Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

Blade Show progress

Making progress.  Come see me at table 26R!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

On "tactical" knives

The question recently came up on a certain zombie forum what renders a knife as "tactical".  This is something I've wanted to comment on in my blog for a while but haven't taken the time.  It seemed an opportune moment to remedy that.

"Tactical" has been an over-used description for blades, tis true, but has some valid usage and I don't hesitate to use it to describe my own work.

As I see it, there are a couple different basic connotations.  The first would be the original connotation, derived from the dictionary denotations such as "of or occurring at the battlefront" and "of or relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose".  I believe, though I could be wrong, that the term was first applied in the bladed world to folding knives specifically designed for carry and usage by warfighters on the battlefront.  The needs might range from cutting webbing to prying a jammed door to, in the worst-case scenario, killing an enemy combatant while locked in a grapple.  Certain characteristics were needed to make it a feasible option on the modern battlefront, such as a high degree of toughness, the ability to open and possibly close one-handed, a strong lock, and materials that would continue to operate despite harsh environments.  Fixed blades also picked up the moniker.

Common characteristics in both tactical folders and fixed blades are subdued coloration including blade coatings, the use of synthetic handle materials to minimize the effects of environmental conditions, a focus on designs for strength and/or fighting ability, and a carry system compatible with modern load-bearing equipment that will simultaneously provide good blade retention while allowing quick deployment. 

Most of what I do these days would fall under this category of "tactical" in one way or another.

The other connotation is essentially a sub-genre of "fantasy" knife designs.  Instead of the fantasy of killing dragons and rescuing scantily-clad damsels, the fantasy is somewhere on the spectrum of Rambo and Snake Eyes taking on armies of commies and terrorists.  They take some of the cues from the "real" tactical knives, such as blade coatings and synthetic materials, but are much more concerned with looking cool than doing the job.

So the one is a purpose-built tool for warfighters on the front line and the other is a stylistic choice that derives from the former.

I'd consider the katzbalger I built for "Forged in Fire" to be tactical in both senses.  In the first sense, I built it using the materials and techniques I do for all of my tactical knives and bush swords, with as strong a handle construction as I could come up with, using multiple redundant techniques to keep everything as solidly locked together as possible.  If a warfighter wanted to carry a katzbalger on the battlefield, this is how I would build it for him.

But the absolute impracticality of carrying a katzbalger into battle these days pushes it, tongue-in-cheek, into the "fantasy tactical" realm.  There are practical situations for carrying a blade, even larger blades, as part of a modern warfighter's gear, but a katzbalger is the last design I would go with.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

BLADE SHOW 2017, Price Announcement

In spite of my best intentions to get an early start on getting ready for the Blade Show, I find myself pushing hard to get a good showing ready in time, as usual.  I have two tables (26R) again this year, and if I can get everything finished up in time I will have them overflowing.

I wanted to drop a quick line to say that I am going to be raising the prices on my forged work after Blade.  This is something I've contemplated for a while, and it's overdue.  It has nothing to do with my victory on Forged in Fire.  My prices have been pretty static for the last couple of years (although the Price Guide has been in need of an update, the prices I have quoted to customers in correspondence has been consistent).  I make working pieces, nothing fancy, but there are several factors behind it.

For one thing, the dollar don't buy what it used to when I started out.  :)  Materials cost more, shipping costs more.  For another, I have become a more-established maker.  I'm not an unknown factor, I have some very good repeat customers for whom I am grateful.  As a craftsman establishes a reputation for producing good work, they tend to charge more than their juvenile efforts brought.

And that is really where the main reason comes into play: I make a better product than I used to.  I have spent a great deal of time, effort, and aggravation trying to make a tool that will serve its owner well for a lifetime.  I have had very positive feedback from customers who have used the heck out of their blades and have been quite happy with them.  The only thing that really seems to aggravate some folks is how blasted long it takes me to get their blade finished and to them sometimes, for which I cannot blame them. 

So the main reason is not inflation or fame (such as it is; a guy at the junkyard recognized me from Forged in Fire the other day!), but for an improved product.

I'm trying to get my mid-tech/stock removal line to a feasible production level to meet customers' desire for my more popular designs, and their prices will be more in line with my current work.  Most of the designs are based on those that I've forged a lot, though as time goes on I hope to introduce all new designs into the lineup.  I have a big list of things I want to do with the mid-tech line!

I'm not yet sure how much the increase will be.  I am making working tools as simply as I can figure out how to while delivering excellent performance and ergonomics.  I don't need to charge what makers building knives with a high degree of embellishment do. 

If you already have an order with me, your price will be what I have already quoted you.  Any inventory left after the Blade Show (and there always is inventory left, I take a *lot* of inventory!) will be the same price it was at the show.  I'm still not taking new orders for forged work unless you are active duty military, law enforcement, or first responders.  But when I do take new orders, or when I make something that is not intended for a particular customer, it will be more after Blade 2017 than before.

Ok, enjoy some pictures of what I have in progress for my tables at Blade 2017!

All forged blades are 80CrV2 steel and will receive various cord wraps for handles.  All stock removal knives are 3/16" 80CrV2 and will have TeroTuf handles.  The stock-removal tomahawks (I pick up the blanks tomorrow from the waterjetter) are 1/4" 4140 and will have TeroTuf handles.

Small forged blades:

Large forged blades:

Mid-tech Little Roks:

Mid-tech Benghazi Warfighters:

Mid-tech mini-parangs:

This variation on a sinuous bush sword will be my donation piece for Knife Rights:

And this post-nuclear barbarian sword, with a 21" blade and 33" overall length, will be my centerpiece.

Hope to see as many of y'all as possible at the show, and hope the rest of y'all keep your eye on the website to get your hands on what comes back home with me.  :D  Thanks!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Tantos and Bush Swords

I had a couple of finished up tantos go out to a good customer recently.  He's been waiting for the shorter one for a while, and picked up the longer one, which I had forged as a demo of using my power hammer dies, when I posted as available on Instagram.  The shorter one is forged from 80CrV2, with a 9 1/2" blade.  The longer one is 5160, with a 12 1/2" blade.

I did a bit of a variation on my usual wrap with these, matching a wrap I had done on a chopper for him last year.  Over a foundation of neoprene is an underlay wrap of white bleached hemp cord, with tan paracord for the overlay.  And, of course, tan Kydex.

He sent me a video of him hacking up a large pumpkin with the longer tanto.  Made short work of it.  :)

And this bush sword was one that I had forged a while back and had the customer disappear on me.  It was kicking around the shop for a while until another customer bought it as his first custom blade.  It's forged from 5160, with a blade length of around 15" - 16" and an integral socket handle. 

I had made a Kydex sheath for it, but the customer also got a leather sheath with baldric rig for it from fellow knifemaker Luke Swenson.

Nice little detail on the leather, Luke!

And a couple more bush swords in 80CrV2 steel, with integral socket handles, black paracord, and 16" blades.
And black Kydex.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Forged in Fire, Season 4 Episode 3, Katzbalger

This is the last of my FiF stuff. It's dominated my week, but now I need to get back to working on Blade Show inventory.

A washed-out look at the push knives I did for the first challenge. They can actually be seen better in the reflections.

The katzbalger in its hideous glory:

My second take on the guard. Didn't like how the first one fit, so abandoned it before I finished out the quillions.

And my second take on the handle since I ground through the side into the channel for the tang on the last day. So many things had to be done several times on this that I named it "der doppleschwert".  The pommel was forged from a piece of pipe with the end cap oxy/acetylene welded on. The TeroTuf of the handle fits down into the pommel and the flared tube rivet goes through pommel, TeroTuf, and tang.

And finally, a YouTube video featuring myself and fellow FiF champion Tobin Nieto (season 2, episode 8, Cutlass) reflecting on the show, our experiences with it, and answering common questions and criticisms. It's as long as an episode of FiF, but I think it's both entertaining and informative.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017


Tomorrow night!  (Tuesday, April 18, 8:00 CST)

Here's the episode description:

"For the first time ever, the competitors are challenged with creating not one, but two blades in the first round. With double the pressure and double the work, the bladesmiths are pushed to their limits, which leads to another first–a hospital trip. After a grueling second round, the two remaining smiths have just five days to create an iconic 15th century combat sword–the Katzbalger. Which bladesmith has what it takes to burn through the obstacles in their way and become the next Forged in Fire champion?"

Friday, April 14, 2017

Teaghlach Firearms

This is an article written by Josh Stevens, a customer of mine, a soldier who is dealing with splash damage from too many near-misses with explosives while in service of our country.  He was the fellow who got the first ever Little Rok, as well as its larger companion, Mightor, and a couple of pry bars.

In all my correspondence with him, he has always struck me with his calm thoughtfulness, and he is the kind of guy I'd want in charge of me if I was in the military.

Josh is now a gunsmith.  Check him out:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

T-shrits available for pre-order!

To quote Yogurt from "Spaceballs", "Moichendizing! Where da real money from da picture is made."

We are taking pre-orders for Helm Enterprises T-shirts, featuring artwork by the talented Matt Dyck @mattdyckstudios and printed on heavy cotton by Texas Special Tees @texasspecialtees. Modeling for artwork done by Tobin Nieto @stonehavenknifeworks

Color will be orange on black.

Prices, shipping not include:

Small - XL: $15.00
XXL: $20.00
3XL - 5XL: $25.00

If interested, send me an e-mail at with "T-shirt" in the subject line. Please include the number of shirts, sizes, and your shipping address. Thanks!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Forged in Fire Season 4

New season starts this week.

And on the 18th:

Yup, I'm the one in the green T-shirt, second from the right.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Camp bolos

Here are a couple of camp bolos that went out to customers recently.  Both of these started out as demonstration pieces, showing how I use the dies on my power hammer to forge blades.  Neither one of the customers who ended up with them had me build sheaths for them.  The blades are a little over 12" long, with false edges on top.

This first one was for the first STAB (South Texas Association of Bladeslingers) get-together out at my shop back at the end of January, forged from 1084.  I finished it out with tan over black paracord on top of a neoprene foundation.

The second was forged from 5160 as a demonstration for a fellow who came to my shop to study my home-brewed guided helve power hammer to help build his own.  He ended up buying the demo blade from me, and I finished it out in black over black paracord over neoprene.

Primal/tactical tantos

Some recently finished tantos.  All are 80CrV22, with paracord wraps over neoprene hardened with West System marine epoxy, with Kydex sheaths.

This black one was a commission, while the tan one will be on one of my tables at the Blade Show.  Blades are around 7".

This o-tanto and smaller, stabbity slicety tanto were a commissioned pair by a son for himself and his father.  The o-tanto is about a 14" blade, and the other is about 7 1/2".

The stabbity slicety tanto is about as narrow a point as I can recall doing on a blade!

The son decided he wanted a retention strap added to his o-tanto as a belt-and-suspenders insurance policy to keep it secured while it rides on a pack.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Wooden sword vs. Slingsword

Some of y'all may (or may not) recall a few years ago I built an 18" sword blade for Joerg Sprave, the German mad genius of creative and deadly slingshots and other unconventional weapons.  He built a handle for the blade that (of course) incorporated a slingshot.

I was pleasantly surprised to see today that he had brought the slingsword back out, as a basis of comparison for a wooden sword he had made from European dogwood, the hardest wood that grows in his area.  The slingsword shows up just before 8:00 in the video.

As far as I'm aware, this is the first time a blade of mine has been used on a tatami mat cut.  His comment: "The tatami felt like NOTHING AT ALL when I attacked it with your blade... great work for sure."  😎

Monday, January 30, 2017

STAB - South Texas Association of Bladeslingers

This past weekend, we had an informal, yet large, gathering of knifemakers and folks interested in knives at my shop.  There were demos, Forged in Fire contestants, outlaw cutting competition, material sales, camaraderie, and some of the most talented knifemakers from across Texas.  It was fun.  :)

Here's a video from Chris Thorn at DropForged Survival that captured part of the day:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Big ol' Bowie

This Bowie was commissioned by a customer who saw a similar one I had done last year.  I had traced it out, so I used that to make a pattern, but tweaked on it a bit.  It has a wider handle, which I like better.

The steel is 1/4" 80CrV2 steel, with TeroTuf handle scales and flared stainless steel tube rivets.  The top bevel is a false edge.

I played with the Kydex also, bringing it up onto the handle more than I usually do.  It's fitted with a Combat Loop for belt carry.

It's a sizeable sucker, with a blade that's 10 7/8" from point to choil and an overall length just under 16 1/2".  Balance point is about at the touchmark.

The customer commented, "Very nice.  Big yet light.  Good job."  :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Zombie Killer Bush Sword cutting video

Thought I had already posted this.

The mesquite had been seasoning after blowing down in a wind storm just before the Blade Show, and was hard enough that each blow echoed from the surroundings.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Zombie Killer Bush Swords, with forging and cutting video(s)

Chris Thorn of the YouTube channel Drop Forged Survival has been doing a series of videos featuring the (fairly numerous) custom knifemakers around south Texas, including my buddy Tobin Nieto making and testing a seax with an elk leg bone handle.

Chris also filmed me making a bush sword, as well as some cutting tests.  I had a commission from a soldier for a bush sword with a sharpened top edge, so I built one for him and one for the video at the same time.  After filming, the test blade got bought by a repeat customer at a discount.  Winners all around.  :D

These bush swords are the two closest to each other that I've ever made.  Both have 16 1/2" blades forged from 80CrV2 steel, fully sharpened top edges that shave hair, integral socket handles wrapped in epoxy-impregnated paracord, and Kydex sheaths.

 The soldier's rig got set up with a double-adjustable quick-detachable shoulder sling, while the test rig got a pair of MOLLE locks.

The test blade did some water jug and coconut cutting as seen in the video below, then was put to real work chopping seasoned mesquite (which is part of the intended use of the other bush sword).  The mesquite chopping will be featured in an upcoming video.

Watching the video really drives home to me how much work goes into making a bush sword.  And I'm the guy making 'em!  :D