© 2014 Earl L. Haehl: Permission is given to use this article in whole as long as credit is given. Book rights are reserved.
Due to a really annoying operation and slow recovery, I was barred from doing stairs for about six months beginning in October and my daughter decided to rearrange the basement. My wife continued in this and there are items I cannot find. So in the laundry basket that came up one Saturday was a tan knife pouch I picked up on a clearance table some years ago. I needed it to replace a pouch I had ordered from Buck™ and had fallen apart from rough use—that left me to carry my Buck 110 Folding Hunter™ in a pocket, increasing wear to the trews and getting lint in the blade. Fortunately, the knife was in it which was good (or bad—I had been eyeing a Mora™ on line). At any rate, I asked where my wife had found the knife and she said it was in her with summer clothes—everything’s gotta be someplace.
My first concern was whether the knife was all right—I opened the blade and it snapped solidly into the locked open position and I felt the heft of the tool. It is not a light knife when compared to the new “backpacking” knives with skeleton frames or plastic scales. The rosewood and brass scales are the real thing, showing signs of age and the wood almost black from the oils in my hands over a quarter century of hard use—on its third pouch that I have kept oiled but done little else to protect. Holding the blade up to the light, I noted that there was a little speck on the blade so I took it into the kitchen and gave it a touch up on the buffer of my electric sharpener. When checking a knife for sharpness, hold the blade out in line with light in the background—flecks of light along the edge show anomalies that need to be buffed or stropped away.
The Buck 110™ was introduced in 1964 (I have also heard 1962 and 1963 from reliable sources, as reliability goes in the business). It is still in manufacture although I have been told the new steel (420) is not as good as the “old steel (440).” This new steel/old steel story may or may not be true but even 420 is a high carbon stainless with which I would have no problem. At any rate the fiftieth anniversary is offically 2014.
I have never seen any reason to replace a Buck™ with a new knife—a pouch or sheath occasionally but never a knife. I have lost a couple over the years including my first—a small stock man format knife that was confiscated by the vice principal in a random search when I was in junior high in California. Hint: in an urban area vice principals had zero tolerance even in the fifties.
A sharp knife is safer than a dull or even semi-sharp knife—the cut is cleaner and tends to have enough blood to wash out the infection. My mother’s youngest brother counseled me when I was sharpening up a Sabre™ “hunting knife” that semi-sharp was adequate for purposes of a Scout outing. If it were sharper I might get cut. My grandfather corrected the error and I got my own sharpening stone and basically did not consult Uncle Bill on such matters again. He would probably be shocked to see what I carry these days.
There are things I would not do with the Buck 110™. The 9.5 cm blade is not suitable for butchering—a little too short and stiff. No place for a lanyard makes it less than ideal for climbing unless you like throwing knives away—at 70 I feel my climbing days were over some time ago. I have opened steel cans with it—my son reconfigured the blade architecture and told me to stop doing that—but I would not stick it through the hood of a truck (I have a any number of military knives for that). And it is not a bread knife. NOTE that slicing five pounds of potatoes does sharpen the blade, but cleaning it off is a pain.
Maintenance is simple. Keep the blade clean and wipe or even wash blood off immediately. Blood contains a high concentration of salt which breaks down metals and subjects them to oxidation—the term “stainless steel” indicates that oxidation is slower, not non-existent. Keep it sharp, not semi-sharp, and give it an occasional drop of light machine oil.
Like the knives I got when my grandfather passed—one went to each of my uncles and the rest to me—the Buck™, like all of my Bucks™, will outlive me. But is it the be all and end all of knives. No. I carry it because I have it and it is reliable and sharp not because it is somehow magic.