Sharp ideas for the new year

Do you remember getting your first jackknife? It’s a rite of passage for country-bred youngsters, especially those with hunting and fishing lineage. I was 10 years old and the birthday gift was a “Boy Scout” knife with several blades and tools. I managed to cut myself for the first time within a week, but that was the premiere chapter of my lifelong love affair with all types of knives, hatchets, axes, saws and multi-tools of every shape and size.

During the 50 years since my first knife, I have certainly acquired at least a hundred edged instruments for any possible facet of cutting. I own sharp, hand-held tools specialized for cutting, skinning, filleting, deboning, whittling, chopping and several other outdoor tasks they probably aren’t even meant for. Advances in form and function of cutlery for sportsmen have been amazing over the last couple of decades.

Sometime during my early 20s, I purchased my first knife from Buck. There have been a dozen since and three are mainstays for me. I carry a 502 Squire folding lockback in my right rear pants pocket every single day. If I’m traveling by air, it goes in the luggage and back in my pocket once I arrive at my destination. It’s lightweight, only 3 ounces, 3-1/2 inches in length with a 2-3/4 inch blade, perfect for peeling fruit, opening boxes or cleaning trout or small game.

A Buck 110 folding Hunter alternates between my blind bag for waterfowl hunting, my upland game vest and the pocket of my deer hunting jacket. This sturdy drop-point lockblade with a 3-¾ inch blade can handle anything from breasting out a goose, to cleaning a buck, to cutting limbs for a blind, and it comes with a sturdy leather belt case. For a quality fixed blade belt knife that can handle any outdoor chore, the Buck 102 woodsman or the 119 Special fills the bill. Top rate craftsmanship, strong steel and a keen edge in every model are qualities of this knife and can be had at a very affordable price.

Sometimes, however, a straight-edged blade just won’t do the job. Something with teeth is required and even a small bucksaw or bow saw is too cumbersome to carry. Building a makeshift blind, putting up a tree stand, clearing a spot for a tent, opening a trail or cutting firewood really requires a saw. I’ve found the perfect tool. Browning’s folding camp saw is a six-inch unit that opens to 11-3/4 inches with a button that locks the blade in the open or closed position.

With a composite finger-grooved handle with rubber inlay and a stainless, full-serrated blade, it’s amazing how quickly and easily this saw chews through wood. A tough nylon sheath allows the lightweight saw to be carried horizontally or vertically on a belt or easily stored in a waist or back pack, and all for $24. There are several other companies that manufacture a similar unit. I’ve carried and used my Browning saw for 10 years and it works as well as the first day I opened the box. These folding saws can also be used to clean and quarter big game animals in a pinch or cut ice in the winter, so it is an outdoorsman’s “must-have” tool.

Another cutlery tool that fills a hundred outdoor needs and travels with me in my truck, boat and packbasket is a hatchet. Like most campers and outdoorsmen, I own a full size ax, a double-bitted ax, a camp ax and a splitting maul, but my easiest to carry and most versatile chopping tool is my belt hatchet. The sharp side cuts brush, limbs and small trees, while the blunt side serves as a hammer for pounding tent stakes, pegs, nails or another chore requiring blunt force. With a heavy bladed hunting knife, a camp saw and a sharp hatchet, a determined sportsman can face most any outdoor venture other than cutting and splitting a cord of wood.

Perhaps the most innovative and outdoor-oriented tool since the Swiss Army knife is the multi-tool. It is manufactured by several companies and comes in various sizes and with several combinations of tools. Regardless of your occupation or recreation, it’s a must have. Leatherman company was one of the first and foremost names in multitool production, and I own four of these sturdy all-purpose tools. I have one in my tackle box that goes in my boat or canoe, one in my truck, one in my waterfowl bag and another that goes on my belt for everyday random woods and waters outings.

For those who aren’t familiar with multi-tools, they are a bifold unit that’s 3.8 inches when closed in its leather belt case. When opened, it forms a set of needle nose pliers with 10 to 20 other tools folding from the inside or outside of the handles depending on the model. There’s a knife, wire cutter, wire stripper, scissors, ruler, can opener, file, bottle opener, at least two types of screwdrivers and several other options depending on the model. Multi-tools are a mini tool box in a belt sheath and can be a lifesaver for sportsmen.

Over the last couple of years there’s been an interesting development in folding and rigid knives for outdoorsmen, particularly avid hunters and fishermen. One of the greatest challenges  is keeping a blade sharp so it performs well and doesn’t slip and cut the handler. A couple of well known knife manufacturers, Gerber and Havalon, have solved this problem by creating knives with replaceable blades.

There are dozens of models of rigid and folding knives from these two superior manufacturers and other top brands are adding replaceable knives to their inventory monthly. The blades come in multiple packs and can be accessed easily. A used blade can be removed and a razor sharp replacement snapped and locked solidly into place within seconds. This modern cutlery with scalpel blade technology may not have the heft, feel and heritage of old sporting blades, but they are the wave of the future.

While guns and fishing rods, canoes and tents and backpacks and hiking boots may be the foundation of most outdoor activities, bladed weapons are where it all began centuries ago. Today they still hold a crucial role in every sportsman’s life. How are you fixed for sharp ideas?

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