Earlier posts
Sharps: Cheap therapy
Sharps: So you want simple?
Sharps: A modern-day Soldier

Frosts Mora
Opinel Knife & Cutlery
Victorinox & Swiss Army (USA)

Sharps: A philosophy

After the hammer, the edged tool arguably was the first implement fashioned by man. Those who embrace the undeniably primitive nature of axes and knives today tend to be elemental philosophers of a sort, a fellowship that includes many knife owners and virtually all knifemakers.

In this era of specialties and gimmickry, we'd be wise to return to the basics they espouse.

Mike Stewart is, for all practical purposes, Bark River Knife & Tool. He learned his craft at the elbow of the legendary Bill Moran. He was shaped by an industry journey that included Pacific, Blackjack, and Marble. Today his company manufactures some of the finest and most sought-after sharps, regardless of price, in the world.

Like most of us, Stewart has both detractors and defenders. I prefer to judge a man by his work, however, and in that regard he has my admiration.

Stewart also happens to be among the aforementioned philosophers. With pleasing clarity, he draws us back to fundamentals:

"I have found that a knife needs to be a knife. It needs to cut, chop, carve, be batoned. It needs to be strong, take a great edge, hold that edge and be easy to touch-up in the field.

"With that in mind, the more things you try to incorporate into that knife -- saw teeth, gut hooks, skull crushers, hammers, hidden compartments -- the less it actually is a knife."

The essence of an edged tool, then, is its utility. Knives can be beautiful, certainly, and many of Stewart's are, but his mindset demands that their aesthetics flow from their usefulness. It's an approach rooted in function, dismissing the dime-store flamboyance typical of made-in-Hollywood blades.

Naturally, different patterns and sizes excel at different tasks -- "horses for courses," as the saying goes -- but there always will be the wish for The Knife, a single tool that does most everything well.

As much as I might hate to admit it, I'm always pursuing the ideal bushcraft knife, the one survival knife to replace all others. Here's Stewart's perspective:

"The best bushcraft knife is the one you have with you and is best suited to your needs and style of use."

"A survival knife is the knife you have with you when things go not as planned."

"For me, a survival knife is a bushcraft knife -- and a utility knife and a hunting knife. I really don't care what style you are comfortable with. If you know how to use it, it's your bushcraft knife."

That's an extraordinarily useful way to look at a knife, but on closer examination we see that Stewart isn't talking about knives or even about preparedness. He's talking about us.

Singer, not song.

Simplicity resides in me, not in an object. When I handle and use a knife, I discover its elemental qualities and rediscover my own. Its ultimate utility can't emerge without me. As I reveal my aptitudes and master skills, the tool is constant -- I change.

That's what Stewart is saying. That's what he knows.

And so if there's an explanation for my affection for sharps -- why I write so many posts on the subject, why I'll sit quietly and whittle a feather stick rather than play a computer game -- that's it.

It's a philosophy. Knives are simply the tools I use to explore it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wheels up, feet up

Shortly after 9:30am today, Mrs. KintlaLake and our spawns left for a few days' R&R in Indiana. Old friends of theirs recently bought a summer place on a lake over there and extended an invitation.

I was invited, too, but honestly I wasn't interested in spending time sunning myself on a bustling, dock-by-dock-by-dock lakeshore, and I said so. I encouraged the three of them to take full advantage of their friends' hospitality.

So off they went this morning -- three tall people, plus luggage, folded into a convertible meant for two. Perhaps even more comical is imagining the spawns going to a place without TV, video games or Internet. T
he mind reels...

There's no tension around our spending time apart, by the way, no hard feelings and no precipitating event. I never forget that the three of them were a family unto themselves long before I came into the picture, and it'll be good for them to bond again in the presence of familiar faces they haven't seen in a while.

They know all that stuff, even though they haven't said it out loud. They also know that I'll enjoy getting reacquainted with my inner bachelor. So it's a good thing.

The dogs and I have the place to ourselves. When I finish typing this post, I'll fix my dinner, put my feet up, listen to the storms rumble through and watch some tube. (Eat your hearts out, spawns.) I'll take many deep breaths and enjoy my own company.

That's a good thing, too.

* * *
Update, 5:15pm: I spoke with my wife, who'd just returned from a boat ride cut short by threatening weather. Although the house is equipped with a NOAA weather radio, she's been entertaining the group with the radar images she's pulling up on her cell phone. It doesn't look good.

Right now they're under a tornado warning. Fortunately, there's a concrete-block shelter built into a berm in the yard. It should be an interesting night for them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pathétique meets pathetic

In the moments before his CNBC interview began on Tuesday, Pres. Barack Obama killed a fly.

Swat! -- "I got the sucker," said the Leader of the Free World, to off-camera applause and laughter.

Anyone who's been conscious for the last 20 years knows what happened next -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, of course, issued a press release:

"We support compassion for the even the smallest animals. We support giving insects the benefit of the doubt."
PETA advocates catch-and-release, by the way, even for flies, and reportedly sent Pres. Obama a contraption that'll allow him to be less cruel next time.

I swear I'm not making this up. I only wish I were.

Oh, it doesn't surprise me that there are people who, for whatever reason, actually feel compassion for insects. Personally, I don't get that sort of thing, but ok, whatever.

It annoys the hell out of me, however, that we grant tax-exempt status to an organization with non-profit balls big enough to make a formal public statement chiding the President of the United States for killing a bug.

Like we care. Am I right?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Poor substitutes

In quiet moments -- and over the last week or so I've had quite a few -- I've gathered some of my observations about modern life.

This particular train of thought began with my noticing that we've confused inconvenience with hardship. Disappointment is disaster. We feel discomfort and call it pain; we don't know the difference between being hurt and being injured.

The moment that our stomachs grumble, we complain of hunger.

We reward effort as if it were achievement. Our electronic to-do lists have become cheap masquerades for accountability, personal responsibility, accomplishment.

Excellence is buckling under the weight of fairness.

The very human emotion of anger is, to us, akin to violence. Parents' justifiably stern discipline is seen as abuse.

The simple pocketknife no longer is a tool, it's a deadly weapon. An armed citizen who's rightfully prepared to defend his family is treated like a criminal while true criminals are coddled, precious candidates for rehabilitation.

Volume is a barometer of credibility -- louder is smarter.

Independence, which has great worth, has been overgrown by contrarianism, which is a mere affectation. Ideology is mistaken for values, religion for faith and truth for facts.

Belief is certainty. Sincerity is interchangeable with honesty. Rote knowledge has replaced wisdom.

We've abandoned respect entirely, it would seem, along with the inestimable value of hard work -- both our own and that of others.

Most disturbing of all, I think, is that we've decided that it's more important to entertain our children, to please them and make sure that they're never unhappy, than it is to raise them.

If all of this sounds like I just called major bullshit on today's society, it's because that's exactly what I intended to do. I don't like where we are, not one bit, and I'm not optimistic about where we're headed.

Hump Day ramble

Instead of three bus-driving assignments yesterday I had four. My wife's car again stayed in the shop overnight, adding a late-afternoon trip to pick her up at work. As a result, we also made a return run to drop her off early this morning.

Tuesday involved lots of sitting and waiting, of course, as well as logging even more miles than we had the day before. None of us loves this unpredictable road show of ours, but it is what it is -- two days, 18 gallons of gas, fifty bucks.

If there's a bright spot, it's that my TrailBlazer got almost 19mpg on that tank, the best everyday mileage I've seen since adopting this used SUV last October. With gas prices high and climbing, hey, I'll take my good news wherever I find it.

* * *
The wild raspberry canes in our idle garden are loaded with ripening fruit. Unable to wait for them to reach maturity, I've sampled a few.

Tart and earthy treats. Great stuff.

By this weekend I hope to get into my rhythmic
battle with the birds and reap some riper, sweeter rewards.

* * *
Speaking of the garden, last year's perennials are presenting us with a modest bounty.

Early-season oregano, thyme and chives complement the patches of wild garlic that dot our property. A couple of mint vines threaten to become the Kudzu of Ohio.

I really miss our basils, fragrant and fresh from the garden, but since it's an annual it wouldn't be ready yet anyway.

* * *
Trolling in Lancaster the other evening, we were surprised to see a full-service gas station -- and I mean nothing but.

Seriously. No self-serve pumps.

The sight prompted several minutes of tag-team reminiscing by my wife and me. We recalled a time when pulling up to the pump resembled a NASCAR pit stop -- two or three uniformed attendants swarming the car to wash the windows, check under the hood and fill the tank. In those days, there wasn't much in the way of mechanical work that couldn't be handled by the filling station on the corner, from changing tires to major engine repair.

Our trip down memory lane -- ding-ding! -- had us smiling. The spawns either didn't believe us or didn't much care.

The latter is more likely.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sharps: Roadwork & bargains that was a day.

Parts of it were known in advance, like shuttling the
pooch-screwing member of our family out to Newark for a noon appointment, and the now-familiar trip down to Lancaster for a 6:30pm engagement.

It was the stuff in the middle that I didn't expect.

My wife decided that this was the day to have her car serviced, something that should've taken just a few hours, but when the mechanic discovered a mortally wounded wheel bearing it became a leave-it-overnight proposition. Between Newark and Lancaster, then, I zoomed up to Columbus to fetch Mrs. KintlaLake at work.

On all three trips, about 150 miles in all, both spawns came along for the ride. Each run involved considerable sit-and-wait time between outbound and inbound legs.

I hate waiting. Even more than that, I hate losing an entire day of my life to bus-driving duties.

A bit of serendipity appeared during our early-afternoon layover. Just down the street from our destination in Newark, a large sign beckoned: "Slone's Knives." (Oh, somebody pinch me.) The younger spawn and I took the bait and managed to kill an hour in the place.

Thousands of knives, some new but most used, filled display cases arranged on folding tables in the store's dim, musty interior. We found the owner to be fair, knowledgeable and entertaining as hell.

With the store in the midst of a going-out-of-business sale -- the ailing owner is on the verge of retiring -- there were bargains everywhere. Limited funds have kept me from treating my family to the occasional trinket these days, but here was a way to do something nice for each of them without breaking the bank (or, for that matter, without even breaking a sweat).

I found a lightly used Buck 183 Alpha CrossLock for our older spawn, a proper American-made addition to his outdoors kit. For my wife, who's needed a small one-hander to open packages at work, I picked up a brand-new Spyderco Dragonfly ClipIt FRN with a serrated edge. I treated myself to a well-loved Benchmade 5 Rescue Hook, complete with Kydex sheath, to keep in the truck.

The 14-year-old had his eye on a
balisong -- a cheap, imported one. That wasn’t about to happen, both because it was Chinese garbage and because he hasn't yet shown the kind of judgment such a knife requires. He left the store empty-handed, asking me to defer my generosity to another time.

Fine with me. My grandfather would be proud of him.

All of my choices were inexpensive, absurdly so. I'm seldom in Newark, but I'm hoping to find a reason to get back up to this odd little store again before it closes, if only to gawk.

My roadwork resumed this morning with a rush-hour drive to Columbus, delivering my wife to her place of business, and will continue this afternoon with a trip to another part of the city, concluding (I hope) this evening with our regular Lancaster run. There will be more waiting -- no doubt about that.

Did I mention that I hate to wait?

Benchmade Knife Company
Buck Knives

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sharps: Picking our pockets

We don't have much time here, so I'll make this brief.

U.S. Customs & Border Protection wants to change the definition of a "switchblade" to include all knives that open with one hand. If USCBP gets its way, an estimated 35.6 million law-abiding Americans who now own multi-tools, one-hand openers, assisted-openers and even traditional pocket knives immediately could become de facto criminals.

It's a classic example of a federal enforcement agency trying to do an end-run on Congress -- thus ignoring the will of the People -- by rewriting regulations before anyone notices. And although this particular
proposal is directed only at importers of assisted-opening knives, the language used in the USCBP document is broad enough to apply to any knife that opens with one hand.

Once the agency succeeds in changing the definition, it likely will move against all folding knives -- whether they're imported or not.

This isn't just stupid -- it's real and it's right on top of us, right now.

Knife Rights, an advocacy group representing knife owners, is fighting this idiocy on our behalf. So is the American Knife & Tool Institute, a non-profit industry organization. Even the National Rifle Association, which almost never strays from firearms issues, recognizes how dangerous the situation is to our liberties.

I urge anyone who owns a folding knife to register opposition to the USCBP proposal by sending one or more of the model letters below. The agency isn't accepting comments by e-mail, and our letters must be received no later than Saturday, June 20th.

Let's do what we can to stop this, People.

Model letters (Microsoft Word)
Knife Rights letter to USCBP

AKTI letter to USCBP
AKTI letter to legislators

Sunday, June 14, 2009

This week's 'word cloud'

These things have fascinated me for quite a while now.

This particular word cloud captures, in graphic form, the 200 words used most on KintlaLake Blog since last Sunday (common English words excluded.) The bigger the word shows up in the cloud, the more often it's appeared here.

Make your own at

'Dedicated to the proposition'

To wrap this accidental series of posts on the climate of hate, I want to offer a final comment on criminal acts motivated by hate.

Unlike lone wolves, so-called "hate crimes" are real, not mythical. Hateful actors do, in fact, chose their targets based on race, ethnic origin, religion, sexual nature and more. That much is indisputable.

I've already expressed my firm belief that "hate speech," short of outright incitement, is protected from government restraint by the First Amendment. When hatred motivates a crime, though, should the law define those acts as somehow more serious? Should penalties be tougher?

Absolutely not.

Assault is assault -- never mind the motive, regardless of who the perpetrator is, irrespective of the target. Murder is murder, whether a junkie kills a yuppie or a yuppie kills a junkie. Our system of criminal justice provides for a range of punishment at sentencing.
To propose that hate-motivated crimes should be charged and punished differently flies in the face of "equal justice under law," which itself stems from our nation's most basic founding principle:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."
Hate-crime laws are, in this citizen's view, unconstitutional -- they codify inequality by classifying some Americans as superior to other Americans. That is, they judge a crime against a gay man or an Asian woman or an evangelical Christian to be more heinous if the offender committed the act because the victim is gay, Asian, female or Christian.

Such laws, intended to protect some, diminish all. We're created equal, yet these statutes send the message that some of us are more equal than others. They create special classes of victims and special classes of offenders.
Human nature guarantees that hatred will be with us forever. The First Amendment guarantees Americans' right to speak hate, however objectionable to the majority. And the Founders gave us the unequivocal assurance that all of us are created equal.

That perfect principle of liberty will die, however, if we capitulate to the kind of selective vengeance and misguided political correctness that hate-crime laws represent.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The myth of the 'lone wolf'

Since Wednesday's shooting at the Holocaust Museum, experts have been characterizing the lifelong anti-Semite, racist and white supremacist who committed the murder as a "lone wolf." It was an isolated incident, they say, and the elderly killer acted alone.

I say that's a myth.

Oh, I get the concept, as it relates to criminal investigations and profiling. I'm familiar with separatists' strategic move toward small cells, so-called "leaderless resistance." I know that it's impossible to prevent all violent acts carried out by motivated individuals.

The problem I have with the "lone wolf" theory is that it tends to paint a picture that begins and ends inside the head of the perpetrator -- and that's like blaming Chicago for fire.

It takes a spark.

For the second time in as many days, I'm going to quote the Ohio Constitution § 1.11, which contains an interesting phrase not found in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights:
"Every citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of the right..."
Our laws prohibit government from restraining or abridging speech, including objectionable and hateful speech -- and as I've said many times, that's exactly as it should be. I'm not suggesting otherwise.

Not all speech is responsible, however, even if permitted, and a right guaranteed can become a right abused.

There are consequences.

I accept the risks of this free society, the consequences of my constitutional rights, but I've yet to witness the merchants of hate, the Father Coughlins of our time, accept responsibility for tossing matches into tinder.

We should start telling the truth about that, even if they won't.

Today's questions
Was it pure coincidence that the vicious old man who murdered the museum security guard committed his act before he turned 89?

Did he come up with that number -- and the unparalleled evil it symbolizes -- what, on his own?

Still think he was a "lone wolf"?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Impressions: KSF Leather Holt

About six weeks ago, the folks at Michigan's Sharpshooter Sheath Systems and KnivesShipFree, an Oklahoma-based retailer, were brainstorming about ways to carry a small OtterBox -- y'know, one of those watertight and nearly indestructible plastic containers available in a wide range of sizes and colors. This is what they came up with:

It's called a Holt, which I've learned is what an otter's den is called. (Clever, that.) The KSF Leather Holt is offered in two sizes -- one to fit the OtterBox 1000, another for the larger OtterBox 2000 -- and essentially is two leather straps that form a cradle for the box. It's designed to ride on a belt, a pack strap or Sharpshooter's Baldric setup. The keeper strap fastens with a snap.

I got hold of a Holt 1000 (as well as an OtterBox 1000) yesterday. I'm impressed -- it's an exquisitely simple concept, executed very well. Typical of Sharpshooter's leather goods, it features high-quality leather, hardware and construction.

The strap on my particular Holt, compared to ones pictured above, has a bit less leather below the snap. That makes sense -- a smaller tab will be less likely, I think, to catch on brush and such. Running changes, when they improve a product, are good.

Expect to read about the KSF Leather Holt 1000 again on KintlaLake Blog. I've decided that the OtterBox 1000 is the perfect size for a grab'n'go survival kit or a tag-along first-aid kit. I haven't yet decided which one, but whatever I end up doing I'll post about it here.

Earlier post
Sharps: Heartland leather

Sharpshooter Sheath Systems
KnifeForums thread