punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Lessons in Knifery

I worked in the knife industry for several years, and even to this day, I am rather snobbish about it. A good knife is a wonderful thing in the right hands. It's a basic human tool, one of mankind's FIRST tools, elegant and graceful in the hands of a master, and dangerous in the hands of a fool.

When I worked in the knife shop, most of our repair/replacement jobs started with the customer saying, "Well, I loaned this to a friend of mine..." I heard them all. The most common stories were people using them as pry bars, cutting things they shouldn't, hammering things with the handle, and the most common was someone just goofing around. We had a saying, "If someone asks to use your knife, there's probably a good reason they don't have one."

When I was in scouts, they were really thorough with knife care and safety. We were issued some Ulster 3-bladed folding pocket knife, and I paid extra for the one with the Philips's head. We had exercises of how to handle a knife while cutting, carrying, handing off, and general care. When cutting, we were told to cut away from ourselves, a practice that has spared me many deep gashes in my life. You never know when the knife will slip. You were also taught not to cut things that harm your knife, like barbed wire or really hard wood. We were strictly told to carry a folding knife folded, a straight knife in a sheath, or if we have neither, pointed downwards away from you. When handing off a knife of any kind, face your victi--er, buddy handle-side first, so when they grab for it, they don't slice their fingers open, revealing their sweet, juicy, nourishing ... life fluid... er, sorry. You never run through a crowd with an exposed knife, and if you are carrying an open blade, you should make wide berth and announce something like, "coming through, watch out, exposed blade!" That made you look geeky, so we usually just sheathed it. In the SCA, anytime anyone draws a blade, they are supposed to yell, "DRAW!" and usually no one opens a blade in a crowd, anyway. The general care was to keep the knife sharp, because a sharp knife didn't slip as much as a dull knife, and you didn't have to work as hard to cut something. A dull knife will make you press hard, and if you slip, the inertia could stab you or something close to you. You also had to keep your knife clean and properly oiled, and when we were inspected, that was checked.

Some kids never got knives. My parents were pretty cool about it, but some scout parents were afraid to let their kids near a sharp object. Those kids were pretty dangerous because you never could predict what would happen if they got around one. Some were terrified of them. Others craved them a little too much. In either case, they didn't have experience with knives, and saw them not as tools, but as weapons of fear they would either be a victim of, or cause on others. The former were not so bad, they just needed supervision because sometimes those who are afraid of getting cut cut themselves as part of some self-fulfilling prophesy. The latter, though, the ones who thought knives were cool weapons used by some media stereotype, like ninjas or something. I recall one kid in our troup got in a lot of trouble because he used pocket knives as throwing knives into trees (bad idea). My nose has a small scar from another kid who used a meat cleaver as part of a game where he played Jason from those slasher films, and he accidentally hit me across the bridge of my nose. You can't tell with my glasses, but I have a scar where the blade cut down into the cartilage, but didn't cut all the way through, so all I needed was a few stitches.

I used my scout knife even long after I left scouts. I used it so much, I broke the Philips's head right off. I still have the knife, but it lies in a safe place now.

When I started working for CK&T, I met a lot of characters. The first knife I bought from there was a Swiss Army Knife, a Victorinox Swisschamp, which was the model with everything (now the current Swisschamp has like 5-6 more things on it). I could afford it because I got it at cost. I kept it in my Zermatt pouch until it wore out, and in my backpack since then. Right after I felt CK&T, a friend of mine in Maryland knew this family gun store that was closing down, and I got a Spyderco Delcia which I used almost exclusively until a new workplace got "itchy" about carrying knives (as part of a broad and vague policy). I don't work there anymore, but now I carry at my hip a Leatherman Wave, a gift from Christine a few years ago after being jealous of her Leatherman (which she got as an award for outstanding volunteer service).

In all those years, I have rarely loaned out my knife to anyone. Most of those times were when my knives were broken or chipped. My Swisschamp has a nick in the plastic shell when someone tried to use it as a hammer, and a chipped blade where someone tried to pry off a screw. My Spyderco knife has multiple nicks and a chipped tip when someone used it to saw through wire, and another guy wanted to "test if it would stick into a tree" (ass). Even my Leatherman has a broken tip on the blade because ... well, I did that. I dropped it onto a hard floor. But I use that Leatherman about 2-3 times a day for various things. It never leaves my side unless I am forced to keep it home (formal events, airplane trips, and the like). Why did I loan it out at all? Only because I had to get someone out of trouble; several times at cons and a few times at work, where saying, "I never loan out my knife," would not be seen well.

I have never used my knife in fighting. First, I don't get into fights, and second, pulling a knife in a fight is really a bad idea. A Judo champ once told me "never be the first to pull out the weapon, because then you have escalated the fight beyond you hands." I wouldn't know how to use a knife in a fight, anyway. And if they have a gun, then what? A Smith and Wesson beats and Ace of Blades any day.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000443.html
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