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Just An Old Knife


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#1 Perry

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 06:46 PM

Short piece! Hope you enjoy!



I don’t know why some events become more important in our memories than the actual event was itself. This is what I am thinking about as I look at the broken blade of my knife. It’s only a damn knife- what’s the problem? Buy another knife and get on with your life!
I could buy another knife, but it doesn’t come with history and character and I guess that’s the intangible difference between value and worth, I can get another knife – why does this broken knife cause me such a deep sense of loss?
A knife is an example of form and function. It should fit neatly in your hand while doing its task; it should cut with an edge that is easy to sharpen and hold its edge for a long time. The maker of the knife only creates form and function- as perfect as it may be – and assigns fair value for his efforts. The most important elements – its history, character, and worth – become your job after the purchase.
History is easy: take it with you; cut some rope; dress a deer: clean a fish; clean your fingernails; save a life – the more you use it the more history it has. The more the knife does for you the more it grows in worth; the worth it has only grows with you, but because it is used it depreciates in value to others.
Character is the reason I’m feeling the loss of my good knife. Character is the physical evidence of history. That explains why, a while back, when I broke a fly rod my only concern was getting another as soon as possible. The rod was a couple years old and looked the same as I got it.
This also explains why a fisherman I know spent hours trying to find a lure that broke off. He had a tackle box full of lures some were the same as the one he had lost. But still he searched-why? The lure he lost had caught so many fish the paint was gone and it was bruised and battered. It had character, and he felt the loss. Time to put a new lure on! Time to get a new knife!
The old knife that I held in such high esteem had a wooden handle with a carbon steel blade and a thick leather sheath. When I got this knife it was shiny and new. Through the years the blade stained but because it was carbon steel, it had a dull sheen. It sharpened with ease and held an edge well. The handle had scrapes and dents, each telling of abuse and adventure in my hands. I wondered whether it could be fixed, and the act of stupidity that broke it absorbed into its character. With this in mind I called a friend and custom knife-maker, Matt Stocker, from Middleton, NS. We talked about fixing the knife and agreed that a repair job was not in order; I would need a new knife.
Matt’s knives certainly have form and function, and the value he assigns to them is certainly reasonable. These knives are made of quality stainless blades, with alloys whose names make the man sound as though he were building a rocket instead of a knife. His handles are beautiful synthetic materials. These knives will last a lifetime and will in all probability look the same in ten years’ time.
I asked Matt about a carbon blade with a wood or bone handle. He told me his customers only asked for stainless and he hadn’t made a blade out of carbon for years, although he recognized carbon’s ability to take an edge and hold it. For the most part, the consumers had spoken and he had listened.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does a consumer demand a product or does the manufacturer simply create a new product, eclipsing the old product and creating a demand for the new? (For my next question I’ll ponder the meaning of life.)
If you could buy an upland bird vest that would always look as it did the day you bought it, would you? What about a 3X beaver felt fishing Stetson, which would also look perpetually new? Call me crazy: I don’t like new things and I can’t wait until they get a used look. And I can’t be alone in this feeling. How else would explain the number of antique stores and their popularity. Or why would there be “distressed” cotton shirts and pants, “stonewashed” jeans, and paint that cracks when it dries, giving it that “antique look”? This poor fool, and others of like mind, is comforted by articles that carry physical evidence of their history.
In my camp I have a collection of antique fishing tackle: rods, reels, fly boxes, flies, nets, everything used in the last hundred years, each with its own story to tell. On occasion I take some of these antiques out on the water to give them life, and a bit of new history. It always comes as a surprise to me how well they work, but keep in mind that they were all state-of-the-art in their own day. And the width of rivers and streams haven’t changed much, so what we ask of new things is much the same as the old – that they carry us over to the other shore. (This begs the question: if I think all the good fish are on the other side, why is that guy over there casting to my side?)
I have an old company tally book that records logging events that took place in the 1940s on a chain of numbered lakes and camps: for example, it records the articles taken from Camp Four to Eighth Lake, or the inventory taken at Seventh Lake Camp. It contains the names of loggers – Roland Mosher, Martin Hubley, Lester Mailman, Crandell Mailman – what they cut and how much, and the equipment they needed. It also lists the incredible inventories at the camps: spudding irons, log dogs, peavies, horseshoes, cross-cut raker gauges. I have no idea where this book came from, but if any of you know anything about this or wish to read it, I would be pleased to share this piece of history and character with you.
I was asked once to place a value on the outdoor equipment in a sporting gentleman’s estate. I had known this man for years. There were rifles, shotguns, rods, reels, fly boxes, tents, paddles and numerous items that told the story of this man’s travels in our great outdoors. You can appreciate that assigning monetary value to such a collection was not easy, and would have been much easier if he’d given some direction about its distribution among his heirs.
In return for this they offered me anything in the collection as a reminder of our time together. In the odds and ends there was an ash creel with a frying pan and an old knife. They told more about the man than the rest of the items, and this is what I asked for. These simple things had the highest worth to me.
So where does this leave me with the knife? Matt was most willing to make me a knife out of carbon steel with a wooden handle, but he cautioned me that this knife takes the same amount of time and effort as a stainless blade with a synthetic handle. Its value or price would be the same. The actual cost of the raw ingredients of any product is not a large part of the final price. How much does the graphite cost in a new rod? I’ll bet the answer would surprise you at how little it would be.
When you order a custom knife, be prepared to answer questions you never considered before. Do you prefer to have a blade that sharpens easy but doesn’t hold an edge over one that sharpens with more difficulty but will skin two elephants without wear? What shape of blade do you prefer? Do you want to defend the Alamo or get a splinter out of your finger? Be prepared for these questions, and more (being a fisherman, I tend to exaggerate a little). All joking aside, you are asking for a piece of equipment to suit your needs and some compromise in design will be necessary to satisfy all those demands.
Because of my lifestyle and where I choose to live and work, I usually have a knife on my belt. It is a part of my working attire, much the same as a pen is to someone else, or a cell phone. I forget when I go to town or the mall that it is still there. Can you imagine the looks I get? (or is it just me?)
Matt called a couple of weeks ago and said my knife was ready. The heat-treating and tempering process to make a carbon knife was something old that was new again to Matt. He got into and enjoyed the challenge!
And it is exactly what I wanted. It is well made, and, through the consultative process, has form and function that suits me. The design does a lot of functions well but doesn’t excel in any. In other words, if you want a skinning knife, get a skinning knife. But if you want to filet a fish in the summer and skin a deer in the fall, or cut some rope, give it a look. Utility design is a compromise. Its handle is made from rosewood that was left over from my years as a bowyer, and the gleaming carbon blade is just waiting for some history and character. Matt decided to make a limited edition of ten of this knife, and is called it the Guides Special. I plan on having my adventures with this knife – “knock on wood”.
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Just because you fish a lot doen't mean you are great or even good. It just means you fish a lot!!


#2 trout snout

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 07:34 PM

Great read and perspective perry as always... how can i get one of those knives . I find stainless does not hold an edge and like the way carbon steel ages also..
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#3 Perry

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 07:40 PM

You could talk to a custom knife maker like Matt! The ten knives went fast and he did another run with no limit. Same blade but slightly different profile. Check rhe flea markets as well old tools and knives are usually there. Carbon blades rule!
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Just because you fish a lot doen't mean you are great or even good. It just means you fish a lot!!


#4 marquisfly

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 07:53 PM

Thanks for the great read. It reminded me to appreciate what I have and the history I made with them. I always feel good when I wipe the dust off the cane rod and fish for a day leaviing the graphite at home.
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#5 Perry

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 08:14 PM

I know what you mean marquisfly. Graphite to me is a tool like a hammer or a saw. Damn fine tool but just that a tool. Bamboo has a soul and it is a different experiance. Hard to explain!
We should have a bamboo outing on a trout stream and share the experiance with others. That said there might only be you and I!! :)
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Just because you fish a lot doen't mean you are great or even good. It just means you fish a lot!!


#6 LSF

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:21 AM

Great story old feller ;)
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#7 marquisfly

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 12:22 PM

Count me in for a bamboo rod day Perry. Trout, shad, bass or salmon on a bamboo is a great feeling. I have a 5'6" four weight that a good friend built and gave to me as a gift, what a beautiful little rod. The first time I used it I landed a grilse on the Musquodobit river. The second trip was to the Forks pool on the Margaree where I landed a grilse one evening and lost a salmon on that little rod. What a great feeling! Old school fishing!
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#8 Gregory

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 01:37 PM

So true Perry, a person gives life to an item

Cheers
Greg
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#9 baldyaker

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 03:08 PM

Nice narrative Perry, and I know where you're coming from. There really is a lot to be said for the history of the things that are important to us. On that note, if you have a chance go to Youtube and type in "The Randall Knife." It's a song written and performed by Guy Clark and it's right along the same vein as your article so I think you'll enjoy it. :)
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BKiley
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#10 Luciano

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 07:04 AM

Thanks Perry, as a chef with a collection of cooking knives, I feel your pain when one goes to knife heaven. I still have my carbon steel chef's knife, it was the first one my father gave me when I first entered the trade. I have had to glue the handle back together as it split from seeing so much use. The blade is dark and dull, but it holds an edge better and longer than any other knife in my collection. I don't use it much, but every once in a while, as you said I give it some new history. It's crazy that when I do take it out, I do reflect on all the places it's been and foods it has prepared and the thousands it has served.
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#11 Shimanoman

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 10:44 PM

Perry,
Thank you for the enjoyable read. Ihave several favourite old knives with wooden handles and carbon steel blades. Probably my favourite folding pocket knife is an Opinel. They are a French make, come in various sizes, very serviceable, very durable, holds a good edge, are still availlable - and at a reasonable price. Thanls again for the read.
Regards.....
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Life is too short, to take too much, too seriously, for too long ....Vernon P.Fraser

#12 Perry

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 11:43 PM

It has a slick locking method for the blade foolproof. The blade is Laminate with the outside steel less temper than the inside. That way it sharpens easy and holds it's edge forever. Great knife and I was always surprized they were not more popular!
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Just because you fish a lot doen't mean you are great or even good. It just means you fish a lot!!


#13 Saltwaterfishin

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Posted 02 July 2016 - 09:11 PM

Id like to see both the newly constructed and the dearly departed
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