Ever since I was a little kid, I always liked the idea of carrying a pocket knife. One of my personal heroes and life coaches at the time was none other than the incomparable Crocodile Dundee. To the best of my recollection, Crocodile Dundee is the absolute best movie ever made by human beings. Whether or not this film, or Paul Hogan’s titular character, has aged well is something I cannot speak to, as I’ve made a conscious decision to let Crocodile Dundee remain blissfully unaltered in my mind from the last time I saw this movie when I was ten. I can only assume he is as hilarious and charming as I remember.
Nowadays, my affection for well made tools as fashionable accessories is still a thing, but my tastes have changed. Sure, Mr. Dundee’s signature belt knife still holds a special place in my heart, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that frightening off street-thugs with a pocket sword doesn’t come up much in my day-to-day routine. Enter the mighty:
The Higo-No-Kami (or, simply, Higo) knife is handy, affordable, high-quality, cool to look at, and easy to use. These little blades are hand-made in Japan by 5th generation blacksmith Mitsuo Nagao-san with steel from the Yasugi district. The handle is made out of a single sheet of steel folded in half to create some rudimentary “scales”. To further simplify the design, there is no locking system. The friction in the swivel and the force of the user’s thumb gripping the “chikiri” (the tab at the top of the blade) keep the blade in place during use. The blades themselves are forged using a technique called “Fire Polishing”, and are made using a simple variety of SK Carbon steel. Nothing too fancy, but it gets the job done! The methods for manufacturing these Higo knives has gone essentially unchanged since the year 1896 - they completely embody the ideology of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”!
The simplicity of these blades is truly what makes them remarkable. By omitting any bells and whistles, they’ve ended up with an exceptionally rugged tool with a low failure rate. Sharpening them is really easy, and the design ensures that there’s virtually nothing that can break. Simply sharpen the blade flat on a whetstone from time to time, and tap the hinge with a ball-peen hammer when it begins to feel loose. That’s it!
What are they good for? Well… I don’t mean to be glib but — everything! Not only is it an excellent pocket knife, but it’s also what I like to call a “Junk Drawer Knife”. Here is a short list of things I’ve personally used this knife to do, but don’t let it limit your imagination…
Boxes and tape. Great for shipping and warehouse work
Food. There’s something inherently badass about eating an apple with a knife. Just like in the movies!
Stirring your coffee. What? Don’t judge me!
Brown paper packages tied up with string - these are a few of my favourite things… to cut.
Whittling. I use mine to sharpen my pencil.
Notching or marking wood. I’m no carpenter, but when I’m building my IKEA furniture, I use my higo to mark the spots on my affordable Swedish crap where I need to drive the screws.
Impressing my friends. Yes, yes, maybe not the most important task, but don’t knock it. It’s cool to be cool!
Versatility, thy name is Higo! These little blades can pull their own weight quite easily.
The most impressive aspect of the Higo knife, arguably, is the price. They’re easy to love, but they’re also easy to afford. The 65mm blade is $22. The 70mm is $25, and the 90mm large is $28. Not bad for a hand-made-Japanese-around-the-house-everything knife, right?