By Dan Shea
While the fictional “NCIS” character Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ “Rule Number Nine” is stated as “Never go anywhere without a knife,” and this is wise counsel, it’s actually paraphrased from the real “Rule Number One” as taught to young men raised in the pre-1970s era. As a child of the ‘50s and ‘60s, I can attest to the fact that almost every adult male would at some point or other say, “Nothing will ever cut you faster than a dull knife.” This was usually stated after asking to see one’s pocket knife to see if he was keeping a proper edge on it. God help the young man with a dull knife, or worse yet, no knife at all.
Our knives are as American as our guns are. Our lore and legends revolve around them: the Bowie, the Ka-Bar, the Randall, Trench knives, all fighting knives. Then there were our carry/work knives: the Buck 110 Folding Hunter, Camillus Military Utility and of course the Uncle Henry and Old Timer knives. I’m getting all nostalgic just thinking about them; I still have my U.S. Army Ka-Bar and Camillus kept in a drawer (wouldn’t carry today, too sentimental), but unfortunately I lost my Buck 110.
The fact is, in today’s world it’s getting harder to carry a good “Gentleman’s knife.” TSA will take it, and many places you go people will confiscate (steal) it if you put it out where it can be seen. Traveling overseas, well, there is the horror of having a knife in England, a land that was carved out by guys with swords, knives and other sharp cutlery. “Dear Lord, how can you have a knife?” This author’s response is, “How will I open boxes? How will I cut that horrible over-cooked beef you boil?” So, taking a good knife overseas is pretty much out because of the possibility of losing it to theft by blaggards or other government people. I take cheap knives with me, because I know they’ll get stolen.
In the U.S., however, we’re mostly in the free world regarding our knives. This allows for choices of good, reliable knives to keep with us and be there when we need them. These are such important tools, and quality might cost extra, but it seldom disappoints.
Spyderco is one of the leading knife manufacturers in the modern world, having started business in 1976. They have some of the world’s top talent in their leadership, including Michael Janich. This author has gotten to know Michael over the years while at military trade shows and had many conversations regarding knives. He is truly an encyclopedia of knife metallurgy, lore and knife tactics, as well as being a top designer himself.
Today, Spyderco has many utilitarian knives and tools, as well as many of what would be termed combat, or tactical, knives. Their designs are highly respected and carried by active users worldwide. That’s not what this article is about. Approximately 8 months ago, I sat with Michael for quite a while, discussing the history and use of the basic folding knife that a working person needs. We talked about the current designs that would be of interest to the tactical world, and I kept coming back to the fact that I was not satisfied with any of the knives I’d been carrying—there was always something a bit “off” or uncomfortable. While I can make anything work, I’m very picky about my carry guns, ammo and my work knife.
Michael reached into the Spyderco display case and pulled out a knife, handed it to me and said, “Look this one over. It’s the Brouwer design and is probably exactly what you are looking for.” He proceeded to tell me about Jerry Brouwer, a Dutch knife collector and designer. Brouwer designed a knife called the “Flanker” model, and when he met Eric Glesser from Spyderco at a knife meet in the Netherlands, they decided to collaborate on the design; the “Brouwer” was born. Michael told me that Brouwer wanted his knife to be a “seri-ous, every day cutting tool, small enough to carry conveniently and substantial enough for challenging cutting chores.” He was absolutely speaking my language.
I got the knife and decided to test it for a while as my work/carry knife and see if it was everything this author was looking for. I’ve used it for over 8 months now on everything as simple as shaving a broken fingernail to cutting heavy rope. Opening hundreds of boxes of magazines and cutting cardboard didn’t affect the sharpness at all. Pulling splinters, cutting plastic, shaving wood edges, occasional peel-ing of a 12-gauge wire, just everything in the course of a day proved no problem. The blade shape is perfect, and it cuts smooth as silk; there’s a very nice draw path through whatever I’m cutting.
It was easy to open one-handed with Spyderco’s Trademark Round Hole™ (I like to carry tip-up style anyway), and which side the clip is mounted, right or left, can be reversed if that’s your preference. The only problem I had is the same with any clipped pocket mounted knife: the pants wear at the pocket edge—but I’m talking about work pants, not fancy-go-to-meeting pants (I‘ve been carrying the Brouwer then too). If you work, you know what I mean—work pants get worn out. I want my knife where I can get it fast, and that’s just how it is.
The specs are in the article; all the info is available on this knife at spyderco.com. As promised to Michael, I’m giving my opinion, and it’s a thumbs-up. I really used the Brouwer every single day when I was stateside for the last 8 months, and I am impressed. I didn’t even consider sharpening it during that whole time; it kept the edge beautifully. I’ve found my carry work knife, and my comfort level is back up, even better than my first Buck 110.
Jerry Brouwer, wherever you are today, kudos to you and Spyderco!
Keeping It Sharp
Spyderco offers an extensive group of sharpening tools. I have to confess that I use a Wicked Edge Pro-Pack II because I have it for my kitchen knives, and it’s been an outstanding sharpening system. I spoke with Michael about the correct angle for sharpening the Brouwer; it’s a “smooth blade” (plain edge) with right and left angles of 17 degrees (so an included angle of 34 degrees), and if you use the Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker® at a 40-degree included angle, you’ll contact the apex of the edge. Also remember that the Brouwer is a Full Flat Grind (FFG) blade, and that requires some special attention with the Wicked Edge system. Watch the videos at wickededgeusa.com.
Michael Janich teaches his special Martial Blade Concepts, and you can also get his books online such as Knife Fighting: A Practical Course or watch his videos on YouTube. I strongly suggest going to his website and learning about his practical, well-thought-out program on MBC (martialbladeconcepts.com/about-mbc).
Please pay a visit to spyderco.com where they have a huge list of resources, from what metals are used and why, the treatment of the metal, types of grips, all of their seemingly thousands of products plus a very active forum section where questions and answers are provided.
The heart of the Brouwer is its Full Flat Grind blade, which is crafted from CPM® S30V® particle metallurgy stainless steel. Its drop-point profile offers outstanding utility, while a paired index-finger choil and textured thumb ramp ensure precise control when used with a “choked-up” grip. Spyderco’s Trademark Round Hole™ is positioned closer to the blade’s centerline to allow a straight spine, while still offering easy one-handed opening.
The Brouwer’s handle features a solid titanium scale and Reeve Integral Lock (R.I.L.) on one side and a textured green G-10 scale and nested, skeletonized stainless steel liner on the other. To ensure a solid lock-up and long service life, the R.I.L. includes a stainless steel interface that also serves as an over-travel stop. A reversible stainless steel hourglass clip mounted to the butt end of the handle keeps the knife ready for instant access and offers a choice of left- or right-side tip-up carry. It is complemented by a lined lanyard hole for easy attachment of fobs and safety lanyards.
BROUWER FOLDER TI/G-10
Overall length 6.82in (173mm)
Blade length 2.82in (72mm)
Steel CPM S30V
Closed length 4in (102mm)
Edge length 2.36in (60mm)
Weight 2.8oz (79g)
Blade thickness 0.118in (3mm)
Clip position Ambidextrous
Tip carry position Tip-up
Lock type R.I.L. (Reeve Integral Lock)
Grind Full Flat
MSRP $270 (as I said, quality costs but doesn’t disappoint)
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V24N1 (Jan 2020)