TK: One of our readers, Jon K. Smythe, was disappointed in your remark in the July 2010 “Gunny on the Edge” where you stated that obtaining a custom knife was going to cost a lot of money.
He says, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Gunny say something that didn’t hold water…It’s a disservice to the many up-and-coming knife makers out there who craft excellent tools…I personally know at least a dozen makers who offer first-rate EDC fixed-blades for under $200-$300. The difference is you get a blade that has that maker’s blood, sweat and effort invested in it; a little piece of him/her is with you every time you use that knife.”
That’s well said, and the kind of custom knife makers he references deserve our respect and patronage. I’m with him 100 percent on that. But at the moment of my comment, I had in mind the large number of vastly overpriced custom knives I’ve been seeing in shows and on the Internet. A custom knife made for every day carry by a craftsman like Mr. Smythe for a reasonable price is one thing. The very expensive blades I’m seeing in shows are supposed to be very, very special. Maybe so—but not with prices that are off the Richter Scale.”
TK: Buy anything new lately?
I picked up something I didn’t even know existed at one of those outdoor flea markets, called “Swap Meets” out here. It’s a butcher’s knife sharpener. It’s got three stones in a kind of pyramid shape lying down, bathed in oil. You tune it with a handle to get the stone you want in position. I have so many knives, I couldn’t walk past this thing, so I bought it. I paid $70 bucks for it, the old boy had gone out of business, and said he had paid over $300 for it. The stones are 10 inches long and run from coarse to fine. You start with the coarsest stone and work your way to the finest, and your blades are like reborn. Further research told me it’s a Norton 3-Way Multi-Stone.
TK: Like many Marines, you probably have a few scars. Any that make you remember a knife getting you?
There’s a 2-inch scar on my leg that reminds me of the time when I tried to get a thick board ready for whittling with my pocketknife. The knife wasn’t big enough for the job, but it sure did a job on me when it slipped.
TK: Did you ever have a moment in the Marines when you thought you were a goner?
I came damn close to thinking that during one of the many rocket attacks on us at Da Nang, when a shelter collapsed on my shoulder as I was diving into it. Messed my shoulder up so bad that the injury eventually drove me out of the Corps.
TK: You’ve said before that the Ka-Bar wasn’t much good in Vietnam, despite the stories of how some Marines loved it.
It was too dull, too hard to sharpen, to be much use for anything except to open cans—big ones and little ones. Like our rations. We didn’t have MREs. We opened lots of cans.
TK: Ever use it for making shelters?
We didn’t even use the Ka-Bar to make shelters, because we slept on the ground, under our ponchos. We actually did do a little whittling with our Ka-Bars, though. You could whittle new tent pegs for the ones you lost, little chores like that. I had one old boy in my platoon that everywhere we went he was whittling stuff. Every now and then, you’d run across one of these guys. They’d sit down with their backs against a tree, get out their knife and start making stuff. I had one guy that whittled out a whole damn chess set when we were in the forests. He was from Arkansas, and he had an old ivory-handled folder with three blades. He could make a whistle too.
For all kinds of Gunny memorabilia and DVDs, including DVDs, including “Full Metal Jacket” and “Mail Call” episodes, check out the Gunny Digital Px at px.rleeermey.com.