Monday, February 10, 2014

EDU: Everyday Used Pocketknives

I get a lot of emails asking what pocketknives I carry.  Allow me to differentiate between Everyday Carry (EDC) and Everyday Used (EDU) pocketknives.  An EDC pocketknife might indeed be carried but is seldom used.  On the other hand, an EDU pocketknife sees action all day long.  It’s a knife usually so worn and frequently sharpened its lifetime is limited to only a few years.  From cutting bailing twine to garden stakes or opening crates and boxes or whittling pieces of wood to clipping small branches to severing rope and wire and perhaps even trimming fingernails; the EDU pocketknife is undoubtedly the most frequently used tool on any ranch.  Of course, one’s EDU pocketknife is a purely subjective decision and I’ve seen all makes and models overtime.  I’ve examined EDU folders with chipped scales and missing blades and some so crudely sharpened it’s amazing they work.  I’ve seen all sorts of brands.  

Most ranch-hands carry folders they purchased at the pulga or flea market.  These are economic decisions based on salary and other pressing needs.  Besides, they know the knife might see torturous use so they’re not about to spend a week’s wages on something that will be quickly marred, scratched or even broken.  They probably consider anything over about fifteen bucks both frivolous and imprudent.

I’ve seen knife forum posts where someone asks, “Show me what EDC folder you carried today.”  Invariably the knives displayed are shiny and clean and most of them look practically new.  These are knives carried for no other reason than the joy of owning and toting a folder.  Nothing wrong with that but those knives might see nothing more during the day than opening a letter or slicing a piece of cheese at the deli.  But EDU pocketknives (especially those used on ranches, the outback and way out yonder) are something else entirely.  Just the other day a fellow was out here helping me with some work and he pulled out a stainless lock-blade with skeletonized scales and clip-point that was deeply scored.  The steel was 440A and the scales were plastic.  The bevel looked like a cross between convex, concave and even Scandi.  The knife didn’t come that way but the young vaquero carrying it didn’t seem all that concerned with which way the bevel went as long as it cut whatever needed cutting.  He took a segment of electrical wire and then pulled his folder from its leather sheath and went to work gnawing the blade through the copper.  I didn’t say anything (after all it was his knife) but afterwards he turned to me and asked for a file.  There was a crosscut steel file on one of the workbenches and I pointed to it.  He grabbed it then gave his knife a quick once over.  I could see burrs forming along the edge.  So I asked him for the knife and then gave it a few swipes on a leather strop.  “Just like the barber shop,” he said.  Then I tested the edge and sure enough it was sharp so we went back to work.

Mind you some ranch-hands carry a couple of knives: A folder and a fixed blade.  But that’s not very common and as mentioned above they are invariably inexpensive blades.  I’ve gotten a few emails about “buying American” and that sort of thing.  Unfortunately, American-Made has become a niche item of sorts.  Just like the $140 American-made Levi jeans compared to the $30 foreign imports.  I’m not much of a Levi’s fan but I hope that makes the point.  The same people who want to sell you something for an “American Price” will turn around and buy their goods at a foreign-made price.  I’ve seen that too many times to be swayed otherwise.  But I saw a documentary recently about inflation and costs and a system that prints money based on thin air with ever increasing debt and….well, I’d best get back to talking about knives.

Pictured above are my three EDU pocket knives.  They’re not all that pretty but they work and that’s what counts.  The yellow scaled folder is made by Case and the dark scaled knife is a Böker, both carbon steel.  I assume you all recognize the Swiss Army Knife.  And yes, I carry three EDU knives and they all get used every day, all day and into the night.  I want them razor sharp and so I put them to my little diamond stone frequently.  What good is a knife, after all, if it’s not sharp?

I’ve got other knives and if you’ve perused this commentary you know I think fondly about knives.  I even make my own knives for woodcarving and chopping.  But my most used knives are folders.  From making arrows to bows to fishing hooks and barbs and all the things mentioned at the top of this piece my EDU jacks are always within grasp.  Somewhere down the line they’ll wear out just like I’ll wear out (and you will too) and the knives pictured will get retired and put in a drawer somewhere.  Well, you can extrapolate the rest, I’m sure.