When I first started carrying a pocket knife everyone carried simple slip joint knives made by Case XX, Schrade and Walden, Frost or the like. These knives were in well known patterns with colorful names like Barlow, copperhead, stockman, trapper or muskrat to name a few. I actually have a couple of knives that date back to when I was in the 8th grade or so and have been carried and used hard but are still in great shape. One is a Case XX copperhead that my maternal grandfather, Jody, gave me and the other is a Frost stockman that I bought for myself. You can see in the pic that they are still in great shape and razor sharp still. My uncle was a tool grinder at a local furniture plant and taught me how to sharpen knives. Putting an edge on a knife, or tool, is not the snake oil and mystery that most make it out to be and just takes a little practice; maybe that will be the subject of another post.
The old slip joint non-locking knives have fallen out of favor today, they are still available but not as common. Today everything is tactical and military inspired it seems and that is a shame, because years ago every knife in the Case or Schrade display at the local hardware store was a functional tool and a lot of the knives today are next to useless for everyday tasks. A lot of the modern designs have a blade geometry that seems to be designed for stabbing, the steel is sub par, the blades are WAY too thick and do not slice well at all, and they are bulky, heavy and inconvenient to carry.
With that said, there are some knives today that I really like and modern steels and designs have produced some really good knives. For example the knife I carry everyday today is not an old Case or Frost but a Kershaw Skyline. I really like the size, passive flipper one hand opening, the shape of the blade and the Swedish Sandvick steel that the blade is made from. It is very stain resistant, easy to sharpen and takes a wicked sharp edge. True, the edge does not last as long as some of the modern super steels but I don't mind periodically touching it up and hey, for $35 it is pretty darn good! This segues perfectly into another point about knives, I much prefer this style of steel. My opinion is that some of the new steels are just too hard and a pain to sharpen. They will hold a great edge for a long time but just not as useful in my opinion as a knife that I can quickly bring back to a razor's edge with a couple of strokes on a pocket stone.
So besides the every-day carry Kershaw, what are some of my favorite knives today? Before I answer that, I have to explain that I use knives to cut and slice, I do not use them to dig holes, as pry bars, wedges, screwdrivers or any other use they are not designed for. My skyline is the most robust knife in the line up. If you use your knives as general purpose tools then these designs probably will not work for you but if you want a good cutting tool I promise they will take a razor's edge and cut like demons.
In the pic below, first from left to right is the Skyline which I have already talked about, a Victorinox Farmer Swiss Army knife, Spyderco flat ground Endura, Leatherman Skeletool, and last but not least is the dead simple and cheap Opinel. Nothing on this list is particularly expensive or exotic just simple well built tools that function as they should. I am not going to go into individual reviews, a simple google search will pull up thousands, these are very popular designs, and just what I like and use.