I happened to meet Eddie for the first time in April of this year when he visited our "Practice What You Preach" camp-out to talk with a writer from Tactical Knives magazine. After being introduced to him, I immediatley inquired as to whether he had any of his work with him. Indeed he did. As if guided by the hand of fate, or just by plain serendipity, the first one he brought out was the one I immediately wanted. Crafted of 154CM (one of my favorite knife steels), that little beauty just gleamed in the sunlight! The Model IX has a blade thickness of 3/16" and the grip slabs are nice and thick to give the handler a good purchase on the "little" blade. The length of the blade is 3.16" long giving the overall package a bit of a squat and chunky appearance. That’s not a pejorative, either. I like knives that fill up and thend and I epecially like this setup very much! Paired up with this blade is a nicely crafted wet-molded belt sheath as I mentioned was the exception for me and my "finger" knives. However, this knife and sheath fits one niche perfectly for me. When I am in normal, every day surroundings where other people are present, I’m not going to be carrying a 7" fixed blade like I would in the wild. I refrain from doing that to keep the natives from getting spooked. But, while I carry folding knives, I still prefer having a good fixed blade just for the sheer strength and the ease of mind about not worrying if the lock is going to give. Eddie’s Model IX gives me that ability to have a fixed blade that I can carry in every day situations without spooking passers-by. It’s compact profile blends in quite nicely and has a very benign appearance when seated in its belt sheath. The knife also has a very well-finished and extremely sharp edge at the end of its hollow grind that’s extremely useful for tasks ranging from opening mail to skinning a squirrel. If you haven’t tried one of Eddie’s knives, you need to do yourself a favor and check one out. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Another niche that needs filled from time to time is when you either just can’t carry a fixed blade on your belt or you just want an extra little fixed blade with you as a back-up to another. That’s where Charlie May’s Fire Ant comes into play for me. I met Charlie May about three years ago, and again, it was during one of our annual camp-outs. I had purchased one of his knives a year earlier from a friend of his, and was quite happy with it. When Charlie decided to come to our camp-out the following year, he brought some product with him to help keep the wolves at bay. That’s when I saw his Fire Ant for the first time. For those of you that aren’t aware, Charlie has quickly become a respected member of the knife-making industry and has gotten rave reviews about his knives from folks all over the country. He was recently featured in Tactical Knives and has rapidly established a devoted following of his custom blades. You can see some more examples of his work at www.charlesmayknives.blademakers.com Charlie’s Fire Ant knife is an extremely well-crafted custom knife despite its diminuitive size. You can tell from the finish of the blade that Charlie gives attention to every item he works on. The Fire Ant is 5 3/8ths inches long with 2 3/8ths inches of that length devoted to the actual blade. The version I picked up is of the D2 variety with Green Micarta grips. Additionally, the grips and the actual knife are thinner than Eddie White’s Model IX. The Fire Ant is made of 1/8th inch thick D2 steel with proportionately thin micarta grip slabs. This makes for an extremely compact package capable of fine, precision work. Charlie’s thinking on the sheath for this elegant little knife was quite sound as well. Charlie provides his own sheaths with his knife, and I have found them to be of top tier quality when compared to the sheaths provided by other makers. Yes, there are custom sheath makers out there to do your bidding, but for Charlie’s knives, you’re doing it for decoration or bragging rights–not for lack of quality in the original sheath. Charlie provides a nice pouch sheath for the Fire Ant, but leaves off any kind of loop for a belt. The lack of additional leather for a loop makes for a much flatter profile and allows for easy carry in your front pocket. So, as I mentioned above, for those times you want a fixed blade knife, but don’t want to have a sheath on your belt, this is the perfect little blade for that task. And, then, we come to the neck knife. That’s the blade you have with you out in the woods when you’re in your "Lord Of The Flies" mode and you’ve gone completely native. The neck knife is typically worn hanging from a beaded chain, piece of paracord, or even a leather lace. It has several advantages over other modes of carry. First, it’s readily available hanging about halfway down your chest, so a quick grab in that area and you’ve got your blade deployed. It’s even quicker if you’re carrying the knife in a kydex sheath because the tight, molded fit will allow for inverted carry. That makes for a faster purchase on the handle. Also, the neck-carry allows you to have a knife on at all times no matter what you’re wearing. You don’t need a belt and you don’t need any pockets. If you get up in the middle of the night to make a run for the trees and don’t feel like "gearing up" you can have a knife right there with you if you carry this way. For a long period of time, I carried a 154CM version of Rob Simonich’s Talon hanging from my kneck. In all actuality, that Talon is one of my favorite blades. But, it’s just a little too long and heavy and swings around a bit too much for a kneck knife. Though I sported it that way for a long time in a kydex sheath hanging in an inverted fashion, I finally relegated it to my "Last Resort" pack and opted for a lighter knife more suited for neck carry. That knife is made by the fine guys over at Blind Horse Knives and is known as their Patch Knife. I recently did a review on the Patch Knife, so I won’t go into all of the details again here. But, suffice to say, this is a perfect knife to have hanging around your neck in the outdoors. Besides the advantages already mentioned, this knife just goes with the wilderness theme. You’re probably not going to wear a neck knife to the mall or out to your favorite eatery, but when you’re out in the woods, then I’m sure you’re ready to go into full "wilderness guy" mode. The finish on the knife has a nice patina to it hearkening back to an earlier era with its aged appearance. Also, the leather sheath, leather necklace and the beads decorating the combination of the two simply helps you get into that outdoors frame of mind. Best of all, this is a custom knife that won’t break the bank. The Patch Knife is made of recycled saw blade steel and its makers provide a huge bang for your buck in the product they provide in this model. As of this writing, I believe these knives to be the best value for the money on the market excluding, possibly, another one of Blind Horse Knives’ models–their Tiger Knapp series. No, neck knives and other types of knives don’t have to be custom-made like those above to be a quality tool. The ones I listead already are just the ones I’ve found along the way that I’ve really come to treasure not just for collecting, but for their every day use as well. As I’ve pointed out, each one perfectly fills a particular niche or need that I may have, and I’ve made them part of my routine. However, there are other knives that I have used along the way and have in my stable of tools, and some I use maybe even more than any of the above. For instance, I have a Bark River Knives prototype of their Lil Creek model that I’ve had now for a couple of years and where I have semi-designated times and places for using the other knives above, I usually have the Lil Creek with me just about everywhere. I keep it on my desk while at home, and it’s usually the most available knife at any given time. Outside of the house, I still usually have it with me either stuffed into a pack or pocket, or quickly rigged up for neck carry. I would say of all the knives that I possess, this one gets used the most, and it’s a great little knife! Bark River Knives produces a wide variety of bladeware that will fit just about any person’s taste. They make old west style Bowies and they make modern day fighting knives. They’ve got models long enough to qualify as a short sword and they’ve got models with blades no more than two inches long. Besides the variety in models, what I like about Bark River is that they offer a variety of steels as well. Though they don’t offer different steels for the same model, they use the steel that best meets the needs of the model that they are making at the time. But, it gives someone like me whose a little particular about the type of steel I want in a knife the opportunity to at least pick up something that I like. I’m not all that fond of some of the varieties of stainless steels or tool steels that are used in some models of knives, but I do like 154CM, S30V, 1095, A2 and the like. Bark River has several models that offer these different kinds of steel that appeal to my particular tastes. So, I have owned and enjoyed several of their models including the Fox River, Aurora, Canadian Special, Mikro Slither, PSK, and a prototype Scout model as well. But, the Lil Creek is the one that I use the most mainly because of its size and portability. It has just the right combination of blade length and handle size to make it just about the perfect "Finger Knife". It’s made of A2 steel and has a great convex edge that easy to touch up even for someone that’s somewhat mentally challenged when it comes to sharpening knives. One of the other really nice things about Bark River Knives is that they make some of the prettiest handles you’ll find on a knife. You really just have to visit their website and page through their galleries to see the assortment of styles that are available. You can get anything from micarta to ironwood and on up to Sambar Stag. You have to see it for yourself. There are many folks out there that become addicted to their "Barkies" and there’s a reason for that. You get great quality knives with an overwhelming variety of handle materials to choose from, so even if they aren’t custom knives, you can probably find one that nobody in your state currently owns and it will be well worth the money.
There is a staggering multitude of knife makers in the industry, whether custom or production, that produce exactly the style of knife that I’m speaking of and I don’t intend to imply that the makers I mentioned above are the only ones that are making quality products for a good price. The point of the article was to show some examples of a particular style that are available and some of the makers I have had experience with and recommend. And, the article was intended to show how even a little sub-category of knives can still have a large variety within it to fill your own personal needs. If you’ll do your research on the net and with your friends, you’ll find that there are even more makers out their with similar reputations and quality. Good places to go to get information are the online knife communities where people discuss the different companies and individual custom knife makers. Such communities include Knifeforums and Bladeforums. Just like with anything else in life, don’t depend on just one person’s opinion. Do your research, gather the data, and then make the best decision based on the information you came up with on your own. If you do that, I’m sure you’ll find exactly the model that you need!