EDC or “Everyday Carry” knives take a number of different forms. For some it’s a tiny folder like your Grandpa’s old CASE, for others a more utilitarian instrument such as a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman Tool, and for others still, more personal-defense oriented blades.
I was taught from a very young age that “if your pants are on, there should be a knife in the pocket”. Advice that served me well as a young man when I had occasion to rescue a Gentleman who was fishing upstream of me, lost his footing and fell into the river. His waders filled in an instant, the current quickly pulled him under and he was not strong enough to overcome the combined weight and pressure of the current. I was able to jump into the river, grab hold of him with one hand and with the other cut the shoulder straps on his waders and pull him out and to safety. Had I not had a knife on my person the man may have died that day.
When flying in the Coast Guard I carried two. The first and primary being a Leatherman tool and later a Gerber Multi-tool and also a “Rescue Blade” strapped to my survival vest that included a seat harness cutter a glass breaker point and a heavy chisel-point blade that could double as a pry-bar. Sadly, the latter device was used two times too many.
The most common uses for EDC blades are by no means as dramatic. Essentially it comes down to having a handy tool, on your person for innumerable tasks one encounters in daily life.
When one decides to begin to carry an EDC blade one quickly realizes that a single knife is not appropriate for every situation. What you carry on your person while working in the yard or fishing is not what you want when wearing a suit. Hence, most people have a number of different knives that they rotate through depending on what they are doing on any given day.
My current rotation is amongst the four knives shown below. From Left-to-Right, Spyderco Walker Zytel, Kershaw Whirlwind, CRKT Endorser and Kershaw Leek.
A major evaluation point for any knife is how, and where on your person you carry it. I’m right handed but I carry my knife in my left front pocket. Always have always will. Most knives are configured for right handed use and right side carry. If you differ from that, take into account how the knives features and use are impacted by that difference.
The Spyderco Walker was gifted to me by my Father in ~1996 or so and as far as I know, is out of production. I rotated it with a small CASE knife when off duty (when still in the Coast Guard) and in daily carry as a civilian. It’s extremely light, the hollow-ground blade holds an edge very well and its design affords the ability for very precise tasks. But it has its drawbacks. The first is that when using the molded pocket clip it carries tip-up. This is a matter of preference for folks, but after catching the tip of the blade on my watch band and opening it inside my pocket (cutting through the pocket lining of my jeans and putting the cold steel blade uncomfortably close to my gentleman’s parts) my preference is now, decidedly, for tip-down carry. Additionally, the location of the clip results in a rather high carry leaving much of the knife frame exposed above the top of your pocket and placing the widest part of the knife in the pocket opening. On some trousers it makes getting your hand into the pocket, around the knife awkward, hence the episode with my watch band. Consequently, I no longer carry this knife using the clip. When I carry it, I do so inside my pocket, either loose or clipped to a change pocket inside the pocket of dress trousers. It’s light enough and thin enough (6.1” open, 3.6” closed and 1.9oz!) that you barely notice it and it leaves no telltale bulge on the front of your trousers.
The most utilitarian of the four blades is the Kershaw Whirlwind designed by Ken Onion. I purchased it ~1yr ago and it sees use when I’m working in the yard and on camping – hunting – fishing – canoe trips. The hollow-ground blade is thick enough for heavier tasks, but wieldy enough for finer work as well and of a rather tough stainless (Sandvik 14C28N) which lends itself to use in the outdoors and in the elements. The material isn’t the easiest in terms of getting a good edge, and given the heavier use it sees I do have to sharpen it often which isn’t all that fun. The knife features Kershaw’s “Speed-Safe” assisted opening system with a thumb stud (no flipper) for quick one handed deployment. The liner lock on the knife is extremely robust and very positive. The handle is made of “polyamide” (nylon/plastic) and is quite tough, reasonably grippy and shaped such that one can apply substantial pressure for extended periods without discomfort. The pocket clip (single position) allows it to carry relatively deep in the pocket but the end of the clip does occasionally snag on things. It’s the largest of the four knives at 7.75” open and 4.5” closed but still weighs a mere 3.5oz.
The last two knives lean more toward the “gentleman’s knife” category. They are less utilitarian and more elegant in terms of design. Where the Whirlwind can be compared to a Timex, the next two are Citizens or Rolexes. They both tell time, but the latter looks so much better doing so.
The first of these knives is the CRKT (Colombia River Knife and Tool) Endorser. The knife uses CRKT’s unique “Fire-Safe” opening system. The thumb stud doubles as a locking mechanism and must be depressed before levering it away from the handle to open. It’s an interesting feature which at first I found cumbersome but as I continue to use it I’m coming to appreciate the additional safety and I’m no longer bothered by the extra step. The blade is of a rather original and quite pretty shape and made of 8Cr14MoV high-carbon steel. It came out of the box absolutely shaving sharp and has proven extremely durable. I’ve had it for 6mos and it has yet to see a sharpening stone and is still sharp enough to shave with. I do occasionally wipe the edge with some light gun oil though to prevent corrosion, a maintenance task that should be considered if you are looking at a blade of similar material. The handle scales are a laminated (amber/auburn/black/brown) G10 material with a subtle checkering. It’s enough texture to provide exceptional grip without feeling like you are holding a wood rasp in your hand. The scales are well shaped and quite comfortable. The frame of the knife has a bit of palm swell and subtle finger grooves though the frame does protrude a bit beyond the scales. I thought at first this would make the knife uncomfortable in the hand when applying pressure to the knife but that hasn’t proven to be the case, YMMV on that but it works fine for me and how I use it. This knife is a liner lock which engages very positively and takes a quite deliberate articulation to disengage. The knife isn’t A LOT smaller than the Whirlwind at 7.3” open, 4.2” closed and 3.2oz but it feels much less bulky and more appropriate to a nicer state of dress. The pocket clip (tip down, single position) allows for exceptionally deep carry and because of that it allows easy access to other stuff in your pocket. The clip is of a dark, matte finish which combined with the deep carry makes it all but disappear when worn against gray or black trousers.
The final knife in my rotation is the Kershaw Leek. This is by far the prettiest and most elegantly designed (Ken Onion again) of the four. Mine is a bit of a Frankenstein in that I bought two so I could have the bead-blasted Stainless handle/frame with the S30V carbon steel blade that doesn’t come on that handle/frame. Like the blade on the CRKT, this one too gets an occasional wipe with a bit of gun oil. The blade is a razor thin modified “drop-point” design that I think is really gorgeous. It will take and hold an absolutely frighteningly sharp, scalpel-like edge. By virtue of its very slender blade this is not a knife for heavy work. I wouldn’t call it fragile by virtue of the quality of steel but don’t think something this lithe is up to the same tasks as the Whirlwind. Further, the handle/frame is equally svelte and quite smooth. It doesn’t give a fantastic grip for any kind of substantial applied force, but for more delicate tasks, the light weight and razor-like blade are spectacular. The handle/frame (no scales) is a two piece flow-through design with an integrated frame lock that engages well with ~80% overlap to the blade. Here the slender frame exposes another issue. It’s difficult to hold the knife in one hand, manipulate the frame lock and keep your other nubby digits out of the way of the closing blade. Closing this thing is a two-handed affair. Opening it though is not. The knife is designed with both a thumb stud and a flipper allowing one to engage the Kershaw “Speed-Safe” assist by either means. I don’t particularly care for the flipper function, but the thumb opening is quick and very positive. The dimensions of the knife lend to its “gentleman’s knife” categorization at 7” open, 4” closed and 3oz in weight combined with its lissome frame. The pocket clip can be moved allowing either tip-up or tip-down carry. I prefer the latter and the clip is situated such that it carries very deeply in the pocket (though less so than the CRKT). It does sit a little higher in tip-up configuration by virtue of where the clip attaches on the other end. The carry height allows easy access to the rest of your pocket and the clip itself in bead-blasted stainless is nicely shaped and blends well against trousers in light gray, khaki or with jeans.
So the takeaway here is that I think “perfection” at least in terms of EDC blades is nigh impossible to find. Each has things they do well and situations in which they shine and each has it’s drawbacks too. If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be the Leek but a lot of that is based on aesthetics and if I’m honest, the Whirlwind (also the least expensive) see’s the most use of the four. So at the end of it all, when looking for an EDC blade, consider materials, comfort and maintenance along with how you’ll use it, how you’ll carry it, and what you will be wearing while doing so. In all likelihood you’ll wind up with more than one knife and possibly as many, or more than I have. As far as purchasing goes, I'd recommend you have a look at Blade-HQ.com. I've had nothing but good service from them.
Got a favorite EDC blade? Tell me about it below. The comments section doesn’t allow photos, but you should be able to include a link to a google image.