This is about the knife that I seem to use for everything except what it was designed for.
The knife that I am writing about today would probably be referred to by most people as a “hunter”, or “hunting knife”. I have not used it for any “hunting” related chores but I have used it for a myriad of other things.
The 4 7/8” blade is forged from 1084 carbon steel and the tiger maple handle is separated from the blade by a stainless steel guard. It was made by American Bladesmith Society board member Bill Wiggins as a demonstration piece. Since it was a demo knife, and time was limited, Bill didn’t rub the blade out and it was left with some grinding marks, perhaps what makers might call a belt finish. “Belt finish”, “working finish”, and “forge finish” are terms that some makers use when describing blade finishes. Often, although not always, knives with these terms attached to them appear to my eye to simply be “unfinished”. Not that any makers care how I interpret the wording they use in describing their knives.
But, to get back on topic…..The lack of a rubbed blade out blade finish doesn’t bother me in this instance; I use the knife on a regular basis and fruits and vegetables don’t take long to patina carbon steel. Although this knife would be much more at home as a hunting or general use belt knife around camp, I use it to prepare food, open or cut down shipping boxes, and many other daily cutting chores in my house.
Before you say it, I know that it is not the ideal box cutter or kitchen knife, and I do possess those types of knives, so why do I select it over its better suited relatives for those mundane tasks? It’s simple really; the knife holds its edge and is very, very comfortable in my hand. But I suppose the best thing about it is that I like Bill and it’s a pleasure to use something that he made.
copyright Bill North 2014
Recently I had the pleasure of attending a cookout with several knifemakers. Excellent deer back strap was served; the host did provide forks but no knives. That shouldn’t have been a problem; one would think that since we were all knife makers and/or knife enthusiasts we each probably would have had a knife with us. Yes, that is probably what one would think, but as it turns out one would be wrong.
There were four of us at the table, three knife makers of varying experience and capabilities, and myself. I used my relatively inexpensive Solingen folder to cut the food on my plate. The maker across from me also used his factory made pocket knife, and the maker on his right used a beautiful little fixed blade of his making which he carried in a pocket sheath. The third maker apparently was not carrying any knife at all or chose not to use it if he did have one. He borrowed the knife the cook had been using to prepare the food.
I grew up in a rural area where just about every man and boy that I knew carried some sort of pocket knife. I have carried and used knives nearly every day of my life for more years I care to recall. I am always surprised at men that don’t carry a pocket knife in a rural environment or in an urban environment for that matter. I am even more surprised to see someone who says they are a knife maker or knife enthusiast at a cook out at a cabin in the country without a knife of some sort. To me it is a puzzle.
I suppose that it is possible that some makers view themselves as makers of knives and not users of knives, but what better way is there to learn about knives and what is desired in a using knife than by actually carrying and using one?
I am not sure what I should deduce about the knife borrowing maker/enthusiast from this event. Maybe his knife was in his other pants, maybe for some reason he didn’t want the others of us to see whatever knife he was carrying, or maybe he doesn’t normally carry a knife. I am ignorant as to the answer. The conundrum remains.
copyright Bill North 2013
To me there is pleasure in using tools and knives are no exception. Several times each day I use knives for something, opening mail or shipping boxes, cutting cordage, cutting down the fore mentioned shipping boxes for the recycle bin, cutting whatever needs cutting in the workshop, cutting food, and on and on. For me, a knife is a very useful tool.
There is a type of knife that for lack of a better term I call “simple knives”. I am not sure how to describe simple knives but to paraphrase United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart; I know them when I see them. I suppose that when speaking of simple knives what I really mean is uncomplicated. Uncomplicated in that they are basic with a part that one grasps to hold and a part that does the cutting. Of course knives exist that are composed of just these two parts or sections and others exist that have several parts but are still what I would call uncomplicated.
An excellent example of the type of knife that I am talking about is the French made Opinel folding knife. Opinels have a blade, a handle which is just a slotted piece of wood, a rotating collar that locks the blade open or closed, and a pin that the blade pivots on. No springs, fancy handle scales, or handle liners, but still it is capable of performing the same tasks as most if not all other single blade folders. And it performs these tasks more inexpensively that most of its glossier relatives.
Opinel folding knives come in a multitude of sizes and some different blade shapes including a folding saw. The knife pictured in this post is a number 10 which is not a small knife. The blade on mine is 3 7/8” long and about .088 thick at the spine just ahead of the handle. The knife is about 9” overall when open. It’s uncomplicated but it works just fine for cutting up something for a snack, a whole meal or most anything else that needs cutting around my house.
copyright Bill North 2013