One of the advantages to living on a rural homestead is that you are pretty much free to carry anything you like in the way of cutlery without worrying about all those common urban restrictions on blade length, carry style and opening methods. That includes openly wearing a fixed-blade sheath knife on your belt if that best meets your personal needs.
There are actually a lot of sensible reasons for picking a reasonable-sized fixed blade over a folder as an everyday farm tool. For starters, it obviously doesn’t need to be opened, and it functions one-handed without any special practice. If you are forced to use your knife more than once or twice a day, fishing a pocketknife out of your pocket, opening it and closing it again can be a major inconvenience. A handy belt knife, on the other hand, can be pulled, used and replaced in a fraction of the time.
A Cut Above
Homesteaders tend to use their tools hard for a lot of unexpected chores that a folder may or may not survive. A fixed blade is, by nature, a much stronger design than something that must fold in half on a cross pin. In general, I have also found the handles on fixed knives tend to be more comfortable than folders in that the designer doesn’t have to work around storing the blade in the frame. A fixed blade is also much easier to clean without all the recesses and corners of a folder. Anyone field-dressing game or harvesting much garden produce will quickly appreciate this fact.
My most recent experiment in carrying a homestead fixed blade has been with the new TOPS Overlander 2. This handy, mid-sized sheath knife features a 4-inch, black-traction-coated blade of 0.1875-inch-thick 1095 carbon steel (RC 58). The handle is tan canvas Micarta. The MSRP is $150, which includes a Kydex sheath.
I have to say 0.1875 inches thick seemed a little heavy for a 4-inch blade, and I was concerned it would not cut very well on the sort of things I use a mid-sized sheath knife for. Just as ballistic gelatin is used as a standardized test for handgun rounds, I consider 1-inch manila rope the equivalent for knife edges. A little to my surprise, the TOPS Overlander did very well on the rope, with two or three slices normally cutting all the way through.
Going back to the fact that a sheath knife can be more convenient when you need to use the tool frequently all day long, I found resheathing the Overlander in the Kydex case to be a very easy one-hand movement. That isn’t always true of more traditional leather pouches and sheaths. I’ve sliced the mouth on more than one while trying to resheath one handed without looking.
In general, this TOPS knife is a very handy cutting tool that will handle a wide variety of everyday chores around the homestead. You won’t regret adding it to your belt every morning. For more, visit topsknives.com or call 208-542-0113.
This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.