By Jeff O.
Choosing just one knife to write about is like asking which of my children I love most. I’ve enjoyed them all, from my first two-blade folder to the Schrade lockback my Dad gave me for hunting when I was 12, my do-everything Leathermans, my trusty Buck 119, my EDC ZDP-189 Kershaw Ken Onion Shallot, my tough-as-nails D2 Benchmade Bone Collector to my inexpensive, absolutely abusable Mora knives. I suppose the one I prize the most is the second one I ever made . . .
The first, made when I was 14 from a full-length bastard file (because I couldn’t figure out how to easily cut that high carbon steel), is 14 inches long with a 9-inch blade and illegal in 13 states, the District of Columbia and several outlying territories. The term my Dad used for this overweight monstrosity was a “pig-sticker.” It pretty much just sits on the shelf waiting for a stray porker to wander by.
My second knife, made when I was 15, sits in my truck between the driver’s seat and console. It is 9 1/2 inches long with a 5-inch blade and weighs in at a hefty 8 ounces. The stocks are solid oak and the full-tang blade is 3/16 of an inch thick. Made of a bastard file that I finally figured out how to cut in two (once you heat the metal and let it slowly cool), it was hardened and tempered in my Dad’s barrel stove following instructions I got from a book at the county library. The pouch sheath is made from some oiled mystery scrap leather which still bears the duct tape residue from an attempted repair. It’s not pretty, but it’s mine.
That knife has cut, pried, and slashed just about everything. It has cleaned fish, gutted deer, chopped veggies, and built campfires. I even used the handle as a hammer once or twice. I took it to a college friend’s ranch during calving season and left it on the seat of the ranch truck overnight. When I came out in the morning, I found it covered in blood. When I asked my friend’s Dad about it he simply said, “biggest umbilical cord I ever saw.”
There are prettier, more expensive knives out there. There are knives that are better designed (with features like lanyard holes big enough to put a cord through or wire cutters actually capable of cutting wire). I own many of them, but the one knife that really stands out is mine, the one I ground myself (half wearing out Dad’s old grinder in the process), heated up cherry red in that old barrel stove, quenched in used motor oil, and then tempered in an old cake pan full of sand (please don’t tell Mom).
I don’t know what it measures on the Rockwell scale. I can’t tell you exactly what kind of steel is in it or explain its ergonomics to you. It doesn’t have the graceful lines of a Ken Onion or Bob Loveless masterpiece, but it’s the knife I grab when something needs cutting.
As my old homemade knife continues to serve me almost 30 years later, I am watching the current furor over 3D-printed plastic pistols with amusement. You can buy 80% lower AR receivers over the counter and finish them on a drill press. Afghanis have been making AK-47 parts over charcoal fires for decades, and people have been melting, grinding and sharpening metal into weapons for millennia, but somehow the ability to make a one-shot handgun that falls apart after 10 rounds is sending liberals into convulsions.
While they argue about knife control in Great Britain, I’m looking forward to teaching my kids how to make their own knives in my garage. The ability to make it yourself is a sign of freedom, whether it’s a knife, a 3D-printed gun or a tank, and that’s worth passing on to our children.
In the meantime, if anyone has a pig that needs sticking, let me know – I’ve got just the knife for it.