Las Vegas Classic interesting notes

Oct 3, 1998
We were supposed to meet at Matt Harildstad's table at 1:00, but
I was a little late and missed everybody. Sorry guys! Anyway,
while I was there, I checked out Matt's knives. I was really
pleased with what I saw. Excellent workmanship, and a good eye
for aesthetics. But even better, Matt seems to specialize in
thin-edge high-performance cutters. He's got some nice kitchen
knives, one flat-ground from 1/16" (!) stock. His flat ground
hunters, from 1/8" stock, also had nice thin edges. Now here's
the kicker -- he had a sabre-ground hunter with the edge ground
so thin, it was thinner than all the flat-ground models. If
you're looking for a knife and care more about cutting
performance than super edge strength, you must look at Matt's
knives. He's at 780-481-3165

I wandered by Pat Crawford's table. There I saw the new rolling
lock knife. The lock release is grooved and nearly flush with
the handles. Easy to hit on purpose, but difficult to hit by
accident. I've never been a huge fan of Pat's work, but this one
has won me over. This knife is a real winner. It was not a KFF
that I looked at. Rather, it had KFF-like handles, but more of
the shark's blade.

Les Robertson was there with his usual Table of Dreams. Hundreds
of the coolest tactical folders ever. There were a few folders I
really enjoyed. One was the R.J. Martin folder, which I believe
Les consulted on. Very well done all around. Also, I have to
put in another recommendation for Joel Chamblin's folders. Rock
solid without feeling ridiculously heavy and overbuilt. And you
want to talk about smooth actions? Like silk, baby.
Most interesting was a Kit Carson folder. It had a 440V
drop-point blade that was 5" in length! It was a liner lock,
with the thickest liners I've ever seen, and carbon fibre
handles. Despite the size, it did not feel heavy and bulky in
the hand. At $425 this is a *lot* of folder for the money. Les
said that this was a one-off from Kit, but I'm hoping Kit will
reconsider that, especially considering I didn't have enough
money at the show to buy it. Jim, you should call Les and see if
he's still got it.

Now I've saved the best for last. I stopped by Melvin
Nishiuchi's table. I had never heard of him before, but he had 3
gorgeous liner lock gent's folders on his table. Nice eye for
aesthetics, great workmanship. Now keep in mind as I continue
these were true gent's folders: thin titanium liners, thin
scales, thin drop-point blade. Not an overbuilt tactical -- a
delicate-looking but handsome gent's folder.

Anyway, once Mel sees I'm interested, we start talking about
liner locks. This guys tests his "delicate" gent's folders
harder than I'm willing to test most overbuilt tactical folders;
ironically, the delicate gent's folders pass all the tests!
He started out showing me the huge oversized brass washers he
uses. I soon really came to appreciate these, as they're the
cornerstone to his great linerlock reliability. The washers were
big, extending from the top to bottom of the bolsters, and nearly
front to back. Huge. As you probably know, many liner locks
will fail when you torque the blade. Mel took his little folder
and torqued it so hard I thought the whole thing would fall
apart, but his liner lock held *perfectly*. He explained that
many makers use tiny washers in order to minimize blade-to-washer
friction. However, when you torque the blade, those small
washers act as a fulcrum -- blade tip goes one way, blade spine
the other, and bam your liner lock gives up. With huge washers
holding his blade in place, there's so much support for the blade
that torquing the tip hard does not cause any movement at the
tang, so the lock holds steady.

Then he put pressure on the blade spine. He put on so much
pressure that the thin liner bent to a seemingly impossible
angle. Still, the liner lock held completely firm. His tang
angle was perfect.

Next, he opens the knife, thumbs the lock aside, and starts
torquing and torturing all over again, showing that even with no
lock the fit is *perfect*. Okay, pretty good so far, but then he
does the same thing with the knife halfway and 3/4-way closed.
No lock pressure, just his oversize washers and excellent
bushing-fit holding the blade in the handles perfectly, even
under extreme torque.
We spent a lot of time torquing and twisting his delicate little
gent's folder, but when it was all over the knife was as solid as
when we started. How, I asked, does this knife stay together so
firmly? So he takes the scale off and shows me. There's 2 or 3
screws holding the frame together, standard construction. But
there's also about 5 small pins spaced between the screws, that
he calls guide pins. Liner locks depend on tight tolerances to
really work perfectly, and with just 2 or 3 screws holding it all
together, just taking it apart and putting it back together can
introduce a tiny bit of variance. But with his 5 extra small
pins, the knife goes back together *exactly* the way it came
apart, and even twisting and torquing and torturing the
"delicate" little knife does nothing to introduce any jiggling or
tolerance problems.

Lastly, we talk about proper liner placement on a new folder. He
agrees with me about the placement. When he makes the knife, he
has the liner barely engaging the blade tang. Then, *before* he
puts the knife out on his table, he spends a few minutes breaking
the knife in. So by the time it's ready to be sold, the entire
liner is engaging the blade -- the leftmost part of the liner is
exactly in line with the leftmost part of the tang. This gives
plenty of room for wear for years. As I've been saying, if the
liner lock is constructed correctly, the liner can be way left
and still hold tight. His knives are living proof.

Lastly, we talked about the ball detent. He says at the end of
the movement of the blade into the handle, the ball should suck
the knife into the handle, as if it's got a backspring. Sure
enough, when you close his knife, as the blade is almost closed,
the ball just grabs it and shuts it for you. Then with the knife
closed, he holds the knife by the blade and shakes it lightly,
showing me that the ball detent keeps the blade shut.

Now I've only met Mel this one time and have never done business
with him. But even though his prices are high (though apparently
well worth it), I highly recommend you check him out. And if you
can, stop by his booth. He talked with me, tortured his knives
and took them apart for me, and I had basically just come by to
look. He doesn't know about the internet or this review, so I
have to assume this is the way he treats all his customers who
show a little interest and ask a few questions. He's at