Get it Sharp. Keep it Sharp.
Made in U.S.A.
I am a metal worker, engineer, and aviation guy who has been loving knives most of my life. I have tried lots and sharpened a million to the point I invented my own compact sharpener.
I am writing this opinion piece to the preppers or whatever you want to call sensible people that may not be knife lovers. Need is my focus here not want.
The first step I would take is to evaluate and test everything you own NOW. Do this fast if all you have are Chinese made cutlery. Cardboard cutting is the best of test material on all but the biggest knives. Sharpen what you have as best you can, and then cut cardboard if a knife cannot cut 50 inches of cardboard and then smoothly cut a piece of writing paper, you need another knife. A big knife, which everyone needs (7 plus inch blade) is a multi-tasking tool. It needs to be able to chop through half of a 2 x 4 and then be able to cut paper.
Test and eliminate junk with these categories in mind:
- Everyday carry folding knife 3 inch blade or better
- Small fixed blades
- Bowie or large blade knife
- Fillet knife
Before I break down my recommendations I would like to say I own no cutlery that is not made in America, Japan, or Sweden. No one else even comes close to blade metallurgy and heat-treating abilities as well as other quality concerns.
- Folders, I recommend first look at Benchmade and Spyderco. Disclude the Benchmade red box imports and the Spyderco Byrd lines. The steels that are available now are incredible ATS 34, 154CM, C30V,VG-10, H-1 are some of the best. There are very good knives available on the lower end that are almost as good. Examples are any of the old Gerber, Browning, or Kershaw knives that were made in America or Japan mostly 1095 tool steel or 400 stainless. These will be older knives in most cases. And remember used knives are not bad knives. I have a Spyderco Endura Pacific H-1 that I bought used for 35 bucks. I restored the edge and I would not take price of a new one for that knife. It cuts paper by paper weight. Have two good folders. I would recommend staying away from serrations hard to sharpen and when they are done they are done.
- Small fixed blades, just stick with the better manufacturers made in US or Japan and look at what steel they are made of. Benchmade has a good line and so does Spyderco, any other manufacturers, consider the steel, and if you don’t recognize it Google it! I must add the best bargain in the small knife category and that are the knives made by Mora of Sweden, these knives are available in carbon and stainless and are extremely good steel. I prefer the stainless. They are the best general task knives I own and I own a bunch of them. One in every vehicle and lots of other spots. Available for about 15 buck, all you need to do is find a better sheath.
- Bowie or big knives, blade steel is critical in these knives. The reason is, they are multi function. You made need to chop a stake and then cut something smoothly while there is no time for a sharpening. The best Bowies are Gerber, Sakai, and Cold Steel that are made in the US or Japan. Ebay these deals can be had under the Rigid name which are Sakai, custom Bowies and \or large fighters are good but usually expensive make sure you know the blade steel. Cold Steel made some excellent Bowies make sure you get the Japanese made (not Japanese steel) or US made. The US version is Carbon V which is no longer made, it is good but does rust which requires care. The second level of these big knives are generally Kabar and Ontario knives, they are all good if made in the US. They will be 1095 steel which is ok, but not great. They will require more sharpening but are good sturdy knives. You need one of the big knives at a minimum.
- Fillet knives, this knife style is a must have. They can do a lot and get scary sharp. Butchering, and filleting fish aside, good general purpose cutting tool. Very disturbing on the quality that is available today. I would ebay any Kershaw Japanese fillet that I could find, as they are head and shoulders above anything on the market today. The old Browning, Gerber, and Schrade knives made in Japan or America are also very good. The Chinese stuff available now is junk, period. Kershaw has a fillet that is expandable from the handle from 7 to 9 inches; there are still some of the Japan made knives available. You need a couple of these!
Like I said if you are doing this on a budget, shop used, shop ebay, and gun shows.
And if you are needing to improve your sharpening equipment I only have two suggestions the Spyderco sharpening system for fixed base and my America Stone for on duty available at www.americastone.net You have any questions Jesse will forward them to me.
– Frank James AKA J. Stackman
From Jesse James:
Visit Frank’s site. Buy his sharpener. Seriously. It’s the best out there. See review here. A word about counterfeit knives. High-end mass produced brands like Benchmade, Spyderco, Al-Mar, Extrema Ratio, Zero Tolerance and others are often counterfeited and sold online. Sadly, I have seen even brick and mortar stores reselling them because they were fooled as well. Unless you know exactly what the real thing looks and feels like do not buy it from someone who is not an authorized dealer or is not reputable. The good fakes are difficult to spot, particularly if you are not aware of the difference between a steel and titanium liner or exactly what an AxisLock looks like, or other particular details of the knife. These knives will break as they use inferior steel and it maybe at the worst possible time. If you’re buying second hand, trust the person, and if it’s too good to be true it usually is. Look at things like the workmanship and the screws, many knockoffs will not use torx or hex screws and opt for pins rather than threading the liner. Remember, you aren’t just paying for looks. The price of good steel can be well over triple that of simple stainless you buy at Home Depot. This is a helpful article to get you started.