In praise of small knives

14th Apr 2015

Everyone, it seems, wants a big knife. Maybe it goes back to when we were kids, to that unforgettable day when a trusted adult handed us our very first knife. Because we were small, that knife felt big -- really big.

Since then, perhaps to recall that feeling (or because we've watched too many Rambo movies), many of us have tended toward large knives, admittedly way too big for practical everyday carry. In some situations that leaves us with no knife at all, and that's seldom a good thing.

The solution, of course, is to carry something else -- but what? And how?

Small (or small-ish) fixed-blades

Ah, the quest for the perfect everyday-carry (EDC) fixed-blade knife -- for some of us, it's a search that never ends.

Bark River Little Carver 3V

At one end of the spectrum are mighty-mites like the ESEE Knives IZULA and Candiru, and the Bark River Knives Little Creek. Moving up from these compact blades we find the Bark River Rising Wolf and Northstar EDC, and the rugged ESEE-3.

Ultimately, the knife we choose depends on the tasks we'll ask it to perform and how much we can comfortably (and tactfully) carry. If all we do during the course of a day is open boxes and slice cheese, one of the pint-sized blades in the first group will serve nicely. More demanding chores -- like trimming bushes or cutting rope -- naturally will go better with a bigger little knife.

Then comes the matter of how to carry. Most folks don't consider toting their fixed-blade knife in a pocket, but in our experience it's just about the best way to carry it. There's a whole range of options, including multi-compartment pocket sheaths that accommodate more than one tool (say, a knife and a flashlight). They're so comfortable that you won't know that your knife is there 'til you need it, and so discreet that no one else will, either.

By the way, don't overlook the option of neck carry. Sure, some models are designed for it, but it's possible to adapt many small knives and their sheaths for this convenient method. Be a little creative and it's easy to get your favorite EDC off of your belt and put it where it works best for you.

One-blade folders

Benchmade 556 Mini-Griptilian

A folding knife with a single blade can be the ideal compromise between utility and comfortable carry. Makers like Benchmade, Brous, Chris Reeve, Kershaw, Spyderco and Zero Tolerance offer small folders. A few make many of their most useful models in more than one size -- the large and small Chris Reeve Sebenza folders, for example, as well as Benchmade's Griptilian and Mini-Griptilian.

Even the larger knives in these sibling pairs can be carried easily, but we're especially fond of small-frame folders like the Mini-Grip. They're lighter, less likely to "offend" sensitive citizens and offer plenty of working blade for most everything we need to do. Their pocket clips keep them handy and out of our spare change, too.

The humble pocketknife

We confess -- we're hopelessly in love with traditional slipjoints. Whether it has one blade, two blades or more, no matter if the tang stamp says Canal StreetGreat EasternNorthwoods or Queen, there's nothing like a good old-fashioned pocketknife.

Northwoods Norfolk Whittler

Our affection owes to more than simple nostalgia, though -- for us it's all about versatility. With a multi-blade slippie in our pocket, we can carry more than one knife in a very small package. We can even sharpen the blades differently for different tasks. What could be better than that?

The most common objection that we hear about carrying a conventional slipjoint, especially one of the larger ones, is, "It feels like I've got a rock in my pocket." That's why KnivesShipFree created the PocketSlip.

It's easy to see that this simple leather sleeve will prevent damage caused by keys, coins and other essential pocket stuff. What's not so obvious is that the PocketSlip spreads out the mass of the knife, keeps it from flopping around and makes it seem to disappear. You have to try it to believe it.

We still love (and use) our Bowies and our big bushcraft blades, and we carry one whenever we have a need for a big knife. Most of the time, however, we like to go small.

Truth is, most of the time it's all we need.