How Knives Are Changing

There was a time when one could learn the names of 6 or 10 knives, and be set for life. Over the next 40+ years, you would not expect much to change in the knife world.

If you have looked around lately, you realize those days are long gone.

All those ‘Rambo’ Wanna-Be Knives 

Drop Point Skinning Blade

Drop Point Skinning Blade



Remember when we drooled over the “cool” factor of Rambo-styled knives? Now, emergency medical technicians, the military and police routinely use those knives because they offer job-specific tools, such as seat-belt cutters, safety blade tips and wire cutters.

It seems that “if you can dream it, you can make it” in the world of knives. Individual craftsmen keep pushing the envelope of invention and technology continues to provide more techniques and materials.

Hunting Knives

The era of specialization has hit hunting knives, as well as most other types of knives. MDH’s* favorite pocket knife looks like an arcane memento from the past.

Although made of stainless steel, his knife wouldn’t know what a knife lock was! It was made in the day when honing one’s knife was a ritual that a man passed on to his son.

Now we have hunting knives specific to each task: gut-hook knives for field dressing and small, sharp knives for caping deer  – as well as other close work.

Specific AND Generalized Knives

Actually, you can have knives both ways: very specific tools or generalized instruments. Some knives labeled hunting and camping knives can do everything from food preparation to skinning and butchering wild game.

Most of the hunters I know have  about a dozen knives – but tend to use 2 or 3 faves.  Once folks find a tool that feels good and works well, they tend to find more uses for that tool.

Safety Has Become More Important

Twenty years ago,  blades had slip joints or basic locking mechanisms. Now, most knives come with high-tech locks, plus other safety features to avoid lock failure.

Who would have ever thought we would have knives with replaceable blades? Or locking sheaths? Or knives that keep their edge for years?

The Future of Knives

The future looks very rosy. Sportsmen and women are willing to pay for innovation. The prices charged for knives as collectibles seem to increase every week.

With knives, people have learned that “you get what you pay for.”  As more people try crafting their own knives, they have come to appreciate the craftsmanship of both the very old and the very new.

Knives and You

If you have thought about collecting knives, prices will probably never be lower. Jump in soon!

Because of the ever increasing improvements in today’s knives, you may be shocked by the huge variety of knives available to hunters and anglers.

My problem is that I’m afraid to buy today for fear that tomorrow they will improve it so much, I’ll have to have that one too. Maybe that is the definition of a “knife collector.”  Hmmmm.


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Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 8:45 am  Comments (1)  
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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.



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.



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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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.


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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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!


This is # 4 in a series:



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


This blog is a companion to my website:

Why Can’t Guys Just Have One Knife for Everything?


We'll Be Talking About Knife Functions

Looking @ Knife Form & Function


Trust me, this is ONE question you never want to pose to a sportsman!  My ears are still ringing from MDH’s* sermon on the importance of a knife collection. (eye roll)  He considers them to be “necessary tools a guy needs and uses.” (double eye roll)

I’ve come to the conclusion that knives are a guy’s answer to women’s shoes. Just as we can’t have just one pair of shoes, most hunters and anglers need a variety of knives!

Let’s Get Started

If you are new to the sport of hunting or fishing, you might have some questions about the best knife for your needs.  Why are there so many styles and types of knives?  That’s easy.  There are so many jobs for knives to do.

According to You-Know-Who 😉 , before buying one of these sharp weapons, know what you want to do with a knife.  A rabbit-skinning knife is a very different choice than one you would use to fillet fish.  In other words: Form follows function.

There are some important points to consider before buying any knife. The blade seems, to me, to be the most important subject after knowing the use of the knife.  When you are staring at an almost limitless variety, it is good to know the advantages and problems with each blade material. Today, I’m going to discuss non-metal weapon materials; next time, it will be the larger group of metal and metal alloy knives.

Knife Blade OptionsNon-Metals (** error; should be Non-Ferrous)

Using ceramic for knives has been a recent innovation.  Although there is no metal in the knife, it is harder than steel, corrosion and stain-free, plus it holds its edge for a long time. However, don’t rush out to buy one. There are several problems.  First, ceramic is brittle and fragile; ‘you drop it, you break it.’ If the blade is exposed when you drop it or you use the point to lever something, generally this knife is history.

You will find ceramic knives in kitchen ware; but the US government has discouraged the use of ceramic in hunting or tactical knives. Because there’s no metal, they do not register on a metal detector.  New alloys have some metal — to satisfy the security industry.

Other Problems:  When their edge wears, they cannot be honed as other knives.  Wikipedia states they must be “sharpened with industrial grade diamond sharpeners.” This is geek-speak for “it costs a lot.”

Titanium is fascinating AND expensive. Because it is stronger than steel, light in weight and corrosion resistant, the US Navy SEALS have adopted weapons of this material for their special operations.  This is a difficult material to work with and it is difficult to take an edge. The new alloys  have reduced these problems. However, you will only find them at the high end of the pricing range.

Stellite is the brand name of an alloy of carbon (strength), chromium (resistant to corrosion) and tungsten (stability). It is almost completely rust-free. However, you will rarely find stellite  – it is only seen in some diver’s knives and custom work.

Talonite is another alloy that is still rare. It will take a good edge, is rust-resistant and the blade is very slick. It is also very expensive.

Plastic is not something that goes together with ‘lethal’ in my mind. Generally, they are mixed with nylon and glass fibers and are mainly found in two areas:  box cutters and ‘self defense’ daggers.

By watching the sales of these daggers, I see the looks of these ’emergency weapons’ seem to be highly marketable!   However, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not have a plastic dagger guarding my life!  Thanks anyway.


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


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