Everyday Carry


Best Flip & Pocket Knives reviewed by Everyday Carry

Things to Consider When Buying a Knife Set

You might be familiar with buying a knife set for your kitchen, but for your everyday carry, one well-rounded knife should be able to handle most tasks. But which steel knife is the one that’s best for your everyday carry? There’s lots of options to choose from, but it comes down to things like the kind of steel used in the knife, the weight of the knife, and the kind of handle material that’s used.

Steel

Stainless Steel

The majority of EDC knives you will find on the market (even custom knives) will be made of stainless steel. Knife brands may state the specific blade steel used, like AUS-8 or CPM-S30V. Stainless refers to the ability of the steel to resist rust. Despite the name, they are not generally rustproof, so you still have to take care of your knife. Steel is an alloy (or mix) of metals that come together to make a razor-sharp cutlery tool. Iron and carbon is the most basic part of the mix, but other metals such as Chromium and Vanadium are usually added in because they help the iron keep from rusting from exposure to air and water.

Carbon steel

Carbon steels, in comparison to stainless steels, emphasize sharpness and performance above all other considerations. Sacrificing adding metals in the mix to make it more stainless, carbon steels by their very name toss in a lot of carbon for maximum sharpness. This makes them great cutlery knives, but they are susceptible to rusting if they are not taken care of with oil and tender love and care.

Damascus steel

There is actually no strict definition of what counts as Damascus steel. Still, knives in this category tend to exhibit a folded mix of steels that create an organic ripple effect that is beautiful as it is sharp, especially on a full tang blade. Usually, two kinds of steel are used: one more towards the carbon steel end of things, emphasizing sharpness, and a more durable and stain-resistant steel folded into the mix. Sometimes these knives are called “Damasteel” as well. Other knives in this category add decorative etching to the blade meant to evoke a historical fixed blade knife steel of the past. That original mix of steels is an engineering mystery that’s been long lost to time.

Weight

When it comes to everyday carry, the weight a knife can take up in your pockets or your pack can sometimes make the difference between leaving it on your counter at home or actually feeling like you want to bring it along with you on your daily adventures. At the same time, if you aren’t looking for an ultra-lightweight knife, the tool can feel too flimsy in your hands. Most EDCers balance the two extremes, settling on a knife weighing 2-3 ounces. Larger knives tend to be heavier and are usually billed as tactical or survival knives. Under 2 ounces gets you into the ultra-lightweight territory, and you get interesting mixes of materials to get you there.

Handle types

Handle types vary, and you can pick the materials you want for your EDC use. Some of the more popular knife handle scales and inlays include the following:

  • Wood
    Wooden handles are very traditional, providing an excellent touch of class to an EDC blade. You tend to find wooden inlays in modern and traditional gentleman’s knives alike, like the CRKT M4-02W. Each wood species has its own tone of color and grain structure, and they can be further treated with finishes to provide a unique and timeless look.
  • Plastic/Nylon/Synthetic
    Synthetic handle scales are some of the most ubiquitous in the EDC knife world. They are cheap to manufacture, but they are more resistant against cracking compared to traditional wood scales. The venerable G10 nylon scale, like the one on a Civivi Elementum for example, can be textured to provide some of the best grip you can have on a knife even when it’s slippery and wet. But it can also be sanded down to a fine finish that’s much more pocket-friendly. There’s also carbon fiber, which makes a durable handle scale that’s lightweight because of the fibers used in the weave.
  • Aluminum
    Knives with aluminum handles, like the Gerber Fastball, are made to be lightweight. Their bare metal approach is part of that weight savings strategy. But because it’s metal, it’s easy to machine into comfortable shapes with textures that let you grab on firmly during hard use. For these same reasons, it’s common to find EDC flashlights made of aluminum.
  • Titanium
    Titanium knife handles are usually found on some of the higher-end EDC knives that you can buy, like the Spyderco McBee or Benchmade 42 Balisong. Titanium’s unique mix of sturdiness and corrosion resistance while still being light in weight makes it sought-after in the everyday carry knife design community. Bare metal approaches to titanium scales adorn beautiful minimalist EDC knives. And because of their strength, titanium knives make the best frame lock knives. Titanium handles can also be paired with more traditional inlays such as wood and bone for a gorgeous juxtaposition between new and old in an EDC blade.
  • Stainless steel
    And as blades themselves are made of stainless steel, so can knife handles. Stainless steel handles are usually found in budget knives, but that doesn’t mean that you should count them out. While they tend to be heavier than knives with handles made out of titanium, they make up for it with a heft that gives you confidence that the knife can stand up to extremely rough use. They can also be used to make frame lock and liner lock knives.

Different Types of Knives Explained

There’s a lot of ways you can EDC a knife, and we’ll run you through some of the different ways here:

  • Flip & Pocket knives/Folding Knives The pocket knife is one of the easiest ways to EDC a knife. These knives use a pivot mechanism to store the blade in the handle when it’s not in use. Usually there’s a lock in the handle to prevent it from folding on the user during a cut. Whether through legal restriction or choice, some knives forgo that feature, opting usually for a ‘slipjoint’ style popularized by Buck knives that has a friction detent in the handle that gives it a slight bias towards staying open for safety. Folding knives tend to also come with a pocket clip that makes them easy to stow away in your pants pocket when you’re not using the knife.
  • Fixed-Blade Knives The name says it all, these knives have a fixed blade that means it does not fold. Quality EDC fixed-blade knives usually have a full tang, which means the handle is made of the same steel as the blade itself as a single structure, giving it better rigidity than a knife that has a blade stuck into a handle made of a different material. The primary draw of this kind of knife is the fact that there isn’t a folding mechanism that can fail in a complicated situation, making these knives a favored choice for survival, dive, and outdoors settings. The venerable Bowie knife is a kind of fixed blade knife you can carry. Another option is a machete for outdoors jungle adventures. You can choose to carry these knives in a traditional leather sheath or opt for a modern Kydex holster for your belt or your webbed gear setup.
  • Multi-tools You’ll usually find a knife blade (or two) on a multitool just because of how useful it is for a DIY-er or professional to have on hand. If the knife function is the primary function you’ll use out of a multitool, keep an eye out for designs that have that in mind. They tend to have a full-sized blade and a locking mechanism that lets them take the place of a dedicated tool while providing you with added handy convenience. If you want a plier-style multitool with a blade, take a look at the best SOG or Leatherman offerings. And if you favor the venerable Victorinox Swiss Army Knife, there’s tons of folding knife options available from them.

Knife Blade Shape

  • Drop-point
    As the name implies, the point of the knife drops off from the spine, giving a well-defined sharp pointed tip that can be manipulated in smaller spaces for delicate close up precision work.
  • Clip-point
    Clip-points are generally found on hunting, skinning, and old-style gents knives. They find their origin in knives used to dress game or fish after a hunt. The level spine on these knives allows for uniform movement through rough material, but the downward curve near the spine provides the versatility that makes these a good option for EDC.
  • Heavy-duty Tanto blade
    Tanto-style blades take up the shape favored by Japanese samurai warriors of old. These blades tend to be either straight or with a slight curve, but with a well-defined geometric point that emphasizes the ability to pierce through hard material in a pinch. These knives can be found with a fixed blade full tang or they can be made to fold as well.
  • Spear Point
    Similar to a tanto blade, spear point knives are primarily designed for piercing through tough objects with ease, but they retain a curved belly that allows for better slicing action than you tend to find with a tanto blade. It’s a well-rounded option for general EDC. Another thing that you can do with these blades is attach them to a pole if you find yourself in a survival situation outdoors, essentially creating a spear for yourself in a time of need.
  • Sheepsfoot and Santoku
    Sheepsfoot and santoku-style blades are a great general use blade shape for a steel knife. Santoku comes from the world of kitchen knives, but the same three-way usability of the blade works for EDC tools whether you use them to cut a sandwich in half or to open your latest order from Blade HQ in regular use. These knives can chop, slice, and pierce all in one and they are good EDC choices.
  • Hawkbill
    Some specialized knives, like a pruning knife or karambit, feature a blade with a downward curve to it, referred to as a Hawkbill. These blades come to a sharp point tip and create a hook-like shape to make tasks like carving easier when pulling the blade back towards you.
  • Pocket Cleaver Knives
    A few knives adopt a blade shape that’s reminiscent of a cleaver. This makes these EDC pocket knives great for heavier-duty chopping tasks that thinner profile drop-point, tanto, and spear-point knives can’t handle.

Blade Edge Shape

  • Plain
    Plain edge knives are easier to maintain, as you can use the sharpener of your choice to easily maintain a proper razor sharp edge angle based on how sharp you want the steel blade.
  • Fully Serrated
    Fully serrated knives are unique in that they are made to saw or cut through really rough material that a plain edge knife would have trouble getting at. The downside of this is that it takes specialized tools and know-how to maintain these kinds of knives, so they are hard to keep using when they eventually get dull.
  • Partially Serrated
    The mix between the two categories above allow you to cut through rough material like rope and plastic at the bottom part of the edge, but have enough plain-edge versatility to the belly and tip of the blade. You get the best of both worlds.

How to Care For Your Knives

All knives require maintenance to keep in good enough shape that you can rely on them day in and day out. Depending on the style of knife you have, and the materials used in its construction, you may have to do more maintenance than on other styles of knives.

The most important thing is keeping your knives sharp. Sharpening is the number one thing you have to do to make sure your sharp knife remains razor sharp after use. Some people in the EDC community may think that you don’t have to sharpen knives if they are very expensive and made out of super-premium steel like some knives made by Benchmade, Cold Steel, and Kershaw. The reality is while those kinds of knives tend to have a high maximum sharpness and edge retention, they still get dull eventually. Super premium steels with high hardness also generally require longer time with a whetstone or sharpener than softer, “cheaper” steel.

Carbon steels and tool steels in particular need to be kept dry and lubricated to avoid rust. Remember too that even though knives are marketed as “stainless” steel, they will rust eventually especially if you expose them to salt water.

For folding and automatic knives, lubricating the opening mechanism and pivot is important to keep a smooth action and easy one-handed deployment.

You can also opt to add loctite to screws that might eventually back out on their own, but take care that you don’t use red loctite unless you really want to. As opposed to the blue variant, red requires a higher heat to loosen up and that may damage the handle components especially if they are made of wood or plastic that can’t handle it.

While most pocket knives worth buying are backed by a manufacturer warranty, doing simple maintenance will keep your blades in good shape in between service.

FAQs

What are the top buying guides for knives?

Here at Everyday Carry we have published many buying guides to help you through the process of finding a good EDC knife. Here are our best knife guides to check out:

How to sharpen a pocket knife with a stone?

While in general you can sharpen a steel blade knife on something as simple as a paving stone found on the side of the road, you will want a special whetstone or knife sharpener to sharpen a knife. They come with different grits, with coarse grits made for major repair and finer grits made for honing an edge up to a mirror consistency if desired. If you don’t want to do this, find a pull-through sharpener instead.

How to use a pocket knife

A pocket knife is easy to use. Either use the thumbstuds, nail nick, flipper or button deployment to open the blade. Once the blade is firmly locked or fully deployed in an open position, securely grip the knife by the handle and start cutting or piercing with the sharpened edge of the blade, making sure to move the knife away from your body and out of harm’s way for anyone who might be around you. When you’re done, carefully disenage the lock and fold the knife to its closed position.

Why carry a pocket knife?

With a pocket knife, you don’t have to struggle with having the wrong tool for a job when it comes to opening packages, cutting through material, or even simple food preparation. When you buy new products, you are goin to have to open them safely. Oftentimes having to use your keys or a pair of scissors to open something can lead to injury. Responsibly using a knife for cutting tasks can be safer and more effective than other methods. And being prepared for a lot of everyday situations is the core tenet of EDC.

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