Pocket Knives! (A Primer)
What to consider?
This will be an introductory post in a sub-series on pocket knives within the overall EDC series. It’s like a dream within a dream. (Inception style!) This initial post will serve as a brief overview of the forthcoming series. It will be updated with links as each of the more thorough articles go live. When you are considering what knife to buy for your EDC you will need to consider the following main factors:
- Blade Type
- Blade Steel
- Fixed or Folder
The reason why you carry your pocket knife will determine almost everything about it. Most people only need their EDC knife to do everyday tasks. The majority of the tasks that you use it for will be simple things like opening up boxes, opening mail, cutting tags, cutting fruit, opening milk bags, digging out slivers (wash thoroughly should the two previous tasks be reversed), whittling and many other moderate cutting tasks. Because of this you will most likely not need your knife to be the toughest on the market but you do need it to be durable and at least reasonably versatile. (But that’s a little sneak peek of my final conclusion.) I use my knife at least 15 times a day for tasks similar to the ones just mentioned. For those of you who are asking “why carry a pocket knife?” I can only respond by saying, “You never know how much you’re going to use it until you actually start to carry it.”
The “why” determines all of the “what’s.”
Size (It Does Matter)
The size of EDC knives can vary a lot. I know some guys that carry Zero Tolerance knives sporting a 4 1/2“ blade. They are mean looking knives! But, these blades aren’t practical for the average office worker. You do need to be aware of the laws regarding blade size where you live. There are some jurisdictions that ban knives over a specific blade length from street carry. If you live in a place with blade length restrictions then you it will definitely effect which options are available to you. (Most places that have restrictions require the blade to be under 3 1/2”.) Your wardrobe will also play a role in this decision as larger knives aren’t as easily stashed on your person.
Your intended purpose will play the most vital role in your decision regarding the size of the knife that you decide to carry. If you think that you could possibly get stranded in the wilderness then you should definitely carry something that is a little bigger. But, if you are a suburbanite commuter who is just opening boxes and mail and maybe using it to eat some fruit then a massive blade is not necessary.
Bigger is not always better.
This topic has been discussed ad nauseam on online forums. There are many different types of blade tips as well as edges and for every variance there is a loud and passionate fan club. There are sound arguments for every single type of tip. But, (as with every factor) keep in mind that you need to know what you are going to be using your knife for the most. If you are going to be embarking on a wide array of tasks then you will want a tip that gets you the best overall performance for multiple purposes. (A drop point is a very versatile tip.) If, however, you know that there are certain tasks that you will be doing on a regular basis then you should consider getting something a little more specialized. (ex. A tanto is very good for piercing.)
Based on my observations, the strongest debate rages around edge type. Edge refers to the part of the blade that is going to be doing the cutting. “The cutting edge.” There are two primary options; a blade with a “combo” edge or a straight edge. A combo edge has a portion of the blade (usually the part closest to the handle) serrated. This is supposed to make cutting rope and other materials easier. In contrast, a straight edge has no serration and just a sharp blade. Again, the core of this debate will come down to the intended usage of the blade.
What you plan on cutting should be the deciding factor on tip style and blade type.
I had no idea that there was such a massive online forum for discussing knife blade steel. But, I also had no idea how many different types of steel there were. Before I was thoroughly educated by “steel snobs” I thought that you could get a carbon blade or a stainless steel blade. I thought “stainless must be better.” I had no idea that there are many, many, I repeat, many, different types of stainless steel. I also didn’t know that a high carbon blade would have so many fans. (I am becoming one.)
Here is what I learned. A high quality steel will not only be corrosion resistant but will also be hard, durable and keep its edge for longer. What most of us need to think about is our budget. The highest quality steels will run upwards of several hundred to several thousand dollars. As such, those of us who are budget conscious will often need to make a bit of compromise in one or two areas. If you want a cheaper knife that keeps a solid edge you might need to compromise on corrosion resistance. But, if you know that your knife won’t be used in wet situations on a regular basis then this should be a reasonable compromise.
The budget conscious EDCer will have to decide where the best compromise should be given.
Fixed or Folder
What this means is simply, “does the blade fold into the handle or is it ‘fixed’ in place.” Most prefer to EDC a folding knife because it is just easier to carry. But, a fixed blade knife is often more durable and can often have many more uses. Without question the difficulty with a fixed blade knife is carryability as you will most likely need some form of sheath. A folding knife can shrink down in size whereas a fixed blade cannot. If you are planning on using it in a lot of wilderness or survival situations then a fixed blade will often be the better knife to choose. This discussion comes down to carry ability vs. functionality.
Carryability vs. Functionality
Once you begin the wonderful process of knife shopping you will quickly realize that there is a myriad of style options to choose from. Knife handles can be made of many different kinds of material. Blades have different styles of paint or steel finishes (stone wash, damascus steel…etc). The style of a knife doesn’t necessarily effect its functionality. But, you may decide that you like the look of a particular blade type over that of another. Also, the type of knife that you want might not be available in the style that you want. If you find yourself in either of these situations you must make the decision as to how much you value form over function. I haven’t been forced to make this crucial choice so far because I prefer my knives to have a bit of a tactical look to them (basically, this means that they are black) and often a “tactical” edition is available.
How much do you value form over function?
So there you have it. I hope that you enjoyed the quick rundown on how to pick your EDC pocket knife. Stay tuned over the next few months as I continue to discuss each factor in greater depth.