Knife Round-Up: The Many Facets of Knives

At one time, I sold Gerber & Leatherman tools and did a series of informational articles about knives.  I was going to erase the group, however, they are read so often, I just left them up for my readers.

These articles are not about Gerber specifically, although I often use Gerber knives to illustrate the post.

Guess Who Collects Knives?

For about 5 weeks, I was carrying around a large (picture) book* of  knives – ancient and modern.  I had no idea how popular knives are!

I nearly dropped my teeth, however, when women would walk up to me and talk about their knife collections!

Maybe it’s just a Texas thing.

* The name of the book is in one or more of the articles.  I borrowed it from the Houston Public Library.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Knives: the Tanto, Drop Point & Sheepsfoot Blades

I don’t sell knives any more. However, this series has proven so popular, I’ve left the info on this site.  Therefore, the photos are not clickable.

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This is a series on knife blade types that appears occasionally. Today, the Tanto, Drop Point and Sheepsfoot Blades  are up for discussion.

Tanto Blade

The Tanto is based on an old Japanese Samurai design. It has a shallow grind on both sides of the single edge.  The American Tanto is fairly angular and has a chisel grind on one side of the edge.

Generally, the edge is parallel to the spine until it sharply angles about 45 degrees to a point.

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Example of Tanto Blade

That leaves the point thick and incredibly strong.  This makes for great control in piercing and penetration.

It doesn’t hurt that the design LOOKS lethal and is very marketable because of its tactical persona. The military uses this design for some applications, bolstering its ‘Rambo’ looks.

Originally, the tanto was created to pierce armor. The main negative of this style of knife is that the cutting edge is secondary to the powerful thrust of the knife point.

Drop Point Blade

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Example of Drop Point Knife

Most of MDH’s knives are drop points. It is one of the most popular styles because it does so many things well.

A shallow, convex curve lowers the point of the knife from the unsharpened spine. The deep belly, which  takes and keeps a sharp edge, rises up to meet the point. This increases tip strength.

The lowered point provides more control over the blade. This style is at home doing fine skinning, field dressing wild game, slicing  and even jointing.

Sheepsfoot Blade

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Modified Sheepsfoot Blade

Slicing is the forte of the sheepsfoot blade. It is considered to be a better slicer than a clip point (Bowie knife).

This knife got its name from its likeness to the hoof of a sheep (Go figure).  The point is rounded and the blade is fairly straight. This specialized tool seems to slice best on a flat cutting area.

In recent years, this blade has become a favorite of first responders and emergency personnel.  The beauty of this folding knife is that it can be used to slice away a seat belt, without harming the injured.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Anatomy of a Fixed-Blade Knife

Knife salesmen/women love to fling around the jargon of their trade. It immediately puts THEM in the expert class — not you. Today just might be a good day to level-the-playing-field a bit. Our sub-title could be:

More Than You May Want to Know About a Knife

We’ll examine a fixed-blade knife today.

 

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Anatomy of a Fixed Blade Knife!

 

1The Blade – The ‘business end’ of a knife.

2Handle – How you grip a knife.  The issue of a tang comes in here but I will save most of  this discussion for later.  One of the tang’s most important jobs is to give balance to a knife.

3Point or Tip of the knife. Its main function is to pierce or create a point of entry.

4The Edge – The cutting area of a knife that extends from the point to the blade heel.

5 The Grind – Where the blade starts to get thinner. The area across the blade that starts at the thinning of the spine and ends at the blade edge.

6Spine – The top of the knife, opposite of the blade edge. It is usually thicker than the edge.

7The Fuller – An indentation on many knives that reduces the weight of the knife.  The fuller does not reduce the structural integrity of the knife, however.

8The Ricasso –  The thick part of the blade that has no edge; where the handle and blade meet.

9 The Guard – This metal barrier protects the hand from injury.

10 The Butt – The end of the knife.

11 Hole for the Lanyard – A method for keeping the knife attached to the wrist, belt, etc.

The advantage of a fixed blade is that it is strong (single weapon from point to butt of knife). It has no moving parts and is easy to make.

In the 2nd entry, I mentioned the ‘tang.’ The tang is the part of the knife not usually seen. It is covered by the wood, plastic or other material of the handle.

To me, the tang is how I determine the value of the knife. A full tang indicates that the blade metal completely fills the handle (and can usually be seen above and below the handle material – as in the photo below). The full tang is indicated below by the first red dot, on the top edge of the handle. The other dots are not significant for this discussion.

 

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Full Tang Knife!

 

Knives with partial tangs (the metal of the blade extending part way into the handle and held in place by rivets or pins), may also be an excellent knife.

Of the partial tangs, I feel the ‘rat tail’ tang to be the weakest (the knife blade narrows in the handle, to look like a rat tail comb).

The ‘push tang’ is the one you do not want. The tang end extends less than 1/2 the way into the handle. The tang has been pushed in and rivets used to hold it in place.

The next time the salesperson throws a little jargon your way, you can throw a little back!

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This blog is a companion to my website: GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

 

Which one is Best – a Fixed-Blade or a Folding Knife?

 

Fixed Blade for Strength!

Fixed Blade for Strength!

 

I stopped selling knives a while back. However, this has been one of the most popular articles  on this site. The photos are not clickable.

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Folding and fixed blade knives each have unique capabilities and weaknesses. Only you can decide which best fits your situation. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

The first consideration is: What do you want/need this knife to do? How will it be used? Once this is clear in your mind, it is easier to evaluate the knives available.

Fixed Knife: Pros and Cons

The advantages of these knives are clear: They can be made in very large sizes, their design is simple – yet they are known for their potential strength. Because the blade is all one piece, from handle to blade tip, there are no moving parts and the knife is sturdy and long-lasting. They are also easy to keep clean.

Generally speaking, a fixed blade is twice the length of a folder (folded blade knife). Most fixed blade knives are sheathed (covered), for safety. Some fixed blades now come with an interchangeable blade!

In many cities, states and countries, fixed blades are banned (with or without a sheath). In certain locales, mores dictate that fixed blades are “socially unacceptable” (Only farm workers are exempted from this ban)!

Folding Knives: Pros and Cons

Folders are more discrete, the blade folds into the handle when not in use. Most of these tools are known as “pocket knives” – indicating their mode of transport. Urbanites prefer these; the general population is unaware that ‘you’re carrying.’

Folders must be well-constructed to be as tough as fixed blades. The most vulnerable parts of any folder  are – the blade pivot (axis pin) and the lock spring. Quality tells here; this is where most folding knives fail.

The lock spring must keep the knife in an an open position, as long as you need it, and then release the blade to return into its holder. The longer bladed knives are more likely to have a problem – there’s more leverage on the axis pin, especially if using the flat side of the blade.

Thus, there’s a limit to the length of a blade. The longer the blade, the longer the handle must be to accommodate it.

 

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Folding Knife = Convenience!

One other problem, rarely mentioned: Pocket knives are a bit harder to clean. Fur, wood slivers, whatever are more likely to gather inside the handle and need to be removed.

Back to Our Question

Fixed blades are long-lasting, easy to clean, tough and strong. Folding blades are convenient, discrete and versatile.

You will probably finish your shopping expedition with one of each – one for the big jobs (fixed) and another in your pocket – for 1001 little jobs each day!

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

The 10 Commandments of Knife Use & Maintenance**

 

Golden Rules for Knives

Golden Rules for Knives

 

This topic is serious, the way I state it is not. I hope no one is offended.

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And the Lord gave unto Abraham 10 Mighty Rules of Knives.

(First) “Thou shalt not let thy blade go dull.” A dull blade is a dangerous blade. It takes more pressure to use a dull blade, and accidents often happen when your hand slips or you lose control of the blade.

(2nd) “Thou shalt not hand thy knife to another – blade first.” If it is a folding knife, pass it on in a folded position. Hold a fixed blade by it’s spine (top, unsharpened edge) with the blade away from you, allowing the receiver to take the knife by its handle.

(3rd) “Thou shalt not use a knife’s weakest point (the tip) as a pry-bar.” Buy a small ‘chisel point rescue’ for daily use, and keep your knife intact.

(4th) “Thou shalt take thy time to sharpen thy knife blade.”  Use the sharpening system as instructed by the directions that came with it. More knife blades are damaged by poor honing than use!

(5th) “Thou shalt keep thy knife as clean as thyself.”  Most of the time, knives traspass where our hands don’t want to go – acids, oils, dirt, etc. Three things that knives come most into contact with are – salt, blood and sweat. They are corrosive and damaging to the blade.

Wash a knife in mild soap, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. Always wash blades before food preparation. To avoid contamination with bacteria, knives should be washed after working with meat, and before using it on other foods.

(6th) “Thou shalt not leave thy knife in water or exposed to heat/sunlight for long periods of time.” As water is the universal solvent, it can unglue the handle, or other parts. Excessive heat can warp the knife.

(7th)  “Thou shalt not throw thy knife – even in fun.” More knife tips are broken by careless handling than  people can imagine. If you are playing a knife throwing game, get one specifically for it – don’t take a chance on your prized knife(s).

(8th) “Thou shalt not oil thy leather sheath.” The oil discolors the leather and sometimes causes thread failure. Best practices: saddle soap for cleaning and dubbing (a water-resistant shoe wax) to protect your investment.

(9th) “Thou shalt protect thy blades during temporary storage.”  Use a light touch when adding a coat of wax to the blade. High carbon blades may need a bit more – a thin layer of petroleum jelly before storage.

(10) “Thou shalt be tender in preparing thy knives for long-term storage.” Knives and sheaths should be placed in plastic bags separately. Use a vapor-protector (desiccant – think little bags placed in shoe boxes to protect leather) in the bag.

And Abraham took these Golden Rules for Knives down to the multitudes. And all was good.

MDH,* who advises God regularly 🙂 has an 11th – Thou shalt not use metal on metal (don’t cut meat in the frying pan – use a cutting board).

This one isn’t nearly as catchy as the first 10. But ‘He who wants to be obeyed – and rarely is’ asked me to add this one.

** This posting was inspired by: Knives: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Knives for Fighting, Hunting and Survival. Pat Farey; 2003; $24.95)

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Why are There So Many Knife Blade Shapes?

Well, the one sentence answer to this is: There are different blade shapes because of all the jobs knives are called upon to do. Some blade shapes are suitable for a number of tasks while others are the best for a single job.

The Clip Point Knife 

The Most Famous Clip Point!

The Most Famous Clip Point!

 

 

The Bowie Knife is the most famous of the clip point knives.  Even though it is a very old design, it is still one of the most popular blades for just about anything done outdoors.

Only one side of the blade is sharpened and it can be called the ‘belly’.  On the upper side (spine) of the knife, a portion is ‘clipped’ from the blade.

Generally, the part that is removed causes the tip to be slightly lower than the spine.  This gives more control of the blade when using it to skin an animal or when using the point.

Although the photo shows an upper edge that looks as sharp as the lower one, it is probably a ‘swedge’ – the upper edge is beveled but not sharpened.

Gut Hook Blade 

Gut Hook Knife

An Example of a Gut Hook Knife

 

 

This is definitely a specialty knife — this unusual-shaped skinner helps any hunter field dress large game with ease.

Like the Bowie, the blade is a modified drop point (minor curving of blade, so the tip drops a little to meet the sharpened edge – very popular). The kicker is the sharpened “U” or “V.”

The beauty (a term I use loosely in relation to this knife) of this knife is that, after making an incision in a carcass, the blade is pulled backwards (along the spine of the knife) under the skin.  You are literally unzipping the skin from the meat and entrails.

This is an incredibly useful tool, even if it is one of the ugliest knives I’ve ever seen!

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This is # 4 in a series:

 

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NOTICE: I no longer sell Gerber knives and Leatherman tools.  I left this article up as educational information.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

What do You Know About Knife Blades & the Rockwell Scale?

Naturally, knife makers want to gauge the hardness of their knife blades. Therefore, the Rockwell C Scale was developed.  The range is between 50 and 60, with 60 being the hardest.

Don’t get your knickers bunched if the info offered with a knife says nothing about this scale. Of course, you are more likely to hear the scale value (of a knife blade) if the number is 60!

How the Knife is Rated

The hardest surface, a diamond point, is pressed into the blade with a lighter weight, then with a heavier weight and finally with a lower weight again. What is being measured is the depth of the indentations, and their difference. After calculations, this is compared to the Rockwell C Scale, to determine the blade’s hardness.

Who Cares?

There are reasons for wanting to know the scale of some weapons. First, if you are making your own blade, and your own knife, you would want to know – possibly as a point of pride. Therefore, you would find someone who could do the test for you and give you the score.

For certain tasks, you might need the hardest blade you could find, thus you would want to know the Rockwell C Scale.

How do I Find the Score?

Generally, the sales person does not know the score. It’s just not critical to the general knife-buying public. However, if the score is critical to know for something you plan to do, email or phone the knife producer for this info.

BTW, it may take them some time to find this info! Probably the only person who needed to know the Rockwell number was the craftsman who created the tool!

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** As usual, I forgot something. The reason you might want to know the hardness of your blade is that a harder blade keeps its edge better.

Also, some steels are too soft to measure. For instance, you wouldn’t care to measure the hardness of angle iron; it’s soft. Also, you wouldn’t use it as a tool (such as a knife blade).

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Notice: I don’t sell Gerber any more but left this up as an information source.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com


Please join me!

Why Are Knives Made of Such Weird Sounding Stuff? (1 of 3)

Previous Article: Why Can’t Guys Just Have One Knife for Everything? (Intro and knives made of non-ferrous materials)

Part II – Knives Made of Metals and Alloys

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I’m going to skip the history of metal in knives and jump to the info on current metal/metal alloys available to the average “Joe” or “Josie.”   But, first, a word from our trivia sponsors!

Interesting Knife Trivia

Originally, knives made of metals had serious corrosiontn_j0405970 problems. When knife materials were created that helped reduce rusting, they named these knives “stain less” steel. The emphasis was on “less.”  Today, we refer to knives that don’t seem to corrode as “stainless,” with the emphasis on the “stain.”

Actually, ‘stain-less’ (emphasis on ‘less’) is more accurate. The 2 things that keep knives ‘stainless’ – are regular use and maintenance. Even stainless steel knives can develop rust; I’d rather you didn’t ask me how I know this!

Four Main Steel Types of Knife Blades

There are an almost infinite number of steel combinations, which makes for lots of confusion. However, there are 4 main, modern steels used for knife-making: carbon steels, compound steels, stainless steels and Damascus steels.

Carbon Steels

Also known as ‘high carbon steels,’ these blades are a combination of iron and carbon.

Advantages: Excellent sharpness values, holds its edge well and is easy to resharpen.

Disadvantages: Easy to rust, easy to stain.

Compound Steels

Other elements have been added to carbon steels, to make Compound Steels. They always have less than 13% chromium (added to reduce corrosion). In general, these are strong steel blades with a good edge. They retain their edges well and are easy to resharpen.

A-2: Has fair corrosion resistance; used in some military knives.

D-2: Has high chromium, so more resistant to rusting (but not stainless). Can be hard to sharpen.

M-2: Not used as much as A-2 or D-2. Maintenance is necessary to avoid rust.

Next Subject: Stainless Steels

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Notice: I don’t sell Gerber any more but left this up as an information source.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Please note: I’ve added:  (1) Subscription button for feeds, click on RSS Posts for my postings (top of right column) and (2) Subscription link to get my postings via email, click on Sign Me Up! (top right).

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 4:09 pm  Comments Off on Why Are Knives Made of Such Weird Sounding Stuff? (1 of 3)  
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Why are Knives Made of Such Strange-Sounding ‘Stuff?’ (2 of 3)

Stainless Steels

As a group, these are the most common blade materials used by manufacturers. Because they do not need as much maintenance, the most innovation is occurring in this category (note there are at least 12 combos).

ATS-34 and 154-CM: Currently considered to be the best stainless steel for blades.  The only downside seems to be the fact that it takes more patience and work to resharpen these blades.

ATS-55: This steel is manufactured without molybdenum, which makes it less expensive than the ATS-34. It seems to have the same hardness as the ATS-34; and has an excellent edge.

BG-42: One of the newer alloys; lots of knife makers are starting to use it. Said to be as good as ATS-34.

440C (also AUS-10): Although this combo has been surpassed by ATS-34, it is still the fave material for most knife makers. This surgical steel quality blade gets and keeps a good edge, plus it is easy to sharpen.

440A and 440B: These have qualities similar to the 440C. The differences are: slightly less hard steel, but with better corrosion resistance than the 440C’s. (high chrome content, less carbon content in A & B)

420: This is an average grade of steel with excellent stainless qualities. Its edge-retaining qualities are average. You find knives with this # in economy lines, plus diving knives and presentation knives.

Next Time: New Alloys Tied to a Knife Maker

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Notice: I don’t sell Gerber any more but left this up as an information source.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Please note: I’ve added:  (1) Subscription button for feeds, click on RSS Posts for my postings (top of right column) and

(2) Subscription link to get my postings via email, click on Sign Me Up! (top right).

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 3:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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Why are Knives Made of Such Strange-Sounding ‘Stuff?’ (3 of 3)

New Alloys Tied to a Knife Maker

As new combinations have arrived on the scene, certain knife makers have adopted them as “their” blade of choice.  So, the remaining 6 alloys are mostly used by a particular manufacturer, rather than being seen in the display case of various craftsmen.

Of these, the CPM‘s are the most interesting. Through Crucible Particle Metallurgy (CPM), the components are reduced to a powder, combined and compressed, before returning the blade to its solid state.

CPM 440V AND CPM 420V: Spyderco has adopted this alloy. Advantages: good corrosion resistance and holds an edge well. Disadvantages: Considered to be harder to sharpen.

CPMS30V: Custom knife craftsman, Chris Reeve, likes and uses this alloy. It is a “tough” steel and very rust resistant.

RWL-34: An upgraded ATS-34, with better edge strength and better at keeping its edge. More likely to be used by a custom knife maker.

The next alloy comes in a variety of names: AUS-6, AUS-8, 425-M, Sandvik 12CV-27. KA-BAR uses this in some applications; it’s a great choice. Similar to the 440-A and 440-B. It’s high carbon, high chrome, and offers good rust resistence.

G-2 or GIN-1: Very similar to ATS-34, Spyderco used it for some of their knives and tools.

VG-10: Another of the newer alloys. This one has more molybdenum and more cobalt than the others. These additions increase the knife’s hardness, without making it brittle. Its layers of steel have better rust resistance than most. Used by: Spyderco, some Japanese craftsmen and Fallkniven. In “Only Knives,” they call this “’super steel’ because it’s so ridiculously hard and holds a sharp edge for a long, long time.”

Damascus Steel

Prepare yourself to be dazzled by the beauty of these knives.  They are not as corrosion resistant as the stainless steels above, but they make up for much with their outstanding looks. They also don’t come cheap. These knives are a combo of two steels that are pattern-welded.

The knife on the left is about $500; while the one on the right is about $800. If you’d like to drool too, head over to:   http://purvisknives.com/gallery.html.


As you can see, the variety of material for knife blades is amazing, and improvements are emerging all the time.

Since you know what you want your knife to be able to do, check the advantages and disadvantages carefully to find the blade(s) that will serve you best.

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Notice: I don’t sell Gerber any more but left this up as an information source.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 3:33 pm  Comments Off on Why are Knives Made of Such Strange-Sounding ‘Stuff?’ (3 of 3)  
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