The Pocket Knife Discussion Unfolding

My daughter bought this for me about 8 years ago. She was 6. Hard to believe, but that is something to unpack now.

I won’t tell you where I was.  Well, ok, I will.  I was at a church, sitting on a committee in a library, waiting for the meeting to start.  I saved the mail from the church for that meeting, and so I was opening it at a conference table.  I pulled the knife my daughter gave me for Christmas out, to open the envelopes.  This knife opens by hand and I wasn’t thinking about it, I just opened it.  And I got stares.  Non-verbal questioning of why I would carry a knife.  And this knife is a fish.

This was my first knife.

This model, not this specific one.

I was a Cub Scout, got my whittling badge (I carved a bird) and was allowed to carry this knife when I wasn’t in school.  Eight years old, I think.  I upgraded, but I carried a knife all through high school.  I worked in a deli and used the knife constantly.  I lived in a car, and used the knife even more there.   There was no pause ever given by anyone.  Everyone assumed that I knew what I was doing, that I was of sound mind, and that was that.  I get it, it isn’t that way now – we do not assume trustworthiness.  Not sure which way is better.  There is an argument for both.

I carry two knives mostly.  The fish knife is my work day knife because it reminds me of Gramercy (my daughter), it fits in my pocket, and it has the social lubricant of being a fish so when I take it out to open an Amazon box less people run in fear than they normally would.  On weekends, I carry this:

From Spyderco.

I live in New York, where carrying a pocket knife with a spring blade is not legal.  As an aside, there really is no need for a spring blade.  Not with that thumb hole you see there.  If you are willing to spend four minutes training that thumb hole is so easy to learn, it is maybe .35 seconds longer to open, and if you are in a situation where .35 seconds matters with a knife all is probably lost anyway.

Someone gave me an Opinel once, because I was “studying” French wine and this is  a French knive.  She had good intentions.  I am not sure I did, as I remember, but that’s another post.  Opinel knives look very sophisticated.  Very French.  To secure the blade you slide that round cylinder up the handle and it wraps the base of the blade the way an Ace bandage used to wrap your knee.  Just as firmly as an Ace bandage too, it turns out.  Knives are one of those things where form isn’t in the same discussion as function.  I have seen steadier sails on boats.  Hard pass.

The only thing firm about this knife is that I am committed to not using it.

This Gerber knife is less than two inches long folded, and is really easy on the pocket.  For the life of me I do not understand how people carry these larger knives in their trousers.  I have never even tried a Swiss Army knife for that reason alone.  Carrying a pocket knife period is fraught enough without the unfortunate optics of checking ll the time to see if any one of umpteen blades are open.  Where are Mickey’s hands at 6:30?  Right.

Functional and an easy carry but the handle makes me feel like I should be cutting off my chute.


Curious – do you carry a pocket knife?  What do you use it for?

  • JB

38 Comments on "The Pocket Knife Discussion Unfolding"

  1. I carry a knife pretty much every day. At work I carry a single blade custom folder that my wife had made for me when I finished my grad program. Outside of work I often carry a Benchmade or a Kershaw. The Benchmade is a bit nicer, but the Kershaw is a great value and will do everything you would ever want. I’ve had it for a decade, I bought it when I was in the Army. Finally, I carry a Leatherman multi-tool in my briefcase. It’s a bit big to carry in my pocket, but it’s been incredibly useful around the office. You never know when you’ll need a pair of pliers or a screwdriver. Frankly, it has enough tools to fix 75% of the problems I come across.

  2. Yes, always. Sometimes that is just the Swiss Army “knife” on my keychain, but I normally have a very small knife with a locking blade too.

  3. Small Swiss Army knife. Use the blade to open envelopes and packages, use the scissors to cut off loose threads, use the toothpick for its intended purpose (always in private), and that’s about it.

  4. My money clip has a small blade on one side, and a nail file on the other.

  5. Ditto on the Swiss Army knife, which simply has a regular blade (which I’ll use to open envelopes or cut the odd loose thread), a can opener (which I never use), and a bottle opener, which I often use. Btw, I swear I had the same 1st knife as a former Cub scout. The reaction from the others in the room is both a bit unsurprising and sad, given how incredibly overcautious and judgmental certain areas have become. Ironically, it gives me some internal pleasure knowing that I’m ruffling their feathers!

  6. Years ago, I did light carpentry for work, and the Leatherman multi tool was incredibly handy most days.
    Nowadays I have a Swiss Army knife with maybe eight or ten different things in it, but it’s the kind of item I often forget that I possess. I rediscover it in the bottom of my bag from time to time. I do remember that cub scout knife from when I was a kid.
    A good pocket knife always seems like something I’d want, but even with the one I already have, I seldom find myself in a situation in which I’d need or want to use one.

    Oh, we are gonna get to bags. And I know what you are saying, I always find a use for it when I remember I have it, and don’t find a use for it when I forgot it. – JB

  7. Fwiw, the model is 2 inches long, sits neatly in one’s pocket, and looks very similar to the Swiss Army Alox.

  8. Keychain Swiss army knife, 2 inches long ( Similar to your “fish knife”). Contains knife blade and flat head screwdriver blade. Makes a good letter opener.

    I hardly ever need it but I prefer to have it and not need it rather than not have it and need it.

  9. It just occurred to me that I do use it quite often to cut those irritating plastic clothing tags that are, for example, attached to say a new chambray shirt purchase.

  10. Robert Archambeau | November 4, 2021 at 12:17 pm |

    Seconding the 2-inch Swiss army knife by Victorinox. It’ll fit in any pocket, it’ll open your mail or your Amazon packages, and it’s not going to alarm anyone. The screwdriver will come in handy a half dozen times a year, the scissors more often than you’d think. It’s got a classic look and will last longer than any of us will. Not bad for twenty bucks!

  11. When sailing, I always carried a serrated Spyderco knife, with thumb hole.

  12. Also the small keychain Swiss Army knife. I use the scissors more than the blade. If you don’t have a knife, you’re going to get a heavily taped package, guaranteed.

  13. I carry a beautiful handmade Laguiole pocket knife from La Coutellerie & Forges Honoré Durand.
    An elegant knife that attracts attention with its appearance.
    Handmade in Laguiole (France) with corkscrew, forged bee, olive wood handle in the shape of which is fancifully known as the “lady’s leg” and shepherd’s cross.

  14. William Quire | November 5, 2021 at 5:40 am |

    Yes I always carry a knife a buck 110 and I also carry a fire arm to those that are bothered by it well that is their problem

  15. I carry my late grandfather’s 2″ Buck knife. Two small blades. Perfect for opening mail and such. Obviously, it stays home when airports are involved since my Victorinox 2″ knife (described above) was confiscated by TSA agents about 18 years ago when I stupidly neglected to remove it from my keychain before leaving home. Hmmm. . . That might be a nice little stocking stuffer to suggest to Santa Claus in the next few weeks.

    Kind Regards,


  16. It just occurred to me that I do use it quite often to cut those irritating plastic clothing tags that are, for example, attached to say a new chambray shirt purchase.

  17. A pocket knife discussion! I hope we can also have a watch/watchband discussion and writing instrument discussion at some point too.

    I had the same first pocket knife. Took it to school, no problem back then. I always carry a Trim Trio knife on my keychain now (a needlepoint keychain with sailboats on it). A Trim Trio is versatile and not very threatening looking or dangerous, but I did have one confiscated at the airport security when I forgot to leave it at home.

    I have considered getting the two-inch Swiss army knife mentioned above, but I like the simple retro look of the Trio.

    I have done a number of French to English translations for the Opinel knife company, product descriptions, etc.

  18. Mr. LaRue, can you also translate Texan to English? It shouldn’t be much harder than French. I’m getting tired of seeing that befuddled-appalled look from non-Texans.

    More on topic, I don’t carry a knife, but I’m sure y’all won’t be surprised to learn I have a bottle opener on my keychain.

  19. I’ll second a vote for the watch/watchband discussion.


  20. H-U, I’ll third the motion. I wear the NATO type watch bands. I have 3: navy with red stripes, navy with yellow stripes and navy with green stripe.
    Used with my solar powered dive watches. Extremely durable. Great for scuba diving or worn with navy blazer.
    Apologies for going off topic and getting ahead of things here.

  21. Henry Contestwinner | November 5, 2021 at 2:55 pm |

    The Victorinox Classic that so many people carry, including me, has a 1″ blade. I carry one every day, and use the nail file tool more than any other—but almost never as a nail file. It makes a handy scraper, pry bar, poker, screwdriver, and more. The scissors, tweezers, and toothpick all make frequent appearances, too, and the blade is an excellent letter opener.

    I have been carrying a wee knife since I was 6 or 7 years old. My son got his first knife in first grade, but I told him that the namely-pambies at school would wet their pants and kick him out if he brought a knife to school, so he is scrupulous about leaving his knives at home—for school, anyway.

    I have carried larger knives, similar to the Gerber pictured here, but they are bulky and less versatile than my multi-tooled Swiss Army knife, so I stick to the Classic.

  22. Charlottesville | November 5, 2021 at 2:57 pm |

    In addition to a 1960s era scout knife, which I also carried everywhere including school with no questions in that long ago era, I have a couple of Laguiole knives, which incorporate corkscrews, and an Opinel which I would probably only recommend for picnic duty. I have a couple of other small pocket knives with locking blades, similar in shape to the last pictured above, but of more restrained design. I rarely carry them, but they are excellent for removing tags, opening letters and boxes, cutting strings and similar everyday tasks.

    The one curiosity I have was a stocking-stuffer gift from my wife some years ago, which she bought at an antique/estate-jewelry shop. It incorporates a tiny blade into a silver tie clip. We are finally going to see the new Bond film tonight, and that might just be the perfect accessory for watching 007. I should start calling her Q.

  23. Henry Contestwinner | November 5, 2021 at 3:48 pm |

    I love the story about your tie clip knife, Charlottesville. It reminds me of the fob & chain & I got to go with my grandfather’s gold pocket watch: the fob is a rectangular-ish pen knife. The blades are corroded, but the fob looks nice, and it makes it easy to carry the watch when wearing a tuxedo.

  24. My everyday carry and favorite is a Gerber Mini FAST Draw with the serrated edge. 2 1/4″ blade and 5″ overall with an assisted opening. Two-step, one-handed opening, so legal in California. Small and discrete, in the office, in the garage, or at home it is the perfect size for me. I have the serrated version of Gerber pictured above but prefer the FAST because of the opening action and composite grip. Used mostly for opening packages. The tip snapped on my first, bought a second, then have a third in reserve. I’m a big fan of Gerber knives and own several.

  25. I have carried a pocket knife for around 60 years. My current daily carry is a USA made Case Mini-CopperLock. For travel I put a minimalist Victorinox Waiter in my checked bag. For places I revisit, I leave a Waiter behind so I have one on the next visit.

    I also have a flat Anchor Steam bottle opener and a P-51 can opener (taped closed) on my key chain at all times. TSA and others have never questioned them.

    Wind up Hamilton military watch (matte stainless, black dial, 24 hour markings) from the 1970’s with a pre-Nato style blue, green, blue ribbon band.

  26. Charlottesville | November 6, 2021 at 10:12 am |

    Nice to hear from you, Henry. You have deftly managed to link the two strands of this discussion, including both a watch and knife in a single comment.

    We are having frosty, Shetland-sweater-and-corduroy weather here, a bit below freezing at night and 50-ish during the day. I am told that the heat has gone on the fritz at my church and won’t be mended before some time next week, so a flannel suit, scarf, gloves and a heavy Chesterfield would seem to be in order for early morning service tomorrow.

    I hope you and the rest of our group of knife-packing Ivy aficionados have a delightful weekend.

  27. David Knatcal | November 6, 2021 at 12:38 pm |

    My grandfather always carried a penknife. I would take my pencils to him to be sharpened. I wish I had that knife. However I do have a wonderfully old penknife from my wife’s grandfather.

  28. Keychain bottle opener? oooh/aaah.
    New levels of classiness here at I-S.

  29. Snarky and gratuitous comments about “classiness” usually provide more insight into the commentor than the subject of commentary.

  30. I carry the smallest version of that Spyderco everywhere.

    I also have a Leatherman tool in whatever bag I’m carrying, along with a good flashlight and a small notebook and metal pen. They’ve proven handy.

  31. I carry both a small penknife and a bottle opener on my keyring. Use the knife almost daily and the opener a couple of times a year.

  32. Excellent post. I’m a pocket knife nut as well. I carry a Chris Reeve Sebenza 21 with me pretty much anywhere I go. It’s been an essential companion for the last 5 years.

  33. Mark Burgess | November 7, 2021 at 7:52 pm |

    I carry a ZT (Zero Tolerance) 3” blade. It has, “auto-open” that’s not truly a switchblade, but almost as fast. It’s tough as nails and razor sharp. Very handy tool.

  34. When I was a child/youth and attended summer camp (Camp Conrad Weiser on South Mountain outside Reading, PA) each summer during the 1970s, we could visit the camp trading post each day after lunch to purchase a piece of candy, or other treats with money put into our accounts by our parents. One item was a good-sized three-blade pocket knife about 3.5 inches long when the blades were closed. These knives were also given as small prizes for various achievements at the end of each two-week period. I imagine parents and caregivers now would be beside themselves with angst and march en masse on the camp office were such free distribution of sharp weapons still practiced. Surely, that practice is a relic of the long past at the point.

    Kind Regards,


  35. PSA: Kamakura shirts is blowing out their remaining stock of New York Models – both slim and classic fits. Trust that many of us are on the mailing list already, though for anyone who isn’t, may want to surf over to their website and take advantage of $50/ shirt and buy two get one free…

  36. @Rake,
    Good call.

  37. I see that growing up, so many of your experiences were quite different than mine.
    I thought I might be allowed to share my experience with you.

    No, I do not carry a pocket knife nor does my family have a tradition of an every day carry.

    I do, however, still carry the scars, back of my thigh, from some “middle school hijinks”. You know that one where you hold a sharp pointy object under someone as they sit down in class. As it turns out, it took several moments for me to realize what occurred though I did immediately find myself wondering why exactly I had someone’s fist awkwardly and inappropriately under my leg.

    The Dr. informed me that when applied properly little knives can do as much damage as the big ones. He also mentioned that I was lucky the blade did not break off when I sat down. And now let’s all remember and give thanks for that fist just mentioned.

    So you’ll understand, why I am one of those “namely-pamebies” who doesn’t think knives are appropriate equipment for school along with many other public environments.

    As I recall it was a folding knife, though I no longer recall if it was Cub Scout or some other brand. So sorry about that, and I’ll have no recommendations for your every day carry.

  38. I carry two pocket knives. One is a Stanley 10-049, hardly different than a box cutter made very skinny. The other is a Gerber with less than a 3″ blade. The first is ideal for delicate work, and the second when you need leverage. I was amazed at how few people carry what I was raised to see as essential tools:
    1. a pen knife
    2. a bit of cord
    3. a bit of tape wrapper around
    4. a small lighter
    5. a pen or pencil

    There are certain things that must be done that these tools are irreplaceable and hard to find on a moment’s notice. I started carrying the second pocket knife for the number of times on Race Committee or elsewhere that I loan mine out to find needing it again in short order. Now, I am ready for those not ready for their own obligations.


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