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The Long History of the Trusted Utility Knife

The Long History of the Trusted Utility Knife

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Did you know that there have been variants to the modern utility knife since the early days of the Roman Empire?  Some believe that pocket knifes emerged before then as well.  This is a testament to the practicality and usefulness of this tool, and it also illustrates the importance of having one on hand at all times.

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Jack Knife

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The first known jack knife dates back to around 600BC, and the design hasn’t changed all that much since.  A thick and sturdy blade was anchored between two pieces of metal or wood that were riveted or welded together.  The blade was a few inches long, and could easily be stored in a pouch or pocket without harming the user.  However, they weren’t mass-produced and available to the general public until the 1600s.  A company in England is attributed to creating the “penny knife”, which was the first affordable utility knife that was a favorite among laborers and farmers. 

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Switch Blades and Butterflies

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Butterfly and switchblade knives started to make an appearance in the 1700s.  A French company is attributed to inventing the first butterfly knife early in the century.  It had a rudimentary design that is not fundamentally different to what we see today.  Two pieces of material encapsulate the blade which can be concealed easily and deployed quickly.  Switch blades were considered to be invented around the same time, but they weren’t mass-produced until the middle of the century in England.  It had a spring-loaded locking mechanism that was released by pressing a button. 

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The Modern Utility Knife

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The original utility knife was thought to be made near the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, and it included a rudimentary fork, spoon, pick and blade.  However, it looked more like a cheap can opener than anything else.  It is thought that the modern utility knife was built on the designs of the jack knife, butterfly and switchblade.  It wasn’t until the late 1890s when Swiss inventors came up with the knife that would become the gold-standard:  The Swiss Army Knife.

The Swiss Army Knife was made for soldiers who needed a foldable multi-tool that could serve as a can opener while including a special blade and screwdriver for taking apart their rifles.  The first Swiss Army Knife was born, and it was originally called the Soldier Knife.  It included a blade, screwdriver, can opener and reamer, which was a tool used for working with metal.  It also included sturdy grips made from polished oak. 

Design improvements by the end of the decade including incorporating a special spring mechanism that allowed more features to be installed on each knife.  The next thing to appear, in addition to the items listed above was a corkscrew and then a smaller cutting blade.  Later versions would add things like files, scissors, hooks, mini-saw blades and pliers.  Today, you can find more than a dozen different Swiss Army Knife products, including one that is almost 9 inches wide and includes 85 tools. 

This article isn’t intended to be a plug for the Swiss Army Knife, and there are many different brands on the market today to choose from.  However, it is undeniable that the Swiss did create one of the most practical and ubiquitous utilities that turned out to be a total game-changer.  More than 20 countries supply variants of the utility knife to their military forces, and NASA included the Swiss Army Knife in tool kits for astronauts. 

The utility knife is a staple for almost every prepper, those who love the outdoors, contractors and anyone else who wants access to a multi-tool that can be used right away for a million-and-one purposes.  Make sure that you don’t forget to include a good utility knife in your survival kit or bug out bag.  However, due to the fact that they are so popular, and many companies produce their own versions, it’s important that you test its quality and functionality before relying on it in the field.  However, once you get the right knife for your needs, it will definitely make life a lot easier now as well as in the midst of a survival situation. 

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How to Make an Improvised Wrist Slingshot

How to Make an Improvised Wrist Slingshot

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Wrist slingshots are arguably more powerful and accurate than hand-held ones.  While you can choose from many different commercially-available products, you can also make your own out of wooden dowels, rubber material and some other common items.  Let’s take a look at an example of a project that you can do on a weekend afternoon in your workshop. 

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Required Material

2 6 ½ inch long dowels

2 5 ½ inch long dowels

2 5 1/8 inch long dowels

2 3 ½ inch long dowels

2 5/8 inch long dowel segments

2 12 ½ inch long pieces of surgical tubing

1 1 ½ inch long screw with bolt head

1 1 ½ inch long flathead screw

2 3 ¼ inch long eyelet screws

1 4 ¼ inch long flathead wood screw

8 2 inch long flathead screws

1 piece of 4 x 3 ½ inch rubber

1 piece of 3 x 1 ½ inch piece of leather or duct tape

1 washer

1 nut

About 40 or so nails

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Making the Main Frame

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The first step is to insert one eyelet screw into the end of each of the 3 ½ inch dowels.  Screw them in so that only the loops are sticking out from the top.  Next, take one of the 6 ½ inch dowels and drill a hole through the sides near the top.  Insert it over the long screw.  Then, take one of the dowel segments, cut another hole through the middle of the flat sides and slide it over the screw so it rests against the dowel.  Next, drill similar holes into one of the ends of both of the 5 1/8 inch long dowels.  Slide them onto the long screw so they are next to each other and against the dowel segment. 

Attach the other dowel segment (with hole drilled) against these two pieces and then finish it off by sliding on the other 6 ½ inch dowel.  Secure everything with the washer and nut, but keep it slightly loose so you can adjust the position of the pieces.  What you want to have is the long dowels laying on a flat surface while the shorter ones are sticking straight up at a 90 degree angle.  Tighten the bolt to hold everything in place.

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The next step is to take the screw with the nut-top and drill it in the center of the two dowels that are standing up.  Then, take the 1 ½ inch flathead screw and drill that into the dowels near the bottom, just above where everything connects to the long screw.  Next, drill two holes into the center of each of the 5 ½ inch dowels, about an inch apart. Make sure that they are centered.  Attach these two pieces to the tops of the vertical dowels you’ve just fashioned with two of the 2 inch long screws.

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Finally, attach the dowels with the eyelet rings by sandwiching each one between the two dowels you’ve just attached to the handle.  Place them about an inch from the outer edge of both sides and secure each of them in place with two 2 inch long screws.

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Assembling the Sling

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Attach each piece of surgical tubing to the eyelets and tie off in a knot.  Then, you need to make two holes in the piece of leather about ¼ inch above the edge of both of the shorter sides.  This will be the basket for the sling.  If you are using duct tape instead, layer multiple strips of tape on top of each other until it is sturdy enough to replace the strength of the leather.  Cut out the holes on the tape in the same fashion.  Attach the other ends of the aquarium tubing to their respective holes and tie them off.

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Now, we need to attach the rubber to the arm portion of the frame.  All you need to do is place the rubber material over the two dowels in order to cover the gap and give yourself a cradle.  Place the rubber over the frame so that one edge is touching the outer end of each dowel.  Start nailing the rubber   in as many spots as you need to secure it in place.  You can end up using anywhere from 20-40 nails depending on your preferences.

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The slingshot will be able to fold down for easy storage, and the size of the projectile as well as the distance it can travel will be determined by the quality of the surgical tubing.  Feel free to improvise and make improvements to this rudimentary design, but it will work.  Try it out for yourself and see what you come up with.  You may end up with something that is just as effective, yet more affordable than commercial slingshots. 

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