Without a doubt, the most common knife in the world is a kitchen knife. Even the most basic kitchen will have at least a chef’s knife, four steak knives, and a few butter knives. Watch a typical horror movie or thriller and when the ill-prepared homeowners or apartment dwellers hear a bump in the night, the first thing they run for is the chef’s knife on the knife block.
As a knife collector or connoisseur, I’m hoping that your kitchen knives of choice aren’t that plastic-handled set of Faberware blades you bought at Walmart when you got your first apartment or as a gift from a cheap uncle on your wedding day.
There are a plethora of knives that serve almost dual purposes when it comes to food prep and either self-defense or self-reliance.
WHICH CAME FIRST?
While the knife may be mankind’s oldest tool, there is probably some debate as to whether the first stone blades were designed to skin animals and cut food or used as weapons against other humans or animals.
Regardless of which was the first intent, the second probably made itself very clear within a short matter of time. So it goes today when we see a number of manufacturers offer kitchen knives influenced by the tactical side of the knife world as well as tactical knives influenced by what we see in the kitchen.
Based out of Idaho, TOPS Knives has been one of the leaders in designing performance-based blades with input from real-world users, be they Marines, Army Rangers, police officers, survival experts, or other knife makers.
TOPS has been leading the charge with a number of its designs that double as fighting knives and food prep blades. I’ve had a chance to use a few over the past several months in the kitchen, at a campsite, and in the field. Each and every one of them was well-suited for whatever I threw at it.
TOPS Nata ($230)
This may have been the knife that started me on this quest. It is based on a Japanese designed blade that was intended for cutting tree limbs and various other cutting and chopping tasks around the home and farm. With a 0.25-inch thick blade that’s over 6 inches long, made of 1095 steel, and able to tip the scales at 26 ounces, the Nata is all business. I felt it had great potential as a cleaver in spite of the angle of the cant of the handle. This was designed to give greater chopping power and, coupled with that broad rectangular blade, it is a clear winner in this regard. Handle scales are made from burlap Micarta and are very comfortable.
TOPS Tidal Force ($220)
If you prefer more of a straight as opposed to a canted handle on a cleaver, then the TOPS Tidal Force is tough to beat. Styled like a traditional cleaver, the Tidal Force incorporates a ring on the rear of the handle like a karambit. This greatly aids in retention, especially if you’re processing a large animal like a hog, deer, cow, or sheep. Yet it can easily be used to defend yourself should that situation arise. Like the Nata, the handle scales are burlap Micarta.
Blade thickness is 0.19 inch, making it an effective slicer without the thickness and weight of the Nata. The sheath is Kydex attached to a steel ring, which can then be attached to your belt with a leather dangler. This makes for a very convenient and versatile mode of carry.
TOPS Frog Market Special ($150)
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KITCHEN KNIVES DON'T HAVE TO BE DULL
I have a confession to make. See if this sounds familiar. I take meticulous care of the knives I use for everyday carry, hunting, and general woods wandering. I wipe them down with an oily cloth after use and I never let them get too dull. Seldom do I have to restore a damaged edge. Most of the time I simply touch up the edges of my pocketknives with a few careful strokes across the rough bottom of a ceramic coffee cup. That’s usually all that’s needed. I don’t use my knives as screwdrivers or pry bars. As a matter of fact, I still have the very first knife I ever owned, an old Boy Scout knife that was handed down from my older brother. The blades have a deep patina that comes with using carbon steel over the years, but the knife is very usable still.