The London Knife Book, 1820-1945
By Ron Flook
Hardcover, 230 pages, $87.50
Knife World Publications
P.O. Box 3395, Dept. TK
Knoxville, TN 37927;
While Sheffield, England is well known for the production of high quality cutlery that once dominated the world marketplace, London has received less attention. Ron Flook’s latest book is a listing of the known makers and sellers of knives located in the London area between 1820 and 1945. While most of these are only covered by a business name, address and the period they operated in, a few of the more interesting ones have relatively detailed histories.
One of the points the author brings up is the fact it is often difficult to tell which of these companies actually made cutlery and which simply sold private label products made in Sheffield. Then, as now, the majority of knives were not actually made by the company stamped on the blade.
Despite the lack of information on many of the companies listed, the book makes up for this by including excellent photographs of scores of “London” stamped knives. The variety of knife patterns made in England during that period is incredible. Not only did Sheffield and London makers catalog a huge variety of their own styles, they copied practically every unique knife they could find from around the world. While the American Bowies are well known, there were also Gurkha kukris, Spanish navaja, Gaucho facon, Arab jambiya and many more ethnic-style knives produced for export. I was particularly interested in the fixed blades that were obviously copies of classic San Francisco gold-rush period Will and Finck models!
A great photo essay that anyone interested in the history of this great cutlery producing area will find fascinating.
Rich Johnson’s Guide to Wilderness Survival: How to Avoid Trouble and How To Live Through the Trouble You Can’t Avoid
By Rich Johnson
Soft Cover, 315 pages,
Rich Johnson is an Army Special Forces veteran who once spent a year in a remote part of Utah, living in caves, wikiups and abandoned mine shacks eating snakes, lizards, chipmunks, rabbits, insects or anything else that wandered by. He also currently edits a monthly column in outdoor publications on survival.
As per my standard rule on survival manuals, I first checked the firestarting section to see what the author had to say about “flint and steel.” If they go into detail about striking a rock with the back of your knife over a pile of dry grass, I know they have never tried it and start to wonder about the accuracy of any other information they pass on. Johnson skips natural flint and steel and goes straight into the various forms of man-made sparking rods. He also does a good job of covering the traditional fire bow. The author rightly points out that primitive people normally did not try to use this method with materials picked from scratch. They planned ahead and carried a carefully selected kit with them as they traveled.
The knife selection section is fairly limited but Johnson seems to prefer the Gerber LMF II and various multi-tools. He suggests not trying to dig with or use your knife as a spear point but to use it to make other tools for these tasks. On the down side, I’m not sure how many first-time survival knife owners will gather much useful information from his sharpening section. From years of first-hand experience, I know this is one of the hardest skills to put on paper.
Over all, I would rate it a reasonably accurate and useful training program for those new to the backcountry.
21st Century Knife Combat, The Complete Series Vols 1, 2 & 3
By Kelly Worden
DVD, 4 disks, 345 min., $149.95
Gunbarrel Tech Center
7077 Winchester Circle, Dept. TK
Boulder, CO 80306
Most people in the field will agree Kelly Worden is right at the top of the list of instructors if you need down-and-dirty practical information on knife and machete fighting. Along with his many private classes and Paladin videos, Kelly has actually held a contract to teach close combat to Special Forces troops at Fort Lewis for several years.
Volume 1, “Unarmed Against the Blade,” covers how to defend yourself from a knife attack with nothing but your bare hands. While this may not seem like a logical topic for a knife training tape, Worden points out that your attacker will try to catch you by surprise and, very likely already have his own weapon drawn. Bare hand techniques can give you the few vital seconds you need to deploy your own knife. Volume 2, “Long Blade Fighting Strategies,” covers utilizing traditional Filipino sword, barong, and bolo techniques with oversize conventional blades. Volume 3, “Blade Against Blade,” teaches real-world skills that will save your life when confronted with the worst-case scenario: a trained and committed knife fighter.
As anyone who has ever studied under Worden will tell you, he has a unique, totally ruthless, take-no-prisoners style of close combat that gives you exactly the mindset needed to come out on top in a knife fight. Combine these tapes with some serious time in the gym sparring with a partner and you will be way ahead of the average meth-head street thug.
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