Andy Roy has a philosophy that “life is just too short to carry an ugly knife”. For which I am very glad because he makes very nice knives, some of which are my absolute favorites, and that philosophy shows in his work. I agree with his philosophy for the most part, in as much as life simply is too short to not own and carry nice things. Things that we enjoy having and looking at as much as we enjoy using them. Yet, having been at ground zero a few times when things went seriously askew, I do have one caveat. There are some not-so-nice days in our lives, and sometimes it's just having to work out in really bad weather conditions, when our nice knives can use a little backup from an ugly friend to get the job done. This would be why my every-day-carry items are a team of tools that, in my personal opinion, complement each other rather well.
I've carried a set of multi-colored titanium and carbon fiber chopsticks almost every day since I bought them 6 years ago. My daughters and I love oriental foods, and my youngest and I love sushi, so I bought a set for each of us. I find them very aesthetically pleasing, and they have a great feel and balance. I certainly prefer looking at them over the cheap, and if I may say so “ugly”, disposable ones and all three of us enjoy using them, so it's a win win. Plus by my reckoning, just between my youngest and I, that's around 1,300 sets of disposable chopsticks and their wrappers we haven't thrown in the trash. With them being two-pieced-and-threaded, they come in a nice compartmentalized pouch that conveniently disappears in a shirt pocket. Several years, and lots of use, later they still look and function as new. Awesome stuff in my opinion, and totally worth the expense. I've been so pleased with them, that I've even gifted a few sets to friends as well.
I think most of us who venture out away from home regularly, have a tendency to go prepared to cope with whatever environment we are heading into as best we can. Or at least as best we know how, in order to suit our own needs from our own experiences in life. I try to always have at least some cash on me because the card readers aren't always working, and sometimes I really need to buy things to get me through my day. I have kept a small flashlight to hand for as long as they have been making decent small flashlights. They have made a lot of advancements in flashlight technology since the early penlights the doctors used in the 60s. Among my favorites are the ability to achieve brighter light with longer run times with smaller batteries, and the ability to make them waterproof. In fact the next article is about those very things and their benefits. The reason I almost always have at least one flashlight on me when out and about, is for the same reason as the cash. Because just like the card readers, the lights aren't always working either, the big light in the sky is only there half the time (even then it can't penetrate the deeper reaches of big buildings), and 12 hours in pitch black darkness can be a very long time, especially when you have to comfort a child through most of it, to keep them calm until they finally pass out. These days, thanks both to modern technology and my dependence on it, I almost always have a portable back up power source in my bag for charging my phone. Yet even years later, it's still a habit to have a charging cord on me just in case I am out and about longer than I meant to be, and the backup power supply is depleted. I feel that in some instances, having redundant systems is simply a very good idea.
I suppose by now most people who follow my work, know that I prefer small fixed blades for pocket knives over the ones that fold, and the reasons are pretty simple. This type of knife is one of the things that drew me to Fiddleback Forge Knives more than ten years ago. Fixed blades, specs and dimensions all being equal, are hands down more durable and more hygienic than their folding counterparts. When you're work – and your children – seem to always keep you on the move, living on a tight budget, and eating just whenever you can get around to it, keeping the gunk cleaned out of all the nooks and crannies of a folding knife used for food prep can be a real pain. Where as cleaning up a fixed blade, as most of us know from our kitchen knives, is usually quite simple, and nn my life there is seldom a surplus of simplicity.
However the one folding tool that I do like to always have with me, especially in urbanized environments, is a good quality multi-tool. In pretty much any modern city the vast majority of materials we will find ourselves working with, regardless of circumstance, will be synthetic rather than organic in nature. That is to say there will be a lot more metals, plastics, vinyl, and fiberglass in an urban environment than wood or leather. And when it comes to working with these materials serrated edges, metal saws, and files are usually going to be more useful than a plane-edged knife blade will be. This Leatherman® Supertool 300 is the heaviest multi-tool I own. It is part of a collective of ugly tools put together specifically for ugly circumstances, and the smaller of two “ugly knives” (the other being a U.S. Navy issue combat survival knife) that have lived in my get home bag for several years. Both of them have helped me do just that on more than one occasion. I won't mind if that is never the case with some of the other items in the kit, like the quick clot, tourniquet, and spare magazines for instance.
Under more civilized circumstances, the multi-tool I have on me daily for contingency use is a Leatherman® Wave. I like the convenience of how the primary blades and tools are placed, and I like that the serrated blade is very easy to access and locks in place. Because I like having it around for the rougher and nastier cutting chores I don't want to subject my nicer knives to, and we all know that stuff happens. Another reason I really like having it on hand in urbanized environments, is because a good multi-tool is the handiest gadget I know of when it comes to making other tools out of scrounged materials in a pinch.
In another case, perhaps a more unusual one for most people, I tied the Wave to a stick and used the extended reach to collect a sprig of mistletoe for a friend. There will be more on that story in another article later because it had to be re-written. It was originally meant as a seasonal piece for New Years, because it happened in the last week of December on the Friday before New Years Eve. However a delay was caused by the policy of the hotel where the story was centered, when I refused to pay them $1,000 for a photography release so I could use their entryway and logo in one of the illustration photos for the piece. I just don't have it in me to pay someone for the privilege of giving their company more exposure, but I digress. The point here is that it was much less stressful for me to attach a $100 multi-tool to a stick, and shove it up into a tree cutting branches with it, than it would have been to do that with a $300 handmade knife. And I'm sure the saw made quicker work of the task than a plane-edged knife would have as well.
So in the end, yes I do very much agree that life is simply far too short to carry nothing but ugly tools. I was there myself a long time ago, stuck in some horribly ugly circumstances, and I don't miss those days or the ugliness within even a little. The day I met Andy Roy years ago I was, as was usual in those days, carrying knives made for severely deteriorated circumstances and/or war. I am glad I was able to move past those days, and to be honest Andy played a huge role in that happening. Yet for me there were some extremely valuable lessons learned in those dark ugly days. As the teacher wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season”, and it has been my experience that ugly tools can be very handy in ugly circumstances and life certainly isn't always pretty.
It seems the first fixed blade to be discovered and actually appreciated, presumably via an injury to the discoverer, was quite the revolutionary incident in human history. It's clearly evidenced by how much we have developed all sorts of cutting tools since then. Not only knives in many specialized applications over the last 50 thousand or so years, but cutting tools for all sorts of materials, and with far more of them being developed for utilitarian applications than combative ones. With a good quality multi-tool perhaps being the pinnacle of overall usefulness versus the various materials in an urbanized environment so far. Though obviously with the weaponization of anything it can profitably be applied to being pretty common, as some living in quarantine may currently be suspecting, blades made for war have certainly earned their way into our revolutionary history as well.
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