Sunday, February 14, 2010

A VERY pleasant surprise

So, I've been trying to buy American. It isn't easy. Today, I went to the gun show in Lexington, and had a great time. I stopped by a knife booth that carried Kershaw knives. Now, I love Kershaw knives. They are, hands down, the best production knives made. They are manufactured by Kai Cutlery of Japan, which doesn't fit my buy-American resolution, but I love the Kershaw Ken Onion designed "Leek" model. It's clean, efficient, and surgically sharp. Everything I want in a knife. I wanted the plain model, but the seller - from my native Harrodsburg no less! - was out, left only with models sporting various decorations.

I chose the model with an American flag on the handle - something I love dearly - and commented to the seller on the irony of buying a Japanese knife with an American flag logo.

He smiled, turned the knife over, and showed me the "Made in USA" tag on the blade. No kidding. My favorite knife is made right here at home. Kai holds the patents involved, but at least some of the Leeks are made domestically. I got exactly what I wanted and got to support an American manufacturer and a small-business entrepreneur from my hometown.

What a fantastic day!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Home-made fly-tying vise

Sure, I could buy a fly-tying vise, but why would I? I'm cheap, and I'm a tinkerer. I'd rather make one. More importantly, I need to find uses for some of the junk my relentless scavenging/salvaging produces. I'll admit it; I'm a hoarder. Other, sensible, folks (including my wife) see junk for what it is: crap that gets in the way and needs to be disposed of. I, however, see a potential tool or widget waiting to be born. To protect my reputation as an eccentric (not a lunatic) I need to put some of my salvaged junk to use every so often. This was an opportunity.

I have about a dozen sets of hemostats I picked up at a gun show for 8 bucks - after a little haggling... I chose one of the short-nosed sets with an exceptionally stout spring. There's my vise. Next, I needed a way to fasten them to the top of my desk in a stable fashion. I scrounged an old footless clamp used to hold an architect's lamp to a table top out of the trash on an afternoon walk last fall. My wife rarely accompanies me on these walks. I can't fathom why. I also salvaged the non-functional lamp. The lamp needed re-wiring, which took me an hour. Rather than use the included-in-the-garbage clamp base, I made one of a block of wood that I screwed to my workbench.

The footless clamp was ideal, except that had no bottom screw-foot, and was not made to hold a hemostat. I made a non-scuff foot by soldering a flat-washer to a short section of brass tubing that will slip over the screw shank. I then had, for all intents and purposes, an aluminum C-Clamp.

Next I filled in the tube in the spine with epoxy and a wood dowel.

The next step involved cutting the loop from one side of the hemostats.

Afterward, I drilled the lamp base to admit both tines of the cut hemostat handle. Notice that I also notched the top of the tube. This gave me three points of contact between hemostat and base, making the attachment quite sturdy.

I epoxied the hemostat to the base and let it cure overnight. I finished the affair off with a coat of black paint to the base and a swatch of adhesive-backed felt to keep the base from scuffing my table top.

I've used it to tie a dozen or so new flies, and I'm pretty satisfied with it. I only hope my flies work as well...

Rifle / Pistol Cleaning Kit.

I've already written a short bit on modifying gun cleaning kits to have a straight wood handle as opposed to the horrible plastic T handle. This next bit is about making a storage tube for the new, streamlined kit. This is simple.

Take a cardboard poster mailing tube (my wife orders the occasional poster for her classroom, so these are in no short supply at my house) and cut it to the length of the longest rod, leaving about 3/4 of an inch extra for the cap and space. The cap on one end is usually stapled securely in place, and the other end taped. Cut from the taped end.

After cutting to length, seal the freshly cut end by running a band of plastic packing tape around the tube, leaving 1/2 inch or so overlapping past the end of the tube.

Cut the overhanging tape into 1/2 strips, then fold them over, sticking them to the inside of the tube. This helps keep the business end of the tube from fraying so quickly.

That's all there is to it. A 1 1/2 inch tube will hold a pistol rod and 3-piece rifle rod, with room left over for brushes, jags, and patch loops. Best of all? It takes up very little room in my range box.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Jim Moyer Knife maker

I like this guy. He reminds me of my Dad. Jim is a knife maker in Idaho City, Idaho, and he turns out some of the prettiest damn knives I've ever seen. His work is art, pure and functional. His video is such a pleasure to see, because it's a rare treat in life to be able to watch a craftsman ply his trade.

The best thing about Jim? There's no b.s. in him. He isn't a "bladesmith," "armourer," or some other such foolishness. He's a knife-maker. He's been a knife-maker most of his life. He's one of those happy men who takes pride in his work, and rightly so.

I could order a knife from him by phone - I love that he doesn't sell many knives on the Internet! and I may do just that after the gun shows this weekend and next. In any case, I want to see him work firsthand. Watching Jim make knives - watching a man of his skill work - is an experience one only gets a handful of times in life.

In short, I'm going to Idaho this summer, just to spend a day or two around his shop. I'll bet I can learn more in two days of watching Jim work than I could learn from reading a hundred books on the subject.

In the meantime, enjoy his video!

Watch this video on VideoSurf or see more Steel (The Twilight Videos or Blade Videos