I got a new pocket knife about two weeks ago, and almost immediately cut my thumb open. I wasn’t doing anything foolish with the knife — just opening it to cut through some plastic packaging. When I cut my thumb, I reflexively dropped the knife, which went right through my jeans and stuck in my wallet. Good thing I keep a lot of discount cards and receipts in there (not a lot of cash, unfortunately) — otherwise I could have had a pretty bad injury to my thigh.

My new Fallkniven knife and the cut it gave me

My new Fallkniven knife and the cut it gave me

This photo was taken after the cut had been healing for a week, and I only needed a butterfly bandage to keep the wound from popping open. The first day after the injury, though, I attended a brunch with coworkers while still wearing a large gauze pad. My colleagues wanted to know what happened, and I showed them the knife, which I was carrying (as always) in my pocket. Apparently this was a faux pas — the knife made a few people uncomfortable.

“Why do you have that knife?”

“It’s a pocket knife. It’s useful for all kinds of stuff.”

“Like what?”

Like . . . all kinds of stuff.

They seemed unconvinced. But I have been carrying a pocket knife of one kind or another for years, and I use it almost every day. When I worked in the Department of Photography and Imaging at NYU, I had a tiny Leatherman Micra, (1.5″ blade) and my office mate Karl carried a Cold Steel Recon 1 (4″ blade). We received deliveries of dark room supplies from B&H almost weekly, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I needed a better knife for simple tasks like cutting boxes open.

The next knife I bought was a Microtech LCC Lightfoot. Mine was a manual version, not the automatic (switchblade) model which is illegal in most states. That knife served me well for years, and is now on its way to Iraq — I gave it to my buddy Dave before his second tour with the Army SF. (It should be a significant step up from the entry-level Benchmade model he had previously.)

The Fallkniven PXL was supposed to replace the Microtech as my every day carry knife. It has similar dimensions, and like the Microtech, it is designed to last through decades of hard use. The Microtech blade was 154CM steel, whereas the Fallkniven is a laminated powder steel. Both knives come from the factory razor sharp, and both hold their edges well.

But the Fallkniven had one significant difference from the Microtech that caused my little accident. The thumb stud on the Microtech knife has more texture, and it is positioned in a different place on the blade, providing more leverage during opening. It’s easy to flick open the Microtech, whereas the Fallkniven has a tighter blade retention (there’s a little ball on the liner that fits into a detent on the blade tang when it is closed), and you have to press hard with your thumb to get the knife to come out — when it does, it jumps partway open. When the knife jerked open, my thumb slipped off the poorly-textured thumb stud and onto the cutting edge. It seemed like I barely touched it, but it sliced deep.

In this post I have outed myself as a bit of a knife fanatic. But since this blog is purportedly a space for discussion of literature and photography (and not one of the many knife blogs), I’ll share a bit of useless literary trivia: Tobias Wolff (author of This Boy’s Life, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Old School and several other books) is also a knife fanatic. I hosted him for a two-day visit to the University of Texas at Austin, and as I drove him back to his hotel after dinner, Wolff told me that he has a collection of top-quality knives, and that he keeps them all shaving sharp.


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