Knives on a Boat
Review of Five of the Best Knives Available
Knives on a BoatAre you still using an old knife like this? When I found it time for a new knife, I was amazed how much knives have changed. I recently purchased about half a dozen new knives as I explored the field adding to the way too many knives I already had. I scored the Internet for recommendations. I read reviews on Amazon. I tried knives at the local WestMarine (none were acceptable). In the end there were 5 knives I liked and would recommend.
There are also whole classes of knives I would stay away from. This article will take you through the thought process and hopefully help you find the perfect knife for your application. There are undoubtedly better knives out there as none of these knives are vary expensive. They are just my favorite knives as I write this article.
Only you can decide what kind of knife you want. Do you want a rigging knife, a pocket knife to carry with you ever day (by the way, those are called EDC or every day carry knives), or something with some heft that you can quickly open to free yourself from a line if you get entangled. But even if you know what you want the knife for, there are still ways of narrowing down the universe of knives to one that you will be happy with.
If you look at the universe of knives you will find it very large. If you search Amazon for knives, you will find that there are half a million listed. We need to narrow this down to just a few. The first cut (pun) is to just look at folding knives. That gets it down to under 90,000.
Within that pocket knife category, we are going to first look at these sub categories.
1. Multi tools
2. Swiss Army type knives
3. Single blade knives
4. Rigging knives
I have four multi tools, several Swiss army knives, countless single blade knives (30+), and four rigging knives. I have also researched or tried every rigging knife I could find as that is of special interest.
Swiss army knives and multi tools share one very important characteristic. They do a lot of different things and do them all very poorly. I always thought a multi tool would be a great thing, which is why I have four, but I never use them. When I want a pair of pliers, I get a pair of pliers. There is nothing more awkward than trying to use the knife blade out of a multi tool. I do not recommend them. The Swiss army knife is a little better in that you can actually carry one in your pocket but they really don't do much well. They are better than nothing if you are doing something like camping. They can cut wood, clip your finger nails, and even cut. But for the purpose of this discussion, we are leaving them out.
That leaves single blade knives and rigging knives. The next refinement is on the blade mechanism. Knives come in two styles, locking blades and non locking blades. Non locking blades are dangerous. The blade can close on our hand and do serious damage. I am only going to consider locking blades, another reason to eliminate Swiss army knives by the way.
The next style to look at is the blade. There are many blade shapes but for this I want to talk about serrated and straight blades. There are two things I do not like about serrated blades. One is that it is very difficult to sharpen a serrated blade. But the main reason is they don't cut rope well. The strands of the rope get caught by the serration and the knife rope combination just moves back and fourth over the cutting service. I think of them more like a saw. I want a knife, not a saw. One of the nicer knives I bought long ago was a Gerber First Production Run 1995 knife. I bought two, one straight and one serrated. I kept the serrated one and gave the straight one to my son. I should have bought two straight ones. At least my Gerber is a hybrid, half straight. I have other knives that are all serrated and they border on useless. This is especially important if you are looking for a rigging knife. Gill makes a rigging knife with a full serrated blade. I particularly like the online reviewer that accused whoever designed the knife of never having been on a boat because the knife is useless.
Next is blade length. The ideal blade length is 3 inches. Longer than 3 inches is a concealed weapon in some states and cities. Much shorter than 3 inches is not very useful. Weight is also a consideration. I love my Buck knife but it weighs half a pound. That is four times heavier than the CRKT Ripple. Even the rigging knife I will recommend is only 3.16 ounces. The heaviest knife on the list is 4.25 ounces. Most knives should be in the 2 to 3 ounce range. Did I mention price? You can pay a lot for a knife but all the ones I will recommend range from $22 to $39. The two I like best are each $32.
The final thing I want to talk about is the lock. My Buck knife has a frame lock. The back of the knife is a spring and it clamps down on the blade and keeps it open. You press on an indent on the back to close it. Some of these can be closed with one hand but because your fingers will be where the knife wants to go, you will probably use two hands to close it. The other popular locking device is called a liner lock. These are very easy to close with one hand, are very secure, and I recommend them. With a liner lock, the steel liner inside the handle springs up behind the blade when it is open. Press on the liner with your thumb and you can close the knife. It would seem like a liner lock is made for right handed people but I have no problem releasing mine with my left hand.
We have now narrowed the search to single blade (or rigging) knives with a straight edge with a liner lock that weighs around 2 to 4 ounces and costs about $30. Here is the list. My favorites are first and last on the list. Next for me would be #2 on the list. But the #4 is one just so cool and nice looking that you may find it your favorite.
CRKT RippleThis 1.78 oz knife has a 2 3/4 inch blade and opens with just a flick on the finger on a little flipper extension on the blade. It looks like a switch blade when you open it, it is so easy to open. But there is no spring, it is just finger pressure. It does take about 3 pounds to open it so if you have arthritis you might want the next knife. The blade is small and fairly pointed. This is my favorite EDC knife.
The Ripple is a very unusual looking knife. It has an aluminum body with ripples to give it texture. The black anodizing is buffed off on the top of the ripples to give it a worn look. Some people don't like that and personally I think it is a mistake but it is what it is. The blade on the other hand is a thing of beauty. It is hollow ground and with a very nice modified drop point blade. Another nice feature is that the pivot for the blade has ball bearings instead of just a washer which helps to make it a very smooth operating knife.
All of the knives on this list with the exception of the last one come with a pocket clip. The clip is removable and on some can be changed to left hand or point up. They all come point down. I do not recommend changing the clip to point up because should the knife open in your pocket you will stab yourself when you reach in your pocket. The Ripple clip is one position only, right handed point down
Randal Model IIThis 2.8 oz knife is much larger than the ripple and has a more conventional blade shape. It opens with a thumb stud. It doesn't open as fast as the ripple but you can open and close it easily with one hand. It is a very nicely finished knife, but different in almost every way from the Ripple. Although not super fast to open, it can be opened in well under a second and is easier to open than the Ripple because it takes less thumb force to open. It also won't freak people when you open it like the next two knives might. What stands out to me with this knife is the quality and the fine finish. I bought the one with the black blade. It comes sharp enough to shave with (I just shaved some hairs off the back of my hand). The handles are Nylon and have a very nice texture on them. This is a very high quality fairly conventional knife. I highly recommend if you do not want a knife you can easily flip open and do not need a marlin spike. This is the Model II version of the knife. It is smaller than the Model I. The model I is pictured on the right. I show it as it is similar and to point out you need to be careful to pick the one you want as some of Amazon searches will return the Model I when you specifically ask for the Model II
Kershaw ClashThis is the largest knives that I would recommend at 4.25 ounces. The blade is a tad over 3 inches so there might be a slight hesitation there. It is a very beefy knife and opens instantly every time with just press on the flipper. That is because this is a spring assisted knife. It is truly amazing that these are legal but they are in most states. It truly looks like a switch blade when it opens and it always opens. I recommend this as a knife if you might need to free yourself from rigging or have some other very important task that needs a knife open right now. It has the beef to get the job done. This is also the least expensive knife on the list at $23 from Amazon. I should mention that the same spring that helps open the knife also keeps it closed. The spring will only open the knife half way, momentum carries it the rest of the way. This knife requires almost 4 pounds to open, which can be an issue for some people.
This is my least favorite knife on this list. I only include it if you need a beefier knife than the other knives on the list. I would use this as a safety knife on a small boat where you might need to cut yourself free. It will open quickly in an emergency and has the heft that you know the blade will not break. It is the heaviest and cheapest knife on this list. Perhaps those things go together. It is so different than the other knives on this list and deserves to be here for just that reason. I would not carry the Clash around as an EDC knife
Kershaw LeekAt the other end of the spectrum in assisted opening knives is the very cool Leek. At 2.5 ounces this knife opens as quickly and easily as can be. It comes in many colors and styles. The only issue is that because of the spring, it is harder to close than the Ripple. I like the Leek because it is fun and cool but the Ripple is a better choice. I just had to put it on the list because it is very popular and very fun. The Leek also has a safety to lock the knife closed but nobody uses it as the spring assist keeps it closed. It takes about 3 pounds on the flipper to open the knife. Some people would find it too much pressure so rather than being a problem having it open too easily, it is really the opposite. That is where the Randal Model II might be a better choice. Slower to open, but it requires less force to do so.
I have shown two versions of this knife. There might be 100 versions of this knife on Amazon. They come in many colors (pink anyone) and materials so you might want to search around before picking one. They are priced from under $30 to over $100.
Camillus Rigging KnifeLast but by no means least is the Camillus Carbonitride Titanium Folding Knife with G10 Handle and Marlin Spike. In fact, this is my number 1 recommendation so I saved the best for last. That is, of course, if you want a rigging knife. This 3.16 oz knife has a 2 1/2 inch liner locking blade that is flat on the bottom so you have a full 2 1/2 inch cutting edge so it seems longer than it is. The spike is just the perfect shape and is not sharp so it will not catch on the cover of our lines yet is small enough to get into the tightest knots. I have used it to untie very tightly pulled knots. The knife has a thumb stud to open it and can easily be opened or closed with one hand. It is not fast like most of the other knives on this list, but it works. I recommend it over the Randal if you even think you might need a Marlin Spike. I did not find another rigging knife that did not have what I considered serious so if you are looking for a rigging knife, be sure to check this one out. If you don't need a rigging knife, pick one of the other knives on the list.
While I said this is not a fast opening knife it can be flipped open very fast if you practice the move. You put some pressure on the thumb stud and fling it with your wrist. The combination of these two forces will open the knife. It is also possible to put your thumbnail on the stud and snap the blade open. But this does not work every timer where just opening it slowly with the thumb stud does. One final point. The release for the spike is a cam built into the lanyard loop. You rotate this lever and press down on it and the spike lock easily releases. If you read the reviews online, you will see that some people think you have to pull back on this loop. While that will work, it takes more force than you can exert with your hands so people use players and break off the loop. Don't do it that way. It is easy so if you don't think it is easy, you are doing it wrong.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and that it helps you find just the prefect knife to replace that old rusted once trusted knife you are using now. I should say that I did not review all 80,000 knives and that this is just the list of what I like right now. It is subject to change but I truly feel you cannot go wrong with any of these well made knives.
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