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On the Cutting Edge

 
Winkler Knives at the Mast Store Knife Shop

 

Do you carry a knife? What kind is it – traditional, like a “grandpa” pocket knife, or more modern with open assist and a clip? If you spend much time in the Mast Store knife shop, you’ll find that a simple question can open the door to a million and one possibilities. Purchasing a knife is a personal experience, much like choosing a purse for a woman or a wallet for a man. When you visit the Knife Shop at the Original Mast Store in Valle Crucis or the knife collections in any Mast Store location, you’ll want to consider the answers to three basic questions: What is your budget? How will you be using your knife? Do you prefer a folding or a fixed blade?

Before getting into the different kinds of knives, let’s consider the history of these useful tools. Knives have been a part of human existence since prehistoric times. Stone blades were fashioned from flint or obsidian. Some recent archeological digs show that ancient people would fire stones before making their knives because the heat made them easier to flake and made the finished product stiffer. Fast forward to medieval times, when guests came over for dinner, they would carry their cutlery with them. A sharp-pointed knife functioned both as a knife and a fork to raise food to your mouth. Oh, and if there was an argument, it could be settled with finality at the supper table. In the 1660s, King Louis XIV of France ruled that pointy knives would no longer be permitted on the street or at the dinner table.

Case KnivesFirst experiences with a knife come at young ages. Parents who bring their sons and daughters to pick out their first knives are faced with a myriad of choices, but according to Seth at the Knife Shop, “Most have a top end budget of around $30 because it could be lost or broken in a short period of time.” With that in mind, there are a number of options available. Old Timer, a more traditional first knife, or Opinel, which is made in France, are great folders to consider. If they prefer something that looks a little more modern, Columbia River Knives might fit the bill. As Seth advises, “We always show them how to open and close the knife and suggest models that have a locking blade to cut down on the risk of accidentally cutting fingers.”

Another popular category people in search of the perfect knife is everyday carry. What an “everyday use” might will vary from person to person, so think about how you’ll ply your knife most often – cutting boxes, trimming fishing line, harvesting flowers, slicing rope, peeling fruit, etc. From here, you might add on to the three questions with these: What kind of weight do you prefer? Might you want to upgrade the quality of the steel in the blade?

There are many grades of steel to consider and each one has its pros and cons. Basically, the more carbon in the steel, the better the blade will be at holding an edge, but it will require more maintenance. When there’s more stainless steel in the blade, it will hold its shiny quality better but may require more sharpening.

“We have some women come in looking for a knife to carry for personal protection,” said Patrick. “I recommend a noisy knife. If the idea is to protect yourself, if you can avoid the encounter altogether, that should be the goal. A noisy knife, one that makes a click when it’s opened like most automatic or open assist models, is more likely to notify the potential assailant that you’re not an easy target.” Another feature to think about when choosing a knife for self-protection is to look for one that is tip up. These models do not have to be rotated to engage.

Winkler KnivesCollectible knives make up a good portion of the offering in the knife shop. Collectible does not mean that they cannot be used, because any of the knives that are sought after by collectors are useful and usable. Case is the most collected brand in the United States. These knives have been made in the USA since the late 1880s and are datable by the number stamped on the tang. Many of the models carried in the Knife Shop are unusual and hard to find, like the ones that have handles/cases made from giraffe bone or buffalo horn or mother of pearl.

Randall Knives is another collectible brand. It is made in Orlando, Florida by the son of the founder of the company. These knives were used in World War II and Vietnam and have the distinction of being the first knife in space.

Arno Bernard KnivesWinkler Knives are made in Boone, North Carolina by master bladesmith Daniel Winkler. You have seen his work in the movies (Daniel Day Lewis carried one of his knives in The Last of the Mohicans). These knives are also sought after by elite military teams as well as those who serve as police officers and first responders. 

Made in South Africa, Arno Bernard Knives is another brand that collectors look for. They are family-made by a father and his four sons, and while they may be beautiful to look at, they are also made to be used. These knives are known for their high-carbon stainless blades and their interesting handles made of petrified mammoth molars, giraffe shin bone, and crocodile hides.

No matter what kind of knife you purchase, you will need to perform some maintenance. Don’t forget to look into sharpeners and an oil cloth to help keep it clean and in good working order. With over 700 knife styles, no matter what you are looking for, there is likely a knife to fit your needs (and maybe wants) at the Mast Store Knife Shop.