The Good Knife

Sept. 11, 2009

Iíve been shopping for a good knife.
†† Itís become increasingly clear to me that a good knife does not come cheap. In fact, for what Iíve spent on ďbargainsĒ in the last decade I could have bought a lifetime knife.
†† When I was a lad, my Uncle Ray gave me my first pocketknife, as was tradition. I remember it well, can see it in my mindís eye, exactly. What I do not recall is how on earth I dropped it down a crawfish hole, what I was doing with my knife at or near a crawfish hole. I remember getting a shovel and trying to recover it, but after a hot afternoon of digging, gave up and donated it to whatever Chinese lad happened to find it.
†† My dad replaced the knife Uncle Ray gave me with several Barlows over time. They came with either red or brown plastic handles. I disliked the red, looked too gauche. Breakage, further losses, and by the time I was old enough to start purchasing my own pocket knives, Dad indicated I could have gone to college on him, if he hadnít spent all his money on Barlow pocket knives, so I had to get a disability grant owing to the fact that Iím blind in one eye and canít see too great out the other and I have a contrary back. The eyes are bad because someone tried to straighten them, was only partially successful, but didnít make me wear a patch over the left one due to ďlazy eye.Ē As for the back, I apparently also lost vertebrae in the lower-mid area down a crawfish hole somewhere and it occasionally gives me great pains.
†† I owned a few knives as a man, most of which failed in one way or the other. I quit carrying a pocketknife years ago, and really only need a knife to go afield or aífishing now.
†† There was a gun and knife show in Franklin a few years ago and I picked up a Ruger P89 and a hunting knife by Smith and Wesson. I donít hunt, of course, but I firmly believe you donít go out in the woods without a good knife, or even fishing without a good knife.
†† Little did I know that Smith and Wesson may make great guns, but they donít know jack about making knives. It was the most pitiful excuse for a cutting instrument I had ever seen, that is, until I bought another one by Winchester, which promptly took first place honors.
†† Itís a pretty thing, a hunting knife with about a five-inch blade, rosewood handle, fits nice in the hand. Problem is, you canít sharpen it. Now listen, I can sharpen chisels and plane blades, scrapers and drill bits, but I have never, ever been successful at putting a sharp edge on this knife. I bought sharpeners, I tried diamond, ceramic, Japanese and Arkansas stones, nothing will put an edge on this knife sufficient to cut anything but butter.
†† So all I could do was sharpen to cut butter and go afield and hope that, should I get hopelessly lost and must stave off starvation, there will be a stick of butter around.
†† Well, Iíve finally grown sick and tired of all this and have been shopping for a quality hunting knife in my budget. Since there are none, I have filed loan papers with my bank.
†† A good knife, of the fixed-blade, sheathed variety one wears on the hip, should be attractive and light. I am not into survival knives that probably didnít appear as they do now until the Rambo movies. Sure, hidden inside the screw-top lid of the handle are thread, a sewing needle, first aid supplies, matches, fishing line, hook, sinker, a GPS, VHS radio, fold-out posters of edible plants and poisonous snakes and signed letters of transit out of Casablanca. But thatís just too much knife for a little guy.
†† A good knife should be sharp and stay that way as long as it can. It must be quality steel to do this, and the steel should also be of fine quality to strike a spark on flint. It should be shiny and mirror-finished (this ainít guerilla warfare, itís fishing and hiking) and should not have a compass in the handle butt. I have two GPS receivers, three handheld compasses and a fair sense of direction so long as Iím not using my left eye, keep your compass out of my knife handle.
†† A good knife does not come with a rubber or plastic handle. Now, hear me out: Such knives may be sharp, reliable, functional and dependable. But a good knife comes with wrapped leather, rosewood or stag antler handles, in addition to the properties just mentioned. A good knife rides in a leather sheath, not polyester, nylon or vinyl.
†† Moreover, a good knife should have a handle feeling perfectly matched to your hand. It should not be so slick as to allow the knife to twist in your hand nor should it be so coarse as to be an ugly duckling. The knife should slide free of the sheath easily Ė you donít want fuss with a stubborn sheath that wonít let your knife go if you are tangled in a catfish trot line or playing chicken with a bear.
†† A good knife should have a bit of turquoise on the handle, but thatís next to impossible to find so I dropped it from my criteria list. Iíve got several picked out but just canít make up my mind. A good knife should be thought over very carefully. You donít want to find out itís not a good knife, when you need it to be.