18 February 2011

Knife shop, Paris

Knives have so many connotations, so many rituals. Of all our tools, knives might be the oldest, perhaps developed after only the thrown stone, the wooden club. Even the most sophisticated among us can't fail to appreciate a beautifully designed and finely crafted knife. On the other hand, to use or even carry a knife for a wrong purpose seems like a desecration — knives designed for fighting and killing give a shape to evil.

How do you respond to the look and feel of a fine knife?

As always, I'm interested to hear your thoughts about things other than knives. This, I suppose, is the downside of captions, and even titles: they direct the viewer's thoughts.

[16 June 2007; Canon 20D, 10–22 mm f4 at 10 mm, ISO 400, 1/60 at f8]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor


Paul said...

If “a rose is a rose is a rose“, I wonder if a knife is a knife is a knife?

I have with me all the time in my day bag a Zero Tolerance Model 0350st, and I wear a small stainless steel Spyderco LadyBug 3 key ring knife as a neck knife on a chain. I have also owned a few wonderful hunting/camping knives in my lifetime although they became lost in time (my kids have taken them, or whatever).

For me, other than the utilitarian aspects (which are many), carrying a knife is like sitting around a campfire, or in front of a fireplace or wood stove -- it puts me into a primordial comfort zone. My knives aren't symbols of a macho, Rambo, tough-guy, dangerous dude mentality, but rather a continual, reverent reminder of who I really am -- a rather flimsy, modern version of a far more ancient, self-sufficent, unsophisticated man whose life was inexorably dependent upon a knife (and similar devices) and fire. Perhaps making knives ‘pretty,’ like we do today, may be our way of paying homage to these instruments that contributed vitally to our survival as a species.

Great photo of a wonderful store I would really enjoy visiting.

Zhoen said...

I used to have a knife bought at a second hand shop, with a worn wooden handle and marred blade, but it was mine and I liked the feel of it in my hand. Chopped veggies and opened boxes and generally used it until I lost it in one of my many moves.

We got good knives at a local, very old, cutlery shop, and get them sharpened there every year. D is more comfortable using good knives, although he is still careful and a bit nervous. I like seeing their selection of kitchen and hunting knives, the latter so ridiculously decorated as to be jokes. I prefer the scissors, since I use that tool more often. There are some crane scissors in a gold metal that I yearn to own, but are certainly not worth the price - not for me, not for how little I would use something so decorative and delicate. Beautifully designed, though.

When I was still at my parent's house, I was allowed a blade to whittle with, even though I often nicked myself.

pohanginapete said...

Paul, thanks for the thoughtful comments. I suspect you're right about "paying homage" to the knife — the association's so long that respect and appreciation would have been inevitable.

Zhoen, thank you too for your thoughts. I like well-used knives — a worn wooden handle sounds appealing, although a marred blade might be a different matter — and the loss of a favourite knife would be a hard lesson. Getting a professional sharpening job's a good idea too — I'm amazed at how well a good quality knife, treated carefully and regularly given a few strokes of a steel, will hold an edge.

the watercats said...

We are large knife appreciators in our house and have a large collection, everything from hand-made reclaimed rusty things with wooden handles to beautiful silver bespoke pieces. A knife to me is a symbol of self sufficiency. It takes skill and respect to use a knife and make it work for you. It is sad that the Western world have lost our rituals regards to things like knives. There is modern day shamen called Martin Prechtal who was initiated into the Mayan culture. He said that the Mayan shamen would bite the blade of the knife before they used it, so it knew not to bite them. The name for knife was the same used for dog.
sending regards to New Zealand at this time too. Hope everyone is safe around you.

pohanginapete said...

Watercats, thank you for those thoughts. As far as I know, everyone I know in Christchurch is ok — certainly, my brother and his family are fine and their house seems unaffected. I've just got off the phone to him and he says he's in one of the few areas largely untouched but the extent of the devastation is unbelievable — so much so he almost feels a sense of guilt at having been so lucky.

I love the idea of that ritual of biting the blade. I don't want to over-analyse it, but I suspect it actually works at least partly by serving as a reminder to respect the knife, rather than just picking it up and using it thoughtlessly. Good to hear, too, that you appreciate and respect knives, not just as tools but as representations of important aspects of life, like self sufficiency and skill.

Thanks for the thougts :^)