A Man’s Guide To Pocket Knives 14

“Everybody carries a little pocket knife. To say we will not allow anybody to carry one is somewhere between really silly and unenforceable.”

– Bob Monetti, Airline Safety Advocate

Throughout American history, men have carried and used pocket knives. In fact, a knife used to be just as essential to a man as his keys and wallet.

Recently, however, that tradition has been declining to such an extent that many men do not even understand the different types of pocket knives.

Today’s article is an explanation of the four major types of knives, their particulars, and their uses.

Jack Knife

This small, simplistic knife has been a common tool throughout American history. Traditionally, it is one of the first knives a young man would own. Today, this type of knife is popular among fishermen, hunters, and campers.

Because of its size, this tool can be easily carried in a pocket or pack without adding much extra weight.

Jack knives include one or two blades mounted on a single hinge.

Pen Knife

Pen knives were originally used to sharpen quill pens – hence the name, “pen knife”.

Although the modern gentleman does not need to sharpen his pens, he still can find many uses for a pen knife. Whether opening letters, cutting string, or performing some other common daily task, this knife solves most ordinary problems.

Unlike the jack knife, a pen knife sports two hinges – one on each end – and two or three blades. With this wider variety of blade sizes, a pen knife can fulfill more needs than a jack knife without losing much of its advantage in size.

Multipurpose Knife

A step up from an ordinary knife, a multipurpose knife – such as the Swiss Army knife – includes more than just a knife.

In addition to a couple of knife blades, this type of knife might include a:

  • Saw
  • Screwdriver Blade (or two)
  • Pair of Tweezers
  • Pair of Scissors

Although the additional tools do make this knife more bulky and weighty, they also make it more useful.

My first knife was a Swiss Army multipurpose knife. I have used that knife literally hundreds of times, and I used to carry it with me everywhere. Although I have since upgraded to a bigger (and better) knife, I still pull this one out occasionally to use the tweezers.


The “king” of pocket gear, multitools do include knives, but the knives are rarely the main focus of the tool.  This is the main difference between a multipurpose knife and a multitool.

For example, the main feature of my old Swiss Army knife was the knife, but the core aspect of my Leatherman Wave is the pair of pliers. That being said, knives are still an important part of multitools, and the vast majority includes one or two good knife blades.

A multitool generally features a pair of scissors or pliers – with a dozen or so other tools built into the handles.

Because it has more tools and is heavier and bulkier than a jack or pen knife, this type of “pocket” knife is normally better kept on the belt instead of in the pocket.

A Note On Usage

In our modern culture, many people have been indoctrinated by Hollywood to think of knives as dangerous, bloodthirsty weapons only carried by gangsters and outlaws. For that reason, it is sometimes best to leave your knife at home or to carry it discreetly in your pocket. In addition, certain countries have passed laws that severely restrict the carrying of knives, so you will have to check with your government to avoid carrying a knife illegally.

Assuming knives can be legally carried in your part of the world, you will be faced with the choice between a large, highly visible knife or a smaller, less noticeable blade. Although a multitool or multipurpose knife is usually the most useful option, a small, inconspicuous pen knife can be the better choice in certain situations. It simply depends on your local laws and personal etiquette.

What type of knife do you own?

14 thoughts on “A Man’s Guide To Pocket Knives

  1. Reply Cesar Abueg Feb 24,2010 9:25 AM

    Great post Nate, I have a multitool myself. I keep it in my desk. Got cut from it a few times with its sharp knife. It has only a few tools on it, but its quite handy.

    I feel more manly now, that I have one of these. Why you ask, coz’ I don’t:

    1. Watch Football
    2. Play Fantasy Football
    3. Play Much Sports (When I can, I do indoor rock climbing, and volleyball)
    4. Drink in Bars
    5. Go to Strip Clubs
    6. Drink Beer (I drink wine on occasion)

    Most of those, coz’ I work so much, and others coz’ I think its degrading for women and it won’t do any good for me in the long run either, being married and all.

    So I spent lots of time with my wife and kids. I love being a faithful and caring husband, and I love my kids, they are adorable.

    Anyhow, thanks for sharing.

  2. Reply Nate Desmond Feb 24,2010 9:36 AM

    @ Cesar

    I completely agree! Many activities that are culturally considered “manly” (such as drinking and going to strip clubs) are actually entirely unmanly and wrong.

    Thank you for your insightful comment!

  3. Reply Joseph Feb 24,2010 9:52 AM

    I had no idea why a pen knife was called a pen knife. 😀
    I tend to carry around a pocket knife with a single blade, usually about 3″ long.
    The knife I’m currently using has a hooked blade for bottle opening. I’ve found that hook more than useful for prying out nails and the like.

  4. Reply Tanner @ Art of Citizenship Feb 24,2010 10:15 AM

    I’ve got a jacknife. It’s a Buck Squire and I love the thing. Wooden inlays give it a gentlemanly feel, but it’s tough enough to get all the daily jobs done.

  5. Reply Jordan Williams Feb 24,2010 10:37 AM

    I’ve go a jack knife, carry around on me at all time. I mostly use it to widdle stuff. My swiss army knife is kept in my car just in case I need it. The other day I was at a friends house, as they pulled out the wine bottles they forgot to get a corkscrew…. luckily I had the good old swiss army knife to help me out.

  6. Reply Ibrahim | TwentiesLife.com Feb 24,2010 11:39 AM

    I carry a Kershaw Onion Knife. I’m not sure which, if any, of these categories it would fit under, but it’s awesome, strong, sturdy, and it looks psychedelic. Take a look…


  7. Reply Pwag Feb 24,2010 5:54 PM

    This is what I carry day to day: http://www.coldsteel.com/pocketbushman.html If I’m going fishing I’ll carry a smaller swiss army knife for more delicate work. The bushman is a little small, but I manage okay with it. 😉

  8. Reply Louis from Texas Feb 25,2010 2:43 PM

    Insightful post, Nate.

    I have a kitchen knife in my desk, among others. I never take my kitchen knife with off of my property though as the blade is just over 8 inches.

  9. Reply Jason V Mar 1,2010 5:34 PM

    I have in my pocket at this time a very tiny pocket-knife. Maybe a pen-knife.
    It has 2 blades, one 1″ blade, and one 1.5″ blade. the knife is just over 1/8″ thick, and a brushed-metal finish. This is mostly good for opening letters and boxes, cleaning nails and shaving.
    I typically also carry a small half-serrated blade approximately 2″ to 2.5″ long. This knife is much more useful for cutting rope, cardboard, cables, etc.

    When out and about I also carry my Swiss Army / Multi knife or my Leatherman brand multi-tool. (The Leatherman is one of the originals and very beat-up, but one of the best tools ever designed for light-duty work!) Very good for outdoors and tightening loose screws on the truck or trailer.

    I think that I will soon be able to pass my old Leatherman tool to my Son. :)

  10. Reply Spring Assisted Knives May 11,2010 10:33 PM

    very cool explanations on the different type of knives. a multipurpose swiss army knife is very handy as an everyday carry

  11. Reply twistedxtian May 29,2010 7:54 PM

    It’s cool to see the variety of knives other guys carry, and the fact that people still carry them at all. :) I’m a bit of a knife aficionado and have a variety on hand at all times. I tend to carry a CRKT Long’s Peak, or Buck’s signature 110 model, which is probably older than me. lol Nice solid little folders that can take the abuse of day-to-day use.

  12. Reply mark Feb 20,2011 9:22 PM

    I started carrying a pocket knife when i was in grade school.

    I’ve been carrying this one
    for the past 5 years or more.

    In addition to the types listed, it might be worthwhile to mention lock back knives. They are usually one blade with a lock mechanism so that they can’t close accidentally.

    Another thing that i think you should know if you carry a pocket knife is how to keep it sharp. A dull knife can be a lot more dangerous than a sharp one and sharpeners are pretty cheap and easy to use.

  13. Reply Tex Apr 28,2011 9:37 PM

    Howdy yall. I’m glad to see that there’s still some sensibility in this world. I can’t believe how many people openly oppose carrying knives these days. My Pa started me out at 3 or 4 years old with a swiss army knife and I haven’t gone a single day without a knife since then. For the past few years I’ve been carrying a Buck 110 and an old Leatherman. I also occaisionally carry a 12″ fixed blade that I made from a deer antler and a truck’s leaf spring (it’s actually a beautiful knife). Like Pa told me,”Dogs may be man’s best friend, but a good sharp blade is his best investment.”

  14. Reply Tim Feb 6,2012 3:56 AM

    Fantastic article, I’ve been a fan of pocket knives since I first watched an episode of Macgyver as a child. When I was younger, I had a large Swiss Army knife for use at Scouts and camping, but it was eventually lost somewhere… As an adult, I purchassed a Victorinox Spartan, which I carried for several years, but following a recently renewed interest in camping and survival skills, I came to the conclusion that a multi tool would be the most practical, and have recently retired the Victorinox in favor of an unbranded multi tool (which I can’t remember the source of) which is slightly smaller than the pen knife. It has a 1.5 inch blade for cutting and whittling, a bottle opener/flat head screwdriver, a can opener, a file (double sided with metal and wood qualifications) a flat head jeweller’s screw driver, a cross-tip jeweller’s screw driver and of course, pliars. The hinges are loose enough that the pliars can be opened one-handed with a flick of the wrist, while the ‘tool hinges’ are firm and secure. I would recommend anyone carrying a pen knife to upgrade to a multi tool, even if it is a cheap one, as the pliars alone make for a more versatile tool.

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