Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why I Like Knives

For me, it started because I saw my grandpa carry one when I was kid.  If something needed fixing, he would pull out a mid-1920s Queen that was his dad's and fix it.  Whether it was fishing line or a tire on my bike or a piece of dry wall that was damaged, that knife and that man could get just about any task done.  And for me, that it is why I carry a knife--the hope that I too could get any task done with my trusty tool by my side.

Over the years, when I would get a new knife I would always bring it to him to show him, for his approval.  His system was much simpler than mine--if it was good, it was a knife that was "handy as a whistle on a plow".  If it was, um, not so good it was a knife that was "handy as a screen door on a submarine".  

He loved the multibladed traditionals a lot.  He had a nice collection of them, always sharp, always clean and lubed up, stored in a plastic Folger's can either under his bed or in a drawer in his dresser.  He had a few non-traditionals--a Gerber Gator that someone gave him that he wisely never used, a Kershaw Chive I gave him for Christmas that he thought was too gadgety, but carried because it was from me, and that mid-1920s Queen Congress from his Dad.  Eventually I got him a GEC knife with a good simple blade and a driver/cap lifter which better fit his style and was something he genuinely liked. 

But it wasn't about the knives themselves, for me.  It was about what he could do with them.  He could whittle and carve.  He could fix and repair.  And in the end, it seemed like the simpler the tool the more he could get it to do.  It was just amazing.  This country boy from poor and rural Ohio, whose dad made moonshine to get them through the Depression, could make and fix just about anything because, when he was little they had to.  Here was his childhood EDC:

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He raised my mom and uncles and did a great job.  He was a faithful husband for more than sixty years.  And even in old age, he loved to go in to the woods with a knife in his pocket.  I can't think of something I'd rather do, especially with him.

But Wednesday morning, after a tenacious battle with dementia, he is gone.  Someday I hope I can be as good a man as he is, whether it was with his family, at work, or with a knife.  He was honest, kind, patient and ornery and I will miss him.  

34 comments:

  1. Tony, my thoughts and prayers are with you, sounds like the world lost a good one. My story is similar. My dad's choice was a Camillus Electrcian's knife and if someone asked him if he a had a knife on him he would always respond, "I got my pants on don't I?"

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  2. What a wonderful set of memories to carry with you. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

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    2. Other than actual family, the only people I know that would understand this, is all of you folks.

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    3. I join you in the hope that one day someone will look at the knife I carry, and see far more than an old blade.

      Well written words, inspired by a well lived life.

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    4. I join you in the hope that one day someone will look at the knife I carry, and see far more than an old blade.

      AMEN!

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  3. Sorry for your loss, Tony. He sounds like a wonderful man, and I'm sure some of him is still in you and your kids. One question though: how is a whistle useful on a plow?

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  4. Lovely essay. I still have dreams about my grandpa (now 5 years since his death), and I feel like we are somehow still connected. I'm sure the same is true for the two of you. My condolences, as well.

    Like yours, my own love of knives has always had an atavistic tinge. In particular, I remember being fascinated at an early age by my dad's Case Sodbuster. Imagine my delight when I saw on a recent visit to his house that he still has it some 40 years later!

    Great blog, by the way. Carry on.

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  5. This hit me right in the feels. Probably the best post you've ever done. Right here.

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  6. This hit me right in the feels. Probably the best post you've done. Ever.

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  7. Son,
    I thank you for the beautiful words about your grandpa and my dad. He was a man of few words but someone, I too, strive to emulate. As far as a whistle on a plow....hummm?

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  8. Son,
    Thank you for the beautiful words about your grandpa and my dad. He was a man of few words, however he is someone I strve to emulate as well. As for the whistle on the plow; your dad just told me; "if you are way out in the field plowing and you need help, blow your whistle."

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    1. Thanks Vickie for raising a good man. We are all thankful for Tony and this site!

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  9. That was a wonderful post. I never knew your grandfather but I wholeheartedly agree with his knife philosophy. Carry what you need, don't get bamboozled by the bling, and stick with what works. He sounds like a wonderful man. My sincere condolences.

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  10. That was a wonderful post. I never knew your grandfather but I wholeheartedly agree with his knife philosophy. Carry what you need, don't get bamboozled by the bling, and stick with what works. He sounds like a wonderful man. My sincere condolences.

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  11. Sorry about your grandpa, mine died some time ago. He was swedish and always carried the same Victorinox soldier knife. About a week before he randomly died of a heart failure, he had been to the airport to see my sister off on a trip, and they confiscated his knife. When he died I went and bought him a pioneer to wear in his pants pocket when we buried him. I boughta matching one for myself with the day of his death engraved on the plate. My borderline autistic obsession with all things sharp started that day, as I started to emulate his use, which I often saw him do masterfully but didnt really think to try until he was gone.

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  12. Tony, I'm sorry for your loss. Far too much of the world is oblivious to the skills, tools, and enduring strength of spirit that propelled our ancestors forward to provide our very existence. Your work on this site and similar communities is helping to preserve part of our past - when a tangible object and the skills to use it meant a great deal. When tools were honored with respect and care. My sympathy for your loss, but take comfort knowing your grandfather's ideals live on in yourself and are reflected in your work. That's a pretty noble legacy.

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  13. My thoughts and prayers for you and yours. It is always terrible losing family, even harder when it is someone you look up to and admire. Again, my condolences to you and your family.

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  14. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and yours during this terrible time. Losing family is always hard. Losing someone you look up to and admire is harder. My sincerest sympathies and God be with you and your family.

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  15. I'm so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this with us, and for all you do on this site and for the community.

    When I was a kid, I had Boy Scout knives and my grandfather ("Papaw") had all sorts of knives. But I was never really "into" knives. He's a pastor, so while we went target shooting and I went Boy Scout camping, he and I didn't really live close together and have a chance to do much in the outdoors. And very unfortunately in retrospect, he had his entire collection and a bunch of firearms stolen from one of his previous homes a while ago; at this point, it would be nice for him to still have them for us to enjoy together. But he and I now share a love of knives, and it started for me a little over two years ago when I bought my Spyderco Dragonfly 2. I bought it after discovering the idea of "EDC" and improving what you carry in your pockets. I found your site and saw the DF2 at the top of your list and read your review, and bought it sight-unseen. I've been hooked ever since, and I plan on passing the hobby on (or at least attempting) to my son. So your Grandpa's legacy will live on in you and your family, and in a way in my family as well. I know that won't less your loss, but I hope it's some small consolation.

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    1. Teach your son about this hobby and mindset as Tony learned from his Grandpa - do things with him! Fix stuff. Make stuff! Get out in nature together. He may not appreciate it right away, but will someday.

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  16. Thank you for sharing your family story, and what a great man he was

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  17. Sorry for your loss and I hope the memories never fade.

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  18. So sorry for your loss, my thoughts are with you and yours. Sending smoke from Ohio.

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  19. Really great post, Tony. So sorry for your loss. This is a really great memory, and it's awesome that his influence not only lives on through your love of knives, but that you share that influence with others through this website.

    And considering your utilitarian philosophy, it's pretty great that your rating system is an evolution of his screen door on a submarine/whistle on a plow system.

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  20. Sorry for your loss Tony and thanks for sharing. I feel the same about both my grandfathers and their uncanny adeptness with simple tools. If I can be half the man that either one of my grandfathers were then I'll be doing OK.

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  21. Tony,

    I'm so sorry for your loss. That was a wonderful essay, and it has really brought back a lot of memories. I was born to older parents (WWII era) and never knew my grandparents, but I can somewhat relate. I lost my father when I was relatively young, and we always had a somewhat strained relationship, but one of the few enthusiasms we could share and discuss was knives. Of course, the knives we shared were traditional slipjoints...this was long before the advent of modern one-hand openers or super steels. Still, every time I look at the old Queen pocket knife I inherited from him (I think it's a Congress pattern?), I can't help but recall some fond memories. I'm so glad that your grandfather was able to plant the seeds for the appreciation of these fine tools with you, along with his solid values...he sounds like a very good man. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

    Jim

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  22. Thanks for posting this reflection. I knew a man very much like your Grandfather.

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  23. Tony, I'm very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  24. I'mm really sorry to hear about your loss. I lived with my grandfather for awhile when I was a kid and he always had a knife like the one you showed above. I always really looked up to him and he always had a knife on him that he'd use for all sorts of things. Thanks for sharing.

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  25. This is my first time visiting a site after doing a search for "best edc knives" and I read this. So sorry to hear about your grandpa but what a wonderful tribute. He sounds like a man we all would have been proud to know.

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  26. Please accept my condolences. Every good boy has a great man before them. I only wish every boy had a man like that to look up to. J.

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  27. Thank you Tony for sharing such moving words on a truly personal subject. That is something not all of us can do (effectively).

    Like everyone here, I offer my deepest heartfelt condolences. While I did not know your grandfather personally, he reminds me of my own and of my father. I can't help but get a little misty as I write this.

    In our increasingly crazy hectic insane materialistic world, it is nice to be reminded that simple things matter. Appreciating nature and human relationships. We all need a reminder to slow down and keep perspective from time to time. What better way than enjoying fond memories?

    Thanks again Tony. You never cease to surprise sir. Keep up the good work.

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