Sharpening Your Blade

A small departure from guns and gun rights today…

I grew up with a knife in my pocket.  In small-town East Tennessee in the 60′s and 70′s, it was standard equipment for a man, and any boy who aspired to be a man.  My father taught me early in life how to use a blade safely, and as soon as I could show him I understood, I was allowed a pocketknife of my own.  I figure I was probably about eight years old at the time, and pretty much every day since then, I have had a knife on my person.  (Yes, even at school.)


Ground Rules: Safety Guidelines for Knife Sharpening

I learned a lot about knives and their care in Boy Scouts…Be Prepared.


The other thing Dad taught me was the importance of keeping a knife sharp.  A dull blade is harder to work through whatever you’re cutting, increasing the likelihood of slipping and slicing yourself.  So along with knife ownership came knife maintenance, and the ritual of knife sharpening.

I don’t really consider it a chore, either.  I enjoy the process of getting out the stones…unwrapping them from the piece of linen bedsheet that is probably as old as I am.  Oiling the big Arkansas stone for the first stage of the process…first, a spray of WD-40, and then using my finger to spread it thoroughly across the surface.  Cleaning the blade a little with the WD-40 remaining on my finger, and then setting it against the stone for the first pass.  The angle has to be just right, you know.  After over 40 years of practice, I can eyeball it now.  It’s perfect.

Then pushing the blade away from me, with just enough pressure…not too much.  Turning the knife as it moves across the stone, keeping the angle consistent as the curves of the blade change the relationship between steel and stone.  Turn the knife over and draw it toward me across the stone, duplicating the grind just applied to the other side of the edge. Both sides must be identical.

Every few passes, I pause to wipe away the oil and inspect my work.  The edge is bright in the light, and seeing no defects, I lightly slide my finger down both sides of the edge, feeling.  You can tell when it’s right that way.  No burrs.  Smooth.  Fresh, clean steel…ready for the next step.

Now the small, white stone.  It is a fine grit, more polish than grind now.  A little oil on that one, and a few light passes are all that is required.  If there were any burrs undetected by my touch, they’re gone now.  A firm stropping against my denim jeans removes the “wire edge,” if there is one, and it is done.  The knife is ready to do its job, and the stones are carefully wrapped back in their protective shroud, ready for next time.





I’ll have them back out again soon enough.  One other thing I learned early on about knives is that they always need regular sharpening, even when they aren’t used.  Even just sitting idle in its sheath, a knife will lose its edge over time.  Then, when you need it…it won’t be up to the task.

Maybe this is about gun rights after all.  Maybe…just maybe…it’s a cautionary metaphor for gun owners.  For we tend to let our guard down when times are good.  When we feel that anti-gun forces have been properly beaten back for a while, we fold up our knives, and wrap up our tools, and go on with our lives.

But the blade is constantly dulling.  Always.  Stay sharp.


Girl Power

I’m a middle-aged bachelor, and I am a feminist.  Yeah, you heard me.

I am all about the rights of women…particularly the right of a woman to walk about the world, and go about her life…without being afraid of violence.

I may be a male, but I do have women in my life that I care about.  I have a sister, and she has two daughters.  They are a big reason that I carry every day, because we spend a lot of time together.  I made that commitment because I didn’t know how I would be able live with myself if we were out somewhere and one of them were hurt, while my gun was sitting at home.

So I got my concealed carry license, and carried everywhere I went.  When they were old enough, my nieces learned that I carried, and why.  All three of “my girls” knew that I was watching out for them, and they felt safer when I was along.  But even then, I couldn’t bodyguard them 24/7.

And no matter what we do, time passes…my nieces are growing older.  They’re teenagers now, venturing out on their own more often…learning to live their own lives, and make their own decisions…out from under what protection I can provide.  This also leaves my sister, a single mother, looking squarely at “empty nest syndrome” in the not-too-distant future.

But here’s the thing:  even if I could bodyguard them 24/7, I don’t want to.  As concealed carry people we understand quite well that dependence on others, especially for our personal safety, is unhealthy.  I don’t want that for any of the women in my life…or any woman, for that matter.  I don’t want my sister to be afraid to go out at night, simply because I’m working and can’t tag along.  I don’t want my nieces to be afraid to step out into the world, and into a fulfilling life of their own, just because they don’t feel safe.


Annie gets it…


I want them to be strong women, free to provide for their own safety…even when there isn’t a man nearby to protect them.  I would want the same for any woman.  No one should have to live their life afraid and helpless, so I rejoice at stories such as these from NRA Women:




With my sister and my nieces, I am doing my best to pass on the skills, knowledge, and the values of self-reliance.  We go shooting together, and we talk.  I want them to understand that shooting, whether for recreation or for protection…is for everyone.  I want them to realize the freedom that a strong 2nd Amendment guarantees them, just like anyone else.

Girl Power.



Once again, murder comes to a “gun free zone.”  And once again, moral cowardice prevails and enables the easy murder of troops who are not permitted to keep and bear arms with which to defend themselves.


Gun free zone?

Gun free zone?


Let me say up front that I do understand very well the mindset of a chain of command which fears to give soldiers the same freedoms that their civilian counterparts enjoy.  I was an officer in the United States Army for several years, and I was a commander.  I was taught early on in my officer training that, “the commander is responsible for everything the unit does or fails to do.”  It was practically a mantra which was drilled into every officer who aspired to lead soldiers, and I presume that it still applies.

What that meant in a practical sense was that as a young captain, placed in command of 75 soldiers, I had to answer for anything and everything that they did.  If one of my soldiers went out on Saturday night, on his own time, off-post, and got a DUI…I’d be on the carpet in the battalion commander’s office on Monday explaining it.  Never mind that I personally did nothing wrong…it was my unit, my soldiers, and I was responsible.

And it has to be that way.  You can’t have commanders shrugging their shoulders at an incident, especially one which results in injury or death, and saying, “hey, I didn’t do it!”

But there is a near zero-defect mentality which haunts the officer corps.  A serious enough incident on your watch can be a career ending event for a commander, and this is why the chain of command continues to dig in its heels in opposition to allowing troops to exercise the same 2nd Amendment freedoms enjoyed by the civilians they defend.  You can’t tell me that there is a single officer on active duty in the United States military who hasn’t at least considered the possibility that allowing soldiers to have firearms on base would be to play Russian roulette with your career.  I get it.  I have been there, and I understand the very real fear that some troop does something stupid with a gun…and there goes your career.

I understand that fear…but it is wrong.  In almost every state in the country, any 21-year old with a clean background can purchase a handgun and qualify to carry it to defend self and family.  But if that same 21-year old happens to have put on a uniform and sworn to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic…now they are unsuitable to go armed?  That is so ridiculous on its face that it would be funny, if it were not an attitude that costs lives.