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2009.12.25 Happiness is a New Knife

posted Dec 30, 2009, 12:01 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Dec 30, 2009, 1:49 PM ]
Back about umpteen zillion years ago, or about the time I was your age and you hadn't been born yet, I had a knife.  It was one of those huge, clunky, useless Swiss Army Knife rip-offs that had screwdrivers and leather punches and toothpicks but didn't have an actual knife blade.

Yes, I had a knife which wasn't actually a knife.

My grandfather on my mother's side, Popaw, fixed that for me.  He noticed one of the screwdrivers was actually a flat slab of metal, so he used the grinder to grind it down into a shape approximating that of a knife blade, then he used a file to give it an approximation of a cutting edge.  It didn't keep the edge very well, so we'd have to go back every so often and file it down again.  Still, I had a knife that you could cut things with, so I was happy.

I'd carry the "knife" whenever I could -- you couldn't be a young man in Tennessee and not have knife in your pocket back then -- but it was heavy and clunky and I'd find myself leaving it at home more and more.  "These pants are too tight.  The pockets in this jacket are too small.  The drawstring in these shorts isn't very strong, so the weight of the knife keeps pulling them down."  I had lots of excuses like that.

My younger brother T2 (my mother gave us all names starting with "T" so we'd be easier to remember or something like that) had a knife from work that he wasn't using.  Actually, I think he told me that he'd just found it at work.  It was sticking out of a stairway railing.  Someone had broken off the tip of the blade and just left it there.  He had plenty of other knives, so he gave me that one.

This started my love affair with the Stanley 10-049 Pocket Knife with Rotating Blade.  I discovered that the huge screw on the end wasn't just decorative.  You could unscrew the thing and swap out the blades.  The blades came in packs of three, I remember.  I remember because I'd buy a pack of three, use one blade until it was dull, then search for weeks for the other two blades in the pack.  I know they're around here somewhere.  Eventually, I'd go out and buy another pack of three, making sure to put the other two blades in a very safe place.

Yes, I'd end up buying another pack of three the next time the blade I was using got dull.

Since the blade could be replaced, I'd been carrying the same knife for several years without having to sharpen one.  I'd use the knife to cut things that you aren't supposed to cut with knives, use the knife to pry things you aren't supposed to pry with knives, and even use the knife to eat things you aren't supposed to eat with knives.  (Seriously, the acid in certain types of food is supposed to be bad for the finish or something.  Look it up.)

Finally, while helping cut the shipping straps off a box, my knife broke.  It wasn't the blade that broke, mind you.  It was the knife itself where the screw was screwed in.  The knife still worked as long as you held it just right.  If you didn't, the case would split apart and the knife blade would rotate backwards.  Luckily, it was the back (non-sharp) edge of the knife that bent back, otherwise I'd be typing this one-handed.

Christmas was coming up, and I'd already mentioned my knife being broken to my family, so I didn't even bother looking for a new knife.  In my family, you aren't allowed to by anything for yourself from just before Halloween until way after Christmas.  The standard claim is that anything you buy for yourself is always going to be the exact same thing that someone in the family had just bought or was about to buy for a Christmas gift.

"Why did you buy a new set of wiper blades for a 1989 Chevy pickup?  We were going to buy you those for Christmas!"

"Why did you buy that new television set?  We were going to buy you one for Christmas!"

"Why did you get that kidney transplant?  Thank you for officially ruining Christmas!"

Of course, the above explanation doesn't cut any mustard with the boss when he asks why you're still wearing that belt that doesn't meet the official company dress code.  Seriously, my mother actually smacked my hand when I picked up a belt while we were out Christmas shopping together.  I was officially banned from buying belts until after Christmas as she had already told the rest of the family that I needed a new belt.  Of course, the belt my aunt bought me also failed to meet the official company dress code, but the point is still valid according to my mother.

I was lucky enough that my brother was able to track down another Stanley knife for me.  It was even the 10-049 model.  However, as you can see from the picture, the new model 10-049 is a little different from the old model 10-049.  The difference is not as extreme as the picture suggests.  The new knife in the foreground is actually just a tiny bit smaller than the old knife.  It just looks bigger because it's closer to the camera and macro mode has a really lousy field of depth or some other complicated optical explanation that I don't understand.

The new one also has some kind of dull metal finish instead of the old chrome.  As you might or might not be able to tell by the pictures, I'd worn most of the chrome plating off the old knife anyway.  That's not so much from actual use as from being carried in my pocket all those years.  I'm sure my keys, flashlight, and spare change have similar wear patterns.

So far, I've used the new knife to open a few Christmas presents (tell me, is shoplifting really such a problem that you need to enclose every little electronic gizmo in three pounds of plastic?), cut a few of those straps, and drill a new hole in that belt.  It's worked wonderfully.  Almost magically, in fact.  Of course, this could be because it's got a brand new blade and I haven't seen one of those for a while.

I was about to throw the old knife away, but I think I'll hold on to it for a little while longer.  First of all, I'm thinking it just might still be possible to epoxy that screw into place, or glue the two halves of the case together, or twist a wire around it, or something like that.  I'd then have a functioning knife as a backup for the new one.  Secondly, at least according to eBay, the old model knife is now a collector's item or something.

Regardless, I got a new knife, and I'm happy about it.  Merry Christmas!