Low-Tech Knives in a High-Tech World

Low-Tech with a Euro-Flair...

The search for the Ultimate Lock on a folding knife marches on… The search for the Ultimate Steel in any knife…marches…on… I guess I should not complain because innovation is a good thing. What seems to really be bothering me is most people look at a tool as a savior instead of just another tool.

If you focus on the tools, you have to have those tools you are focusing on, generally speaking. If you're not careful, they become a crutch that you must rely on. Some crutches you must, obviously, possess in order to survive some situations.

If you focus on the skill, you can generally use anything.

What if you can't have your "newest and bestest" folding knife with the Space Age Steel and the latest Wiz-bang, slide-rule developed locking device that you can hang weight plates from, what then? Is everything lost?

How did men clean fish and game long ago or…just exactly how did men fight long ago with folding cutlery with no locking devices?

Go back one hundred years, you're not going to see Axis Locks and Walker Liner Locks and Frame Locks. Men knew limitations and worked around them.

People found ways to get around limitations and they found ways to get around the limitations of folding knives that were inherently two-handed openers (using nail nicks, etc.). …Compared to the relatively spoiled knife community of today that is showered in all sorts of one-handed knives from Switchblades, Gravity Knives and Balisongs to knives with regular thumb studs, holes and other cutouts and discs on the blade that allow you to open them with relative ease.

So, just what do you do when you cannot have your new Wiz-bang "Tactical Folding Knife?"

I've been thinking about this ever since I read Pete Kautz's excellent article: "If Jim Bowie owned a Spyderco." Then I read of the deadly encounter Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest had with one of his Officers where Forrest used a folding knife after being shot by this Officer, to mortally wound this man… I thought on it some more.

The second generation of information that had me thinking was James Loriega's book, "Sevillian Steel." I know Loriega is a rather controversial figure and the book is too in some circles, no matter, that's not what this is about, this is a discussion of where ideas came from. The book is a good read in my opinion. I'm simply not qualified to have an opinion on the accuracy of the techniques in the book, etc. I am not talking about that… I think what he puts forth as method is just as viable as a lot of other stuff I have observed in the past and the section on using scissors and jackets and coats is excellent.

While I'm at it, I would like to mention James LaFond's book, "The Logic of Steel." I really like it although I vehemently disagree with him on some things. The material in there about using a jacket/coat is excellent.

Through many conversations with Fred Perrin, I started to develop this whole idea that I did not have to leave good tools behind that were no longer considered "Modern." They did not have to be sentenced to the dustbin of cutlery history, no, quite the opposite.

Fred Perrin spends a lot of his time teaching various Military and Police Units in Europe and elsewhere how to do various things like fighting with knife and stick, hand to hand combat and he teaches them about various concealed weapons. He teaches much, much more and that is totally beyond the scope of this article, it would have to be a series of articles to cover it all. One of the most important things is how to survive in areas where you cannot get the "latest and greatest" equipment. Or, in places where if you did try to get the "latest and greatest" equipment, it might mean you draw attention to yourself.

You see, I was also bitten by the "Tactical Folder" bug for quite some time and with good reason. But I began to see a much larger world; I did not want to get so dependant on them to the point that I couldn't use other types of knives safely. That could happen. So, I started using the more simple knives again for every day tasks and I kept the "Tactical Folder" in reserve. (Which as of right now is an Al Mar Knives SERE 2000 and it is an excellent knife.)

See, it always bothered me that the knife community, for the most part, has discarded simple folding knives. They collect them, but many would never carry a high carbon steel blade with no lock and no way of opening it easily with one hand. To some, these knives are collectible but no longer practical. To others, they are simply junk from another era like a rusted out Model A Ford.

To those of you out there that still use these types of knives, good for you!

What I wanted to do was to write a small article about the Low-Tech Knives that seem to be an anachronism, stuck in a High-Tech World and they don't really get the respect they deserve. They don't get their due as tools of everyday living, or for survival, and…for fighting - defensive purposes.

This whole line of thought brought me to the place where I wrote the three-part article "Kid's Stuff" which you will also find on my website and I encourage you to read them.

Low-Tech Knives V. High-Tech Knives

Are they "superior?" That's not a very simple question really. What is "superior?" What good is a "superior Tactical Folding Knife" with "superior metallurgy and heat treating" or a "superior lock" when you can't get one and you can't take one with you but you have to find something to survive with?

What happens if, one day, the mere sight of a folding knife's pocket clip means an instant arrest? It could happen, look where we're going with laws. Look at the various lying mouthpieces in politics and the media beating the drum for banning everything they consider "dangerous."

What about a slightly slower opening folding knife that fits the hand very well or "good enough?" What if it does not have much of a locking device or none at all? What if it is simple, straightforward high carbon steel?

Yeah, "What if?" Indeed…

What if you get stuck in a Third World Country and you can't find some nice knife store? But you can find a place that sells tools that are common in that part of the world? Or they sell…table cutlery…

This article is just a glimpse of some cool stuff. Old Technology in a Modern Age.

Flick your Bic

Back before we became a "Disposable Society" where you simply throw away old shaving razors that have lost their edge or writing pens that no longer have ink, or cigarette lighters that ran out of fuel, people valued the more permanent counterparts to all of these items.

Ironically, the Bic Company has made cigarette lighters, shaving razors as well as ink pens. If you took all of the disposable garbage that Bic has made, it would probably fill one, massive landfill alone with no other items contained in it.

Think about this for a moment, a multi-billion dollar company that made its money on 100% totally disposable items, amazing, isn't it?

The disposable shaver and a can of foamy cream replaced the straight razor and shaving soap with mug and brush… Pens with ink cartridges that you could not re-fill replaced the pen and ink well. Later on, the entire pen became totally disposable. The various types of lighters, most notably the Zippo and Ronson, fell into disfavor with the convenience of the Bic and Cricket disposable lighter.

Part of that is because the old writing pens, well, you had to put ink in them, the older lighters, you had to put flints in them every once in a while and you had to fuel them. The straight razor, a horrific fighting implement, you had to know how to shave with one and you had to know how to sharpen one and actually take care of it. Society is far too high speed for all of that now, it's perceived to be eccentric to know such things or do them every day. To put it bluntly, most people are too "busy" to do these things and the rest are too stupid and lazy to be bothered with such things now.

As a matter of fact, I am too busy to do ALL of that stuff!

Anyway, men developed little "routines" around these devices. Extra flints were kept under the pad in the fueling area of the Zippo lighter, you would never be without a flint if you kept a small supply of them in there. The Zippo is a lot like the knives I am going to discuss in this article; it is a holdover from another time. It has a loyal cult following, enough for Zippo to make little gasket-sealed fuel containers that can fit on your keychain…for those diehards that refuse to give up on the Zippo…

It's funny, years of Zippo lore and the snapping open of these lighters. Some people treat these things like Balisongs and Yo-Yos, they collect them and they perform tricks with them, etc. There is, in fact, a website dedicated to Zippo lighter tricks…just as there are websites dedicated to Yo-Yo tricks and Balisong knife manipulation…

After I finished this article, I went to find that website and learned it had been removed from the internet due to some liability concerns. Apparently, most people are no longer trusted with fire either.

"Oh David, you'll burn yourself Baby, I know you're thirty-three years old now Honey, but don't play with fire and let me have your keychain knife too, Sweety, they're dangerous." - 2006 and Beyond

Smoking is viewed as a big "NO NO" in our society. A friend of mine brought over some stuff for me to look at, the little sealed fuel unit for carrying Zippo lighter fluid on your keychain (how is that for hardcore?) and a small, portable, stainless steel ash tray that slides open and shut. Can you believe it? And of course there were the Ronson Brand flints and it was once common to see them in a multi-flint dispenser with a thumb wheel on the top, all of which fit on your keychain…

In the picture below, you see the Zippo fuel container and you will notice there is a small plastic piece and a metal piece on the keychain as well. The small piece of plastic will hold an extra flint and the small piece of metal can be used as a screwdriver tip to access the flint well in the Zippo, to change the flint. Pretty nifty, huh?


 

Douk - Douk

The Mighty Douk - Douk, the little knife that can do a lot. The little knife that no one thinks much about, some even think it's just a piece of junk that has a cult following among some people. Good! That leaves more Douk - Douk for those of us that know the secrets!

In the picture below you see the medium and small sized Douk-Douks.

What are the secrets of the Douk - Douk? Read on…

Let's start out with a nice attribute of the Douk. The blade is high carbon steel. What that means is, you have to take care of it or it will surely rust. But Men have been carrying knives like this for years, with these types of steel in them. They take an edge like no other and they tend to hold that keen edge a lot longer than most of the newer, "better" steels. You can make a good knife out of stainless steel; it will take some abuse or neglect and won't rust too badly. It may hold an edge for quite some time, and then it will be a perfect pain in the ass to sharpen. High carbon steel is not like that - but you have to take care of it.

Everything is a trade-off in life, isn't it? If you want the extra keen edge that high carbon steel offers, you are going to have to take care of it. If you want the ease of sharpening, you're going to have to take care of it. I keep repeating this over and over so you understand that you have to take care of your tools if you want your tools to take care of you when you need them the most. If you want to get the most out of a firearm, you have to take care of it. I don't know why people don't understand this about knives as well.

Fred pointed out in his article on the Douk - Douk that you can turn it into a fixed blade by simply striking the steel body of the knife with a hammer (or other appropriate tool) right behind the tang, crimping the steel and causing the knife to lock in the open position.

He also pointed out that the Douk-Douk is basically internationally legal because it does not have a locking blade. This will vary from country to country, of course, but it is something to consider.

In some countries, it is also illegal to have a knife that you can open with one hand like a common Spyderco. The Douk-Douk does not have a thumb-hole, stud or disc for this type of one-handed opening either. This means you have to use two hands or your teeth and you have to practice opening it with two hands.

I have a wonderful book titled, "100 Legendary Knives" and it has a nice article on the Douk Douk, it echoes what Fred has told me about the Douk Douk being currency in some parts of the world. A lot of people in the United States may have lost sight of the fact that a knife is a tool for life but other people in diverse places have not. A knife is still a very valuable thing to have and a part of not only their every day life, but their very survival.

While your average Cubicle Slave here in the United States might wet their panties at the thought of someone carrying a pocketknife every day, a lot of the rest of the world just thinks we're weak.

Mercator

When I finally examined the Douk-Douks, Fred Perrin turned me onto is the German K-55, also known as the "Mercator" or "Black Cat." Sometimes called the "Running Cat" or "Jumping Cat," sometimes with Cat spelled with a K. It usually has K55 then right after that second number five (5) it will have a backwards K.

We were talking about the Douk - Douk and Fred advised me to get one of these interesting little knives that have been around for years. The "Black Cat" is another knife that no self-respecting member of the various knife cults would brag about.

But what is wrong with it? Really, when you look at it, it's a fine pocketknife. It has a bail for a lanyard, high carbon steel blade and an almost indestructible steel body. Much like the Douk - Douk. Unlike the Douk-Douk, the Black Cat has a locking mechanism.

People see the leaping cat on the side of it and think, "That's flea market garbage." Perhaps it is to them; maybe they cannot see how rugged the knife is. They would be in good company; I didn't see it for a very long time, either.

Anything can be destroyed; you can break anything if you want to. But the Douk - Douk and Mercator K55 are very, very good knives to have on hand and in your packs and kits. The Douk - Douk has a tough spring that you have to get by to open and close but it has no lock. The Mercator K55 has a lock and a nail nick to open it.

Both the Douk-Douk and Mercator Black Cats are incredibly thin bodied knives and they can be hidden, slipped, slithered and sewn into a multitude of places on and about your person, clothing or carried gear.

Laguiole

With the fine lines resembling a Spanish Navaja, the Laguiole is the hidden fighter in this article. I know this will be controversial, but that's A-O.K. with me. Knives like these have been used as fighters for years. Remember, "knives like these." I'm talking about the Low-Tech Knives, L.T.K.

The last 20 years or so of "tactical folders" have a lot of catching up to do in this department, the fact remains, these knives can be used for defense. They have been used for years, probably much more than what we know as "tactical" or "fighting" knives of the past 20 years.

These types of knives were the "tactical knives" of their day.

Some people are going to bellyache about no locks or whatever else they want to gripe about…

You can use these knives for defensive purposes or…simply to cut your food, cut anything you need to cut, it doesn't matter.

The knives in this article are very simple and rugged tools. But the Laguiole is probably the gem of them all. It's not only the way it feels in the hand, you know you can fight with it if you have to, but it's just a very fine knife, period. It's a quality item; it has the appearance of quality and feels the part as well. The high carbon steel blade to the mouche on the top with the bee on it and with fine brass bolsters and equally fine horn scales. It is a knife that can be handed down from Father to Son and so on and so on. Or…maybe you need to throw it in a storm drain if you have to use it.

It's at home on the table of a restaurant or in the alley behind the restaurant if need be.

Opinel

This particular Opinel feels like the Laguiole above, that's why I like it. Most Opinels do not have these fine lines but are simpler in appearance. This Opinel, like the Laguiole, is lightning fast in the hand and small enough to disappear quickly.

The Opinel has a wonderful lock, a simple ring that you twist and that's it. The lock is as simple and elegant as the knife itself.

This Opinel could be a fighter or a steak knife; the situation will dictate that.

The overall appearance of these knives is one of innocence. They don't look "evil" or "bad" and they can pass for true utility knives or even implements that you use to cut your food. They're totally legitimate no matter what your intent is. If someone should attack you, you can still have these as totally legitimate tools and eating utensils.

"Why are you carrying this type of knife?"

"I use it at restaurants to cut steak with."

"Why would you do that? They give you a knife to cut your food with at the restaurant."

"No, they give you something that you use to rip and tear the meat apart with, they're always dull. I'm not carrying this for any other reason except to cut food and open boxes."

You can say that with 100% honesty. It is true, most places that give you a knife and fork are giving you something that they call a "knife" but it's really a bad excuse for a knife. A hacksaw blade would be a better choice for a steak knife than a common steak knife found in, at least, American restaurants. They're usually not sharp and they just mash, rip and tear meat apart.

In the past, Cold Steel, Inc., manufactured a line of Opinel-type knives and they were simply excellent!

Another type of Opinel - "Robinson"

This is a rather interesting example that Terry (and thank you T.T.!) sent to me along with the Opinel and the Laguiole up above. This one has two blades and dual locking rings, one on each end.


Survival

What exactly is "survival" to you? Next to a firestarting device and a device or tablets to treat water, there is probably no other tool as important for basic survival as a knife. From the mundane to life threatening, nothing else will do.

If you read my three-part article on "Kid's Stuff" a whole new world of knives as tools will open up to you. It's not for everyone, but you might get some value out of it. Ken is going to write a companion piece to this article on "Low Cost - High Value" knives and it is in the same vein as all of these articles. Call it "Survival on a Budget" or whatever you wish, it's all important, for those smart enough to realize it.

I've brought you the exotic, the strange, the obscure and now it is time to go back to Square One and examine all of the things around you that you may have ignored or discounted in the mad rush to get the latest and greatest "Tactical Folder."

There is a very good possibility that the "Tactical Folder" as we have come to know it will perish under the boot-heel of oppressive law in the not-to-distant future.

For over two decades now, we have heard the control-freak gun-controllers preach to us about how we should be more like "Britain" when it comes to gun laws.

You better believe if they set their sights on knives, we're going to have a battle on our hands and I don't think we're going to win that one. The only "knife people" in this country that are going to speak up are the ones who wish to appease the control freaks and even the most cursory examination of the control freaks shows that their appetite to ban, regulate and control is never sated.

Learn to use anything and as long as we can keep the more advanced stuff, that's icing on the cake. Prepare for the day when you cannot have those things and learn now. Prepare for the day when you might be rooting around in a junk pile trying to find things to survive with. That might be a reality one day as well.

Copyright Don Rearic

Back to Main Index