My knives, from left to right: mini Swiss Army Knife, Stanley utility knife, Opinel no.8, Leatherman wave. Photo by Oliver Fox.

Everyone should own a knife. More specifically, everyone should own a pocket knife— something that can stay with them and become an extension of their own hand. I have owned multiple knives for going on six years now; at first I did not use my knife enough, nor understand the unique abilities it possesses. But now, having been exposed to an environment in which the use of a knife is encouraged, and necessitated, I am able to articulate some reasons why everyone should own one.

Knives represent a piece of human character and history in an era that has led us to forget how to make our own things. Knives are the first tool that humans invented, and while they remain as useful as they were on day one, their usefulness has been forgotten amidst inventions that have made our lives easier, which is both a blessing and a curse. Gever Tulley, the founder of Tinkering School, puts it best in a 2014 TED Talk: “Your first knife is your first universal tool…it’s a spatula, it’s a pry bar, it’s a screwdriver, and it’s a blade.” 

Knives are easy to own and maintain. The variety of knives available to purchase is near endless, like razor blades, straight blades, combo blades, and multi-tools. Leatherman makes amazing knives and multi-tools, and they’re a local company. The store at Cascade Station sells every model they currently make, and the online store sells from an archive of older models in addition to the newest releases. Amazon sells everything, so it’s not a huge reach to assume that they have an enormous supply of knives, and we live in the Pacific Northwest, so you can walk around downtown and find a store that sells knives (REI, Next Adventure, Andy and Bax). Most of these places will also sell upkeep equipment, like sharpening stones and oil, because sharpening a knife is half the fun of owning one.

Now, this doesn’t mean that knives are perfect. They are still a blade, and will still cut you. But there are things you can do to stay safe. The rules I was taught are as follows. Rule one: cut away from yourself. This is the most effective way to prevent injury to yourself, but it doesn’t guarantee the safety of others. Thus, rule two: Blood Bubble (or, if you are in a tree, Blood Elevator). This constitutes the area around you measured by the length of your arm plus the blade of the knife, when fully outstretched. This is meant to protect those in the immediate area from any stray movements, caused by the knife catching in what you’re cutting. Rule three: maintain your knife. The most obvious route is sharpening because a sharp knife is safer than a dull knife. While this may seem counterintuitive, a sharp knife slices (a cleaner cut doesn’t remove material, only separates it) while a dull knife tears (removing material and making it harder for the skin to heal). If your knife has a lock, it’s a good idea to keep it lubricated. While all rules are arguably the most important, this is my favorite, because it has been proven to me that a well-kept knife will live longer than you will. Rule four, keep your knife locked. This prevents the blade from closing on your fingers. While it may seem intuitive, there’s no harm in remembering. Last up, rule five: three points of stable contact. This can be anything, two feet while sitting in a chair, sitting on the ground, leaning against something; as long as three parts of you are in contact with something that doesn’t move easily, you should be fine. 

Follow these rules, and you should be safe. Naturally, you will get cut, but danger and risk are a part of life, and it’s better to embrace them and be prepared for them than to resist them and get seriously hurt.

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