Thursday, May 7, 2009

Sharps: Nothing like an old Western

I've wanted to write about this knife for a while but just now got around to taking a few photographs. It's a No.648A sheath knife made in 1977 by Western Cutlery Company.

Founded in 1896, Western originally was located in Boulder, Colorado. In 1991, manufacturing moved to upstate New York when the company was acquired by Camillus, which closed its doors in 2007.

I bought this particular Western at an outfitter in Kalispell, Montana during the summer of 1978, just before heading out on a solo trek into the Boundary Mountains north of Kintla Lake. It was my first fixed-blade knife. As I recall, I paid less than fifteen bucks for it.

Since the No.648A is similar to a knife made by Western for the Boy Scouts, it may look familiar to other guys my age. The carbon-steel clip-pattern blade is 4-1/2" long. The faux Stag scales are Delrin, the guard brass and the pommel aluminum. It's not at all exotic.

In fact, by today's standards it's quite ordinary -- really, it's just a hardware-store knife. And to this day, it's never, ever let me down.

My old Western has a lot more mileage on it than might be apparent. In the woods it's done its share of notching and light felling, made countless feather sticks and split piles of kindling. It's cleaned trout for the skillet and cubed beef for the stew pot. Around the house it's done everything from stripping electrical wire to pruning roses.

After all that, the blade remains essentially full and the point is intact. There's nary a chip in the edge. I've never babied this knife but I've always respected its limits, and my reward has been more than three decades of faithful service. To my sentimental eyes, it looks ready for another 30 years, at least.

This morning I pulled it from my bedside drawer, intending simply to wipe it down with light oil. Turning the familiar form over in my hands, I decided it was time to give it a fresh edge, something I hadn't done for it in years.

An hour later, its keenness restored, the blade was sharp enough to push-cut a sheet of newsprint and pop the hairs off the back of my hand. Perfect -- that's what a keeper deserves.

Update: Heartland leather

On a side note, over the last few days I've been perusing custom sheaths on the JRE Industries website. I finally quit gawking and dropped JRE a note last night.

A half-dozen e-mails later, co-proprietor Dan had answered all of my questions and I'd decided on a simple belt sheath that'll accommodate my original Leatherman Wave and a firesteel. It may take nine weeks or more to arrive -- these things are made one at a time -- but in the meantime look for a link to KintlaLake Blog to appear on the JRE Industries website.

That'll work.

Earlier posts
Sharps: Rite of passage
Sharps: Heartland leather
Sharps, Part II: On the belt

JRE Industries