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Blackjack 124 in the Field

I finally got a Blackjack 124 into the field this week and actually go to use one a bit.  There are lots of ways to ‘review’ a knife and for me, getting it out on a field trip beats sitting in the office looking at it.

Here’s the specs.  The Blackjack Classic Knives is a US high quality knives coming out of Bark River Knife and Tool.  In brief, here’s the details on the Blackjack 124:

Overall Length: 8.25 Inches
Blade Length: 4.125 Inches
Steel: A-2 Tool steel @ 58rc
Blade Thickness: .215 Inch
Weight: 5.8 Ounces

Blackjack 124 Stag
Blackjack 124 Stag

It’s a midsize, fixed blade knife with the capability of doing a good job on small ‘projects’ and totally capable of heavier duty tasks including large game dressing.  The fit and finish are flawless.

The first thing I appreciated was the generous handle which gave me plenty to hang onto.  On lighter duties like kitchen detail, a small diameter, shorter handle is fine.  For heavier duty (which the 124 is capable of) I want a knife that gives me something to hang onto.

Blackjack 123 Stag Handle
Blackjack 124 Stag

In addition, the ricasso between the front of the guard and the sharpened edge gives me plenty of room to get my index finger in position to give better control for more delicate work.  So often the larger knives don’t leave enough room to manuever.

I really liked the profile of the blade.  The thickness of the blade near the guard provides plenty of strength for a little prying and twisting.  As you move toward the tip there’s a noticeable thinning of the blade giving you the ability to make finer cuts.  While I didn’t split any firewood with it, I have no doubt it would work fine on smaller pieces.  I’d prefer to use a knife with a longer blade that carries that thickness farther down the blade for any serious batoning.

124 Spine
Blackjack 124 Spine

For a knife this length, it has a nice heft to it with the balance point behind the guard, just behind the first finger on the handle.  It felt really comfortable with the weight shifted into my hand.  The feeling of control was centered in my hand, not out in front of it.

Blackjack 124 balance point
Balance Point

On smaller belt knives like the Trestle Pine Buddy, I’m not a fan of the sheath retaining straps.  They just seem to get in the way.  The sheath of the 124 has a strap and it holds the knife firmly in place.  In fact the first few times the strap was snapped shut, it was a bit of a chore to pull it over far enough to get it to snap.  After a weekend of taking the knife in and out of the sheath and re-snapping the strap, it got easier to snap without losing its tight retention.  When it’s snapped in, the 124 doesn’t move….at all.

Snug fitting sheath

Convex ground edges are the rule on most of the Bark Rivers as well as the Blackjacks.  I’m a huge fan of the convex grind and the Blackjack 124 is typical of convex edges.  They like to cut.  The edge bites in and just wants to keep on going.  I didn’t use the knife enough to take the edge off but my experience with the Bark River A2 Steel makes me confident the Blackjack will perform similarly.  It holds an excellent edge and doesn’t require a machine shop setup to dress the blade.

Blackjack 124 Edge

Over the years, I’ve had an opportunity to pick out what I feel are the best fixed blade knives for my personal uses.  I’ve added and deleted according to my needs and likes.  This will give you an idea of my regulars.  I’ll admit I’ve got a few more that go in and out of rotation, but these are my current regular ‘go to’ knives.  There’s a mixture of blade steels including 1095, A2, Maxamet, S4V, Laminated VG10, each having their own merits.

My choice fixed blades

I had four days to cut, chop, split, slice and just get a feel of the Blackjack 124.  In brief, I like it.  A lot.   It’s definitely going into the current rotation and fits that mid range size perfectly.  If you use a knife in the field and want one that works and looks good, I highly recommend the Blackjack 124.

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Another Field Trip No Shipping Next Week

I won’t be shipping any orders until late next week as I’ve got one more window of opportunity to make a late season field trip up North.  Fall is coming on and it’s a great time of the year to get out camping and enjoy the leaf color and maybe get a chance to see some wildlife.

A couple of years ago we had the opportunity to see 5 moose and a couple of timber wolves.  The number of summer visitors is down and the woodland critters seem more willing to come out in the open.  It’s just a great time of year to be outdoors.

On my earlier field trip, I had the opportunity to try out a few new and old products.  One knife I didn’t get a chance to put to use is the Blackjack Model 125 and this time around I’ll give it a try.  I think its really important to be able to talk about the knives I’m selling from first hand experience.  The all look great in the display case, but do they actually work.

Blackjack 125 field trip test
Blackjack 125 Stag

As in the past, the store will be open and orders accepted, but they will NOT ship until next Friday or Saturday.  Depends on how much fun I’m having!!!

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GEC 14 And A Little Knife History

I received the Rust Red GEC 14 shipment this week.  We’ve seen numerous iterations of the GEC 14 before and based on the huge quantity of them that GEC sold through SFO’s, they’re obviously really popular with collectors.  It’s a neat little knife but it just doesn’t excite me.  The problem is the size.

GEC 14 Lick Creek
GEC 14 Rust Red Jigged Bone

I understand the moniker is “Boys Knife” and that’s the perfect name.   For someone with a smaller hand it’s a great choice.  When I pick it up, I can almost lose it in my somewhat large hand.

GEC 14 Boys Knife
GEC #14 Boys Knife

To use it for anything other then occasionally opening an envelope or cutting tape, it’s just not comfortable for me to use.  It falls nicely into your pocket and isn’t much more obtrusive there than a key ring with a couple of keys.  For me to use it for some serious cutting verges on dangerous.

GEC 14 Boys Knife

If I try to get a serious purchase on that short, slim handle, it’s pretty easy for me to end up with my index finger in the ‘danger zone’.  Like the 25 Barlow, it’s a great collectible but not something I would choose for an EDC unless I used my knife primarily in the office.  Cutting heavy cord, pruning a shrub, trimming dry wall, wire stripping… not my first choice.

Over the years in this business I’ve been lucky enough to meet a handful of people with a vast knowledge of the knife industry in general.  The wonderful thing is, a few of them have been kind enough to gently tell me (from time to time) that I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.   I’m not particularly shy about sharing my opinions on things and incredibly, I’m not always right.  In the past, I’ve encouraged readers to correct me if I’m wrong or if you just disagree with me.  I value that kind of input.

I had a conversation recently with one of these ‘educators’ with a vast knowledge of the knife industry.  His background in cutlery covers building knives as a cutler, collecting, repairing, historical knowledge, etc.  He has some great contacts in the knife world and access to all kinds of historical ‘stuff’.  Over the years he’s shared photo’s with me that I’ve posted on the blog and been more then forthcoming with info on ‘oddities’ I’ve come across.  Something we have in common is an interest and appreciation for the old stuff and how it used to be done.

Right after GEC came out with their #44 Gunstock pattern he forwarded a picture of some old Cattaraugus parts and drill jigs that have a familiar look.  While we can’t precisely date their vintage, best guess is probably 1920’s-1930’s.  Really nice looking old jigged bone.  It would be fun to have a photo of a finished knife to see what the final product looked like.

Cattaraugus Gunstock (?) Parts Circa early 1900’s.

We’ll see what the future holds, but the hope is from time to time I can make it a point to share more of the info he’s passed onto me.  The photo’s are always fun to look at but they’re even better when someone can give us some background as to what we’re looking at.

 

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What’s my knife collection worth?

What’s my knife collection worth?  That’s one of the difficult questions I run up against.  While I’ve bought and resold quite a few collections over the years, I promise you I still haven’t come up with a perfect formula that’s 100% accurate.  I’ve lost money on some collections, broke even on some and made a nice return on a few.  When it comes to buying and selling collections on a regular basis, it’s a matter of balancing the win and loss columns with an emphasis on the ‘wins’ while playing fair.

Knives are no different then any collectibles.  The collection is going to have a retail ‘fair market’ value as well as a wholesale ‘liquidation’ value.

The retail ‘fair market’ value can be the price you paid for a current production knife or the average of the actual sale prices on a secondary market.  Bear in mind, the sales prices have to be as current as possible.  The secondary market might be through Ebay, one of the forums or knife shows.  You have to bear in mind that just because you paid $100 for a knife doesn’t always translate into a $100 valuation when it comes time to sell.  A lot of Case collectors who paid premium prices 10-20 years ago haven’t seen any appreciation in value on a lot of their pieces.

A big mistake collectors make in placing a value on their collection is watching the “ask” prices on Ebay.  We all like to believe our stuff is worth more than it really is and “ask” prices feed that desire.  If three guys are asking $200, $150 and $100 for the same knives, what is that knife really worth?  Most of us would probably say our knife must be close to the $200 figure.

When I value a collection or try to price pieces I’m selling, I use the Ebay “Sold” listings as one guide (but use caution with that as well).  You can find Sale prices for the same item differ by 2x.  When a couple of people get into a bidding war prices can spin out of control.  So just because you find a 46 Whaler that sold for $500, don’t assume that’s the ‘going’ price.  Keep looking and find the average.

Just a quick story about Ebay selling.  I have close to 6000 Ebay transactions but haven’t sold on Ebay for a number of years.  It’s where TSA Knives got it’s start.  I’m not a huge fan of selling on Ebay due to cost, Ebay’s sometimes capricious approach to what they allow to be listed and their feedback system.  Anyway, a number of years ago a fellow bought a CRKT M16 from me through an Ebay auction.  This was a $26 retail knife at the time.  I had started it with a penny bid to open but the final sale price ran north of $40.  I was stunned and ecstatic.

About a week after the auction I received an email from the buyer absolutely ripping me a new one for taking advantage of him.  It seems his buddies were having a good laugh at his expense telling him he could have picked up the knife for around $25 instead of the $40 he paid.  Even after explaining that HE was the one that determined the final sales price through his bid, NOT me, he still left a scathing negative feedback on Ebay about what a crook I was.  It was good for a laugh and drove home the fact that fair market value isn’t always determined by an individual sale.

Another source I personally use to determine fair value is a website called Worthpoint.  I really like this site as it not only records EBay sales but also picks up other auctions as well.  Worthpoint is a subscription site but well worth the money if you’re evaluating a larger collection of mixed makers.  This was the only place I could find any sales info on the Brandstetter Bowie as well as some great background info.

The other thing that’s helpful, Worthpoint will typically have records of sales that can cover a broad range of sale dates.  By looking at info that might cover a 10 year span, you can get a sense of which direction the prices have moved.  You can also find pricing for items that haven’t sold on Ebay recently.  Seeing these trends can help give you a sense if your collection hass appreciated or depreciated with time.

In some cases it gets frustrating as you can find radical price swings in both directions for no apparent reason.   That’s when you have to flip a coin and decide how to interpret that.   Once you’ve established a current sale price profile, you’re on your way to having a handle on what your collection is worth.  At retail.

Let’s assume you’ve reached a point in life where you want to simplify your life and the knife collection has to go.  (Or maybe someone else has made that decision for you)  Now what?  You’ve got a pretty good idea what the collection is worth at ‘retail’ but what can you reasonably expect to net.

If I’m buying a collection one of the first questions I ask after I know what’s being offered for sale is…how much are you hoping to get for the collection.  Of course everyone wants and expects to get the fair retail market value but good luck with that.  If the anticipated expectations are too high, I won’t spend much time wasting each others time.

As a seller you’ve determined what you feel is a fair retail value.  Now you have to take a number of things into consideration to come up with a realistic sale price so ask yourself the following questions.

  1. How much time do I want to spend listing each knife on an auction site.  Figure at least 15-30 minutes per knife.
  2. What are the listing, transaction, credit card, PayPal fees and postage going to cost? 
  3. Do you have shipping envelopes/boxes/tape/packing material
  4. Are you going to accept returns
  5. What are you going to do with the items that don’t sell
  6. How much time and effort are you willing to commit to the project

Disposing of a couple dozen knives isn’t that big an issue.  But when you have a collection of 50, 100 or several hundred knives, it gets to be a major project.  Also understand you can quickly lose anywhere from 10-20% in costs related to selling the collection.  The good stuff will sell with ease, the others will take some time and possibly deep discounting.  And the buyer of a collection is going to be considering the same issues when they’re putting together an offer.

Then the desire to sell off the choice pieces on Ebay or to a dealer becomes tempting.  You may have a couple of pieces that have doubled or tripled in value since you bought them and you want to maximize your return.  Consider that if you sell off the prime pieces it can/will diminish the overall desirability/value of the collection to a buyer.

If I’m evaluating a collection, I will pay more for it if there are higher end or key pieces that will help offset the lower value of some of the other pieces.  There’s no way I’m interested in buying a collection of Farm & Field tools in different handle colors.  Now if the other half of the collection is made up of Randalls, older Stag GEC’s etc, that’s a game changer.

I like higher quality merchandise but if a seller hopes to optimize what they get for their collection, I don’t recommend selling off just the choice pieces with the hope of moving the others later on.   Very few buyers are interested in a group of ‘average’ knives unless they can be bought on the cheap.  Personally, I’d rather buy a mixed collection of 100 nice knives than a small group of 10 choice knives.   If one of those 10 choice knives has a flaw it’s harder to recover the loss with the remaining 9.  It’s a numbers game.

I’m always interested in buying collections and hopefully this info will help some of you out if you’re thinking of selling.  We all know our stuff is worth more then somebody’s willing to pay us but we have to stay grounded in reality.

 

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And the Winner Is…..

First, a little insight into my methodology.  Every purchaser was assigned a number in the order the tickets were sold.  If the first purchaser bought three tickets, he/she had numbers 1, 2, 3.  The second purchaser bought 1 ticket he had number 4, etc.  I then use an online random number generator which picks the number for me.  No hand in the hat. And so a winner is drawn.

One last detail is I’m really happy to announce that through your participation we were able to raise a total of $680 for the Wounded Warrior Project.  Now consider GEC raised nearly $1500 for this knife through the Rendezvous Raffle.  That means the combined total raised by this knife for the Wounded Warrior Project is almost $2200!!!!  Folks, I think that’s fantastic.  Thanks to all of you for participating.

Oh…. I suppose you’d like to know who the winner is, no?  Congratulations goes to Gary Kifer.   Considering over $2200 was raised in total, I guess this means you own probably one of the most valuable GEC knives in existence!

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Collection Listings

I’ve started working through some of the knives I’ve accumulated from collection purchases.  It can get a bit tedious as there are a lot of the Case knives I’m not that familiar with.  In addition, I’ve come across a number of the Schatt & Morgan’s from early 2000 such as the Premier series that I haven’t had a lot of experience with.  There have also been some S&M’s that I’ve not had the opportunity to see before such as this gem, a Premier Humpback Lockback Whittler.

Humpback Whittler Lockback Collection
“Premier” Humpback Lockback Whittler

I wish I had taken the time to shoot a few more pictures of the springs on this knife.  It had to be a major PITA to build.  Probably why we don’t see many of them!  The fit and finish on the Premier’s I’ve seen so far has been excellent with mirror polished blades.

Another beauty is the 538311 Burnt Stag below.  The stag on this knife is absolutely gorgeous if you like gnarly stag.  This comes from an era when I felt GEC was at the top of their game when it came to high quality stag.  What really helps make this knife a gem is the fact it is 1 of just 11 made.

GEC 53 Burnt Stag Collection
538311 Burnt Stag

And so it goes.  When I buy a collection I rarely get a chance to thoroughly look at each and every knife at the time of purchase.  I put a lot of faith and trust into what the seller tells me he’s offering.  As a result, there are surprises.  Not all of them good!  So when I find a few knives like these in the lot it’s always rewarding.

Ever so often I’ll be asked if I have a specific pattern in stock.  It might be a GEC, Case, Schatt & Morgan and so on.  It’s really easy to search the store inventory just using the “Search” option.  All you need is a keyword and you’re on your way.  The Case knives are a great example of simplifying a search for a knife.  There are so many models that I didn’t make an effort to break each one into it’s own listing.  If you’re looking for a Texas Toothpick, enter the word “Toothpick”.  Don’t worry about using the word Texas or the model number.  “Toothpick” will pull up any knives listed under that title.  Just a single keyword will usually get you on your way.

The next month is going to be busy.  In another week I’m heading back up north for a few more days of camping before freeze up.  Then I have a Gun Show mid October and a week later we head to North Dakota for the Pheasant Hunt and a little prairie dog shooting.  Plus its the time of year when you start thinking about buttoning things up for winter.  I’ll keep adding more knives from the collections to the store but I know it’s going to be slow going.

Finally, I want to remind everyone that the raffle for the Wounded Warrior Project knife will conclude on Monday so be sure to purchase your tickets soon.  The response has been good so far and someone is going to end up with a really nice collectible.

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GEC Gunstock 1 of 1 WWP Raffle

I was the lucky winner of the GEC 44 White Pearl LG knife that GEC raffled off for the Wounded Warrior Project at their 2018 Rendezvous.  This was a 1 of a kind Northfield Gunstock with White Pearl LG handles.  Beautiful knife!   I’m happy to raffle it off once again to help raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Sepcial Factory Assembly 44 Gunstock White Pearl LG

Starting today, you can purchase tickets by going into the storefront and going to the “Raffle” category ( or click on this link:  Raffle Tickets )  Pretty simple process.  Tickets are $20 each and puts your name in the hat one time for each $20 ticket purchased.  The winner will be announced next Monday, September 10 at Noon CST.

Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

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Larry Brandstetter 1850 Sheffield Bowie Provenance

Some time back, I picked up a reproduction 1850 Sheffield Bowie built by Larry Brandstetter which I wrote up in a previous post.  Luckily, the individual I got the knife from was able to give me Mr Brandstetter’s name but couldn’t offer a lot more info.  A search of the internet didn’t turn up a whole lot more information.   All I really knew for certain was that this was one of the finest handcrafted knives I’ve been lucky enough to possess.

Larry Brandstetter 1850 Sheffield Bowie

The workmanship and attention to detail on the knife was impeccable.  The only identifying markings on the knife were on the ricasso.  It was marked with the makers initials and what I recently had confirmed, the serial #007.

Half Horse, Half Alligator Pommel
Nickel Silver Frog Clip

I bring this up for anyone interested in Larry Brandstetter and his knives as the amount of info about him is sparse at best for a knifemaker of his skill level.  The knife sold last week and I had the privilege of putting it in the hands of a personal friend of  Larry Brandstetter. He graciously shared a few details about the knife and Larry.  Here are a couple of excerpts from our email exchange you might find of interest.

“I just ordered and paid for the Brandstetter 1850 Sheffield Bowie.  Larry was a close personal friend of mine.  I have one small boot knife he made (not marked-way before he became known for his Sheffield Bowies).  I always wanted one of his Bowies but at the time could not come up with the money.  I used to go to his basement shop and watch him work on his bowies while we shot the breeze.  He and I were members of the same muzzle loading gun club and shot together monthly for years.  He also made some beautiful flintlocks.  I was at his funeral.  We had talked on the phone just a couple of weeks before his untimely death. I will treasure this knife and all the memories I have of my dear friend.  For your future reference, the number stamped on the piece is indeed the serial number.  I may have even watched him work on this piece.  Larry and I did knife making at the same time, though mine never achieved the craftsman ship of his.  I went on to scrimshaw and from time to time would supply Larry with ivory for use on his knives.  He did all the castings on knife and sheath himself.  The rifle he built for himself was a German Jager with swamped barrel, stock adorned with whale ivory and silver fittings.  On the cheekpiece was an ivory Prussian eagle with silver shield and silver wire inlay.  On the sliding wood patch box were two carved ivory cherubs holding a scroll which stated (in German) “All your skill is of no avail if an angel urinates in your touch hole.”  I miss him greatly and have searched for one of his Bowies for years.  I’ve finally found one.  Thank you very much.  Thank you for the writeup on the piece.  I can tell you are a fan of quality knives.  Larry would have been proud.”

In a later exchange after he received the knife he sent me the following info:

“…..I believe the hilt is made of linen micarta. ……… I remember him making a knife with micarta because I commented that for not much more the guy could have had genuine ivory. He was polishing out the blade in his shop at the time. Could have been this knife. Larry also did some folders and one lovely push dagger. This bowie has certainly brought back some wonderful memories.”

I had to think about the comment regarding ivory costing only slightly more then micarta.  Then I realized that 30+ years ago he was probably right!

It doesn’t happen very often but it just really feels great being able to put someone together with a knife or gun that had personal meaning to them like this.   While I enjoyed my brief ownership of this knife, putting it in the hands of a personal friend of the makers is a great feeling.    Many thanks for sharing this personal information with all of us.