Old treasures aren’t always better than their new counterparts, but they do have better stories. And that’s exactly what we’re about at Outsider: stories.
So while you may be in the market for the newest smart doorbell that will automate your wind-powered car (we made that up, we think), don’t get rid of your antique door knocker just yet. You know, those “old” items that take a pounding, but bounce back time and time again because “they just don’t make ’em like they used to.”
We tasked Outsider‘s Jon D. B., Clayton Edwards, and Jim Casey to defend three of their favorite time-tested treasures—and share the stories behind them.
Boker Automat Kalashnikov 74 Knife
My father used this Boker knife for as long as I can remember. It’s the only automatic blade I’ve ever seen stand the test of time as it has. He loved tying monkey’s fist knots and was a master of knotwork, so he fastened one to the hilt in the last years of his life.
After he passed in 2020, my younger brother made sure the knife found its way to me. It’s become an extension of my daily self. The knife slips right out of my pocket by the fist and keeps a remarkably sharp blade for such an old knife.
I never go anywhere without it, and I plan to pass this treasure on to the next generation someday in kind.
This past summer my dad and I got to talking about sharpening knives. After a moment, he pulled this old whetstone out of his drawer. He handed it to me and said that it belonged to my great-grandma. She used the stone to hone her knives for more than 50 years. Those blades chopped vegetables, processed livestock, cleaned game, and just about everything in between. Dad inherited it when she passed away about 20 years ago.
When I tried to hand it back, he held up his hand and said, “Keep it oiled. Don’t let it rust,” and closed his drawer.
I’ve bought just about as many stones as I have knives over the years. This treasure, though, outshines all of them. It’ll make cheap steel shave and good steel split hairs. I’d really like to see what it would do to Jon’s Boker, honestly. However, it’s more than that. When I run a blade over Granny’s stone, I feel a connection to a part of my life and family that has been gone for years. It doesn’t matter how much you spend, you’ll never replicate that feeling with something new.
Gate-Marked Cast Iron Spider Skillet
I found this cast iron spider skillet at the Nashville flea market several years ago. The skillet was in bad shape, covered in rust, as well as black paint (someone painted it to use as a garden planter, but fortunately they didn’t drill a hole in the bottom, which is common).
For $5, the skillet got a new home. After soaking it in a lye bath for a couple of weeks, I rinsed the skillet with vinegar and gave it a grind with some steel wool. Then the skillet got several coats of seasoning with flaxseed oil.
While the skillet has no manufacture’s name, it does feature a “gate mark” (raised scar on the bottom of the skillet), indicating it was most likely cast pre-1890s. Now, the spider skillet is one of my go-to vessels at tailgates, cookouts, and campfires. It makes a helluva queso dish.
Cast iron pots, pans, and skillets are treasures that will last a lifetime—or two or three or four or five—if you treat ’em with a little care.