Recommendations for a pocket knife
February 19, 2018 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Knife aficionados, I'd appreciate some pocket knife recommendations for a kid aged 9!

My son, 9, will be in a camp during the summer (essentially he'll be playing a "child" at a historic site) where he will be learning some knife skills and will be doing some activities with the knife (carving wood, basic food prep, perhaps some other general farm labour chores). I'd appreciate some recommendations for a simple pocket knife that would suit that purpose.

I'd like something under $100 (ideally under $50), easy for a boy of 9 to handle and care for, something well-made and strong, ideally very little plastic in the handle or body, not brightly coloured, and no multi-tools. I was thinking an Opinel but I'm curious to hear other suggestions of which I may not be aware.
posted by Ashwagandha to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Seconding Opinel - great knives - I use one all the time (I'm clumsy and the locking ferrule is the bomb).
posted by parki at 4:16 PM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Opinels are good knives, but they aren’t as well made and solid as some other options; they’re basically nice low-cost utility knives.

If you want a real lovely piece of craftsmanship that will last for decades, I’d look at Great Eastern Cutlery. They have many sub-$100 options, but you won’t find one for less than $50.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:35 PM on February 19, 2018

Not a young boy here, but I've been a fan of Kershaw knives for a while. The have a sort of militaristic look that I don't love, but the quality of the knives are outstanding. They are durable, strong and easy to use. The Leek model is my personal favorite.

They have a very sturdy safety lock, which I very much appreciate.
posted by JennyJupiter at 6:10 PM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Kershaw makes fantastic knives and is currently my everyday carry. I’ve also had a Gerber since I was his age and still have it and it’s an incredible knife. They also fix/sharpen/replace for life which is great.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:20 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Opinel are quite nice for cutting the brie on a picnic, but that's not a camping knife. You don't learn "knife skills" with that knife.

I'd recommend a Gerber locking blade with nylon handle.
posted by humboldt32 at 6:40 PM on February 19, 2018

Do you want a locking blade knife? Slipjoint (non locking)? Multiple blade knife or single blade? Traditional, often with brass liners, nickel silver bolsters, peened construction and usually handles of natural materials such as bone, wood, though plastic is pretty often used, too. Or modern pocket knife, usually with a single, locking blade, screwed together construction, often with a pocket clip and designed to be opened with one hand?

Traditional knives are quite varied.

Great Eastern Cutlery offers very nice and traditional locking and non locking pocket knives. They are on the high side, but can easily be found within your budget. Be aware, almost all the knives they offer use carbon steel blades, and sometimes carbon steel liners and bolsters. This means your son will be tasked with the extra work of keeping the knife relatively dry when not in use, or else rust will show up. Also, being carbon steel, the blades will get a gray patina fairly quickly, which is completely normal, but may appear unsightly to some. Their production is fairly small, and each run usually sells out quickly, so there may be a relatively limited number of choices available at any particular time.

W. R. Case is an old company offering a pretty wide array of traditional knives. They are generally less expensive, many can be had for less then $50. They offer locking and non locking models. Most of their knives use stainless steel blades, though a few come in non-stainless chrome vanadium (CV), which will patina, and require the same kind of care as carbon steel.

Buck offers some traditional models, from the classic 110 and its smaller siblings, the 112 and 55. These are the single locking blade folders with wood handles and brass bolsters. When I was a kid, they were extremely sought after, and rather badass, before the days of modern "tactical" folding knives. Buck also offers a few single and multi bladed slipjoint traditional models, usually with nickel silver bolsters and plastic handles, though they do some runs with wood handles. They're pretty nice and economical.

All the models I specify are made in the US. Buck offers imported knives, too.

Modern knives come from many manufacturers, domestic and imported. Kershaw, Spyderco, are just a couple well regarded brands. Kershaw offers some low end knives, Spyderco tends to not offer low end models in the same range. Modern folding knives tend to be single blade, with a lock of some kind. They also tend to be on the large side, IMO, and also tend to be in the more macho, "tactical" category. With pocket clips, and some provision for opening one handed. Natural material handles are rarer. Usually they are metal, such as stainless or even titanium, or some kind of plastic such as injection molded nylon, or machined composite like micarta, G-10, or even carbon fiber.

I would avoid a knife with camo handles. They might look cool, but drop it in the forest, and it might be lost.

As far as cutting ability, few knives come out of the box with really good slicing profiles. Opinel is one of the few. Modern knives have an annoying tendency to have fairly thick edge grinds which are OK for scraping paint and pulling out staples, but not so much for actual cutting.

Personally, I'm a little wary of locking blades. Sometimes, people put a lot of faith in them, maybe too much. They occasionally fail, and when that happens, it's often sudden and unexpected, a bad thing. A slipjoint is expected to close when forces are placed on the back of the blade, and as such it's easier to drive home how a knife should be used.
posted by 2N2222 at 6:45 PM on February 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Does it have to be a folding knife?

My go to recommendation for kids learning knife skills is the Morakniv Scout 39 Safe.

It has a blunted point for less accidental stabbings of a friend who didn't stay outside the "safety circle as well as finger protection to prevent slips when carving.
Fixed blade knives are also less likely to catch a finger tip when being closed *.

You can get them in orange/green (useful if they are dropped) but also a classic wood color handle.
Comes with a basic, decent sheath, that doesn't easily slip.

Bonus, they're reasonably cheap, so if they get lost, it isn't a disaster.

(They also make a non-blunt tip version, which might be more appropriate for an older child.)

*Or when used as a throwing knife, as kids do.
posted by madajb at 6:46 PM on February 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

here are knives approved by the Boy Scouts.
posted by brujita at 6:49 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Get a Morakniv that's meant for carving wood: they have a pale birchwood handle, so will blend in at any historic site, regardless of the point in history. :7) Plus, they are tough, and razor sharp (so the cuts are clean and heal fast!!), and inexpensive.

Their Woodcarving Junior knife (about $20) has a guard to keep from slipping, and looks nice. I t comes in a cheap back plastic sheath that you could decorate with fabric or leather or something if he needed to look a certain way, but otherwise ot looks good.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:14 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've got to say a good Swiss Army knife. Go with Victorinox, the original manufacturer. High quality, very useful. Get the Alox handles if you want to avoid plastic.
posted by coberh at 7:52 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

What about a CRKT Pilar knife? A blunter tip, and something of a thick profile, like a cleaver. I paid around $25. I let my child use it on camping trips.
posted by kerf at 7:54 PM on February 19, 2018

2nding Victorinox. My dad gave me one when I was in boy scouts many, many years ago and I've carried one every day ever since. I lost a couple of them over the years and replaced them with an identical or near-identical knife.

They're very sturdy, hold an edge and the tools are very useful, especially if you get one of the simpler ones. I used it constantly in boy scouts as well.

As for historical accuracy, Victorinox invented the swiss army knife in 1891 (so says google) and you can get them with wood instead of plastic.

As for the Opinels, one of my high school friends has carried one for all his life and he loves them.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 10:08 PM on February 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I like my Opinel, but I have a Victorinox that I've had for years and years, and it probably would be my pick. Don't get too fancy; the Tinker or something similar (decent size knife, couple of screwdrivers; as he ages a corkscrew comes in handy) is about the ideal size; don't go too big or it gets too cumbersome to carry.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:42 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with 2N2222, in that my first knife at 10 was non-locking; my dad did not want me to get in the habit of pushing on the blade in a way that if the lock failed, I'd lose a finger. I've since graduated and love my Kershaw assisted opens, but those would have been way too much knife for me as a kid.

I love this question. I think every kid should get a knife (with supervision and common sense!) and learn how to use it around this age.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:13 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm going to pile on and say that I own three of the Kershaw Leek, so I can swap them out when dull and sharpen them all at the same time. I carry one everyday. The only issue I have is that the plastic blade stop breaks once a year or so, but I just email them and they send me new ones
posted by Dmenet at 12:49 PM on February 20, 2018

My love enjoyed this thread, too, and went on a little virtual shopping trip. He recommended this "peasant knife"... and now I want one of those, too. (The copy is amusing as well.)

Added bonus is that if he loses it it's not a huge deal.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:11 PM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you for your input! I'll add a bit of clarity about my preferences. The camp would prefer it to be a folding knife and would prefer a traditional style to the modern tactical models. I've had some bad experiences with the Chinese made knives I've used so I thought I'd stick to North American or European made knives - nothing worse then learning to use a tool and having it be faulty.

Regarding the recommendations posted here 2N2222's suggestions work for me. The first knife I learned with was my dad's childhood carbon steel pocket knife (a non-locking one) which was very similar to the Case & Great Eastern Cutlery knives so there's a bit of nostalgia and bias towards that style for me. Buck's 55 model particularly caught my eye - I think it is roughly about the length I was thinking of, not too long nor too heavy and I appreciate companies which stand by their product. The Morakniv fixed blade knives suggested by madajb & wenestvedt, however, look well thought out and I think I may pick up the Scout 39 and/or the Woodcarving Junior (who has just one knife?) as a gift at some point.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:18 PM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

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