With my background in wilderness guiding, I’ve been asked a lot of questions about outdoorsy stuff. Where to camp, good trails, with rivers to paddle. I do my best to answer their questions, but when I don’t know I usually ask my friend Priscilla.
When it comes to gear though, each person has their own opinions. Everyone’s body is different and therefore their needs are different. There is one constant for me though, tools. Specifically knives.
Farther down this story I interview Lindy Malmberg from Three Point Forge, but I want to get a bit of a preamble out of the way. Here it is:
Knives are tools. Sure, they can be ‘cool’, but they are tools. They aren’t to protect you against zombies, or extensions of your genitals, or made to intimidate someone into giving you their attention when they aren’t fully invested in your turn on stage at a poetry slam. Also, if you think carrying a knife is good for self defense, I would recommend ten other things that you could legally carry that would do a better job. Just ask.
For me, knives fit into three categories: pocket knives (that should be visible outside the pocket via exposed clip or sheath), multi-tools, and camp knives. In this story, I’ll be focusing on one of the best camp knives I’ve ever had. But to start, with the guiding, the knives have become a habit. Here are my three mains.
Those are what knife nerds would call your EDC (every day carry). Since the pandemic, these are rarely used but I still keep them around in hopes the world will return to normal.
Now, when I’m tripping (outdoors, not balls) there is one knife that has a very sentimental place in my heart. It was a few years back, I was working at MEC at the member’s service desk, and a fellow came in a bit distraught and angry. He then put this knife on the counter in front of me.
He told me that the plastic casing (far right) had snapped and he almost got killed. I asked him what he meant by almost got killed. You see, he was Canadian military (thus the blacking out of the highly visible orange) and he was stationed in the Middle East and during a mission, they were shot at and he dove to the ground and the casing snapped, the knife popped out, and he nearly stabbed himself in the guts.
It was at this time that I learned that the Canadian military didn’t supply their soldiers with certain things, like a big brand name survival knife for example. He asked me what I was going to do about it. I said I was going to give him his money back. He looked confused. He was prepared for an argument or something I guess. At the time I worked at MEC, if you bought something and didn’t like the way it smelled or thought it was haunted or just whatever, you could return it. It isn’t like that anymore. Anyway, he relaxed quite a bit and his whole posture changed. While writing up his return he told me a lot about what he saw and went through overseas. I won’t share those stories. But yeah, that is why I have this big honker. But now, I get to retire it. Enter the namesake of this story.
Three Point Forge is a blacksmith/bladesmith shop located in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies a couple kilometers outside of Calgary. The owner and head smith Lindy Malmberg says that their focus is in creating legacy tools that can be past down multiple generations. This is where the Chunky Bug (not the real name of the knife but I name I gave to it, all apologies Mr. Malmberg) came into my life.
I got a chance to chat with Malmberg about why he does what he does and when he started doing it.
“I started smithing mostly out of boredom, and I made my first knife when I was 14,” said Malmberg. “I was off school I think it was around Easter if I remember correctly. I was lucky enough to live on a farm that had a pretty well equipped shop. So I spent most of that holiday working on a knife with a hacksaw and bench grinder.”
I have been pushing the point (pun not intended) that knives are a tool. But I have to agree with Malmberg when he says they are more than that for the maker. They are an expressive creation and like all good things, they have a deeper meaning.
“In my opinion good art is telling a story or experience,” he said. “It’s not just something pretty to look at. So I think the artfulness of knives are their ability to create stories. Like a parent teaching their kids to skin a deer or fillet a fish.”
While the knives themselves help tell stories with their use, they themelves take on memory. They are etched in time. Like he said, there is a legacy to something so functional. But how does one turn an artistic hobby into a career?
“It’s definitely hard to narrow it down when I first started thinking I could earn a living making knives,” explained Malmberg. “I met a man named Brian Lyttle who was since passed away, but at the time he was making $2000-$10,000 knives and had big named clients like Brad Pitt and Matthew McConaughey. He taught me to never undervalue my work and to always make sure that the quality lives up to the value.”
We have a penchant for over complicating things, especially during this pandemic. Within that overanalyzation comes a loss of the true natural beauty of things. This is something that Malmberg reminded me.
“I like the simplicity of knives, afterall, it is just a piece of steel ground to a edge with a handle on it,” he said. “But everyone uses one every single day. And I like that this simple tool has played a big role in our history and is probably a big reason as to how we have evolved into what we are.”