Choosing a good knife is a rite of passage for every boy. (Hell, for girls, too.) Choose wisely, and your knife will accompany you as you mature, offering a needed sense of preparedness and security as you navigate the myriad challenges along on the road to adulthood.
The knife is a fairly basic tool, but ever since caveman days, humans have been tinkering with its design in hopes of adapting it to better use. We have (pardon the pun) whittled down the selections to a few essential knives that every guy should keep at the ready. We’ve also included a guide to the most common types of knife blades, so you can select the knife model that best suits your needs.
Every-Day Carry (EDC) Knife
In the old days, it was known as a jackknife. In the old old days, it was called a pocket knife. Today, it’s best known as the “every-day carry” or EDC knife. Whatever you want to call it, the specifics haven’t changed: one folding blade, about 3.5 inches long, ideally with a locking mechanism so you don’t have to apply pressure to the tang while using it. Some also have spring-loaded opening mechanisms, making them extra efficient to use, not to mention adding a little “wow” factor when you whip it out for a task.
The virtues of the EDC knife are simplicity, sturdiness, and size. But with the focus solely on the design of one blade, you can’t expect your EDC to do it all. So it’s important to choose an EDC knife with a blade suited to the tasks that most frequently confront you. (See our list below.)
This type of knife includes such legendary models as the Barlow knife, the canoe knife, and the congress knife. Most multi-blade knives feature two blades with different shapes and lengths for different tasks, though it’s possible to find models with three or four blades included. With a variety of tips and serration patterns, this knife offers the advantage of always having the right blade for the job at hand.
Multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife
A must-have in every Boy Scout’s backpack, the Swiss Army Knife is the name-brand version of the “camper” or multi-tool category of knives. These knives include a slew of additional tools like saws, toothpicks, tweezers, can openers, nail files, scissors, corkscrews, magnifying glasses, and much more. Personally, I’ve used them for everything from rearview mirror grooming right before a date, to cutting kindling for a campfire, to breaking out of a locked bathroom in a New Jersey train station. The only downside to the multi-tool knife is how bulky they can get. Sitting down with one of these bad boys in your back pocket is a mistake you won’t make twice.
Small, unassuming, with a diminutive blade that isn’t meant to be kept overly sharp — don’t underestimate the pen knife. Its low profile makes it easy to carry in situations where an EDC knife might be frowned up, and it’s handy for delicate tasks like opening letters, removing a splinter, or tightening the screw on your glasses. It’s important to know that small knives like this don’t usually include a locking mechanism, so even though it’s little, you’ll want to exercise care in learning to use it.
Hunting Knife or Tactical Folding Knife
The big boys of the knife world feature blades of 5 inches or more; a fixed, ergonomically designed handle; and a carrying sheath meant to be worn on your leg or hip. Meant for big jobs like skinning a fresh kill, chopping your way through underbrush, defending yourself against predators, and other survival maneuvers, these knives are the opposite of discreet, so save this model for an extended sojourn into the backcountry.
Knife Blade Types
- Clip Point Blade: Perhaps the most common blade to find on an EDC knife, the clip point has a sharp, controllable tip that’s good for piercing and plenty of “belly,” or cutting edge. A variation is the drop point blade, which has a straight spine with a slight downward slope to meet the edge, resulting in a broader, stronger tip.
- Sheepsfoot Blade: Designed for its namesake — helping shepherds trim the hooves of sheep —this blade features a hard downward curve from the back of the knife to the tip, providing a large cutting surface.
- Spey Blade: On this type of blade, a single sharp straight edge curves upwards to meet a short, dull point. Spey blades can either be long or short, depending on the particular style of EDC knife you select.
- Tanto Blade: Popularized by Japanese brands, this type of blade is common on tactical-style knives. The blade is on the thick side and features an exaggerated angle on the tip, useful for stabbing and piercing.
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