October 09, 2012
A New Folding Knife from Knives of Alaska (And Other Knife Notes)
By David E. Petzal
It occurred to me that I haven't done anything on knives in a while, so here goes. As a brand, I’ve seen more Knives of Alaska cutlery in the hands of guides and outfitters than any other maker’s stuff, which is probably due to the fact that Charles Allen, who heads the company, has been a game biologist for something like 40 years, and is an Alaska guide, and knows what he’s doing.
Latest in the line is a series of small slip-joint knives that are just about right for carrying in your pocket. My favorite is the Ranger (pictured here), a drop-point with a 2.3-inch blade made of D2 steel, an orange-and-black micarta handle, and a price tag of $69.99. It’s a very strong little knife that can do just about everything except clear a path through the jungle, and if you went to Princeton, or your kid goes to Princeton, the Ranger’s handle is in the school’s colors.
If you’re looking to buy a knife or sell one, particularly a custom blade, I most highly recommend Arizona Custom Knives, which was founded in Arizona, but has moved to Florida. They have a huge variety, cheap and expensive, all types, factory and handmade. I’ve bought and sold knives through them, and the ACK folks do exactly what they say they will do, when they say they will do it. And in these sorry times, that is one hell of a recommendation.
For those of who you are knife nuts and assume that there were always thousands of custom smiths and factories using exotic dedicated knife steels, assume again. Back in the middle of the last century it was pretty drab and dismal. There were maybe half a dozen smiths who were nationally known, and those by damned few, and most factory knives were nothing to get excited about.
But in the mid-1960s, three things happened: Gun Digest ran an article by Ken Warner on custom and semi-custom knives that caused people to say, “Holy s**t, how long has this been going on?”. Second, a number of trailblazing knifemakers such as Bob Lovelesss, Ted Dowell, and D.E. Henry showed their peers that there was a different way to do things. And third, a gent from Arkansas named A.G. Russell got into the knife business.
A.G. did a lot more than that. He recognized and encouraged new talent, and sold their knives. For years, he sent out a list of custom knives for sale that was an invitation to fiscal ruin. He is probably the single most important force behind the custom knife boom, which is now 40 years old and shows no signs of diminishing.
And God bless him, he is still in business. A.G. sells a wide variety of high-end factory knives and custom cutlery, much of which is made for him alone. He has also established a second business called Russell’s for Men, which sells all sorts of neat stuff. The road to fiscal ruin runs from both websites, but who cares? We only live once, don’t we?