The Infant of the Sword


“I suppose every one must have reflected how primeval and how poetical are the things that one carries in one’s pocket; the pocket-knife, for instance, the type of all human tools, the infant of the sword. Once I planned to write a book of poems entirely about things in my pockets. But I found it would be too long; and the age of the great epics is past.”

— G.K. Chesterton, A Short History of England (1917)

I live in pocket knife territory, and I don’t mean where they’re carried — but where some of the best are made.  Probably the most famous of them all is W.R. Case & Sons.  They make their legendary knives in Bradford, Pennsylvania (where they also make Zippo lighters) — a little over a hundred miles north east of me.  Queen Cutlery makes beautiful knives in Titusville, Pennsylvania (that also claims the world’s first oil well in 1859), about 45 miles north east of here.  And Flexcut has added pocket knives to their line of tools.  They’re about an hour’s drive north of me in Erie, Pennsylvania.

I have a pocket knife from each of them, although I’m not a collector.  For me a pocket knife is the ultimate in convenient utility.  It rides along in the bottom of a pocket, just noticeable enough to provide confidence in one’s preparedness.  Open that package, pop out that splinter, shave that marshmallow-roasting stick, cut that cord!  And sharpen that pencil with style — one of life’s little joys, and great practice for knife control.


Although I do most of my knife carving with a fixed-blade sloyd knife, a pocket knife makes an ideal carving companion — and it’s always there when an opportunity presents itself.  I’ve discussed a few times on the blog how I use the pen blade of my pocket knife for lettering, as on the bowl in the above photo earlier this week.  Although other knives, folders and fixed-blade, will do the job, I prefer the pocket knife in the top photo.  It is made by Böker and it’s an old friend of nearly twenty years, so I’ve become used to it.  They still make the pattern, which is the “Whittler.”  Mine has carbon steel blades that take a very keen edge (although, admittedly, I know very little about the technical differences in blade steels), and the slightly serpentine handle nestles right into the web of my hand.


The handle scale material doesn’t effect performance, and you’ll find several options available.  And a search will yield a variety of prices, even for the same exact knife, so if you’re looking to get one you may want to search a bit.  Regardless, it will be a small price to pay for a loyal friend.


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7 Responses to The Infant of the Sword

  1. Emil Dahl says:

    Good one Dave!


  2. paul6000000 says:

    Sorry. First North American oil well was in Oil Springs Ontario in 1858. Cool post otherwise.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Thanks. This is one of those many examples of historic “firsts” with lots of competing claims. And they can pretty much all be justified depending upon exactly how the claim is worded and qualified, including sites in Poland, Romania, Pennsylvania, and, as you mentioned, Ontario. Generally, Drake’s well in Titusville, PA is considered the “first modern oil well,” but the fact is there were a lot of people exploring the same possibilities in very similar ways around the same time, as is true for so many inventions. Honestly, I have no passion for this particular issue: I’ll give ’em all credit, and it’s another reason to visit Ontario!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Tone says:

    I have acquired several pocket knives over the decades, including a nice Coast one in a leather pouch bought in the USA. Unfortunately I tended to buy medium sized pointy lock knives, good for cutting beating sticks and bushcraft but no longer legal to carry in public here in the UK without good reason; the blades are now too long & pointy for my tastes, for decorative carving. I now favor small traditional non-locking penknives, as carried by our grandfathers in England, with short street legal blades and rounder points more suitable perhaps for decorative carving. I’m not a fan of stainless steel Swiss army knives, preferring instead traditional carbon steel blades, but I once had a nice one – which I bought in Switzerland – that had slim red metal side plates (rather than the usual thick plastic one), with my favourite blade configuration: 2 short blades. I carried it on a leather thong on my climbing harness for years, ever since reading “Touching the Void” by Joe Simmons, but eventually decided to move it elsewhere for “safe keeping” and then never saw it again 😦


  4. Tone says:

    You mentioned the iconic Zippo lighters. A friend at work gave me an old Falklands commemorative lighter (c.1985-ish?) – 30+ years old and still works like new 🙂 I use it to warm up leather tools (creases) and start my garden incinerator. Not the safest of lighters but a great, simple design that works brilliantly, I can see why the troops like them, and they do things other lighters don’t. Glad to hear they are still producing them – and in the USA – hopefully they always will.


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