Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Blades and Their Purpose Part II (And Carrying Them)

First, I want to again thank Kirk McCune for helping out
with last week's post. If you missed it, he discussed double versus single edge knives.

Ok, we are covering a lot in this post so let's just jump right into it.

There are more types of knives, blades and shapes than I have listed. But, what I have here should arm you with ample knowledge to pick or create the best blade for your character.

Types of Knives

Folder - Think folding knife. You have to fold the knife open to reveal its edge.  
Fixed - The blade is fixed in place. Kitchen knives are fixed blades.  
Gravity - A gravity knife is a knife with a blade
Balisong/Butterfly knife
contained in its handle, and which opens its blade by the force of inertia or gravity. Balisong/butterfly knives are examples. They are illegal just about every where because people cut themselves while practicing with them. Yes, really.
Switchblade/OTF - Blades are spring activated. Switchblades open like folders. Out the Front (OTF) knives reveal the blade straight out the front.  

Blade Edges

Plain vs Serrated - Plain edge blades, like the balisong pictured, are good for push cuts. Also superior when extreme control, accuracy, and clean cuts are necessary. Serrated edges grab with their points and pull to the scallops for cutting. Ideal for slicing. Even when dull, the design of the serrated blade will still cut which isn't true of the plain edge. However, the teeth will catch on clothing. It is also harder to sharpen than plain. 

Combo Edge - You can have both on a blade's edge (like the clip point pictured) or you can have a plain edge and a serrated back.

Types of Knife Blades

Clip point - One of the three most common knife blade shapes used (the others being the drop point and the spear point). The clip itself can be straight or concave and allows for quick, deep puncture and quick withdrawal. The tip can be weak though. 

Tanto - Great tactical blade. Because a good bit of metal is at the point it has great piercing ability. Also good for chopping and slicing performance.  

Trailing point - Provides a large curved cutting area. Great for slicing through. All sharp blades will slice but a curved one will slice through easier. That's why cavalry swords were curved. A straight sword would just as easily cut but would get caught. A curve allows for a good exit.    

Straight back - Because of the strong back, good for driving forward. Easy to sharpen, excellent for slicing and because of dull back, you can put your hand on it to push down.

Wharncliffe -  Great for straight, pulling cuts like box cutting.

Pen - Originally designed to cut or sharpen quills for pen. Common shape for pocket knife as it is very utilitarian. This ain’t a self defense knife.

Drop point - Because of the balance of drop points, you can change your grip and it still indexes well - meaning the blade remains at the right angle to maximize its edge. That's good because if you are using it for a tedious job or for a long time and want to move your hand around on the handle, the blade will still be efficient.

Spear point  - They can be single or double edged, although the tip is only sharp if both edges are sharpened. A spear point is for piercing.

Hawk bill - The hawk bill blade does its cutting by pulling along the material. It requires very little downward pressure to work, allowing you to simply pull with one hand. Not good at stabbing since the point faces downward. 

Sheepsfoot - Great for cutting and slicing where a point is not wanted or needed.

Needlepoint -  AKA dagger, the needlepoint is a double-edged blade used for stabbing or thrusting. It has two sharp edges which reduces the profile.

Spey - Great for skinning. It is also favored among cattlemen for castrating. Yes, really. The reason being, if the bull kicks, you won’t have a sharp point coming at you. 

Here’s two blades that are becoming more popular in movies. Thought I'd include them.

Kukri - You will hear these called knives but they are actually machetes. They're big. You won’t

find a little kukri because it's for big jobs. The shape redistributes mass, focusing it on the cutting edge near the broad tip. It is lighter near the handle. This makes the chopping motion efficient and natural. When you hold one, you just want to whack something.

Karambit - The karambit’s design provides the user with precision and stability regardless of where they are or how they are positioned: water, ice, hanging upside down. The curve allows for multiple planes of use meaning you can get all kinds of angles going. The shape of the weapon allows the wielder to "hook and destroy," as Doug Marcaida does in the video. The ring helps the user to draw quickly, maintain possession and keeps the blade from sliding back in the hand.  

Carrying A Knife

Before addressing carrying a blade, we need to address something of greater importance. If you remember nothing else from this entire post remember this: 


Never threaten with a knife. Ever. So, regardless of where the weapon is hidden, unless one is willing to kill with it, leave it be.

On that note, y'all, when carrying a knife for self defense, you have to be able to access it quickly, safely and covertly. So, when you are placing a knife on your character ask yourself if that placement allows for all three. If you have to lift a pant leg to get to the knife in your boot, that might be safe but it won't be fast or furtive. Same thing with what I call the "sexy lady" carry when women strap a knife to their thigh. Goodness, if you have to get up under a skirt, hoop and crinoline to get to the thing, that's an issue. Not to say that if I were a cowboy I wouldn't have one in my boot or if I were a sexy lady I wouldn't strap it to my thigh. But, in both cases, that would be my backup knife not my go-to.  

If it is hidden up your sleeve, you may be able to let it drop covertly, but will you be dropping handle first or blade first? If handle first then the blade may not completely drop from the sleeve and will get caught in it. If it drops blade first, well you need to be quite careful because if it drops too quickly, it could cut you. If too slowly, well, that's an issue too. Also, by the time you drop it down enough to get to the handle, the blade will be visible below the hand. So, the sleeve hide is not very safe, quick or secret.

So, where to hide it? Well, that's another post.  :) Sorry, I have to give you all a reason to keep coming back, right?

I leave you all with the best movie knife fight scenes ever. As you might imagine, they are kinda bloody and stuff. You've been warned. It starts with a balisong (butterfly knife). Watch just that little bit and you will see why people cut themselves practicing.

Until the next round at FightWrite.net, get blood on your pages.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Blades and Their Purpose Part I - Single vs Double Edge

For the record, Wolverine is a single edge guy.
Last week we looked at knife vocabulary. This week, we'll look at single versus double edge knives. What is the difference and why would one choose one or the other?

First, as we saw in last week's post, a knife's edge is the sharp side of its blade. So, a double edge knife still only has one blade. Wolverine's blades are all single edge. The knives in your kitchen and any that you carry likely are as well. And, there's a reason for that. You'll see why at the end of the post.
Kirk McCune who is really too cool for me to know.

I reached out to Kirk McCune for information on this. If you don't know who Kirk is, he's a blade Jedi. He's reached the rank of Master in Giron Arnis Escrima/Bahala Na and is as knowledgable as it gets on all things stabby. I had the opportunity to talk with him once about swords and every question that I asked he not only knew the answer to but improved my question. So, he made me smarter on both ends. :) He's a kind, humble guy. You'd never know he's as lethal as he is. 

Here he is teaching in Germany. He's the guy on the left in the thumbnail.

Kirk said that like any tool, the knife is best for its intended purpose. Double edge blades, like Renaissance daggers, are excellent for fighting in close quarters against combatants in protective garments that preclude slashing. The only means of attack is a straight stab and with a double edge you cut with both the push and pull. Also, double edge is notoriously difficult to disarm because there's no safe place to grab, push or leverage on the blade. In other words, it's harder to take a double edge knife away from someone.

Renaissance Daggers
As basic tool use, Kirk has seen folks using double edge as field knives. They sharpen each side a little differently to do a different type of task: one for cutting fine work, the other for rough work like chopping logs.

The advantage of a single edge is that it allows for techniques that
place the blunt edge against your body. For example, you can conceal the knife in a reverse grip (think ice pick grip) without worrying about having an edge next to your forearm. That's not to say that you can only use reverse grip with a single edge. But if you are going to conceal it behind your forearm (which literally places the blade on the underside of your arm) it's best not to have that vulnerable part of you against something that could cut it.

In sword work, the unsharp, back side of the blade is used to block and parry which spares the sharp edge. It's also used to smash through an opponent's defenses. This makes the sword a multi-purpose tool while still sparing the edge.

Tool use for single edge allows for many camp tasks like batoning firewood where you pound the knife through your firewood with another piece of wood as a hammer. You can also place your hand on top of the knife on one side if the task calls for it.

Lastly, and this is why you likely don't have any double edges around your house, single edge knives are legal to carry in most states whereas double edges may not be. There's many opinions on why this is the case but it could be that double edges are considered weapons because of their military uses. You can own a double edge. You just can't carry it.

Some blades, like the Bowie, are "double edge-ish." They have a partially sharpened backside. This gives some qualities of both the dagger and a single edge. This sharpened swedge (that's what it's called) of the Bowie knife allows for a deadly back cut which, in Bahala Na, is known as a tip rip.

Ok, lets sum that up:
Double edge - Designed to pierce which is great when slashing isn't possible. You can cut on two sides with the push and pull. Difficult to disarm. However, there are two "live" sides to the blade which might inhibit some fighting techniques and makes utility use a bit more perilous. Illegal to carry in a whole lot of states in the U.S.

Single edge - Great for slashing and can be physically handled more safely. As such, it is has wider utility use. It can be used for stabbing but it is not as efficient as a double edge for that task. 

Double edge-ish - Best of both worlds but keep in mind that you must be mindful of where you touch the back of the blade as half of it has a sharp edge. The edge type may be legal to carry, but most states prohibits blades over a certain length. Bowies tend to be around 8" which is too long almost everywhere.

There are handling differences between the two which you should know to make your character's movements correct. Because a single edge blade only has one sharp edge, you can only slash with one side. So, in order to slash in different directions, you will have to turn your wrist over. For example, if I am attacking the neck on both sides I will have the top of my hand away from the body for both cuts. If I'm holding the knife in a reverse grip (icepick style), the turn in my arm will be more dramatic. So, in one direction, the wrist and forearm will be more vulnerable. Your character can cash in on that!
Doug Marcaida

And, finally, I'm sorry to diss on daggers, but y'all, quit just giving your character a dagger. Yes, they are easy to obscure up the sleeve of clothing (but I wouldn't) and are light, BUT they have fewer utility uses. With a single edge, you have a multi-tool that can still kill. Or, as Doug Marcaida would said, "keel." If you absolutely must, must, must give your character a dagger, I suggest they have a single edge on their person as well. Just makes sense.

Next week, I will finish up this little knife series with blade shapes, a bit on hiding your knife and why keeping a dagger up your sleeve isn't as easy as the movies make it seem. But, the Stabmaster 2200 is every bit as easy to use as this video portrays!

Until the next round at FightWrite.net, get blood on your pages!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Knife Vocab and a Great Video!

All weapons look as they do for a reason. That includes knives. Occasionally you will find some that have little additions here and there that are simply for the sake of looking awesome. Mostly, however, every tiny bit serves the purpose for which the blade profile, or shape, was designed. And, yes, different blade profiles serve different purposes. I will address them in another post.

It's important to know the parts of a knife if your character regularly carries one. I advise against using technical words in your work but you personally may need a reference as the scene plays out in your head. Also, if you are creating an original knife, it will still need some of these features to be both a viable and safe weapon to wield.

Here's a few diagrams. Each shows something a little different and none show all the vocabulary words I've provided.  After the vocabulary is a video you absolutely should watch. Even if your book doesn't include anything sharp, the video is great and makes me happy inside. 

These definitions are courtesy of Oso Grande Knives and Mercer Culinary. This is not an exhaustive list. If you are a knife aficionado and feel there are terms that should be added, feel free to put them the comment section and I will add them to the list.  

Belly - The belly is the curving part of the blade edge. Bellies enhance slicing and may be plain or serrated. One note, the point of the knife becomes less sharp the larger the belly is. When choosing a knife you should decide whether penetration or slicing is the most important, and keep the design of this part of the knife in mind.

Bevel - The bevel is the sloping area(s) that fall from the spine towards the edge and false edge of the blade. 

Bolster - A piece of metal, generally nickel silver or stainless steel, that is located at one or both ends of a folding knife handle.

Choil - The choil is the unsharpened part of the blade. It is left at full thickness like the blade spine and is found where the blade becomes part of the handle. Sometimes the choil will be shaped (An indentation) to accept the index finger. It also allows the full edge of the blade to be sharpened. If a guard is present, the choil will be in front of the guard on the blade itself. The choil is often used as a way to choke up on the blade for close-in work. The index finger is placed in the choil, and this close proximity to the edge allows for greater control. In addition, the choil is just in front of where the blade itself becomes part of the handle, an area often prone to breakage due to the blade-handle juncture. The choil leaves this area at full thickness and thus stronger.

CombinationEdge - Blade that is partially serrated, partially plain edge.

Edge - This is the sharpened side of the blade. Blades will have a single or double edge (or dagger style) depending on the design.

False edge - Also called a swedge (non-sharpened), it is a ground edge on the back of the blades spine, that is non-sharpened. It removes weight from the blade and can change the blades balance and penetration performance and appearance.  Widely used on military and combat fighting knives, a false edge blade is an additional bevel on the back of the blade enhancing the blade's point. This edge can be sharpened or not. The false edge can also be used for heavier cutting that might be damaging to the cutting edge.

Finger guard - Often considered part of the bolster, the finger guard strengthens the heel of the knife, provides additional weight forward of the hand and protects the finger from slipping across the blade.

Fixed Blade Knife - A knife that is solid between the handle and the blade.

Folding Knife - Any knife that allows the blade to be folded into the handle.  
The groove below the spine is a fuller. It is NOT for
allowing blood to run down the blade. Promise.

Fuller - A groove that lightens and stiffens the blade. Also known as a blood groove, though the term is inaccurate.

Heel - The part of the cutting edge farthest away from the point. It's most efficient for making quick, coarse cuts and jobs that require strength or pressure.

PlainEdge - A sharpened knife blade with no serrations or teeth. Sometimes called a smooth blade.

Point - The tip of the blade.

Pommel - The knob or expansion found on the of end a sword or knife.

Quillion - A handguard protruding from both sides of the handle (where the handle and blade meet), which stops the hand from slipping up onto the blade.  The most protective part of the guard.

Ricasso - The ricasso is the flat section of the blade between the guard and the start of the bevel. This is where you will most often find the tang stamp or an imprinting that can show style number, collector's number, manufacturer's name.  Thumb Ramp/Rise.  A point or crest on the blade spine that creates a spot where the thumb is placed and offers leverage while holding the knife and cutting also referred to as a spine cusp.

Serrated Edge - Serrations are a set of "teeth" or notches on the back or front of the blade to aid in cutting. Also referred to as a "Wavy Edge".

Spine - The unsharpened edge of a blade opposite to the cutting edge, also known as the back.

Spring - A flat piece of steel kept under pressure by the rivet assembly that holds the blade in an open position. They can be one end springs or two end springs.  One end springs hold a single blade open, while two end springs hold two blades open; one on each end.

Tang - The portion of the blade where it connects to the handle. If it is completely embedded in the handle and out of sight, it is a "hidden tang."

Thumb Ramp/Rise - A point or crest on the blade spine that creates a spot where the thumb is placed and offers leverage while holding the knife and cutting also referred to as a spine cusp.

Now for the video. I love it because it shows several things that MUST be shown in your knife fight scene. 1. Everyone gets cut. I can't stress that enough. EVERYONE. 2. Knife fights aren't just knife fights. They are physical confrontations as well. 3. Real knife fights have no whatifs. They are fast, high energy and random. You don't have time to think or consider the right response. As Saulo Ribeiro said, "if you think, you're late."

Until the next round at FightWrite.net, get blood on your pages.