Reader "Heteromeles" is a big fan of Himalayan Imports and their knives. He's almost convinced me I need one and I'm not a knife collector at all.
Sustainably made knives. Big knives.
Actually, they're not labeled "sustainable" by any green organization, but when you understand them, the label fits. What I'm talking about are the khukuri knives (kukri) from Himalayan Imports.
Why are they sustainable?
A. The metal in the blades is all recycled (the steel is generally from junked Mercedes car springs). The handle and sheath are traditional wood, horn, and leather. While I'm not sure that the wood is sustainably sourced, I'm pretty sure that horn and leather in Nepal are sustainable.
B. The blades are designed to last *UNDER NORMAL USE* for 50-100 years, and if they don't, you can get them replaced. Note that you will go through 4-5 handles before the blade is destroyed, but it's easy to rehilt the blade.
C. The customer service is wonderful. When they say that, if you break under normal use, they will replace it, they mean it.
D. Every blade is handmade by a Nepalese craftsman, and HI is careful to pay them living wages, so that they can support their families. Yes, you can get khukuris for much cheaper, but they are factory made and the quality is much lower.
E. The blades are as tough as advertised, although there are a bunch of different types for different uses. The heaviest ones can cut a 55 gallon drum or a light car in half. The lightest ones are like machetes (brush cutters) only better.
F. HI has a loyal (shall we say rabid?) customer base. Example: Bill Martino, the founder of HI, was supporting the son of a smith as he went through medical school,so that he could return to the village as a doctor. When Bill died, several of the customers have taken it upon themselves to hold raffles every semester so that the student could finish his studies and graduate. (Disclaimer: I'm one of those loyal customers).
I've bought knives from a number of companies, and I don't know of any that are as good as Himalayan Imports. They are so retro (i.e. quality craftsmanship, excellent customer relations) that they are avant-garde.
In our disposable era, the idea that you can buy a knife, use it daily (if you happen to live in a rural area), trust your life to it (as some customers have), and leave it to your kids is something special. Building things to last isn't an antiquated idea, it's a way of living sustainably. When I run out of gas for my chainsaw, I can still count on my khukuri.
Sustainable? Well, they do ship knives from Nepal and all over the world, but if you amortize that carbon footprint over the life of each blade, it's pretty darn small, especially compared to the plastic-handled, factory made machete or ax that you get from a big box store. HI knives cut better too.
If you're thinking what I was thinking, I checked: Heteromeles is just a really happy customer going out of his way to drum up some business for one of his favorites.