Polite But Dangerous Tools – The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 415)
Sam Curtis of Polite But Dangerous Tools joins Bob “The Knife Junkie” DeMarco on Episode 415 of The Knife Junkie Podcast.
Polite But Dangerous Tools is based in Alaska, and those rough landscapes are reflected in Sam’s knife designs. His knives emulate a primitive style, using repurposed steels and natural materials like wood and bone.
Curtis earned his bones in the shop of a master bladesmith, where he learned skills of knife making and saw the business close up.
Sam’s brother is Ethan Curtis of Vandrer Knives and they both developed a passion for knife making at the same time, each representing a unique style.
Find Polite But Dangerous Tools on Instagram at www.instagram.com/polite.but.dangerous.tools.
Be sure to support The Knife Junkie and get in on the perks of being a Patron — including early access to the podcast and exclusive bonus content. You also can support the Knife Junkie channel with your next knife purchase. Find our affiliate links at theknifejunkie.com/knives.Sam Curtis of Polite But Dangerous Tools joins me on Episode 415 of #theknifejunkie #podcast to talk about his knives, which are os a unique primitive style, using repurposed steels and natural materials like wood and bone. Click To Tweet
Polite But Dangerous Tools - The Knife Junkie Podcast (Episode 415)
The Knife Junkie Podcast is the place for knife newbies and knife junkies to learn about knives and knife collecting. Twice per week Bob DeMarco talks knives. Call the Listener Line at 724-466-4487; Visit https://theknifejunkie.com.
©2023, Bob DeMarco
The Knife Junkie Podcast
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Welcome to The Knife Junkie Podcast, your weekly dose of knife news and information about knives and knife collecting. Here's your host, Bob the Knife Junkie DeMarco.
Bob DeMarco [00:00:17]:
Welcome to the Knife Junkie Podcast. I'm Bob DeMarco. On this edition of the show, I'm speaking with Sam Curtis of Polite But Dangerous Tools. Sam hails from Alaska originally and makes knives that reflect that state's rugged terrain. Each knife a unique take on a theme using natural materials, each one different from the next. He's got knife making in the family. His brother was a recent guest here, and he's trained with some of the best. But the individual character and story of each of his knives seems to tell. That story is what holds my interest. I want to find out what inspires these tribal creations. But first, be sure to, like, comment, subscribe, and share the show with a friend. You can also download it to your favorite podcast app. And as always, check us out on Patreon, where you can get some exclusive interview extras and other perks. Join us firstname.lastname@example.org Patreon. Again. That's theknifejunkie.com patreon.
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Bob DeMarco [00:01:39]:
Sam. Welcome to the Knifejunkie Podcast.
Sam Curtis [00:01:42]:
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Bob DeMarco [00:01:44]:
It's my pleasure. So, as I mentioned up front, I think I misspoke when I said you hail originally from Alaska. I know you ended up there.
Sam Curtis [00:01:55]:
Yes. Originally born in North Carolina. Spent a lot of time there. Came here through the army. Ended up in Kentucky, Georgia, New York, Germany, Eastern Europe, Alaska and Arizona. Finally, we just decided on Alaska once we got out. That's where we're at now. Wow.
Bob DeMarco [00:02:15]:
So, as I was saying, your knives seem to reflect some of that. I have these impressions of Alaska, and I think they're somewhat accurate as being incredibly wild and just vast. And your knives have a sort of natural and tribal feel to them. How is Alaska? Tell me what it's like to live there and how it's affected you and your perspective.
Sam Curtis [00:02:47]:
So I think there are a couple of things that I look for in knives. One, I want every single knife I make to not only be as functional as possible, but I want it to also be representative of who I am as a person and tell a story in a certain way. So I'll give you a good example here. I've got this knife here I want to show you. My children and I spend a significant amount of time outside on trails. We've got animals all around here. This looks very simple. There's not a lot to this, just a small, simple seven inch blade. But every single part of this blade is actually meant to help them track animals in Alaska. So from the seven inch overall length, which matches a standard moose track, to the four inch handle from the bottom here out to the four and a half inch, where you can see a little divot here that matches the length of an average snowshoe hair track. You've got carry tracks, and if you look from the top of the thumb ramp here to the edge of the blade, that's actually the length of a common sica blacktail track that we might see in the area. So a lot of these are meant to kind of be indicative of the area we're at. And we've had some people ask to make knives like that before. And once we go over the process, they want them made for the same area that they're in. One of the things that you'll see on some of the other knives is that a lot of times we try to cover up the full tank as much as possible. And that's indicative of Alaska too, where you're seeing knives that are meant to serve a specific purpose, but they're also meant to be helpful in the environment we're in. These are meant so that whenever you're out in the woods at negative 20, negative 30, something like that, you can get something called steel saturation with a cold environment where the steel is going to become the same temperature as the area around you. If you touch that with a bare hand, then you're going to get frostbite, things like that from touching the steel. So there are a few elements of that from us that we put into it. The other element that we put in a lot is we used a lot of moose, and most of that's because it's so easy to come back here. There's a roadkill moose right beside of us right now that we've had two of them right now. So it's very easy to get moose handle bones. It looks good. It has that natural older aesthetic that we look for in knives. So a lot of those elements going to play in the function, the look, the aesthetic, and then the ability to use it to kind of also help us in the environment that I really.
Bob DeMarco [00:05:32]:
Love the concept of. First of all, I can't imagine moose roadkill like what a moose does to a vehicle I can't imagine. But the concept of designing the knife and building the knife in such a way that it's a useful tool in the environment other than for just cutting and bushcraft kind of stuff. But the way that you have measured it all out to the tracks of animals that you're going to find in that area, I think that's a really cool and somewhat scalable idea. I mean, you could basically do that anywhere.
Sam Curtis [00:06:15]:
No, absolutely. I think what you do with some of this, I think it's one thing to make a knife and I'm going to bring this one up again. So you see a lot of these people make multipurpose fixed blade knives and you're going to have a sawback here. You're going to have a bottle opener here. A lot of things that actually take away from the functionality of a knife. I've cut my hand on a bottle opener on the back of a knife before. There's a lot that you can't do as far as applying pressure to the back of the blade, if you have a saw blade there. So it's something that doesn't take away from the functionality of the knife necessarily. It adds function without adding parts that will take away function, if that makes sense.
Bob DeMarco [00:06:56]:
Yeah, it does. And it also takes advantage of parts of the knife that are already there and just distributes them in such a way that it's useful. And also, actually, it looks pretty graceful on the knife itself. That divot in front of the thumb ramp and then the whole curve of the spine of the blade. It's a very nice looking blade, as are the rest of your knives. Tell me about how you got into knife making and what informs the aesthetic part of your design. The non functional part, but the beauty part.
Sam Curtis [00:07:36]:
So I started knife making with my dad. I think a lot of people my age did the same thing where the hunted had just come out. Everybody wanted to make a knife. Everybody wanted to go live in the woods, make traps, stuff like that. But we were very fortunate that my dad had tools to do everything with. We didn't know what we were doing. So we went to Home Depot. We bought mild steel. I think we bought a 36 inch long piece. We shaped it into what I would now describe as one of the ugliest looking knives ever. But we did it together and we kind of worked through some of those things. I was very young when I did that. I started making my first real knife about 18 years ago and really start working on that, I think. I haven't posted this yet, but I have it here. I made a tracker from that on a bench grinder. So this is the tracker that I originally made. And this really is when I talk about what forms my decisions on knife. Making a knife like this is what really kind of helps inform me. Because you see this in a movie and you see Benicio El Toro, and he's throwing it like crazy, and he's fighting somebody with it, and this does everything. But then when you start using a knife, you start to see some things. If you use a knife regularly, that become flaws, where here we've got a hollow grind match him to a convex grind at an angled point. And so you start realizing, well, hey, this doesn't make sense. This doesn't add up to something that's going to be functional in the way that I use a knife regularly. I'm going to have a snag point right here. And so as you start making knives, like that and you start using a little bit more. I think what you see is, hey, there's a difference between the aesthetic and the function of a knife on that same hand. I think being in the military, everything's, even to you, you have a pattern you're going to wear, you have gear you're going to carry. Everybody's got the same rifle. You can tell somebody is ranked by the optic they have on their rifle by how it's set up, even if you can't see the rank on them. And I remember hearing a quote, somebody saying that it used to be that when people went into battle, they carried weapons with them that matched their personality. And Union soldiers, when they would drop their old Winchester lever actions and they would get picked up in ambushes by Native American soldiers, that next time they saw those same weapons, they would have feathers tied to them, they'd have carvings done into them. They've had these decorative beads and other things like that put into them. And the same person was saying, all we have left for the soldier to choose, customize and display who they are is their knife. And so in that vein, I want something that's functional. I want something that meets the user's end needs. I want something that I'm going to be comfortable carrying anywhere I go. But I also want to be a knife that somebody's going to want to say, this fits my personality, this fits the way I'm going to carry it, and this fits the style of weapon I want to have on me. If I were to die right now and somebody were to come over my body, this is the weapon I want to have on me.
Bob DeMarco [00:11:05]:
Except you don't want that guy to get it. That's the only thing. What kind of person do you think fits your knives?
Sam Curtis [00:11:17]:
Really? There's really no difference between a knife you're going to get from me and they're going to get from any other maker functionally. I mean, these all have brass pins. They all are pinned the same way. The same amount of resin is on them, the same amount of epoxy is on them, the same amount of stain, the same amount of sculpting is going into them. What you're going to see is that they're going to have the obsidian kind of napped features on the blade. You're going to see that sculpted handle style. It's going to be irregular. It's not going to look consistent throughout. It's going to have irregularities in it. I think the kind of person that's looking for one of these blades wants something that's functional, but they want something that displays almost a primitive travel type of knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:12:07]:
Yeah. It's almost like something that gets you in touch with the warrior class throughout history, in a way, because the tribal nature of your knives I'm not exactly sure I could put my finger on what tribes, so to speak. But your knives have that feel. And in a way, it kind of attaches you to everyone who's carried a knife either into battle or into work throughout history.
Sam Curtis [00:12:43]:
I think you see this with a lot of people. One of the last classes I did in the army before I left this was a while ago, but it was somebody talking about the theatricality of warfare and how how we represent ourselves. That people are fighting often kind of gives them an idea of what they're going to come up against before we ever get into that spot. And I think the same thing if you go through the south right now, go to any farm you want to, I guarantee you're going to find a case pocket knife, a case trapper in every farmer's pocket. We beat it. That or an old smith and Western farmer. There's something about a certain style of knife that attracts a certain style of person, and then you can also display who you are by the certain type of knife you carry.
Bob DeMarco [00:13:34]:
Yeah, well, that's true. And a lot of people who watch this show or who are attracted to this kind of content really begin to identify in some ways with their taste. With knives, it's kind of like music when you're in high school, you kind of identify with that music and you build a little part of your identity around it. It's kind of the same thing, especially if that's not just a collecting for collection, but it's a piece you're actually going to rely on. You talked about you were in the US. Army. Thank you for your service.
Sam Curtis [00:14:12]:
Bob DeMarco [00:14:13]:
And yeah, I thank you. And then I know you went on to use some of that training to do other more law enforcement style things, and then your knives are born out of a usage. So obviously you've had a lot of usage in your past. Tell me a little bit about your experience in the army and then what you've done afterward and how knives have fit in.
Sam Curtis [00:14:41]:
And this is going to lead into kind of why I make knives the way I do. With me, a lot of this stuff is very nostalgic, and so there are little elements that I'm going to carry through with nostalgia no matter what experience I was in. So I was an infantry officer in the army. I was stationed in Fort Wayne Wright. We were there for a few years, and in that time, I was a strike platoon leader and then a Scout sniper platoon leader. The Scout sniper platoon got kind of transformed a little bit into a mountaineering platoon. So what we were doing was we were actually looking at over snow mobility, ways that you can traverse the snow quickly, efficiently, and tactically, which is something that's very difficult to do when you're looking at Arctic considerations. And then at the same time, we're also trying to incorporate some of our Scout sniper techniques our hide side techniques and stuff like that. In that you're looking at knives that you have to do a few different things on that side. One, you want something that's light because you're in an alpine environment carrying 60 70 pounds of carabiners ropes, things like that. On the scout sniper side, we did that for a while. You really have to be light and fast, but you also need something that when you get to your final destination, you've got to be able to chop limbs as very fast without carrying something that's going to add more weight to you. So weight and balance is a huge thing in that regard. What you want is in some of these trackers. I don't think I have one here with me right now. But there's a significant difference between where you're taking the weight, weight on the handle side and then where you're adding weight and where you want that weight to be with balance because you need something that's as light as possible. Also a little chop, also able to perform like a tomahawk, a plane tonight, anything like that, if you're chopping something down without burdening you. From there we went to Arizona. We had a transition from the infantry side to the intel side. On that side we went to Arizona. Everything was very hot. You're really not carrying a lot on you at all. For the most part, every knife had to be very light and at the same time you don't have a lot of things that you're chopping down in the desert or anything like that, which is something I think we've seen both alpine in the Arctic and in the desert. You're not chopping down a lot, you're not doing a lot of things like that. So the idea that you have a knife that can perform well, be light, but also if you need to, can be pushed into those certain tasks was important. But at the same time then we were moving into intel environment where we are going into I was going to an aviation unit that was attached to a special operations aviation unit we are moving into from New York to Germany at the time. And we carry knives that met European regulation and at the same time we could use in a variety of different ways. So there had to be a balance between something you keep on you kind of hidden something that met European laws across different countries and then also could be forced into a variety of roles really quick.
Bob DeMarco [00:18:10]:
So what kind of knife did you find to fit that kind of role?
Sam Curtis [00:18:15]:
So one of the things that one of the knives I very much preferred depending on the country, I carried an SOG Pentagon for a long time. I absolutely love those knives. And the fact that you can use different edges for different tasks at any different point was very effective and it was super light. It was very fast and those are all the qualities that I try to but into some of these knives now, at the same time, you couldn't carry it into five of the countries that I was in charge of. So I was in charge of Lavia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, and Turkish intel teams dedicated to the aviation. Quite a few of those countries. You couldn't carry a double edged knife. So at the Sam time, you had to have a single edge knife, fixed blade, not folding with a blade, under. I think in some cases you're going to carry it everywhere. I think it had to be under can't remember the metric version right now, but it had to be under three inches, and you had to be able to grab it quickly. It couldn't be locking or anything like that. So that kind of stuff dictated the way that I was carrying eyes for a long time with the DOJ. After leaving the Army, I moved into a DOJ intelligence position as a contractor. I was assigned back to Alaska to support DEA and FBI operations against Opioid diversion up here. And at that point, I wasn't allowed to carry a firearm anymore. So the only thing that could have on me was a knife. And it had to meet certain parameters. The generic term in Alaska is other than ordinary. It can't be something that's an other than ordinary knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:20:05]:
What does that mean?
Sam Curtis [00:20:07]:
I don't think anybody knows what that means, but that's how it's written down in law. So that was kind of what we were limited to. And you kind of start looking at things a little bit differently at that point. And that's where we really started looking at some of our knives that could carry out a different purpose or carry out the purpose that we were looking at while looking like they weren't meant to. And I'll show you this right now. I think I've posted this before, but this is kind of built on a European based OpenAL mushroom knife. A lot of people up here collect mushrooms, and it has that downward taper that a lot of people use in Picasso knives. Reverse edge. It can be used in a very tactical manner. It's got the brush on there similar to the OpenL mushroom knives, where you can brush off the mushroom or anything like that. It can be used to prune mushrooms or anything like that. But obviously somebody who knows what they're looking at is going to understand that this also has a different purpose. And you carry it in a lunchbox and you've got a perfect everyday carry knife that's definitely not meant to serve a tactical purpose.
Bob DeMarco [00:21:17]:
Definitely not. I don't know how you could possibly use that. So I want to back up a little bit and talk about the design, the tracker design. I know you had that up as an example of a very early blade of yours and one that you've made that pattern before, or at least were inspired by it as it came through to us all in the hunted. But is that a really useful blade style or is that jack of all trades, master of none?
Sam Curtis [00:21:56]:
I wouldn't say it's a jack of all trades, master of none. But here's how I look at the tracker style design. One, I look for certain features when I do it. Some people can do a hollow grind to convex transition on a tracker very easily and it's a great knife, but I think that people need to look at it for what it's worth, for how it's supposed to be used. I'll show you this. So if I have a recurve blade like this, I kind of know that I'm going to use this as a I'm going to use this for more detailed stuff. I'm going to use this edge for more chopping. People don't seem to have a problem with that, with Tuckeries or with anything else. I think where people use trackers, I think they buy it for a certain look and then they don't use it the way it's meant to be used. For example, I look at a tracker and I see I've got a planeing edge here, I've got a tomahawk edge here I need to draw down. Sometimes what I'll do is I'll take a bandana if I'm using this for small tasks and if I can't use this edge here, I'll wrap it around. And now I've kind of got a skinning edge here. So I've got a knife here that can do certain things. But if I try to use this for, let's say, general skinning or anything like that, without taking into account that it's actually three different tools mixed into one, what's going to happen is I'm going to drag that knife. I'm really probably going to get upset with a friction at one point where I start hitting that edge, that gut hook area that a lot of people call it, and I start pulling down on that. You're not going to connect with the material that you're trying to cut the same way that you would with a normal knife. And so with the trackers, normally I tell people when they ask me about them is, I say like, hey, look, if you can part this knife out, you're really going to have a better product. If I look at that and I've got a plane in edge, I've got a draw knife, I've got a Tomahawk, I've got a gutting knife and I've got all that in one area. I know how to use each part of that. I think it's great, but I think it's similar to a folding multi tool. You're not going to open up the bottle opener on your multi tool and expect it to perform the same way that your knife would. This is that just spread out over a fixed polite knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:24:17]:
All right, so let's tell us how you got actually started in making knives. So what was the spark? I know you said you started with your dad and it was the hunted, but you started to say you got some mild steel from Home Depot, but how did it go to a point where you're making real legitimate knives?
Sam Curtis [00:24:38]:
So I had an opportunity at the college I went to to work with a master bladesmith, and then at the same time, there were a whole lot of abandoned vehicles in the area. They were asking people to clean up. We were getting 41, 40 steel off of Spring Leaf and things like that. And we had an industrial engineer shop on campus at Appalachian State University. So we were able in our free time, to just go to the shop and make whatever we wanted. The tools were there. You just had to sign in with your card at the time, and you could make anything you wanted. At that point, we started working with some different a friend and I started working on some different knife designs. Started really trying to play around with stuff and say, how easy is this to make? What can we really make from here? What tools do we need? What works and what doesn't? Welded steel work as well as monochrome steel? Will any of that perform the same way? And from there, we just start playing around with designs, which is still one of the things I like to do today and why I like to use scraps and things like that, because I think you learn a lot in those areas. So that started I want to say that was 2009 or 2010, when really started getting into all that practicing heat, treating and practicing different designs and taking them into the woods. Appalachian State is surrounded by forests. I was lucky enough that all of my classes were Tuesday, Thursday schedule. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday, I was out in the woods. I'd make a knife. I'd make a knife probably Monday or Friday, and I'd spend the next Monday, Wednesday, Friday out in the woods using it. 2011, maybe as early as 2009. I'm sorry. Can't remember when we started doing that, but went out all the time and just started using these knives. And really, I think the use was what kind of drove everything else. And then we had a couple of things in the house. We couldn't carry much because we were traveling so much with the army, but we carried, I would say, five or six tools, belt, sanders, grinders, a couple of things like that that were usable. And we'd make probably one to two knives a year based on whether we're giving them out as a gift. I think the most we ever made in one year prior to this was maybe I think it was eight knives. So very slow.
Bob DeMarco [00:27:09]:
So at this point now, tell me about your process and how it grew to be. You were talking about one to eight knives a year. And now how did you get to this place and what's your process?
Sam Curtis [00:27:28]:
So the first thing I always want to look at with the process is looking at a blank piece of steel. And I do stock removal, knife making. I'm not forging, I'm not making Damascus or anything like that. We get that question a lot. I'm sorry if you hear that we live in between an airport and a military base, there may be some stuff going around, but no, the first thing I want to look at is what the intended use is going to be. What are you looking at in terms of knife function? And you're going to see with some of the knives that I post on my page, we have some knives that are very forward heavy, they're going to be tip heavy. We're going to have some that are being very tip light. That's a very intentional design. So if you're looking at something like a quaken, something like a tonto, and you're looking at that a lot of times you want balance to be a little bit more handle heavy, I think, so that you have more control over where the tip is going to go. If you have something that needs to be the exact sam weight, but you need it to be more of a chopper, more of a general tool, I like to put the weight near the front a little bit more. That way you've got a tool that can kind of balance itself out, work through tougher issues and stuff like that. So always intend to purpose. The second thing I do is look at how I want the knife to perform in terms of the bevel, the initial bevel, how much I want to be able to chop everything like that, how much I want to be able to cut, do I want to be a slicer. And then the last thing that I go into is once I have that shaped out and the knife is balanced the way that I want, I start removing weight from either the palm layer or the guard area to really line up the weight where I want it. Then I start looking at aesthetics and I think, where is this going and what's this person going to want to look like? And for the most part, the people that reach out, I feel like a lot of people reach out based on aesthetics first and then as they talk about knives and stuff like that, we will end up having the discussion about how we built that, what the balance is, why it's built the way it is. That way somebody who buys one of these knives also knows this is how it's going to function when I use it.
Bob DeMarco [00:29:53]:
So looking at your page, we were just scrolling through, I saw Sax, I saw Bowie, I saw another knife that I talked to you about that. I thought was a sex, but it's something else, a genop or something. But my point is, you see a lot of different influence going into these. They all have a very unified style or aesthetic, and it's very definitely yours, but they seem like they garner inspiration from a lot of different places. Do you have an interest in historical knives and knives of other cultures?
Sam Curtis [00:30:35]:
Oh, absolutely. I think anytime that a culture has dedicated themselves to making a certain style of knife, there's a reason why. So maybe if you find when people talk about archaeological sites and they talk about clovis points and Folsom points, the issue is not why they made the first one you found or the anomaly that you found, but it's why they continued to make that pattern. And so I think that definitely shows a level of expertise and level of something working. And I think when you look at each of those areas and you look at what those people were building and then what they were, the environment that they were in, for example, when you look at areas that had almost no vegetation or anything like that, when you look at the Arctic knives are small. You're not going to see a chopper, you're not going to anything like that. But they continue to make the same pattern over and over because it's effective, because it works in the environment that it's in. I think some of the ones you were talking about, so this is one of the ones that you talked to me about before. This is based on an African gardening tools, and you can see as you look at it that it's extremely light. This is actually lighter than most Bakken knives I have, but the weight is all for you can see that it kind of gets a little larger up near the tip of the blade, and it has a drop off. That's a very steep cut off for what you'd consider for what a lot of people would look at as a sax warm, cliff style knife. This is a sharp drop off, but you still have a lot of weight right here. Then you have this tip up design that's something you see in a lot of guarding tools and you see in a lot of Sam knives, the older historical ones, where you have the tip that rises up, it's not completely flat because as you're chopping, you've got your weight right here. So this is going to be the point of the knife that's actually going to contact, probably going to make contact with what you're chopping at. So this is more of a balance issue on this one that kind of drives it. So, yes, it looks older, it looks historical. It looks like you would fit in a Primal movie or something like that. It looks like that, but it's still engineered with pins in the same position weight, where it's supposed to be a tip that's able to be sharp while you're not relying completely on tip for chopping or anything like that. And you're not going to take as much shock to the hand by having that weight a little bit farther back.
Bob DeMarco [00:33:15]:
So that knife that you just held up and others have that handle, is that moose? What are you dealing with in terms of these materials?
Sam Curtis [00:33:26]:
It depends. I'll show you a few here real quick. So I've had a lot of questions about what kind of sax this is, and people normally don't believe me when I say it's a gardening tool. It's based on a gardening tool that is a black spruce handle that's been dried out for about four years. And normally after that, I'll cut it and I'll look to see if there are any imperfections, anything I don't want. I'll stabilize it with soaking it and Lindsay Do oil. I'll wait for that period of time. Once I put it in, I'll drill through the knife handles first before I do any epoxy, just to make sure that's not going to crack, just to make sure that's stabilized enough. And then I'll wrap the cords around the pins and things like that. This is a definite sax pattern. You still got the travel wrappings and everything here, but this is a birch. One of the things I look at a lot of times with knives is I want to be able to tell you a story. I don't want to tell you, hey, I got this from this store. I did this. I can tell you where this birch came from, where it was cut down, and tell you why this pattern is the way it is. This is based off a Scandinavian pattern that was found, I want to say, in a peat bog. And we had no interpretation of what the handle looked like. So a few engineers looked back and said, hey, we think it would have had this pattern, and that's a birch. Then we got this sax here in this Odin branded leather sheet. This is more of a kind of what you'd see as a traditional working sam. Same obsidian pattern. Edge is a little bit more mirror polished. This is a moose handle, or moose handler handle on this. So this was taken by splitting a section of a paddle in half down the middle and then taking out all the pith, making sure that there's no pith within the handle that's going to touch the blade at all, putting pins in, and then wrapping that again in a kind of travel wrap.
Bob DeMarco [00:35:35]:
So the pith, that's the soft part inside the horn, is that right? Yes, inside the antler. The reason you want to get that all out is because eventually it'll rot away and cause a void in there. Or is that no, it's that you.
Sam Curtis [00:35:50]:
Don'T get as much contact between the antler and the steel. So anytime you're using natural material, you have to take into account, how it's going to degrade what's going to happen to it over time and everything like that. But with any type of antler, you're going to have a pith inside it's, a core that's kind of crumbly. It's going to fall apart at some point. If you leave that pith in there, what's gonna happen is that you're gonna see over time that it's gonna start falling apart inside. And it's generally so thin that resin is not going to seep through it. So if you have your traditional epoxies and stuff like that, it's not going to seep in through the pit. It's not going to get enough contact to hold the antler to the handle. So I'll show you this again real quick. So one of the things that we do so we have on this like a traditional disperse handle knife, we've got the handles on here. They have epoxy holding to the blade. There are brass pins underneath each of these wrappings. Then you're wrapping it in either an artificial sinew or you're wrapping it in something. I think this one I can't remember what this thread is. I think this may be an older fishing line, I think for an older halibut rod. And then you're soaking that in epoxy as well. So even though these look like they're older, older style knives, they look like they're not put together the same way. They have all the same structure that a modern knife would, but at the same time, they also have the additional strength. This is 250 pound Tesla, now that I think about it. Wrap and then soaked in epoxy again.
Bob DeMarco [00:37:36]:
Sam Curtis [00:37:37]:
So the mechanical connection on those, even though they look old, is extremely strong.
Bob DeMarco [00:37:42]:
So are those full tang or is that a stick tang inside a board?
Sam Curtis [00:37:49]:
Bob DeMarco [00:37:50]:
Completely bored out?
Sam Curtis [00:37:51]:
No, they're all full tang.
Bob DeMarco [00:37:53]:
They're all full tang.
Sam Curtis [00:37:53]:
Bob DeMarco [00:37:54]:
Oh, cool. All right. Because that's another part of working with natural materials that you have to be aware of. Well, you were talking about entropy and natural degradation of natural materials. But especially if it's a stick tang, you can see how wood or horn or something like that can crack, and then you're really up a creek. Whereas if you have a full tang and the scale cracks, it's not that big a deal. In terms of sheathing.
Sam Curtis [00:38:29]:
What do you.
Bob DeMarco [00:38:29]:
Do in terms of securing these things? Because your blades have that ancient look, but they're also meant to be used by people who use knives on the daily. So they have to have some sort of sheathing and maybe, I would assume, somewhat modern. So if you're a soldier and you want to carry one of your knives, how do you do it?
Sam Curtis [00:38:54]:
So there are a few different things that I do with sheets. And based on the overall design, if you don't mind, I can take a second and show you some of the different nice designs we have here. All right. So this is something that we made recently. A little wonky here. So this is a regular. This is something you'd see regularly with a sheath. This has a buckle on it. That buckle also performs as a whistle. Inside you have a tool that acts that can be tied up. It's either perform as a tomahawk tying a stick vertically as an ad, or it can be used as an ulu. The sheet itself, apart from that buckle, has a striker. Inside, you're looking at a single flap with an inch and ruler marker, or inch and centimeter marker on it, as well as SOS directions to find north. On the back, you've got an incometer, you've got a sun dial. Sun dial. And then you also have inside here directions on how to signal airplanes and stuff like that. So that's held in place by a buckle. It's about the size of an altoid. Can we talk about sheathing on other knives? Let me grab this real quick.
Bob DeMarco [00:40:17]:
What do you call that?
Sam Curtis [00:40:18]:
Bob DeMarco [00:40:21]:
Before you get to the knife sheet sheets, what do you call this survival pack?
Sam Curtis [00:40:25]:
I don't think right now we even have gotten the names. I think right now what we're looking at is just describing what it is, how it can be used, how you can use it for different functions and things like that. So this would probably just be just come with a description, not a name or anything like that. I think really got you. What you're looking at is somebody you're looking at something that you can take in the woods. That somebody who knows what they're doing can probably perform a variety of survival tasks with one simple tool that doesn't take up a lot of space. A lot of friends of mine worked a significant amount of time in Africa, and one of the things that they always comment on was how you didn't want to carry a pack because it was hot all the time. So the amount of stuff that you could keep on a belt, that you could keep small, that you can keep light, was extremely important. So when you're looking at something like this, the fact that you can carry all those tools, especially if you're doing survey work, if you're doing recon work, if you're doing scout work, or anything like that, to be able to carry a small light tool on a belt that could perform in a big way was extremely important to them with these. This is kind of what we offer on some of the knives now. So this is one of our tractor saw knives. This is a loop on the back. You can see that that holds the fire still, where the fire still becomes the retention portion of it. It's very simple. You just put your hand on this leather flap here. You push back it's off the knife, and then you've got your knife ready to go.
Bob DeMarco [00:42:06]:
Sam Curtis [00:42:08]:
So with a sheath like this. One of the things that we wanted to also make sure was that you had everything you needed. This is a fairly traditional, older style looking sheath. Some of the features that we have on it, of course, it's got the fire still. It's going to lock it in. The belt lip or belt loop on the back has inch markers and centimeter markers, which may not always sound important, but a lot of times what you do if you're doing a site recon or anything like that, is you want to be able to include something that has a scale on it and everybody's not carrying a ruler on them. A lot of people don't carry multi tools or anything like that that always have the inch markers or anything. You've got a compass built into the bottom of the belt loop and then apart from going back from there, you have an inclinameter. Again, you have the same sundial loop. And that sundial loop on here holds 25 yards of 250 pound test cord with nine beads in case you need to make a pace counter out of it. So, again, this is a system that's very easy to walk around. Doesn't take up any more space than a regular knife, but at the same time, it kind of performs like an entire survival kit.
Bob DeMarco [00:43:19]:
Yeah, that's very cool. It's so modern, primitive. You could see highly trained, or you could see trained soldiers and people like that using that knife. It reminds me a bit of how the Seals like the Navy Seals, you hear a lot about the equipment they like to use. And it's not all super high. I mean, a lot of it is, but not all of their kit is super ultra modern. Some of the stuff, some of the knives, they like the tomahawks and stuff. They have an older feel to them. And I love that. It's like a connection to the past, like I was saying before. Kind of a connection to the people who carried those kind of things before them.
Sam Curtis [00:44:08]:
No, absolutely. I think that's one of the things that goes into that warrior mindset is that really the only thing you have left. You're going to get your rifle issued to you. It's going to have the optic on it that somebody wanted to give you. It's going to have the night vision that somebody wanted to give you on it. It's going to be set up the way that somebody else wanted you to have it for whatever role that you were put in. Really, the only thing you have a lot of customization over is that knife. And that doesn't mean so I think it can go two ways. You can have a lot of people perform very well if they know what they're doing with a very cheap knife. So I don't want to discount anything like that. But on the other hand, you want something that's also going to match your personality. One of the things that we've been working on a lot is also making sure that you can have something that's traveled, but that can also be high tech and can meet modern meetings and stuff like that. So, for example, this knife here, another one of our reverse edge knives. A lot of people like the travel pattern on this, the reindeer antler, the travel wrapping, the skull carved. But one of the things you don't see in this knife looking at is that this knife also has a hidden handcuff key pocket you can pull up quickly. This sheath has Bluetooth compatible, NFC compatible, so you can actually embed codes and stuff like that, that you want to hide in something as simple as a knife sheet. So it looks old, it looks like it's a classic old design. But you can connect your phone to it. You can write code on it, you can bet codes in it, you can drop it places. And that's not likely going to be a place that somebody's going to run through a Bluetooth scanner or an NFC scanner. So they look old. They have that pattern. They have that customization, they have that feel that a lot of people want to have, that they're connected to those old time warriors, those old time soldiers and stuff like that. And at the same time they're able to express some kind of individuality and stuff like that. Same thing with this. I told you I carried an SOG pentagon for while. This is kind of what I wanted from the Pentagon. So this is a round the tip dagger. So the bevels do not go all the way to the end. This is rounded here. It's chiseled brown. So bevels only on one side. And that's that I can differentiate between the edges when I'm using it. So I know which edge I'm going to use at which point. And people used to do this a lot with, let's say, the microtech crosshair, the SOG pentagon. You'd have a serrated edge and a plain edge. And you would set them up in a way that you could differentiate which edge you were using at any given point. But the problem with all those daggers was always that they had a tip that was very weak, that was easy to break off. So this round the tip kind of allows you to use both edges without necessarily worrying about a fragile tip. And the same thing with this. This is a NFC compatible sheet. So you can actually connect your phone up to this Bluetooth, anything like this, the ones that we made so far. When you get them, you can connect your phone to it. And it has to be on a certain part on the sheath. So we'll let everybody know that, but know where that is on each individual sheath. But you can connect your phone to here and you can embed any message you want in the phone. You can have your name, phone number, you can have embedded codes, you can have anything like that. A lot of those people look for and then again, they have the hidden handcuff key pockets and everything like that.
Bob DeMarco [00:47:55]:
That is very cool. And I love the round tip dagger. That's something that I think I've seen from middle aged daggers and that kind of thing for slipping or for punching through mail, chain mail, because it's so strong right there at the tip. I want to ask you about the name of your company, but before I do, I mentioned up front ethan Curtis of Vanderer Knives is your brother. And I know that you guys did a little bit of knife making early on together, and I think that's cool. I love knife making. Family stories. You seem to have some of the same spirit behind your knife making. Your work is very different, but you seem to have some of that same spirit behind the work you guys do.
Sam Curtis [00:48:55]:
Yeah, I think no matter what the go with or no matter what the designs look like, really the biggest concern is the end goal. What kind of product are you going to end up with? Ethan is great at using G ten. He does a great sculpted handle. He's great with his finishes. And I think Ethan is honestly one of the most responsive people to what his customers ask for. So when he sees a change or trend, he adjusts that right away. I think one of the things that where we kind of differ is at the end of it, I want to make something that looks old. I want to make something that looks unique. And my style with these patterns. And Ethan is so good about being consistent, which is something I think that you wouldn't get between the two of us. I think you'd have to look at a knife from me and say, like, I want that one. Not one of I want that specific one. Whereas Ethan, you can order a knife from him, and you're going to get a knife that looks the same every bit of time. I think the other difference, obviously I'm better looking. Obviously I'm doing leather work and he's doing kidex. There are some differences there, but for the most part, I think what we have that is very similar between our two knife making approaches is that the end result is that you have a knife that meets the user's needs. And that's one of the things you'll see. Even with the pictures on our Instagram and stuff like that, I'm very particular about where they're taking. My wife takes all those photos. She added some. She puts a lot of that stuff together. She's a super big help. But, for example, with we have something like this two handed prong here with a naps pattern. When we go to areas and she picks out some knives, I'm very particular so she wanted to take that out recently to an area that didn't have anything that you would chop down. It was an open field, and that's the only thing I jump in on is, hey, look, that's not going to show an end user what we're looking at. There's nothing to chop here. We don't need a two handed knife. Let's take some other stuff and go out there. So that's kind of the approach and the mindset behind why we do some of those things.
Bob DeMarco [00:51:24]:
So in history, I sort of touched on this before, but I forgot to follow up. Historically speaking, what's your favorite sort of era of knives besides our current one?
Sam Curtis [00:51:43]:
I think it's very hard. I think I like looking at places regionally more so than timeline based. And I think my favorite region would definitely be kind of Scandinavian area. And I think you see the same thing where axes, saxes, they're all still used the same way. I really like looking at places regionally more than historically. And if an area has had a knife designed for hundreds of years, that's because it works in that area. Sam thing like I was saying about taking those pictures there, there's not a perfect knife for every occasion. You're never going to find that one perfect knife that works everywhere, but there is a knife that's going to work great in some of the places that in some of the regionally specific places that you go.
Bob DeMarco [00:52:39]:
That's what I love. Filipino weapons for the Philippines. So many islands and so many municipalities, and each one has their patron blade shape, and then they have this whole vocabulary of blade shapes that change from north to south. I love the variety. And talk about knives and weapons that are made for their environment. They're all pretty short. They have one giant, one large battle sword, but everything else is kind of under 29 inches. Jungle, you know, close in and yeah, that's that's an interesting way of looking at it, taking pictures or kind of staging them in places that are relevant to what they do.
Sam Curtis [00:53:32]:
Yeah, I think it's important. I think you could take a machete bring but here you get some great pictures in the snow and the ice and stuff like that. But a one eight thick machete is going to be horrible against a frozen black spruce up here at these temperatures.
Bob DeMarco [00:53:51]:
Right? It's shatter.
Sam Curtis [00:53:52]:
Yeah. It doesn't make sense to always apply to look at one tool for everything. So typically what I like to do is either look at people who, when I was in the military, when I was with DA, I like to look at the tools that were successful in those certain environments, and then I like to look at tools that were in the army, tools that are successful in that region. I've got one here. I think I may have this post. I don't know if I have this one post or not when I left the DA. One of these what you're looking at? I'll give you a good example. This is a small knife, very small, designed to fit in an outwoods can. We made this. I've made the first one probably 1516 years ago. It's designed where you can hold it from the back. You can carry it in a very small area. It's chiseled brown because a lot of people who like to carry or who used to carry these small area, these knives in intel areas would often put two pieces of masking tape or medical tape on their leg. Put a knife like this that was chisel ground over that and then cover the top of medical tape so that if you were caught with it in a search, it would be harder to find because it wouldn't be a sheet, it wouldn't be any bigger. It'd be in an area that you could tape it down but on the same hand you can use it as a punch knife if you need to get out of an area quickly. One of the things that I like to do and I cut this earlier, I like to cut sticks. And the other thing with this being Chisel ground is that if you were to carve a stick to hold it, the chisel ground makes that square notch, very easy to obtain. So I cut in here, I cut down from the top and then I'll usually make two notches in the back and sell these with a length of cord so you can tie it on and then you can use it like a spear or make a larger handle to hold onto as a knife.
Bob DeMarco [00:55:53]:
Sam Curtis [00:55:53]:
When I left the DOJ, that's what I gave everybody or all the undercover officers as a parting gift something they could have on them at all times. Small, easy to hide and still very effective for a variety of tasks.
Bob DeMarco [00:56:08]:
Oh, man, I love a chisel grind. I love how sharp they are. And a lot of people initially are shy about them. Maybe they track a little oddly through materials until you get used to it. But I love a good chisel ground blade. And that one there looks nasty. I love the punch dagger effect. You can get out of it. I wanted to ask you about the name polite but dangerous Tools and maybe wrap with your philosophy. Tell me about your philosophy and what goes into that name.
Sam Curtis [00:56:47]:
So the name came from an experience I had when I was working with the DOJ. We were doing opioid diversion investigations. Like I said, I was working with the DA at this time. Typically what we do is an investigation will take about a year. You'd interview pharmacists, doctors, patients, everything like that. What we would typically do is wait outside of an area, see who walked in and kind of get a feel for a pharmacy or something like that. I was there with a DA agent. I was an intel contractor at the time. The DA agent who I worked with all the time, he looks up and he's local to the area, and he sees somebody walking into the pharmacy, and he says, hey, you see that guy there? He's generally polite but dangerous. And the moment he said that, I thought, it's one of the coolest things I've ever heard. I want it written on my headstone. I want people in 100 years to come by my grave and go, wow. Sam Curtis, generally polite but dangerous. So I love that. But also, I think a lot of the knives I think it fits with the style of the knives, too. For example, showing this fruit knife, you've got something that's originally meant to cut fruit with an African guarding tool. It's originally meant for a garden. It's very easy to see how it could be forced into a tactical utility knife, but that's not what its original purpose was. And so that's kind of the philosophy. I think, with a lot of these knives, I want them to look older. I want them to look antiqued. I want them to be originally built for something constructive and built in a way that they also can do something deconstructive, I guess, if possible.
Bob DeMarco [00:58:35]:
Well, Sam, that's a great note to end on deconstructive. Thank you so much for coming on the Knife Junkie podcast. I really appreciate it. I think your knives are really beautiful, but I also love knowing how robust and well thought out they are, too. They're not just pretty looking wall hangers by any stretch. So thank you so much for coming on the show, sir.
Sam Curtis [00:59:00]:
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Bob DeMarco [00:59:02]:
Don't take dull for an answer. It's the Knife Junkie's favorite sign off phrase. And now you can get that tagline on a variety of merchandise, like a T shirt, sweatshirt, hoodie, long sleeve tea, and more, even on coasters tote bags a coffee mug, water bottle, and stickers. Let everyone know that you're a knife junkie and that you don't take dull for an answer. Get yours at theknifejunkie. Comdull and shop. For all of your knifejunkies email@example.com, shop.
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Bob DeMarco [00:59:40]:
I forgot to ask Sam on the air here the best way to get in touch with him to get one of his beautiful knives. And I happen to know it is through Instagram, so definitely follow him on Instagram. It's serious eye candy regularly, but that's also a great way to get in touch with him to get one of his beautiful knives. So there he goes. Ladies and gentlemen, Sam Curtis of polite but dangerous tools. Be sure to join us again next Sunday for another great interview and the Wednesday for the Wednesday supplemental and then Thursday for Thursday night Knife. For Jim working his magic behind the switcher, I'm Bob DeMarco saying, until next time, don't take dull for an answer.
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