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#a178 Gerber Harsey Air Ranger

August 9, 2008

enlargeTwo odd things about trying to catch up with a “daily” blog that you’ve sorely neglected while traveling like mad is that: a) you’re essentially lying to your users if you don’t admit that things are being backdated; and b) you can’t remember when anything really happened to you, stomach or which objects occurred to you to blog on which days. I’m actually posting this on 8/20, but can’t say exactly when the events herein happened.

So we come to the story of my beloved, and now lost, pocketknife. This is a terrific tool – I’ll probably never buy a different knife for myself as long as these are made.

The Harsey Air Ranger is sturdy, easy to open and close, and stays sharp all along its traditional and versatile serrated drop-point blade. It’s low-profile, won’t frighten the women and livestock, and the knurled handles give it a sure grip. So, I carry it in my pocket pretty much any day I don’t already know I have to go through a metal detector.

Which explains how I came to lose my main knife, and you’re looking at a photograph of my backup – an older, more chewed up Air Ranger that I had to press into service after this happened

I’ve learned two crucial things about living in London, in the most interesting and dangerous ways possible, since arriving for a month-long visit three weeks ago.

Indulge a dim American tourist for a second, if you will …

Sure, I’ve visited London before. One of the great cities of the world, and probably a close second to NYC for my favorite.

I stayed four summers with my parents when I was 6, 9, 12 and 18, and once about 23 years ago) and I have to say that I enjoyed just as much fun and gut-splurching fear climbing the gnarly spiral staircases up to the Golden Gallery at St. Paul’s on Monday as I did back then.

I also have a faint memory of my dad cursing at the top of his lungs when he accidentally shaved some paint off his hired Fiat with the back end of a lorry back then (bad turn). (Hang on – I do have a point, and I am getting to it …)

But that’s not so real as the moment I managed on my very first UK drive last month to make a right in our borrowed Vauxhall Zafira onto a quiet little street in East Dulwich – and then spent a good three or four seconds wondering why everyone was driving straight at me and honking … before I figured it out …

That’s lesson one: THEY DRIVE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET HERE. I mean, I knew that, but my decades of ‘Merican-honed highway instinct still scream “WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!” with every left-handed shift of the gears, so I’m still getting the hang of it.

Lesson two: knives = illegal to carry and possibly worse than guns.

Why, when I was a kid (picture me in shorts, a lame T-shirt and filthy Chuck Taylors) my dad actually bought me a little folding penknife in Portobello Road so I could learn how to whittle.

It had a mock-deerhorn handle and probably a good 2-1/2-inch blade. I loved the thing, and only managed to cut myself once. Since then, I’ve always carried a knife for opening packages, scraping battery terminals, camping, cutting underbrush in a pinch, cleaning my teeth, etc.

Fast forward to last week:

I’m sauntering through security to enter enter Windsor Castle, dumping the ridiculous amount of hardware I carry into the little bowl for the trip through the metal detector.

It’s like the “weapons, please” scene in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome: CLANK. THUD. TINKLE. CLONK.

It takes almost 45 seconds to get all the metal off me. I’m a pathetic tool geek. Sorry.

Anyway, rather than try anything funny with my pocketknife (and completely ignorant of the ban) I genteelly hand it over (closed, of course) to the uniformed policewoman and say something like, “I should probably leave this with you until I come back out, yes?”

If she’d been carrying a service pistol, would have flipped off the safety and put the barrel point-blank to my forehead – that was the look she gave me.

She hands it to her superior, who opens it with a crisp snick, gives me a grim glare, and hands it back to her with a murmured order.

She turns to me: “You can’t carry this, sir.”

Steel in her voice. Uh-oh

“I’m confiscating it. It’s against the law to possess this!”

“I – the blade itself is less than 3 inches, I …”

Oh, crap. Vaguely, I remember some tabloid squib I read two weeks earlier about a laborer arrested for carrying a steak knife in his lunchpail , and some talk of jail …

“It’s a fixed blade sir, over five inches.”

“Confiscating … I’m sorry, I had no idea. It’s just a tool. Do you have to confiscate it?” I bleat, reality dawning at last. “That’s a ₤35 knife,” I add, in a fit of complete stupidity.

“D’you know if you’d been found with this on the street, the police could arrest you immediately?”

“Yes, I mean, no, I really wasn’t aware. I’m so sorry, I certainly wouldn’t have …”

“You’ll need to close it for me, sir, I can’t close this.”

Gingerly she hands it back. I close it swiftly – it’s a simple liner lock – and hand it back to her.

“You’ll need to sign for it, sir.” She hands me some terrifying looking document, and I’m already steeling myself for a trip to explain my shit to the men in the powdered wigs.

“I … do I need to answer in court for this?”

“No sir, just sign that you’ve surrendered it to us, that’s all.”

Thank God.

I stagger on, glad to be entering Windsor Castle with my wife and kids instead of some nasty Ritchiean cellblock populated with grimy tattooed 3-time losers who’ll enjoy playing “poke the Yank” for two years while the jailers look the other way.


So – dear Britons – I’m sorry. Really, really, really sorry.

It was only after Ruby explained that 21 Londoners have been stabbed so far in 2008, after I read the newspaper headlines with police-ultimatum headlines like “ABANDON KNIVES OR ROT IN PRISON” that I truly got it.

They’re not simple tools here. They’re murder weapons.

Sorry to be so dumb. Back home, a knife is just a tool, for the most part.

It’s guns that cause most of the unwanted mortality in the U.S. (actually a frightening amount of it completely accidental, but that’s another rant).

And our government does such a crappy job of regulating that that it’s nothing for average guys to carry knives to open boxes, cut steaks at the campsite, and pick their teeth afterwards. With total impunity.

Without a second thought.

Unless they’re dumb enough to travel overseas without doing their homework.

Filed under: Fetish, Tool, weapon | Comments (3)


  1. Bill Harsey September 19, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

    Dear Sir,
    I’m very sorry to hear of the loss of your pocket knife.
    Thanks for the kind words about the design because I am the one who can be blamed for it’s coming into being with the help of Gerber Legendary Blades.
    For a few years I’ve tracked with interest the changes in personal knife carry within the UK, and it’s not pretty.
    History has pretty well documented the work I have done for one Col. Rex Applegate.
    Based on the lessons I received from Applegate about his part in the war and the British he trained and worked with it is my opinion that Col. Applegates counterparts within the British government and military would not have agreed with the current restrictions on the carry of a small edged tool used to perform simple daily tasks.
    It’s human behavior that causes the problems, not the item in the hand.
    Stay safe,
    Bill Harsey
    Knifemaker and Designer
    Creswell, Oregon USA

  2. mack reed September 20, 2008 @ 2:55 pm

    Hey, Bill:

    I’m pleased to meet you, and to thank you personally (at least as personally as the web allows) for designing such a terrific, elegant and sturdy tool. Very kind of you to comment here, too.

    It’s not necessarily a stupid law, the knife ban, but it seems overly inclusive. In point of fact, I could probably tear someone’s jugular out with a spork, given the proper training, but banning sporks wouldn’t necessarily stop the process.

    It might make as much sense to try legislating the root cause of knife attacks – booze, jealousy, wearing the wrong color on the wrong block – as to try keeping a particular class of weapon out of the hands of a few unstable people by keeping useful tools out of the hands of the vast, good majority.

  3. Bill Harsey September 21, 2008 @ 8:49 am

    Mr. Reed,
    It is also my pleasure to meet you via the internet. There is a lot here that I like looking at.
    Again, Thank you very much for the kind words about the Air Ranger. My first clue this might be an OK project was when I gave one to my fly fishing buddy who used to play offensive line for the Bills and it has held up to jobs it wasn’t meant to do.
    About the knives in Britain, I’ve read that in the least few years a British doctor of human medicine (or group of same) have proposed the banning of ownership of chefs knives in the home because said Docs say people do not need a pointed blade to prepare food.
    Where does this end?

    Gotta get out in the shop but Thank You very much for letting me be a guest here.
    Bill Harsey

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