Posts Tagged ‘Exotic Automatic’

The Finer Points of Throwing Knives…

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Many, many moons ago, Sinza, over at our automatic knife forum  Exotic Automatic, had posted about an interesting throwing knife that had set a world record for throwing distance. It was used to hit an 8″ bullseye from almost 60 feet away. 59’6″ away, to be exact. You can view the thread here if you are interested. The knife in question was the Flying Knife. The site has all the details you may want to know.

The Flying Knife

The Flying Knife

Now I personally thought the Flying Knife was a very interesting design, completely forgoing any attempt to conform to the appearance of a traditional throwing knife, in favor of a highly specialized design requiring an equally specialized throwing technique. This knife was designed to spin in flight, like a bullet fired from the rifled barrel of a sniper rifle, and thus maintain much greater in-flight stability.

And as you might surmise from the diagram below, the ideal throwing technique for this design has much more in common with throwing a baseball, than it does any traditional knife.

The Flying Knife - Grip

The Flying Knife - Grip

Interestingly, this is not the only throwing knife design that has left the beaten path for more exclusive territory. There was also the Easy Stick Pro thrower from AccuFlight. I think they may have gone out of business, but this thrower, in contrast to the Flying Knife, both looks, feels and throws like a somewhat over sized dart, and much like a dart, it’s tail imparts a self correcting attribute to it’s flight. :

AccuFlight Easy Stick Pro

AccuFlight Easy Stick Pro

Both of these knives have one thing in common. They both attempt to replicate a way of throwing that is familiar to most people. Baseballs and darts are quite common pastimes, and so throwing one of these should be equally easy to learn. However, for first time throwers who intend to pick up knife throwing as a hobby, I have reservations about these kinds of throwers.

Knife throwing is a cool sport in it’s own right. However, to me, knife throwing is even more fun because once you have mastered the basics, you can apply those basics to almost any knife. Table knives, paring knives, kitchen knives, cleavers, whatever. This is one of the knife throwing skills that you may not pick up if you learn to throw using specialty knives like the Flying knife, or the Easy Stick Pro.

I have a personal set of criteria for throwing knives which I will share, since it may be helpful to others, especially if you are a first time thrower planning to get into the sport. My first criteria for a throwing knife is that it not be too small, or too light. When I first started throwing, I picked up a set of small throwing knives, like these:

Cheap On Target Throwers

Cheap On Target Throwers

They were dirt cheap, and I got quite a few of them. However in retrospect, I realize now that although they were the perfect shape, and properly balanced, they were much too short/small and light. I wasn’t getting enough feedback from them, they were too easily affected by even the smallest variation in my throwing technique, and too light to resist any random disturbances in the airflow around them, and consequently, it took me ages to figure out how to throw them with even a modicum of consistency. So I’d advise against getting cheapo knives like these.

You will also want to avoid the fancy schmancy looking throwers like this one:

Cold Steel Naga Thrower

Cold Steel Naga Thrower

These may be fine for seasoned throwers, but if you are just starting out, avoid complex knives with multiple curves, or handles with knobs, sharp divots or asymmetrical lines, as they will make getting a handle on consistent throws more difficult because of the irregularity of the grip area. What I’d recommend is something more like this:

Boker Zeil Throwing Knife

Boker Ziel Throwing Knife

or this:

Cold Steel Sure Flight Thrower

Cold Steel Sure Flight Thrower

Notice the lateral symmetry of the grip and the blade? Both have relatively straight lines, the blade and grip often have roughly the same effective length, and even when they do not, they are still symmetrically balanced, (ie center of gravity coincides with the geometric center of knife) with a nice heft, which helps with feedback, and in-flight stability. Also with heavier knives, you can feel what the knife is doing as it leaves your hand, and this will help you learn proper technique.

Yes, knives like these may be a bit more expensive, but you don’t have to get name brand knives either. Any knife constructed of any good steel, (ie won’t snap in two if it hits a target sideways) at least 9″  long overall (this should be your bare minimum length), with a weight of around an ounce per inch in length (give or take a few ounces) should make a good thrower. Heck you can even make them yourself.

Anyway, just thought I’d put my thoughts out there, I hear less and less about knife throwing these days, so I’m either seriously out of the loop or it’s slowly becoming a dying sport. Hopefully my experiences will be useful to someone. Anyway you should give it a try. It is an engaging sport, and plenty of fun, but please do be careful!!

Easy Stick Pro – [AccuFlight]
Cold Steel Naga Thrower – [True Swords]
The Flying Knife[The Flying Knife Co.]
Exotic Automatic Forum – [Exotic Automatic]
Boker Zeil Throwing Knife – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Sure Flight Thrower – [True Swords]

An Automatic Knife on Steroids…

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

A couple of months back I encountered a very interesting automatic, spring loaded, blade design from the movie SAW. Now I have never seen SAW, or any of it’s sequels, so I hadn’t been privy to the various supposedly gruesome weapons that the movies featured, but I will say, I might go see all of them, just to see weapons like this in action:

Saw Blade Gauntlet
[view full size]

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a big fan of people being killed. Especially not in the purportedly gruesome ways that the movie depicts. Though from what I have read, the series illustrate a complex subtext about the raw, cold hearted drive of pain and vengeance, humanity, self sacrifice and survival. As a student of the human psyche, that might be one of the main reasons I might go and see this film. To be honest, that’s not entirely true. I really just want to see the weapons… 😛 But, as usual, I digress.

We are here today because I am a huge fan of blade aesthetics and mechanics. And this blade has a healthy portion of both. I was very impressed both by the aesthetics of the blade, as well as the with the amount of work that went into the mechanical aspects of it’s construction. It incorporates a lot of ideas I have kicked about in my head for many, many years, as well as a few I had not thought of.

Now the page I found this described it as a nonworking replica prop from the movie, but to anyone with a mechanical frame of mind can see how this blade was designed to operate, and boy is it a thing of beauty. Of course, given that this was from a hollywood movie, the fabricators who originally came up with the design had the funds to build whatever they wanted, and it shows in the way it is constructed.

There are a lot of parts and fabrication that went into this design that your average garage fabricator might find difficult to duplicate unless they are excellent welders and machinists. For instance look at the deployment mechanism. The little “spidey paddle” mechanism is affixed to the gauntlet via a custom fabricated pivot point welded to a flange on blade carrier bracket. a very nice job, with the paddle custom bent to fit the contours of the wearers wrist and hand.

Not that this mechanism is terribly complex or anything like that, but the rail delivery system is unique in the world of such weapons, and overall the fit, finish and attention to detail are superb. Much better than what most of us would be able to come up with in our garages. Not that we aren’t trying.

A good knife maker friend of mine, Sinza who is probably even more inspired by these kind of weapons than I am, has a site dedicated to his knives, and a forum dedicated to the construction of weapons like these. If you fancy a peek at what can be done with common household fixtures and parts from home depot, mosey on down to the forum for a gander. He’s got a pretty cool collection automatics to boot.

Sadly, the SAW blade gauntlet got pulled from the shelves almost as soon as it was made available. Still don’t know for sure why, but my guess would be reasons related to either copyright issues or irrational fears. But in any case, things like these, Wolverines claws, glaives, multi tools, combo weapons, all the unique and wonderful gadgets James Bond ever got from Q, etc., are things that have fueled my imagination for decades. So I’m always stoked to see something this cool, that isn’t just movie magic…

Phyreblade’s guide to Altairs retractable blade (From Assassins Creed)

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I had been considering doing a piece on retractable blades for a while, and was finally motivated to do so by a post I recently got in my suggestion box. A reader, Zach B. commented about his build of an under-hand retractable blade, similar to what the assassin Altair uses in the game Assassins Creed:

Assassins Creed Poster
[view full size]

In general, I love blogging about game weapons with real-life counterparts, but obviously, this game is pretty new out, so there are no official (or unofficially) produced rip offs… err production “replicas” of the Altairs retractable blade to be had for review.

However, since the games release, there have been numerous attempts to duplicate this weapon, and while YouTube is replete with videos of home made “Assassins Creed” blade contraptions, I noticed that, due to a lot of conflicting concept art from the developers, there is actually a lot of confusion about this blades design.

So, in typical blade nerd fashion, I thought I’d try to sort things out. Not necessarily to replicate the game blade, but rather to come up with a practical, real life design for such a weapon. Now let me preface the following by saying that, for your average dweeb, walking around with a spring loaded blade up your sleeve is an incredibly bad idea. There is a reason why these kinds of weapons were not common, even when they were legal. They are highly impractical, not to mention that they are an accident literally waiting to happen.

But, for those of us who like to live on the edge, love the aesthetics and the mechanical challenge of designing wacky weapons, and are insane enough to try, (notwithstanding the very real possibility of self impalement), I’ll go on. Proceed at your own risk. But remember, Altair has no ring finger. Think about it… People, please, do NOT try this at home…

Mounting and Placement.
For any wrist mounted blade to have the stability and strength to be used effectively, it must be properly mounted. This means a solid (inflexible, like steel, very thick/stiff leather or wood) mounting platform, preferably formed to the shape of your forearm, and a minimum of two straps to keep it in place, one at either end of this base. Your best bet would be to use the entire length of your forearm, with a minimum of two straps, one placed at the wrist and the other just before the elbow, to maximize the weapons stability. Altair has this covered quite nicely, as he used full length bracers with three straps:

Altairs Bracer
[view full size]

Now looking at this concept art for the game you’ll notice that the blade seems to come out from the spot where Altairs ring finger ought to be. In the game, this is not the case, and is entirely impractical for any real life assassin, (unless they are a mutant, like Wolverine) so we will disregard this little snafu, and assume the blade is mounted under the forearm, and not actually in his hand. Next stop, blade design.

Blade Support and Design
Now here is another area that has been thoroughly bolloxed on account of multiple conflicting concept art. In the game, Altairs blade uses a nested rail delivery system, where the blade is housed inside of a set of nested sleeves, which run on an internal guide rail. The sleeves extend sequentially, outermost rail first, then inner rail, and finally the actual blade, once both sleeves are fully extended and locked:

Assassins Creed Blade with double nested sleeves

Altairs Nested Sleeve Blade system
[view full size]

Now here is where the confusion begins. Depending on which art you are looking at, Altairs retractable blade either has two sleeves, or one sleeve:

Assassins Creed Blade with single sleeve

Altairs Single Sleeve blade system
[view full size]

Now nested sleeve systems have the advantage of being able to fit in a retracted form factor that is only a fraction as long as the weapon is when fully extended. This means a much more compact housing. However this comes at a cost. The added complexity of automating the extension and retraction of multiple nested sleeves require smaller, more delicate parts, necessarily manufactured to very close tolerances, that would make the whole mechanism more prone to failure.

In fact, in my opinion, the ideal system would actually use no sleeves whatsoever. And given that you have (and should really use) the entire length of your forearm with which to conceal both the blade and the deployment mechanism, I don’t really see the point of implementing such an elaborate system. Not to mention that a single, fixed-length blade would be stronger, faster, more reliable, and infinitely easier to automate than a shorter blade mounted in multiple sleeves. Which brings us to the our deployment system.

A very important aspect in the operation of any stealth weapon is an equally stealthy activation mechanism. Preferably one that can be activated ‘hands free”, in a manner of speaking. And Altairs got one. In the first concept picture above, we can see that there is a little harness attached to Altairs pinky from the blade housing. This is intended to be his blades activation switch:

Assassins Creed Blade – Ring/Cable Activated

Assassins Creed Blade Mechanism
[view full size]
[video here]

However, in one of the promotional vids for the game we see Altair having to press a button to release a switch that activated his blade:

Assassins Creed Blade – Button Activated

Assassins Creed Blade Switch
[view full size]
[video here]

Now truth be told, this button is probably one of the more complicated ways of doing this. Indeed, you can see that it’s actuation would be counterintuitive, as it would require you to place your fingers in the path of the out going blade in order to activate it. In any case, from the numerous videos of him in action, we can see that Altair simply flexes his hand away from the blade to activate it, so we can assume that a button based activation system is not used. A finger ring cable is a much more flexible way of doing this, and the one I’d go with.

So far as the actual deployment mechanism is concerned, if we stick with the simple, single blade (no sleeve) approach, we can actually use a very compact dual spring double action out-the-front switch blade mechanism. They are simple, reliable and fairly easy to implement. I won’t go into schematic detail here, as it would extend an already excessively long post, however, I can point you in the direction of a buddy, and fellow knife fanatic Sinza, with whom I run a forum (Exotic Automatic) with a lot of helpful diagrams, as well as a break down of some common double action OTF mechanisms. Go on over and check his site out if you have the hankering for a more technical look into the topic…

The Blade.
Finally, we come to the point (pun intended) of all this, which is the design of the actual blade itself. As I mentioned earlier, I favor a single blade approach, with no sleeves, housed in a simple, dual spring loaded guide rail, in the style of your regular OTF switchblade. So far as the blade itself is concerned, we would need to meet a few specific criteria. The blade would need to be long enough to penetrate thick clothing and still puncture vital organs, thin enough to be able to slide between a persons ribs, yet thick enough to resist bending. Throw in double edges, and a sharp point, and we have a winner.

Interestingly, these are the same basic design specifications of the contemporary Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife design, which I will talk about in a future post. Nonetheless, this should give our assassins blade all of the required features to be a terminally effective assassination tool… And that’s all I’ve got to say about that…

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