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Save your survival knife’s edge

Including a quality knife in your survival gear is a no-brainer.

Here’s a tool to save the edge on that survival knife, best knife store, best knives

by Leon Pantenburg

On Sept. 11, 2001, it was legal for airline passengers to carry aboard box-cutters and plastic knives. Subsequently, the legend is that the hijackers used box cutters to commandeer the planes that destroyed the World Trade Center.

box cutter

A simple, cheap box cutter can save the blade on a more expensive survival knife.

None of us really know how that tragedy unfolded. But we do know that a simple box cutter is a very effective tool.

I worked my way through Iowa State University at Hy-Vee Food Store in Ames, Iowa. My job consisted mostly of putting merchandise on shelves. Each stocker was issued a price marker and a box cutter, and every shift, I cut open a small mountain of cardboard cases.

Because I often went to work from class, my box cutter stayed in my hip pocket next to my wallet. Even though I always carried a pocket knife, my box cutter was used a lot.

It was always sharp. When one side of the single-edged blade got dull,  it was turned around to a sharp side. When both were dull, you tossed the blade and got a new one. On an average stock crew shift, I’d go through several blades.

Should you include a box cutter/utility knife in your survival gear?

Well, it’s not a bad idea. The knives are cheap, and single edge razor blades are available everywhere. During a survival situation, use the box cutter for mundane tasks and save the edge on your survival knife. In a pinch, you can resharpen the dulled razor blades to a workable edge.

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Realistically, most everyday cutting tasks can be handled quite well with a simple, replaceable-blade box cutter/utility knife. When it comes to cutting twine, rope or paracord; opening boxes, cutting open dog food bags or feed sacks, slicing duct tape etc., you don’t need an expensive survival knife.

In fact, for many of these everyday tasks, a box cutter can do the job as well, or better, than a custom blade.

A trapper acquaintance of mine regularly uses a utility knife to make several specialized cuts when skinning furbearers. You can gut fish and do some whittling with a box cutter. And while it wouldn’t be my first choice, you can use one to process small game animals.

Here’s some different kinds of box cutter/utility knives worth considering for your emergency gear:
Jiffi-Cutter Compact Utility Knife: This is the style I carried during my grocery days. About the size and shape of a pocket comb, it carries easily in your pocket and would fit in virtually any survival kit. The handle wouldn’t work well for prolonged use, but it is much safer than trying to use a single-edge razor blade between your fingers. And the box cutters are cheap: Complete with blade, they retail for under $1 each.

stanley retractable

A retractable blade utility knife has a larger handle for comfortable, sustained use.

Retractable: These are available at any hardware or box store. This model features:

  • 3-position, retractable blade; blade storage in handle
  • Patented interlocking nose holds blade securely
  • Includes three blades

I use this type of utility knife for everything. The large handle isn’t particularly compact and has  reduced portability, but is ergonomically better for sustained use.

self-retracting cutter

The self-retracting, snap-off blade knife lets the user carry several blades.


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Self-retracting, snap-off blade: These knives have scored blades. When one edge dulls, break it off and a new sharp point and edge are instantly available. For long term use, such as cutting sheet rock, the handle would not be the best choice.



The lock blade is compact and easy to carry.

Lock Blade: These are handy because they are so compact. Like any folder, the weak point is the hinge. Choose wisely and get a quality tool –  you don’t want to fold the blade on your fingers.

A good knife is a survival tool necessity. Choose your main survival knife wisely, then consider how you will maintain and take care of it. The best way to assure a sharp edge stays on that blade may be to include a box cutter in your gear.

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