Sharp Ideas and Mind Games

August 24 is Knife Day. It is not too early to begin preparing to celebrate. For me, the celebration must involve paying homage to knives of all stripes, from the 8-inch chef’s knife if the kitchen to the pocket knife I carry with me every day.  The day should acknowledge all the other knives and knife-like devices in my life, too: paring knives, razor blades, boning knives, swords (I rarely carry one, by the way), machetes, carving knives, mezzalunas, scalpels, and all the dozens (or hundreds) of others.

[Note that I mentioned paying homage. According to Webster, it’s pronounced HOM-ij or OM-ij, not oh-MAHZH (I say OM-ij). The incorrect pronunciation is understandable, in that the Francophiles among us know the French word for cheese is fromage, pronounced froh-MAHZH. Even on NPR, when I hear the word “homage” mispronounced it drives me approximately insane. Unfortunately (in my ears), the mispronunciation is enjoying growing acceptance, so the erroneous noise may already have found its way into some dictionaries. Language is a living, changing aspect of our lives, so I should not find those alterations so offensive. I know. But I do, anyway. Dammit.]

Lest one think my mention of Knife Day is a superficial, off-the-cuff comment, let me say this: I’ve put this year’s Knife Day (it’s a Wednesday) on my Google calendar. I will pay special attention to our kitchen knives and my collection of pocket knives on that day.

Unlike many people, though, I am not a connoisseur of knives, nor of other things sharp. I do not have enormous numbers of them, all cataloged and displayed for all to see as if they were hand-written copies of the Bible, autographed by the authors. I am more of a casual aficionado whose attention span is too short to devote an inordinate amount of time to them. One day a year to celebrate is ample for me. I like knives year-round, but I try not to worship them.

Speaking of knives, a company I found online sells a line of knives call Deejo. Each knife can be personalized as to length of blade, type of handle, image embedded in blade, image on handle, blade material, and text printed on the blade. I was so enamored of the images I saw in the company’s marketing website that I almost ordered a “custom” knife. Until I realized the company sells mass customization. For some reason, that concept suddenly turned me off completely. It’s like I almost bought into being tricked into believing I was about to buy a knife made especially for me, when in reality I was about to buy into a psychological mind-game that could manipulate and read my desires. Ech!


Memories do not always soften with time; some grow edges like knives.

~ Barbara Kingsolver ~


My mind, this morning, shifts from serious to silly at the same pace that my heart beats. It’s odd, feeling deep sadness when I inhale and unmitigated joy with I release my breath. I shouldn’t say it’s odd; it’s actually fairly common for me. It would be odd if I sensed that other people experienced the same hyper-high-speed manic-depressive moments on a regular basis. To put it in other words that might be easier for me to fully embrace and understand: It’s like tears running down my cheeks. When they reach my mouth, I taste them and smile widely as I enjoy the salty flavor. But at a much higher speed than tears can stream down one’s face. Imagine that scene in a film; now, imagine it run at three times normal speed. Now, double it. There you go.


I estimate that, over the years, I’ve owned a couple of dozen pocket knives. Several of them still sit, rarely used, in an open-topped box in a drawer. Most of them came to me as second-hand items. I do not recall how they came into my possession. I can only surmise I bought each of them from someone who attached a reasonable price (in my world-view) to them. Or they were gifts. Or I found them. Or they were found in retail shops; new and cheap and attractive. I am not a collector of pocket knives, but I feel compelled to latch onto them when the price is right. I lust after pocket knives. They hold a spell over me I simply cannot explain.

I would love to own an exceptional pocket knife, one that is both beautiful and functional and that exudes quality of the highest order. But I would be afraid of losing it, so I would keep it in my open-topped box. I have lost some very nice knives in my time; some of them beautiful and functional and that exuded quality of the highest order. The loss of more than one superb knife is the reason I cannot bring myself to buy the kind of knife I long to have. No matter how careful I have been with them, I’ve managed to let some outstanding knives disappear from my possession. So, instead of carrying an expensive, exquisite pocket knife, I usually carry a utilitarian cutting utensil disguised to look like a pocket knife. And I lose those, too.

For several years, I carried a rarity: an all stainless-steel knife (including the handle) I bought new. It was cheap in the extreme, but perfectly useful and reasonably attractive. Eight dollars, brand-new. When I found another one just like it, I bought it, as well. Finally, after losing the first one, I took the second one from the open-topped box in the drawer and began carrying it. A month or two later, it was gone, too. I don’t lose just the good ones.

The ideal pocket knife, for me, is small—between three and three-and-a-half  inches long, closed—with a bone or pearl handle. It would be a stockman-style 2-blade or 3-blade knife. The ideal blade would be of chrome vanadium steel. I searched for my “ideal” knife this morning on Deadwood Knives’ website. The Deadwood search yielded zero results out of 1300 knives with either a bone or a pearl handle. So, if I were to find my ideal knife, I guess it would have to be custom-made. Considering the cost of many of the knives I like quite a lot run from high two-figures to mid-three-figures, I imagine my “custom” knife would top $1,000. Not bloody likely!

The knife I’m using now is longer than I’d like; barely fits into the watch pocket of my jeans (which I treat as a knife pocket). The one it replaced, the replacement $8 stainless steel knife, was the perfect length. But it wasn’t a stockman-style; it had only one blade, but it was perfectly useful, nonetheless. I remember when I lost that first $8 knife and when I lost the second one. I was so angry with myself I could have slit my wrists.

No one but me cares what kind of knife I carry, nor the kind of knife I want. So I’m not sure why I’m writing about my knife-lust again. Just to write, I suppose. And to prompt me to be on the lookout for another inexpensive, short-handled Stockman-style knife. Something that will fit in the knife pocket of my jeans.


All right, then. Let’s embrace the day, regardless of weather.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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