Saturday, June 30, 2007

Knife Function

Every preparedness minded person knows they need a knife. My goodness, knives are on every “survival list” known to man from little kits built into Altoids tins and carried in a pocket or purse, to equipment carried in one’s vehicle. Another reason we know everyone needs a knife is that there are just so darn many of them for sale – business must be good. In fact, in my opinion, business is too good.

So before you go and plop down a week’s pay on a “Combat Concubine” or “Survivor X” (I made up those two names but the real names companies give their knives are just as silly) please try to keep in mind one fact: they are tools. They are only tools. Tools are supposed to fulfill a function – do you know what function your knife is meant to fulfill? “Survival” doesn’t count – we need to be more specific.

Knives are basically designed to do three types of things. A knife that does one of those things in an excellent way will not be able to do the other two very well. Let’s take a look.

Slice. The knife on the top is designed to slice and it does that job very well. Notice that the blade has a lot of what we call “belly”. It is curved in such way that as one draws it through the material to be sliced, it pulls itself deeper and cuts continuously. Normally, to get a lot of belly on a blade, the point has to be elevated well above the center line of the handle. This is good for slicing but not good for our next area.

Stab. The next knife down is a bayonet. It is designed to be attached to the end of a rifle and then thrust into an enemy soldier. It is designed then primarily to stab. It is well designed for that purpose. Notice that the blade is narrow – it is designed to go deep. Notice that the point is directly on the center line of the handle and blade – this is to focus the full power of the thrust onto one precise point – the tip. It is sharp on both sides but that is really to aid in deeper penetration – due to the blade shape it makes a relatively poor slicer. Because of its light weight it is terrible at performing the third function knives may be designed for.

Chop. The third knife down is a kukri and is designed primarily to chop. Choppers are typically heavier than other knives so that there is some oomph to the downward blow. They are also designed so that the weight is over the sweet spot so that it can be focused at the point of the blow. Choppers give and take a lot of impact stress and are typically of more robust construction than slicers or stabbers for this reason. In the case of this kukri the blade is angled down – and that works very well. But this is not necessary – consider another style of chopping knife – the cleaver.

Knives are tools. There is no “one knife that can do it all”. We don’t use hammers to drive screws and we don’t use pliers to hammer nails. But we can have a useful tool that compromises – consider a pair of fencing pliers. They can hammer (not great, but they get the job done), they can act as pliers, they can cut wire, and they are really good at twisting wire. There are other tools that do each of those tasks better than a pair of fencing pliers – but they can’t do it all nearly as well.

If you want a multi-purpose tool (and any knife is already multi-purpose) you need to decide what you want it to do and what trade offs you are willing to accept. The three bottom knives are decent compromises. They all slice fairly well. Notice they all have some amount of belly. They stab okay – notice the point is generally along the center line (more or less) in each example. All three are decent choppers – this is due to their weight, length, and the way their edges are designed.

Are they perfect survival knives? Should you rush right out and buy yourself one (good luck with the first two)? No. They are decent knives and they are good enough to make my points but these are the ones I had laying around to take the photo – they are not ones that I have in my BoB, in my BoV, or on my gear. But this entry is not about me or my knives – it’s about you and your knives. Think about what you want in a knife then go obtain one. Better yet – obtain several. Get the right one for the right job.

Most of the guys and gals I run around with in woods carry several knives at any one time. Big ones, little ones, heavy ones, light ones, multi-tools and machetes, daggers and clippits.

Those are just three aspects of knives to consider. There are many others. Steel, geometry, handle material, sheath/carry system, etcetera, and etcetera ad-nauseum. But again, don’t get swallowed up by the hype. In the end a knife is just a tool. One of many. I said the folks I run around with are knife people and that’s true. Some of them even spent lots of money on their knives. But you know what? In the end, it’s not the knife. It’s the man or the woman wielding it.

Give my bud, Bud, or my wife a used, rusty butcher knife picked up in some second-hand store for a dollar and they would run circles around the average Joe equipped with their “Special Forces Commando Knife”.
So whatever knife or knives you end up obtaining - go use them. Get familiar with them; learn how to sharpen them; decide how you like to carry them. For your own sake, don't try to "keep them new so I'll have them when I need them". Yeah, I heard that once...
See ya out there.
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them. If they really interest me, I may even post them. You can reach me at
Prepared Americans for a Strong America


At 19/7/07 14:15, Blogger Youngblood said...

One good knife tip that might be good to include here is to never use a grinding wheel to sharpen a knife. The wheel generates a lot of heat and causes most knives to lose their temper (literally).


Post a Comment

<< Home