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Old 04-30-2004, 23:04   #1
NousDefionsDoc
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Well now...Is the press really liberal?

Or could some of them be ok?

April 15, 2004

Battle Blades: Knife designed in Creswell now a Green Beret signature

By Mike Stahlberg
The Register-Guard

CRESWELL - The man responsible for the fighting edge carried on some of this country's most dangerous military missions works here in a wood-frame shop, amid drill presses, belt sanders, grinding wheels, a kiln, a drafting table and the sound of chickens clucking just outside the open door.

This is where knife maker Bill Harsey sculpts distinctive creations out of steel - including the knife the U.S. Army now issues to every graduate of its John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

Those soldiers earn their knife - each bearing the letters YARBOROUGH, followed by a unique serial number - at the same time they earn the right to wear a green beret, the other signature item of a Special Forces graduate.

Bill Harsey handles one of his knives at his Creswell workshop.

The knife is named after one of the fathers of the Green Berets, retired Lt. General William P. Yarborough, who was presented with knife 0001. An autographed photo of Yarborough with President Kennedy adorns the wall behind Harsey's drafting table.

Harsey's skills as a knife maker will be among those on display Saturday and Sunday at OKCA's 29th annual Oregon Knife Show in the Lane County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall in Eugene.

It's a simple knife, Harsey says of the blade the Special Forces carry into battle, made of an exceptionally strong stainless steel alloy.

"You could pick it up in the dark or underwater and know where the grip is, just by the feel," he said.

Army brass liked the feel enough to begin issuing the Harsey-designed Yarborough knife in 2002 - choosing it over dozens of other prototypes.

But blades created in Bill Harsey's Creswell knife shop were familiar to members of various elite military forces long before then.

"Since 1984, at least my half of my knife making has always been for the tactical military special operations people," said Harsey, a 1979 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Fine Arts who balks at any suggestion that his knives are "art."

In conjunction with James Watson, one of the 32 original Navy Seals, Harsey created the Watson-Harsey Silver Trident, a knife popular among members of operating Seal teams. He also has made custom knives for members of the British SAS and Germany's GSG-9. Four of his knives have been featured on the cover of Tactical Knives magazine.

Not bad for a former logger who simply wanted to make himself a good fishing knife.

"I wanted a knife to go fishing with, and I literally dropped everything and jumped into knife making with less than a clue," Harsey said during a recent tour of his knife shop. "I knew you had to have a handle on one end, and that it might be nice to have a guard - and that started the exploration...."

His exploration of everything that goes into fashioning high quality knives out of steel led him to the Oregon Knife Collectors Association (OKCA). Harsey credits several members of that club with helping him advance his knife-making skills, and with introducing him to people in the military "special ops" community - among them retired Col. Rex Applegate, the man who in 1943 wrote "Kill or Be Killed," a book that became the bible of close-quarter combat.

"Al Mar introduced me to Col. Applegate, and I started grinding blades for him and we just kind of tapered into a working relationship," said Harsey, who gained British and German special operations customers as a result of his work for Applegate.

Harsey also befriended top knife makers elsewhere in the U.S., including Chris Reeve, a Boise custom knife maker who collaborated with Harsey on the Yarborough Knife project.

Harsey made the first dozen prototypes of the Yarborough Knife in his shop. But one man could not produce knives in the numbers the Army would need if his design were chosen. So he teamed up during the application process with Reeve, whose shop employs about 15 skilled knife makers and has twice won Blade Show honors for quality production.

"I design my own knives and I don't typically go and collaborate with others," Reeve said. "But Bill's been a longtime friend of mine - we've known each other since 1987."

Harsey, on the other hand, is accustomed to having his knife designs manufactured by someone else. The Gerber knife company, for example, currently sells at least eight different Harsey designs.

In any event, Reeve agreed to handle production of the Yarborough knife at his shop.

But when they were awarded the contract, Harsey recalls, the Army "informed Chris and I that we would have one half as much time to make twice as many knives as we said we could" in order to have enough ready for the next Green Berets graduation ceremony.

"From approval of the first prototype built by me, we had 60 days to produce 300 knives with no existing tooling," Harsey said. "That was a little tricky. ... Chris was running the shop 24 hours a day there for over a month to get the first 300."

Less than two years later, the serial numbers on the knives are "right up around 3,000," Reeve said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "And we just got an order for about 600 more."

Harsey said the Yarborough Knife should not be confused with the $800 hammer or other tales of military excess. The Army pays a little less than $200 per knife, he said, barely enough to cover production costs.

The knife makers' profit comes from sales of an identical knife - minus the engraved Yarborough name and serial number - on the open market.

The Army's restrictive orders regarding who is allowed to have a Yarborough Knife - only current or past members of U.S. Army Special Forces are eligible - played into the collector's market, Reeve said.

Reeve estimates he already has produced 4,500 to 5,000 "Green Beret" knives, as the open market version is known.

"It's been extremely popular," Reeve said. "It's had a lot of publicity. I could have paid a million dollars to an advertising agency and not gotten a better marketing program" than provided by the Army's restrictive rules on the issue and production of the Yarborough.

"General Brown instantly created a collectible that was not available, because nobody can purchase a Yarborough who has not completed the qualification course.

"So anybody who wanted one, the only version they could get was the commercial version."

The commercial Green Beret knives are engraved on each side of the blade with Reeve's trademark (CR in a circle) and with the name Harsey.

"We always mark both sides of every knife that is not a Yarborough," Harsey said. "That way, if you saw that marking and the word `Yarborough,' you'd know somebody's counterfeited it after the fact."

In addition, Harsey said, he's been told that someone at the JFK Special Warfare Center "checks e-Bay regularly" to make sure no Yarborough Knives, real or otherwise, are being marketed.

The commercial "Green Beret" version is made of the same special steel alloy Harsey was fortunate enough to have a sample of when designing the Yarborough. It's a steel that provides "extraordinary strength - strength that we've never had before" in a knife blade, Harsey said.

"We had two inches of blade in a steel-jawed vise, and no Green Beret back at Fort Bragg could break the knife out of the vise," he said.

The Harsey knife's sturdy blade may have been a determining factor in its selection.

"I think it was a combination of the design and the special steel," Reeve said. "Bill put together a very, very simple, very, very effective design ... but the Green Beret boys do not view this as a weapon. They view it as a tool, as a cutting tool/lever or crowbar. A lot of times a knife will be used as a lever, to pry open a door."

"We're trying to make a tool that quite simply will stand up to anything a soldier wants to do with it," Harsey said.

For Special Forces soldiers, that may mean a knife that can puncture and even cut the aluminum skin of a helicopter or airplane, should that need to be done to free a downed pilot trapped in wreckage.

Such missions are a long way from Creswell, but the guy in the cluttered workshop is proud to think his work could be contributing to them.

"I have a profound amount of respect for the individuals I've met in military special operations, and the guys in Special Forces," Harsey said. "They're a remarkable breed, and if I can do something good enough for them, that's a huge thing for me."
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Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon and he made his web gear. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is;' he knows either he wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00, he is home.
He knows only The Cause.

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Old 04-30-2004, 23:07   #2
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I saved the article to my hard drive and lost the link, but somebody on here has it.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg bharsey1.jpg (20.2 KB, 202 views)
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Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon and he made his web gear. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is;' he knows either he wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00, he is home.
He knows only The Cause.

Still want to quit?
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Old 04-30-2004, 23:07   #3
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Magazine covers
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File Type: jpg bharsey2.jpg (28.1 KB, 146 views)
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Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon and he made his web gear. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is;' he knows either he wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00, he is home.
He knows only The Cause.

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Old 04-30-2004, 23:10   #4
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Here it is. Google is a wonderous thing.

http://www.registerguard.com/news/20...ades.0415.html
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Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon and he made his web gear. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is;' he knows either he wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00, he is home.
He knows only The Cause.

Still want to quit?
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Old 04-30-2004, 23:11   #5
Bill Harsey
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This is from the Eugene, Oregon Register Guard newspaper. Mike Stahlberg is the Outdoor feature writer who wrote it. I was surprised they would do this story. Thanks for posting it here.
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Old 04-30-2004, 23:15   #6
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Quote:
Thanks for posting it here.
Well, this is where it goes. LOL

Good story Mr. Harsey, congratulations.
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Somewhere a True Believer is training to kill you. He is training with minimal food or water, in austere conditions, training day and night. The only thing clean on him is his weapon and he made his web gear. He doesn't worry about what workout to do - his ruck weighs what it weighs, his runs end when the enemy stops chasing him. This True Believer is not concerned about 'how hard it is;' he knows either he wins or dies. He doesn't go home at 17:00, he is home.
He knows only The Cause.

Still want to quit?
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Old 04-30-2004, 23:15   #7
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Thumbs up

Had already read the article...

Glad your here Bill.
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Old 05-01-2004, 00:28   #8
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Quote:
"We had two inches of blade in a steel-jawed vise, and no Green Beret back at Fort Bragg could break the knife out of the vise," he said.

Well of course not...10th Group is at Ft Carson.
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Old 07-03-2007, 08:17   #9
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bump for my use.
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Old 07-03-2007, 08:48   #10
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Nice story, Bill. Congrats.
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Old 07-03-2007, 08:53   #11
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Great story Bill, I really enjoyed reading it.

H.
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Old 07-03-2007, 10:20   #12
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I'm not sure if the shop should be called "cluttered" - "Harseyized" would be a much better description, Mr Bill can find anything in the shop in nanoseconds. Great Article, and great knife.
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