That's the title of a very interesting article over at Indefinitely Wild, a sub-forum of Gizmodo. Jeff Randall talks about the design and manufacturing process at ESEE Knives, a very well respected knife maker. For those interested in knives for hunting and hard outdoor use, it's a very worthwhile read.
I have a rather different take on knives compared to most Americans. I come from Africa, where a knife is a tool in the class of a hammer or a hacksaw. One uses a good basic blade, nothing fancy, no exotic alloys or materials, just a plain utility tool. When it wears out or breaks, one buys or makes a new one (Mercedes-Benz truck leaf springs are in high demand by village blacksmiths to make the strongest machetes on the planet: here's a US article on how it's done). Skinning knives are ubiquitous, as are machetes. The Swedish-made Mora knives are sometimes hard to come by, but very popular when they're available, partly because they're sharp enough out of the box to shave with (I've done it - I've even watched a mission doctor use one as a scalpel to perform surgery, when the real thing wasn't available), partly because they're so low-cost that if one breaks or loses them, it's not a major tragedy. (I still keep several Mora knives in my emergency supplies - I won't be without one if I can help it.) I also like machetes like the Condor and Cold Steel product lines, and camp knives like those made by Kershaw - all very good quality, reasonably priced blades.
American knife aficionados, on the other hand, will happily spend up to several hundred dollars (even a four-figure sum, in extreme cases) on a custom-made knife that's lovingly and carefully fabricated by a professional knifesmith. They're beautiful and functional, but I can't help wincing at the thought that if they're used the way we use knives in Africa, they'll break just as fast as anything else, and cost an arm and a leg to replace.
I found the closing question-and-answer of Jeff Randall's interview very telling.
IW: What one knife would you want with you in a survival situation?
JR: A low-cost, carbon steel machete. Easy to sharpen, superb cutting efficiency, it can be choked up on to clean game (we do it all the time in the Amazon), makes shelter work quick and easy and will do everything needed to build a fire. What else could someone want in a true survival situation? The bottom line is, a machete works for anything I need to do in the areas I haunt.
I couldn't agree more. If one knife is all you can have, a good machete will see you through.