by guest blogger Shari from ZeroInStyle
When you approach the knife counter these days, there are so many choices in front of you that it is hard to know where to begin. Buying your first knife is an exciting venture. When you see the array of fancy handles and big blades in the cases, it is easy to start confusing what you want with what you need. So in order to stay focused, begin by asking yourself what the purpose will be for the knife you are purchasing – what will you be using the knife for?
There are many uses for knives – sharpened blades have been utilized by mankind for centuries. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume the knife is for Every Day Carry (EDC). The EDC knife is mainly for smaller jobs, meaning don’t assume you can cut open the roof of an SUV with it, although if that is your everyday need, there are knives that can accomplish it! For my needs, an EDC knife is a versatile knife that can do anything from cutting off clothing tags and opening boxes to extracting jammed cartridges from the ejection port of my gun, but most knives can cover far more utilitarian jobs than that. If your EDC needs include using your knife for hunting or fishing, then other considerations like rust resistance and blade sharpness should be considered when choosing the blade material. I prefer something that holds its edge fairly well for less frequent sharpening. (A straight edge will be easier to sharpen than a serrated one, although the serrated edge is better for certain jobs.) I also want my knife to be a lightweight folder with easy access opening and to fit in comfortably in the pocket of my jeans.
There are many fancy and expensive knives out there but an EDC knife doesn’t have to break the bank. It needs to be durable enough to hold up to the jobs you will put it through every day. A less expensive knife will generally have a lower quality steel blade ie softer (and probably will not be made in the USA if this is a requirement of yours.) This does not have to be a deal breaker however, I have known people to swear by knives that cost less than ten dollars and quite frankly I don’t want to pull out a $300 knife to cut through corrugated cardboard boxes and packing tape all day long. But you do get what you pay for and a lower quality blade may take a sharp edge quickly, but will not hold it for long periods of time under constant use. Steel blades come in many formulations and the elements of each one define the finished product. Carbon steel blades may be cheaper and stay sharp longer but are not as durable (rust resistant) or versatile as stainless steel over time. They can also be harder to sharpen due to the hardness of the blade. If you need a very sharp and hard blade, for example for use in hunting, then carbon steel might be a consideration.
One type of steel is not necessarily “better” than another. Steel is an alloy made by combining Iron and Carbon using heat. There are many types of steel and the properties of the finished product, such as hardness, corrosion resistance and edge retention, are determined by the type of ingredients in the recipe for that particular type of steel.
Another term you may hear in addition to the types of blade steel and handle materials are the “tang” of the knife. This refers to how far the blade extends into the handle. In a fixed blade, the tang may extend all the way through the handle. There are also several different types of locks that are used on folding knives among them are compression locks, liner locks and Axis locks. The type of lock is basically the manner in which the blade is held open and prohibited from closing while “locked back” in use.
I work in the hunting department of an outdoor store. We sell a variety of knives in all price ranges. I have assisted all types of knife buyers, from boy scouts to collectors who own hundreds of knives worth thousands of dollars. Like many other purchases, your EDC knife has to be right for your needs and comfortable for you to use or you will soon start looking for a replacement.
My EDC knife is a Spyderco CAT. The CAT is a small, lightweight knife, with a 2.5 inch blade, which is big enough to take care of whatever daily paces I put it through. It fits perfectly in the small pockets of my favorite jeans and has a deep pocket clip. Spyderco knives have an easy access thumbhole for one handed opening and my knife locks back. Being able to open and close your knife one handed can be very useful if you often find yourself with your hands full. The CAT falls in the $75 range, but with a quick internet search many knives can be located at websites like Amazon and Knifecenter.com for competitive prices. I like the look of my knife as well, so I didn’t mind spending a little bit more for a quality knife that fit my needs.