My knife use is in mostly normal daily tasks, opening boxes, breaking down cardboard, light food prep, etc. I also do the cooking at home and while I don’t hunt I do greatly enjoy fishing and appreciate a good bird and trout knife. I really appreciate when a knife is innovative or does something unique. My picks are based on what I’ve found to be especially useful and enjoyable to use for my common tasks.
Spyderco Dragonfly 2 - While this is not everyone’s typical starter knife it was one of my early knives and the one that really jump started my interest in Spyderco. It's small enough to use essentially anywhere and big enough to be truly useful. I enjoy it so much I even bought one in H1 Steel for my wife who, despite not being a knife person, has gotten plenty of use out of it.
Spyderco Paramilitary 2 - The Spyderco Paramilitary 2 barely needs an introduction at this point, almost every knife enthusiast has owned at least one at some point in their collection. It combines fantastic ergonomics, great (and varied) blade steel in a very usable package. There are an endless amount of aftermarket accessories so you can customize the knife to your heart’s desire or enjoy it as the factory intended. The blade is a perfect combination of slicing ability with plenty of strength and I’ve done everything from cutting sausage, breaking down cardboard, and cleaning Walleye with mine.
Spyderco Manix 2 Lightweight - The Manix 2 LW is my favorite summer knife. You get a 3.3 inch blade with fantastic ergonomics in a 3 oz package that won’t weigh you down. The ball bearing lock is plenty strong and fun to operate, and like the PM2 you get a variety of blade steels to choose from. You can have anything from the budget priced CTS-BD1 to the absolute cutting edge (heh) of blade steels in CTS-Maxamet.
Shun Sora 6" Chef's Knife - Knife enthusiasts get excited about pocket knives most of the time, but what knives do we honestly use most? For most of us that answer is our kitchen knives. They are often an overlooked part of our collection and the difference between a good kitchen knife and a bad one is night and day. I like to have a good Chefs style knife for most of my kitchen use, and a slightly smaller one at 6 inches I’ve found is useful for essentially any task but slicing bread when I’m cooking. This one in particular has an especially nice thin grind and really cuts higher than its weight class. I have given this knife as a gift to some of my relatives and they have been amazed at the difference a quality knife makes. They even stopped using the glass cutting board, most of the time.
Spyderco Roadie - The Spyderco Roadie is Spyderco's interpretation of the classic pen knife. It was originally designed to conform to the TSA rexled knife regulations on airplanes, and while this regulation never materialized, Spyderco released the Roadie anyways. The Roadie is a perfect coin pocket everyday slipjoint, with fantastic ergonomics, a slicey grind, and coming in at a a featherweight 1oz, you don't even notice its there until you need it.
Skinbender Leather Works Double EDC Slip - This pocket slip is an ideal set up for carrying slipjoints, SAKs, and flashlights comfortably in pocket. I have one in my pocket daily for my light and slipjoint, the best part to me is that it keeps the knife/light in one spot and not rolled over sideways in my pocket. My gear stays where I want it to, and is protected from my keys and whatever else finds it's way into my pocket that day.
Benchmade Bugout - This knife in my mind essentially is Benchmade's answer to the Spyderco Manix 2 LW. Similar blade length and lightweight FRN/Grivory style handle with no liners to keep the weight down, it competes point by point pretty well. This knife has now become my suggestion for anyone looking for an entry level Benchmade, the Bugout does a fantastic job however of staying slim and trim, giving you plenty of blade without taking up much room in your pocket, at under 2 ounces the Bugout is even comfortable in basketball shorts.
Great Eastern Cutlery #12 Toothpick DLT SFO - The GEC #12 is a wonderfully stylized traditional knife pattern that checks so many boxes for me. Slim single blade, Check. Oak leaf shield, Check. Between 3 1/2 and 4 inches closed, check. Great walk and talk, check. Steel that will take a nice patina, check, and finally, check a box for jigged bone. I am more of a user than collector, but I think it is a great piece for both the user and the collector, it will do a great job of performing well while still looking lovely in a display.