I recently ran into an old friend. He and I attended elementary school together, and then we spent a lot of time around each other us we grew up, even though we attended different middle and high schools. He was one of the boys that my grandmother hired as extra help on our family farm. We would walk and mend the fences together. There were over 300 acres of fenced land so that would take a while. So naturally we've talked a lot over the years. We were both born in our right minds, that is to say we were both born left-handed. So back then we both carried pilot survival knives we bought at Jacks Army Store in downtown Chattanooga, because they were one of the few knives available with an ambidextrous sheath at the time. We each still have one today.
The last time I bumped into him, he noticed “the little wooden-handled knife I was wearing for a necklace” as he put it, and asked about it. It is a Fiddleback Forge Esquire with an Osage handle that I have carried daily for a couple of years now. I also showed him a larger one I had with me that day, my Woodsman, and told him who had made them. To which he said, “so you prefer handmade knives over store-bought knives now? What's that about?"
The rest of the conversation went something like this. Sometimes it's as much about having tools that complement, ones that go with each other in an aesthetic sense and achieve the visual balance I seek as it is anything. I've always been an artist. and I tend to weigh things as much on that scale as any other.
Sometimes it's more about the knowledge, craftsmanship, and skill sets that are involved. Like removing the unnecessary mass in the handle by tapering the tang. Which allows for that weight to be distributed elsewhere when hitting the trails for extended hikes. Sometimes ounces really do count. Also the tang tapering, something you seldom run across in production knives these days, creates a better physical balance, which translates into less hand fatigue in extended periods of use.
Other times, especially in cases of primiive living type uses when I use the knives to fashion other tools and utensils, it's mostly about the handle contours and resutant ergonomics. The comfort that has been painstakingly crafted into the handle of each individual knife, one at a time, as it was being crafted by someone who has spent a good bit of time using knives in practical application.
To be completely honest, there are some times when it's more about the power of visual stimulation for me than anything else. Sometimes I like having bright colors and varied material combinations that allow the tool to incite my mind into action at the time they are being used. In this way they are functional for me on multiple levels at the same time.
And then there are times when the visual I need most is a character of timelessness. A sort of understated elegance in the simple appearance of a complex composition done well, And one that is presented in natural lines and curves through an organic medium. An image that embodies the inviting spirit of home, and a tool that looks and feels at home in virtually any atmosphere or ambiance.
So actually, it is for me an anomaly, It is about several things all at one time. And yet it's about one thing in several instances. It's usually about the ability to express my individuality, It's often about an ability to express a specific mood. It's always about the art of it all.
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