Monday, September 4, 2017

Knife Review: Carothers Performance Knives Light Chopper

Carothers Performance Knives Light Chopper in Delta 3V with TeroTuf handle scales


This review is a special one for me, but also a little sad because the pattern is being retired.  I have been looking forward to reviewing the Light Chopper (LC) since I started following following the design process for this knife back in 2015.  This knife became a dream knife for me, but it wasn't until a month and a half ago that I finally got my hands on one.  Then I found out that Carothers Performance Knives (CPK) is discontinuing this pattern.  There will be a similar pattern called the Medium Chopper that will be released, and I may review one for contrast, but I think it is a real shame that this pattern is being discontinued.  CPK knives are tricky to get hold of already, but I had hoped that after more Light Choppers were produced it would get easier, sadly it looks like less than 500 or so will be produced in total.

One day a week I clear brush.  During my undergraduate years I supported myself with landscaping and brush clearing, and I still enjoy it enough to keep clearing brush part time while I work on grad school.  So I was very excited about this tool being developed because it is designed to be a chopper that can swing fast enough to handle springy materials while still being easier to carry than something like a machete without being too heavy.  I don't like carrying a machete when I am walking and operating a weed-whacker or other tools all day, but the Difensa proved the value of having a fixed blade that can handle some chopping.  The Light Chopper manages to combine the cutting and chopping power of a machete with a size that is just about the maximum size and weight that I find comfortable to carry on my hip.  For me the LC manages a darn near magical Goldilocks ratio of chopping capability and carry-ability.  The LC isn't great for a lot of other uses, but it is fantastic in its intended applications.

The knife is made by Carothers Performance Knives, which is headed by Nathan Carothers (and his wife Jo).  Nathan Carothers is a very experienced machinist, with a vast materials knowledge, as well as a truly impressive capability at using CNC machining.  He is also very willing to share his knowledge, I have learned a lot over the last year and a half or so paying attention to Carothers (Here is a BladeForums thread of people asking Nathan questions and him answering, it is educational and about 50 pages long).  CPK is an exciting brand to pay attention to, but at the current time demand is far exceeding their production capability which makes it hard to get a lot of CPK knives.  Sales for the Light Chopper (for example) are typically for 20 or so at a time, and they usually sell out in less than 5 seconds.  The other option is to buy the knives on the secondary market (which is how I purchased the reviewed knife), but prices can vary dramatically, and availability is still limited.

The knife was designed in cooperation with Lorien Arnold, a talented knife designer from British Columbia, Canada.  Lorien cooperates with numerous knife makers, but has been partnering extensively with CPK recently.  Sadly I can't afford the custom knives he designs, but I am a fan nonetheless.

The TL;DR review summary:

I love this knife.  For clearing brush and light undergrowth with a knife that isn't too big or heavy to carry on a hike this, knife is ideal.  The outstanding materials and exceptional treatment of those materials makes this knife a truly impressive performer.  The design and craftsmanship that goes into this knife make it well worth the trouble it takes to land one.

This knife is big enough that it doesn't even look small in my hands!  I don't usually post pictures of the knives I review in my hands because my extra-large hands (size 10 1/2-11) don't provide a useful sense of scale for most people.  But trust me, this is a substantial knife.

Let's Start With the Specs:

(From Carothers Performance Knives website):
Steel: CPM 3V (With the proprietary heat treat applied to Carothers 3V this metal is known as Delta3V)
Hardness: 60.5 HRC
Thickness: .188” thick at ricasso
Total length: 15.625”
Blade length: 9.875”
Edge is sharpened 20 DPS
Weight: 17.1 oz
Handle: Grippy 3D machined scales in micarta or TeroTuf (The reviewed knife has TeroTuff handle scales)
Black oxide treated 18-8 stainless steel fasteners

The Light Chopper is only "light" for a chopper.  The knife weighs more than a pound.  But while 17.1 oz might seem like a lot, a Gerber Gator Machete (the machete I primarily used for significant chopping prior to the LC) is 18 oz while being almost a foot longer.  So the LC is actually lighter than most regular sized machetes in a much smaller package, and if you compare the LC to fancier machetes like the Baryonyx Machete then the weigh and size savings become even more pronounced.

The handle of the LC is made out of TeroTuf.  TeroTuf is a composite material somewhat similar to G10 or Micarta.  All three materials are made out of layered textiles compressed with resin.  The difference in TeroTuf is that both the textile and the resin are polyester, as opposed to phenolic resins with either fiberglass (G10) or a variety of materials (paper, linen, canvas) for micarta.  There are a few advantages to TeroTuf: For the knife maker, TeroTuf produces less toxic gases during machining.  But from a user's perspective the biggest advantage would be lateral toughness (Here is a good video demonstration by HelmGrind) and enhanced grippyness.  Since G10 and Micarta already have outstanding lateral toughness and dimensional stability the only real edge from my perspective is grip.  I found the TeroTuf to be a little grippier when dry than unfinished micarta.  I prefer canvas micarta for the most knife applications, but I really think the TeroTuf is an excellent choice for a chopper.

In the past I have satisfied myself with the following description of  CPM 3V:
The steel for this knife is CPM 3V.  CPM 3V is a particle super steel, as I have said before, these steels are made with science magic.  I'm not going to try to explain all of the specifics because I am not a metallurgist and blade steel is a surprisingly complicated topic.  There is no one perfect steel for every knife.  Each steel type has its own set of properties, and the choice of which properties are important to a knife is a key decision for knife makers.  Additionally, the properties of various steels are affected by heat treatment (the ways that the metal is heated and cooled to control hardness) and heat treatment can even affect the crystalline structure of the steel and the ways that the compounds in the steel combine.  So for the purposes of my reviews, science magic.
That said, I think it is worthwhile to discuss the characteristics of CPM 3V a little.  CPM 3V is not a stainless steel, though it does contain 7.5% chromium, which provides more stain resistance than one might expect from a carbon steel.  In terms of edge holding properties at the hardness used for this knife, CPM 3V is very comparable to CPM S35VN (which is the stainless particle steel the Difensa is made of).  The biggest difference between 3V and S35VN (besides rust resistance) is toughness.  3V is roughly 3 times as impact resistant as S35VN.  It is a very tough steel, appropriate for a knife intended for rough applications.
To sum up on the steel:  CPM 3V is very, very tough, not stainless, and holds an edge well.
But for the Delta 3V (D3V) I think a little more discussion is needed.  This is really an exceptional heat treat of an already outstanding steel.  Nathan Carothers (AKA Nathan The Machinist on BladeForums) developed his proprietary heat treat of 3V that provides a pretty unbeatable combination of hardness, toughness, lateral strength, resilience, edge retention, and as an added bonus the heat treat leaves a higher percentage of free chromium in the steel matrix which makes D3V almost-but-not-quite-stainless.  Standard 3V is an excellent steel, D3V elevates that steel to a level that is unmatched in my experience for a heavy use knife (Busse knives uses a proprietary steel called INFI which is generally considered the industry standard for heavy use knives, but I have never used an INFI knife myself).

You can watch this video of Nathan Carothers demonstrating the performance of D3V on a prototype Light Chopper below.  The video is well worth watching (This video is not mine, it is a CPK video, I wouldn't do this to a knife):

People often ask what steel is best for a knife, and the answer depends on what the intended use of the knife is.  But almost as important is the heat treat used on the steel.  A good heat treat can elevate a steel above its basic characteristics.  For example, Buck Knives originally distinguished itself through a superior steel performance due to good heat treating.  Even today Buck gets really good performance out of 420HC steel, which can be a pretty inferior steel if not well done.  So it is not just the steel, but also the treatment of that steel that define the characteristics for the end user.  And the Carothers heat treat of CPM 3V is really something special.

A Note on the Sheath:

The CPK LC in its Kydex sheath
The sheath on the reviewed knife is Kydex with a Tek-Lok belt clip.  Kydex is a formed thermoplastic, which makes for a good friction-fit sheath.  The knife locks into place through the friction and formed fit of the plastic, but can be pulled out if sufficient force is used.  It allows the knife to be securely in the sheath without needing to use snaps or straps to hold the knife in place.  This is handy if you want to be able to deploy the knife quickly, or in the case of the LC, if you will be pulling it out fairly often while also moving over unpredictable terrain.  The Tek-Lok belt clip allows the orientation of the sheath to be adjusted, as well as making the belt width adjustable for secure seating on your belt or pack.

The Tek-Lok is ideally suited to mounting the knife on a pack or other load bearing equipment, for carrying on the hip as I like to do I find the Tek-Lok leaves the sheath riding way too high, and it interferes with my freedom of movement.  CPK also offers a dangler sheath, but I bought this knife second hand and didn't have a choice on sheath type.  I have ordered a custom leather sheath for my Light Chopper.  So I can't say I like the sheath with the Tek-Lok, but that is because it isn't suited to my preferred style of carry.



In the past I have simply referred to CPM (Crucible Particle Metallurgy) steels "science magic steels."  The steel is literally made by turning the molten metal into powder and squishing it back together (if you want more info you can find it here).  I would call D3V an enhanced science magic steel.  The CPM magic is enhanced with Nathan Carothers' metallurgical knowledge and experimentation.  I have a hard time imagining a better metal for this knife.

Blade Finish:

The blade on this knife was given a stonewashed finish, which is one of my favorite finish types.  A stonewash finish is created by... tumbling the knife with pebbles.  It is what it sounds like.  In my experience stonewash finishes feel pretty low friction, and they are more resistant to corrosion than bead blasted finishes.  Additionally the stonewash hides scratches pretty well, which helps keep the blade looking nice.  The stonewash finish also keeps the blade from being too reflective if that is a concern.


The blade on the LC is very purposefully designed.  The blade is about 10 inches long, so this is a big knife.  The blade is not designed for stabbing or to be a kitchen knife, it is designed for chopping, and it excels at the intended function.
For size comparison, the knife underneath the LC is the Spartan Harsey Difensa.  The Difensa is a large knife itself with a 6 1/4 inch blade, but it looks small next to the LC.  The knife above the LC is a Spartan Harsey Model I which has a 7 5/8 inch blade.
Despite the large blade, the weight distribution is surprisingly balanced toward the handle.  This is a result of careful weight distribution between the ways that the handle is partially skeletonized and the blade is fullered.  Choppers are usually more blade heavy, but the design of the LC results in a blade that chops and performs excellently while being surprisingly nimble.


The handle of the reviewed knife is TeroTuf, as previously discussed, but the handle material is not nearly as important as the handle shape.  The grippiest handle material in the world doesn't mean much if the handle itself doesn't work well.  The handle scales are machined (just like the blade) and are definitely an example of the confluence of Lorien's design and Nathan's machining expertise.  Despite being machined, the scales are ergonomically designed.  They are sculpted and formed to work well with no hotspots.  The scales also have fluting grooves that enhance grip in addition to the grip provided by the material and handle design.  The result is a handle that fits securely in your hand without forcing you into an artificial grip.

I might have preferred a slightly greater flare at the butt of the knife to make the grip more secure when using work gloves, but the handle works very well with bare hands.  Fortunately the ergonomic design prevents discomfort when used with bare hands, since extended use was certainly easier for me without gloves.

Fit and Finish:

In the past I have had knives that were primarily machined that did not display perfect symmetry, but that is certainly not the case here.  There is nothing that I have found to complain about on this knife.  The craftsmanship is excellent.  This knife is obviously not a polished showpiece knife, it is a working knife, but the quality it apparent and excellent.
A closeup of Lorien Arnold's Design logo

A closeup of the Carothers makers mark as well as the Delta 3V logo.

One of the neat touches of the CPK knives is that the logos and marks on the blade are actually machined in, rather than being etched or stamped.  This makes the marks very clear and durable.

Use Review:

I primarily focused on using this knife for chopping stuff at work.  And the knife performed admirably as a chopper.  It easily matched my machetes for chopping lighter vegetation, and the solidness of the LC seemed to translate into better performance in thicker dryer wood like oak.  The LC was fantastic at slicing through greenwood of softer species like cottonwood and willow.  I was truly impressed there.

The long and short of the chopping performance was that this is the first knife that I have owned that I would consider replacing a hatchet with for camping.  I have long been a proponent of using a hatchet for wood processing rather than trying to make a survival knife do all the wood processing work.  I will have to actually experiment with this in the future to see if the LC actually can take the place of a hatchet.  It is fun to use, and a capable wood processor.

The LC is also described as a large camp knife, so I of course used it for other tasks:

The LC isn't a kitchen knife, but for a chopper it is made out of pretty thin stock.  This means that it slices surprisingly well.  On balance I am not really sold on this knife for an all around use knife.  I really prefer it as a specialist kind of knife.  You CAN cut your vegetables with it, but it isn't really well suited to such tasks.  It is too big to be easily detailed with, and the handle angle and guard make it not so great for processing vegetables.

During the fourth week of working with the knife I finally had a little accident.  I was chopping a branch on the ground and hit a rock pretty good.  It damaged the edge, but nothing horrible:

A closeup of the damage immediately after hitting the rock

The other side of the blade

The damaged section after honing with a butcher's steel

Another closeup of the damage after honing

A view of the edge to show the relatively minor damage after honing

I nailed the rock pretty good, but the damage was surprisingly light.  I was pleased with the knife, though I was not pleased with myself for whacking a rock.

But the final detail of the use review is the edge retention.  After a month of use, with no sharpening (I did use a butcher's steel, but no whetstone or waterstone) I decided to see if the LC would still shave.  I did a single swipe on my upper arm, and this was the result:
Yeah, it still shaved.  After a month of significant use with no sharpening.  The D3V really is impressive
I was very impressed with the edge retention.


Long story short, I love this knife.  It isn't really an all purpose knife.  It wouldn't be my first choice as a do everything camp knife.  It's too big for detail work, and isn't ideal for food processing, but it is great for chopping.  This is a knife that was truly designed for the kind of hiking and brush clearing that I do, and it is truly outstanding for that purpose.  If this knife seems like it would fit your needs I would unequivocally recommend it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Charlottesville (With Pictures)

Fields driving his car into counterprotesters
The violence and terrorism in Charlottesville was not a fight between liberals and conservatives, it was a fight between people who think that only white Christian men deserve to have full rights and liberty and everybody else.
Tiki Torch White Nationalism

Let us be clear here.  Charlottesville was a clash between white supremacists and those who opposed white supremacy.
The emblem on the shirt is an Identity Evropa symbol

White supremacists and people protesting against white supremacy.
The "legal demonstrators" did not come prepared for a peaceful protest
Not between liberals and conservatives.  Not Democrats and Republicans.  Not Christians and non-Christians.  If you can't differentiate between Nazis and Republicans/Christians/conservatives/etc. that is not my failing, that is your failing.
Armed militia members were out in force
If you see the far larger group of people who stood up against a white supremacist rally as something other than people standing up against Nazis and racists, that is on you.
A shield wall
If you can look at an act of domestic terrorism and the one sided casualties caused by the armed and armored white supremacists and claim that the counter-protesters were to blame, that is your moral failing.
National Socialist Movement Flag
If you cannot condemn Nazis and the KKK without trying to bring up other people and events unrelated to the Charlottesville violence in order to avoid distancing yourself from Nazis, that is yourself supporting and aiding Nazis.
White supremacist marchers
Opposing Nazis and the KKK is no more a partisan issue than opposing ISIS or al Qaeda is.  Everyone should be opposing terrorists.  If you see the opposition to Nazis as being opposition to you, then you need to ask yourself why you are putting yourself on the side of the Nazis.  My expectation is that as a decent human being you should be opposed to Nazism, white supremacy, or whatever you want to call a specific strain of ethnic nationalism.
If you are on the Nazis' side it is not because I put you there.  You put yourself there by refusing to disavow them.
This is not a patriotic display


Image of the Vanguard fascists from their Twitter page
If you are trying to tell yourself that the man, James Alex Fields Jr., who rammed his car into the counter protestors was in any way different from the fascists that held the Unite The Right protest let us be clear, he was one of the fascists protesting.  And I am not just saying fascist, here he is holding a fascist shield.  The bundle of sticks with an axe is the symbol for fascism.  Fascism is a reference to the strength of a bundle of sticks (a fascia) working together as opposed to a stick alone.
Image of Fields with the other Vanguard marchers
Fields is literally, not figuratively, a fascist.  A fascist who marched against the rights of people different than him.  A fascist who marched with a shield seeking violent confrontation with people who would oppose him.  A fascist who committed an act of domestic terrorism.

Why would anyone choose to be on his side?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Shame On You, John McCain

Shame on you, John McCain

If you have not listened to McCain's speech, I suggest you do so.
I may be disappointed in the man, but it is still a good speech.

A big part of why I have not been as active on my blog has been my desire to avoid talking about Trump. I don't want to engage in the type of political writing that increases the divisions in our society. I write mostly about politics and knives, but if my political writing only contributes to the fracturing of our society then it serves no purpose, and is best for me to keep quiet. And just being another Trump-hater does nothing to help. But I can't keep quiet today. I have been sorely disappointed by one of my political heroes.

For decades McCain has been a voice working against the disintegration of our National identity.  He served in the Navy (and was tortured as a Prisoner Of War) and then went on to serve the nation as a Senator for three decades.  During the George W. Bush administration he was a consistent voice for bipartisanship and amity even as the parties moved further into divisiveness.  In 2002, after almost a solid decade of bipartisan work, he helped bring the McCain-Feingold Act to fruition to fight against campaign finance corruption.  Despite having been tortured by the Vietnamese, he worked to normalize relations with Vietnam.  I could go on (his defense of Bill Clinton's appointments of SC Justices for example), but suffice to say, McCain has had a distinguished career as a politician who I have long believed worked for the good of the Nation before partisanship.

So far as I have had political heroes, John McCain has been chief among them.

Now, I feel disappointed in McCain. I have long been a fan of John McCain. I wanted him to win the nomination in 2000, and I think he would have been a good President. I have supported and defended him, but today I am greatly disappointed. 

Following the vote to move forward with debate on Republicare he gave a lovely speech about bipartisanship, and pledged not to vote for the bill as it stands (even as he helped it forward), but the hypocrisy of his vote stunk like a week old pile of salmon guts in the sun. Perhaps the early detection of his brain cancer will only buy him a few extra months or a year, but those are months and years that he would not get without the regular screenings and checkups that are only possible through quality health insurance. Glioblastomas usually double in size in 50 days.

50 days. Think about that. 

If he didn't have insurance he probably would not have found the tumor until it had seriously impinged on his ability to function. And that probably would have been in 50 days or less, and he would have been well on his way to dying. Whatever time he has left on this Earth is thanks to taxpayer funded healthcare.

Some people (Dr. Drew Pinski--of whom I am a fan--comes to mind) like to point out that in the US people are not denied healthcare regardless of ability to pay. And that is true, but misleading. McCain would not have been denied care for his brain cancer regardless of his ability to pay or possession of health insurance, but it wouldn't have mattered, because if he didn't have health insurance he would probably be dead in three months anyway.

Today, he fought through pain of recovering from medical treatment to act to assist in denying millions of Americans of the chance at a few more months with the ones they love that he is currently enjoying. If he is alive in 10 months, then I hope you can all remember that--despite his calls to unity and bipartisanship--when faced with his own mortality, he placed partisan victory over his honor, humanity, or legacy.

Shame on you John McCain. Shame.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Knife Review: Fiddleback Forge Bushfinger (Production Model)


The Fiddleback Forge Production Bushfinger with black micarta handle.
Okay, so first things first, this review is a year and a half overdue.  I have been very busy during grad school, and I have really let my knife reviewing slide.  Also, I liked this knife, but couldn't give it a glowing review, and that left me feeling conflicted and not wanting to face writing this review.  I'm going to try to get more active with this blog this summer, and this knife review is important to that effort.


The knife I am reviewing today is the Fiddleback Forge Production Bushfinger.  The Fiddleback Forge "Production" line is what are known as midtech knives.  Fiddleback Forge is a handmade knife company, but that means that a lot of their handmade forged knives can be hard to get a hold of, so they came out with the production models that are made using more production friendly methods and materials (but still high end) like particle steels and micarta for the handles.  Midtech is the middle ground between custom knives and regular production knives.  It is a pretty amorphous term for an ambiguous category that mostly implies that the knives are fancier and more limited than normal production knives, but not as fancy and expensive as full custom knives.  In the case of the Fiddleback Forge Bushfinger it means the production version is about $225 vs. $350-plus-if-you-can-even-manage-to-snag-one for the handmade forged versions (You can look here for some images of the handmade Bushfingers).  So the production versions are relatively affordable, easy-to-get versions of popular models.

This particular knife was a prize that I won.  I entered into a drawing for sharing pictures and stories of practicing bushcraft skills with children, and I got lucky and received this lovely Bushfinger.  My desire to say nice things about the Bushfinger for use during bushcraft was a big part of why I delayed writing this review, because even though I really like the knife, I don't like it for bushcraft.  This knife has made it into regular use, but actually in the kitchen, not in the field.

The TL;DR review summary: 

This is a great little general purpose knife, but not great for working with wood.  In my opinion, you are better off with a $15 Mora knife for bushcraft, but the Fiddleback is far superior for most actual camping tasks like food preparation.

Let's Start With the Specs:

From the Fiddleback Forge website:

Blade length - 4 inches
Handle length - 5 inches
Blade metal - 1/8" thick S35VN (or maybe 5/32", different sites say different things, and I don't have my calipers handy)
Handle material - Canvas Micarta (black canvas micarta on the reviewed knife)
Tang - Sekeletonized full
Grind - Flat
(Note: no Rockwell hardness is specified on the website

The blade on this knife was given a stonewashed finish, which is one of my favorite finish types.  A stonewash finish is created by... tumbling the knife with pebbles.  It is what it sounds like.  In my experience stonewash finishes feel pretty low friction, and they are more resistant to corrosion than bead blasted finishes.  Additionally the stonewash hides scratches pretty well, which helps keep the blade looking nice.  The stonewash on this particular knife has worn off somewhat unevenly.  It has seen quite a bit of use, but I have been a little surprised compared to other stonewashed knives I have owned and used.  But the wear is hard to capture in a photo.
Closeup of the wear on the finish after a year and a half of use...  that somehow doesn't really show what I am talking about.

The steel of the blade itself is the very fancy supersteel CPM S35VN.  This is a very tough, hard wearing, corrosion resistant, stainless steel that is able to take and hold a very keen edge.  It is a particle steel, which as I have written before is made with science magic.  The fantastic performance has something to do with carbides... I think.  I'm no metallurgist (I've actually learned a lot about metalurgy over the last couple years, but it is a fantastically complicated topic and I am no expert, so this blurb still holds true).
It is a handsome knife.

This is a handy sized, but not large fixed blade.  The Bushfinger avoids one of my pet peeves common to smaller fixed blade knives by having a full sized handle.  I have big hands, so little handles are a problem for me.
Generous handle, don't be fooled by my bearpaws.

Like I said, I have big hands, so unless you also have big hands the knife probably won't look quite so small in your hand.  The handle is a full five inches, so it has plenty of handle, and that handle is very comfortably designed.  The comfyness of the handle is one of the nicest features of the knife for me.

The blade size and shape is well designed for general use.  The swell of the base of the blade keeps your fingers from sliding up during use.  The point is nicely sharp, and the shape provides a long shallow belly that is handy for slicing things like meat and vegetables as well as cutting cordage and boxes.

A Note on the Sheath:

The RLO sheath is good looking and offers excellent retention without being to clingy.
The guy who gave me this knife had a custom sheath made for it, a leather covered kydex RLO sheath (RLO is Rick Lowe Custom Leather) with a Tek Lok belt clip.  It is a cool setup, but I think I would actually prefer the leather beltloop sheath with the ferro rod holder that comes standard from Fiddleback Forge.  I like my knives to sit lower, and I like to wear them on my belt.  The sheath is a part of why this particular knife hasn't made it onto many hikes for me.  But it would be great for attaching to webbing or a backpack.  It is a cool sheath, just not my style.
Knife next to sheath.



CPM S35VN is an excellent steel.  It certainly meets the standard of being a supersteel.  It is a high quality particle steel, made in the USA.  It is well known, and has excellent characteristics for knife making.  And while $225 is not chump change, it is not a high price for a good quality US made knife with a supersteel blade.  I think that for the price this is an excellent steel.

Blade Finish:

Stonewash is probably my favorite blade finish.  It usually is excellent for a user knife.  It hides scratches, it looks nice, it is not too reflective, and it has a lower friction coefficient than most coatings.  But as previously mentioned, I have not been thrilled with the uneven way the finish has worn off.  Perhaps it is just a result of use, but I think it was caused by an uneven finish.


This knife was not new when it came to me.  It was in excellent condition, but I can't evaluate the quality of the factory edge.  When the knife came to me it was duller than I like, so I sharpened it and gave the edge a slightly more acute terminal bevel.  The reprofiled edge handled wood work a little better, but still didn't make this a knife I really like for bushcraft.

The shape of this blade is good for general purpose, but for me it has not been good for working with wood.  I have tried carving and whittling with this knife, and really didn't find it a good option.  It is possible to make shavings for tinder with the knife, but it is not that easy.  If you are like me then you like to have obsessively pretty shavings and feathersticks.  Despite the name of the knife, I found it unpleasant to try to make feathersticks with.  For tinder making the knife was functional, and not much more (You can compare the wood shaving picture below to this one from the Ambush Alpha):
I just can't seem to get really good pretty shavings with this knife.

But even though I found the knife a disappointment for woodwork, it is a pleasure to use and hold, and a generally useful design.  I found it so nice that it ended up going into my kitchen knife block to use as a petty-knife.  It isn't often that I come across a knife that is robust enough for camping use and also refined enough for daily use in the kitchen.  The bladestock is thick for a kitchen knife, but not too much so, and the blade height and angling makes the knife easy to use on a counter or cutting board.

So all in all, I like the blade, just not for wood.


Outstanding.  Very comfortable handle.  Great ergonomics.  Well done CNC sculpting of the micarta.  Good size.  Hand filling but not too big for people with normal sized hands.

Fit and Finish:

As I said, this knife came to me used, but in good condition.  As such, I cannot make claims as to initial edge quality.  Other than that, this is a lovely knife.  The uneven wear of the stonewash didn't become apparent until after a few months of use, and since I typically only use a knife for a month before I review it, that wouldn't have been an issue in a more timely review.

Otherwise, this knife was excellently made.  The sculpting of the micarta takes the grain of the material into account, which makes for lovely patterns in the handle.  The logo on the spine is attractive.  The knife is certainly a good looking knife, and well made.

Use Review:

As I have mentioned a couple times, I both really liked this knife, and was disappointed in it.  I liked it so much that it became a daily user, but in the kitchen, not the field.  It is a little short and robust for a petty knife, but it is just such a nice knife that it makes me want to use it.  It has served me well over the last year and a half getting almost daily use in the kitchen.

But I can't quite get over how much I didn't like the knife for bushcraft.  I have read other reviewers that seem to like the knife just fine for woodwork.  I have seen other people post pictures of fine feathersticks they made with a Bushfinger, but the knife just doesn't work quite right for me with wood.

It would be perfectly fine as a knife for camping and hiking.  It is a good size and weight.  Handy and generally useful design.  And the handle and blade design make it feel very secure in the hand without forcing your hand into any particular positions.  The design is stout enough to stand up to any uses that I would typically put a knife through (though if I were looking for a sharpened prybar to pound through logs I would probably get something else).


 This is a good knife.  A pretty knife.  A useful and handy knife.  But despite the name, I would not recommend it for bushcraft.  But like I said earlier, there are great low cost options like Moras for bushcraft.  What really sets apart a knife like the Fiddleback is materials, style, and execution; and all three of those are excellent with all of the Fiddleback knives.  The handle really is great.  So this isn't an unequivocal review, but if this knife appeals to you I suspect you will like it.

This angle actually shows the wear on the finish better.

Fiddleback Forge Production Bushfinger

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Customs and Border Protection Agency is Acting Contrary to the Rule of Law

It scares me that so many people feel that they can rely on our institutions to save us from unlawful governmental action. That only works if we have the rule of law. That means that our government, and our security forces need to acknowledge the law as supreme authority. The Customs and Border Protection, in refusing to obey the court's instructions to halt portions of Trump's immigration orders, is showing that there are armed portions of our security forces that are not obeying the rule of law.  The CBP is the largest law enforcement agency in the Department of Homeland Security, and it is now acting on the whim of the President.
Our system works because we are a society of laws. Those laws require people to believe in and obey the laws. There are not enough police in the world to force everybody to behave all the time. Society works because we work it. Society relies on people believing that it will work. We have rules in civil discourse that support having a functional society. Some of these are simple things like not calling people who disagree with you stupid, or not responding to people's fears with "suck it up buttercup." Some of those things are less mundane, like not shooting up mosques or even blind-siding Nazis (I'm not saying that punching Nazis is bad, but it contributes to the erosion of our society's ability to function). And some of these, like being able to trust that our governmental agencies will act in support of, and in defense of, our Constitution and system of laws, are absolutely fundamental to the survival of our union.
When the Department of Homeland Sescurity operates as a force working on the orders of one man in contravention of court rulings we have a clear violation of the rule of law and our Constitution's system of checks and balances.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dear Liberals, Stop Saying Pence is Worse Than Trump

Dear Liberals,

Please stop saying that Pence is as bad/worse than Trump.  To put it simply, Pence is a conservative, Trump is a fascist.  If you can't tell the difference then that is a you problem, not a Pence problem.  Yes, Pence is an extreme Religious Conservative, but you know what, conservatives get to win elections too.  If you can't differentiate between a threat to our democracy and a politician you disagree with it makes opposition to Trump come across as sour grapes.

Trump ran on a platform in direct opposition to the Constitution (Here's another better link), in collusion with foreign powers, is a walking conflict of interest, is a threat to the rule of law, and with his reckless belligerency is endangering human life on this planet.  That is not conservative, that is madness, and that is far worse than a very conservative president who acts within the law.  Anything that a President does that leaves the rule of law and our system of government with its checks and balances in place can be undone when the pendulum swings again.  That is how it works.
I always try to include a graphic, and this fabulous, detailed and huge infographic by Randall Munroe does an excellent job of capturing the complex, ever-changing ebb and flow of the left-right pendulum swings of our government.
I am not trying to downplay how bad Pence would be for a lot of people, particularly the LGBT community.  Yes, Pence hates gay people, wants to take away their rights to marriage and adoption, and has in the past appeared to support conversion therapy (if you are unfamiliar with conversion therapy, some methods have included electroshock, but I have not found any actual clear unambiguous support of conversion therapy by Pence).  So yes, Pence doesn't like gay people and doesn't think that they deserve or are entitled to equal rights and protections, but Pence is far from alone in this.

It is fortunately true that homophobia is in sharp decline in the US, and the majority of Americans believe in equal rights for homosexuals.  However, there was always going to be hard pushback on gay rights.  If Hillary had won the election it would not have meant that politicians who wanted to deny gay people the right to marry and who wanted to break up non-traditional families were never going to win again.  This was always going to happen, it was just a question of when.  That doesn't mean that the LGBT community should just say "oh well, no problem if you want to take my rights away Mr. Pence," of course the coming assaults on equal rights for all Americans need to be fought, I am simply arguing that you can't fool yourself into thinking that Pence is a wild aberration.

Pence is extremely conservative, but so is the majority of the Republican party (thanks to the ascendance of the Tea Party), and about half of the country is conservative.  And even if it was a smaller portion of the population that was conservative, we have a liberal democracy in this country which is designed to prevent the majority from trampling over the rights and voices of the minority.  We are all used to thinking of groups like African Americans and the LGBT community as minorities, but the Anti-LGBT crowd is actually a minority now, and they still wield significant power.  The same system that keeps anti-gay politicians from rounding up and imprisoning the homosexual minority also keeps the majority of Americans who think that all Americans deserve equal rights from silencing those who want to eradicate homosexuality.

The good news is that the majority of Americans no longer side with people like Pence (on LGBT issues), but the bad news is that anti-gay rhetoric is still very popular among the Republican base, which means it isn't going away.  It is division politics in its clearest form.  By catering to people who hate gays you can win your primary, and then once you have won your primary you have other wedge issues to campaign on to ensure that the unpopularity of homophobia doesn't cost you the election.  Anti-gay politics is not going away until the Republican party breaks from it cleanly, which will fracture the religious vote.  The last time a similar policy pivot was made by a major party was when the Democratic party abandoned segregation.  That shattered Democratic power in the South, and continues to this day, and that Democratic power in the South had been in place since the Civil War.  Decades later the Democratic Party has still not recovered in the South, and the fallout from that decision led to massive changes in the US political system that are still with us today.  This should give you a better idea of why anti-gay politics are not going away.

But I am not trying to convince anyone to support Pence.  I am a centrist, I don't support extremists on either side, and I especially don't support anti-gay politicians.  As far as I am concerned, gay people are human beings; that means that they are entitled to the same rights as anyone else.  I don't really understand how this is a political issue.  But Pence is not "worse than Trump."

If you want to effectively fight the rise of fascism, authoritarianism, and ethnic nationalism in the US then you are going to have to realize that conservative ≠ fascist.  Trump is not the same as other Republicans, and he is not conservative.  If you conflate the two then it means lumping the half of the population (and vast majority of territory) into the same pile.  That "Basket of Deplorables" rhetoric is a big part of what got Trump into office, and if you cannot distinguish between the moral depravity of someone like Steve Bannon and a politician that disagrees with you then it is going to be a very long road back from Trumpism.

I will quote David Frum, a staunchly anti-Trump staunch conservative:

The point of this post is that Trump is not just another conservative, and when you cast conservatives as the same or worse than Trump, then you empower Trump.  More than anything else right now I am struck by how the demonization of political opponents has paved the way for Trump and our scary slide toward authoritarianism.

This didn't start with Trump.  It also didn't start with Obama, but I am going to use Obama to explain why division politics are so dangerous.  Obama came into power on promises to bring change and to undo the authoritarian overreach of Bush II.  Instead, confronted with a steadfastly oppositional legislature, Obama doubled down on the authoritarianism.  Liberals have given him a pass on this since after all, as Benjamin Netanyahu has said to justify his belligerent approach to Palestinians, "there is no one to negotiate with."  When you can just blame the other side for intransigence, any measures taken can be justified.  But politics swing like a pendulum, and when we do not stand up to authoritarianism we invite worse erosion of the rule of law.  You might not have minded Obama's authoritarianism, but his actions have made Trump more dangerous.

Now we need to be clear about what we are opposing when we oppose Trump.  We are not opposing conservative values.  We are opposing fundamentally un-American demagoguery.  We are opposing authoritarianism.  We are opposing fascism.  We are opposing ethnic-nationalism.  We are opposing a short-tempered, corrupt, and unstable politician who will soon have the ability to start nuclear war based on his lack of tact and huffy truculence.

When you say that Pence is worse than Trump you turn all of that into "I don't like Republicans."  Stop it.  You don't have to like Pence, but don't equate him to Trump.

The Center Gnome
(AKA Jon Krier)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Now Is Not The Time To Run.

I'm not going to tell you that everything is going to be okay.  The chances of everything being okay seem about as good as the proverbial snowball's chance in hell.  Chances are very good that a significant number of Americans (specifically those with serious chronic illnesses) might not survive the next few years of our new government if the protections provided by the ACA are lost.  Chances are good that the families of people I love are going to be torn apart, and that people I care about will lose the right to marry and adopt (I presume that the constitutional protections against retroactive laws will protect the marriages of those already married, but we will see).  The government we have elected campaigned on promises to harm people I love, and that does not even consider the campaign of our presumptive President Elect, Donald Trump.

So no, I can't tell you that everything is going to be okay.  But I do want to tell you not to give up hope.  There is a future, and that future can still be better.

But for that better future to come we will have to stand and fight.


It has been hard to stay hopeful these last few days.  A man who campaigned on a platform of ethnic nationalism won the US election.  He won that election at a time when unprecedented obstruction by our legislative branch means that he will immediately be able to alter the balance of the Supreme court.  Simultaneously, the Republican party won both the House and the Senate.  This means, in essence, that despite our Constitution's careful system of checks and balances, Donald Trump comes into office with no branch of the government to oppose him.

Trump comes in to power following a campaign that saw unprecedented foreign interference in a US election.  Foreign interference on the part of Russia in support of Donald Trump.


Long ago, in those far off days of the 1990's the US had a monitoring program set up to keep North Korea from getting nukes in exchange for aid.  It was controversial, but it worked for as long as the US maintained it.  Following the 2000 election, Bush II decided to abandon the monitoring program in favor of stiffer restrictions on North Korea.  Following the 2002 US abandonment of the agreement, North Korea resumed their nuclear program, and in 2006 successfully tested a nuclear warhead.

Today we have a similar monitoring agreement with Iran (which had been on the verge of gaining nuclear capability prior to the agreement) which has kept Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities for the past year.  Donald Trump has promised to violate that agreement.  If Trump keeps his word, then it seems almost certain that we will have a nuclear armed Iran shortly thereafter.


Talking about Iran and North Korea might seem like a digression, but I bring the issue of nuclear armaments up because I fear that if the US ceases to act as a restriction to Russia's ability to act more openly and violently, particularly against Muslims, that we could end up facing a true clash of civilizations (If you are not familiar with Samuel Huntington's article The Clash of Civilizations? I suggest you familiarize yourself with it).  If that clash does occur, and if it involves nuclear armed nations on both sides, nuclear war is as likely as it has been since the end of the Cold War.


So how do those of us who value human rights and cultural diversity find hope?  Well I can't speak for you, but I can speak for myself.

My immediate reaction to Trump's victory was to start thinking about moving to Canada.  I know that this seems like a trite bit of hand-wringing, but I am serious.  I am a dual-citizen of the US and Canada, as is my daughter.  I actually can go.  I was motivated in my fear by the shocking rise in antisemitism I have seen in this country over the course of the Trump campaign.  Thousands of years of history also suggest that when ethnic nationalism picks up things get dangerous for Jews.  My immediate thought was that I don't want to wait for our synagogue to get firebombed before I get my family to safety.

But that is a false choice.  There is nowhere far-away enough in this world to protect us from nuclear war.  And even if the people who want to harm my family have been empowered, we are not on Trump's hit-list.  At least not yet.

Not everyone can say that.  My gay friends ARE on the GOP's hit-list.  My chronically ill friends ARE on the GOP's hit-list.  My Muslim friends ARE on Trump's hit-list.  And my Latin American friends and family ARE on Trump's hit-list.

Considering all the people who ARE in harm's way right now, it would be cowardly to run because danger MIGHT come my family's way.

If WWIII happens, then Canada won't be far enough away to protect us.  And if WWIII does not come, then we need to do what we can to protect those who are vulnerable.  In the face of this wave of dehumanization there is no moral choice but to fight.  I spoke to my ex-wife following the election to see if she had plans to move back to Canada.  I think she said it well when she said "There is no running away from this.  Neither do I want to, I think it's better to stay and be the change."


I can't tell you how to fight just yet.  I am still getting my bearings.  This is an uncomfortable place for me to be.  I have no choice but to consider the GOP the enemy until they repudiate ethnic nationalism.  And with the defeat of Hillary it seems that the liberal wing of the Democratic party is ascendant.  For a centrist like myself who doesn't particularly care for all of Bernie Sander's Democratic Socialism this is extra hard.  Yes, I support human rights, cultural openness, and environmentalism, but I don't really think of those things as political values, I think of those things as human values.  On the things that I do consider political values (economic policies, limited government, gun rights, reproductive rights, etc.) I am a mixture of positions.  There is no political home for me right now.

When it comes to how best to organize from here on out, I am not yet sure.  But I do know that we have to be vigilant, and ready to fight.  We cannot stand by idly when our government moves to harm people in our name.

To end off I will quote my friend Eric:


P.S. On the topic of people lobbying to try to get Electors to vote unfaithfully.  Yes, I understand that the electoral college was created explicitly to prevent someone like Trump from gaining power, but I feel very strongly that electoral college shenanigans could trigger civil war right now.  Trump is set to harm a lot of people, but open armed conflict in this country would hurt a lot more people.  This feels like a perilous time.  I do not support trying to subvert the electoral system. (I also consider there to be other value in having the Electoral College.  You might not agree, but here is a video that captures what I normally like about the system.)