If you’re looking to purchase your first pocket knife, you’ll be amazed at the wide variety that is available. But this isn’t a bad thing. Many existing pocket knife enthusiasts already know that they live in an age perfectly suited to their hobby. To guide you through the extremely interesting, but (sometimes) intimidating world of pocket knives, I’ve put together some information for both the novice and the experienced user looking to buy the best brand and model for their needs.
Numerous reputable brands have a great selection of quality blades on offer, which means that pocket knife collectors are overwhelmingly spoiled for choice. I’ll start with the basics. Pocket knives fit into five main categories: traditional, multipurpose/multitool, everyday carry (EDC), tactical/self-defense, and all-purpose knives. Let’s go through each group one at a time.
Traditional Pocket Knives
The traditional pocket knife has a rich American history that’s been passed down through generations. It is a tradition that began long before the rise of the more modern folding knives of the sixties and seventies. This category boasts a wide variety of patterns and sizes but usually has a few hallmark features. They have no clips, for example, and no nail indentations for easy opening of the blades. Traditional pocket knives will have slip-joints and non-locking blades.
Size is a crucial aspect of all pocket knives. They will often feature multiple blades stacked in layers inside the handle covers, like the ubiquitous Swiss Army Knife. How many blades you need depends on the level of functionality you’re going to need. If you just want a knife for general purposes, it’s better to choose one with a single or maybe two blades. This way you won’t have to carry a bulky tool in your pocket all day. Fewer blades also mean ease of cleaning and maintenance.
Other important factors of this category of knife are their appearance, and how easy they are to open and close. A traditional pocket knife should look attractive. It should also fit your hand comfortably and be a pleasure to use on a regular basis.
Multipurpose Pocket Knives
Multipurpose pocket knives are also known as multi-tool knives. I’ve always found the combination of knives and multi-tools fascinating and quite handy.
There are two main varieties in this category. First is the pliers-based multi-tool like a Leatherman. These knives focus mainly on the tool aspect and usually have a single blade. Second is the knife-based multi-tool. This type of pocket knife concentrates primarily on the knife aspect, with a selection of functional tools, like the Swiss Army Knife.
If you’re searching for a multipurpose knife, keep an eye open for a robust and functional blade and forget the tactical aspect. Skip all those extra tools that you’ll hardly ever use. They’ll just create additional weight and bulk in your pocket. While extras like a magnifying glass or a wood saw might seem kind of cool, but try asking yourself how often you’re really going to use them. Instead, pick a knife with a couple of simple tools that can be used often, such as a screwdriver.
Everyday Carry Knives
The whole point of an Everyday Carry Knife (EDC) is that it can be used for everyday tasks that require a sharp edge. Think opening the mail, trimming loose threads, whittling, etc.. With its short blade of three inches or less, this type of knife is very popular and is destined to become your constant companion.
The quality of the blade is paramount. EDC blades require steel that can stay sharp even with frequent use. A high maintenance knife that needs continual sharpening will quickly become tiresome. In no time flat, you’ll get frustrated, and you will stop carrying it. Keep it lightweight to avoid heavy pockets. Another significant factor is the handle. It should be practical, non-slip, and comfortable to hold as you’ll be using this knife for a whole multitude of tasks.
Tactical or Self-Defense Knives
The term tactical is often used in conjunction with combat or self-defense. Sure, any knife can be used in a self-defense situation. Likewise, a tactical knife can be used for everyday tasks. When choosing a knife from this category, your focus will mainly be on your own personal self-defense requirements. The blade should be longer than the blade on your everyday knife, between three and a quarter to four inches in length. A good quality tactical knife will also have an ergonomic handle that is comfortable in your hand.
While you want a robust blade, it doesn’t have to be as durable as say, a camping knife. You just won’t be using it as often. However, the material should still be a good quality if it is to live up to the required task. Most people will choose a knife that is light and comfortable as possible to carry. But you’ll find a tactical knife can be heavier than your normal EDC knife.
As I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as a knife that complete every single task to a satisfactory level. So why is an all-purpose category even necessary? The answer is that there are some knives which are pretty good when used for multiple tasks. They may not be the ultimate tactical knife, and they may not be the ideal everyday carry knife. But they are capable enough in both areas to earn not only a place in your pocket but a category all of their own.
The requirements are simple. AP knives need a blade slightly longer than your EDC knife, but smaller than a tactical knife. This means you can use it for either function without too much difficulty. The handle should also be comfortable and non-slip, without being too bulky. You need a blade of quality steel that is durable and able to hold an edge for an extended length of time. In short, look for a knife that is strong, compact, comfortable in the hand, and easy to carry.
Wrapping It Up
Pocket knives are useful tools and collecting them can be a fun and interesting hobby. Except for the all-purpose knife, each of the categories serves very specific purposes. And whereas this list is in no way exhaustive, I hope it provides a guideline for the new enthusiast and also the experienced user when selecting a more modern pocket knife.