During my last days in the Marine Corps, I was on a training exercise on Camp Pendleton. Because of my job in the military, and the various commands I worked at, I ended up this military, social butterfly. I had been assigned as an individual runner, where my job was simply to check out a Hummer each weekday, and basically wait for someone to call up and need me and that vehicle to show up for whatever reason. I was assigned to and Infantry company, only to be quickly assigned to an Artillery battery. From my communications battalion, I ended up working for a three star general’s staff, and later became attached to a special operations training staff. I took on volunteer duties of the military police, and taught myself how to operate these new personal computers, and the bundle of software programs called MS Office having only known typing from a high school class.
You know what’s really interesting, with the exception of adding a bayonet to a rifle in the off chance ammunition was low, and enemy contact was overwhelming, there was no formal training or classes on the use and care of a knife, zero. The only document I ever came across that was in regular use which did mention this was the Combat Engineer’s training manuals, which I located, copied, and kept. They did not address either a folding or fixed knife, but did explain how to care for an axe, which included sharpening, and corrosion prevention.
I was never even issued or given any kind of knife while I served. I bought my only Ka-Bar fixed blade knife at the PX in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. This is not to say knives were not found anywhere you looked. Folding or fixed, nearly everyone had some kind of knife with them. Oddly, most off the female Marines did not carry such implements. The relatively new multi-tool style pliers which came with Swiss Army-like handles that featured a variety to tools, and often include both a plain edge blade, and a serrated edge blade. Females in the Communications units did end up taking on these self-purchased tools, as the screwdrivers, and wire cutters were needed frequently.
Given my distaste for poor quality anything, and my background in metal work, I knew a cheap knife on site from the days of going to the swap meet they held at the local county fair grounds where I grew up. There was always at least one man there with a display of knives for sale, and I can recall never once seeing a knife there made by any quality knife manufacture.
Until recently, I owned no knife of the non-kitchen variety that was made outside of the United States. My straight razor I use is made in Germany, and there was a time when I owned a Tanto Style fixed blade knife made in Japan. Almost all my knives are made by the Benchmade Company, but as my work drifted away from needing actual tactical equipment, and times had been changing, my need for tools and utility was afoot.
Having spent time in the area of the Columbia River, the running body of water that acts as the boarder between Oregon, and Washington, I was in the heart of some of the companies that produce high quality products. The people that make Danner boots, the Leatherman Tool company, Benchmade Knives, even some of the worlds best computer chip makers are there.
Once back in California, I found myself needed a knife for my job. The ability to cut plants, open heavily sealed bottles and boxes of equipment, slicing through rope, and hoping I would never need it to actually escape being trapped in attic, or defend myself from sharp toothed or venomous animals. The other problem I faced was knowing any equipment i used was going to endure daily contact with dirt, filth, sweat, water, salt water, acidic liquids, and products that are hazardous materials. If I committed my tactical gear to this, I would be left with contaminated gear and equipment for which I normally keep well maintained for emergencies. Nope, I needed a new class of knife. Something that could be depended on, but not cost enough that its loss would prevent easy replacement. I tried and SOG knife, but found it made from simply very poor quality material. I had known about the company’s knives during my military days, and they seemed more interested in making sales from aggressive marketing campaigns, then on quality products.
Next I turned to a company who’s name took me back north. Columbia River Knife and Tool, or CRKT. I had assumed this was a new company starting up in Oregon or Washington, a few good ideas and the will to go head to head with some of the big boys in the Knife industry. I never even bothered to look in to the company. I have gone through two separate work knives from them, and a third EDC knife, but during the purchase of this last one, I discovered the ruse. “Designed in the U.S.A., made in China.”
Well, I’m stuck with the two I have left. The first one, as planned for, was lost during a job. I’ll take care of them like I would anything I have, but when I comes to one of man-kinds earliest tools, one that has survived to this day since it was first invented, the bank accounts of the business owner or the share-holders for those who wish to offer knives for sale are in my book, to be the reward for providing quality products, not for refining lies until they become truths.
This is not to say the people of China do not make quality. They in fact have some of the world’s oldest working Brine/salt works, and last I checked, they still use Bamboo for the pipes. No, this seems the work of an American business, and us as a people wanting the illusion of quality, at the price of the cheap. Its a chicken v. egg issue, the business meeting an already present need, or the need developing from the business’s plan. Regardless, the finger pointing goes around the table instead of at one entity.
Well, I had to clean, relubricated, and sharpen my work knife, and with the equipment out, I went ahead and did all my kitchen knives as well.