Posts Tagged ‘Leather’

Mans best… pal?

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Ok, so I’ve been looking for a few good all around large wilderness knives, large blades, like machetes and the like, things I could substitute for an axe. My personal philosophy for wilderness excursions is to carry a large blade instead of an axe, because while an axe is really, really good for heavy duty chopping, unless you are doing something really involved, like building a log cabin, you could probably get by with a large knife instead.

And in addition to that, there are a gazillion things you can do with a large machete that an axe would just be too unwieldy for. My personal benchmark, my reference blade, my standard for any large blade that can double as an axe, is the Nepalese Khukuri. And I actually did find a Khukuri to add to my outdoor kit. That blade, however, is the topic of another post.

Today, I’d like to talk about one of the more popular machete type tools I happened to run across during my search: The Woodmans Pal:

Woodmans Pal - Site Logo

Woodmans Pal

Now this is one of the more unique machete designs I’ve happened across during my ramblings across the internet, and for the most part, I like what I see. Good solid construction, no gimmicky features, like some of the other specialized machetes I’ve blogged about in the past. I will admit that in my opinion, this machete does carry a little bit of bloatware on board, depending on how you plan to use this useful not-so-little blade, however this ends up working in it’s favor, which I will talk a little bit about later on.

So, lets start from the bottom. The Woodmans pal comes in two flavors, one with a nice hardwood grip, and the other with the premium, and very nice looking compressed leather grip, with an integrated D shaped knuckle guard, as shown later below. Me personally, I like the leather grip and knuckle guard, but depending on how you plan to use the machete, the wood may be a better choice, for reasons I’ll also get into later.

But perhaps the most distinctive feature of this machete is it’s blade. The woodmans pal features an interesting forward swept design, with the blade getting a little wider, as it gets towards the top. Interestingly the edge is not sharpened all the way to the top, but stops just short of the wide, flat tip. However at the top of the blade, opposite the unsharpened top edge, we have a billhook jutting from the spine.

The billhook sits in a depression stamped into the top of the hook, so as to ensure that, when oriented correctly, the blade of the hook is always lower than the blade of the machete, which should make it easier to catch limbs and brush with. I thought was a very clever design feature, though this is also where my little nitpicks begin.

The Woodmans Pal

The Woodmans Pal

Here’s the thing. This design is quite innovative, however it suffers from a few shortcomings. For instance, if you opt for the model with the leather grip and knuckle guard, you may find that your options for using the billhook are actually a little limited. Because as clever as the design is, that depression makes it biased towards one hand over the other, depending on whether you are a southpaw or not, and also depending on how you use a machete.

If you are one of the unfortunate few for whom the placement of the depression for the billhook makes it a little harder to use, you may want to opt for the wood grip, since the knuckle guard will generally only aggravate this problem, and the wood handle is actually much better designed to allow the machete to be used upside down. I also found that, at least based on the way I use machetes, there was only a marginal advantage to having it. A lot of what I might do with the billhook, I could do with just the machete blade alone.

However I will say that the bill hook, in combination with the slight flare of the blade as it rises towards the tip, provides the tool with a top heavy balance that should give it rather khukuri-like qualities in terms of chopping power. Perhaps with not quite the same kind of elegance that the Khukuri carries, but some semblance of it’s chopping ability nonetheless.

Now individually, none of these features are particularly unique. However put together, it makes for one heck of a well balanced, exotic gardening implement! The wood and leather, where used, appear to be of great quality, and the steel is a good quality tempered carbon spring steel, so no demerits in that area either. All in all, a really great machete, if you are in the market for something of this nature.

Equally confidence inspiring is that Pro Tool Industries, the maker of the Woodmans Pal, offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee or your money back. I’m tend to be a bit leery when I see things like that, but based on what I’ve seen of it, I’d be willing to bet few have ever taken advantage of this offer.

So really, apart from the whole billhook thing, I can’t really knock this. And it even comes in black. I wish they made one without the billhook.

But then I guess it just wouldn’t be a Woodmans Pal.

‘Tis a shame really…

The Woodmans Pal – [Pro Tool Industries, Inc]

A Pirates Scimitar.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

OK, so today you’ve got a POP QUIZ!!!

Only one question, Short answer. (Sorry, no multiple choice today. πŸ˜› ) And here’s the question:

What kind of sword do you think a medieval pirate would use? Hmmm? Take a wild guess. Go on. Give it a go. πŸ˜€

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BZZZZT!

Wrong.

The correct answer is: “It depends on where said pirates are from.”

HA!

Yes, yes, I know, I’m a bastige. That was a cheap shot. A trick question. And I’m actually quite sure some of you got it right. So… Whatever. What can I say? I just like to throw a few of them out there to keep you on your toes. Somebody’s gotta do it? Right? So why not I? That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. πŸ˜€

Anyway the topic of this post is actually related. I have here, a “Pirate’s” sword:

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass

Actually it is called a Fantasy Pirate Cutlass, which is a good thing, because when I think about Pirate swords, my first thought is the stereotypical sword wielded by the classic European vagabonds of the seven seas. The Cutlass. Clearly, however, this sword is *not really* a cutlass. More like a rather ornately finished scimitar.

The curve of the blade, the wide deep clip of the spine just before the point, the cross guard, the hooked pommel, all of these say… “I’m a Scimitar!”. Not “Me Cutlass!” However, seeing as this is a “fantasy” pirate cutlass, anything goes… I guess. So I suppose I should let that go…

Anyway, notwithstanding my prior confusion, I really like the lines of this sword. Obviously it is not as dark as I’d like :D, but I can’t have everything now can I? At least it has a very cool blade, and an interesting hilt to match. The cross guard looks like a set of talons attached to the sword at right angles to each other, with a rather misanthropic looking skull emblazoned in the middle. Not bad looking actually.Β  πŸ™‚

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass - Hilt

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass - Hilt

The hilt continues with a studded leather wrap, covering the grip, which features what looks like a simple single choil at the top for added grip/control. The rest of the grip smoothly curves down to the pommel, which features another rather evil looking talon that curves to the front edge of the blade. Also pretty cool.

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass - Pommel

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass - Pommel

The stainless steel blade features an interesting rough cast/pitted steel appearance,Β  which lends a much more “used” feel to the sword. Overall it appears to be a beautiful and aesthetically well executed sword. I like it.

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass - Skull

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass - Skull

So, notwithstanding it’s failure to meet my expectations vis-a-vis being a pirates cutlass, all I can say is…

I wish it came in Damascus. Or black. I’m not that picky…

No, really, I’m not. Really… What?

Fantasy Pirate Cutlass – [StrongBlade]

Yet Another Beautiful Dark Blade…

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

A fellow DarkBlader (Many apologies, I do not recall who) recently turned me on to this absolutely beautiful dark sword from the excellent Kult of Athena Site.

BlackSword

BlackSword

It is quite fittingly called the Blacksword.Β  And man… What a sword!!Β  There are few swords that truly capture the both the flash flaire of the many finely mirror polished swords out there today, while still being subtle, dark, understated and, most importantly, evil… and this is one of them.

The Blacksword is made by the outstanding Windlass Steelcrafts, and is an absolute work of art. 32.5″ of slim, dark, hyper blued, sinister steel, with a simple fuller running down it’s center, into a simple diamond flare at the ricasso. The hilt is equally charismatic, with a simple elegant, upward curving cross guard rising from the simple center shield-like emblem.

The spiral leather wrapped wood grip presents us with yet more sinister but oh so tempting darkness, bordered at each end by silver studded bands, and finishing at another equally simple pommel.Β  A simple, beautiful, dark, sinister but breathtakingly magnificent sword.

When I look at this sword, I think of the Drow, The dark elves of the Underdark. If your average, highly polished sword were a fair-skinned forest elf, this sword would be the light haired, dark skinned Drow equivalent.Β  I’ve probably said this before, but I wonder what it would be like to have a dark, beautiful Drow girlfriend. A dark irresistible beauty whom you knew could turn and plunge a knife through your heart at any moment, for any reason, but who was just too stunning to say no to.

Probably 7 circles of hell all wrapped up in a single Evil Drow Beauty…

Man… Evil can be soo tempting… o_O

The BlackSword by Windlass Steelcrafts – [Kult of Athena]

Traditional Ninja Weapon Design – Part 2: Shuko

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Today, I thought I’d move on to part two of my series on traditional Ninja weapon design, featuring the work of Matthew Wright of Nine Directions. And the topic of today’s post will be the infamous Ninja Shuko or “Tiger Claws”:

Ninja Shuko

Ninja Shuko

Ninja Shuko, which I posted a little bit about before, are interesting weapons. Or more accurately, interesting tools. Although they can be used as weapons, much like the Kunai I posted about last week, and are most commonly used as climbing tools, some believe that shuko were also descended from farm implements. As Matthew suggests on his site, there are those who believe that shuko were originally created by farmers to ease carrying hay bales and such.

However there is little evidence to either support that hypothesis. And given the difficulty and cost of constructing shuko, I highly doubt the hay bale carrier theory, since the Japanese were much more the practical field expediency type back then, and I think it would have been easier to just use more rope to carry those bales around, than to fashion something as relatively complex as shuko… πŸ™‚ But I digress.

Again, Matthew has employed a very traditional shuko design; a large oval steel hoop, with spikes embedded in it, connected to a large steel arm ring using a leather strap. At the hoop end, the strap is riveted above the spikes, covering the base of the spikes, protecting the hand, and providing a relatively soft internal surface for the hand.

Ninja Shuko - Hand Claws

Ninja Shuko - Hand Claws

The leather strap is also riveted to the very traditional a large steel arm ring, instead of the modern day nylon webbing and velcro wrist strap versions that are floating about all over the place. Now to be honest, while the traditional design works, I tend to favor the modern designs when it comes to practicality. Not necessarily how the spikes and claws are set up, but rather in the overall ergonomics of the arm/wrist hoop design.

Shuko - Steel Hoop

Shuko - Steel Hoop

For one thing, as a climbing device, having an adjustable wrist/arm retention system seems like it would be better than a fixed size steel hoop. So if I were designing something like this, that leather strap riveted to the spike band would be connected to another leather strap that went around the wrist, and was fastened using a buckle, or other similarly secure fastener that could be adjusted and tightened.

To some degree, I think this design would allow you to rest some your weight on the wrist strap during climbing, which could allow temporary stress relief on the muscles of the hand during extensive climbing exercises. But it would really depend on your climbing technique. The mechanical characteristics of shuko suggest that it would require a lot of hand and wrist strength to use, so the benefits of that design modification would vary from person to person.

Shuko - Grip

Shuko - Grip

And another thing is that, it is generally easier to grip something that is not the full width of your hand. If you can wrap your fingers around it, it is much easier to get a firm grip. As you can see from the pic above, this design unfortunately does not let you do that. This is not a problem with modern day designs, which are much narrower and fit the hand much closer.

It is, however very much in keeping with traditional design, which as I mentioned in the previous ninja weapon post, does seem to rely on overly large hoops and very thick components, primarily, I believe, to counteract the low quality of the materials traditionally used. So from a traditional standpoint, these are a quite accurate, functional and beautiful design. Definitely a collectors item.

And since he hand-makes these, I’m sure, if you asked nicely, you could convince Matthew to make a pair to whatever specifications you’d like… πŸ˜€

Traditional Ninja Shuko – [Nine Directions]

Found! Rare Breed of Aquatic Axe!

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I found a rather unusual axe a few days ago. Perhaps it’s not *that* unusual. Especially for a fantasy weapon, since By definition, they really don’t have to adhere to any standardized design specification. However I thought it was an interesting design nonetheless, more or less because its’ designer opted to incorporate some interesting organic touches, and combined them in an unusual way:

Stingray Fantasy Axe

Stingray Fantasy Axe

We have what appears to be an axe with a cast metal handle designed to replicate some sort of animal horn. The shaft curves to one side, as it extends down to the grip, which is itself cast to look like it is wrapped in leather. The pommel is capped by a faux gold ring which, in turn, terminates in a rather cool looking little faux gold spike.

The head of the axe is equally interesting, starting with the two copper or brass looking rings that are made to look as though they are screwed into the faux gold plated horn haft. Attached to each of these two bands are the cheeks of the blade, themselves adorned with an almost Incan looking pattern.

The curvy steel blades appear to be embedded in, and extend from the aforementioned axe cheeks, and bear an unusual set of curves, possibly intended to replicate the wings of a great mythical stingray. Not that I’m any expert or anything, but I don’t know of any stingrays have that particular “wing” formation. πŸ™‚

And now that I think about it, horns of this nature generally occur on land animals, not aquatic creatures. But then again I’m no expert in horned aquatic creatures either. The narwhal comes to mind, but if memory serves, a narwhals horn is actually a tooth formation, and not an actual horn, like a stag or a deer has.

So we have, in effect, a stingray, with steel “wings”, ostensibly formed of horn, bolts, a stinger of unknown origin, and leather wrap, all, in turn, cast in some unknown alloy, and steel. Yeah. Layers upon layers of artistic metaphor at work here ladies and gents. It boggles the mind. Art. Gotta love it.

Of course this is the beauty of “Fantasy” weapons. The designer gets to pick what level of reality to adhere to. And how deep the rabbit hole goes. But when all is said and done, I think the overall look is actually pretty cool. A fantasy sting ray, complete with steel wings, and a curved, spike equipped tail. A work of organic art. Except made entirely of metal.

I wonder if this stingray is domesticated. Forget piranhas. I’d love to have an aquarium full of these.Β  πŸ™‚

Stingray Fantasy Axe – [Amazon]

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