Cut to the Chase


Well, now that the weather has moderated a little bit, I figured that we can get back to tools. This week we’re going to talk about one one of the oldest tools of all – the knife. Who knows how many thousands of years ago the first caveman found a natural stone with a sharp edge and figured out that it did a much better job of cutting things than he could with his teeth. Probably only the hammer (a handy shaped stone to pound things) is older. Early man soon learned to make knives for himself, first with flint, then with obsidian (volcanic glass), then came the metals – copper, bronze then finally iron and steel. The modern knife is one of the few general purpose tools that is still used in this increasingly specialized world, and today we will cover the general types available.

The most common type of knife is a small folding knife that is carried in the pocket – the aptly named “pocket knife”. Few people don’t remember their first pocket knife fondly. I believe that my Dad gave me my first knife when I was in the third grade. I carried it all the time, even to school, better not try that today! Small pocket knives are sometimes also called “pen knives” because you needed to carry one to sharpen your quill (now that was before my time). They usually have a large and small blade and are about 2” long closed. Large pocket knives often have three blades with differently shaped points to do different jobs. Large pocket knives can measure about 3” long, but much larger that that and they become obtrusive to carry in the pocket.

Larger folding knives are made, but they are usually carried in a sheath on your belt. Most of them also have only one blade with a locking feature to keep it open, hence the common name “lock blades”. These are usually carried for hunting, camping or utility use.

The largest knives of all are non-folding or fixed blade knives. Most people would call them a hunting or Bowie knife after Jim Bowie the famous frontiersman. They are used for hunting, camping and in the old days for fighting.

The last type of knife is the “Swiss Army” or “scout” type folding knife, this has one or two blades, but also has several other utility tool blades thrown in. As a tinkerer this is what I’ve carried for many years. The utility blades range from your basic can opener to punches, scissors and even computer memory chips. Just remember that if you add too many features the knife can become too thick to fit in your pocket and the larger ones come with belt sheathes like lock blades.

That about covers it for pocket knives. Any good hardware store (like ours!) offers a good selection of knives ranging from inexpensive imported ones to the best quality “Made in USA” Case brand knives that any fellow would like to get for Christmas. Just remember that like ladies’ shoes, no man can have too many pocket knives.