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Types of Knives for the Homestead

Different types of knives have various strengths and weaknesses, and understanding them will help get rural tasks done safely.

| November/December 2013

  • Wooden-handled ax from A.G. Russell, a mark of true craftsmanship.
    Illustration Courtesy A.G. Russell Knives
  • Folding knife from Benchmade, one of the best at folding knife locking systems.
    Photo Courtesy Benchmade Knife Company
  • Whittling wood may be best done with a different blade profile, but general utility knives can also work just fine.
    Photo Courtesy Buck Knives
  • 10 blade profiles for a wide variety of purposes.
    Illustrations By Nate Skow

Among the most versatile homestead tools, the knife really shines. From cutting hay bales open to whittling marshmallow sticks for the campfire and processing any number of livestock and wildlife, this is one tool that is irreplaceable in country living.

I’ve carried pocket knives all my life for help with everything from cutting baling twine to processing deer and cleaning quail. I still remember the first pocket knife my Uncle Fred gave me as a young boy learning to whittle wood around a hackberry campfire. Along with that knife came one of the first lessons I remember about paying close attention when using some of the most useful, revered tools around us.

Knives have been with us in some form since at least the Stone Age. Look in any knife catalog, and you’ll find a bewildering array of options. If you thoroughly consider your cutting needs, there’s a knife category that has you covered.

Knife styles

Our primitive ancestors first used wedge-shaped rocks, shells, bones and other materials to fashion the earliest hunting knives. They could attach these sharp edges — often sharpened using stone, a sharpening tool we still use today — to wooden handles and other materials, and use the tool for hunting itself or for cutting up meat and skins after successful hunts.

No doubt, this innovation was an important tool for the human race, and knives continue their evolution today.

The four types of knives you’ll typically encounter are the fixed blade, folding knife, butterfly knife and sliding knife, and styles, sizes and uses are as varied as the bladesmiths who make them.

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