Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Missing the Point


Boy, thin ice here.
First of all: How you all like my “don’t let me piss you off" disclaimer? What ought to be obvious however is that I’m going to slaughter a few sacred cows here, in full view of women and children (note: If your Mom doesn’t know you’re here and would be upset if she did - I don’t know you. Otherwise, cool).
Regarding the last post: Things were promised and I plan on delivering. The problem is that I’ve developed a serious attitude problem regarding one of the most revered WW2, home-front, theater knife producers.
The guy himself, John Ek, was an awesome human being. He sold his knives to active duty personnel only. No service number, no knife. If some sporting goods outlet sold you one without the paperwork, no more Ek knives for them. He also employed handicapped people almost exclusively, and this at a time when to be a 4F draft designation carried a giant stigma. If you weren’t abused by folks on the street (probably unlikely) you still had to contend with your own guilt, undeserved as it may have been. He gave such folks a chance to contribute to the war effort and not as some empty PR thing. I think he was wired that way.
His knives are such as that they could serve as the working definition of “elegance”. Webster’s New Collegiate: “...dignified gracefulness or restrained beauty of style”.
That would be the first photo, courtesy of a friend of mine. Pictured are, as near as I can figure, a #1 and a #7 (the one with the cross guard). When I first saw pictures of these knives, my first thought was that: A. rather simple B. not tremendously interesting. Coupled with the fact that they were still being produced by members of the same family further put the kibosh on any plans of replication. Don’t want to break anyone’s rice bowl.
That argument has been seriously rethought now, since I visited the company website.
The old man’s knives were simply ground out of high-carbon steel with a simple handle of eastern maple attached to the tang with rivets of poured lead. The beauty of the rivets is that when and if they worked loose (and they would - all rivets do) they could be tightened by simply peening the soft lead down to take up the slack.
Lord, now we take up what the offspring and their corporate marketing gurus have been up to. First of all, they’ve “improved” on the lead rivets with some designer-screw setup that they say “duplicates” all the advantages of the lead. Those advantages being adding heft to the handle and the easy repairability mentioned earlier. What crap. I can hear it now: "Hey Fred, got your wide-bladed, notched screwdriver? My knife’s loose”. This is similar to the logic that got us the Hummvee, overcomplication for its own sake. And yes, I consider thhe Hummvee to be a boondoggle and have seen no way in which it’s any more usefully capable than this, at least not to an extent that it should cost at least ten times as much.
What’s worse is that the old man’s knives have been further “improved” by using stainless, surgical stainless. I always love that one. What makes surgical steel surgical is a fine grain structure that makes sterilization more effective. It's not like you have surgeons hanging around saying "I've done three gall-stone operations, an appendectomy and a vasectomy; and sharpened my pencil and my scalpel can still shave the hair on my arm. But, people fall for this...I don’t know. They’re not teachable so just be in prayer for them.
A testimonial in the website section so labeled says: “I bet I could cut through a Kabar with my Ek”. I'll take that bet. I’ll even spring the $60 for the Kabar and you come and saw it (1095 steel) in half with your stainless knife.
Another testimonial is from the friend, aforementioned. He fails to note (and apparently no one asked) that his knives are WW2 vintage. But what I mostly find irritating is the admonition to “continue the mission” in all the company blurbs. What the hell does that mean? Whenever I read something like that I want to find the copywriter and shake him and say: “Show me your DD-214!”. I’ve got two Honorable Discharges and, let me be clear, that makes me in no way special. It does however give me a sense of clear-cut superiority over these desk-bound, Walter Mitty types who’ve learned how to “talk the talk” but got their chops from Tom Clancy novels (I don’t like him either - put that fat fuck out where he could stop a bullet before he gets another book deal).
I haven’t finished this tirade by any means but, I’ve got to slop the hogs..I mean feed the kids, so I’ll close.
To conclude: here’s an opportunity to compare the Ek “Marine Raider Stiletto” (click on the link and scroll down) and the real thing pictured to the right. The original, WW2 “Marine Raider Stiletto” made by Camillus Cutlery who, by way, made more M2 Fighting/ Utility Knives (AKA Kabar) than did Kabar or any of the other producers, and who sell them still, minus any gratuitous quasi-history. As you can see, it's yet another clone of the Fairbairn-Sykes, made even cheaper to produce by means of a pot-metal (zinc/aluminum alloy), die-cast handle rather than the cast and turned brass of the F/S. To further streamline things, the casting was done directly onto the tang.
Now, Webster tells me that a stiletto is thus: "...a slender dagger with a blade thick in proportion to its breadth". The Ek one doesn't come close. "The spirit and legacy...updated with the best materials". I'll give the "best materials credit for the handle. Micarta beats pot-metal hands down. No argument there. But, other than that, they don't seem to get it. They could sell this thing on its own merits but instead they erroneously link it to a legitimate chunk of history and thus, in my opinion, lose any credibility they may have had.
Something else to ponder: The #1 (cheapest model) went for $6.95 in 1944. Thanks to the always handy Inflation Calculator Website we can see that in 2005 it would have brought in $74.25. That seems like a reasonable amount, even frugal, reflecting acurately material costs and the price of production. So what's with the $250+ price tags on the new ones? This is marketing, folks; plain and simple, and these people ought to be ashamed.
Final question: “Battle Worthy” What does that mean?

2 comments:

miambient music said...

THANK YOU for saying what needs to be said. Basically, afte rthe company was allagedly STOLEN from John's son after his death, the knives have the EK name....but nothing else in common with a real EK KNIFE..your silent partner....

John EK's life has many more twists and turns than just the knives. The true story is being compiled now for an eventual biography for this true American Hero.

Oliver Hart-Parr said...

Thank you for gettin it

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