a good knife.

Like many other civilized tool-using ape-descendants, I carry a knife in my pocket wherever I go.

For the last seven or eight years, the constant resident of my right-hand pants pocket has been a red Kershaw Blur. I may have mentioned it on the blog before. It fits the hand well, the blade is fast to deploy, and the red aluminum and black “skateboard tape” inserts kind of set it off from the average pocket knife and thereby satisfy my love of neat shiny things.

Late last year, the Kershaw snapped its torsion spring, the part that makes the blade open by itself once it’s push-started with the thumb. I used it as a regular folder for a while and then got around to asking Kershaw for a replacement torsion spring, which they promptly sent free of charge. I put the spring back in, and the knife was an assisted opener again. It was, however, showing its age. Daily use and pocket carry over eight years or so had taken a bit of a toll—the play in the lockup had gotten a little more loose, the anodized finish had worn off in several places, and the Blur was clearly getting a bit long in the tooth. So I started shopping around for a replacement. For my birthday last October, I decided to splurge and get a slightly more upscale replacement for the Kershaw.

Here’s what I found: the Spyderco Sage 2.

spyderbenza

Robin has been toting a Spyderco Native for years, so I was familiar with the excellent Spyderco ergonomics, but this thing makes every other knife I own feel like a chunky pack of gum in the hand.

Prior to the Sage 2, the best (and most expensive) knife I’ve ever owned was a large Chris Reeve Sebenza. Anyone who knows how much those things go for will flinch when I tell you that I lost that one in the move from Tennessee somehow. While the ergonomics of the Sebenza are good but not stellar (sort of like the Kershaw Blur), I’ve always loved the construction: no springs or liners or other flim-flam, just two massive titanium slabs with a blade in between, and a lock that’s so secure that the knife is basically a fixed blade when it’s open.

Well, the Spyderco Sage 2 combines the best features of the Sebenza (the materials and lock design) with the best features of a Spyderco (the fantastic ergonomics). I call it my “Spyderbenza”. The result is a top-shelf working knife that fits the hand like nothing else, and it’s built like a bank vault. The blade is short enough to be legal for everyday carry in most jurisdictions, the blade shape and overall appearance of the knife are sedate enough to not raise eyebrows even in an office environment, and the whole thing just oozes class. The pocket clip is a high-mounted wire clip that makes the knife ride in the pocket in a very unobtrusive fashion. The knife can be completely and easily taken apart with a little torx screwdriver for cleaning and maintenance. The blade steel is S30V, which is one of those new super-steels. I don’t know the exact voodoo behind that steel, but I can tell you that it’s easy to sharpen, and that it really keeps an edge. The scale lock is just as massive as the one on the Sebenza. When you swing the blade out with your thumb, it locks into place with the most reassuring, solid clunk this side of a Mercedes S-class car door.

If it has any weakness at all, it’s the clip. The rounded wire doesn’t wear out the pocket fabric, and it blends in with most clothing very well, but brushing it against a countertop hard enough can make the wire snap. It happened to me a week or so into owning the Sage 2, and I ordered two replacement clips from Spyderco, just to have handy if it ever happens again.

This knife is so good that I wish I could afford two more just like it just to have around…but the way this thing is built, chances are I’d never need the spares. The best part is the price—while it’s not a cheap knife (around $160), it’s a third of the current price tag for a Sebenza, and it offers the same construction and materials in a much more ergonomic package. I’ve retired the Kershaw Blur and all my other pocket knives, although I still use a Victorinox GAK for beater use and odd jobs around the house. The Spyderco Sage 2 is hands-down the best knife I’ve ever owned, and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re in the market for an upscale and high-quality daily carry knife.

(The Sage also comes with carbon fiber scales or blue G10 scales, but those come with different lock mechanisms. I much prefer the solid scale lock of the Sage 2 that’s a bitwise copy of the Sebenza’s lock. I’m also a big fan of titanium. The other versions are quite a bit less expensive, though.)

curse you, tempting canadian comfort food.

On Friday, I loaded the kids into the car and went down to Manchester. We had lunch at Chez Vachon, which has the best poutine south of the border. (Side note: iOS autocorrect does not know “poutine” and thinks I mean “pouting.”) Then we went to We-B-Toyz, where the kids picked out Halloween costumes and some small toys.

Poutine, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a Quebecois dish that consists of fries with cheese curds topped with gravy. It’s about as healthy as it sounds, but it tastes pretty damn good. I don’t know that I’d do the 120-mile round trip routinely just for a plate of it, but I’ll definitely go back there the next time I have business in Manchester or surroundings.

Also on Friday, we got an iPhone 4S (at the Verizon stand inside BJs, very little waiting in line involved), so now both adults in the house are schlepping around iPhones. This is actually my first Jesus Phone–up until now, I’ve used an old flip phone and an iPod touch for comms on the go. It’s nice to have all one’s digital tools in one device, and the iPhone is really an electronic Swiss Army knife. It has all the features of the iPod touch, plus a GPS and a camera (my old iPod touch didn’t have one), and it makes phone calls on top of that. Now I have a HD video and still camera plus a miniature laptop and a cell phone all in one little glass-and-steel brick. I immediately passed the Manly Pink Camera down to the kids, and they’ve been running around the Castle doing photographic essays like The Sleeping Dogs That Sleep All The Time, Out-Of-Focus Siblings, and Daddy Really Doesn’t Want His Picture Taken When He’s In The Bathroom.

The iPhone was my birthday gift from Robin. I got myself a modest little trinket for my upcoming 40th as well: a Spyderco Sage 2.

This is a handy little blade that combines the ergonomics of the Spyderco Native with the looks, feel, and frame lock of the Chris Reeve Sebenza. I’ve dubbed this one the Spyderbenza. The blade is only three inches long and should be legal to carry around in most jurisdictions outside of NH. (Here in the Granite State, we can carry whatever we want, no matter how long the blade or how it is deployed.) It’s also a very sedate-looking folder, without the black coating or serrations that make a knife twice as lethal in the eyes of office drones and police officers in more uptight localities.

Rounding out the New Toy lineup is my latest pen acquisition, a Platinum Carbon fountain pen. This is an inexpensive Japanese desk pen for writing and drawing. It has an insanely fine nib that somehow still manages to be very smooth. It’s designed for Platinum’s carbon ink, which is a pigment-based waterproof artist ink that will clog fountain pens not designed for it. (It’s basically India Ink without the shellac.) The pen is just a bit over ten bucks at JetPens. I also got the desk stand for it to keep it upright when I’m not using it. This pen is kind of addictive to write and draw with, and the ultra-fine smooth line it produces makes me want to doodle tiny little stick figures in the margins of my notebooks.

So that’s the birthday loot haul, even though my birthday won’t be for another week and a half. I don’t have all the toys I want, but I most certainly have all the ones I need, and the rest is pure gravy.

Thank you again, all of you who hit the tip jar for the short story. I feel like I ought to be giving refunds–a buck or so seems fair to me for a short story, so many of you greatly overpaid. That little experiment makes me think about posting an entire novel on the same pay-me-if-you-like-it basis, despite my earlier assertions that I wouldn’t self-publish. Five or six bucks was the rate at had in mind for a novel, not a short story. (For any writer friends who may be curious: I’ve not made professional rate money on that little story yet, but it’s quite a bit more than I would have gotten from a market that offers semi-pro or token payment.) Most importantly, the story is being read and enjoyed by Actual Readers, not languishing in a folder on my hard drive.

For the rest of the day, I’ll be putting some ink down with the new pen, and later on there will be some interskyping with my brother in Germany on my new iPhone. I suspect this Sunday will also involve cocktails at some point. Living in the future is pretty cool.

YAKU–yet another knife update.

I contacted Kershaw about the broken torsion bar on my Blur, and Brittany at Kershaw Customer Service told me they’d send me a replacement for free. She also said to send the knife in for a free warranty repair if I had any problems.

Torsion bar arrived in the mail yesterday, took about five minutes to install, and now the Blur is restored to proper *snikt*-ness. So thanks, Kershaw, for backing up your products with great customer service. Mad props, or whatever the kids say these days.

 

a super-sharp swede.

You know what that is?

That, my friends, is the end of my search for a reasonably priced quality fixed-blade utility knife. It’s a Mora Classic No.2, and it’s made in Sweden.

The Mora is sort of a Puukko clone. It lacks a handguard because apparently only kids and sissies need a handguard on their knives in Sweden. (Seriously–Mora makes “training knives” for youngsters that sport a handguard, but most of the adult models omit it.) The steel is Swedish Sandvik carbon steel. My “Classic” model has a birchwood handle, but they make “updated” versions with injection-molded handles that have small handguards molded in on the edge side of the blade.

You know how people sometimes describe a knife as “sharp enough to shave”? Well, this thing comes from the factory that way, and it really is sharp enough to fill in for a straight razor without any extra assistance. It’s easily the sharpest knife I’ve ever handled. The blade has a true Scandi grind, so it will be ludicrously easy to resharpen to the scary sharp factory edge. This is no hyperbole–the Mora edge cuts like a lightsaber.

This is how it does on the paper test:

It does the same thing to a sheet of paper held by the short edge, too.

It’s not much to look at if you’re partial to the tactical look. I chose the wood handle version precisely because it has a traditional appearance. At first glance, it looks like a kitchen knife. But there’s beauty in functional simplicity, and this blade just plain works. It comes with a simple but functional thermoplastic puukko-style sheath, and it’s very lightweight at four ounces with the sheath. The birchwood handle fits the hand just right, and the whole thing feels like an extension of the hand–lightweight, balanced, nimble. The overall size is perfect for a utility knife, too–despite the four-inch blade, it’s skinny and lightweight enough that it feels like a smaller knife. I carry mine in the corner of my front pocket, where the folders usually reside. Only the top half of the handle sticks out, the parts of the knife in the pocket are completely covered by the sheath, and it doesn’t feel any bigger than a folding knife in there.

The best part? The Mora costs a whopping $16.

Sixteen bucks for a knife with a classic look, a comfortable handle, and a tough Sandvik blade with an edge that can split a fleeting thought? Sign me right up. At that price, there’s no good reason not to try one if you’re looking for a new utility knife for the belt or the toolbox. I like this one so much I’ll probably buy a few spares.

constant companion.

Because all the cool kids are doing it, here’s my leap onto the “Which knife is in your pocket right now?” meme wagon.

It’s a Kershaw Blur in red, with the old “skateboard tape” style inserts. As you can see from the wear on the scales, it has seen some use. I’ve carried it daily since about 2004. The torsion spring for the assisted opening mechanism gave up the ghost recently after thousands of openings, so now it’s just a plain folder. I really should get a new Blur and retire this one.

I have plenty of other blades, but the Blur is the one I like best. Nice blade shape, easy to sharpen, holds an edge well, and quick to deploy.

While we’re at it, here’s the wife’s EDC knife, a Spyderco Native:

A good sharp knife is just a necessity, even for the tranquil suburban environment. Yes, it’s a fine close quarters self-defense weapon in a pinch, but more importantly, it’s an indispensable everyday tool. I mean, how else are you supposed to open Amazon.com boxes and stubborn bags of candy?

pocket sword.

While we’re on the subject of knives:

I can’t quite decide whether the Cold Steel Rajah II is a monumentally stupid idea, or the coolest folder ever.  A folding kukri with a six-inch blade?

Of course, a pocket knife that can lop off heads or limbs would be a handy thing to have on you when the zombie apocalypse finally occurs.  I’m thinking about buying two, one for each pocket.

moderate craftiness on display.

I’ve been trying out fixed-blade knives instead of folders for everyday use lately, but I didn’t really have one with a sheath suitable for unobtrusive belt carry.  My current favorite is the Cold Steel Mini Tac, but the sheath is a neck sheath, and I’m not terribly fond of neck carry.

Yesterday, I had an idea forming in me head.  I went to the Box o’Holsters, got one out that had detachable belt loops, and took those off to test with the Mini Tac’s sheath.  The grommet holes on the MiniTac sheath were just about the right size for the screws on the holster belt loops, so I popped one out and replaced with with the screws and washers from the holster.

End result:

Picture 010

Modded sheath with a wide snap-on belt loop that’s adjustable for cant.  Carries very comfortably and unobtrusively inside the waistband.  The Mini Tac is a thin and dainty blade, very light and fast, and sharp enough to slice single atoms off molecules.

While we’re on the subject: I’d like to upgrade the Mini Tac to something a little more upscale in the near future.  Does anyone have a recommendation for a smallish plain fixed blade (four inches or less) with nice micarta or wood scales, and a sheath that’s adjustable for different carry options?  I’m open-minded as to blade style, although I strongly prefer plain edges.  I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a decent puukko, but I have no experience with those, and have no idea if they’re actually good for anything beyond whittling and skinning.  (I’ve also looked at the Spyderco Street Beat, if anyone with experience wants to comment on it.)

if you live in new hampshire, you now can haz switchblade.

I have to admit that I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the NH State House as diligently as I should, which is why I missed the following item of interest:

In May 2010, the NH House and Senate unanimously passed Rep. Jenn Coffey’s Knife Rights Bill, which removes all restrictions on purchase, possession, carry, trade, and legal use of knives in our lovely home state. As a result, any knife is legal to buy, own, and carry in New Hampshire, regardless of blade length, opening mechanism, number of sharpened edges, or any other feature. New Hampshire folk can now legally walk around with switchblades, push daggers, balisongs, gravity knives, or whatever else they choose to stick into their pockets.

To celebrate this common sense defeat of 1950s era public panic legislation, I went through my drawer of knives, pulled out the Benchmade 2550 “Mini Reflex” automatic knife my friend Tamara gave me as a gift a few years ago, and clipped it to the corner of my jeans pocket before leaving the house.

It’s nice to live in a state where the legislators don’t just give lip service to freedom and personal responsibility. (This was passed unanimously, by the way, in a Democrat-controlled House and Senate, and signed by a Democratic governor.)

everyone should own one good blade.

Like any self-respecting tool-using h.sapiens, I have a drawer full of good knives.  The one in the picture above is the knife that’s always clipped to the corner of my pocket whenever I’m dressed.  It’s a Kershaw Blur, the model with the torsion bar assisted opening feature.  I picked the red aluminum scales because it’s easier to find the knife on a desk or dresser in a pile of stuff, or after you put it down in the grass for some task that requires both hands.

A good knife is so essential a tool that it boggles my mind whenever I bump into people who not only don’t carry one, but are actively concerned and dismayed at the sight of someone else with a blade at their instant disposal.  Once upon a time, I worked as a network admin in northern Massachusetts, and I used to get variations of the following inquiry on an almost daily basis:

“Why does anyone need to carry a knife like that?”

Well, a knife is a terrific tool, that’s why.  You can use it to open boxes (something you have to do every day as a computer support monkey), snip cables, cut open those stubbornly glued plastic or foil bags…the list of possible tasks is practically endless.  The fact that it can be used as a weapon is a nice bonus, to be sure, but it’s not even the main reason I carry one.

Why would you make such a comment to the owner of that knife, anyway?  If you think that I shouldn’t have or carry it, you imply that you consider me a threat.  Isn’t that kind of insulting?  I handle screwdrivers and sharp-edged forty-pound computer cases around you all day–why would you be concerned about that knife in particular?

(The ultimate irony is that the same people who got uncomfortable at the sight of a knife in my pocket were invariably the ones who asked to use it–or more frequently, have me cut something for them–several times a week.)

Anyway, as you can see from the wear on the knife in the picture, it has been used daily for over half a decade, ever since I got it to replace my poor, lost Chris Reeve Sebenza.  In all honesty, this knife is better than the one it replaced.  The Sebenza is a marvelous piece of craftsmanship, and five times as expensive, but this knife is faster to open, more comfortable to hold, easier to sharpen well, and quicker to bring into action.  The blade is always at a shaving edge with the help of a set of ceramic sharpening rods.

I have other knives–some that are easier to carry around, some that are better suited for defense, and some that make better utility tools–but this one is my favorite.  From the blade shape to the spring-assisted opening feature to the way the knife sits in the hand, I’m more comfortable with it than with any other blade I’ve ever owned.  Using it no longer requires conscious effort of thought–it’s pretty much an extension of my hand at this point.  (On a side note: after using a torsion bar assisted opening knife for so long–Kershaw calls their system Speed Safe–switching to one that doesn’t have the feature feels like a handicap.)

The knife is humanity’s oldest tool, and after a few ten thousand years of bladecraft, the Kershaw Blur is evidence that we crafty humans have learned to make some really awesome ones.  The question in my mind is, “Why wouldn’t you want to carry a knife like that?”  I mean, my ancestors didn’t fight their way off the savannah so I’d have to try and open my bag of Rolos with my teeth like some frickin’ animal.