If you’re a diehard angler or casual weekend fisherman, there are certain must-have items in my opinion. Besides the rod and reel, boat and tackle, every angler should carry a sharp pair of clippers and an always-sharp pocketknife. I grew up in a rural environment and both of my grandpas carried them and I guess that carried over to me.
Coming from a farm family, a pocket knife was a passage to manhood. A knife is serious business and being trusted to carry one meant you were growing up; a small step of responsibility. They were looked at like tools, not toys, and a lot of work, whittling and sharpening was a part of my childhood.
My first knife
I’ve had a knife since I was trusted with carrying one at 12 or 13 years old. When I started, they were not name brand and were usually purchased at a 5 and Dime or a local hardware store.
As I got older I wanted quality and wanted Buck. Grandpa was a Buck man so naturally I am one as well; his was smooth and worn and had his hand impression on it after years of use. It was a work tool, something to open a letter with and something to pull out and whittle with while sitting on the front porch on a sultry Sunday afternoon after chores. Knives create memories and I often wonder how many times grandma sewed back his pockets after that knife wore a hole in it.
I started with a small pocketknife and actually have an assortment I now keep on my dresser and use depending on what I am doing. I have several old ones that have been lost and then found again but also have some that have stood the test of time and show wear from uses other than just cutting something. They have served as screwdrivers, box openers and of course have cut everything from rope to light wire. My small knives are two-blade knives and although Buck produces multi-tool style knives, I try to keep my blades simple.
Photo by Terry Brown/Wired2Fish
Maintaining your edge
Grandpa was a stickler for knife sharpness. No fancy gadget sharpeners, grinders or can opener sharpeners but rather a little 3-in-1 oil and a hone. I still have that very hone and use it religiously when my knives can’t cut the hair on my arm. That is how grandpa gauged their sharpness.
Tradition plays heavy for me with knives but I also want quality. Maintaining an edge that is consistent the entire blade length is important. I found that religious sharpening after heavy use not only keeps my knives cutting like new but adds to the life of the blade. It is very important to not remove too much when sharpening.
A drop or two of oil on the hone and a surgeon’s touch lightly putting an edge on the blade in a circular fashion is all it takes. Whenever I sharpen my knife memories of grandpa in his shop sitting on a simple two-legged stool are rekindled.
More than the blade
Keeping a knife in tip top shape is more than sharpness; it’s oiling, waxing and caring for the wood as well. I have several knives that are 50 or so years old and my old Buck 110 is always put back in the sheath after each use.
Grandpa showed me a trick of putting a light coat of oil on the leather inside the sheath, almost like oiling a baseball glove, keeps the knife and the sheath like new too. Just take a few drops on both the back and the front and rub it in with your finger tip and every time the knife is returned it gets a protective coat of oil. Using an oil rag that you can get at any gun store works great, too. You don’t want the oil to sit on the handle so wiping it off with a micro fiber cloth is essential. I have an old micro fiber that I keep in a plastic zip lock bag just for knives.
Photo by Terry Brown/Wired2Fish
Finding a category
I have all kinds of knives from filet to hunting to pocketknives, but my favorites are the ones I carry with me all the time. I have some larger game knives but they are specialty knives that are stored or displayed until I need them. A pocketknife is always in my pocket and I have three that I alternate through.
I have now centered on a single blade-style knife. The simplistic nature of that style with a 3-inch blade gives me the versatility to do just about anything needed with a knife—tough enough to cut rope but yet sharp and precise enough to remove a splinter.
My favorite now is the Buck Vantage Avid for its old-world look and rosewood inlaid grain. It weighs 2.3 ounces, has a drop point and a 2 5/8-inch blade perfect for all kinds of jobs around the shop, in the woods or on the lake.
Knives are lifesavers in the boat
I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten out of a sticky situation because I carry a knife in the boat. Cutting a piece of carpet off a crankbait, removing a wad of line from a swimbait and even freeing a bird or two that got entangled in line; a knife is a lifesaver.
A properly maintained pocketknife will last forever and is invaluable to the angler and the hunter. They are exceptional collector’s items and can also be passed down for generations and for me are a piece of Americana many might miss. Give me a sharp Buck knife, the old wooden work stool and an old shade tree anytime.
You can learn more about Buck Knives at BuckKnives.com.