Being on edge (and on point)

Being on edge. I spend a lot of time on edge. The razor's edge that is.  The edge.  You may have heard the popular saying on shaving forums; it's all, apparently, about the edge.  

It's true that the point when the honing of a knife's edge is complete, the honing of a razor's edge commences.

Yes, that's where it starts, and that's where I started too.  My interest and love for razors, those beautiful and functional antiques, began when I was a small boy, but it developed from knives.  

Today, the news is full of stories of knife crime, steel used to maim, murder and ruin lives.  Knife crime is terrible and indicative of the worst elements of human nature and our societies. It sickens me to think that knives are used as weapons on the streets of our cities.

Some knives which the Police took off London streets.


I grew up in a rural village on the rural Isle of Anglesey in North West Wales.  The attitude to knives was very different then.  A knife was considered essential to a boy.  At the age of six or so, I was given a knife, a little Welsh Lady penknife, which my father adjusted so that I wouldn't accidentally harm myself.


  My first knife was a Welsh Lady penknife like these.


Knives were used to whittle wood, make wooden whistles, cut rope, and were essential to den-making.   Avid tree climbers would, in the belief that they had climbed the highest heights of trees in the area, descend in disappointment after seeing another boy's name carved into the bark.  In fact, there was one tree in a field in which my grandfather, father's and uncles' names were carved too. 

Every boy aspired to a sheath-knife strapped onto his belt.  Owning a Rambo type survival knife, with a compass, matches, needle and thread was like being aristocracy.  It might sound like a Famous Five type existence, but at least not one of us would ever have imagined pulling a knife on another.



Happy, knife packing kids all. That's me on the left.


If owning a Rambo knife made you feel like a Duke. Being able to hone it made you king.


Meet my grandfather. 


My grandfather taught me how to hone a blade on a variety of oil and water whetstones.  He showed me how to use a slate step to finish a knife's edge, so that it could shave the hair off his arm. Honing was a hard skill to learn.  A knife edge between honing and over-honing. Experience was the best teacher of all.  Back then, people repaired things, kitchen knives, which we would throw away today,  were narrowed through years of use and honing. Things just weren't thrown away if they could be repaired and restored.  My attitude to razors, knives and life in general was honed back in those days.

Sort of coming full circle, I found a rusty old knife of my grandfather's in the shed.  It must have been years since it was last used.  Oddly enough, for a man that would routinely oil all his tools after use, this knife was in a bad way.  He must have forgotten to oil it.  

I decided to restore it and hone it.  A thank you. In restoring the knife, I realised the journey my life had taken and that it had come full circle.  I hope that he would approve.



1 comment

  • Very interesting article, and my experience as a boy was exactly the same, including the ‘survival kit’ in an old tobacco tin! I have had my William Rodgers sheath knife for nearly 60 years, and my Swiss Army penknife for 40, and they are like old friends now. I was always taught that knives are tools, only people make them into weapons. You have done a marvellous job on your grandfather’s knife – looks like a bailing knife.


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