Thursday, September 14, 2017

Do you carry a pocket knife?

My father was a practical man. He grew up on a farm and enjoyed hunting and fishing. He apprenticed as a carpenter and built houses for a living.  As a crasftman he knew the importance of good steel but he wasn't a knife nerd. I remember him  carrying a succession of knives over the years both cheap and expensive. The one constant is that he always had a pocket knife and he used it for everything. The same blade that cut carpet tile in the morning was used to peel the apple my father ate that afternoon. He firmly believed that every boy and man should carry a pocket knife and  I still remember him bringing me to buy my first knife at age seven or eight. The salesman talked him out of it that day sadly and I didn't get a knife of my own for a few more years.  I still have his last  pocket knife before he died. It is an old and battered knock off of a swiss army knife. It is my most treasured momento of my father.

Given my father's habit it is hardly surprising that I myself carried a pocket knife through my teenage years and right through college. A boy's life is full of adventure and a boy's pockets are deep and full of things. Carrying a pocket knife made sense when it was the only tool I owned but even in the 1970s this was somewhat unusual. I was the only boy in my middle class surbuban secondary school  classroom who carried a knife although I did meet other tool carriers later in engineering college.

Then I grew up got and got a job in an office and somehow a pocket knife didn't seem essential any more. Adult pockets are filled with keys, wallets, jangling change and later phones. In the adult world we have dedicated tools which are better for any given job than a pocket knife. In the office we have real scissors, guillotines, box cutters and other dedicated tools. At home I have a kitchen full of chopping, peeling and paring implements, and a shed full of tools. No matter what the job there is almost always a proper tool at hand to do it.  Why carry a pocket knife?

I do still have several pocket knives. I keep a battered single blade folding knife in my tool kit and I keep a Leatherman in my car for emergencies. My favourite knife however is Victorinox Huntsman that I bought in Zurich airport about thirty years ago. It is about as large as I can comfortably carry in my pocket and it does have a number of useful tools including a long and short blade (I prefer the short), a scissors, an awl and a corkscrew. I don't carry it every day and I don't need to but I know where it is and it regularly gets called into service when we cannot find a corkscrew or a package arrives from Amazon that needs opening. Occasionally I put in in my pocket in memory of my father. I think I will carry it today.

Looking good for a thirty year old. The toothpick and scissors spring have been replaced while the corkscrew mini screwdriver was a later addition. 

Aside #1: This post was inspired by my stumbling down the rabbit whole of Youtube knife videos. Knives are a big deal for some people and humble Victorinox and Leatherman tools are only begnner models in a hobby that rises to $1000+ custom made pocket knives.

Politics  warning: There is some overlap between knife collecting and gun culture / survivalism  / militarism  particularly in the US so some knife channels may annoy more liberal viewers. Nick Shabazz on the other hand is a very non political non controversial Youtuber who has a great knife channel so go there if easily triggered. Wranglerstar is another channel I really like. It is more of a homesteading / general tool show although he does cover knives. Colby who hosts the channel is a gun loving Trump voting republican who occasionally voices his political views. However he comes across as a very decent down to earth nice guy. He hasn't managed to change my views on politics or on Trump in particular but he has certainly made me reconsider my opinion of Turmp voters.

Aside #2: I now know that the modern parlance for the sort of knife my father carried around is EDC (every day carry).

Aside #3: Irish law is occasionally a source of puzzlement to knife lovers. On one hand Irish knife law is very strict and bans every knife and all other sharp implements. Even screwdrivers have been cited as items that it could be illegal to carry. On the other hand it is an acceptable defense that you have a reason for carrying that knife for legitimate work or leisure purpose. This means there are no hard and fast rules about legal blade lengths or legal blade shapes. If you have a legitimate reason for carrying that knife in that location then it is legal but the onus of proof is on you. Who decides what is legitmate? In the first instance a garda officer (policeman) and then ultimately a judge.  The law is ambiguous however and in theory you could be arrested for bringing a swiss army knife into a public place if a garda thought you meant to cause trouble with it (although given the choice I would rather bring a scewdriver into a knife fight than a swiss army knife).  It probably isn't ideal to have such ambiguity in the law of a modern nation but in practise it seems to be applied reasonably.  You won't get into trouble for a multi tool or pocket knife but you will have a harder job explaining away a dagger or a machete unless you are actually using it to chop down trees.

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