Family Weekend, Mule Team Demise & Field Trip

I’m still in recovery mode from last weekend.  That was our annual family get together and fortunately, we won the ‘weather’ lottery.  Rain prediction was 80% for Saturday and it turned out sunny and warm the whole weekend.  Thank you weather gods.  There were around 14 of us and having three boys that are like lit sticks of dynamite tearing through the house all weekend was an intimidating possibility.

Yeah, my great uncle is an incredible guide…..

The only one happier then him is me!

The big guy is my nephew that used to spend summers with us when he was a youngster.  The little guy is his nephew,  my great nephew.

Time for a little recovery and regrouping.

I didn’t have the camera handy but I passed out pocket knives Sunday before everyone went home and they all left with smiling faces.  The whole weekend is a lot of work but worth every minute.  Nothing I hate worse then seeing these kids grow up.

And a caveat to all who don’t spend much time in a boat around ropes.  Do NOT put your foot on a pile of rope when on board.  Even letting the rope out dragging an empty tube can result in a broken ankle bone.

Major Rope Burn and broken ankle bone

A couple weeks ago I got a message from our old friend Dave down in Arizona that Spyderco was discontinuing their Mule Team Project.  What a disappointment.  I quickly jumped onto the Spyderco site and picked up one more blade in the PMA 11 steel.  I’ve got the Maxamet, CPM 4V and one or two others.

Spyderco Mule Team CPM 4V With a Dave Taylor Custom Sheath

From Spyderco’s website:  “By definition, a “mule” is a sample knife used for in-house performance testing. “  Dave tipped me off about the program a few years ago and I really appreciate the heads up.  The blades Spyderco offered were a huge factor influencing my love affair with the ‘high tech’ steels.  I slid away from 1095 and 440C and have never looked back.

Whether discontinuing the program was financially motivated, fewer steels to experiment with or just a lack of customer participation, it’s sad to see it end.  Spyderco deserves a ton of credit for making some fantastic steels available for steel geeks like Dave and I to sample at a really reasonable cost.

I had an invoice come through from GEC for the Bone Northfields so I anticipate seeing them arrive around the first of the week.  As soon as I have them in hand, invoices will go out to all of you that place an early order.  I ask for payment within 3 days or risk losing your deposit.  The second warning is next weekend I head out on my annual field testing trip and I want to ship your reserved knives ASAP.  Yahoo!!!!

This annual trip is the high point (one of many) every summer for me.  I have a number of new items I carry in the store that need field testing and this is the opportunity to do it!  One item in particular is the Hess Bird & Trout.  While it’s not a ‘new’ item per se, I’ve carried them for years but have never taken the time to put one to the test in the field.

Hess Bird & Trout

And there’s the Fenix U35 V2.0 and the “Baddest Bee” fire fuses.  I’ve used both items but never in real field conditions.

Fenix UC35 V2.0 and Baddest Bee Fire Fuse

So for now, back to trying to get more of the new knives listed I picked up.  It’s been a slow process with everything that’s going on but I’ll try to stay it!

 

Knife Collection Acquisitions

I’m really happy to have completed a couple of knife collection acquisitions over the last few weeks.  Here are a few pix.

Case Cheetahs
Miscellaneous GEC’s
Case, Queen, Schatt & Morgan Knives

Miscellaneous…miscellaneous.

And there are some really nice pieces among them.  Here’s a good example.

Case EX344 SS Lion Paw 5/29/14

Between the two collections there are roughly 300 pieces so it’s going to take a while to get through them all.  From what I’ve seen so far, all are as new in their original boxes.

There are around 80-100 Queen / Schatt & Morgans as well.  Some of them are earlier knives such as the Premier Series.

And a few harder to find pieces like this medium Scout Knife.

The Great Easterns include some choice pieces like the Genuine Stag Serialized Toothpick.  They only made 32 pieces in Genuine Stag and you sure don’t see many of them come up for sale.

GEC 281211J Genuine Stag

Great group of knives!!

Northfield Gunstock Cocobolo, Hess Knives

The Northfield Gunstock arrived yesterday with the Cocobolo handles.  I really like the Brass trim against the Cocobolo wood.  It gives it a really rich appearance.  The Cocobolo is  a nice looking wood and I’m a bit disappointed the Bullet Shield is as big as it is.

Northfield Gunstock Cocobolo

It’s not that it isn’t a cool shield but I question why GEC put it on a knife with some great looking handle material as it takes up so much of the handle.  The shields are something I totally avoided on the Trestle Pine Knives as I felt it detracted from the wood handles.

With the addition of the Un-X-Cld stamp on the tang, the front side of the knife gets a bit busy.  As a result, the handle material really becomes secondary.  Had they used a plain handle material like Ebony Wood or African Blackwood, it seems to me it would have made more sense.

You’ve got brass, lined bolsters, blade etches, shield, nice wood.  Lots of stuff going on.  It just kinda feels like they threw everything at this one.  I took some heat on the Trestle PIne Knives for using brass on the bolsters and I’m anxious to see how the Northfield is received.  Personally, I like it.

GEC Gunstock & Trestle Pine Gunflint

I believe the Northfield Bone will be coming through next followed by the Stag.  It’s going to probably be mid August by the time the run of 14’s gets started.

Last week I also had an order of the Hess fixed blades come in.  A knife I’ve overlooked mentioning is the Mini Caper with Orange G10 handles.  Not a common handle material on this knife, Andy at Hess has been good enough to finish some of these for me with G10 and they’ve proven to be a popular seller.

Hess Mini Caper Orange G10

We have company coming in for the weekend and I know there won’t be time to get the regular blog post up on Friday.  It’s been a bit rushed trying to get everything ready for the weekend.  There’s some other new stuff coming in and I’ll try to catch you up on that next week.

 

Finally…an Update!!!

I’ve been hearing from some of you again wondering what’s happened to the weekly Update.  My apologies and I’ll try to fill you in.

The last week or two we’ve seen the GEC 44 Gunstocks trickling in and we should see the Northfields starting to come through the first of next week.  Next up will be the 14’s which will take a long time to get finished up.  I asked yesterday if there was anything on the schedule beyond the 14’s yet but it doesn’t sound like it. I just hope it’s not another run of 15’s!!!

GEC has their Rendezvous coming up in August and just a heads up, they’ve got a really nice Wounded Warrior Project Raffle knife.  It will be a 44 Gunstock with White Pearl Looking Glass handles.  This should be a really classy looking item.  Give Chris a call or drop her an email for ticket info.  The Wounded Warrior Project is a great organization and the money they receive makes life a little easier for some of our Wounded Warriors.

Beyond that, it’s been an incredibly busy summer.  My wife finally retired the first of July and life will never be the same…. ‘nuf said.  The last three weeks it seems like we’ve either been on the go or had company.  My nephews came up and we insulated and dry-walled my garage two weeks ago.  My buddy Isaiah came up from Iowa for 5 days and we just sent him home  this week.  His visit included a baseball game, fishing, water skiing and we built a killer fire ring we’ll christen in another week for the annual family get together.

Fire Ring

But lets back things up to that first week of retirement.  We had company the 4th of July weekend and a few days later took some time off to go golfing.  I’d brought the golf cart home to clean it up, fill it with gas, etc.  On the way back out to the course, we’re cruising down the four lane with the cart on a trailer behind the Jeep when suddenly a car comes alongside us honking and pointing back to the trailer.  My wife’s new golf bag and clubs (2 month old retirement gift) had come loose and fell off the cart…..in front of a semi.

We found part of the clubs but a few are still in the ditch.  Other then the heads broken off from the Drivers, it’s a little tough to see the road rash on the other clubs.  And a few shafts aren’t perfectly straight anymore either.  Long story short, my wife has another new set of clubs.   There have been a few other interruptions to our day to day routine but this gives you an idea what’s been going on.

Another 10 days and the family get together happens.  Then a field trip to the Northland.  And finally, we get ready for a trip to North Dakota for another pheasant hunt with a possible prairie dog hunt squeezed somewhere in between.

Otherwise, it’s just another routine day.  Even the crime reports have been a bit subdued but I figured this one was worth sharing.  Remember the movie Bad Grandpa?  I never saw it but this makes me think their might be potential for a possible sequel.

“Bad Grandma”

GEC 44 Gunstock and Upcoming 14 Boys Knife

The first of the 44’s arrived last week and started going out the door.  It’s going to be a while before they’re finished up and then GEC moves onto the 14 Boys Knife.  First the 44 Gunstock.

All the specs are already out there and it’s a great looking knife.  I’ve long been a fan of the gunstock pattern and this one follows those that have come before.  My first impression was to compare it to the Trestle Pine Gunflint & Topper.

Size and weight are comparable.  The clip blades follow slightly different profiles.  The primary difference is the 1095 blade steel in the GEC and the S30V used in the Trestle Pine Topper.  

GEC 44 Gunstock Top Trestle Pine Topper Bottom

A couple of points I’m critical of on the GEC version are the nail nicks and sharp corners on the end cap/blosters.

The nail nick on the primary clip blade lays really tight against the top of the secondary pen blade.  I know these are most likely going to end up in a display case but in practical use, in the north-land cold fingers are going to struggle to find that primary blade nick.  If it was the secondary blade tucked behind the primary blade it would be a little easier to understand.

The second point are the relatively sharp corners.

44 Gunstock (Left) Trestle Pine Topper (Right)

While it’s not a huge issue, you can definitely feel those corners when held tightly in your hand.  Overall, it’s a nice knife.

Several of you have emailed and called asking if I would be putting up an early order page for the upcoming #14 Boys Knives.  In short, no.  I just spoke with Chris this AM and the 14’s that GEC will run as a ‘normal run’, will be allocated.  The quantities are evidently going to be very small so I think it’s fair to assume you’d better get a reservation in with one of the larger distributors ASAP as I don’t anticipate getting more then a few of them.  By my count, there will be 25 different SFO’s offered and 3 regular run GEC’s with the total runs approaching or topping 4000 pieces.

 

 

Happy 4th of July!!

Image result for 4th of july fireworks clipart

Here’s wishing everyone a very safe and happy 4th of July Holiday!!

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but it looks like we’re in for a wet 4th of July holiday.  We’ve needed the rain and while it’s welcome, we’ve got plenty for the time being.  On the positive side, maybe it’s time to sit back for a day or two, read a good book and just enjoy life.

Yesterday I made a fireworks run to lay in a supply for our annual get together in August.  Its so much fun to watch the smaller kids come in with parents to help select their own private stock for the big event.

The store I shop in has multiple screens set up that allow you to enter the code of the specific shell your interested in and see a video of what it looks like when it goes off.  Two small boys were absolutely transfixed watching the different shells go off and advising their dad to help guide his purchases.  From their reactions, I don’t think dad could go wrong with any of his choices.  Every video seemed to be more impressive then the one they just watched.

The kid in me has always enjoyed fireworks and they bring back fond memories of days long gone.  That excitement that built days prior to the 4th.  My buddies and I always had the inside info on which firecrackers were the biggest and most powerful.   Stories and rumors ran wild about somebody who knew someone who’s Uncle’s cousin knew a guy whose brother in laws neighbor had blown his arm off with some sort of ‘super’ cracker.  We never really knew who this guy was…. but we knew it was a fact.  And we wanted a couple of those ‘super’ crackers bad.

An all out effort was made to try to find out which of the ‘older’ kids were going to be making that clandestine trip across the border into the Dakota’s or Missouri bringing back some fireworks.  Plans were laid as to how much loose change we could come up with in the hopes of being able to pick up some of the contraband for our own private enjoyment.   I never totally understood why it was so much more fun to light your own fireworks rather than watch someone else risk life and limb.  I still don’t, but I’ve given up trying!!

The family get togethers, the parades, picnics and excitement all rolled into one made it a special holiday.  There was always an uncle that showed up with a  couple of 6 paks of Grain Belt or Hamm’s beer that was kept cool in the livestock tank.

Image result for Hamm's beer

Image result for grain belt beer

Beer in the stock tank, illegal fireworks, it just all lent itself to celebrating the fact we are the products of a bold and independent spirit willing to take risks to enjoy our God Given Rights.  Ya gotta love it!!!

Happy 4th of July!

GEC 44 Gunstocks are coming!

I just got off the phone with Chris and she confirmed the first of the 44 Gunstocks I ordered will be heading this way tomorrow.  First ones will be the Ebony Wood.  With the 4th of July falling in the middle of the week, I’m anticipating they’ll arrive late in the week or early next week.

My understanding is there are close to 4000 of the 44’s being built so it’s going to be a while before GEC starts working on the upcoming #14.  Very likely it’ll run into August before we see the 44’s finished and the 14’s started.

On the subject of the 14’s, it sounds like there will be a ‘regular’ run of the 14’s built in addition to the SFO’s.  Again it’s likely the total number of 14’s with all of the SFO’s will be in the 4000 piece range.  At this point the handle options haven’t been determined but with luck we may hear by the first of next week.

GEC Knives Getting Too Expensive???

After I posted yesterday I really got to thinking about the question are GEC knives getting too expensive?  What prompted me to think about it were a couple of grumblings I heard about the 15 Bail & Chain knives and a few other comments about some of the recent releases, the Whaler in particular.

There’s no doubt they’ve gone up in price over the past 12 years.  Picking up a bone 23 back in the day for well under a $100 wasn’t  a real big trick.  In fact it was pretty normal.  But when I look at the price of a loaf of bread, my house insurance and the cost of going to a movie, it’s all gone up.  As material and labor costs increase the finished product has to go up as well unless you’re a genius at efficiency improvements.

When I look at the price of other knife makers out there I don’t really sense a major price move in the cost of the GEC’s.  Too me it seems they’ve stayed right in line with the competition and in many cases they’ve actually hung back.  Fallkniven is one brand I’ve seen some aggressive price moves in the past 8-9 years  but considering the materials and quality still think they’re well in line and a great product for the money.

I think the selection of knives using premium blade steels has exploded in the last 10 years.  Not only that, I think there are some great quality knives with premium blades that are highly competitive.  I’ll admit to being hooked on the newer powdered steels and for me, the level of performance is well worth the price differential for a serious ‘work’ knife.

I guess the point is, prices have gone up all over.  We’ve seen more companies releasing new products with premium blades at competitive prices.  But with GEC it seems like we’ve seen some interesting things happen that aren’t quite so obvious.  And these changes make me wonder why folks would complain about the price of their knives.

A couple of years ago it seemed that GEC made a commitment to build the simpler, lower cost knives as the core of their product line.  The Barlow’s became their flagship pattern with a price point well below the $100 mark.  The Farm & Field Tools and a couple others came in at the sub $60 range.  Serialized knives virtually disappeared.  Mammoth Ivory, Mother of Pearl and other high end handle options are gone.

These changes and the move to lower price point was a smart move from the standpoint it opened up the collector market to a much broader customer base.  It’s less painful spending $75  for a knife and being able to pick up several different options.  From a manufacturing standpoint, it has to be more profitable building a simpler knife with fewer low cost handle options.  Move those production numbers from a couple hundred pieces to a couple thousand and economies of scale kick in.

I think what’s happening is folks are starting to expect the price to stay fixed in that $65-85 range.  Add an option, upgrade a handle material, bump the price to account for the change and folks feel they’re being squeezed.  A price move of $10-15 is traumatic. Its interesting to watch.

Personally, I miss the variety and creativity we used to see, price be damned.  I haven’t carried a GEC for a couple of years now because I just haven’t seen anything that’s caught my eye and I’ve drifted away from the 1095 steels in my pocket knife choices.  GEC makes an outstanding knife at what I believe is an outstanding price point but I’d gladly pay the price for some variety!

Knives, Prairie Dogs and Spiders

I haven’t gotten around to talking about the recent Prairie Dog shoot a couple weeks ago as I haven’t been feeling real good this week.  So let’s get the reason why out of the way.

Spiders.  Or should I say “spider”?  Last Sunday I woke up with a mild burning sensation on the back of my knee.  When I checked it out, it looked like 4 or 5 very small pimples in the crease of my knee.  I didn’t think much more about it until Sunday evening when those pimples had turned into  blisters.

By Sunday nite they were looking really ugly.

I went to the Dr Monday AM with a temp of around 101 and a leg that was sorer then hell.  By Tuesday morning my knee was swelling , it was looking worse and the temperature was still a factor.  So back to the Doc, more antibiotics and instructions to apply warm, damp heat and keep it elevated.  But….no diagnosis as to what in the hell may have bitten me.

After a ton of reading and conversations and picture sharing with friends from down south, the consensus is I’d bitten by a brown recluse spider.  We’re far north of their normal range but 3 Florida transplants all agreed that’s exactly what it looked like and the symptoms were consistent.  I’ve been bitten by all sorts of critters over the years but I’ve never had a reaction like this.

It’s still plenty ugly but I think it’s starting to heal.  Lots of drainage and dead hide peeling off but I think I’ll save the leg!!

Fortunately, that was all preceded by another great trip to the Dakota’s.  Our friends in North Dakota hosted a Prime Rib dinner (which included a trap shoot) for the participants in last years Pheasant Shoot .

One of our team members is 5 months pregnant but that didn’t stop her from getting in on the trapshooting competition.  She didn’t bring a shotgun but a couple of the guys were glad to set her up with a shotgun.  While she’s not even half our age we have a great time when we get together with Erin and her husband Pat.  We think of her as the daughter we never had.  She’s one of those people that are just plain fun to be around.

Just to let you know how serious a sportswoman she is, she hunts Elk, has hunted mountain lion in the Southwest, hogs in Texas, has hunted deer since she was 11 or 12 years old, used to run her own coon hounds when she was 16, hunts alligators with her dad in Louisiana and just came back from hunting bullfrogs down south a couple of months ago.  It’s kinda fun to listen to some fella try to impress her with his hunting experience and watch her just smile and say ‘really?’.   Gotta love her!!

We had some rain the first day we were out there so we spent some time driving through the southern unit of the Teddy Roosevelt National Park.  Just gorgeous country where you can see Elk, Antelope, Buffalo, Wild Horses and all things wild.  And the scenery… 

And we had time to get in some shooting as well.  Conditions were wet and that ground turns into a consistency of greased glass.  Your tires don’t sink in but the tread immediately fills with a mixture of clay and rock (check the tire) and from there on, its slip and slide.  I think my wife beat me to the first shots fired when we hit dog town.

As usual, it was a great trip.  An offer was extended to hunt on Jim’s ranch again next Fall for pheasants and believe me, we’re in!

I didn’t get much chance to comment on the GEC 15’s as they came through.  There’s still plenty of the Bail and Chain in stock.   And the Red and Black clip blades literally flew out the door.

Once the pictures of the 152118 Bail & Chain were released I started getting reservation cancellations.  It’s the highest rate of cancellations I’ve seen on a GEC so far.

It seems that most of the feedback I got was regarding the 18″ chain.  Most folks, I think, were of the mind the Bail and Chain would be a 3-4″ ‘key fob’ type of arrangement instead of an actual ‘vest’ style chain.  A couple thought the price differential between the Bail & Chain and NON was out of line.  I have to admit, it’s probably not the most convenient or practical way to carry.

I will give you a tip.  There’s a simple modification that can  be made to the keeper that does make it a bit more usable.  If you use a Dremel tool with a cutting blade, you can cut a slot through the keeper wide enough to allow you to slip it over a belt loop  resulting in a pretty practical setup.

In a few more weeks the 44’s will be coming through.  It looks good from the preliminary drawings.  I think its a pretty close representation of the Schatt & Morgan Gunstock and the Trestle Pine Gunflint.

 

Internet Sales Tax Coming!

If you were watching the news this week you’re probably already aware of the Supreme Courts reversal regarding their initial 1992 decision NOT to allow states to collect sales tax from out of state buyers.  Unfortunately for Internet buyers and sellers, that’s about to change.  In a nutshell, going forward it will be up to the individual states to decide it they want to collect sales tax from out of state purchasers.

An example is a what’s being proposed in South Dakota.   “Notably, the South Dakota law that kicked off the debate put in a $100,000 annual sales threshold, or in the absence of that, a 200 in-state transaction limit.”  So let’s assume you’re a small knife seller in South Dakota with $99,999 in annual sales.  As long as you’re making less then 200 ‘in state’ sales a year, you’ll be exempt from having to collect South Dakota sales tax from online buyers.  The bad news is $100,000 in gross or 200 sales in state would mean you’ve got a pretty small operation and most likely not making a living at whatever your doing.

A major difficulty I foresee is how/who calculates the sales tax.  In Minnesota, there are state sales taxes, municipal taxes and special taxes.  Clothing, food and drugs aren’t taxed.  If your lucky enough to live in one of the states without a sales tax, Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and New Hampshire.  (A fifth, Alaska, has no state-level sales tax but allows municipalities to impose the retail-level tax.) The other 4 states may also have the ability to charge local sales taxes.  But if you live in Montana for example and purchase a knife from Minnesota, you’re going to have to cough up an additional 6.78% in Minnesota Sales tax.  But my read is that living in Minnesota,  if I buy a knife from a Montana internet retailer, I don’t pay tax.

It’s also going to be interesting to see what the individual states do with international sales.  Most of you overseas are already getting screwed royally with exchange rates, shipping and import taxes.  To think the individual states would consider also charging you the prevailing state sales tax is a bit sickening.

Obviously, it’s going to take a while for all of this to get shook out.  Each state will have to decide what they want to do with this law but I can’t imagine there will be a single one that won’t be out there with their hand out.  Without a doubt it’s going to have a major impact on retail internet sales.  There could be a major advantage to relocating an internet business to one of the 5 states without state sales taxes.

I know the states are excited about the potential additional revenue stream and a part of me understands that.  There have been discussions on the radio how this additional revenue will help take the strain off from state budgets and bring a level playing field to the brick and mortar businesses.  What I haven’t heard is much discussion regarding what the impact could be on smaller, niche market retailers that sell solely on the web.  Often their products aren’t even found in traditional brick and mortar stores.  It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.  I’m not optimistic.