I’ve carried a humble little pocket knife for a long time and when my Dad gave me his no-name blade, I then carried that one for many years until I recently lost it. A sad day, actually, but life happens. The good news is that it opened me up to considering what I’d want in a replacement blade and after much research, I identified what I believe are the essential features of what the industry calls an “EDC” or everyday carry, a pocket knife that actually fits in your pocket. Typically the blade’s between 2″ and 3.5″ long, it’s sleek, elegant, folds easily and has no sharp edges once folded.
I’m a jeans and shorts sort of guy but a good everyday carry should be elegant enough to wear with a suit or more formal outfit, not be a knife that only a lumberjack or macho metrosexual would appreciate. So I gave vendors bonus points for wood inlay or other design features. I then reached out to some of the best knife makers in the world and got a flood of knives in house, a process that has proven quite intriguing. Turns out one man’s EDC is another man’s overwhelming big-ass blade that’s really only needed on camping expeditions, so for my criteria, some of the bigger knives just didn’t make the cut (so to speak!). And then there was this wicked blade that Schrade sent me, but I’ll get to it later…
To start out, here’s an overview of some of the most beautiful and functional everyday carry knives in the market, all perfect for a Father’s Day gift or any time:
I’ll start on the top left, with the Duke from Buck Knives.
Buck Knives is one of the classic knife makers in the industry (the company was started by Hoyt H. Buck in 1899) and their knives show it, they’re solid, have smooth opening and closing gestures, and are tough enough that you can drive a tank over it without adverse impact (note: I did not actually test this knife with a tank).
Featuring a nice blade locking mechanism, this is a larger version of the classic pocket knife with its 3-inch blade and rosewood inlaid handle, it’s a beauty and one of my favorites out of the knives received.
Learn more: Buck Knives Duke Knife.
Next up is the Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT) Swindle knife, a very different design from blade to handle:
This knife has a very comfortable feel in your hand as shown by the smooth, rounded surfaces and handy clip. It has what’s called a “flipper style” opener which took a bit of getting used to (in fact, every knife seemed to have a slightly different mechanism for opening and closing the blade, and all featured a locking mechanism to ensure an open blade stayed open), but I liked that the mechanism was very smooth once mastered, no tight hinge to deal with!
The Swindle is designed by Ken Onion, who has a great design sense. It’s modern, elegant and comfortable and features a 3.2-inch stainless steel blade.
Learn more: CRKT Swindle Flat Handle Knife.
While some of the knives reviewed had 3.25-inch blades or longer, for many people, a 2″ or 2.5″ blade is more than enough for an everyday carry. Heck, your primary task might be opening packages and letters, a task just as suited to a small blade as a big one!
In this sense, the Kershaw Amplitude was a nice, modest addition to the lineup with its smaller 2.5-inch blade:
Notice the small extra extension to the very base of the blade under the hinge. It’s for the flipper style opener mechanism (just like the CRKT Swindle) and it worked very well. Look back at the very first picture of the knives piled together and you’ll see the potential problem with this design: it requires a small “burr” of metal to be sticking out of the side of the knife so you can open it. Some knife owners might well prefer something sleeker. Trade-offs, as I’ll explain with the next blade.
The Amplitude is a solid basic knife, however, with its 2.5-inch drop-point blade and its opening mechanism is called SpeedSafe and can be helpful if you find you’re often in situations where you need to pop open the knife one-handed.
Learn more: Kershaw Amplitude 2.5.
The fast open blade style is more popular with modern men, but if you prefer a more classic pocketknife with multiple blades, then the Uncle Henry Rancher is a good choice with its old-school design:
The longest of the blades on this knife is 3-inches, but since all three blades are in the same central section, I found this one difficult to open and close, the hardest of the entire group of knives to work with. Also notice the “fingernail notch” along the blade: that’s where you insert a nail and literally pull the desired blade out of the knife. Classic, old school, but a bit tricky, particularly if you have very short nails.
Still, a great traditionalist blade and a design that makes this new addition to your wardrobe instantly look like a hand-me-down from great grandpa Louie.
Learn more: Uncle Henry 834UH Rancher Folding Pocket Knife.
In a similar vein is the W.R. Case Sway Back pocket knife, though this has only a single blade, one that’s a lot easier to work with:
This is a really nice everyday carry knife with a classic appearance. The handle is “deep canyon goldenrod bone” and it’s quite pretty in your hand. The 3-inch blade opens and closes easily and has a nice locking mechanism too. Prefer multiple blades? The company has a lot of variant designs with the same handle and blade size, ranging from a whittler design to a stockman with three different size and style blades.
W.R. Case & Sons is another company with a long history: it was founded back in 1889 by four brothers, William Russell (“W.R.”), Jean, John and Andrew Case. They’ve been around so long that they started out selling knives to people gearing up for a wagon train. That’s longevity!
Learn more: W.R. Case Sway Back “Gent” Knife.
In a completely different realm is a knife that looks more like an everyday carry for someone in Special Forces, the SOG Targa:
This is one of the more complex knifes and it’s worth noting that the closing mechanism involves sliding the little knob at the hinge from one end to the other, a slightly tricky gesture.
Its 3.5-inch tanto-style blade is pretty intimidating, however, and it includes a belt clip if you want to have it accessible rather than being in your actual pocket. The Targa is also surprisingly light when you pick it up, weighing a total of 3.1 ounces. If you need a McGyver blade at the bottom of your backpack or purse, this could be an excellent choice.
Learn more: SOG Targa Knife, Black.
Next up is the Micarta knife from legendary blade maker Gerber, and it’s another really lovely knife with a rather different approach to opening than all the “flipper” styles:
See the circular “thumbstud” stub just above the company name on the blade? That acts as a tiny handle, so you push that up and the 3-inch blade is ready to go. Easy.
The Micarta handle is really unique too, feeling almost like a fabric melded onto the metal of the unit, giving it excellent grip and a very comfortable feel. Just as importantly, if it’s sitting in the sun, the handle won’t burn you!
Learn more: Gerber 39 Series Micarta.
A knife that looks so much like the one I lost from my Dad that I suspect it was the same brand, I also checked out the Winchester Brass Folding Knife:
It’s a modest knife with its 2.5-inch surgical stainless steel blade, but with its wood inlay and brass finish, it’s a very nice gentleman’s knife, perfect for that everyday carry idea. And it’s under $10, the least expensive of the knives in this roundup by quite a range.
Learn more: Winchester Brass Folding Knife.
Done? Nope, got a few other knives that don’t really work as daily in your pocket carry knives, but are still pretty sweet blades. Top of that list is the Sharpfinder from a Schrade brand called Old Timer:
It’s not really the same sort of knife at all, but with its leather sheaf and approx 3-inch blade, this is a nice utility blade to have on your belt when you’re hunting, fishing or otherwise need a small, sharp blade handy without having to flip it open.
Learn more: Schrade Old Timer 152OT Old Timer.
SOG also sent along a multitool that’s a beauty, the Powerplay. Again, it’s in a different category than an everyday carry knife, but it’s pretty amazing:
This is sort of the Transformers of knives, really, because it has a bunch of knife blades, including a serrated edge blade, but it also has a screwdriver, bottle opener, pliers and an included hex bit kit. A perfect “glove compartment tool”, actually, for when you get into emergencies.
Learn more: SOG Powerplay.
And finally, the bad-ass Schrade knife I mentioned at the beginning:
You can’t tell from the picture, but that’s a 7-inch blade and the holster is designed to strap to your thigh. Yes, you too can play post-apocalypse and walk around ready for the zombie invasion. It’s quite a knife, actually, and with its carbon steel blade, it feels like a knife that you’ll be able to bring home after many hunting, fishing and camping trips. Or perhaps the zombie apocalypse.
Learn more: Schrade Frontier Fixed Knife SCHF52.
And so finally, which blade do I have in my pocket now? I’m alternating between the Winchester Brass Folding Knife and the Buck Knives Duke, but there’s not a single blade in the bunch that’s not a good knife, so the best thing is for you to really decide what you want the knife for, because that’ll help narrow down the choices.
Disclosure: Every company mentioned herein sent along evaluation knives for the purposes of this Father’s Day Gift Guide. Which is pretty sweet, as I will definitely enjoy all of them at different times.