Sharp Knives for the Dull Wallet
The following article has been contributed by Nathaniel Kincaid
Wilderness and survival are usually joined together like a bullet rammed into a shell. In the shadowy forest of their definitions lurks the glint of the blade. From man’s conception they have adored the blade; whether it be a knife, a dagger, or a sword. In our short heritage, Generals have treasured the seductive curve of the saber. Doughboys in World War I felt the slap of their tall bayonets as they paced in foreign trenches. In Vietnam, dark bulky daggers clung to Marines as they penetrated the death jungles. Today, we are still invariably drawn to worship the blade.
No post, or video, on a survival site is complete without a long tally of modern knives. Yet today, the hoard of knives in production is so vast, a wise choice in selecting one can be a daunting task.
While I may dream of finding a dusty knife at a pawnshop and noticing in a split second the butterfly wings of the Benchmade brand I’m well aware this is unlikely. I squirm in frustration as article after article flings out review of fantasy knives. Perhaps a good quarter of survival enthusiast live in situations where $300 is just a bit too much for a new knife. So how about taking a second look at some of the ugly duckling of knives that never get any press.
The Lowly Utility Knife.
Years ago, as a boy, I handled with joy a beautiful pocket knife crafted in Ireland. But soon, I realized that the blade dulls quickly. True knife sharpening not only can be a daunting task but also time intensive. I know purist grouse that such fast fading skills should be relearned no matter the cost in time, but sometimes I’m just lazy.
Years ago some brilliant engineer plucked up the humble carpet cutter utilized by thousands of leathery handed laborers and converted it into an even more portable tool. Recently the market has exploded, and I have joined the crowd that just can’t have enough of these tools.
The Kobalt speed release utility knife is a capital example. Able to be purchased at under $15 you can’t go wrong. The belt clip on the knife’s side is aggressive in it’s hold. The hard plastic handle seems sturdy with a grip enhancing texture. The blade whips out with a press of the button and a flick of the wrist. I know this doesn’t excite most people. But I love cheap things that just work!
Over the years probably millions of carpets have been vanquished by the teeth of the razor blade. Just a month or so ago, I flicked open my Kobalt knife and began paring off wood splinters to start a fire. At home, my knife opens those stubborn plastic cases that hold your kid’s toys captive. The chief advantage of this knife is that you can always have a blade razor sharp in seconds. Whether you’re cutting rope, or duct tape, or even shaving wood for a fire, you can count on a razor edge on this knife. Utility knives now come in every size color and shape. So far this is my favorite to date.
The Hybrid Utility Knife
Now a flock of new knives have begun to bloom. The Sheffield 12339 Rhino Lock-back Utility Knife combines the utility of the utility knife with a more conventional replaceable blade. I was thrilled when I saw these. It seemed like a brilliant idea, and I still think it is. But unfortunately it seems most of these knives and the blades are limited to sale on Amazon and the blades only truly fit the Sheffield knife. I have almost bought these blades just to carry in my bug out gear, but so far at about $10 for a couple blades, at last check, I haven’t made the leap.
The Surgical Knife
The Havalon Knives have caught on with hunters with their coy style. Marrying a surgeons scalpel with a hunters knife again births a new genius.
Gerber also has a similar knife and I hope others follow suit driving the prices down even further. On a good day, the Gerber Vital can be found for around $20 or so. Ebay can supply an endless amount of cheap blades for these handy deer skinners. If you really feel cheap you can even buy the medical handle for about $6 to attach these lightning sharp blades to.
The Outdoor Edge
Some people will look at your utility knife, whatever species it may be, and chortle at such a thin blade. For years, utility blades have been hacking through carpet which is far from easy with its highways of thread fiber. Yet still, scoffers will be found.
The advantage of the Outdoor Edge brand of knives is that it lends a spine to the utility knife family. While blades can easily come and go, at the top, the spine lends a stiff support. The knife also comes with its own pouch for belt carry. What I find most exciting is that all these knives can be had for under $50.
The Case for the Humble Utility Knife
I still remember handing my little pocket knife over to my Grandfather and watching sparks fly as he sent the blade skimming across his bench grinder. It was crudely effective. New bright scars would be embedded into my small blade. Within a couple cuts, I would need a new surgery preformed. I still wonder in almost reverence at the select few who can hone a knife to razor sharp. Those with eyes that can set the perfect angle again and again on the stone. Those who take the time to produce a knife that can send hair on your arms falling like a forest being timbered.
But today, my little pocket knife is downstairs in my drawer. You can sharpen a blade again and again relaxing to the buzz of metal against stone or diamond. Or you can invest in a kit, cheap or expensive, that almost gets the knife sharp, but as for me? I would just rather change my blade.
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