(c) 2012 Earl L. Haehl Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
I have more knives than I really need. But it is better to have it than to need it. I could get by with a paring or utility knife, an eight inch chef’s knife and a boning knife. Also in the block are a couple of bread knives, spare eight inch chef and utility, an Ontario scalper, a six inch chef’s knife, a ten inch butcher, a small oriental cleaver, my grandfather’s butchering cleaver and some steak knives. I have a fine steel. The pairing knife gets quit a bit of use for odd jobs. When I am doing serious cutting I use the chef’s knife and when I do cuts on chicken the boner works. For a good discussion get The Supper of the Lamb(http://www.amazon.com/The-Supper-Lamb-Reflection-Paperbacks/dp/0375760563). I disagree with Fr Capon in Swiss Army knives but I had been looking at a Huntsman for belt carry.
This afternoon I was downstairs and need a knife—if there is anything in surplus downstairs besides multi-bit screwdrivers it is knives. I can wear a fifty year scout pin—I have knives, axes, saws. I trained leaders in woods tools. So I was in the one room where nothing is accessible and will not be until we relocate the shelving temporarily stored there. I reached into a box in the cupboard and snagged the handle of a Russell Green River skinning knife. Have I used it in the past year? No. Am I going to remainder it? No. Am I planning a hunting trip? No.
A knife is a tool and it may also hold memories. When my mother died I got all the cutlery that was left from my grandparents and my aunt. There is a ten inch butcher knife whose blade would not survive a coat of naval jelly and the handle has been cut down to fit my grandmother’s hands—not exactly a professional job. But with the rest it will go on to my son when I s0ould hold out one or two big roasts and have a feast of the three households on the property. And that knife would be out and doing most of the work. I vaguely remember my grandfather butchering a sheep or goat in the kitchen, but I was under five. We did butcher chickens up until 1954 when the City annexed the property and we had to give them up.
In 1954 my grandfather gave me a Plumb hand-axe. I was 10 and my kit now included a two-blade pen knife, a three blade Case stockman, a KampKing scout type knife and a Plumb hand-axe. The other term commonly used is hatchet which has bad connotations from the 19th Century tong wars in New York and San Francisco which are, according to Carl Glick in Shake Hands with the Dragon, based on occidental stereotypes rather than fact. The Norse referred to it as a hawk and that word entered and apparently left the English language with persons making handsaw into heron-shaw. The traders of Hudson’s Bay Company and similar trading companies used metal axes as trade goods. There were fancy ones which featured a smoking pipe opposite the cutting blade. It is known that the Tomahawk was carried by trappers and soldiers as well as native peoples. Somewhere downstairs I have what is called a Hudson Bay Axe with a head shaped more like a tomahawk blade than a Michigan blade which is standard for camp axes. As I have gotten older I have gotten away from the idea of a hand axe as that essential item in my woods tool box. I discovered the ¾ size axe seems to fit my arms and give me greater control over the tasks I am dealing with. I also tend to use a saw when dealing with limbs. And a ¾ size steel Estwing rides in my truck box.
The date 1954 in the above paragraph is important. I had turned 10 in 1953. I was trusted by my grandfather to use all the woods tools that now require certification in the scouting movement to even carry. One of the more insidious tendencies in our society is the infantilization of youth. Think about it.
As to safety, another matter comes up. The Scout Movement, at least in my own council, came up with a rule that prohibits the carry of fixed blade knives—for reasons of safety. A non-lockback folding knife will, unless properly used, close the sharp side of the blade on the hand of the user. So we recommend the lockback configuration. I have had lockbacks fail. I have had non-lockback folders fail in the spine. I’ll be specific on this latter point. One was a USGI Camillus. One was a Victorinox red scale. There were others, but they were cheap. The only fixed blade knife I had break on me was a “survival” knife with a hollow handle that had everything Rambo needed but his crossbow and blowdrier. The only problem was no tang.
So whether you are in the kitchen or the field, you may need cutlery. Treat tools as tools.
I would have loved a bayonet when I was digging cattail roots.