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Memories of my father and his penknife

My late father always carried a penknife (pocket knife). He was a practical man, a carpenter by trade who later started his own building company and he firmly believed that every man and boy should carry a handy knife. I was seven or eight when he brought me into one of those wonderful old tobacconist shops to buy my first penknife. Even though that shopkeeper convinced him I was too young for such a sharp implement I acquired one soon enough and obeyed his tenet of carrying a penknife through most of my school days. I remember it being somewhat unusual even back then for a middle class urban kid to carry a pocket knife.

This was back in the days before high tech pocket multi-tools had come to Ireland so I mostly recall my father carrying a simple single bladed knife. He used it for everything. The same blade that cut carpet tiles served to peel the apples that my father loved to eat.  It never seemed to do him any harm.

My father is dead almost twenty years now and I have a small regret that I never bought him a really fancy Swiss army knife. I think he would have greatly appreciated the quality of steel in the blade. He was an accomplished sharpener with a selection of whetstones and carborundums that allowed him to hone any piece of metal to a serviceable edge but he would complain that cheaper steel couldn't hold its edge. On the subject of sharpness I still recall his advice that a blunt edge is more dangerous than a properly sharpened one. The sharp blade cuts where you want it to. The blunt blade skips and jumps and finds its own uncontrolled path.

I have my own Swiss army knife now (a Victorinox huntsman ) and an even fancier Leatherman surge. Perhaps more importantly my daughters have penknives too. They know this is partly in memory of their grandfather who died before they were born but it is still surprisingly useful to carry a handy knife around in these days of blister pack frustration.

When my father passed away my mother asked each of his children to choose a personal memento to remember him by. I chose his penknife. 


DM Osbon said…
It was the 18th anniversary of my father passing away this year. I seem to miss him more with each passing year, like you he wont have seen any of his grandchildren.

My father had very few possessions; no books, music or jewellery. He did however have a small pocket knife and a camera. I have both these items and although the camera would still work I doubt there's any film stock for it now.

The pocket knife I still have and use regularly. I never got to own my own pocket knife and this way I get to remember him every time I use it.
mbp said…
Hi DM lovely to hear your recollections of you own father. He sounds like a man who might have gotten on well with my dad.

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