Archive for the 'Fighting' Category



21
Jul
08

How NOT to design a wrist blade…

So today I found some time to do my internet blade browse thing, and came upon this little no no…

Close Quarters Combat Fighter - Click to view full size

Close Quarters Combat Fighter

[click image to view full size]

Now this is a no-no for reasons i will get into shortly, but it is ostensibly a rather cool looking little wrist weapon. It’s got a steel fist plate/guard with recesses that are used to store a pair of stainless steel spikes (with leather thong tassels, no less), and the front of the plate is formed into these three spikes that project out over your knuckles.

This is the kind of thing that would be cool to pull out of your pocket and strap on your fist, with a menacing glare, just before a barfight. At least in theory. In practice, you’ll just have to hope your would-be opponent is sufficiently dissuaded to back down based on it’s rather sinister aesthetics alone. Because I can almost guarantee the fight might not go exactly the way you might think with this thing on…

Though it may not seem particularly obvious, there are some rather problematic design flaws with this weapon. The biggest, and one which I talked about a little bit in my Assassins Creed Blade Guide, is the need for a stable platform upon which to mount any wrist or arm mounted blade. This weapon, unfortunately, does not have any such secure mounting.

If you look at how this weapon is designed, you will see that the metal plate/hand shield is riveted to what looks like a nylon mesh web, to which a strap with velcro has been attached. In the front there appears to be a covered elastic band that has been bolted/screwed to the plate somehow. All seems well and good, you might think, until you realize the following:

1. Velcro, when used by itself, is perhaps one of the worst ways to secure a wrist mounted device. In this case it was used to ensure a tight fit of the rear strap, regardless of the wearers wrist size, because that secure fit is a very neccessary requirement of a wrist worn weapon. However because velcro is designed to be pulled off with little resistance, all it would take is a sideways glancing blow from something else to loosen it, or even worse, make it come off altogether.

Velcro does have the strength to be used for applications like these, but needs to be part of a properly designed fastening mechanism, with a secondary fastening device, wrap, strap sleeve, or lock mechanism covering the velcro strip, in order to make sure it can’t just be pulled off once it’s secured. Or just a regular tried and true buckle. So… – Strike One.

2. That band on the front? The elastic one? That’s a nonstarter. First because an elastic band will never give you a solid mount for ANYTHING that will be used in this fashion. It will move when you don’t want it to, allow the whole thing to slide backwards when you need it to stay in one place, and will generally be a major nuisance. It really needs to be another nylon/velcro strap.

And I can’t see how exactly this is fastened to the plate underneath, but using a couple of screws with an elastic strap doesn’t seem too bright of an idea either. You run the risk of the strap stretching out and slipping out from under the screws/bolts/plate, whatever they have under there. Just not the best idea. So for that – Strike Two.

3. The last is not as obvious a problem, and probably wouldn’t be such a big deal if the straps weren’t such a mess, but if you look at how that rear strap is attached, you’ll see that it isn’t really attached to the plate. It’s stitched to the nylon webbing an inch or so after the plate ends. This, IMHO, is a problem. A rather insidious one.

In general things like this work best when the mounting straps are attached to the most rigid part of the platform, which, in this case, is the metal plate. NOT the flexible nylon webbing. Either the webbing should have been smaller, or the plate should have been longer, but either way, the velcro strap should have been attached to the rear of the plate.

Seriously, when a weapon mounting strap is attached to a flexible, non-rigid spot on your wrist mounted weapon, bad things tend to happen when it is used… Trust me. The possible resulting carnage to the wearer if it is used like this would not be pretty. So all I’m going to say is… Steeeerike Three!

So, in summary: PHAIL WRIST MOUNTED FIGHTER BLADE IS AN EPIC PHAIL.

But for most of us, we can overlook all of that glorious phail, because it does look cool. Be nice to hang up on your wall. Or for some impressive LARP action. Just don’t count on it for any real CQC. At least not without a major redesign. Actually it would be really easy to redesign, and would be a fairly formidable weapon if properly outfitted and secured. So maybe it’s not a total loss.

But I do have one  little question… What’s with the freakin’ tassels?!?

Close Quarters Combat Fighter – [True Swords]

21
May
08

Fun With Damascus Steel

Today, I have a special treat for you. You may or may not know this, since it does not come up particularly often, but one of my favorite blade materials is Damascus steel. For two reasons. First, barring unfinished or tarnished steels, it is one of the only true “dark” finished steels that I know of.

The next reason is that, even though I have a great love for all dark weapons, (to me they have more character than most) the truth is that, most dark weapons are not inherently dark, and require special finishes, most of which rarely do any more than provide an aesthetic touch to a blade.

Damascus steel on the other hand, has an inherent dark aesthetic beauty that requires no artificial colorings or preservatives. Ok, so maybe there are some forms of Damascus that have artificial colorings. Some shades of Damascus require chemical treatments or the usage of special alloys or metals to achieve the desired effect.

But in the grand scheme of things, these are no worse than the coatings used to enhance the appearance of monosteels. Nonetheless, it is still the only type of steel that I know of, whose aesthetics are also functional, and whose enhanced cutting power does not really require any special finishes / treatments / coatings. Damascus steel has an inherent beauty all it’s own.

But the cool thing is that, in the hands of true metalworking artists, using these various other methods, Damascus can be made into patterns and colors of amazing beauty. I was quite thrilled to find a site that featured such beautifully wrought Damascus blades, each one uniquely and excellently finished to a level of detail that, much like J. A. Harkins work, totally blew me away…

I present to you a taste of the blades of Kevin and Heather Harvey of Heavin Forge. First up:

<_>

The Zulu assegai – In Damascus

Zulu Assegai in Gaboon Viper Damascus

[view full size]

Now obviously, as one of my favorite African weapons, this Damascus Assegai caught my eye. Definitely a thing of beauty. Due in no small part to the very eye catching Gaboon Viper Damascus pattern on the blade:

Zulu Assegai – Close up of Blade

Zulu Assegai Blade Close Up

[view full size]

Now this is a very unique spear, first because of the shaft style, which appears to have been carved to appear like a dark horn grip at the bottom, and smooths out the rest of the way up. Very cool. And the head sports a cool damscus pattern they have appropriately called called “Gaboon Viper”, as it emulates the characteristic diamond pattern found on the back of the aforementioned reptile… I’ve got two words for the head on this spear: Absolutely Awesome…

<^>

Persian Fighting Blade!

Persian Fighting Blade

[view full size]

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, I needn’t explain to you why I like this blade… It’s all about the points and curves… (I’m sure you can figure it out… 🙂 ) And it doesn’t hurt that it has a Damascus blade. Which is actually appropriate since Damascus steel is reputed to have been developed in ye old Persia and was also called watered steel at the time. No surprise, as Damascus does look like Steel with waves in it…

<^>

Next we have a piece i like to think of as from the West. The Wild West. California gold rush and and all that jazz… It should be self explanatory why:

Gold Rush Bowie

Gold Rush Bowie

[view full size]

Yep, we have a bowie knife, perhaps almost the trademark of the wild west, (besides the ever ubiquitous revolver), in an amazing gold and almost cobalt blue Damascus hue… I’ve always like gold accents on black blades, but this just takes it to another level altogether…

Gold Rush Bowie – Close up of ricasso and top of hilt

Gold Rush Bowie - Ricasso and Hilt

[view full size]

There’s gold in that thar bowie!… I seen it with my own two eyes!!

<^>

Finally, but certainly not least, we find a weapon harking from the dark continent of Africa, an interesting little dagger that reminds me of an insect for some reason. A long wasp maybe? I dunno. But here is it, in all it’s insect like glory…

African Dagger

African Dagger

[view full size]

Now this particularly dark brand of Damascus is one of my favorites, perhaps the only true dark steel in existence. And this sample is particularly beautiful, complementing the overall theme of this dagger very well. Between the African styled hilt, and the really very cool horn sheath, it’s perhaps one of the most intriguing implementations of a Damascus dagger I’ve seen to date…

<^>

And that’s all I’ve got for today. You can see more of Kevin and Heathers’ work at Heavin Forge. Perhaps what really impressed me was not only the creative use of color in the steel, but also the overall attention to detail, fit and finish on every weapon. Absolutely beautiful. Make sure you swing by their page.

As much as they were all great works of art, after looking at them all, I discovered I had a favorite. Probably because I tend to gravitate towards more dark colors and organic shapes, I liked that last waspy dagger best. It just spoke to me. We had a grand old chat.

I think I’m gonna give it a name. I’m calling it the Black Stinger… Yeah… In fact I think i’m gonna have to make myself similar blade one of these days. It won’t be nearly as cool as this one, but If it has half the personality, I’ll be looking forward to quite a few great conversations with it…

P.S. I’d like to point out, for the record, that I am not insane. Just a *wee bit* loopy when it comes to certain blades… But I’m totally harmless, I assure you… No really… 😛

Kevin and Heathers Damascus Blades – [Heavin Forge]

19
May
08

John Rambo and the Art of Knife Survival… Pt. 2

While looking for pics for the knife from my previous Rambo IV survival/homicidal knife post, I came across quite a few pics of the knives from previous Rambo movies. Now interestingly, as survival knives go, most of these are actually not what I’d consider the ideal survival knife design, however as movie icons, these blades are legends in their own right, so I figured what the heck, might as well do a post on them… So hang on. The ride starts now:…

RAMBO: First Blood – Survival Knife

First Blood Knife

[view full size]

This is the design that started it all. What we have here is now commonly viewed as your stereotypical survival knife. It’s got a nice large, long blade, a mild drop point, and the trademark of 13 (oooh scary!!) little saw tooth cut outs in the spine. The blade on these is usually fastened to the hilt via a rather short push tang. Not the best design (for reasons I’ll go into in a bit), but there it is.

It also has a cool cross guard with a Phillips style screw driver tip on one side, and a flat screwdriver tip on the other. It also features the neato (and now fairly ubiquitous) little hollow cylindrical grip, wrapped in green paracord, in which all manner of cool survival stuff is usually stored, with a compass set into in the pommel/cap, with a rubber O-ring to (supposedly) keep out the elements.

So far so good. But the Rambo II knife did this one better…

Rambo: First Blood II – Mission Knife

Rambo II Knife

[view full size]

The Second Rambo knife followed the same pattern as the first, except for some minor, but nice visual upgrades, including a non-reflective black finish, 15 saw tooth cut outs instead of 13 (Pffft whatever) , a black cord wrapped grip, a slightly deeper belly to the blade, a deeper clip point, and the addition of an extended lanyard stub on the pommel. All very nice improvements if you ask me. Especially (of course) the black treatment.

Now these first two blades are pretty cool looking, but alas, as I mentioned in passing before, they are actually not the best survival blades. I think they a little bit too large and bulky, the saw spines on the back really aren’t really as effective as they should be (the saw blade on my swiss army knife bites 10 times better), and the push tang construction is a really, really bad idea. Add to that the fact that hollow handle storage is rarely ever truly waterproof, then I think it becomes a rather poor implementation of an otherwise good idea.

Fortunately, the Rambo III blade suffered from very few of these flaws, and among the three blades in this post, is probably the one I’d be most likely to use for long term survival purposes…

Rambo III – Survival Knife

Rambo III - Mission Knife

[view full size]

With the Rambo III blade we finally see a much needed departure from the handle storage, and into full tang, contoured wood grip, total survival knife domination! As you can see from the grip, the tang extends all the way to the pommel, which, in addition to being super strong, would provide yours truly with some truly epic cranium cracking action! Yeah…!! Errr… Don’t ask.

Anyway, we also see that the saw tooth serrations on the spine have been abandoned in favor of some even more useless divots. And a slot has been added into the side of the blade. Which was originally designed for some fancy schmancy spring loaded wing blade insert:.

Rambo III Knife With Wingblade Insert

Rambo III Knife Wingblade Protoype

[view full size]

Which is cool for a designer/fantasy blade, but is basically pointless in a survival knife. From a survival perspective, this blade is still a little on the large and heavy side, but in the grand scheme of things, I would rather have this, and a ziplock bag with my matches/flint, compass, mirror, string, needle, etc., etc., etc., than any of the prior two knives.

<^>

So there you have it. Phyreblades abridged guide to Rambos survival (and wannabe survival) blades. Obviously, these knives were made to impress the movie going audience, as opposed to actually being useful for survival, so their flaws are understandable, just don’t be fooled into thinking these are the stuff that ideal survival blades are all about.

Now that I think about it, I think It might be fun to make a post (or a page maybe), specifically about what I think the characteristics of a good survival blade are (as well as what they are not) in the near future, so stay tuned, ye wild folk of the Dark Realms… 🙂

11
May
08

John Rambo and the Art of Knife Survival…

I have always been a fan of the Rambo movies. Not sure why. It almost seems as if John Rambo has been around for eons. I remember watching First Blood when I was younger, and can remember being blown away by how well Johns story was told, seemingly using his uncompromising ability to succeed in the face of unlikely odds, and his almost effortless ability to terminate his foes with extreme prejudice, as a rather convincing story telling tool…

I loved his indomitability, and his raw and unadulterated drive to survive. But of course, were are not here to talk Rambo. We are here to talk about cutlery 😛 … blades. And one of the things that the John Rambo series of movies did inspire in me, was a great appreciation for the practical usage of a survival knife.

It would appear they had the same effect on others as well. John Rambo used a different blade for each movie. And each has become a signature blade. Including his newest, most primal, evil and wicked iteration yet…:

Rambo IV Knife

Rambo IV Knife

[view Full Size]

Not to repeat the mantra of a couple of previous posts, but… Now that’s a Knife!

OK, actually that’s more like a small machete. But what is perhaps most notable about this blade is that it is a massive departure from his previous ones. Where the others are all sleek and “refined” (as far as survival knives go) this one is just… Raw… Primitive… Brutish… And not really a survival blade. At least not in the conventional sense.

A good survival knife should have a multi purpose blade. Preferably of a good, durable, corrosion resistant high carbon steel, with a strong, drop or clip point (for strength and fine work) a little belly (for skinning and such), a good straight edge with a strong spine, a good, comfortable, non-slip grip, and a full tang for strength.

Other nonessential “nice-to-haves” would be a saw toothed or serrated section on the spine, for sawing through tough materials, a rounded pommel for use as an impromptu impact tool, a lanyard hole in the pommel to aid in retention, and perhaps a nice large cross guard to save your thumb/knuckles some grief.

Finally, but certainly not least importantly, it should be big enough to handle all of your essential survival tasks, but not so big that it becomes unwieldy. Primarily because a large amount if the use you will get out of your survival blade will involve making small cuts, cleaning game, carving/sharpening wood for weapons, traps, etc.

Now lets compare this list against the characteristics of Rambos new knife.

First, and most noticeably… This sucker is a monster! It’s thick, and very, very large! It will be very heavy, and will almost certainly to violate the “not too big” requirement of the ideal survival knife. Sure, bigger can, in some cases, be better, but if you have to rely on a knife for emergency survival, and you find yourself weak from not having been able to eat for a few days, a big knife just ain’t gonna be your friend…

And then there’s the blade profile. Large and wide. With an almost rectangular angle to the tip. It’s more or less a multi purpose cleaver. This would be great as a camp blade, or for jungle clearing. But with no point, it’s functionality would be really limited to hacking, which, methinks, makes is not quite the best tool to have for things like, say, skinning small game…

Besides all that, the blade is unfinished, raw. In fact the aesthetics remind me a lot of the way the Uruk-Hai wannabe scimitars were designed. Simple blades, no finish, just simple edges (and the occasional point) here and there. Essentially the weapon of a brute who really cares little about finesse, and simply relies on brute strength to hack their way through battle. This blade is exactly that, except with perhaps a little more finesse. But not much.

So while the blade is made of an old truck leaf spring, (which, BTW, is an excellent source of steel from which to make a durable, near indestructible knife) it is overall not really a good survival knife. Unless, of course your definition of survival is hacking away at bad guys. Which, In John Rambos case, It is. And he does a darn good job of it.

So, actually, while it’s not the best survival tool for the rest of us, given John Rambos requirements, this blade is actually an excellent survival tool.

Indeed. Please. Carry on with the hacking away at “teh bad ebil peeps” John… Having recovered some of my testosterone from my last post, I leave you to your butchery… Kthnxbai… 😀

Rambo IV Knife – [Realm Collections]

01
May
08

How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…

If a woodchuck could chuck wood? Ah yes, the quintessential question of the nature of a creature that has apparently been inappropriately named. There is no answer… And yes. My whimsical reverie was spawned by an actual weapon. A rather unusual weapon, in that it is made primarily of wood, though this doesn’t make it any less menacing in appearance…

The Leiomano

Leiomano

[view full size]

Now you might be wondering what this weapon has got to do with wood chucks chucking wood… Well I’ll tell you. There are a number of sites I encountered that listed this weapon as a “Hawaiian Throwing Axe”. Get it? A wooden throwing weapon? So like if a woodchuck could chuck wood, (and this woodchuck also just happened to be a weapons fanatic) this is probably what they would be chucking. Right at your head. Ouch. Except for one thing. This isn’t really a throwing axe.

Yeah, sorry. This is in fact a Hawaiian melee weapon. Seriously, if you look at the design, you can see that it would be ill suited to throwing. Weapons designed for throwing usually use harder materials, as many a throw could end up hitting something hard, like a rock, the ground, etc. This weapon uses wood, cord, and shark teeth. Shark teeth fastened in place with a twine of sorts. And while shark teeth are great for ripping up soft flesh, they would not survive an impact with a hard place, much less the leather thong or twine holding it in place.

Here’s another example:

leiomano

[view full size]

As you can see from the pic, the teeth are aligned just right so that any blow from this, glancing, pulling, cleaving, etc would almost certainly draw blood. And while it might not be as effective as a sword, you better believe that a battle with combatants taking repeated hits from this would get torn to shreds and bleed to death.

And if you take into account that the heavy wooden head could probably deliver pretty hefty blows all by itself, even without the benefit of shark teeth, you can see how this would make for a very effective melee weapon. Here’s a closer look at how it’s all put together:

Leiomano

[view full size]

That is one lethal and mean looking weapon. Even if it’s made out of wood. And string. And shark teeth. No self respecting woodchuck would go anywhere near one of these…

Leiomano – [Kumulau.com]

27
Apr
08

The Modern Kunai

In a few previous posts I’ve made much about how the Japanese kunai had undergone an amazing transformation at the hands of Hollywood, from a cheap, multi purpose garden implement into the omnipotent Swiss Army knife of the Shinobi warrior. The modern replica kunai is now part throwing knife, part parry tool, part fighting knife, camp knife, hunting knife, scalpel, the list goes on… Well, the point of this post is that I found yet another incarnation of kunai, from veteran knife shop Cold Steel…:

Cold Steel Kunai

Cold Steel kunai

[view full size]

Now as Kunai go, this is fairly recognizable, though it is a rather unique design, and a major departure from the traditional Kunai design in two very important ways.

First, the blade is a flat, wide triangular blade. Your traditional Kunai was more leaf shaped, than actually a triangle, though this is not a bad approximation. This also stays in keeping with the diamond shaped blade cross section, which gives the kunai a lot of strength, though it is much more shallow diamond than some traditional designs. It would make a strong thrusting weapon. Not so much for cutting, even though it has two very sharp edges. Kunai really weren’t the best design for cutting. Too short and too wide.

The second design departure is, to me at least, a much more important one. In defiance of the traditional full tang Kunai construction, Cold Steel has seen fit to simply encase a tang in a kraton handle. Yes, it looks cool, it probably provides a great grip, and it’s got this great tactical ring on the end of it, but this, imho, is a grave mistake.

There is simply not as much strength in a grip molded onto a rat tail as there is with a full tang with scales. given the kind of use that a kunai might see, i would always be worried about the tang somehow working it’s way out of the grip material. I’ve seen it happen too many times. And it’s a great shame.

But speaking of different kinds of uses, I couldn’t help but notice the handy little chart that cold steel provided on the different grips that could be used to wield the kunai. Now I will readily admit that I am no kunai fighting expert, but seriously, half of those grips seem very… well… pointless… It looks almost like they just held it in as many ways they could think of and then picked the coolest looking ones for the pic.

I mean seriously, a kunai is not a punch dagger. Punch daggers are short for a reason. You don’t want the blade rotating out of your hand. That is why grips 1 and 6 fail miserably in that respect. And grip 4 is pointless when you could use either 3 or 5 to accomplish essentially the same reverse/ice pick grip in a much stronger way. Grip 8 is a good strong hammer grip, while 7 looks like a good way to break a pinky. And whoever came up with grip 2 must have been smoking a controlled substance…

In fact I’m thinking the only ones who could find any practical use for grip 2 would have to be Ninjas… But you can try it for yourself if you feel so inclined… I’m just saying…

Cold Steel Kunai – [True Swords]

01
Apr
08

A Predatorial Shuriken

OK, So i’ll admit I’m not really the April Fools type. I sat thinking about all of the incredibly evil things I could have posted as an April Fools prank and realized… I just couldn’t do it. So instead, I’m gonna post about a fictional weapon that Ive always thought was very cool looking, but entirely impractical:

The Predator Shuriken

AvP Shuriken
[view full size]

This weapon was one of the cool weapons wielded by the race of Predators in the Predator series of movies. This particular shuriken was prominently featured on the AvP (Alien vs Predator) and AVP2 movies. Now the one featured here is a non-functioning reproduction shuriken, primarily because, well, this weapon would be near impossible to make work in real life, for reasons I’ll get into shortly.

I truly love many of the design details of this weapon. But what makes it such an intriguing weapon to me is primarily the subtle physical impossibility and impracticality of it. It is a weapon that appears, on the surface, to be physically plausible, but upon closer inspection, reveals aspects that are implausible, but so tempting close to real, that you cannot help but wonder if it would be possible to duplicate in real life.

AvP Shuriken – life size prop

AvP Shuriken
[view full size]

For example, looking at the pic above, you may notice that the overall design of this shuriken vaguely follows that of the Japanese Fuuma (or Windmill) shuriken, but departs from traditional shuriken design in it’s asymmetry. The blades are all biased towards one side of the weapon. Now besides the fact this this offends my sense of symmetry, this massive weight imbalance would also make it a very impractical throwing weapon. And yet, in the movie, it is thrown just as a Fuuma shuriken would be, without exhibiting any of the idiosyncratic flight characteristics that one might expect from such a poorly balanced weapon.

An even more implausible feature of the weapon is the great disparity between the retracted form factor and the fully deployed form of the shuriken. Below is a picture of the center section of the weapon with the blades extended:

AvP Shuriken – Center Section

AvP Shuriken - center Section
[view full size]

And here is a picture of the blades, again fully extended:

AvP Shuriken – Blades

AvP Shuriken -  Blades
[view full size]

In the movie, the blades are shown to extend out of the center section of the weapon. From the pics, it is apparent that a considerable level of nesting can and would need to occur in order for this to be physically feasible. By my count, there are six blades, each blade consisting of 4 sections, an extension/pivot lever, an outer extension sleeve, an inner extension sleeve and the blade proper. The weapons deployment sequence is shown in the clip below:

AvP Shuriken – Deployment

AvP Shuriken - Deployment

Sweeeet…! Incidentally, the little clip above may also explain the weapons asymmetrical design. If the blades were to extend in a symmetrical fashion around the circumference of the weapon, there would be no safe place to hold it during deployment without risking the loss of a few digits. If memory serves, I think these were used primarily as throwing weapons, so if I were designing it, it would be perfectly symmetrical, and would open in mid air when thrown, so as to avoid the awkward asymmetrical design. The asymmetry seems like a pointless trade-off if you ask me, but then again, I’m not an alien weapons designer…

Anyway, during retraction, the blade would have to retract into the inner sleeve, the inner sleeve into the outer sleeve, and the whole outer sleeve assembly pivot onto the extension arm, which would then all fold neatly into the center section, completely occupying that space. Sounds good in theory, except that, given the physical dimensions of blades, sleeves, etc, there should be hardly enough room for all six blades, let alone a deployment / retraction mechanism…

Of course, given the advanced nature of Predator technology, these technical details would almost certainly only be limitations of human technology, and would be little more than niggling little technicalities to a predator engineer.

In the end, however, it is the overall aesthetic of the blades, and the deployment mechanism that makes this weapon so captivating, and while the technical challenges would be great, the design is ultimately so close to something that could be made using current technologies, it would be very tempting to try…

I wonder if DARPA would be willing to give me a research grant for this kind of stuff… 🙂

AvP Predator Shuriken – [Black Aris]




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