With Father’s Day quickly approaching, many ask the question of what can be acquired for a father, grandfather, or male figure that has likely given far more than can ever be repaid, and likely expects nothing in return. Ties are a worn-out alternative and may be entirely inappropriate given a particular man’s lifestyle or profession. No man really wants flowers, and unless you are under age 7 or actually an artist, drawing him a picture would be silly. One alternative is to purchase him a knife. Probably humanity’s oldest tool, a knife can be an object of art, a protector of one’s personal safety, or the means by which food can be hunted, gathered, and prepared. As such, presenting a knife to an elder is not only a gift, but also a symbolic gesture.

So if a knife is the right choice given one’s relationship with the man, what type of knife makes the best gift? If the man is an outdoorsman, the task may be easier. If he hunts a specific type of game, fishes for a unique species of fish or spends time camping or engaged in outdoor sports, a knife made specifically to support his hobbies is a good choice. If the man makes his living in the outdoors, such as a forester, commercial fisherman or hunting guide, you had better find out what he currently uses and do one better, or else that knife will likely collect symbolic dust. But don’t let this discourage you if you are not a knife expert. Quietly contact his co-workers or hunting/fishing buddies and ask their opinion. Ultimately it will make the gift more meaningful by including those close to him on the choice.

How much should one spend? The sky is the limit for knives. A good basic knife can be acquired for under $35. A custom-made knife (created by hand) will typically run several hundred dollars, and a collectible art knife can run into the thousands. A good strategy is to pick your price point, choose the type of knife you want and then go shopping. One option is to find a respected knife maker who specializes in the type of knife in which you have interest, and see if there are ‘production’ versions available. In many cases, these knives have identical designs but are manufactured overseas and may have blade or handle material changes to lower the overall costs.

If money is no object, there is likely no more personal gift than a knife custom- made and designed for the recipient. Personalized variations for a custom knife are nearly endless. Blade shape, length, material, and finish—along with handle color, material, and design—can all be chosen for a reason specific to the recipient. Choices such as a wood handle material from a tree native to his home, a color pattern that reflects a region or an alma mater are also an option. Inscriptions or initials can also be added to the blade and handle to further personalize the knife. If the recipient is a veteran or student of history, a military knife from his or her time of service or era of interest can also be an option.

This year, I am giving a Loveless-inspired dropped hunter-style knife I made myself to a man named Mike. More than 25 years ago, along with my grandfather, he taught me to fish, tolerated unannounced visits, countless questions, and patiently repaired or replaced legions of rods, reels, and lures. Mike, thank you. I hope you enjoy this knife and all its imperfections. Your time was never wasted on me.

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