I’m a knife guy. Large knives, small knives; fixed blades, folders — I loves ’em all. It’s a fundamental tool and I am never without one. I am firmly of the conviction that a man is not properly dressed unless he’s carrying a blade.
I own number of fine big blades, but my go-to knife for the heavy stuff is the Becker BK 9.
It’s not the finest big knife I own, nor the handsomest. That’s the point. The Becker is a utilitarian workhorse, the kind that you don’t mind using hard. You can knick the blade and never feel a twinge of remorse.
It’s kind of the AK-47 of blades. Designed by outdoorsman Ethan Becker and distributed through KA-BAR, the Becker is forged of humble yet practical 1095 carbon steel. These days, knife makers offer up a bewildering array of exotic custom-brewed steels, capable of carving through dragon scales and cleaving the shinbones of giants with a single stroke and the like. Thing is, blades made of legendary Valeryan steel are expensive, and you need a support team of dwarven smiths to put an edge back on when the magic steel finally dulls.
It’s like modern ballistics: Spells and dragon fire can tease out extraordinary performance that can only be actually felt at the extreme margins. Cool, but not useful for most of us.
1095 is not exotic, it is not sexy, and it is far from the best knife steel out there — but it is plenty good enough. Like the .30-06, it’ll get any job done that needs doing. You can get it real sharp and it stays sharp for a reasonable amount of time — and, importantly, you can put an edge on with a few strokes of a diamond hone or the old traditional Arkansas stone. I think I bought my Becker for $75 and they’re still under $100 on Amazon. That’s value that’s hard to beat.
Some folks upgrade the stock grivory handle scales with micarta, which KA-BAR sells for about $40. I haven’t felt the need to do that. You have to watch the grivory a bit when it’s wet, but that’s never really been an issue for me.
Last week, we had to take down seven small trees that have been killed by beetles and get the downed wood off the property. Fortunately, since burning season is closed, we can avail ourselves of a free program to chip and haul the stuff. The Becker got a good Saturday workout limbing the down stuff. That’s the kind of work I use that big ol’ thing for. I’ve also cut PVC, used the flat of the blade as a field-expedient hammer, and used the thick spine to bust up cement or glass in a pinch. They call it a “Combat Bowie” — and I suppose it would be fearsome in a scrap — but it ain’t really a weapon. For one thing, it doesn’t have a guard. It’s just a field knife — the kind that mountain men like Liver-Eatin’ Johnson beat hell out of with everyday chores.
It’s scratched; it’s dinged and it ain’t good-lookin’ but that Becker BK 9 is nevertheless a fine fistful o’ knife — and stuff that works.