01 April 2009

EDC Knives: Introduction

I’ve been devoting some leisure and spare brain cycles lately to EDC and personal preparedness. Most constructively, I’m digging into first aid, knot craft, and other practical skills relevant to urban and wilderness survival. But at heart I’m a gear guy, and I would rather read and blog about guy gear than on how to perform CPR.

Last week was flashlights, but the next several weeks it will be knives. I’m going to first offer a fairly thorough introduction to modern knives, split over a number of posts. Reviews of my own knives will follow on an ongoing basis. Note that I omit multitools entirely from this survey. They are simply a different class of tool that I’ll discuss separately sometime in the future.

There are two basic kinds of knives, fixed blade and folding. Since I am interested primarily in everyday carry knives, I will say little about fixed blades, most of which are too large, heavy and conspicuous for EDC. But here are a few considerations.

Some people do carry small, light fixed blades for EDC, called “neck knives” because their sheaths are designed to be worn on a chain or lanyard around your neck. But I think they are impractical for EDC, unless you don't mind digging into your shirt to get out your knife. And really, they offer no substantial advantages over a good locking blade folder. Since they are suspended upside down from your neck, there are also scary reports about knives falling out of their sheaths and onto the ground, usually at the worst times and in public places. Since many are wicked-looking blood-drinkers, this may cause a little public panic.

CRKT Triumph neck knife

For non-EDC uses, from camping to chopping celery in your kitchen, fixed blades are great. Their advantages are safety, strength and lack of design constraints.

First, there is no locking mechanism holding the blade open, and thus no lock to accidentally unlock or potentially fail, thus folding the knife onto your fingers. Also, many fixed blades are made of much thicker steel than folding blades. The blade material may even extend the full height and length of the handle, which is called a full-tang design (as the neck knife above). These are almost crowbar strong. If you are going to hammer on your knife with a rock like Bear Grylls, or otherwise abuse it, such strength is desirable.

Finally, fixed blade knives can be made in any shape or dimension, to suit most any conceivable task. Since most folders are designed to be carried in your pocket (and some state laws restrict length of concealed blades), folding knives usually have blades under four inches long. That’s plenty long for most EDC uses, but for camping or wilderness survival, or in a defensive situation, a longer fixed blade may have more utility.

Next up: Folding knives.

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