Knives 2008, edited by Joe Kertzman

The annual source for photos, addresses, and information on your favorite custom and factory knives, as well as a selection of articles from the best writers in the business. Includes a complete directory of custom knifemakers, supply houses, knife manufacturers and importers, and other knife related businesses such as photographers and engravers.

Returning this year: over 1000 FULL COLOR photos - a great feature, since many people buy this book primarily for the pictures.

Reviewed by Mac Overton

What a difference color makes! From the cover to the slick-paper pages carrying pictures of about 1,000 knives, the Knives series just keeps getting more impressive. The book went full color a few editions ago.

It claims to be “the world’s greatest knife book,” and undoubtedly is to many readers. In addition to being able to “window shop” for the knives pictured, the book covers the latest trends in materials and techniques.

Among the ten fine features, my favorite was “Blades Bookend the Roman Empire,” by Greg Bean. He explains how ancient Celtic swords (the weapons of my ancestors) influenced the battle cutlery of the ancient Roman Republic, and helped them build their empire. The Celtic swords were good in close-quarter combat, and enabled them, in the 4th Century B.C., to overrun and for seven months occupy Rome. The Romans developed their own special swords to ensure such a calamity would never happen again, and they stood them in good stead for about 800 years. Pictures of typical Celtic and Roman Swords and daggers, some of which were quite elaborate, serve to illustrate the piece.

The other nine features are interesting, too! They include:

• “The Knifemakers of La Hu Si,” in which Leslie Clary tells how these bare-armed, bare-foot tribesmen in Myanmar make machetes using coal fires, hammers and chisels. “The most amazing part was the quality of work they produced employing the most basic tools imaginable.”

• I was fascinated by “Archaic, Bizarre and Common Knife Superstitions,” by Dr. Louis Nappen. He said that “one of the most bizarre beliefs contends that a knife does not truly belong in spirit to a person until it has ‘bitten’ him. This belief also alleges that knives will stay sharp longer after they have ‘tasted’ their owners’ blood.” (Interestingly, the Vikings had a belief that a sword could not be resheathed until it had tasted blood.) Other superstitions are equally fascinating.

• Noted maker Allen Elishewitz explains, in “Dissecting the Handmade Knife,” how “with each part made by hand, no two custom knives are ever alike, and neither are their parts interchangeable.”

• In “Practicing Steel Manipulation,” Mike Haskew explains how “Damascus makers create patterns in their minds before figuring out how to forge them into steel.” Some of the picture and mosaic patterns illustrating the piece are breath-taking.

• In “Butterfly Knives Take Wing,” author Michael Burch shows the incredible way in which butterfly, or balisong, folders have evolved.

• James Ayres, in “A Tale of Two Knives,” describes tests comparing the Swedish Mora “cheap and flimsy paring knife” to a Chris Reeve “sharpened pry bar” as survival knives. Surprisingly, the various Moras held their own pretty well against the larger, more rugged Reeve Mountaineer I. In fact, in wood-carving, the smaller, thinner Moras actually did better.

• Attorney Evan Nappen gives a history of Knuckle Knives, even including an unusual and rare switchblade folder in the knuckle-handle format.

• William Hovey Smith talks about age-old traditions such as hunting wild boars with bayonets, in “Bayonet Hunting Gets the Blood Pumping.” He also gives a lot of history on combat bayonets.

• Dexter Ewing advises us on how to “Ease into the E-Lock.” He describes in detail this Allen Elishewitz development.

Subchapters of the Trends section, filled with dozens of photos illustrating the topic, include: Bone Supremacy, The Curse of the Black Pearl, Tempting Temper Lines, Dog-Bone and Coffin-Handle Bowies, Giving Burl a Whirl; Spears, War Axes, Tomahawks and Machetes; Small, Japanese and Agile; The Great Bowie Build-Off; Monumental Minis; Fine Damascus Folders; Going Stag; Exotic Beauties; Untamed Tacticals; Points in Pairs; Trophy Hunters; Multi-Blade Brigade; and Bowie Replicas. The State of the Art section also containing many interesting chapters, including Handle Stackers; Carved for Attention; Scintillating Scrimshaw; Twisted, Fluted and Edged; Dramatic Damascus, Silver Smiths, Why Go Sheathless?, Scene Steelers, Handle Craft, We Got Engraved, Brazen Bolsters; and Mosaic and Powder-Metal Blades.

Factory Trends, which once was a single-chapter section, this year contains six chapters: Beyond Knives-Crossover Cutlery Collectibles, Black Tacs, Hunters’ Hardware, Rip-Roarin’ Rescue Knives (a genre that has increased in popularity over the last few years), Asian-Made Blades (a category guaranteed to grow in the future), and Phenomenal Folders.

A catalog section and the various directories (very important to a knife writer like me) complete the book. The directories include perhaps the largest listing of custom makers to be found anywhere, a state-by-state listing, knife organization membership lists, a list of sporting cutlers, importers and foreign cutlers, suppliers, services and organizations and publications. Read it and enjoy!

Softcover, full color, 312 pp.

Availability: Usually ships the next business day

Phone Orders: 1-800-828-7751

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Knoxville, TN 37927 USA
Tel: 800-828-7751 or 865-397-1955

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