Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spyderco – Fearsome Teeth

Who would have thought that it would still be possible to innovate in an area as traditional as knife making? Yet to the great surprise of the profession and its clientele the spider brand has done just that. More revolution than evolution, let’s see how.

Sal Glesser sold grindstones out of the back of a baker’s delivery truck. Sharpening no longer held any secrets for him and as he made his way up and down the country, all kinds of knives passed through his hands, eventually giving him the idea of making one himself from a completely originally design. The year was 1981 and he called it the “Worker.” As he obviously intended to make others he gave it the code “CO1.” This first model was quite original in a number of ways.

Sal had noticed that not only was it easy to lose a knife that you just slipped in your pocket, but also it was also difficult to get hold of it. While working it was necessary to put down whatever you were holding in order to have both hands free to open the blade. Last but not least, it had to be robust in every area, considered as a tool in its own right.

The handle was produced in metal for robustness. A metal clip was screwed to it so that it could be put somewhere accessible and kept securely in place. That way the knife could be clipped to a pocket, for example. As for opening the blade, a decent-sized hold was pierced at the point where one would normally expect to find the thumbnail groove; the blade could thus be opened by using the thumb of the hand holding the knife. In short, everything could be done with one hand. A simple enough idea and obvious when you think and it. Add to that excellent steel for the blades so as to obtain a durable and high-quality cutting edge, and a new genre was born. But reception of this first model was mixed: some considered it a work of genius and adapted it straight away, while others rejected it for being too heavy and cold.

But the project for a “Clipit” series, carrying the “Spyderco” brand, was still in it infancy, and the thunderbolt came the following year with the “Mariner” model. The concept was rigorously identical, with only the shape and size changing. The great innovation was to design a blade without the traditional cutting edge, but completely saw-toothed. Blades with saw-teeth had existed for a long time, first for hunting knives, then for diving knives and finally survival knives. There already existed a multitude to tooth types, from the vary fine to the very wide, on one row or in two staggered rows, but the originality of Spyderco was to propose a quiet unusual form: three small teeth alternating with wide, deep teeth, and a beveled edge on one side. This was a major development, since this design of cutting edge was incredibly effective. After having patented the clip and the principle of the hole pierced in the blade, Spyderco naturally took out a patent for this kind of teeth, which of course became a house specialty. This time it had universal success; the Clipit became the essential knife and sold like hotcakes all over the world.

Ever since, the range has developed considerably and the catalog grows from year to year. An extremely wide variety is now on offer, with lighter handles in micarta, Zytel, carbon fiber, fiberglass, G10, Craton and ever titanium. The best steels are always selected for the blade, enabling effective combinations, with the teeth on one side of the blade, for example, or a traditional cutting edge for those who are not fans of novelty.

The spider has not finished weaving its web, with the best craftsmen being asked to design special models, like Jess Horn, Frank Centofante, Bob Terzuola, Dalton Holder, etc. Since Spyderco is always keen to veer off the beaten track, it is never afraid to call on the services of original blade smith, like Eduard Bradichansky, who wishes to bring into line with modern taste the “shabaria” a strangely shaped dagger carried by the nomads of the Jordon valley many centuries ago.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dalton Holder – This is my Knife

When the knife making profession started to structure itself, through the impetus of Bob Loveless, there were only a handful of cutlers in the United States who worked to establish the Knifemakers Guild in 1969. Dalton Holder soon joined them and such was his renown that he was elected president on an unprecedented two occasions, in 1982 and 1996. After spending his free time as a student, “customizing” his friends hunting knives in Texas, he started producing them as a hobby in 1968. His university education, combined with his work as sales manger for a major company and his passion for art, notably sculpture, were considerable assets when he launched himself into knife making full time.

He first creation, that has gone down to posterity, he simply called “My Knife,” this model is famous the world over.

“My Knife” was a straight model whose handle was made of amber and oosic with brass divisions. This model was Dalton Holder’s calling card, and he signed the blades “D’holder.”

No one has ever copied him and for twenty-seven years orders from collectors have never stopped flowing in. Unable to build a reputation on a single model, he quickly designed a number of others, all of them straight, with a particularly robust blade and handle. However beautiful his knives maybe, his knives were intended to be used in hunting and fishing.

As for his sheaths, he always uses the most beautiful leather, embossed with iron for a “basket” effect, and highly finished to the smallest detail, just like the knives that they contain.

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