A working man''s pocket knife

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      In the United States for 5 decades the standard knife of the working man was of two basic types. One either carries a multi tool which is similar to a Boy Scout knife in concept but also includes a reasonably sturdy folding plier such as the Leatherman, OR one carries a folding knife of the Buck 110 type (or a clone of). Some working men have one of each.

      The Buck 110 has earned a place as a classic. They retail for about $35 on Amazon.com The 3 3/4″ stainless steel blade is that of a small sheath knife and it can be honed to razor sharpness. When opened the blade locks into the open position so that it will not slam shut on the owners fingers when doing heavy cutting or slicing tasks. The handle to which the blade folds is made of Rosewood with brass bolsters. The clip point blade allows fine detail cutting while the 0.12″ blade thickness allows some force to be safely applied when levering. There have been literally millions of them sold. Although initially intended for outdoorsmen who wished to have a reasonable hunting and camp knife without wearing a sheath knife, the design gained immediate acceptance amongst the construction tradesmen as well as other industries in which a good knife is oftern an important accessory to the workman’s kit. You will find these knives in a belt pouch or a pocket of construction workers, mechanics and outdoors workers across the nation. In addition to the Buck brand name stamping on the ricasso of the blade there is also a date code which allows collectors to identify the year of manufacture. Some folks care about that, even though a Buck 110 made in 1963 is otherwise identical to one made in 2018. The complaints about the 110 design are only a few, but they do exist.

      A) Learning to open the knife one handed requires a fair amount of practice and a blade pivot mechanism that has been opened and closed enough times so that it is no longer stiff. Once the technique is mastered though any Buck 110 requires only a soft flick of the wrist to open and lock the blade into position.
      B) The knife is not light. It ways 7.2 ounces, almost half a pound. The handle is 0.6″ thick.
      C) The locking mechanism can wear and fail with time. It usually takes about 5 years of daily use 3 or 4 times a day, but eventually the edges of the locking notch can become rounded enough to fail under pressure along the spine of the blade. If your Buck 110 is razor sharp this can result in sudden pain and blood (and or finger) loss.
      D) The knife’s edge can be used for shaving insulation off wires, and if a copper wire is thin the knife can cut through it. However, the knife was designed for slicing softer materials and cutting wires or cables will place nicks and dull spots on the blade’s edge and resharpening is probably needed after a day spent cutting phone wires or picture hanging wire.
      E) There is no way to disassemble the knife for thourough cleaning. Usually however a spray of hot water can be used to flush debris out of the channels.

      The new kid on the block

      Most of us are familiar with Dewalt battery powered tools. Drills, reciporcating saws, nail guns, hammer guns, etc. If you work construction, own a farm, are a do it yourselfer or a shade tree mechanic you probably have experience with them and there may be two or three of their hallmark yellow and black bodied tools in your inventory. They free the worker from dragging an electrical cord into every job. All you need is the tool and the appropriate rechargable battery. They are perhaps a little more expensive than something requiring a power cord and a power source, but they are a lot handier to use.
      Dewalt has introduced what they call a ‘premier folding knife’ (DWHT 10313). About $24 on Amazon, and $20 at Home Depot. A bright handle in the traditional Dewalt colors. Although lower in cost it can be described as a step up from the Buck 110. The clip point 0.11″ thick, 3.5″ long blade is of a new steel which is both high carbon and stainless and but also coated coated with black ceramic. The first inch of the blade is serrated for dealing with fibers and thin wires or cutting cardboard. On the back of the handle are notched teeth designed for the easy and fast stripping of insulation from 2 different sizes of electrical wires. Noticably lighter than the Buck 110 the Dewalt Premium weighs in at 5.9 ounces. The handle is made of knurled Aluminum covered with a hard fiberglas material called G-10 for non-slip retention. The assembly is held together with small Allen screws so a complete disassembly for cleaning is possible if somehow needed. There is a removable belt hook on the side of the handle which allows easy clipping to a pocket or a belt if not simply placed in a pocket. There is a lanyard loop opening built into the handle for those wishing to secure their knife against dropping (i.e., linemen, foresters, etc.). The ‘back lock’ found on the Buck 110 has been replaced by a positive ‘liner lock.’ The liner lock design is not as prone to rounding off with heavy repeated use as is the older back lock design. There are two small thumb knobs near the blade ricasso. These allow easy and fast easy one handed opening by simply pushing one of the knobs with your thumb. The Dewalt is also thinner than the Buck 110 in that the handle is only 0.54″ thick.

      Already the Dewalt knives are replacing the Buck 110s in many worker’s pockets and tool kits. Thinner, lighter and more versatile, but also equally capable.

      (Photos include a Bic lighter for scaling purposes)

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