Posts Tagged ‘Throwing’

The Mighty Machete!

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you may know that I have a good amount of experience with machetes. I have done many things with them, clearing fields of 10ft tall elephant grass, felling small trees, even carving field hockey balls. (Yeah. Betcha didn’t know you could carve a hockey ball using a machete did you!)

Indeed, there was a time when I used them routinely, I dare say even more often than I did my laundry!  The result, is that I tend to reach for a machete where most folks would reach for an axe. As a matter of fact, I consider machetes a blade that is highly underrated in North America. This may or may not actually be true, however when people start looking for a medium to heavy-duty chopper, the first thing people seem to reach for is a camp hatchet or axe.

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet.

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet.

Now to be fair, there are many things an axe is just better for. For instance, you don’t hear much about machete murderers in the good old U.S. of A. Axe murderers, on the other hand… Common knowledge. And look at how under represented machetes are in the media. You see hunting and survival knives portrayed prominently in movies all the time, like the Rambo movies, The Hunted, etc. Even in games, machetes get a bad rap. You see throwing knives, in all kinds of First person shooters, ballistic knives in Call of Duty, etc, etc, etc, the list goes on forever!

Even on Youtube, machetes get little love. There was recently a game of “Name your two favorite knives” tag on Youtube, and not a single person (whose videos I have seen so far) has even mentioned a machete. It is a sad state of affairs people. Especially when you look at what you can do with a good machete. Chopping, carving, wood processing, digging, brush clearing, dismemberment… etc. (And just so we are all clear, I mean dismembering large game animals, not people. Not that it hasn’t been done before, but it’s just not my style. I’m just saying.)

Anyway, a machete can do it all! And what is most amazing about it is that you can get a good machete for a mere fraction of the cost of many of the fancy schmancy designer knives that people all seem to love. But you can thrash a machete and not have to worry about, ride it hard, put it away wet (thought if you do that, you deserve to be flogged, hung from you hair from the tree of woe, for wild emu to slowly pick at you… No seriously.)

The fact of the matter is, machetes get no love. At least not in North America. In Africa, South America, and many developing nations, it is the hero of large utility blades, and today, I’d like to speak out on behalf of all the poor neglected machetes of ‘Merica! I’d like to show you that machetes are not only good, but that they can be cool too!
First, allow me to introduce you to the working mans machete, two of my favorites from the Ontario Knife Co:

Ontario 12in Camper Machete

Ontario 12in Camper Machete


 The Ontario 12″ camper machete. This one has a saw blade spine and a “D” handle to offer added protection to the user, though I must say that as a seasoned machete user, I can’t recommend either, as the saw back is incredibly inefficient at sawing anything. It is best used for notching, but that is about it. And the D handle simply makes it harder to use that saw back anyway, so this is what I would consider a bad combination. Moving on to one of my more favored workhorse machetes:

Ontario 18in Military Machete

Ontario 18in Military Machete

The Ontario 18in Military Machete is my go to machete for camping trips and such, it is versatile, tough, and best of all, Cheap! I have both the 12in and the 18in version of this machete, and I really don’t know why every outdoorsman doesn’t have the 12in version in their pack. They are awesome! Next up, a light duty machete: The Gerber Gator Machete.

Gerber Gator Machete

Gerber Gator Machete

Now this is a nice, easy to use machete, ideal for someone who wants to pack light. It is not as heavy-duty as the Ontario or Cold Steel Offerings, but is light weight, low fatigue, and has one of the best grip ergonomics I have run into on a machete for a long time. It also has a saw spine, however its performance is surprisingly disappointing, especially given that they know how to make a good utility saw. Phail on you Gerber! PHAIL!! >:{

And now, on to the machetes that I classify simply as “Cool beyond Words”. Ok, so they aren’t really cool beyond words. But they are pretty darn cool. I refer, in this case, to Cold steels line of machetes, starting with their quite impressive Kukri Machetes:

Cold Steel Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete

Both the Regular and Magnum Kukri machetes from Cold steel are simply quite good. Strong, tough, can be made shaving sharp, and quite versatile, I have both versions, and can say that they are great, especially for the price, being excellent low cost choppers and all around bush whacking blades.

Last but not least, allow me to introduce you to my favorite machete design of all time, the Cold Steel Kopis Machete.

Cold Steel Kopis Machete

Cold Steel Kopis Machete

Now this machete is just beautiful. Based on the ancient Greek Kopis sword, the Cold Steel Kopis Machete is a beautiful piece of work, a combination of style, function, strength and beauty that is really hard to come by these days. And, of course, as if simply to spite me, it is no longer being made. Curses. CURSES!!! Curse the machete gods for depriving me of this thing of beauty! Oh well. C’est la Vie. It is my own fault for not getting one while I could.

Anyway, there are a gazillion other machete designs i could talk about today, but these are some of my favorites. And hopefully I have demonstrated that Machetes are not just ugly choppers, and that you can have it all; strength, style, beauty and utility… with the Mighty MACHETE!! 😀

P.S.

By the way… Anyone got a Cold Steel Kopis machete they want to… umm… donate to… “charity”? I can take care of that for you… Yes, yes, it will be for a good cause. You know, like the Happy Balrog Knife Charity… No, no, it’s a real charity… It goes to Balrogs in desperate need of hard to find knives… No, really… 😀

Smith & Wesson Bullseye Paul Bunyan Hatchet – [True Swords]
Ontario 12″ Camper Machete – [True Swords]
Ontario 18″ Military Machete – [True Swords]
Gerber Gator Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Kukri Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Magnum Kukri Machete – [True Swords]
Cold Steel Kopis Machete – (no longer made)

Throwing Knives – Part Deux – The Art of Throwing Knives!

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

OK, so it’s been a while since I posted anything, truth be told, I’ve just had waaaaay too many things going on. So much so that any spare time I might have is a rare and precious commodity. And as you might imagine, rather than sit behind a computer screen during this free time, I prefer to get out and do… Things. Yes. Things. physical things. In ye great outdoors. Or indoors. And stuff. Yeah… OK… Enough of that.

Anyhoo, one of the “things” I like to do in my spare time is… Throwing knives. I may have mentioned it in a previous post, but I have been a knife thrower, on and off, for many years. However recently I’ve been noticing a resurgence in knife throwing interest. Of course it may just have been that I haven’t been looking in the right places, but I think that the relatively recent flood of knife throwing protagonists in movies, anime and video games, may have something to do with it.

I mean if you look at the way throwing knives are used in games like as Assassins Creed and COD:Modern Warfare, anime like Naruto, and of course, Jason Stathams “Hai guise, I’z so hard core ima bring throwing knives to a gunfight” guy from movie The Expendables, it’s kind of hard to miss the glamorization that they have undergone. Much like the lowly Japanese garden trowel morphing into the almighty ninja Kunai…

Incidentally however, even though all I have seen of  The Expendables is the trailer, I thought I should point out that in real life, if anyone was stupid enough to bring throwing knives to a gunfight, they would be dead. Yes. I said it. Jason Statham’s character should have been dead. Many times over. Riddled with bullet holes dead. Dead as a doornail dead. Dead as a doornail riddled with bullet holes dead. D-E-D… Dead. I’m just saying.

And on that note, I’d like to show you a humorous video  I found on Youtube that actually addresses some of the more interesting points about how throwing knives are portrayed in the movies:

A point about throwing knives

A point about throwing knives

Now this guy makes some great points, though he kind of makes a mistake when he presumes a knife that misses it’s target can’t hit (and stick, point first), into the wall behind them. In reality this depends on how the knife was thrown. There are three  main ways to throw a knife. The first, and arguably the most common is what is called the spin or Circus throw, technique.

A knife thrown using this technique spins end over end on the way to the target, which means that the point is only present to the target at specific distances, which limits a thrower using this technique because they must stand at specific distances from the target in order for a stick to occur. Too far outside one of these “sweet spot” distances and you don’t get a stick.

Skilled circus style knife throwers learn ways around this limitation, such as imparting additional spin, by flicking the wrist, or retarding the spin of the knife with the thumb, as it leaves the hand, so as to shift the sweet spots closer or farther away, but personally I think there are just too many variables to learn to take into account to use this style as anything more than a recreational experiment. I do like to use this once in a while, however, since one of it’s great benefits, in my experience, is that it is one of the most powerful throwing techniques, allowing sticks to occur in the hardest of targets.

The second throw type is some times called the “no-spin” though it is technically a very slow quarter spin throwing technique. Now with this style, you have a whole lot more leeway with your distance, since the spin is so very slow, that your effective point stick distances are much , much larger than with the circus style throw. However the knife still spins, albeit slowly, and a thrown knife that misses it’s target, may still hit point first a little ways behind it, but not by all that much. This is the throw I use most often.

I personally find that it is not as powerful as the circus throw, however you are not dependent on being in a “sweet spot” in order to get a stick. Below is a demonstration of the quarter spin through with a unique twist (pun intended), demonstrated by the Japanese weapon throwing expert Houzan Suzuki:

No spin (Quarter Spin) knife throwing - Screw Style

The last, perhaps most difficult, but most interesting, is the spear style throw. Now this throw can actually be performed in a couple of different ways. Some spear style practitioners throw their knives like actual spears, pushing them straight forward, like darts. Yet others accomplish the spear style throw with an overhand or sideways throw. However the distinguishing feature of this style of throwing is that when the knife leaves the hand, it is already point first toward the target, and stays that way across the entire trajectory of it’s flight.

No Spin Wave Knife Throwing Technique

No Spin Wave Knife Throwing Technique

This last method of throwing, demonstrated above by the Russian martial arts expert Yuri Fedin, using either a sidearm or overhand spear throw, is perhaps the most difficult of all to master, but it is the one throw for which a point first stick is almost guaranteed, regardless of where the target happens to be along it’s trajectory. This means that you can miss the target, and still get a point first stick quite a ways behind the intended target. This is the style I’d like to master, but believe me, it is not an easy one to learn.

At the moment at which you release the knife, you must use a a light brushing motion along the spine of the knife, with the forefinger or thumb, to counteract the knifes natural tendency to spin due to the rotational inertia imparted to it by the arc of the throwing arm. Too much and it will rotate in the opposite direction, too little and it turns into a quarter spin throw. You have to get it just right. I can do it fairy easily at half spin distances, but beyond that, it’s hit or miss… Yet again, pun intended.

I leave you with a video clip of what an expert who has mastered this style of no spin throwing can do with… well… anything that has a point on it…

Enjoy!

Fedin System No Spin Knife Throwing

Fedin System No Spin Knife Throwing

If Professor Xavier were a ninja, What would he throw?

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Now, clearly Ninjas are awesome. But how would a ninja fare against Professor Xavier from the X-Men? My rational mind clearly and logically argued that a ninja wouldn’t stand a chance. But lo and behold, the ninja fanboi in me tried to argue, that Professor X would get pwned. In the resulting mental struggle, I was forceed to rip that stupid fanbois arms off, and beat the sense back into him with his own limbs.

Now as a side note, this should be a clear warning regarding how much I dislike fanbois. I do not even tolerate my own. So for future reference, don’t tempt me. You’ll just make me home sick.

Anyway, my inner nerd ran across something he thought might redeem him. Take a look.

X-WAR Throwing Stars

X-WAR Throwing Stars

Well, I’m no genius, but those look a little to me like X-Men themed hira shuriken. And (of course) my inner nerd argued that Professor Xavier could just as easily be a ninja.

Well… No. He can’t. you see, one of the trademarks of a ninja is their physical agility. And Professor X, you see, well, he can’t walk. Thus, he could not be a ninja. He objected to this line of reasoning, and I actually had to pick up his dismembered arm again to get him to shut up. I also had to point out that if Professor Xavier were a ninja, the question of who would pwn whom would be pointless, because he would be a ninja, and he couldn’t very well fight himself.

However, I did cede that *IF* Professor Xavier were, in fact, a ninja, he might use something like this. And he would be awesome, because he could throw them using his mind… 😀

Wait wat? Dagnabbit nerdboi! Don’t make me go in there and rip out one of your legs…!  >: {

X-War Throwing Stars – [True Swords]

Atlatls and Spear Chuckers and Bows, Oh My…

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

As requested, (CapnPervy, this one’s for you… 🙂 ) today I’m going to talk a little about a very old and not so well known projectile weapon called the Atlatl. Yes, A-T-L-A-T-L. No, it’s not a slang name for a happenin’ town in the stated of Georgia, in the good ‘ol  U. S. of A. Nor is it a giant, four legged, imperial armored transport from Star Wars. Nope. It’s actually a really cool weapon that just happens to have a funny name:

An Atlatl

An Atlatl

This here weapon is called an “at-lattle”. Or something like that. Yes, I know that’s not how to write phoenetic pronunciation… Eh? Look gimme a break here, I’m a Balrog, not an English teacher. Just for that smart alecky comment, I’ve decided to drown you in technical atlatl minutae. Yes… What?

Ok, yes, you’re right, that’s a baldfaced lie, I was gonna drown you in atlatl trivia regardless. What can I say. I tend to get long winded when I am talking about things that i find interesting, so I need every excuse I can get to justify my rambling. Just humor me, OK? It’ll be fun. Really. Go grab a cup of coffee, tea, whatever your slow poison of choice is, and get comfortable…  Mua ha ha ha ha ha ha… *wheeze*… heh…. Here we go…

More Atlatl Information

More Atlatl Information

An atlatl is essentially just a stick, usually around 2′ in length, with a peg, or pin at the rear end, sometimes set in a pocket, designed to hold and cast darts that can be anywhere from 4′ to 6′ in length. Some modern atlatls are also made with dart rests, integrated finger slots, unique grip designs and so on, like the ones below, however these are all contemporary designs that did not exist in traditional atlatl.

Atlatls with a dart rests

Atlatls with a dart rests

A custom atlatl with dart rest - showing unique grip style

A custom atlatl with dart rest - showing unique grip style

The atlatl is sometimes called a spear chucker, however I don’t think this is technically accurate, since, as far as I can tell, Atlatls do not actually cast spears. Almost every atlatl projectile I have seen are technically darts, or over sized arrows. And while it may seem like an inconsequential detail, there’s actually one very important difference  between a dart and a spear. Yes. Seriously. And if you just hold your horses for one second I’ll tell you what the difference is. Yes. Thank you. Let’s continue.

Preparing to throw an atlatl.

Preparing to throw an atlatl.

What really sets a spear apart from an arrow or dart is that a spear has no tail fletching or fins. All arrows and darts have fins/vanes/fletching to aid in aerial stabilization. Spears do not. This is why an atlatl is technically not a spear chucker. In fact, spears have more in common with crossbow bolts than either arrows or darts, as bolts are also generally stiffer than arrows. But I digress, as usual.

An Atlatl Dart

An Atlatl Dart

Many traditional atlatl darts also had a very unique point feature. unlike arrow tips that were usually permanently tied in place, atlatl tips were removable. The employed an interesting double socket design, with the hard atlatl tip attached to a secondary wood atlatl tip dowel, (sometimes called a foreshaft) using a tongue and groove design. The tip assembly was then mated to the atlatl dart by hollowing out the front of the dart, wrapping it with cord, and press fitting the foreshaft and tip assembly in place like a plug. Rather ingenious.

Atlatl Dart Tip Design - Double Slot

Atlatl Dart Tip Design - Double Slot

Atlatl Tip Design - Fully Assembled

Atlatl Tip Design - Fully Assembled

Alternate Atlatl Tip Designs

Alternate Atlatl Tip Designs

An atlatl can be used to cast a dart much farther than it could be thrown by hand. Some have finger straps, slots or voids in/on the grip to aid in retention, and many others have stone weights attached, about which there is a lot of debate. More on that later.

Parts of an atlatl

Parts of an atlatl

The atlatl works by extending the effective range of motion of your arm, from the wrist joint outwards. This allows you to use a much larger throwing arc than you would have been able to using your arm and hand alone, and you are able to impart much more energy to the projectile as a result. FORE!!

Using an Atlatl

Using an Atlatl

As I mentioned earlier, the atlatl and dart has a lot in common with the bow and arrow. However the similarities do not end with the fletching of the dart. An interesting property of properly constructed atlatl darts, are that they are designed to flex, and can be tuned, much like an arrow, for specific amounts of spine (flex) during launch, so that they straighten just before the socket leaves the peg, thus transferring all of that stored energy to driving the point towards the target

Atlatl Dart Flex

Atlatl Dart Flex

I also mentioned before that many traditional atlatl designs have weights attached to them. The purpose of these weights is a point of great contention. Many historians claim they are purely cosmetic, or religious/ritualistic in nature. However there are also those who argue that they are there to aid in the tuning of the atlatl.

Atlatl Weights

Atlatl Weights

The idea being that traditional weighted atlatls are designed to flex a little during launch, much like a bow, and that the weights are there to help fine tune the amount of flex and when return occurs. theoretically this would mean that one could tune both the Atlatl and the dart to flex, and release their energy at exactly the same time, in order to maximize the amount of stored energy that gets transferred to the dart, propelling it downrange.

Atlatl Flex

Atlatl Flex

I am personally inclined to believe that these weights do serve to help fine tune the atlatl for better throws, and this has been verified by actual atlatl record holders, however exactly what they are doing has not been definitively proven. However there is a lot of good information about them from veteran atlatl expert William Robert Perkins (aka “Atlatl Bob”), who was able to show scientifically, that these weights did in fact affect the balance, noise levels, and flexion characteristics of the atlatl.

Atlatl with stealth weight

Atlatl with stealth (aka Banner Stone) weight

Atlatl stealth weight noise levels comparison

Atlatl stealth weight noise levels comparison

Science applied towards the analysis and improvement of medieval weaponry. My kind of weapons expert. 🙂

Some Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - Richard Lyons

Some Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - Richard Lyons

The atlatl is just an absolutely fascinating weapon. So elegant and simple, and yet, as we’ve seen, there are so many complex facets to it’s operation. Amazing really. Quite an interesting read if you’re a weapons nerd like me. Otherwise you are probably nodding off about now. Which is OK because I’m pretty much done with the atlatl waterboarding session.

More Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - The Takoch's

More Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - The Takoch's

I’ve included some links below for those of you who have not yet drowned in my deluge of atlatl info. Sorry, there are no life rafts or flotation devices aboard this vessel. You will just have to swim for it.

Cheerio!

Atlatls n More
List of atlatl manufacturers – [Flight Toys]
Atlatl Design – [World Atlatl Association]
Atlatl weight and function – [BPS Engineering]
Tools of the Stone Age – Atlatls – [Dons Maps]
Walnut and Rosewood Atlatls – [Ray’s Atlatls and Darts]

Cool Kunai…

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

If you were following my last few posts, you may remember a comment I made about the cutlery industries use of “Metal” (aka cheap cast alloys) to form certain sword parts (usually the hilt), in spite of the fact that steel is relatively cheap.

Now I will readily admit that steel is much harder to work into complex shapes than it is to case an alloy, but still, there are some times when steel is the right thing to do. Like with these Kunai:

Red Kunai

Red Kunai

[click image to view full size]

Now the beauty of these kunai is that they have been designed for throwing use, which usually means all steel (usually a high carbon or spring steel) construction, and a properly balanced design. Now these  Kunai have been modeled after those used in the Naruto series, and barring the use of a red grip wrap as opposed to the white wraps used in the anime, are a fairly close approximation.

But more importantly, notwithstanding that this particular kunai design is not really the ideal for throwing (Yes, you heard right, in spite of all the anime hype, they are not the best throwing knife design) the fact remains that they will probably be made from steel. Sweet, sweet steel.

No alloys, no resins, no cheapo construction… Well maybe a *little* cheapo construction methodolgy, but not with cheap materials, making this one of the best replica anime Kunai that I am aware of today. And IMHO, the fact that it is steel alone, would probably make it worth having.

And incidentally for the curious among you, i’ll explain my whole “not the ideal throwing implement” comment. An ideal throwing knife should be able to be thrown either from the tip or the grip. This design will make a great tip thrower, but the large abrupt ring on the grip increases the chances that it would hang up in the hand if thrown from the grip.

that ring could also makes it a little harder to balance, (which is important for other reasons) though that could theoretically be figured out during the design stage. The topic of what makes an ideal throwing knife is one I think I will dedicate a post to in the future because it is quite the interesting one. But I digress.

My point is, I really wish knife designers could do the same for every knife they designed and made. Real grips, not alloys, proper steels, etc. I know it’s an unreasonable request, but if they did, they would make lots of folks, like me, happier than a foody at a food fair…

We’d also be perpetually broke for the rest of our natural lives, but so long as I got to adorn the walls of my cave with lots and lots of cool, well constructed swords, I don’t think I’d mind all that much… 😀

Red Kunai – [True Swords]

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