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2017 New Year Wrap Up

Hard to believe we’re on the verge of closing the books on 2017 and looking at another New Year.  What started off to be what appeared to be another mild winter took a turn Christmas day that dropped our temperatures into the subzero range for the past week with no promise of a break until the ‘New Year’.  Can’t wait!!!  But 2017 has been a year to remember.

From a business standpoint, knife sales held steady all year with some nice surprises.  The biggest surprise  was the article in Messer Magazin featuring the Trestle Pine Knives.  Sven Kinast at Messerdepot has done a fantastic job with the Trestle Pine Knives in Solingen, Germany.  The feedback from overseas has been gratifying and to get that kind of positive feedback from the heart of knife country in Europe is incredibly gratifying.  For a player as small as Trestle Pine Knives to get this kind of recognition was fantastic.

On a personal level, it was a year packed with memorable moments.

A few new stitches to kick off 2017

Hunting in North Dakota
Good morning from the land of Trestle Pine
And a good time was had by all!
A new fisherman is born
Hunting Prairie Dogs in ND

Add to these memorable moments the recent news that one of our nephews has been appointed District Judge in Minnesota and you have rounded out one incredible year!

Its gonna be tough to top 2017 in a lot of respects but we’re sure gonna try!  My wife is going to retire next spring ( I think ) meaning time for more camping, a new hunting partner, golfing, entertaining and spending more time on the water.  I’ve scaled back the knife business and plan to spend more time going to local shows and doing more of the things I really enjoy.

Thanks to all of you that contributed to making 2017 a great year for TSA Knives!  Hope you had a full and eventful year and wish you all nothing but the best for 2018!!!


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Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas is once more rapidly closing in on us.  It seems like every year it’s also the time when I/we reflect on some of the great Christmas’ we’ve enjoyed as well as exploring some of the ‘ghosts of Christmas’ past’.  Maybe ghosts isn’t the proper word and faux pas is a better term.  Whatever.

I think all of us have had those moments when we’d give anything to be able to roll the clock back ten minutes and get a do over.  Maybe we didn’t quite think things through thoroughly or even though we had the best intentions, it didn’t come across that way.  Let me share a few personal ghosts of Christmas past in the hopes it’ll save you some grief.

The first (in a series) of lifetime screw ups came when I was around 7 or 8.  My greatest wish that Christmas was for a bow and arrow.  It was truly a “Christmas Story” moment.  While it wasn’t an “… official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle…” my excitement, like Ralphie’s, was off the charts.  After appropriate safety instructions I was sent outside in the snow to try it out.

As I looked around for a target my focus fell on the side of our old farm house.  Perfect.  What I didn’t consider was that rubber tipped arrow could have enough force to actually break a kitchen window….but it did.  I honestly don’t think I was aiming for it but I nailed it.  This was at a time when money was tight and I have no doubt my parents were less then thrilled at having to replace a window pane, particularly in the dead of winter.  There was a brief suspension of access but life went on.

Years later, the next real faux pas really fell on my dad with a bit of collusion on my part.  Dad had a thing about getting the biggest tree you could get and the bottom of the tree had to be perfectly shaped.  No gaps in the branches, perfectly shaped and a nice full look.

We had a local farmer that grew Christmas trees and it was a cut your own operation.  Dad and I went out and after considerable inspection found the perfect tree.  We knew it was a bit big but were pretty sure we could get it in the house.  We should have known when we had trouble getting it in the back of his pickup we might have some problems.

When we got home, we were a little surprised that a ten foot pine was a tight fit against an eight foot ceiling.   Live and learn.  Mom wasn’t home so it was up to us to figure out how to handle the situation.  It took about two minutes to realize we couldn’t cut off the base of the tree because it was without a doubt absolute perfection.  The only solution was to cut off the top two feet of the tree and it would fit perfectly.

We were pretty proud of our ingenuity and met mom at the door that evening expecting she’d share our enthusiasm.  She agreed the base of the tree was perfect but also pointed out that by cutting off the top of the tree it looked like the tree was growing through the ceiling.   It was pretty obvious she wasn’t really happy with the situation. There was some discussion about going back for another tree that actually fit the room but we convinced her there just wasn’t going to be another tree that perfect.  It was definitely “the” tree that was remembered and talked about for years.

The Ghosts of Christmas past that really haunt me annually have to do with my gift shopping for my wife.  We’ve reached a point in our lives where we don’t do any shopping for each other at Christmas and with good reason.  During the year, if we see or express a desire for something we tend to buy it telling each other Merry Christmas.  Works fine after years of trial and a lot of error.  When we were still buying gifts for each other at Christmas the first real let down for me was the year of the Christmas Sweater.

I’ve never  claimed to be any sort of fashionista and the Christmas Sweater confirmed that.  A number of years ago I was perusing the local sporting goods store looking for the ultimate gift and came across some ski sweaters.  This was in the 80’s and at that time the bulky knitted sweaters were popular with some sort of skiing or wildlife motif.  I found a beauty with a couple of deer knitted into the middle of the sweater looking like they were prancing through the snow.  GORGEOUS!!!!  She’ll love it!

A week later we were Christmas shopping together and I steered her into the same store and we ‘happened’ to walk past the display of sweaters.  I very coolly said, ‘…man, aren’t those great looking sweaters?‘  My wife, never being one to conceal her true feelings turned to me and said with equal coolness… ” Seriously????  I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one of those!”  Lesson learned!

For a number of years after the sweater I played it safe by shopping at the jewelry store.  There came a point where the jewelry started getting too routine and I decided to break tradition and get something ‘useful’.  For a few years I did pretty good with some cool kitchen appliances that were winners.  A ‘Ninja’ for making Margarita’s.  The “Tater Tornado” (seriously) for making homemade potato chips and a couple of other gadgets.  Most were met with mild enthusiasm and acceptance.  But the real mistake and last gift occurred a few years ago with the ‘Cookie Shooter Christmas’.

I was shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond and struck gold.  After wandering around for a while I was drawn to a big display of electric cookie makers that I called the Cookie Shooter.  You put the dough in it and with the squeeze of a trigger it shot out a perfectly shaped cookie onto the cookie sheet in the shape of a star or a snowflake or something equally cool.  What really sold me on the machine was a woman (shopper) walking by who stopped to ask me if I was thinking of getting one for my wife.  When I told her possibly, she went on to extol all the fabulous features of the appliance and how much my wife would absolutely love it.  Hero status in the gift buying realm was virtually assured.

Now, about a week before Christmas that year I was so pumped about this gift I couldn’t contain myself.  I finally broke down and told her she could open it early as it was something she might want to use before Christmas.  By this time, she’s almost as excited as I am.

She tore the paper off anxious to see this incredible gift.  When she got the paper off, there was a minute of absolute silence as she read the box and looked at the picture of the Cookie Shooter.  The only ‘incredible’ thing was the look she gave me as she asked me… ‘what in the hell am I supposed to do with this????’.  It immediately brought back memories of the deep period of depression and recovery I went through following the Sweater debacle.  It was almost what I’d call a PTSD moment.

When the initial shock started to numb, it was explained to me that she never made this kind of cookie.  She didn’t like them, they were a pain to make and the chances she’d ever use it ranked up there with winning the Lottery.  Got it.  To this day I question if that female shopper that advised me was actually a ‘plant’ to sell stuff that just wasn’t moving that well.

Now these aren’t the only ghosts of Christmas’ past that visit me but they’re the most memorable.  I’ve recovered and (for the most part) moved on.  I still get sweaty palms when I think about gift buying and I’ve accepted the concept that cash is king.  Hard to screw it up.

I have no doubt all of you have your own ghosts you recall this time of year.  I hope like my wife and I you can look back at them as memorable moments that are a lot funnier today then they were at the moment.  It’s not that we don’t mean well, but sometimes in spite of your best effort….

This year, make your own memories and I wish you all a sincere and very Merry Christmas!!


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Blade Steel, where does it end?

A good share of the non-productive part of my life has  been spent thinking about imponderables.  Searching for the answers to those questions that just deny what should be simple answers.  Like how high is “up”?  Or what happens to all the rubber that wears off from tires.  That one no doubt has an answer but when we have millions of tires wearing out every year on the highways, why don’t we see mountains of ‘rubber’ lying along the road and in the ditches?

This past week I spent a little time reassessing some of the knives I’ve got lying about and why and how did I got hooked on premium blade steel.  More importantly, I started asking myself how much better can these steels get?

In the last 50+ years I’ve gone from the basic 420 Stainless’ and 1095 to A2 Tool Steels, D2, AUS6, 8, the laminated wonder steels from Fallkniven, the CPM Powdered Steels, Maxamet and on and on.  It just doesn’t seem to end.  Every time I seem to find the ultimate blade steel, someone like Dave asks me if I’ve tried out the newest release from (fill in the blank).  And it starts over.  I would have to say the Spyderco Mule Team Project has been my greatest downfall.  If you’re not familiar with their releases, check them out.  They’ve put out some fantastic blades at reasonable prices if you want to try some new steels out.

The main lure for me has been finding that ultimate blade that will take a razor edge with a reasonable amount of effort and hold it without chipping or rolling over….forever.  I know that’s unreasonable but it seems like they’re coming close.  What makes it difficult is every steel has its individual weak points and strengths.

A blade may take a surgical edge but have a tendency to chip under hard use.  Or it may hold an edge like nobodies business but require a trip to a machine shop to restore that edge when it finally gives up.  And I just assume if a blade is too easy to sharpen, that’s a good thing because I’m probably going to have to sharpen it frequently!

All of this ‘pondering’ made me think about the progress that’s been made over the centuries in blade steels.  Think about those first blades made from stone or Obsidian.  And then the development of bronze, iron and finally steel.  Those first knives made from bronze had to be a  major break through but can you imagine having to use one today?  And all of us have come across some really crappy carbon steels but for the guy that traded in his iron sword for a steel one had to be thrilled.  You would have had to search out a blade smith as  the quality would have been incredibly inconsistent since everyone had their own secret for hardening those early iron blades.  There wasn’t a central facility that specialized in hardening steels.  For that matter, there wasn’t even a steel mill putting out consistent product.

So looking at today’s offerings I realize we have some incredibly good products on the market but there’s an ongoing quest for that ‘perfect’ blade steel.  But like that 13th Century BC gladiator thought, what can be better then this when he got his first steel sword.  That’s where I’m at.  What could be better than what I’ve got?

I have a number of the higher end powdered steel blades in my kit and for the life of me can’t think what more I could expect in performance.  The wonderful thing is, I know there’s going to be something in the future even better then what’s currently available.  Will it be an even higher tech steel or maybe some sort of pocket laser?  I’m hoping for another new higher tech steel.  At any rate, it’ll be interesting to see and I know I’m gonna want one!  Now, back to that rubber tire thing…..


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Thunder Arms

I added a link at the top of the Blog for Thunder Arms based out of Cedar, MN which is just north of Minneapolis/St Paul.  Daniel Puff is the proprietor and I recently had the pleasure of working with Dan on a transfer.  Very accommodating and an all around nice guy to do business with.

Thunder Arms isn’t a huge gunshop with tons of inventory but if you need a transfer done, training or want to place a special order, drop Dan an Email.

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Monday notes 12.11.17

Sorry I missed posting a Friday update so I’ll try to make up with a few Monday notes.  How’s that?

Actually, last week was relatively quiet as far as ‘new’ stuff showing up was concerned.  I filled some inventory holes in the Swiss Army Knives and added some more Trestle Pine’s to fill in some voids as well.  I’ve been waiting on some Queen #9 Stockman and 29 English Jack’s that were ordered about 3 weeks ago.  Nothing yet!

I had hoped to get some more of the the Trestle Pine Buddy’s finished before Christmas with the Mosaic pins but it’s just not gonna happen.  It’s a matter of making some decisions on handle material.  To my friends in Germany and the surrounding area, I just checked the tracking information and a shipment of Trestle Pine Gunflint’s departed Frankfurt yesterday on their way to Sven Kinast at Messerdepot in Solingen.  They should be showing up soon!

Great Eastern is in the midst of a massive run of the 78 American Jacks.  That has to be a major Christmas present for GEC.  Last count was 22 different versions of the 78’s coming through.  To the best of my knowledge that has to be one of the largest runs of a pattern in one group that I can recall.  As long as you like Spear blades, there’s gotta be something in there for handle material to appeal to everyone.

Christmas knife sales have been strong with over half of the orders for 2+ knives per order.  What’s selling?  Just about everything.  It’s been interesting as a lot of the orders are for 2 identical pattern’s/handle materials.  Gifts for the kids I assume.  The Swiss Army Knives have been popular and make great stocking stuffers.  A number of years ago we gave a Swiss Army Climber to the daughter of friends on her way to Europe for a semester of school.  I don’t think she was overly impressed when she got it but sent us a note several weeks later telling us it was the handiest ‘tool’ she had in her kit.

Speaking of multiple orders of the same knife.  When you go to a product page such as the Victorinox Swiss Army knives, ignore the ‘qty’ shown below the small index photos at the  top of the page.  That has nothing to do with the quantity available.  I just noticed all of the SAK’s show “1” below the photos.  Ignore it.

It’s been a little hard to get into Christmas mode up here as the weather just doesn’t look and feel like Christmas!  Talked to my friends in Georgia this week and they’ve both had more snow in the last week then we’ve had all winter!  Not complaining but it’s been mild and today I see we have an area about the size of two football fields with open water on our lake.  I’ve never witnessed that this time of year.  Our lake is about 65′ deep at max depth and is spring fed but we’re usually froze up tight by now.  Keep your sled off the ice Santa!!



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Edge Pro Stones, Trestle Pine Gunflint, 154 Steel

A key point in making the Trestle Pine Knives has been the use of premium blade steels.  Every now and then I hear from a customer regarding the steel and it’s always gratifying to hear it’s as good as I hoped.   This week I got an email from a customer with a Superior and he expressed how well the steel performed.  At the show last weekend, two customers dropped by the tables to give their feedback.

One of the guys at the show brought up the point that while the 154 series will hold an edge like crazy, there’s a price to be paid when sharpening it, although its worth it.  That price involves a bit more time sharpening if you neglect the edge.

Personally, I use the Edge Pro sharpener and admit to staying on top of things.  Every couple of weeks I’ll take a few swipes over the edge to keep things shaving sharp.   It only takes a few minutes and the payoff is worth it.  Yesterday I took touched my Gunflint up and checked the condition of the stones I’m using.

This is a look at the thickness of the mounted stone and the cupping in the middle of the stone is pretty obvious.  I can’t really quantify it, but this stone is about a year old and has sharpened, many, many knives, including 1095, D2, S30V and 154.  I’ve dressed it once before but the wear is more noticeable since I’ve primarily been using it on the harder steels.  Time to dress the stone.

Old stone (top) New Stone (bottom)

I’ve found one of the simplest methods to dress a stone is using wet and dry sandpaper.  In this case, I’m using a 220 grit wet and dry.

600 Grit mounted stone on 220 grit wet and dry

After just a few circular strokes on the sandpaper, you can start to see the effect on the ends of the stone as they’re smoothed down.

A couple more minutes and  it’s really apparent that its having the desired effect.

And after less then 5 minutes the surface is dressed to level.  The stone is thinner then a new one, but I’ve just stretched the life of that stone by several months and many sharpening sessions.

In the past I’ve also used the 2000 grit diamond tape to finish the edge to a mirror polish resulting in an incredible sharp edge.  Edge Pro has a 4000 grit stone that I just started using and it puts a fantastic finished edge on things.  The texture of the 4000 stone is so smooth you question whether it’ll actually do anything or not.  Trust me, it does.

The true test is in how thin a sliver of paper I can shave and the effort to cut through the paper requires the slightest pressure.  Add to that the fact I have an edge that will hold up extremely well and I’ve got a winning combination.

I’m just starting to get feedback on the Gunflint and the comments have been positive.  One criticism (?) I have heard from a couple of people is I failed to have the blade steel stamped on the tang of the Gunflint.  I’ll admit it was an oversight on my part and wish I’d had it marked.   The tube label is marked and the COA’s are marked, but the tang…..

Somebody asked me which of the Trestle Pine series do I personally like the most.  That’s a tough question.  I tend to rotate my way through them and every time I do, I think I’ve found my favorite.  Until I switch models.

I’ve got a few weeks of pocket time on mine and really like the Gunflint.  The screwdriver I still miss but I can always go back to the Topper when I need it.  The shape of the handle fits my hand well and seems to work with the Wharncliff blade.