Here is the second instalment in our series of short articles covering useful gear. No one that knows me has been spared some sort of spiel about the importance of a good knife, so it seems fitting that I give a rundown on here.
Seeing as I was presented with my first work knife on my fourth birthday, I can say I’ve grown to recognise the purpose of having a good quality one on hand at all times. It never ceases to amaze me who ends up asking to borrow your knife: people you would’ve expected to know better and who otherwise are quick to point to themselves as ‘a real bushie’ or whatever they reckon.
As far as I’m concerned, and for anyone planning on spending time outdoors (even indoors for that matter), a good quality knife is the most important tool you can own. A good quality work knife should incorporate the following:
- it should be made of high quality steel that will not tarnish even when repeatedly exposed to salt, and which will take and hold a razor-sharp edge;
- it should be of a folding lock-blade design; and
- it should be small enough to be versatile, and of simple design.
Steel quality is paramount for all knives. If it can’t be sharpened and hold its edge, then it’s not worth having. Look for names synonymous with quality and attention to detail. Think names like Victorinox, Taylor’s Eye Witness and Imperial Schrade to name a few. Victorinox produce high grade stainless steel which will never tarnish, and while I haven’t tested the others with sustained salt water use, their steel quality as a knife blade is top notch.
Folding pocket knives make things much easier when carrying them around. For the added safety provided by lock-blade designs, these are desirable. While many high quality stockman type knives are designed without locking blades, the potential for accidentally closing the blade on one’s fingers is a risk – especially when dealing with struggling animals.
Like stockmen that wear black hats, big pocket knives are commonly encountered when dealing with someone who doesn’t actually do a lot. Remember that a small knife can do the work of a big one, but not vice-versa. For a versatile working pocket knife, a 4 inch blade is about as long as I would consider. Just to be clear, I’ve killed cattle with the 100mm blade of the Victorinox (pictured) and watched dad bone out deer with a blade smaller than the pictured Schrade & Scrimshaw. Don’t bother with deep blades either as these are a lot less versatile. A slim, ‘straight’ blade is much more useful than a deep and deeply curved one.
As can be seen in the photos, I make knife pouches in a horizontal plane. This pouch design is nothing new and came about when stockmen wanted a comfortable way to wear their knives while on horseback. As an additional comfort, the forward position of the knife pouch reduces chances of catching on things and/or unwittingly losing the knife.
A lot of people nowadays have bought into the ‘multi-tool’ trend. All well and good; but apart from being a ‘jack of all trades but master of none’ made from steel of (in my opinion) questionable quality – if for some reason you lose it, you’ve suddenly lost your tool kit. Instead I will tend to carry two knives on my belt – keeping one for fine work where a razor blade is required, and one for hard work. I take every opportunity to ensure both are shaving sharp. And if I need pliers I take pliers. Not a multi-tool.