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Recently in Massachusetts, a semi driver was critically burned and later died after the tanker he was driving flipped, igniting over 9,000 gallons of gasoline. Bystanders valiantly tried to rescue him, but the flames and a stuck seatbelt prevented him from being rescued in time. A half-sharpened penknife could have made it possible to release him sooner, and that might have changed the outcome of this tragic story. For whatever reason, no one at the scene carried a knife or rescue tool — and it made me wonder why.

I once received detention for accidentally (I swear) bringing my giant SwissChamp to high school. Upon learning this, my father was surprised — because in his uphill-both-ways school days he was required to bring a knife to school. Pencil sharpeners weren’t available, and everyone carried a knife.

What do you all think? If you carry a knife or pocket tool with a blade, what issues have you come across? If you don’t carry one, why not? Tell us in the comments.


53 Responses to For Want Of A Knife

  1. Rob O. says:

    I’ve carried a pocketknife since my teens. Carrying a pocketknife is like carrying a wallet – it’s a transitional point from when a boy begins maturing into a man. These days, I’m really partial to my Leatherman Squirt P4.

    However, since 9/11, you get scanned coming into so many buildings that it can make it all but impossible to always carry your trusty pocketknife. The crazy thing is that I’m sure that someone with dastardly motives could do far more damage with a ballpoint pen than I could with my tiny Leatherman or any of the other equally-diminutive knives that fit nicely into my slacks pocket.

  2. Jim Nutt says:

    I carry a Leatherman Charge pretty much everywhere (although I’m thinking about getting something smaller for “dress” :>). The biggest problem I see is the absolutely rampant paranoia of people…. ooh a knife! He’s going to hurt someone! Not just flying, but even places like the Statue of Liberty ferry prohibit knives and multi tools. It’s just annoying… makes me want to stab someone… *grin*

  3. Matt says:

    I carry a 2-inch blade – or there abouts – Beratta knife on my key chain. I have had it for 7 years. Plus, there is a full size Leatherman in both mine and my wifes car. You just never know.

  4. suboptimal says:

    I carry five. Spyderco Delica serrated (the Boogeyman for zipties!), Cold Steel Voyager clip point (for a curved edge), Cold Steel Voyager tanto point (for a flat edge), Gerber micro LMF (sharpest thing in the bunch – too bad the steel can’t hold an edge when used to cut abrasive things like paper), and a Sog Micro Tool Clip (smallest way to get pliers and wire cutters that atually work).

    My coworkers mock me. Until it’s time to refill the backup silo and there are six of us unwrapping three cases of backup tapes. Then they’re thankful. Except for the wiseass who mocked me for carrying so many knives and who then has to pick at the wrappers with his fingers after I take the knife away and give it to someone else.

  5. Vody says:

    I was in the Army for 7 years during the 90’s, but prior to that had never carried a knife. Ever. I quickly learned, from simple mistakes, how to handle them and respect them. Though I never had a collection anywhere near as large as Sean’s, I ended up with quite a few.

    For the 7 years I was in the Army, the only days I didn’t carry a knife was when I was in basic training. I can’t even tell you how many times a simple 1.5″ keychain buck knife or a full K-Bar got me or my fellow soldiers out of tight squeezes and life-threatening situations. I truthfully tell you that one young man would be headless right now if it weren’t for a (respectfully) crappy Gerber multi-plier.

    After the Army, and until I recently started traveling more, I’ve carried at least one knife daily.

  6. ScaryFast says:

    For Christmas I asked my mom for a Buck X-Tract. You know, the multi-tool that’s a knife first but still has plyers and drivers in case you need em? In the kit was a keychain knife/bottle opener which has a permanent home with my car keys. The X-Tract tends to stay in my laptop backpack or camera bag and as such isn’t always within easy reach but the keychain one is always in my pocket.

    I’ve always carried some form of small knife and some people look at me weird but when they need a knife mine is always available.

  7. Stitch says:

    Swiss+Tech makes some slick little tools that fold up into a shape with the same outline as a key, and it clips right onto a keyring.

    Handy to carry places where you’re not supposed to have knives, as no one’s going to inspect each key on your keyring to make sure none of your keys are too sharp.

  8. MikeT says:

    I once made it through 2 airport security checkpoints with a victorinox multitool (with two 4-inch blades) forgotten in the bottom of my bag. It wasn’t until the trip home that they caught it. Luckily, they didn’t confiscate it. They escorted me out of security and returned it to me with instructions to the nearby Fed-Ex boxes so I could mail it home.

    On a daily basis, I carry a little Gerber with a single 1.5″ blade. I have a bigger Spyderco that I prefer, but when I flipped it open in the mailroom to open a letter, the guy next to me yelled, “Jesus, man, that’s a weapon!” and I decided I needed something smaller.

  9. Dan Lyke says:

    I stopped carrying my Gerber multi-tool after this recent “war on terror” silliness escalated to the point where it was annoying to constantly have to deal with “security” checkpoints.

    I think we can chalk this poor driver’s death up to another casualty of the security theater hysteria.

    I’m going to seek out this little device that Stitch mentions…

  10. Zathrus says:

    I got a Leatherman Wave for Valentine’s Day this year and I’ve been carrying it since; yeah, I’m a computer programmer, but I’m also the sysadmin for our group, and I’ve used it for installing servers, stripping wires to diagnose a serial port pinout, opening boxes, bodging together some hanger clips, nuts, and bolts to fashion whiteboard hangers (since the permanent mount-into-wall method they came with doesn’t work so well for fabric cube walls), unscrewing random things, etc.

    I guess if I’m ever in that situation above, I’ll be ready — I have 3 different things to cut through a seatbelt on me at any given time now. In order of usefulness:

    – ResQMe (http://www.amazon.com/ResQMe-Keychain-Version-Original-LifeHammer/dp/B000IDUW5C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=automotive&qid=1209407416&sr=1-1), which I got for my wife and myself after reading the LifeHammer post here
    – Leatherman Wave
    – Utilikey (http://www.swisstechtools.com/productdetail.aspx?PID=VZ75GDTdP68A) — it’d suck to try and cut through a seat belt with this, but better than nothing at all.

    I’ve taken the Utilikey through TSA and customs, but wouldn’t try it with the Wave. Dunno about the ResQMe; I suspect it’d go through just fine.

    I went for years w/o a knife on my keychain (I used to carry the really cheap mini faux swiss army knives), but got perpetually annoyed with the inability to do stupidly simple things like open clamshell packaging, overtaped boxes, unscrew anything, or even open some microwave meals (seriously; they’re vacuum packed with no accessible seams). I eventually got the Utilikey, which is handy for a lot of things, but the Wave is definitely superior if it’s an option and you need the extra bits.

  11. Adam says:

    I have carried a Victronox Huntsman since I was 8 (now 26). I still have that knife that I carry everyday (With the toothpick and tweezers believe it or not). I also carry with me a Banchmade 551S, or when at work, a lockback razor knife for general cutting duties. I am an Eagle Scout, and have always lived by the motto, “Be Prepared”. Even through high school I carried that knife with me, I was careful not to let it slip out of my pocket.

    Maybe its the old school in me, but every man should carry a pocketknife. Heck, my wife carries one in her purse as well. So why dont you?

  12. The funny thing about carrying a knife is that until you start carrying knives, you don’t realize how often you need a knife. Mine gets used daily, for sure.

    No issues carrying for me, other than flying, obviously. Usually it’s my trusty Boker Wharcom, which is an awesome, awesome little knife.

    It’s ridiculous to ban knives. A knife is maybe the second oldest tool, after the “pounding on stuff rock”…and is still the most useful.

  13. tmib_seattle says:

    One of the scouts in our troop had an interesting incident happen to him a few years back. He went on a day hike with the troop and as is appropriate, had his pocketknife in his day pack.

    When he got home, he unpacked his day pack and then re-packed it for school; the same bag was used for his school backpack. When he got to school the next day, he found the pocketknife in his bag. He did the responsible thing and immediately gave it to his homeroom teacher, explaining what had happened and how he had accidentally left it in his bag.

    The result? 2 day suspension from school, thanks to the wisdom of a “no tolerance” policy. Pretty sad times we live in.

  14. Michael says:

    I’ve been carrying a little Schrade Old Timer junior Stockman for years now, Yes, it sees daily use, everything from sharpening pencils to opening a shrink wrap of juice boxes when I’m making lunches for the kids. Flips out half the people who see it, this for a two inch “large” blade.

  15. Murphy says:

    I will never forget the day I was riding in the elevator en route to a “black tie” event. An elegant young lady on the elevator was fussing with an errant string on her dress. The …um… gentleman she was with grabbed at it to pull it and break it off. She immediately swatted him and explained the intricacies of seams and thread using terms that would make the most open minded seamstress blush.

    After considering the relative hazard of getting involved with the situation (I figured I could kick his ass) I pulled my pocket knife out and silently gestured to the young lady that I would cut the string for her. I don’t know whether she thought I was going to cut the string or take her boyfriend out of his misery, but she stopped berating her companion long enough for me to ask her to hold the thread taught. After cutting the string close to the garment she sighed and smiled and spoke the sweetest thank you to me. Then (you guessed it) turned to her boyfriend, smacked him and asked why he was not carrying a knife.

    Needless to say none of my companions have ever smacked me for not carrying a knife.

  16. Michael says:

    I tried carrying a knife several times over the years but the size and having to empty my pocket to get it made it too difficult.

    And then they came out with clips. Now I carry—wear–a benchmade with a clip almost every day. Indeed, I feel naked without it. The clip lets me carry it in my pocket all but concealed but still very handy, and I can still reach in my pocket to get to all the other stuff I accumulate over the day.

    I would like to get a small multi-tool with a blade of course but so far haven’t been able to find one with a clip that I can wear like my benchmade.


  17. Fred says:

    At one of the regular dinner outings with the old Boomers, one of the ladies was struggling with some package and asked if anyone had a knife. Well, faster than you can say West Side Story there were knives everywhere. Now it’s a standing joke that someone will say, “Knife check” and everyone shows they are properly dressed for dinner.

  18. -craigt says:

    I have carried a pocket knife most of my life. Had one taken form in school and my dad went to school to get it back and told me to do a better job if keeping quite about it. Told me not to show it to my friends etc.

    Of course now I collect knives and my current EDC knife is Benchmade Apparition.

    I use often and it makes sense. I also keep a Benchmade rescue tool in my car.

  19. Scott says:

    I am 49 and I have carried a pocketknife since I became a Cub Scout in the 2nd Grade. I never used it inappropriately and I do not recall anyone ever saying anything to me about it while I was in school. I never lost one until I was in College and I loaned my Buck Stockman to a girl to cut some ribbon. I always had backups, but I still went out the next day and bought me another Stockman. Since then I have diversified my collection to the point that my youngest son is always asking me why I need so many knives. As a Boy Scout, he really knows why. Because they are a practical tool and because I love them. I think that regardless of how fearful our government and some of it’s citizens become, reasonable people will always know that knives are one of the most useful and in many ways the most beautiful tools that man has ever created.

  20. Rob1855 says:

    Yet another downside to being a trial lawyer. Edged weapons are disfavored in courthouses. As a result, I no longer “carry” a leatherman or a knife.

    That being said, there’s one in the car, one in the desk, and another by the place my keys land at night.

  21. Keith Melton says:

    My father gave me my first knife when I was 8 and I have always had a knife in my pocket since. Add one more to the chorus of “I feel naked with out one”

    I even keep a stock of 3 knives at my friends house in another state so when I visit annually I always have a knife available.

    @tmib_seattle, what a sad state we live in these days.

  22. cb says:

    i used to carry a pocketknife all the time. now i fly so often, and usually with no checked luggage, that i’ve stopped carrying one habitually. it’s a real shame.

  23. Sommelier says:

    I, too, have carried a knife almost every day since Cub Scouts, and I am also amazed at the number of people who are surprised that I carry one. “Be Prepared” wasn’t just the Boy Scout Motto… it’s the way to live your life. My everyday carry knife is a Gerber Chameleon: smooth one hand opening, sturdy enough for opening wine boxes, and edge-holding steel. I still have the Gerber Mark I that I carried in my boot all through the Army. It goes out with me occasionally… after all, I do live in Brooklyn.

  24. Growing up I never carried a knife.. My dad was the type that never carried one either. Granted, he worked at an automotive assembly plant, and had cases of safety razor blades from work all over the house. If he ever needed to cut something, he just pulled out a razor blade. He would also frequently have utility knives pretty handy, but regular old folding pocket knives – never.

    Late last year I ordered some gifts from Duluth Trading and they sent me a handy folding knife (http://tinyurl.com/5e2bnp) as a freebie with my order (there was a special offer at the time.) I started carrying it then, and I’m amazed at how often I use it. It’s just the right size to carry all the time (except when I fly). I used my trusty Accusharp sharpener on it (http://www.accusharp.com/) and it’s always sharp as a razor and always handy. I work in Midtown NYC on 5th Avenue at a Financial Services startup, and I’ll often get some odd looks from co-workers and my boss.. but usually they’re just thankful that someone had a knife to open a box, etc.

    Though my boss does ask “Do you fly with that?” I think he’s afraid I won’t show up at a client’s offices when I get pulled aside by the TSA for my knife. (It stays home when I fly :-()

  25. Loomis says:

    I carry a small Swiss knife on my keyring. My biggest problem is that I sometimes forget to close it after use (usually when I’m opening a package) and I stuff the ring back into my pocket with the blade still out. If I don’t stab myself in the leg right then, I will usually be reminded the next time I pull my keys out of my pocket.

  26. Marc says:

    I carry and use spider co knife everyday for my work as an industrial firefighter. Most firefighters carry a combination blade (straight & serraded). You can cut rope, webbing, fire hose, cord, boxes or whatever you need. I have to leave it in my car if I go to a school of government building off duty. I also have a pocket tool on my turouts, it has the wire cutter feature, real handy if you get tangle durring a seach.

  27. Esther says:

    I carry a small leatherman with me on my keyring and a larger one in my camera bag. I’m always flying and I find myself most needing my knife when I’ve removed it from my keychain and placed it my luggage for “security”

  28. Eric Dykstra says:

    Stitch, I knew a guy that was in the guard that did security duty at Logan after the attacks. He had a 4″ key ring full of confiscated pocket knives, among them were several of those swiss+tech utili-keys. I’m sure at least a few TSA agents are wise to them. If i flew i’d probably just play it safe and check it/leave it at home. I wouldn’t want to have to explain myself to Mr. Air Marshall.

    Ironically i just misplaced the superknife i keep with me. I miss it already.

    I do question the tsa banning all blades at this point. I find it hard to believe that box cutters would cow passengers and aircrew. If you check out the TSA’s blog they explain that it’s in the best interest of the flight crews to keep them banned.

    TSA Blog: http://www.tsa.gov/blog/

  29. ToolFreak says:

    I’ve made it a point to carry knives, pry bars, unlocking tools, and many other rescue items in my vehicle ever since I saw the police use a brick through the window to “rescue” a baby trapped in a car on a hot day when the distraught mother locked the keys in the car. A knife, or even better, a seatbelt cutter/window breaker combo tool should be standard equipment in a semi, within easy reach of the driver.

    Though I like to carry a knife all the time, it usually isn’t practical, and as many others have stated, it’s hard to do in this day and age. I do carry the swiss-tech utili-key that was mentioned, and it is an AMAZING tool that I have personally passed through airport security many times. Unfortunately, they are now made in China, though the $9.99 price isn’t too bad.

  30. Dan Kitchen says:

    Like a lot of other commentors, I got my first knife at an early age and have tried to carry one off and on since. I used to carry a Leatherman Supertool all the time, but I’ve realized that isn’t really to comfortable on a day to day experience. Now, I rotate between a Schrade Uncle Henry, a small SAK, a small locking blade, the Supertool on tool heavy days, or my new favorite Skeletool. It all depends on the day, and what I have planned. I pretty much try to always have on hand though.

    Funny story on the security issue. I had to go through security at the White House visitor’s center (not the White House) as a contractor. They waved my fully loaded tool bag through the scanner, but when I emptied my pockets for the metal detector they flipped out about my small locking blade with 1.5″ blade. Never mind that my tool bag had assorted saws, utility blades, and pronged implements of destruction. After pointed out that my pocket knife was the least of their worries, and that everything else were “tools,” we were able to come to an accord.

  31. Chris W says:

    I carry a Coast mini multitool on my keychain and a Leatherman Wave at work. My job sometimes takes me into the White House, Capitol and Pentagon, but the security officers at those places recognize the need to carry sharp tools as long as you have the right passes.

  32. Tony S. says:

    I EDC a knife. I have since I was about 12. First was a Victorianox, then a Spyderco, then a Kershaw, and now a Benchmade. As a trial lawyer, I obviously can’t bring it with me every day. I learned the hard way when I accidentally (I swear) brought the Spyderco with me to the Federal District Court in Boston (I was in jeans, I was just there to turn in a motion). I mailed it back to myself, but I just ended up with a ripped envelope in the end.

  33. eosha says:

    I got an old Barlow from my grandfather when I was a boy, and I still have it in a box. I’m 24 now, and I carry a Leatherman Wave I got when I was 15. Even after Columbine, I have carried it every day of my life (I was blessed with a private school which wasn’t too paranoid). The only time it’s off my person is when I’m flying or in restricted space. I use it more than any other object I own.

  34. tbirdsaw says:

    I’ve carried a Swiss pocketknife ever since I graduated high school (it was kind of frowned upon there…). Now I carry two… the Swiss and a Leatherman Squirt E4. People sometimes wonder why I carry two knives… but they never question me when they need it. The wirecutters of the E4 come in very handy (I work in IT quite a bit), and the Swiss is kept sharpened by my dad, so it’s got the sharpest blade in my pocket.
    I don’t travel alot, so it hasn’t been an issue. I had to check it though at a museum… I got some raised eyebrows, but they gave it back to me (along with my pocket flashlight) when I came back for them.
    I carry one… My dad carries one… my grandfather carried one… my great-grandfather carried one… etc..

  35. Jake says:

    A gentleman carries a knife.

    When I see a need for mine, and I whip it out and begin to use it, I usually get some kind of response from someone nearby like, “Wow, prepared.”

    And “A gentleman carries a knife” is always my reply.

    My current love is a Skeletool CX with my initials engraved on the blade. It’s my security blanket against having it walk away.

  36. Bren R. says:

    I carry a Leatherman Super Tool on my belt whenever I think to wear a belt, and a small folding Buck Metro whenever I think of putting it in my pocket, but like so many others have said, after the Nth time of having a rent-a-cop tell you you can’t have it here or there, you start leaving it at home…

    Those are the days you need a Phillips #2 driver.

  37. Nate says:

    I’ve carried a small pocketknife ever since I got my first knife as a Cub Scout. I’ve tried larger ones and leatherman tools, etc., but often found them less useful than I’d hoped.

    A simple swiss army multiblade knife has been a useful and necessary tool for me for decades. I honestly can’t imagine living life without one in my pocket.

  38. Old Donn says:

    Carry an almost 40 year old Swiss Army every day, augmented by a full-serated Spyderco should I ever encounter a situation described in the story at the beginning of this post. The Swiss Army is like an American Express card, I don’t leave home without it.

  39. Eli says:

    Most days a Gerber EZ-out combo blade and a 10-499 Stanley Utility knife with four or five spare blades. A Utili-key always. I have a really nice scrimshaw sided gent’s knife (6th wedding anniversary) for when I rock a suit. Haven’t done Leatherman for a while.

  40. Andrew says:

    The best mini knife to carry is the victorinox rambler. It looks like the regular small swiss army knives and is the same size but has a phillips, flat head, scissors, knife and bottle opener. I love this thing. Sometimes hard to find but worth it.

    Here’s a picture from the place I buy mine (yes I lose them often for some reason): http://store.defense-tek.com/54031.html

  41. Turbobrick says:

    I have been carrying a simple .99 cent thread cutter in my keychain now for about 7 years, and it has proven to be worth it’s weight in gold many times over. That tiny quarter inch blade is enough to deal with the everyday boxes, packages and zipties I have to cut through.

  42. Tony says:

    I don’t carry a knife. The only times I find myself needing one are when I’m trying to open some food at work and am too lazy to get my knife from my cabinet; keys work just fine in that situation.

    I do have multitools in my car and on my bike, plus a small pocket knife on the bike. They don’t see a lot of use, but come in handy once in a while, adn when they are handy, they are REALLY handy.

  43. Robert says:

    Did you know you can carry a knife in the Smithsonians National Portrait Gallery, but not the Museum of Natural History?

    In the Gallery, you can touch priceless art if you so dare.

    In the Museum, everything is barriered.

    Makes no sense.

    I long for the day when I would never worry about my knife in my pocket.

  44. Old Donn says:


    Think that’s bad? When my son deployed to Iraq, every GI on the aircraft had their weapons and two loaded magazines should they come under fire while deplaning. But guess what happened to any pocket knives, multi-tools or nail clippers. Yep, they were confiscated before takeoff by Homeland Security!

  45. hjablomy says:

    don’t have much to add except I carry a lockback utility knife with me at all times. if I ever run into a “security” situation (quotes to add ridicule to the b.s. term our government is now using to control our ability to fight back when they come after us) I can toss the blade without caring. I know they aren’t too useful, but I use a utility knife all day at work for different things (electrician) and having one is always great. BTW, I was also a boy scout.

    I just hope someday our government comes to its senses, but my fears tell me never. long live reason, and can we please go back to governing ourselves???

  46. ambush27 says:

    I carry a knife whenever I’m wearing pants. My favourite is a small Kershaw, I’ve never had a problem carrying at school and I’ve been carrying a knife since the summer when I turned fifteen.

  47. Scuba says:

    I’ve carried a knife with me for well over 10 years now. Its helped me out so much. I’ve used it to open boxes, cut strings off of shirts, as a screwdriver, to cut food…the list of uses goes on and on. And yes, I guess it’s nice to know I have it as a method of protection, but thats sure not the reason I’ve ever carried one. I will continually get asked and jabbed by people asking me “why do you need to carry that” or “is that for protection…har har har”. But these always end up the same people who a bit later are asking me for help with my knife 🙂

  48. anthony says:

    As some have said earlier I feel like I’m missing something without mine. I used to carry a classic victorinox, tried the buck x-tract and a few other vics for a while, and am currently settled on a gerber evo. Any kind of knife always comes in handy, and its always the times you don’t have it (i.e. leaving the airport) that you need it the most.

  49. Bob TDG says:

    it’s not too often my pocket knife gets an odd look. Though I often forget about the 5″ and 6″ plaster knives I keep in my back pocket while finishing drywall. Those have raised a few eyebrows…

    The pocket knife sees a surprising amount of use, given I have a 50 gallon tool chest stuffed with drills, saws, blades, and implements of destruction… I’ll carry a blade as long as I can, and my kids will too….

    For the curious, it’s just a cheap chinese lockback, when you’ve got a knack for destroying things, you leave the expensive ones at home

  50. Coach James says:

    I usually carry a Swiss army knife of some sort and had made good use of it yesterday. Last evening I had taken a load of plastic and glass to the recycling collection place to throw in the dumpsters. Some jerk had left two American flags, still tied to their 5′ flagpoles, laying on the ground next to the dumpsters. The little blade on my Swiss classic made quick work of the ropes and the flags were put into the trunk of my car. After explaining to my 4 year old why I was doing this, we were off towards home.

  51. Doc says:

    My father gave me my first knife, a U.S. Camper, on my first day of school in 1958. I have carried a pocket folder of some sort (for at least a portion of the day) every day of my life since.

    I usually carry three or four. Always a middleweight SAK, a Buck Metro, a heavy nondescript one-hand opener, and an “antique” serrated EZ slider as a neck carry for seat belt emergencies and such.

    Over time they have extricated me from more straits than having them has caused.

  52. Donald Nelson says:

    I carry a small two-blade carbon steel Case knife every day. When I fly, it goes into the checked luggage ’til I arrive, then right back in my pocket. When I have to visit a courthouse or whatever, I leave it in the car. I carry a knife because, well, because I’m a man. It’s a basic tool and I always want to be able to fix/open stuff – whatever. If I ever lose this one, I’ll buy another Case.

  53. Ralph Mieszala says:

    just searching the web and came across your site. Don’t know if it’s up and running still. I have an old folding knife made by PAL. Peobably a war time manufactured piece. Problem is the main blade has lost its snap. It stays open but has a 1/2″ play. It’s tight sideways however. Anybody know how I can fix this or anyplace that does knife work to tighten blade back up? I want to keep knife as I use it for re enacting. It’s a beautiful period piece.

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