dsc00027.gifJames B. Lile: The Arkansas Knifesmith, Knifemaker to the World
By Lucarelli-Hill-Miller-Wise-Wilson

Hardcover, 528 pages, $129.95
Jack Lucarelli
10519 Valley Spring Lane, Dept. TK
Toluca Lake, CA 91602;

I first met custom knifemaker Jimmy Lile at a Kentucky knife show in 1973 and quickly found he was one of the friendliest and most easy-to-like people in the business. It is hard to pin down exactly when Jimmy first began making knives, as it was a childhood hobby that slowly evolved into a profession. He officially went “full time” in 1969 and quickly became one of the top custom knifemakers in the world before his untimely death in 1991.

Of course, what really brought Jimmy to the attention of those outside normal cutlery circles was the fact that he worked with Sylvester Stallone to create the feature knives for the first two “Rambo” movies. For better or worse, it was Jimmy’s sawback, hollow-handle design that started the entire modern fad for survival knives. This book covers the entire range of movie prototypes plus the models created, but not used, for the first two films. It also covers the pattern Jimmy designed for the third movie that was rejected by Stallone in favor of the work of another maker. Frankly, I find the rejected knife and the one actually used seem to have many similarities. The book doesn’t clear up the mystery of why the Lile knife was dropped.

The book equally explores the full range of hunters, fighters, survival knives and folders offered by Lile from 1969 to 1991. Many catalogs from this same period are reprinted that give the reader a better feel for the original prices and options provided by the maker—an outstanding reference for anyone collecting custom knives and an absolute must for the fans of Jimmy Lile. The knifemaking world lost one of the greats when Jimmy passed on.

review791.gifFolding Knives– Carry and Deployment
By Steve Tarani

DVD, 55 minutes, $29.99
5.11 Tactical
4300 Spyres Way, Dept. TK
Modesto, CA 95356; 866-451-1726

Unlike most of the tactical folder DVD’s on the market, 5.11’s new video does not cover self-defense with an edge weapon in any way. Its total focus is on the selection and use of utility knives by law enforcement personnel. My main question, then, is does the intended market really require such basic instruction? Folding Knives—Carry and Deployment seems to be aimed at the potential user who has had absolutely no experience with cutlery of any kind in the past. I came away from the DVD feeling like I had watched 55 minutes of “how to tie your shoes.”

There is a fair amount of useful information buried in the tape. Duane Dwyer of Strider Knives gives an interesting but overly technical discussion of knife construction and edge grinds. Steve Tarani covers the advantages and disadvantages of various blade locks and knife styles. Safe opening and closing, as well as positioning the folder on your gear, are also covered.

If you really are starting from ground zero picking a tactical folder for duty carry, you may find this DVD useful. For most of us with a little more experience than that, I would probably give it a pass.

imgp3031.gifPolearms of Paulus Hector Mair
By David James Knight and Brian Hunt

Soft cover, 275 pages, $40
Paladin Press
Gunbarrel Tech Center
7077 Winchester Circle, Dept. TK
Boulder, CO, 80306; 800-392-2400

Despite all the romance of medieval sword play, it was the use of various polearms during the pre-firearm period that actually won battles. Paulus Hector Mair was perhaps the most intriguing figure in the Liechtenauer tradition of German Renaissance martial arts. An enthusiastic practitioner of fencing, wrestling and other martial arts, he was determined to preserve the knowledge of the combat arts of his time. His dream is realized in this remarkable book by authors David James Knight and Brian Hunt.

Mair collected a vast combat library, including works by Jörg Wilhalm, Antonius Rast, Gregor Erhart and Sigmund Ringeck, as well as copies of both the Codex Wallerstein and the Königsegg-Talhoffer manuscript. Circa 1540, Mair produced the Opus Amplissimum de Arte Athletica, or Ultimate Book of the Art of Athletics, a massive compendium heavily influenced by the earlier works in his library but surpassing them in content and depth. Today only three complete manuscripts of his Opus survive in German and Austrian collections.

In Polearms of Paulus Hector Mair, authors Knight and Hunt make their contribution to the endeavor that Mair began so many centuries ago. Working from both the German and Latin versions of Mair’s Opus, they present chapters on combat with the poleax, halberd, spear, shortstaff, lance, and longstaff, with text in the original German and Latin, along with the English translation. The illustrations, taken from the Dresden codices, C93 and C94, have been meticulously restored to give a clear view of the techniques.

While the use of a halberd or poleax may be esoteric for the modern reader, knowledge of the shortstaff is just as useful today as it was in the 16th century. Few street fighters are actually skilled enough to face a trained individual carrying a stout hiking stick. All in all, this is a very interesting book.

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