When my grandfather joined the National Guard at 17, but before he headed off to war on active duty, he bought a “fighing knife” from a local hardware store as any strapping youth in olive drab needed just such the item.
It was a PAL RH-36.
The PAL Cutlery Company of Plattsburgh, NY. was established in 1935, specializing in kitchen implements. The company was a merger of the Utica Knife & Razor Company of Utica, NY and the Pal Blade Company of Chicago, IL. Pal used both the “Blade Company” and “Cutlery Company” monikers interchangeably during the next two decades until they went out of business in 1953. They purchased the cutlery division of Remington in 1939, along with all of their machinery, tooling and designs and soon began production in the old Remington owned factory in Holyoke, MA.
The design of the RH-36 came from that Remington acquisition, as the designations meant “Remington, Hunting, Pattern 3, 6” blade”. These were one of the most common US fighting knives of WWII, these were bought by all branches during the war, often with unit funds, and were also available as private purchase knives– such as my gramps.
Overall length is 11-inches with the razor-sharp blade just over 6, thus balancing well. Though some blades were parkerized, this one is bright though there is some patina. The old “PAL RH-36” markings are clear on the ricasso. The leather washer grip with red spacers is still tight, though dark. The pommel and guard are still surprisingly tight after more a half-century of use.
It has been sharpened and resharpened perhaps hundreds of times and was used by my grandfather overseas until he left the military in 1974, then sat in a box until I recently inherited it. The original sheath has long since broken, and subsequently discarded, leaving the blade naked.
Now, with the help of my friend Warren at Edged Creations who handcrafted the new sheath with three layers of leather, hand stitching and copper rivets, it should be good for another 70 years.
The above video starts off a bit silly but shows the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas performing the traditional Khukuri Dance at the Last Night of the Proms Concert at the Royal Military School of Music recently.
“The dance is a combination of patterns of drill, where the dancers demonstrate their skills of handling the Khukuri knife. It is believed, the dance was derived from the occasion of celebration when a soldier returned from war with the glory of victory.”
Sure, it is a dated weapon, but don’t doubt that you could drop those four guys off somewhere behind the lines with just their kukri and they wouldn’t beat you back to base with a host of trophies.
A good tactical folder for the purpose of this installment is a knife that can accomplish all your classic “penknife” or “pocketknife” tasks– cutting a thread or cord, trimming fingernails, touching up a shave in a pinch, cutting an apple, and box cutting and opening mail– while still being available as a fast and earnest edged weapon if needed. As such, they need to be at the fast ready, have a sufficiently long blade, be capable of one-handed opening, be strong enough to take real abuse, and, to prevent cutting off one’s own fingers in such a situation, lock upon opening.
Five “budget” tactical folders under $50 (if you shop around) that get the rotation in EDC: Ontario Knife Company’s RAT1A, a Spyderco Tenacious, Matthew Lerch’s CRKT Argus, Ken Onion’s 1660 Kershaw Leek, and a Gerber Applegate–Fairbairn Mini Covert.
All are used and have spent their time in pockets, clocking in as needed. The Leek even survived the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina with me in my pocket– and I was glad to have it several times in that week. As such, any spots, dings, scratches or mars on the blades or scales are honestly earned and not the fault of their maker.
Why the $50 benchline? Bottom line is, sure you can carry your Chris Reeve Sebenza 21 or really nice ZT, Benchmade or Microtech– and I have a few of those– but if you were to have one of these upper shelf blades pull a pocket jump without your knowledge while you are in your travels, you are going to be out a lot more than $50.
Of course, as with anything, your mileage may vary and by default, the best knife you have is the one you have on you.
I do a mini-review on each in my column over at Tac.44.com.
Warren likes to beat himself up.
I met him a little over a decade ago and he is a fellow LE instructor in everything from niche stuff like ballistic shield training to edged weapon defense as well as, of course, the more pedestrian rifle-pistol-shotgun fields of study.
Currently the head of a police department covering an area the size of a small city but with greater jurisdictional issues, some of my fondest memories of ole Warren (who shows up as the character Heath in one of my zombie novels) is in how he just seems to love pain as he goes out of his way sometimes to get himself hurt.
Take for instance in his long-studied craft of knife making. On my last visit to his shop, I found him with fingertips almost completely devoid of fingerprints due to regular interaction with forge, belt, and interaction with metal.
He likes taking abused old tools like broken draw knives, rusty shovels, and other items, then giving them a new life as a handcrafted edged weapon. He calls them “recovered material” which sounds very hipster to me and argues each has a touch of character and one-of-a-kind appearance that newly manufactured products just don’t.
He also crafts blades from new flats of 1095, 1080 and 1085 tool steel.
One of the neatest of which is a little self-defense retention knife he carries at work and is proving popular with other local LE types. The single edge chisel grind blade is worn behind the holster and can be drawn with one hand to separate you from whoever is trying to gain control of your weapon.
It’s got a 1 3/4″ blade and 4″ overall length and is super sharp, coming with a companion Kydex sheath he makes himself.
He told me the design is constantly evolving and he has been working on it with feedback from others for the past six years.
I’ve been carrying one around for a few weeks and have told Warren he needs to ship these with complementary bandaids.
A couple months back I posted about the Nepalese Gurkha Kukri Bhojpure fighting knife that I bought to go with my semi-cleaned Nepalese 1878 Martini-Henry Francotte pattern short-lever rifle and bayonet as created by Gen. Gahendra Rana’s “kami” cottage gunsmiths in the 1880s (more on the rifle and bayonet here.)
Like the Francotte and its bayonet, the $89 Bhojpure Kukri came from IMA/Atlanta Cutlery’s 2003 purchase of the entire Royal Nepalese Arsenal, then located at the semi-ruined palace of Lagan Silekhana in Katmandu.
Well, that post got picked up by The Truth About Knives, which is cool. Maybe it resulted in some people saving some of these old knives.
I’ve continued to work the blade and, thanks to a tip from a reader (thanks, Robert!) picked up a new replacement sheath for the old man that fits it like a glove. It currently shaves forearm hair (knife fighter mange) and shreds paper with no problem.
They list it as a “Gurkha Officer’s Patch Knife” for $25 (!) and bill it as “most likely carried in kukri pouches by the elite Royal Guard of Bhimsen Thapa”– Nepal’s military minded prime minister, in the early 19th century– the chap that owned Lagan Silekhana.
Like the rest of the Katmandu stash, it had sat in a wooden palace for generations open the elements and was covered in a thick layer of soot, yak butter, and Nepalese flotsam. It was in unissued condition and the blade had never been used (or sharpened– it was a total butter knife).
Patina on a weapon means it’s seasoned, right? I mean this little pot sticker is 150~ years old, or so the story goes.
I had to do a small repair on the butt cap as it separated from the handle during the cleaning process, but some replacement brass nails and epoxy corrected just fine.
All in all, not a bad blade for a total of about $40 and a half-dozen hours of sweat into it. I rather like it and may pick up a few more just to have. A few more years in storage probably won’t hurt them.