1. Determine how you'll use your knife.
When you reach for your knife, you want to have "the right tool for the job." Consider the tasks that'd go better if you had the right knife, and be as specific as you can.
2. Decide between a folding knife and a fixed blade.
When it comes to folding or fixed, you probably already have an idea of what you want. Before you limit your choices to traditional pocketknives and folders, though, you should know that many small fixed-blade knives are just as comfortable in a pocket (in a proper sheath, of course). Unless your goal is a large, heavy-use blade, keep your options open.
3. Figure out how you'll carry your knife.
You know your habits and your routine, what you're comfortable with and the stuff that really bugs you. That'll shape your decision to carry your knife in a pocket or a purse, on your belt or in a briefcase.
4. Consider where you'll go when carrying your knife.
Notice where your travels take you -- not just places, but people.
Sadly, some folks just don't love knives as much as we do. They may even see blades not as tools but as weapons. They'll lose their minds the first time you deploy a spring-assisted folder to make lunch. Maybe you don't care about their reactions, but we suggest you consider it anyway when picking out your knife. It just might save you a hassle and some tedious paperwork.
5. Know the state and local laws governing knives.
Yet another troubling aspect of today's culture is the web of laws, some of which ban fixed-blade knives altogether and limit folding knives to two inches. You should be aware of your local and state laws before walking out the door with a new knife.
6. Consider how convenient you want your knife to be.
If you expect to have both hands available when you open your knife, then most any type of knife will do. But if you regularly have just one hand free, think about a fixed blade knife, a one-hand-opening folder or a folder with spring assist.
7. Decide how much time you want to spend maintaining your knife.
Some people obsess about their knives, while other folks just use theirs. If you prefer a no-drama knife that's easy to touch-up, you probably want a carbon-steel blade -- it may not hold its sharpness as long, but restoring it is a snap. And if you're likely not to wipe your knife clean of residue and moisture before putting it away, you should strongly consider a stainless-steel blade.
8. Choose your knife -- and then use it.
By now you should be ready to choose your knife, so do it. But you won't know if you picked the right knife until you've put it to work -- actually use it.
You may not have your answer for weeks or months, and that's fine. Just remember, not every knife will be the right one for you. You'll learn something new every time you set out to find the perfect knife, and you'll get to enjoy these eight steps all over again.