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Twobirds Flying Publications

Thomas R. Bender A California Knife Maker
Sal Palma


Copyright 2014, Towbirds Flying Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Bladesmithing has been in existence for
thousands of years as both enterprise and art
form. In ancient cultures, bladesmiths often
collaborated with the resident alchemist and
wizard to infuse a blade with mystical powers.
Just look at the works of J.R. Tolkien, Michael
Moorock, and the legend of Zulfiqar - a sword
sent from the Heavens to the Prophet
Muhammad and given to Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Throughout the history of man, edged weapons
have held a prestigious post in social
development; serving as guardians of the weak,
enslaving and freeing civilizations. The blade
has served honorably as both tool and spectacle
of social standing. It is as much a part of
humanity as painting, literature, music and
theater, a tradition that continues, to this day,
fostering artisans across the world. Then, there
is Thomas R. Bender
Tom Bender describes himself, in a pronounced
northeastern accent, Im not an artsy-fartsy
guy, I make knives expecting them to be used as
tools. So, who is Thomas R. Bender?
Tom is now 64 years young and has been
working with his hands since he was 10. The
better part of his professional life has been
spent working in the entertainment industry as
an explosives technician, armorer and prop
maker. He holds a number of active licenses of
which Ive listed only a few.
Federal Firearms License

Federal Firearms License-Class-Iii
(Automatic Weapons)

Federal Firearms License-Class-07
(Manufacturer of Firearms)

State Of California Pyrotechnic
Operator-Special Effects- Class-Ii

State Of California-Department of
Justice- Permit To Possess And / Or
Transport Machine Guns

If youve seen action movies in the last 20 years,
theres a very good chance that Tom Bender has
had a hand in the explosions and firearms used.
He is also an incredibly humble and unassuming
I recently had the opportunity to review one of
Toms creations and jumped at the chance.

At first glance, it was difficult for me to capture
the essence of Toms knife. There is no single
word to adequately describe it and he doesnt
give his creations catchy names. Hes also not
the type of guy that hangs out in Sherwani at
transcendental meditation sessions listening to
Ravi Shankar for inspiration, and you wont find
him going to the mountains for stimulation. So,
Im at a loss for words, which is a bad thing to
be out of when youre a scribe. So, Ill describe
the Bender creations as he does, they are tools!
Toms knives are tools serving two masters.
First, they meet defensive needs when the shit
goes south. Second, they serve the mundane;
opening crates, prying, chopping and probing.
To ensure that his knives meet those needs,
Tom works with 1080+, CruForgeV 01 tool steel
and 5160. I had an opportunity to discuss blade
metallurgy with him and this is what he had to
I now have a difficult time getting the
sizes I like in the 1080+ and CruForgeV. I

Copyright 2014, Towbirds Flying Publications. All Rights Reserved.

always loved working with tool steel. I
like to double temper the 1080+ and 01
and triple temper the 5160 and

My T&E sample is made of 1080+ steel. Readers
familiar with the anatomical specifics of knives
know that 1080+ offers an excellent balance
between corrosion resistance and edge
hardness due to the slight amounts of
chromium and vanadium. A 1080+ blade will
hold its edge longer under a more diverse set of
conditions than say 1095 steel or even 1080.
The 1080+ also has excellent consistency of
hardness throughout the length of the blade,
and when tempered two and three times at
350 while achieve a hardness of HRC 60 or

All Bender blades are full tang designs and my
sample was no different.

However, before jumping into a discussion of
the blade profile, which is rather unique, Ill get
some of the numerical data out of the way.
My review sample has an overall length of 11.5
in. and a blade length of 6 in. Blade thickness is
.25 inches with Rockwell hardness of 60.
Without its sheath, the knife weighs 13.8 oz. so,
calling it a beast is certainly not out of line, and
its highly unlikely youll ever need to worry
about snapping the blade or breaking the tip.
So, lets talk about the blade.

Tom is extremely fond of the wedge and all of
his creations use that style of edge in one form
or another. He does not grind the edges;
instead he cuts them and hones them by hand.
Polishing of the blade is also done by hand.
Nowhere in the process does he use a buffing
The review sample can be accurately described
as a double edge katana, featuring an
aggressive Tanto tip.
Tom refers to the two cutting edges, along the
top and bottom of the blade, as counteracting

Copyright 2014, Towbirds Flying Publications. All Rights Reserved.

edges. They are wedged edges oriented in
opposite directions; giving the knife an
interesting performance characteristic.
The counteracting edges provide a slight
rotation of the blade on penetration; thus,
creating massive tissue damage with a
correspondingly large wound channel.

The picture above captures the essence of that
design feature.
Combining its aggressive Tanto tip with the
counteracting edges makes the Bender blade a
formidable defensive or offensive tool. A thrust
to the rib cage with this knife will do much
more than pierce the subject; it will also split
the ribcage.
Looking along the blades profile, I noticed a
slight taper extending from the hilt to its tip,
and that too is functional serving to assist in
piercing and extraction.
Theres nothing on this knife that one could call
stylistic, everything is 100% function; yet Toms
creation has a classic character heavily
influenced by oriental design that just grows on
you. Aiding that affinity is how well this knife
sits in your hand.
The Bender blade is balanced just aft of the hilt,
so theres considerable heft to the blade, an
attribute that proved itself invaluable as I
started chopping on a 2x4.

As expected, the lumber proved to be no match
for the knife and my hand felt well insulated
from the impact, which reduced fatigue. So,
part two of Toms tool philosophy is evident in
his designs. Chipping through interior walls and
concrete blocks are certainly within the realm
of possibilities for this knife.
A good knife must have a great handle and
Tom achieves that with full-length G10 scales
affixed to the knifes full tang. There is a very
small amount of texturing on the scales, so to
enhance grip Tom hand cuts jimping all along
the tang. He also lets the scale screws protrude.
Handle length, G10 scales, tang jimping and
handle screws collectively work to enhance the
grip. While chopping away on the 2x4 I was able
to control the knife quite well.


Copyright 2014, Towbirds Flying Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Although the 5 inch handle is comfortable, I
think it benefits from a slight recurve, which
aligns the knife somewhat better with the wrist.
This is a matter of personal preference and not
an indictment. The bottom line remains the
same the knife felt good in my hand.
Tom does something else that I truly like. He
allows the tang to extend beyond the scales to
create a very nice pummel, which is drilled to
accommodate a 550 paracord lanyard.
Regrettably, pummels are absent in many of the
so called tactical designs yet their utility
cannot be overstated.

Last but not least, Tom tops it all off with a
Spec-Ops Combat Master Knife Sheath
delivering a very special and capable combat
knife that you can count on.

Who are Toms customers, Navy Seals and Army
SOF along with some prominent individuals?
Bender knives are top-shelf handcrafted
defensive tools capable of meeting very
demanding needs. Thomas R. Bender makes
knives because he loves to, and it shows.
However, be advised, if he agrees to make a
knife for you be patient, it will be worth the

Contact Information:

Thomas R Bender
Phone: 818-802-4529


Copyright 2014, Towbirds Flying Publications. All Rights Reserved.


Thomas R. Bender Filmography

Pirates of the Caribbean Black Powder Legally Blonde 2 FX
Transformers 2 Armorer Bruce Almighty Propmaker/FX
Chicago Overcoat Armorer The Hunted FX
G Force Gun Tech Cinemagique FX
Wanted Gun Tech-Chicago Scorpion King FX
Death Sentence FX Tech The First 20 Million FX
Transformers FX Powder Orange County FX
What Love Is Armorer Windtalkers FX/Artillery
The Last Sentinel Armorer Miss Congeniality FX
Life and Death of Bobby Z Armorer Evolution PropMaker/Welder
Miami Vice Armorer The Glass House FX
Mission Impossible III Asst. Armorer Squelch FX
War of the Worlds Armorer The Out of Towners FX
40 Year Old Virgin Prop Maker Primary Colors FX
Scary Movie 4 Armorer Speed 2 FX
Step Up Armorer Jerry Maguire FX
Purple Heart Armorer Gridlockd FX
XXX 2 Prop Maker Romy & Michelle FX
Ice Princess FX Ghosts of Mississippi FX
Dawn of the Dead Prop Maker Men in Black Armorer
Memoirs of a Geisha Prop Maker One Fine Day FX
National Treasure Armorer The Brady Bunch 2 FX
Princess Diaries II FX Spy Hard Props
Lemony Snicket Prop Maker Mulholland Falls FX
Raising Helen Prop Maker/FX Operation Dumbo Drop FX
The Cat in the Hat Prop Maker Night Skies FX Asst-GasBombs
Tears of the Sun Armorer Street Corner Justice FX