pocket knife

I’ve had a pocket knife as long as I can remember. I think I got mine when I was about eight years old, and no, I did not grow up in the countryside. I grew up in a mini-metropolis. There was no practical purpose for my dad giving me that knife (no game to skin or tack to be made) except the fact that it showed me my dad trusted me, and he was handing down a father-son tradition. There was something about that knife and being trusted with it (it was his as a boy) that made me feel older, more mature, more responsible, and more in control of my destiny. I used it to carve my name in scraps of wood, make sling shots and just plain whittle. I have no memory of serious cuts or injury- no stabbings or deaths (all my contemporaries had them and we still have all of our digits). I just felt cool and loved it as an object. Being given such an adult responsibility (along with rules of conduct from my father) I didn’t want to disappoint anyone by being foolish.

I guess that pocket knife taught me a lot. So I have handed one of my pocket knives to my daughter Clara so she can hopefully understand and experience the things I so clearly remember as a child her age. It’s about having the responsibility of such an adult object, and enjoying the world that opens up to you as you open up that blade.

Dadfilter is a new weekly column, which appears on Mondays, written by Matthew Hranek. He’s the author of the blog The William Brown Project, and a contributor to


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Comments (3)


  1. After a similar “bestowing,” my nine year old has started collecting pocket knives. I was nervous at first but my husband insisted he needed this – based on the same reasons you state above. My son is not known for his impulse control or his presence of mind but his use of that pocket knife is so conscientious it borders on reverent. So interesting to hear your take on it.

  2. My nine year-old LOVES his. He learned even more about using it at an amazing summer camp called Journey’s End Farm camp. two weeks, on a farm, in PA, many things whittled.

  3. Posted by: David Sauter

    I got my first knife as a Cub Scout at the Coast to Coast store. Over the years I have had several different knives from the classic Swiss army with a corkscrew a “must” for pic-nicking through Europe to my rosewood handled Scout whittling knife.
    I would have to say though my two favorite knives are my Gerber “Mark II” boot knife (Mel Gibson had one in Mad Max) its just “Badass” and my latest purchase a Benchmade spring assist Barage 580s. It is the perfect outdoorsman knife one handed opation sharp as a razor and it looks as sexy cutting an apple or wedge of cheese as it does gutting a salmon or opening the mail!

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