Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sharps: Ideal impressions

Last week I stumbled onto a chance to trade for a knife I've been curious about. Three Queen pocketknives and a few days later, I had a barely used Marble's Ideal Hunting Knife handled in maple burl.

The classic Webster Marble design dates back to 1899. This later-day example features a 4-1/2" clip blade of carbon steel, convex-ground to a shaving-sharp edge with a large, distinctive fuller. The brass guard and aluminum pommel, along with stacks of spacers, bookend the reddish wood. It's a well-finished piece.

The Ideal is, in a word, pretty. It's also pretty comfortable in my hand, though the balance point is a bit behind the first finger. Regular readers know that I generally favor a fixed-blade in this size range, and while I don't fancy this Marble's to be a stand-in for my RAT RC-4 or Bark River Bravo-1, it feels like a knife I can work with.

And that's always the point -- attractive it may be, but the Ideal will reveal its true worth only after I work it some.

One thing I know already, however -- the sheath supplied with the knife has got to go. Oh, it looks okay and the leather is of fair quality, but it's designed poorly and executed shoddily.

The integral keeper strap refuses to stay out of the way. All three rivet tails are unfinished, leaving sharp edges guaranteed to gouge both blade and handle. The flimsy plastic "liner" isn't attached, either, offering zero protection. (I ended up covering the rivets with electrical tape.)

The way I see it, a knife's sheath is like a motorcycle's seat -- if it's not right, it's easily replaced. Either it does what it should or it gets tossed in favor of an aftermarket alternative like, let's say, a Sharpshooter Bushcraft or a JRE custom.

The Ideal's sheath falls squarely into the latter category. If I enjoy using this knife -- which at the moment feels like a beefier version of my beloved old Western -- I'll certainly give it a much better home.