Jun 19, 2017Function vs Form (II)

Photograph of a Buck 110 Knife, A Swiss Navy Knife and a Milwaukee Fastback Knife
Function vs Form (II). Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Function vs Form – Knives.

When I first wrote a few thoughts about Function vs Form I used my lighters as an example. This time I’ve been pondering over the knives I’ve been using for the past 30-odd years.

I first started regularly carrying a knife back in the mid-eighties. At the time I was doing a lot of drawing and sailing, and I carried the immensely handy Bosun’s Mate Knife, great for dealing with ropes and shackles, and sharpening pencils. I lost my first one, and there were some quality problems with the replacement – the blade had a very sloppy fit, which led to it being replaced.

We spent this past weekend with Jim & Carol, and while we were there Jim gave me a Buck 110 knife (top). It’s a classic knife that set the bar for folding knives to come.

The pros on the Buck are obvious, its looks and function; it is a thing of beauty, and it works. The cons are its weight and (for me) the lack of a pocket clip. I like my knife clipped into my pocket.

The middle knife is my trusty Swiss Navy Knife. It’s great, and the wear on it hints at its history of many years of everyday use. As much as I love it, I hate its serrated blade, and it doesn’t have a clip to hold it in my pocket – hence the lanyard. I’ve lost it in a lake once, and had to resort to snorkeling to recover it. The lanyard is to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

My everyday carry was the Milwaukee Fastback (bottom). It’s a fantastic workhorse, and inexpensive to boot. It’s a knife you can afford to abuse and lose. The wear on the opening button gives testimony to its constant use.

I say that the Milwaukee ‘was’ my everyday carry. That is because I have a request in for a lightweight multi-tool – the Leatherman Skeletool CX, and, of course, I now have the Buck.

I’ve picked a multitool with a titanium frame, and a straight blade. It is light. It doesn’t include a marline spike, tweezers, or tooth pick (more’s the pity) – which the Swiss Navy Knife does, but I reckon I can manage without those in favor of pliers and cutters. The multi-tool does have a clip, so It’ll sit nicely in my pocket. And to my eye it looks good too.

Coming back to Function vs Form with my knives.

The Swiss Navy Knife beats the Milwaukee and Buck hands down on functionality, with its screwdriver blades, marlin spike, bottle and can opener, shackle tool, tweezers and toothpick. Depending on what tools I’ll be needing, I suspect it also beats the Leatherman Skeletool CX. But, for everyday carry I want a straight blade and pocket clip – the Swiss Navy Knife has neither.

The Buck just feels right, and wood and brass wins out over a plastic grip any day. I can forgive the lack of a pocket clip for the Buck’s great looks and wonderful feel.

For the moment the Milwaukee Fastback and Swiss Navy Knife will be consigned to sitting on a shelf. When I get my multi-tool it will become my everyday carry, and the Buck will get pride of place on my desk. When I’m out backpacking or hiking the Buck will accompany me in my pack. Until I get the multi-tool the Buck will be my Everyday Carry.

Update January 2021

Well, a year ago I gave the Milwaukee knife to one of my daughters. I’d like another Milwaukee. The Leatherman Skeletool CX was a bad choice. The pocket clip is useless, its tools are limited and it is heavier than the Swiss Navy knife. Overall it is a nice knife, but it just isn’t as practical or useful as my now 20+ year old Swiss Navy knife. The blade on my Swiss Navy knife has been sharpened so much now it is no longer serrated. It is my knife of choice when backpacking and, well, just about all the time. The tools it has, are for me, the most useful and practical. As for the Buck. I still love it, and it has pride of place in front of me on my desk. But it’s too heavy and lacking in options to take out backpacking where weight and multiple uses are paramount.

One point to note: all three of these knives lock open, which makes them illegal in many places. However, in my opinion, and from a user’s point of view locking open is essential.

On my desk tonight – Buck 110 (Top), Swiss Navy (Left) and Skeletool CX (Right). After twenty plus years of use Hands down winner is the Swiss Navy knife, but I love the Buck and it has pride of place on my desk. Copyright © 2021 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

Conclusion? The Swiss Navy knife is an absolute winner in function, and not bad in form either.

Copyright © 2017 Gary Allman, all rights reserved.

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