Howard Linett, Esq
Terrorism Expert, Tactical Instructor, Expert Witness, Author
A half dozen lonesome, long and slender white boxes marked "KNIVES-Made in Israel" stopped me dead in my tracks. I opened one and discovered a heavy, black fixed-blade combat knife. I quickly introduced myself to the two individuals standing behind the table. One was Alex Shamgar, the knife's designer. He is a well-known and respected senior member with the knife collectors' community.
I established instant rapport with Alex when he learned I was "the English speaker" who had helped our mutual friend Eddy Bradachansky with the mound of paperwork that Eddy had to fill out to sell his "Shabaria" and "Credit Card" designs to Spyderco. Shortly afterwards, Eddy was murdered.
Alex introduced me to Hani Aziz, Meir's daughter. Hani telephoned her father and arrange for me to visit the family's shop early the next week. Her father is widely acknowledged as one of Israel's top tool and die makers and manufacturer of precision metal parts. It turned out that she is her father's mechanical art designer and computer operator. Meir's business truly is an old fashioned family affair.
My visit to Meir's shop was highly educational. As we moved from work station to work station, I asked Meir why he had selected D2 steel. My research had taught me that D2 was the steel to use if one was not using stainless (stain-retarding, no steel is stainproof) steel, but offhand, I knew of no maker of quality knives who used something other than some formulation of stainless. Meir answered, "Simple, it is of superior strength".
Norm Singer, friend and fellow knife enthusiast, joined me on my visit to DU**STAR. He watched Meir occasionally drop one of his knives from shoulder height straight down onto the hard, poured concrete shop floor and later use the same to chop a black of D2 steel. The floor chipped and the block of steel was cut, but the knife was unaffected.
I spoke to Meir about possibly reproducing the "blade strength" and "blade flexibility" tests I had seen in advertisements. Neither he nor I knew where the testing could be done in Israel, but Norm felt up to the task. Meir handed him the "demo" knife and said, "The shop is yours to use." What happened next I call the unplanned, pre-testing "Brute Force Test".
Next, Norm found a big vice on one of the shop's larger workbenches. He put about an inch of the knife, tip down, into it and tightened hard. One of Meir's helpful workers handed Norm a 2-3 kilo short-handled sledge. Using a two handed baseball batter's grip, Norm swung tentatively, as if trying for a bunt. There was reverberating "B-i-n-g!" The bench shuttered and Norm's hands stung. Strike one! Norm swung again, this time trying to drop the ball behind the centerfielder. I thought the legs were going to buckle as the heavy bench literally jumped 12 inches backwards. Strike two! Ah, this was getting out of hand. I did not want Meir's shop destroyed. Meir's employee stepped up to the vice. I thought he was going to remove the knife. Wrong. He tightened the vice. Before I could yell "time out", Norm swung, trying for a grand-slam homerun. SMACK-BANG, the bench catapulted into the air and the knife broke, flush with the vice. Strike three! Meir's face was the pictorial dictionary's definition of incredulity. Shocked, he muttered something about "insane Americans" and that the "knife was an early test model with Rc-60 hardness to brittle; production knives are made to Rc-56-57."
Testing and Evaluation.
For all my testing I used the Model 1 ARAD with the Black-T™ coated blade. Out of the box, both of Meir's knives came what I call "dangerously sharp". It is a step down from razor-sharp. Neither knife shaved the hair on my forearm. I told Meir. He answered that not everyone wants a razor-sharp edge on a fixed blade utility/combat knife. He deliberately left the choice up to the individual purchaser. "Professionals can finish the edge to their liking and appreciate being provided an opportunity to do so."
I found a wood pallet leaning against a dumpster. It was 47x32 inches, relatively new and clean, made out of planks of solid wood. First I used the blade to pry off a cross plank so I had room to work on the three 1x6 inch planks below. One by one I chopped, hacked and cut my way through 6 inches of each. Then I pried off the next cross plank and chopped, hacked and cut through the next set of three 1x6 planks.
And then I repeated the process a third time. In all I cut through nine 1x6s. The ARAD's D2 Steel blade was as sharp when I completed dismembering the pallet as it was before I started. The blade's Black-T coatings was unaffected, but for a small scuff mark or two.
I collected a dozen of the thickest, meatiest branches I could find. I chopped each into 2-inch pieces using the knife, unsharpened since I used it to cut up the pallet. Palm wood is pulpy and made for a nice change from hardwood boards. I used the top of a 5-inch diameter, 3-foot-high hardwood log as my chopping block. The work went quickly and when I was finished, the ARAD's blade was a tad less sharp than when I'd started, and the black-T coating was showing some wear. On one side of the blade, by the edge, at the spot that had repeatedly come into contact with the branches, an inch-long, shallow, pale white crescent was developing.
Being embarrassingly truthful, up through this stage of testing, my knifework was not especially efficient. Over a number of days, I had worked for several hours. I estimate I used a couple thousand knife strokes. This was getting into the area of serious work. Before proceeding further, I decide to employ the old "Tom Sawyer Whitewashing the Fence" ploy. I asked Brooklyn-born Moshe, friend and long-time member of the knife Collectors Association, if he had ever destroyed a quality knife. He was over at my place the next morning.
The Ammo Can
From our unit's last trip to the range; I brought back one of the metal Israeli ammo cans in which our issued ammo comes. The can is standard, no different than a USGI one. The test was to cut it in half, lengthwise. I allowed Moshe the honors. He laid the can on its side and, with a two handed icepick grip, he plunged the knife down and into the ammo can. In rapid succession Moshe repeated the motion another dozen times. These were forceful blows and several missed the can, smashing the tip of the knife into the porch's hard, polished stone floor tiles. The ARAD's blade easily penetrated the can and was cutting it in half, if not with precision. During the next dozen strikes, the knife blade pounded down into the tile rather than the can a few more times. The knife tip also plunged into the very edge of the ammo can where the lid overlapped the can's side, reinforcing it. A half inch of false edge of the blade's tip broke off along the grind line.
Using the true edge of the knife tip, Moshe and I continued severing the ammo can. We cut completely around and through all four walls.
But for the half-inch of missing false edge, the knife was not that "worse for wear". Eighty-five percent of the blade still had an edge that could cut, if not slice your finger. It had neither nicks nor gouges. The back of the blade showed evidence of being pounded with a hammer. My hammer's head showed worse. The Black-T coating showed scratching and marring, but held up impressively well. The handle was impervious to everything we did to it.
The Cinder Block
From time to time Israeli snipers may need to fire through loopholes in walls. If there are none where one is needed, the sniper must make his own. Walls are often constructed of cinder block. I used the blade's point to chisel, chop and scrap a hole in a standard cinder block. Then, using my trusty hammer, I pounded on the knife's handle, driving the blade's point, sans false edge, into the cinder block next to the hole I'd already made. I planned to work the blade back and forth, eventually getting to the hole, thus widening it. However, I had pounded the blade a bit too enthusiastically. It stuck. Levering the blade back and forth and side-to-side in an effort to free it, the tip finally broke off along a line with the missing piece of false edge.
I was ready to return the knife to Meir, in pieces, as he had requested.
Moshe was not. He wanted a turn with the cinder block. He figured, how often do you get to beat the living crap out of a knife? So Moshe started chopping.
The knife blade showed no damage, little additional dullness. Moshe did not have enough adjectives to describe how outstanding a job he thought the knife handle had done of cushioning the blows.
And Last But Not Least
Jerusalem's winter arrived midway through my knife testing. Heavy rain turned the dry earth in the planters on my porch into soggy, sandy mud. Perfect! I plunged the blade of the ARAD without the Black-T coating up to its hilt in the pot containing my Dizygotheca elegantissima. There it would remain for 48 hours. As noted, this knife is not made of stain-resistant steel, and the blade evidenced stain, pockmarks and etching after the mud was cleaned off.
The Bottom Line
No way in hell would I ever treat one of my own knives the way I treated the test knife. Only under real combat condition and lacking a more suitable tool to perform the task that needed doing (meet brother Murphy) would I ever subject a knife to such extreme abuse. I did what was asked of me. The test knife was returned to Meir in pieces. It held up remarkably under this Cro-Magnon warrior's operational testing.
Member of an elite unit of the Israeli border police are presently evaluating Meir's knife. From now on a Model 1ARAD will be part of my standard "grab your gear and go" pack, ready for emergency callouts and the 23:00 telephone calls saying we need you to teach and are picking you up tomorrow at 6:00.
Copyright © 2006, Harris Publications. All rights reserved.