Tuesday, February 23, 2010

EDC Knives

My first two choices for EDC (Every Day Carry) knives are:

1. GENUINE Swiss Army knife (don't bother with imitations they are all junk with red handles). The most used "blades" on my Swiss Army knives are the toothpick, tweezers and scissors, but I once sawed through a 2X4 with the saw of one of my Swiss Army knives.

2. GENUINE Leatherman Multi-tool (again don't bother with cheap imitations) One of my GENUINE Swiss Army knives has a tiny pair of pliers that might come in handy if working on something really small. For real gripping ability I go with one of my Leatherman Multi-tools with either regular or needle nose pliers.

I can't imagine going into the wilderness without those two tools and I wouldn't want to spend many days in the burbs without them either.

"But Dave," I hear you say, "for WTSHTF or TEOTWAWKI we're gunn'a need a BIG knife." Well yes you will, which is why I own a genuine Randall model #14 with a seven and a half inch blade. It's not for nothing the Mountain Men carried large knives and hatchets as well as smaller knives for skinning and camp chores. The question you have to ask yourself is just what do you expect to be doing with that big knife?

If your survival retreat is anywhere near civilization you'll probably find a GENUINE Swiss Army knife & Leatherman Multi-tool to be the most used ever day carry tool. On the other hand if you plan to be dressing out elk and moose…

GENUINE Swiss Army knives & Leatherman Multi-tools are both "generalist" tools doing many things but not optimized for any one specialized task.

With larger knives you necessarily have to get more specialized. Do you want a hunting knife, a Combat knife, a Survival knife, a Fishing knife or a Skinning knife? All of the aforementioned will do just about anything any of the others will do, but some will perform certain tasks faster or easier (i.e. better) than others.

First you figure out just what it is you want to do with the big knife then you pick a knife that does that.

A quality Bowie knife will kill men and bears, chop down small trees* and impress the heck out of passersby. So will an Arkansas toothpick but it's hard to gut/skin a squirrel or clean a trout with either of them.

On the other hand fishing or skinning knives will kill you just as dead as any combat knife but are ill suited for combat. So what to choose?

If you decide one of the military knives will do what you want done try to buy the real thing. A real Ka-Bar or genuine Pilot's survival knife will outlast those cheap imitations.

Ignoring, for the moment, fantasies of swinging on a vine over a crocodile infested pool of quicksand to cut through the wall of the log cabin with your sheath knife and save the damsel in distress, we must ask ourselves "What will I most likely be doing day in and day out that would require a knife?" Then get a knife that'll do that.

Whether it's the burbs or the bunker, I don't leave home without my Genuine Swiss army knife and/or Genuine Leatherman tool.

*Chopping at small trees with large knives used like an ax is one way to cut young trees, but a knife blade doesn't have the weight of an ax head. Placing the cutting edge of the blade against the sapling and then striking the back of the blade with a small wooden club EXACTLY above the point where the cutting edge meets the sapling concentrates the weight of your club at the point of contact. Be sure to strike with the force of your blow pushing straight down through the blade – NOT at an angle to it.

Use a small log about the size of your forearm as a club and use alternating cuts (from above then from below) just as you would with an ax. This technique doesn't work as well with a standard butcher knife because the thin back edge of the blade of a butcher knife can cut into the log almost as well as the sharp side can cut into the tree.

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GWQ comments:
My EDC is a Leatherman Micra. The folding scissors work well and are handy. It also sounds more "normal" to carry folding scissors than a knife. The bottle opener is a good feature, too. It does have some basic tools and a small blade on it. If TSHTF and I need some of the tools on it, it'll be infinitely better than not having any knife even if it's not as comprehensive as some of the ginormous multitools out there. It's a Leatherman so it's good quality and works.

I like that its small enough to fit inside my key chain pouch. I have my housekeys on the keyring that's attached to a small zippered Coach pouch (look for the mini skinny styles).

In there I have my Micra, an expired drivers license (in case I ever get hit by a car walking the dog and don't have any other ID on me), and some emergency cash (usually $20, right now it's only $5 so I need to add some more).

At last! Something to do with old driver's licenses! That's a great idea.

And, yes, scissors may be as handy to have as pliers if the urgent need ever arises.

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SSM comments:
My EDCK is scissors. They cut paper, tape, and string better than a normal knife and will defend you well in a bad situation. That said I have a slew of knives but from a pure utility perspective, scissors do most cutting tasks a lot better than the latest sexy $200 Benchmade autofolder.

My favorite knife, that said, is the big ol' Cold Steel Vaquero Grande. It will cut down trees about 2" thick in under a minute.

- - - SSM adds:
If you haven't used any Cold Steel products, they're the toughest knives I've ever owned. Shave hair sharp too, out of the box, and after use. Many of their knives use very low carbon, thus very hard and sharp, steels. However, they corrode easier and have to be taken care of.

I have one of their fixed blade Bowie knives too that is about 3/8" thick and is essentially indestructible.

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HCF comments:
My every-day carry is a Leatherman Juice S2. It's small enough to be on a keychain. It has a nice assortment of screwdriver blades, scissors, pliers, and a small knife blade. But my favorite feature is it's BRIGHT SCREAMING ORANGE which makes it hard to lose.

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GH comments:
Mine is simple, it's the minimist Swiss Army knife, [Signature Lite] which has a 1) knife blade and 2) nail file (with flat head screwdriver) on one side, and scissors on the other. The toothpick and tweezers have been replaced with a ballpoint pen and a white LED flashlight which you use by squeezing the handle. About $30, IIRC. The flashlight is surprisingly powerful, considering. I have used it as a signal lamp to get my wife's attention in a large and busy train station, and, obviously, to light the keyhole on the trunk of our van on a dark night. It would certainly be helpful to "flash" a helicopter overhead, should the need arise. I had a previous one for two years without replacing the battery; I did replace the ball point pen once because I used it so much.

This one is even thinner than my last, which was also a Swiss Army knife with 1) knife and 2) can opener (with phillips screwdriver at the top) and on the other side 1) nail file (with flat head screwdriver) and 2) scissors. It also had the ball point pen and LED light, although that one was one of their first models and only came with a red light, which was less useful. I have fairly regular use for the screwdriver(s), but have to be careful not to use the knife handle as the torque mechanism, as they can bend at the hinge if the screw is balky, ruining the knife. There's plenty of "grip" along the knife blade or file blade to accomplish the task.

I find having a ball point with me at all times invaluable, I'm forever having to write down something in the middle of a store, or the name of a CD I found at the "used" store but don't want to buy until I check it out online or something.

Usually there is a toothpick and tweezer nearby, because my wife carries one of the older SAKs [Swiss Army Knives] which has those. The one I have now is the smallest, sleekest yet, and I'd feel lost without it. It's on my keyring always, except going through airports for the obvious reason.

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jC writes:
For years I carried a Buck lock back folding knife in a belt sheath; a strong, easily sharpened useful tool with a legal length. Too many people objected to it as a lethal weapon, so I went to a 3 bladed whittler, probable the most versatile knife around. (see Schrade knives or Case knives)

With the aftermath of 9-11 anything sharp was a reason to call Security as you were most likly an ax murderer, so I clipped a Swiss Army knife to my USB flash drive. Now I was just prepared to file my nails and open letters. But had only one blade [Editor's note some SAK now come with built in USB drives.]

Recently I have been carrying a 2 bladed mini knife. The whole idea is to have a knife that is not a weapon and will not be confiscated. I could stab you right in the heart with the 1 3/8 inch blade and you would live. But you still can't take it into Court or on an airplane. Mine is a Winchester, probably from Walmart sporting goods.

Most used and abused knife?
Murphy knives use a Quality high carbon blade you can hammer on and not worry about breaking it because it is cheap. You can use a propane torch and a ball peen hammer to make a harder blade, but it is a fine work knife for daily use. Check their site for tool box and working knives. I have several; yes they rust so oil them or paint them lightly for a longer life.

No One has mentioned a sharpener. Several survival knives have a stone in the sheath. Not a problem with the 2 sided grey stone. Except they break.

I have a diamond sharpener made by Diamond Machine Technology. It is about 3 1/2 x 1 x 1/4 so it fits anywhere, gives a good edge and lasts a long time. And you can't drop it and break it. Use oil or spit for a better edge, dry if you have to. I have a medium, red stone; it sharpens quickly and gives a good edge.

Somewhere around is a set of 3 Arkansas stones, which I still think puts the ultimate edge on a knife. But you do have to spend the time on it to get a blade you can shave with, and also 2 grades of oil or soapy water.

I am NOT a fan of the round rods. You don't get a good edge and often distort the cutting edge. When you see a chef using one he is often just honing the edge and it takes skill and practice to do it well. DMT has a nice section on sharpening.

I don't have to tell you a Safe Knife is a Sharp knife, you already know that.

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Jmalefyt writes:
Great article, I just wanted to add a few things in the comments to clarify to people reading...

First just so everyone knows there are actually two brands of quality swiss army knives, there is Wenger, and Victorinox. Wenger refers to their knives as GENUINE swiss army knives where as Victorinox calls their's the original swiss army knife. Generally you see more Victorinox swiss army knives and they have a much wider selection and are generally the knife you think of when you see a swiss army knife. That being said Wenger also makes a quality knife that can be relied upon.

I also wanted to add that being high carbon makes a blade steel tougher, the higher the carbon content the better. Carbon content has nothing to do with rust resistance however, the only way to make steels rust resistant is to add other alloys like chromium, vanadium, cobalt, molybdenum etc. I saw someone who left a comment saying that cold steel uses a lower carbon content which makes their blades tougher, which isn't true. Cold steel does use high carbon steel though when compared to other brands they use lower quality steel. Not to say cold steels knives are bad, I own multiple cold steel knives myself and they are excellent, but typically spyderco, benchmade, and kershaw use higher end steels than cold steel. One other knock on cold steel is that all of their knives are made in taiwan which is unfortunate, the quality is still excellent but spyderco and benchmade make their higher end knives right here in the US.

Finally just to get my little bit in(after that whole lot :) ) I EDC a Spyderco Delica, fantastic knife!

Thanks for the note Jmalefyt,
On April 26, 2005 Victorinox acquired Wenger, becoming once again the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Army. Victorinox has stated that it intends to keep both consumer brands intact.

Yes, Spyderco makes some of the best knives around and its Delica line has a well deserved reputation as a handy, quality knife.

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