spacer
spacer
page_2002_swan
Author Archive
Send to a Friend
spacer_5x8_transparent <% dim printurl printurl = Request.ServerVariables("URL")%> Print Version
spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer
spacer

August 29, 2002 9:45 a.m.
Life on the Edge
Knives can’t go on planes. But they should go everywhere else.

spacer

a.gifs I listened to the news reporting that United Airlines had announced that it was likely to be filing for bankruptcy this fall, I could not help but smirk a little and wonder if there is justice in the world after all. You see, this spring I was boarding a United Airlines flight and an attendant decided to search my carry-on bag. Tucked in the bottom of the bag was a tiny penknife with a blade about two-inches long. My parents gave it to me and I had forgotten it was there.

The security man (in his best English) told me he would have to confiscate my knife as it violated new security regulations that forbid any cutting device — including nail clippers — aboard commercial planes. I asked if it was possible to simply put the knife in an envelope and put it in the baggage compartment, so I could get it when I landed. You can carry knives and firearms this way. He replied, "No." I asked if I could pay to have it mailed to me. He said "No" again. So, I got on board and left my knife in Kansas City.

I thought it was inconsiderate to not offer someone either of the two options I suggested. Then there is the matter that ballpoint pens, keys, and chopsticks can all be efficient weapons, but these items can be carried on board. United may "Fly the Friendly Skies," but its policies on such things as pocketknives suggest something unfriendly.

Pocketknives are important, not just because of their utilitarian value, but because they seem to be an expression of a person's character.

When one buys a pocketknife you want it to at least look nice, feel comfortable in your hand, be sharp, and promise to stay sharp with minimum effort. At best, a good knife is a thing of beauty and a work of art. At the recent Hollywood Celebrity Shoot, I spent some time commiserating about my lost knife with Ross Tyser of Spartanburg, S.C. Ross is a custom knife maker and a member of the American Bladesmith's Society. Tyser showed me his pocket knife. The glistening silver blade could serve as a mirror. The rosewood handle looked like a sculpture. To demonstrate its sharpness, he took a business card and sliced off the ink, leaving the paper nearly intact.

Knifemaking is an ancient art. A blacksmith was once a kind of wizard who worked with steel and forged blades with spells and magic to make them into talismans and amulets, like Excaliber. Today's knife makers may not don pointed hats and black robes to craft their blades, but they do go through a lengthy testing procedure to become first a journeyman, and then a master smith, ensuring that the spirit of the blade remains intact.

Tyser, who has been making knives seriously for almost a decade, recently passed his journeyman test. The requirements to become a journeyman blade smith are:

— You must be a member of the American Bladesmith Society for three years — or two years, if you take and pass a course called "Introduction to Bladesmithing" at the W.F. Moran School of Bladesmithing.

— You must pass a performance test with a forged knife that you make yourself. This test must be done with a knife 15" or less in length, with a blade that is 2" or less in width and 10" or less in length. The test begins by severing a free-hanging 1" sisal or manila rope with one cut. You must cut the rope six inches from the end of the rope.

— With the same knife you must next chop, not whittle, a wooden 2x4, in half.

— After having cut the rope and the 2x4, you then must be able to shave your arm with the knife's blade.

— Finally, you must heat the blade and bend it to a 90% angle. If any part of the blade breaks off, you fail the test.

— Then, within three years of passing the performance test, you must submit five forged-steel knives that you have made to a panel of judges who are master smiths. These knives must be of the same quality as the one used for the test.

The test to become a journeyman knife maker is presided over by a master smith. His test requires that the same six trials be passed with a Damascus welded blade made by that smith. Damascus blades have that beautiful dark and light woven color. They are made by welding together layers of high-carbon and low-carbon steel and then heating and folding the blade to blend the two steels together. A Toledo Salamanca sword, such the one Sean Connery used in the movie "Highlander," might take eight months to make. A Samurai sword with a Damascus blade can have as many as 2,300 folds and take 18 months to make, Tyser told me. Such a blade, he said, could cut through a metal helmet, such as those the Samurai once wore.

There is an attractive power to knives. We don't speak of the cutting blade of truth for no reason. The cutting edge is one of mankind's oldest tools. It has made us, as much as we have made it.

We desire and cherish knives, especially well-crafted ones. Whittling is fun. Knives are great for cutting steak and cleaning fish and game. When you think of blade sports, fencing first comes to mind. Knife fighting is part of martial arts, but one does not compete with knives for obvious reasons. However, there are bloodless-competition blade sports like knife-throwing and tomahawk throwing.

Yes, pocketknives and box cutters were used to hijack jets on 9/11. They can be used for evil ends. Yet, in these times when increased security is understandable, does it seem too unreasonable to ask airlines to treat passengers with courtesy, too? A man's best friend may be his dog, but his best tool is a knife.

Mr. Swan is the “Media Watch” columnist for North American Hunter magazine.

spacer

spacer
         

spacer
spacer
spacer spacer
 
http://www.nationalreview.com/swan/swan082902.asp
     

Back