Carrying A Non-Tactical Knife

As I wrote in an earlier post,

I believe the word "tactical" that is so frequently applied to gear, especially self-defense gear, is grossly misused. So, this post is about a knife that does multiple duties, none of which are tactical, but which I hope will be outstanding in all respects.

Like many people, I think a knife is man's most basic and fundamental tool. It's a tool that can be carried in your pocket to do many things including, if needed, make other tools. Besides, I just like well made knives. That said, I should note that I can't afford expensive well made knives, although I like to look at them and research them on the internet.

I've had a number of small to medium knives that suites what is generally referred to as EDC knives, "every day carry". I'm not sure I like that term so much either, but it's pretty well embedded in the language so I'll go along with it. In keeping with my new philosophy to simplify and focus on the essentials and necessaries, I decided to look for an EDC knife that would be suitable for cutting onions, string, cardboard, sticks, fingernails and a bad person if absolutely necessary.

I attempted to avoid "unnecessary" features, like additional locks, odd blade shapes, assisted opening devices, tricky locks, ball bearings, and strange blade shapes. I've had knives with all of some of these features and they have all eventually ended up in a drawer or on eBay.

So what do I expect in a general all-purpose carry knife.

One that I can carry without it being a bother. It should be light enough to keep in my pocket all day without discomfort or distraction. It should be easy to retrieve and open, with one hand if necessary, to do normal knife tasks. The handle should be big enough to fit my hand comfortably yet not bigger than necessary and should be made to resist slipping even when wet. The handle should also be made so that the knife can be used hard and long without discomfort.

The blade should be long enough for most ordinary tasks from cutting string to slicing up food in the kitchen. It should be made of steel that is hard enough to hold an edge through a long work session, yet not so hard or shaped so weirdly that it is difficult to sharpen. For my purposes, the blade configuration should be for a slicer and piercer, not a hacker, chopper or pryer. It doesn't need to be especially coated to resist marks or not reflect the light. I don't plan to be cutting things in the dark. And the blade and handle should be shaped to accommodate different grips for different cutting tasks ranging from heavy force to light, precise slicing. Jimping and finger choil, where appropriate, should be present and well made.

Overall, the knife need not have accessories like assisted opening devices, ball bearing pivots, "safety locks" in addition to the normal locking mechanism.

How does one find candidates for this kind of knife? This is where the internet helps and hinders. It helps to be able to identify a wide variety of knives first from their images on the internet sites, to finding reviews or write-ups posted there. While photographs are pretty much self explanatory, knife reviews are quite another story.

There are sites and blogs that regularly devote their time to obtaining and reviewing knives. Online stores like Amazon and Knife Center, etc., will post customer 'reviews' for their products. I've read many of these regarding knives I have been interested in, but I have also come away with the knowledge that many are basically useless regarding real information, many are there because the writer has an issue or prejudice against or for certain brands, designs or companies. Many unfavorable reviews are based on the country of origin for a knife, not about the knife itself. Customers reviews can be both the most informative, and the worst and you must read carefully before accepting an individual's opinions as fact.

Some non-customer reviewers, knife fans who take the time to review knives of their choosing either on blogs like this one, or with videos posted on You Tube, often have their prejudices as well. Many times these are clustered around the country of origin - Chinese made knives are automatically considered somehow inferior to American made, and while Japanese made knives are better than Chinese made ones, American made is still considered better. This, obviously, is not the

de facto


It's an opinionated review jungle out there.

I decided that I would look at the quantity of reviews over time for knives that fit in my categories, as above, looking for those knives that had been around for a number of years (longevity of design and the manufacturer carries some weight), and the percentage of good vrs bad reviews from both independent reviewers and customers over an extended period. If a knife had been on the market for less than a year, for example, and the reviews were 85% positive, but among those reviews were many 'no content' reviews, i.e., "This is an awesome blade. It's really sharp and my friends think it's way cool." or "I just got this knife yesterday and I really love it." and the overall review numbers were small, like less than twenty after a year for sale on a decent online store, I disregarded the high positive percentage.

I looked for stable designs, usually gradually improved over time, with hundreds of reviews. I also at the content posted by the reviewers - do they have much of substance to say about why they like or don't like a particular knife. These are the important ones.

Appreciating all of the work put in over the years by the owners of Spyderco knives, I looked through their inventory and found a number of models that fit my likes and criteria. All of these had strong reviews, and the designs had been around for years and were continually upgraded by Spyderco.

I made the mistake of buying one of their less expensive models, a 'byrd' Meadowlark 2. Chinese made, but that's not a problem for me. The price was very good, less than half of their standard model that is most similar to the Meadowlark, the Delica which has better steel and is made in Japan. I received the Meadowlark and immediately was sorry for my choice. While I like the overall design, the blade shape, the opening mechanism that is merely a hole, not studs, flippers or torsion bars, the quality of manufacture was substandard. And, the knife came in a package that had already been opened and the inside of the knife was dirty.

Note the open, dirty tape on the package.

The inside flaps were torn, and the poor re-sealing job is evident in this photo.

Spyderco knives come new with the clip mounted on the tip end of the handle over the lanyard hole. This one has been moved. Note the wear marks on the clip screw holes around the lanyard hole.

I think the knife was a returned item, but even so, the blade was stiff and hard to open. Adjusting the tension of the pivot screw had no effect, except to loosen the blade so it dragged on the liners. I immediately returned it.

However, I think the design meets my criteria for what I want in a carry knife, so I ordered the better model, the Delica, which has been around for about twenty years in it's original configuration. Now, Spyderco offers generation four of the Delica with good steel, reportedly outstanding handle material and the blade shape and design that interests me. And, the reviews are almost embarrassingly good.

I am hoping that this will be my last carry knife purchase, at least as far as design, function and company goes, I will have the opportunity to put it to the test beginning next week. I'll report here on what I find.

Spyder Delica 4

FFG handle. Flat ground blade.