Thursday, November 18, 2010


     Sorry about the lack of posts, but my book is not going to write itself.  Today, as a treat, I'm going to write about something that I know many people are fond of (I definitely am); knives!

     As a child, I had an affinity for all things military.  My father is a former Marine and willingly enlisted to serve our country during The Vietnam War.  After serving, he returned home to continue his life, and start a family.  Being more knowledgeable about military gear now that I'm older, I have to laugh about all the different things around the house that were originally intended for his military career.  Some of my favorite blankets growing up were actually "poncho liners" (I still keep one of these in the apartment as it is one of the most comfortable blankets I've ever owned) and the uncomfortable, but exceptionally warm, military issue wool blend blankets.  He allowed me to use his old medals, and uniform's to help my very active imagination while playing "Army".  He also allowed me to own a few pocket knives which I cherished.  In fact, I still own my first Swiss Army Knife till this day, and the box it came in.

     If you read this blog, you know I am a firm believer in always having a knife of some sort as part of your EDC or EDB.  Unfortunately knives have got a bad wrap over the last few decades, especially in places like NYC.  The simple fact is that they are, and always have been, an extremely valuable tool.  Knives are a part of our culture as human beings, and a tool that has helped shape our modern society.  Talk to some of the older generations about how school children always had a pocket knife on them, and how going on an airplane with a large sheathed fixed-blade knife was normal, and acceptable.  Do knives have a dark side?  Sure.  Bad people use them for bad things, but that is unfortunately the case for most tools.  Axe's and hammer's have been used as murder weapons many times.  Just like the debate for firearms; "firearms don't kill people, people kill people."  The same applies to any object that can hurt or kill someone.

     I have to remind you not to be stupid, and obey local laws.  In New York, our laws are a bit vague, but pretty easy to figure out;  No auto assist knives (i.e. switch blade, or spring release.)  A knife has to have a blade that is no larger then four inches, or about the size of your palm.  And here is were it gets a bit tricky, no knife should have a sharp pointed edge.  The way I see it, the last one is so the police officer can use discretion as to if they see the knife as a tool, or as a weapon.  I have never had a problem with my Leatherman, but if I did I would explain that I use it during my job.  Yes I would be lying, but I would approach it in a submissive, friendly way.  If you choose to carry a small pocket knife like a Swiss Army Knife, then it should never be out of your pocket as to draw attention.  New Yorker's are a bit jumpy when it comes to things they determine a weapon.  You should never have your fixed-blade on you when you leave the house, unless it is an emergency or you are going into the bush.  It should be concealed or in your bag in either case.

     Now that I got that out of the way, I can get into the meat and potatoes of this post; fixed-blades.  NYC may have laws about carrying big knives, but none on buying and owning them. (Thankfully!  Not so lucky when it comes to gun ownership though, more on that in a future post.)  When shopping for a fixed-blade knife, rule number one is to make sure it's a full-tang blade.  Full-tang blade knifes are when the metal of the blade goes through the middle of the handle and ends at the bottom.  This makes the knife much stronger, and keeps the design simple.  The less parts there are, the better.  Next thing I suggest looking at is what the blade is made of.  There are a plethora of metals on the market these days, each one stronger and more expensive then the next.  Strong is great and all, as it can take a beating when you attempt to do something stupid with your delicate blade like cut down a tree, just like you saw on TV!  (Don't use your blade for stupid things please, if you break it, your screwed.)  Strong is not great when you have to sharpen the blade after it becomes dull and all you have is a ceramic rod or a wet rock to sharpen your blade with.  Unless your a master sharpener, you will have a real problem getting a fine edge on your knife if it's made of a tough metal.  I personally prefer, and suggest carbon steel.  It is a softer metal, which makes it much easier to sharpen.  It also has the added benefit of creating a spark to start a fire if struck with a sharp object like a rock edge.  Carbon steel needs a bit more attention then its harder brethren, and should be dried before stored.  You should also do your best not to abuse it by attempting to cut down trees, throwing it or digging it into the ground.  

     The last thing you should look for is a good sharpening bevel or primary grind.  A bevel is where the edge begins, typically in the center of the knife, and gets finer until it becomes the fine edge.  Unfortunately, many modern knife makers no longer use the bevel.  It has become decoration, as it serves no other purpose.  Modern knives have a secondary grind of the edge making it sharp, but hard to sharpen.  A wedge or chisel shaped point is easier to sharpen as the bevel sits into the sharpener, taking the guess work out of trying to figure out where the edge is suppose to be.  A master sharpener can put an extremely fine secondary grind on a blade making the knife super fine, but most of us are not masters, and I find that the easier to sharpen in the field, the better.  

     Which brings me to why I don't suggest using a folding knife as your primary knife.  I am not a fan of products that have a lot of working parts.  The most functional tools in the world are simplistic in design, and don't rely on many parts.  The same should apply to your knife, as it's one of the most important pieces of equipment you can have on you in the bush or during a disaster. 

     So where does that leave us?  A fixed carbon steel, full-tang blade with a wide bevel.  The beautiful part of carbon steel blades, is that they tend to be very reasonably priced.  In fact Mora, a Swedish knife company, makes an excellent assortment of carbon steel blades priced in the $15-$20 range.  I have owned and used Mora's blades for a few years and I am very impressed with the quality of their blades.  Their carbon steel knives come in all different shapes and sizes.  I suggest the blade be no longer then 4 inches if you are going to use it as a neck knife.  If you need something a little bit bigger, Mora offer's a few larger sizes as well.  Here is a great web site that has a full catalog of Mora knives, as well as many other Swedish knife companies that I suggest looking at.  If your new to knives, the Mora Clipper I list below, is a great starter knife, as well as a great back-up knife.  You can also find my favorite Mora knife the S-2 here.  Since carbon steel blades are very reasonably priced, I suggest owning a few.  The following are a list of a few that Amazon offers. 


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