The Uptown Shiv

I got a request for a “ghetto shiv” and, naturally, it had to happen.

The original design request was for a sort of switchblade icepick – something you’d push a button on, and an icepick blade would pop out. There’s a big problem with that, which is that front-opening lock knives (“OTF”) are finicky and not particularly strong. The lock depends on a few small pieces of steel that hold in place with a spring – I own a few OTF knives and they are great letter-openers and utility knives but I would not trust them with the impact of a proper stabbing.

Another problem is that something like that is going to attract attention from the wrong sort of people, by which I mean: the police. In many states there are laws on the books that the district attorneys can use to bulk up the charges on a case, to make the offense more severe – i.e.: if you get in a fight with someone, you’re in trouble, but if you are carrying a concealed dagger (even if you don’t use it) there’s a felony charge they can drop on top of everything else, to make the defendant more likely to accept a plea bargain. I’m going to avoid a lengthy diversion into the wisdom of laws allowing an 18 year-old to carry a loaded AR-15, but criminalize carrying a dagger. After all, daggers don’t stab people in the kidneys, people do.

Carrying any kind of nasty knife comes with other problems. Often, I see some of the knives people carry and the sheathes for the knives, or the carrying system in general, scare me. I’ve fallen down, before, see, and you don’t want to land on 4″ of razor blade, especially if it’s carried anyplace useful – under an arm, near the waist, on a thigh – because those are not the places you want a loose razor blade scurrying around in. So the solution I like is: hardwood. A good solid block of oak is something that would break if you hammered on it repeatedly, but it’s going to protect a blade and, more importantly, keep it out of your own arteries, in the event of a normal accident.

That style of sheath is one I developed randomly for a letter opener I did for Richard B., (Yes, I still owe you another one…) and it’s a fun build. Basically, you make a wooden welt that is cut on the bandsaw to hold a blade with a fair chunk of wood left over at the top. The pieces are epoxied together, then drilled from the top down with a forstner bit to make a hole the size of the blade’s handle. Since we already know that the cut-line is the center where the hole should be, and we cleverly measured the depth to the opening, it takes a few seconds with the right sized forstner bit to open a hole down into the larger hole.

Because I was going for “absurd levels of solidity” the blade has a big chunky tang on it, that will make the handle nice and heavy and for all intents and purposes unbreakable. I used the same welted 3-piece oak construction, making the handle pretty much an oak covering over a chunk of tempered carbon steel. The back edge of the handle (“up”) is faceted and the bottom is rounded, so it’ll position itself in the hand without having to be examined visually – but, obviously, this is a stabby thing and you could hold it upside down and it would still make a wicked hole. On the other hand, the leading edge is razor sharp and cuts remarkably well in spite of the back of the blade being fairly thick. In terms of dimensions, it’s about 1/4″ x 1/4″ x 1/4″ by 7″ long. The steel is 1095/15N20 twist damascus and it’s basically a sharp spring – i.e.: an icepick.

Someday, I may make a special “Murder, Inc.” limited edition combat icepick with a silver escutcheon that is stamped “Murder, Inc.” and maybe an ebony or bog oak handle. Because, it’s an icepick not a dagger.


  1. snarkhuntr says

    Interesting that your mind goes to Murder Inc. I’d have thought “In Memoriam Lev Davidovich Bronstein” would be appropriate.

    If you ever get around to manufacturing these, I’d be interesting in ordering one with an inscription along those lines.

    For a combat stabbing weapon, I’d probably want some kind of guard to prevent the hand from slipping up to the cutting edge .

  2. snarkhuntr says

    And yes, I know it was actually an ice axe :) But I grew up with the idea of a mafia-style Ice Pick, and it stuck.

  3. says

    @snarkhuntr: axes are a big pain in the butt unless you go to the trouble to make a press die suitable for punching the eyeholes. Not that that’s particularly hard, mind you… might be a good application for a canister weld. Hm…
    I actually have a partially formed fossil hunter’s axe/pick, which I did think would make a good weapon…

  4. kestrel says

    That is lovely. I like how it’s so innocuous looking when all together, but yet looks quite dangerous and cool once out of the sheath.

  5. says

    @ahcuah: good idea!

    Edit – well, that was a flop. I got a ghetto bodega. I tried “a ghetto shiv like an ice pick” and got a sword made of ice.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    @7: As I recall, the knife made out of ice is a trope in murder mysteries, since the evidence melts away.

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