July 17, 2010
Shamelessly poaching from Gizmodo, here’s a fabulous green knife written about by Casey Chan on the site today. It’s not made from frozen Kool-Aid, but fiber-optic glass, knapped to surgical sharpness by master knifemaker Mike Cook.
Knapping is the art of subtly striking pieces of stone and volcanic glass with hammers to shape them into blades. It’s an ancient art, and perhaps our oldest technology. The tasty-looking green blade was made by Mike Cook, who calls his business “Art of Ishi” after the famous “last wild Indian,” a middle-aged Yahi man studied (and put on display) by University of California anthropologist Alfred Kroeber in the early twentieth century. Ishi was famous for his knapping demonstrations. He made arrowheads from obsidian — or, when it was not available, from discarded beer bottles.
Fiber-optic glass is usually spun into minscule fibers capable of conducting light over long distances without signal loss. The ancient knappers loved glass for its sharpness (obsidian — but not bottle glass, presumably — is still used to make scalpels for surgeons), but also for its light-catching abilities. Perhaps a lode of high-grade fiber optic glass would have lightened Ishi’s long days in Berkeley’s Museum of Anthropology, knapping luminescent green light for crowds of tourists.