“I suppose every one must have reflected how primeval and how poetical are the things that one carries in one’s pocket; the pocket-knife, for instance, the type of all human tools, the infant of the sword. Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about things in my pockets. But I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past.”
— G.K. Chesterton, A Short History of England (1917)
I live in pocket knife territory, and I don’t mean where they’re carried — but where some of the best are made. Probably the most famous of them all is W.R. Case & Sons. They make their legendary knives in Bradford, Pennsylvania (where they also make Zippo lighters) — a little over a hundred miles north east of me. Queen Cutlery makes beautiful knives in Titusville, Pennsylvania (that also claims the world’s first oil well in 1859), about 45 miles north east of here. And Flexcut has added pocket knives to their line of tools. They’re about an hour’s drive north of me in Erie, Pennsylvania.
I have a pocket knife from each of them, although I’m not a collector. For me a pocket knife is the ultimate in convenient utility. It rides along in the bottom of a pocket, just noticeable enough to provide confidence in one’s preparedness. Open that package, pop out that splinter, shave that marshmallow-roasting stick, cut that cord! And sharpen that pencil with style — one of life’s little joys, and great practice for knife control.
Although I do most of my knife carving with a fixed-blade sloyd knife, a pocket knife makes an ideal carving companion — and it’s always there when an opportunity presents itself. I’ve discussed a few times on the blog how I use the pen blade of my pocket knife for lettering, as on the bowl in the above photo earlier this week. Although other knives, folders and fixed-blade, will do the job, I prefer the pocket knife in the top photo. It is made by Böker and it’s an old friend of nearly twenty years, so I’ve become used to it. They still make the pattern, which is the “Whittler.” Mine has carbon steel blades that take a very keen edge (although, admittedly, I know very little about the technical differences in blade steels), and the slightly serpentine handle nestles right into the web of my hand.
The handle scale material doesn’t effect performance, and you’ll find several options available. And a search will yield a variety of prices, even for the same exact knife, so if you’re looking to get one you may want to search a bit. Regardless, it will be a small price to pay for a loyal friend.