This piece originally appeared at RuggedAmericanGear.com: While I know everyone (myself included) loves the latest and greatest tactical folding knives and fixed blades. While they might have the most spec’d out supersteel, and be assisted, automatic, or at least flickable with their one handed operation and non reflective black powder coating. While all of that and more is great, it doesn’t change the fact that there is…
One knife type to rule them all.
The Slipjoint pocket knife.
A slipjoint you say?
Yes, A slipjoint. Your grandfather’s knife, before anyone had to worry about pocket clips and tip up or tip down carry. They are, as far as I can tell the most popular style of knife in the world, and have been for a long time.
First, a little history of the pocket knifes and the slipjoint.CoolMaterial.com has one of the best info-graphics on pocketknives that I’ve ever seen. It explains how the oldest knife found dates back to 600-500 BC and was a single blade set in bone. The Romans however were the first to use what we would recognize as a pocket knife nowadays, their friction folders. This design is still used today in the Svord friction folder peasant knife.
However, the pocket knife as most of us know it, wasn’t developed until 1660, when the slipjoint pocket knife was created in England. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution though that they become an affordable item for the average person to afford.
But are slipjoints still relevant? Indeed they are, and for many different reasons. Many of the brands that make slipjoints are historically important, and still around and operating today. Obviously there is Case, Buck, Swiss Army Knife, Northwoods Knives, Queen Cutlery, and Schatt & Morgan are just a few of the brands that have been making slipjoints (and other knives) for a very very long time. Many of them are made right here in America as well. One of the really great things about most slipjoints is that the attention to detail on even the less expensive models is quite exquisite. The curves are always perfect, the rear of the blades flush, and the snap satisfying. Most of them, even the simple ones are literally works of art in their design.
So slipjoints have great design, great looks, are a classic design that has been time tested, and are a great collectors piece and heirloom in some cases. But why should you EDC one?
traditional slipjoint knives are a great choice to add to your EDC because there are times, places, and areas where you can’t bring your locking blade, or automatic or assisted opening blade. My normal EDC consists of a flashlight(normally a Streamlight or Maglite), Benchmade Mini Griptilian or(or other manual locking blade), a Leatherman or Schrade multi-tool AND a slipjoint knife.
Now you might say…that’s a lot of knives!, and yes including my multi-tool that is three knives that I carry on a daily basis. There is a reason for all of them though. My locking blade is what I would consider my self defense knife, it can be opened quickly, one handed and deployed almost instantly. The multi-tool knife I use for any “dirty” tasks, for example if I’m fishing with my son and using night crawlers, then I’m using the multi-tool knife to cut them up. Lastly, I carry the slipjoint, which is normally a Case mini trapper(or other Case slipjoint). I carry a traditional slipjoint knife for many reasons, But I’ll just talk about two of them below.
Firstly, there are many areas I frequent where “weapons” are frowned upon. Now normally I just ignore these signs and go about my business, but in certain situations I will actually leave my main blade and multi-tool in the car, but I will always bring my flashlight and traditional slipjoint knife in. I’ve never once been stopped while doing this, and it still lets me having something with which to use.
Secondly, Slipjoint knives are ingrained into our collective consciousness as being mostly harmless. They don’t raise anyone’s alarm if they see you take one out, deliberately two hand open it and use it. My best example of this is as follow; I take my three year old son(now 4!) to Subway once or twice a month on Friday night. He always gets a Subway kids meal with turkey, tomato, cucumbers, cheese, and ranch dressing(gross, I know). Along with that though comes a jug of chocolate milk. Now, I could let him just drink out of the jug, and most of the time he does OK. However, I really don’t feel like getting on my hands and knees and cleaning it up when he spills.
So what I did the first time is whip out my Buck Bantam and slice and X into the top of the plastic cap, and then use the butt of the knife to widen it into a depression. A straw slips nicely in and it is mostly spill proof! You should have seen the looks that I was given by the other patrons of that Subway though. It was not kind, and I was actually somewhat concerned that one of them would call the police(which would have done nothing because I was perfectly legal, but still). From that point on I used my Case mini trapper to do it, and not once have I even gotten a cross look. People just don’t care. They don’t view slipjoints as “menacing” or “dangerous”.
Now there are plenty of other reasons to carry traditional slipjoint knives, and really any type of knife. But there are people out there that think no one should carry any type of “weapon”. There are even entire cities such as New York City, where it might as well be completely illegal to even go out in public with any type of locking knife. Slipjoints are still legal there (4″ and under) as long as you don’t expose it… it must be concealed (TTAK).
To anyone who says not to carry a knife, I hope that you would carry just a normal slipjoint for a week, and you will be amazed at how many different uses you will find for it! I would bet that you would always carry it from then on.
Carry on friends.