We are nearing the end of winter, and I'm enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun streaming into the house. I heard my first chickadee mating call this morning when I walked Harley. Both of us perked up our ears to that distinctive "swee-tee" song! The buds on the maple tree are just starting to blush and swell, too. The tap lines will be going up this week for the annual maple harvest.
As you well know, your grammy grew up on a dairy farm. I'm sad you never got to meet my grammy, your great grandmother, Pauline Boodey. She would have loved you dearly! One of her funny habits was sewing a little pocket onto all her work pants to hold her pocketknife. Whether it was cutting the twine from a bale of hay, or fixing fence, she used it constantly.
I like carrying a pocketknife, too. I used to carry a knife that had several different attachments: tweezers, scissors, etc., but now just carry a single blade. Your dad gave me the Opinel Garden Knife, a variation on the famous No.8, that I adore. It's slim size fits my hand exceptionally well, and it's the perfect size for a myriad of little tasks. It slips easily into pockets or my handbag, and I have a clip-on sheath that allows me to still carry it if I don't have pockets. I don't know if 3-1/4" blades will still be legal to carry by the time you read this, but Opinel makes similar knives in much smaller sizes, too.
Choosing a pocket knife
- Choose a knife that has a handle that is the same length as the width of your palm up by your knuckles. For most women this is in the 3" - 3-1/2" range. The blade should also be about the width of your palm. The little Swiss army knives are cute, but their small size makes them hard to hold onto securely.
- Make sure you can open and close the knife easily, and that it locks securely when open. There's a reason Opinel is my favorite knife maker!
- Look for a slim, comfortable handle. Many knives are designed for men's hands. A rounder handle that tapers at the end is generally more comfortable than a flat or chunky design.
- Generally speaking, stainless knives are easier to care for and hold an edge longer, but are more difficult to sharpen. Carbon steel knives have to be kept absolutely dry, go dull more quickly, but also are much easier to put a nice edge on. I like stainless, Dad likes carbon.
- A good knife shouldn't break the bank. My everyday knives are under $20. If I lose or break it, I want to be able to replace it quickly. Some of the knives in my collection are very expensive, and I'd be heartbroken if I lost them. One of the knives, my Grohmann, is actually in the MoMA.
- Consider your wardrobe. If you generally don't wear clothes with pockets, try to find a knife that has a clip that can slide over your waistband, or find/make a nice sheath. As cute as your gram's knife pockets were on a 70 year old, they probably won't be the fashion statement you want to make!
- Dad's good enough at making knives that he can regrind a blade into a more useable shape or change the scales if you want something particular. I know he'd love to do that for you, so never hesitate to ask. When you're ready for a custom fixed blade camping knife, just let him know, and he can fire up the forge!
36 Uses for a Pocketknife
- Opening boxes
- Opening letters
- Opening bags/packaging from DVD's to dog food
- Trimming threads
- Cleaning out gunk in crevices
- First Aid: Cutting tape, bandages, etc.
- Paring/Cutting fruit or veggies
- Cutting cheese
- Making tinder for a fire
- Scraping a windshield
- Stripping wire
- Trimming zip ties to length (or removing them)
- Spreading pb, butter etc.onto crackers or bread
- Cleaning & paring broken fingernails
- Cutting store tags off of garments
- Scraping stickers, paint, rust, & sticky stuff off of glass/metal
- Pruning houseplants
- Clipping a coupon or article
- Tightening a screw
- Cutting rope/twine from clotheslines to trussing roast chickens
- Digging weeds out of garden beds
- Cutting thorns and vines out of flower beds.
- Shaving soap into flakes
- Harvesting veggies
- Harvesting wild edibles
- Cutting or pruning flowers and herbs
- Cutting old clothing into rags
- Removing a splinter
- Cutting Fishing line and field dressing a fish
- Sharpening a pencil
- Sharpening a stick for s'mores or roasting over a campfire
- Sharpening sticks for garden uses (support poles, etc.)
- Scraping mud or other undesirables off shoe soles.
- Whittling. Kids will sit transfixed and watch you transform a branch into any number of little toys.
- Impressing guys. Just watch every guys' eyes in the room light up when you pull out a knife and sharpen a pencil or tighten a screw.
5 Rules for Pocket Knives
- Keep it sharp! A dull knife is a dangerous knife. A piece of glass or plexiglass with silicon carbide (wet/dry auto) sandpaper affixed to it with spray adhesive makes an inexpensive sharpener Generally speaking 600 grit to start and 1000 grit to finish are all you'll need unless you get a big nick in your blade. The extended version of this method is called Scary Sharp and is primarily used for woodworking tools if you want to search for it online. Dad is a master at sharpening and would be happy to teach you how to keep your blade in top condition.
- Keep it scrupulously clean and dry. Before and after using it for food or first aid, wipe with alcohol.
- Don't ever use a knife as a prybar. It can damage your knife (or you!) too easily.
- Know knife carry laws. I can't bring my knife to Boston or into a public school, for example.
- Store it safely. Kids are fascinated by knives. They should be kept on your person or in a secure location.
A pocketknife is a forgotten tool. Once you get used to it, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. A good knife becomes an extension of yourself, and hardly feels like a tool at all. You may never collect knives like I do, but I hope you'll have one or two that serve you well as you work in your home and garden.
Keep yourself sharp!