WC Knives Woodlore Clone and Woodcarver–Down Home Custom Knives

A couple years ago, on the recommendation of a guy I’d only seen on YouTube I sent money to another guy I’d only seen on YouTube. Oddly, I think I got my money’s worth.

The Knife Maker:
As part of the tithing I’ve talked about before I ordered knives from a writer and knife maker named William Collins the founder of WC Knives. Collins is based in Texas and at the time I ordered my knives had only been making knives for about eight months. (He began in December 2012.)

One of the interesting features of sending him your money (he insists on partial payment up front to cover materials) is that he sends you frequent videos of the progress of your knives. This includes his mistakes–he made one on on mine which slowed things down–and the answers to any questions you may have.  He then includes the videos as part of the package he sends with the final product.

In may case, his charming nature actually helped sell the purchase to She Who Must Be Obeyed. I was mostly impressed that his workshop seemed to be mostly outdoors.

The Knives:
I ordered two knives, the WC Knives Woodlore Clone and the smaller Woodcarver.

The Woodlore Clone (top) and the Woodcarver with their sheaths.

The Woodlore Clone (top) and the Woodcarver with their sheaths.

The knives have single bevel or “Scandi” grind drop-point blades and are made from 1095 steel which sharpens easily, holds an edge reasonably well and rusts at even the mention of water. They have hunter orange G10 handles with black G10 liners, brass pins and brass lanyard holes. The Woodlore Clone has a 4 inch blade and is 8.67 inches long over all. The Woodcarver has a 3.16 inch blade and is 7.16 inches long.

I chose Kydex sheaths with leather loops. Collins gives you a choice of sheaths, although it’s also possible to get them without sheaths.

For a new knife maker Collins did a terrific job. There are a few flaws: the “Scandi” grind is uneven on both knives–annoying mostly because it affects cutting–and the lanyard hold is partially blocked on the Woodlore Clone as if the G10 liner slipped after it had been drilled.

I’m also discovering I’m not a big fan of “Scandi” grinds, but that’s not Collins’ fault.

A close up of the blades.

A close up of the blades before any use.

The best part, though, is the handles. Collins does a terrific job producing beefy handles that don’t seem to have any hot spots and there are no gaps where the handle material meets the tang. They are easy to hold barehanded or with gloves and are so comfortable you actually want to go out and cut stuff with them. (Meaning I need to repatriate them to the USA so I can actually use them more.) I’ve used them as much as I can around the house and used them enough on wood and cardboard to dull them but they are really meant to be used outdoors.

I like them enough I’m considering another purchase. Until then, I can’t recommend his knives strongly enough. He’s always coming up with new designs and tests them on his YouTube channel. Lately he’s been working with better quality steels which has driven up the price some, but he’ll make whatever you order.

He’s also an avid hunter who’s not afraid to use one of his knives to butcher a squirrel or pig on camera. He will also show you the time he spent in the woods without getting a deer.

That said, anyone interested in ordering a knife should know that he has a large backlog and that he takes deer season off until he fills his tag.

Detail of the WC Knives logo, which he hammers in with a sledge hammer and the G10 handles.

Detail of the WC Knives logo, which he hammers in with a sledge hammer and the G10 handles. Note the thumb grooves in the handles.

You Don’t Have to be Crazy But it Helps

Several hundred years ago, when I was at university, I had a teacher take out a gun and shoot a student who was waving a sword at him. This teacher has had a lot of influence on me and the way I teach.

He also helped me solve a mystery.

The class was an introductory history class called “The Rise of Europe” and took place in shockingly dungeon like rooms in the old Dennison Hall at Kansas State University. (No windows, partly underground, men with swords.)

At first the class was taught by a TA who learned public speaking from the “Read Text In Monotone Lifeless Drone-Like Manner With No Expression At All” school of speech. (It exists.)

Then, on about the third class, I noticed there was a new, rather rickety looking, podium in place of the old podium. There was a also a mustachioed man in a cowboy hat who introduced himself as Professor Robert Linder and explained that everything we’d heard about him being tough was a lie. This lie upset him so much he started shouting and knocked the new podium over and it broke into several pieces.

At this point, a young man ran into the room and pointed a sword at Professor Linder and demanded that he tell the truth. Linder took out a small revolver and shot the young man. A couple TAs quickly cleaned up the mess and disposed of the body.

We immediately realized our professor was probably crazy.

That turned out to be his gift, though, and made his advanced classes the hardest to get into in the university. (With one exception.) At various times during the year he would give out Gummi bears if we answered questions. He also once stripped his shirt off and invited students of the same ethnicity to join him in a ritual bath. (Something to do with Swedes and/or Vikings, I don’t remember.)

He’s the only teacher I ever had who made us sit in alphabetical order and took roll in a large lecture class. He also would pick chairs on the front row and repeatedly take the same line to the person in that chair. A woman in the front row to the right of the podium would always hear about a historical person’s “piercing blue eyes” as Linder leaned in and stared at her. (One time the woman was absent and he mentioned that if she’d been there he’d have mentioned the blue eyes.)  A man in a seat to the left of the podium would get shaken by the shoulders (for various reasons).

After finishing his class, I managed to land a spot in his History of Christianity course. During that class he solved a mystery.

At various times, during classes in Eisenhower Hall, we’d hear someone yell “SHUT UP!” somewhere down the hallway. We never knew who this was.

The mystery was solved in History of Christianity when Professor Linder explained how St. Francis of Assisi had dealt with noisy birds in the church belfry. Linder said Francis had walked closer to them (as he himself walked to the door) “He looked up at them” (sold with a dramatic hand gesture) “and said” (Linder leaned out the classroom door into the hallway) “SHUT UP!” (Yelled at the top of his lungs.)

Mystery solved.

I’ve adopted the alphabetical seating and the habit of taking specific lines to a student in the front row. I also brought a sword to class once.

Nowadays, though, that would probably get me sent to jail.

My Brief History of Dance

I was watching a video today and in the background I heard the song “867-5309 / Jenny” (you don’t have to play it, it’s already in your head) and that has me thinking about cocaine.

My only experience with cocaine happened back when I lived in Hayden, Colorado. For some reason I don’t remember there was a dance in the old elementary school gym and for some other reason I don’t remember I went, which is not something I was wont to do. (To this day it requires copious amounts of alcohol and/or viable threats to get me on a dance floor.)

I vaguely remember a dance when I was in sixth grade that involved sixth grade boys standing on one side of the room and all the sixth grade girls standing on the other side. All were waiting for either 1) the dance to end or 2) a sacrificial lamb to be the first to the slaughter.

I, of course, was that lamb. Our teacher, Miss Trimble, went around trying to get people to dance. She then suddenly grabbed me and ordered me to dance. Of course, for a few minutes, we were the only ones dancing which remains a horribly surreal moment in my life, especially when one group of students applauded my sacrifice. (Something like that.) Eventually everyone danced, but I don’t remember if I danced after that.

The incident involving cocaine happened after that (I think). All I remember about that dance is that there was a mix of ages and there was a dance contest that somehow I got roped into.

Although I’m sure my goal was to get thrown out of the contest as soon as possible, what complicated that plan was my partner and I kept passing through to the next phase of the competition. At some point the song of choice was “Cocaine” (I don’t remember if it was the J. J. Cale original or the Eric Clapton cover). Thinking back, although Clapton has always claimed the song was anti-cocaine, I’m still amazed it was possible to play a song with that title at a school function.

I the end my partner and I didn’t win. I think it was cocaine that ruined it for us. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Now You Don’t Need It Now You Do But Now You Don’t Remember

Every now and then someone asks me how I teach a particular unit in the textbook. At first, I can usually only give them a blank stare and a couple semi-coherent grunts. By the time I think of the advice I should give, they’ve already dismissed me as brain damaged and/or insane.

Sometimes when I’m teaching a class, I suddenly remember how to teach the lesson and suddenly have to change plans on the fly.

Part of the problem is I suffer from an extreme case of what I call “Actor’s Memory”. Actors memorize a surprising amount of lines and blocking over the course of months in order to be able to do a few performances (in the case of plays). There’s constant repetition and review in order to make the blocking second nature and allow them to work on the emotion behind the lines.

When those plays are over, though, the lines go away. In my case, I remember performing in the plays, and I remember a lot of the problems involved with a couple of the plays, but I only remember a few lines despite spending two months saying them.

I suspect this stems from a kind of compartmentalization of memory. I needed the lines when I needed them and reserved a portion of my brain for them. Once they were no longer needed, I freed up that bit of memory for important stuff like Bloody Mary recipes and movie lines. In some cases I forgot the lines within days of the play finishing, even when I only had a few lines.

This also applies to computer related stuff and visa renewal tasks. I study how to do something and then spend time doing it but then a year later I’ve forgotten what I did and have to study it all again.

In the case of teaching, I try to remember what I did but it’s not until I’m actually up performing that my lines begin coming back to me. That happened this past week when I suddenly remembered the activity I’d done the year before and started doing it.

Granted, I’ve written all this stuff down but just staring at the script doesn’t bring back the blocking, so to speak.

Also, sometimes I just forget where I put the notebook.


The Problems With Pen Cases

When it comes to the stuff for my stuff I’m pretty choosey and quickly recognize the flaws in everything. When I get something I like I tend to keep it a long time, but all good things eventually pass.

Several hundred years ago (plus or minus a few) I bought a brown leather pen case from Levenger. It was designed to hold four pens and had a pocket in the middle that was supposed to hold refills and random bits (a technical term). It had slots for four pens.

That led to the first problem. Because the slots weren’t staggered, pens pushed against each other making the case wide and hard to close.

The Levenger pen case opened to reveal the guts.

The Levenger pen case opened to reveal the guts. The leather center is close to the original color.

Also, the case was badly stitched in one random spot at the bottom and putting a pen in the slot put pressure on the bad stitching. I also never liked that it couldn’t open fully. I ended up putting pens in the slots on one side and between the slots on the other. It also had room for an EDC flashlight.

Over time the leather got a great patina but eventually wore out and I had to replace it.

The dried leather, the great patina and worn out spine.

The dried leather, the great patina and the worn out spine.

Because it was difficult to find a leather pen case that met my standards (lots of slots, less than the cost of a new car) I opted for a Maxpedition Mini Pocket Organizer. The Mini had the requisite slots and was the right size for large pens and a flashlight. The problem was it had lots of dangly bits, including a loop handle I never actually needed. It had a large velcro rectangle and a mesh pocket on the front. It had molle webbing on the back. Overall, it had a tactical look more at home in Afghanistan than Japan.

My Maxpedition Mini load out. Ready for service in one of the 'Stans.

My Maxpedition Mini load out. Ready for service in one of the ‘Stans or for a trip to Tokyo.

It also had to be loaded carefully or it would bloat out and be too thick to carry comfortably. Like all Maxpedition organizers it had a key hook attached to a strap that did nothing but take up space and make it more difficult to load.
Eventually I discovered Kickstarter and my next pen case.

I ordered what was then the complete line up of goods from Nock Co. The cases were designed by an actual Pen Addict for other pen addicts. Once I got them, I settled on the five slot Sassafras for my everyday carry.

The Nock Co Sassafras with the cover flaps folded back.

The Nock Co Sassafras with the cover flaps folded back. There are four Kickstarter projects in this picture.

The Sassafras folds but doesn’t zip closed. it has a pair of flaps that serve as pen protectors and which help keep the pens in the case as it gets jostled around. I’ve had it flop open but have never lost a pen. It’s well staggered and doesn’t get too thick when it’s carrying a lot of pens. That said, I’d love to have a zippered version of it. (I’ll do a proper review of all my Nock Co stuff another day.)

The Final Choice:
As much as I like the Nock Co cases, I still prefer the look and feel of the old leather case. The Maxpedition was khaki and after a few months it started getting grungy which is a lot different than the patina on leather. The Nock Co is dark blue and doesn’t show grunge as easily but it will eventually begin to fray and fall apart without having a “this looks awesome” phase as it does.

My goal now is to convince the Nock Co people to make a leather version of one of their cases or find someone who can make a leather version I can afford without selling pens.

I’ll also keep looking for a good leather case.

Not What I Intended At All

I just spent the better part of an hour trying to find a couple pictures I probably took. Because I couldn’t find them, today’s post is brought to you by bad planning and disorganization.

I had intended to write about various pen cases today until I started looking for the pictures I was going to need to do it. After a relatively thorough search of my computer and extra storage I couldn’t find all the pictures I was looking for. This means a couple things:

1) I’m looking in the wrong place.
2) I need to label my pictures better and learn to use keywords.
3) I accidentally deleted the pictures.
4) The pictures don’t actually exist and I only imagined taking them.
5) I took the pictures but they sucked so I deleted them on purpose.

All of these, especially the latter two, are strong possibilities.

One of the curses of modern cameras is actually caused by their strength: because they no longer require film, pictures are cheap to take and, because you’re not limited to rolls of 24 or 36, you can fire away with reckless abandon. The trouble is, you end up getting random details of stuff you don’t know what they are:

There must have been a point to this but I didn't label it.

There must have been a point to this but I didn’t label it so I don’t know what it was.

At the time this probably seemed like a good idea but I don't remember.

At the time this probably seemed like a good idea but I don’t remember.

I now have thousands of photos to sort through on just one computer and that doesn’t count the external hard drives. If I were more industrious I’d sit down and sort and relabel them all to make the searchable.

Instead, I’ll probably end up retaking photos of all the pen cases I wanted to talk about for the post. The problem is, there’s at least one pen case that’s been been put somewhere where I won’t forget it.

That means I’ll have to search until I remember where it is.

A No-Name Notebook from the Balkans

When I was in Albania one of the few things I found that I still wish I could find was a bunch of cheap notebooks.

Although very little seemed to work in Albania from 1992-1994, someone managed to produce surprisingly good notebooks. They had plastic covers with an odd internal pocket and came in pocket and large size. They were about the same size and thickness as modern Moleskine notebooks. They had stitched and glued spines that laid flat when open.

I bought a stack of them as they were only 15 lek (about 15 US cents at the time; 25 cents with inflation) and used them while I was in Mississippi and after I came to Japan. They are among the few thick notebooks I’ve ever completely filled. The plastic cover made them comfortable to carry in the pocket but they were sturdy enough to write on without needing a hard surface.

My Albanian notebook compared to a Field Notes notebook. You can see the damaged spine.

My Albanian notebook compared to a Field Notes notebook. You can see the damaged spine at the right..

Inside the notebook. You can see the construction and deconstruction.

Inside the notebook. You can see the construction thanks to the deconstruction.

The paper seemed to be one part pulp paperback and one part newsprint. It was not especially fountain pen friendly as it was rough and scratchy with fine nibs awhile thicker nibs tended to cause feathering. That said, although it had a little ghosting, it didn’t have much bleedthrough so it was possible to use with fountain pens.

You can kind of see Noodler's Old Manhattan and and Apache Sunset.

You can kind of see Noodler’s Old Manhattan and can see Apache Sunset pretty well. You can also see the roughness.

I had two of the pocket sized notebooks that have long since been scanned and retired. I’m tempted to try to use the cover for something but it tends to chip off plastic bits as it’s carried around. I still have half of one of the larger ones that started out as scrapbook that was eventually abandoned. I’m also tempted to start carry it in order to finish it, but I don’t really have a use for it. I’d be carrying it out of nostalgia not need.

That said, I wouldn’t mind picking up a few new ones if I ever get the chance to go back to Albania and if they still exist.

cKc EDC–An Awesome Solution in Search of a Problem

I own a knife that solves a problem that probably wasn’t a problem. It’s still an awesome knife, though.

First some background: After I started renewing an odd interest in knives, I discovered cKc Knives. cKc Knives is run by Kyley Harris, a part-time knife maker in New Zealand who made videos that were one part humor, one part profanity and one part awesome. (In one great video, he proved a metal ruler could cut paper as part of a response to ludicrous claims from another YouTuber.) He also had one of the greatest sales videos I’ve ever seen when he proved his awesome sharpening skills by slicing a computer manual in half as easy as cutting warm butter.

He also approaches knife making from an attitude that’s best described as a mix of scientific curiosity and “why the hell not?”

As such, his knives don’t look like anyone else’s and have features that seem more like responses to other people’s claims. To prove that the shape of handle matters more than the handle’s material, he made a knife out of a material that’s slipperier than Teflon.

My favorite knife (although just barely) is the cKc EDC framelock. It was his first framelock and it was his attempt to make a lock that wouldn’t fail.

Note to non-knife people: One of the favorite past-times on YouTube is to take a folding knife and slam the blade spine on a table to see if the lock will fail, causing the knife to close on the user’s hand. The theory being that if it fails like that it will fail and close on your hand when you’re whittling a stick or opening a box you got in the mail. (Something like that.)

The cKc EDC from the side.

The cKc EDC from the side.

The cKc EDC, though, has a lock that’s designed to never fail. Harris designed the lock with a groove that, in theory, will act like a catcher’s mitt and catch the lock bar. He tested it by locking different knives and the EDC in a vice and hitting them with a broomstick. He sheered a piece of one knife but the EDC didn’t fail.

The problem is, though, that it’s unlikely anyone would ever hit the back of a knife like that unless I was, for some inexplicable reason, using a folding knife to hammer a nail. As such, the lock on the EDC solves a problem that’s not a huge problem on most knives.

Also, the trade-off is that the lock design leaves the knife with a slight rattle. To allow for the groove, the blade has to move a little. This goes away when you grip it and start using it, but it’s still a bit disconcerting the first time you shake the knife and it rattles. I bought it used and had to take it apart and clean and oil it a bit to make the blade open smoothly.

That said, I like everything else about the knife. The ELMAX steel holds an edge well, although, because I live in Japan, I haven’t had as much chance to test it out as I’d like, and the titanium scales and handle shape are surprisingly comfortable. It has a 3.1 inch blade (8 cm) and is 7.4 inches long (18.6 cm) it’s the prefect size to carry around the house.

Unfortunately, Harris has taken a hiatus from making knives. However, if you’re interested, check out his shop on Gearbastion, where you can also find a lot of other new knifemakers, from the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

I hope he starts making knives again soon. Until then, keep watching Gearbastion.




Belated Popcorn and Half a Movie

It was another one of those days, but in a good way.

Today our youngest insisted on going to a movie so she could use the discount coupons we’d received for some reason or the other. I used my powers of persuasion delay and whining (Example: “I went last time! I went last time! It’s your turn! It’s your turn!”) to convince She Who Must Be Obeyed to go. I pointed out that 1) the movie was in Japanese, 2) Someone would have to drive and 3) she could enjoy a nap as she traditionally falls asleep during movies (even those at home).

Oddly, this persuasion worked and She Who Must Be Obeyed took our youngest to the movie.

However, it turned out that they made it to the theater with just three minutes to spare and didn’t have time to get popcorn. (From my point of view, this means the movie sucks by default).

Later, they brought home Baskin Robbins ice cream, including the awesome (therefore doomed) German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream which gave me flashbacks of my default birthday cake when I was growing up. They also brought home the tale of woe about how they hadn’t had any popcorn and that meant the movie sucked. (Something like that.)

However, because they got back relatively late and because we’d had a hefty amount of ice cream, no one was hungry for supper. She Who Must Be Obeyed and I had a moment of ESP and we both said “popcorn” at pretty much the same time. This meant we got to eat popcorn for supper, which is one of my favorite suppers. (There was also leftover pizza, which is another favorite supper.)

We then sat down to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. This time it was my job to sit with our youngest as this is a scary movie and I needed someone to comfort me. (Strike that. Reverse it.) She Who Must Be Obeyed finished her nap and we got to see half the movie before it was bath and bed time.

I’ll get to watch the rest another day, but probably without popcorn, which means the movie will suck.


Namisu Nexus Minimal Fountain Pen–Good First Impressions at Long Last

I bought a couple pens in August 2014 that were supposed to be shipped in November. I didn’t get them until this week.

Thus far it seems to have been worth the wait.

First The Wait:
Kickstarter likes to tell the public that it is not a store. Its users are not “shoppers” they are “backers” and a lot of pixels are used to explain the difference. Quite frankly, a lot of the backers disagree with this lesson in semantics (I suspect it’s the exchanging money for goods thing) and they tend to get upset when a project repeatedly misses it’s deadlines, especially after the first few deadlines have been missed.

But it’s important, if you’re going to back something on Kickstarter, to remember that if it is a store, it’s not like a normal retail store. It’s more like a hybrid of shopping, investment and gambling.

In my case I bought a pair of Nexus Minimal fountain pens from Namisu, a company out of Edinburgh. The project overshot its 10,000 British pound goal by ten times, finally finishing at over 104,000 pounds. This meant, to those of who’d backed other projects, that the pens were going to be delayed. In Kickstarter, success breeds delay. If it doesn’t, it breeds crap.

That said, my problem with this Kickstarter is that although we got a lot of backers updates, we didn’t seem to get a lot of information. The deadline was always being pushed back by some technical issue and we would get more information later that turned out to be an update telling us we’d get more information later. I was an Early Backer and wanted to know where I was in line but I never found out until I got my pens.

The Pens:

The Titanium version (bottom) and the Aluminum version (top) you can see blue ink in the threads.

The titanium version (bottom) and the aluminum version (top) you can see blue ink in the threads.

The pens themselves are very nice, with a few small quirks. They both needed a thorough cleaning and I had to tighten the nib and feed on the titanium version. Because the cap threads are at the front of the pen behind the nib–which does make it more comfortable to use–the threads fill up with ink as the pen is being filled, adding an extra bit of clean up.

Also, the cap is barely bigger than the nib which means I have to be careful when I re-cap the pen.

I’ve used the pens for the past few days and although it’s too early make any serious judgements, I think they were worth the wait. The titanium medium nib on the titanium version is surprisingly juicy and writes like a broad nib. It also had a funny squeak when I first started using it, but that’s already going away. It writes well, but the tines are slightly out of line and will need some work. The aluminum version has a steel medium nib that writes well and leaves a thinner line than the platinum nib.

The machine work on the section looks great–part of the delay involved improving the fit and finish of the pens–but they dig into my fingers if I’m not careful how I hold the pens. The threads on the titanium version need some polishing as they grind when I put the cap on and off.

I’ve already worked the two pens into my daily carry by cleaning and setting aside a couple other pens. Eventually I’ll have used the two enough to make a long term review.

Until then, I have a lot of writing to do.