This time for sure!
After a couple of very odd years, I think it might be time to return to blogging.
My new return target date is 15 February 2016... That will give me time to polish my thoughts.
A place to go to get back your edge ... heh, heh, heh ...
The U.S. Government is after your Pocket Knives! In a sneak attack, U.S. Customs has proposed revoking earlier rulings that assisted opening knives are not switchblades. The proposal would not only outlaw assisted opening knives, its overly broad new definition of a switchblade would also include all one-handed opening knives and most other pocket knives!
Knife Rights was formed three years ago because we knew it was only a matter of time before there would be a major attempt to take away our knives, as has occurred in England, Europe and elsewhere. Little did we guess that the first major battle at a national level wouldn't come head on, but with government bureaucrats trying to sneak it by everyone, avoiding a more conventional legislative battle, which they know they'd likely lose.
Knife Rights is geared up to help win this fight, but we cannot do it without your help, your emails, your letters. The fight can only be won if we raise enough hell that they are convinced they will not get away with this. YOU are the most effective arrow in our quiver, the most powerful cartridge in our gun.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) just a bit over two weeks ago on May 21st proposed revoking earlier rulings that assisted opening knives are not switchblades. The proposed new rule would not only outlaw assisted opening knives, its new broad definition of a switchblade would also include one-handed opening knives and could be easily interpreted to cover most other pocket knives, even simple old-fashioned slip-joints. At this point, one-hand opening and assisted opening knives are 80% of U.S. knife sales (per AKTI industry sources). For most knife companies, they represent all or the majority of their product lines. These are the knives Americans take with them to work and to play everyday.
Note, please, that CBP's interpretation of the Federal Switchblade Act forms the basis for national, state and even local law and judicial rulings in many cases. This ruling by CBP is NOT limited to just imports. This WILL affect virtually everyone who carries a pocket knife, no matter the type!
CBP came up with this absurd proposal and then tried slipping it into their regular notices, apparently hoping nobody would become aware of until too late. They provided for only the minimum 30-day comment period, and there's no email comments allowed. Obviously, they'd just as soon not hear from us. We're intending to disappoint them in that.
CBP's proposal which would have effects far beyond that suggested in the title of the proposal, "Proposed Revocation Of Ruling Letters And Revocation Of Treatment Relating To The Admissibilty [sic] Of Certain Knives With Spring-Assisted Opening Mechanisms," which would be bad enough even if it only did that. However, this proposal would make it illegal for the estimated 40 million law-abiding Americans who own and carry pocket knives to do so. It would also cost this country dearly in destroyed businesses, lost jobs and ruined families. Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars would be lost. CBP clearly appears to not have considered the consequences of this unnecessary, inappropriate and even illegitimate action. Since CBP is not required to consider the effects of their actions, only Congress or the courts can rein them in. If left to the courts, the industry and our rights will be devastated and America will lose much, regardless of who wins the legal fight.
The definition of what is a switchblade has been clear and settled for the most part since the Federal Switchblade Act was passed in 1958 and has been reaffirmed by many years of legal decisions. The Act is very clear that a switchblade must have an activating button on the handle. Without a button, it is not a switchblade and this has been upheld by numerous cases on many levels over the years. CBP's convoluted reasoning in their proposal to reach back beyond the law and to expand their regulatory purview by rationalizing "intent"as justification for this new interpretation is a stretch, at best, and illegitimate at worst. It simply doesn't meet the common sense test.
CBP's reaching beyond the clear language of the Act in making this proposal is particularly questionable and irreconcilable because it flies in the face of virtually unanimous recent state court rulings (including several cases in California, Texas, Illinois and Michigan) where the issue of assisted-opening knives has already been decided in favor of the existing clear interpretation, that they are not a switchblade. They cherry-picked a few bizarre and untypical rulings from New York state from some years ago to provide support for their proposal, ignoring the many more recent rulings.
For CBP to ignore this overwhelming existing body of law is inexcusably arrogant and borders on a reckless abuse of their power. For them to suddenly do an about face is akin to moving the goalposts after starting the game, and then completely changing the rules of the game besides, making every play ever devised illegal.
Beyond that, their significantly expanded interpretation of gravity and inertia knives, also included in the Act, would clearly make one-hand opening pocket knives illegal and according to industry sources, 80% of pocket knives sold today are one-hand or assisted openers. Beyond even that clearly excessively broad seizure of authority, we know from past unfortunate experience in many cases over the years that this sort of misinterpretation leads to potential abuse by law enforcement where even the most simple and innocuous Boy Scout folding pocket knife can be opened one-handed by use of dangerous and unsafe tricks, so that these too would be covered under this expanded federal definition. This ruling would therefore make almost all pocket knives subject to being considered switchblades.
The impact of this CBP ruling would go far beyond just imported knives because this "agency determination" will be used by domestic courts and law enforcement to determine what is a "switchblade" under both federal and state laws. Many states do not themselves define switchblades and simply rely on the federal definition and interpretation, which is only found in rulings by CBP. Since interstate commerce in switchblades is prohibited, except under very limited conditions, simply driving across a state line with a pocket knife in their possession would make someone a federal felon.
Knifemaking in the U.S. has enjoyed a renaissance in the past decade or two as the genius and innovation of American knifemakers, designers and manufacturers has created a booming and vital American industry with thousands of exciting new knife designs that improve the function, utility and safety of the lowly pocket knife, one of man's oldest and most useful tools. Millions of Americans have responded to this innovation, creating a vibrant industry. For the most part these are family owned businesses that are American success stories, the core of America's economic strength. This proposal by CBP would destroy all that for no good reason. They don't need a bailout; they just need to be left alone to prosper.
The knife industry tells us they employ nearly 24,000 Americans and have a nearly 6 billion dollar annual impact on our nation's economy. If this proposed ruling is allowed to stand, thousands of jobs will be lost at the direct cost of billions of dollars. That doesn't even begin to cover the enormous cost to the country of those that would become unemployed, the ruined businesses, foreclosed homes, years of litigation by both industry against CBP and who knows how many criminal trials and appeals as law-abiding Americans fight this abusive attempt to take away their knives, as well as many other devastating unforeseen effects of this ill-considered proposal. Thousands of American citizens' lives would be ruined. Millions of Americans would be impacted. The cost would be tragically huge, more so because it is neither necessary, nor desired by the vast majority of Americans.
We are in for the fight of our lives to save our Pocket Knives and our essential Knife Rights. We can only win if you do your part. You have to write NOW!
Breaking News: We have received word that U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has DENIED the numerous requests for extension that it had received from Knife Rights, AKTI, manufacturers and citizens like you, and is planning to stick with the June 21 deadline for comments.
CBP's denial of an extension seems to be a clear indication that they do not intend to act in a fair and reasonable manner on this issue and have already made their decision to go ahead. That may be a somewhat cynical viewpoint, but given the history of CBP, it seems like a good bet. That means we have to set the stage for the next act, which will likely be conducted both in court and in Congress. The battle is far from over; your comments will play a key role in both efforts. If you haven't yet submitted comments, you need to do it NOW! (see below) Your comments on the record will make a difference and the more the better.
We need you to write CBP NOW!
However, the reality is that CBP isn't required to listen to our demands, but they do have to answer to Congress. After you send a letter to CBP, giving them notice they are not going to sneak this by us, the next step is to inundate Congress with emails and letters.
If you want to be free to carry your pocket knives in the future, you need to write your Senators and Representative TODAY!
We have also prepared a Communicating with Congress page that includes tips to maximize the effect of your letters. This page was developed after consultation with experts who understand exactly how to get your message across to Members of Congress. We have also included easy links to find your Representatives, if you don't know who they are or the best way to reach them. How much of an impact your communication has can be significantly impacted by how and what you write. Our aim is to help maximize your impact so your Members of Congress actually listen and do something. PLEASE, take a few minutes to review our Communicating with Congress page BEFORE you act.
Help us stop this ill-conceived effort by CBP before it puts thousands of more Americans out of work and destroys one of America's oldest industries, causing great harm to our nation and many American families. Help us stop these faceless, heartless bureaucrats from destroying our essential American freedoms. This nation has many more important issues that need our attention and energy in this time of crisis.
NOW IS THE TIME WE MUST DO BATTLE! WE HAVE NO TIME TO WASTE.
GET ON YOUR COMPUTERS AN SEND THOSE EMAILS and LETTERS.
Knife Rights cannot do it without your help. Knife Rights is only as powerful as the forces we can bring to bear. You are the only truly effective weapon we have. Policitcans only listen to voters. NOW IS YOUR TIME TO ACT!
Because you are sending a hard copy letter and emails via Members' web forms, we won't know you did it unless you let us know. It is critical that we be able to know how many have responded, so please click here to send us an email (customs@Kniferights.org) to let us know you've sent the letter and emails.
Copyright 2009, Knife Rights, Inc.
This may be reproduced. It may not be reproduced for commercial purposes.
W. Evan Sheehan is a very patient man … he sent a list of 7 questions to me in September, and to date I’ve answered only 2 of them … and probably not entirely to his satisfaction.
To reward his patience, I will now answer all of his remaining questions to the best of my ability. I hope …
2. How does one learn to tell the difference between the different types of sharpness? (Some of this may already have been covered on Sharpenology, in which case you'd not be remiss to smack me in the head and just point. I should be re-reading that first.)
While we have talked about different types & degrees of sharpness, we have not gone in to too much detail about how to tell the difference(s) between them in vivo …
The feature most easily observed during real world use is probably smoothness [degree of polish] of the edge. You’d notice this while cutting tomatoes, boning a fish, or when carving a roast … the cut(s) simply wouldn’t feel as effortless as they otherwise might and yet there wouldn’t be quite the same feeling as a truly dull blade.
In addition, the resulting slices or filets might actually be a touch ragged … as opposed to being slightly mashed from an edge that required additional force to do it’s job. This is a pretty fine distinction in papyro or in silico … but when you’re actually cutting, it’s a very clear sign.
3. How do you learn to tell when a blade is sharp and when it needs sharpening? I've tried looking at the blade, but except to notice notches it doesn't seem to do me much good. I can feel that the blade has more bite after I'm done with it, I've always assumed that meant it was sharper: true, false? Are there different tests for different types of sharp (related to #3, I know)?
Ah, the knowing …
The best way to know is to simply use it [perhaps after I’ve sharpened it for you!] and to pay attention to how the feel of using it changes over time.
There are other ways … such as dragging the edge across a fingernail [very carefully!] and noting spots that drag or seem to skip a bit. These areas either need a bit more polish or still haven’t been sharpened to the same degree as the rest of the edge.
You can tell by looking, but … unless you’re a bit of a fanatic [you know who you are!] I don’t recommend it.
Some folks will say to slice a sheet of newspaper [tougher on edges than you might think] … and this will reveal uneven areas like the fingernail test as well as giving you an idea of how smooth the edge is … but simply using the knife for it’s intended purpose is the best way to judge if it’s sharp [or sharp enough to suit you].
4. How do I improve my sharpening technique? I haven't really got anyone around to teach or watch me do it, so I've got to figure out some way of self checking.
Hmmmmmmmmmmm … sounds like it’s time for another class. Seriously, practicing the basics of holding the blade at the proper angle relative to the hone … maintaining that angle throughout the honing stroke … and not putting too much pressure on the blade while you’re doing these 2 things is really all it takes. If you’re concerned about messing up … pick up a couple of cheap knives to use as sacrifices, and work on them until you feel more comfortable with your technique.
If you’re not applying too much pressure, it’s unlikely that you’ll do any permanent damage to a good blade … but working on some less important pieces of cutlery will definitely give you an opportunity to work on your basic skills without any worries about your good knives.
5. Sometimes I feel more of a bite running my finger right-to-left than the other way, does that mean I did something wrong?
Sounds like you’ve got some uneven areas along the edge … or possibly a very pronounced tooth from your hone. If you’re feeling this on both sides of the blade, it’s probably from the hone … and I’d say it’s time for a finer / more even grit [cheap hones may not be uniformly rough across their surfaces].
If you’re feeling it only on one side of the blade, it’s time to practice the basics some more … because you’re not maintaining a steady angle or applying pressure evenly through the entire honing stroke.
6. I've noticed a couple of knives with a bevel that is nigh invisible or maybe not even there, do you have any tips that will help me not fubar these blades?
Are these knives sharp or are they already in need of a tune-up?
If they’re already sharp … either they’re truly wedge ground all the way from the spine to the working edge [not very common] or you need to try looking at the edge(s) under better light and at different angles until you can see what is really going on.
Sometimes it can be difficult to see the edge because the knife isn’t really clean [somehow I don’t think that would be the case in your house] … or if the blade has a truly horrible wire edge from improper sharpening / polishing.
Time for a closer examination … and more data before I can give you a conclusive answer on this one. If you like, you can send me an example and I’ll take it from there … heck, I’ll even pay the return shipping!
Ok … that’s it for this round.
Next up: What should go in a bugout bag …
Since I’m in an edgy mood, it’s time to take another whack at Evan’s questions.
This time we’ll go back to the top:
1. You've talked about different kinds of sharpness -- cutting turkeys vs cutting tomatoes vs wood carving. What do you do for knives you use in the kitchen for multiple purposes? Chopping onions, mincing garlic, slicing tomatoes, slicing cucumbers, etc. I keep a separate knife around specifically for cutting bread, ought I to consider keeping separate knives around for tomatoes?
Our stock answer [woo hoo! a kitchen double entendre …] fits pretty well here: it depends.
If you’re a serious cook and you can really feel the difference between these degrees of sharpness/smoothness when you’re cutting up stuff in the kitchen … by all means, prepare specific knives for specific tasks.
If you’re a not so serious cook, well … don’t sweat it.
Certain foodstuffs, like bread, pretty much require a specific knife … unless you like your loaves mashed and torn instead of sliced neatly.
Tomatoes are another item where a specially prepped knife can do wonders … but unless you’re a true fanatic, a highly paid professional or just get your kicks from having a fully loaded knife rack [stop trying to look innocent!], a properly sharpened chef’s knife will probably do the trick quite nicely.
When we move from the prep side of the kitchen to the staging and plating of foods to be served, it’s time to add a knife or two to the equation …
For carving neat slices off large hunks of roasted meats, you can’t beat a good carving knife. Likewise, if you’re doing fancy garnishes or tiny sculpted veggies you’ll probably want something other than your handy-dandy chef’s knife … but those [in my experience, anyway] are the exceptions. Most of the time, the knife I reach for is my tried and true 9 inch chef’s knife.
Until next time, ‘appy ‘olidays!