KNIFE ANATOMY

UN­DER­STAND­ING GRINDS AND THEIR BEN­E­FITS

Knives Illustrated - - Contents - BY JER­RIE BAR­BER, LEAD PHOTO: NOAH NEMSLY

Dis­cover dif­fer­ent blade grinds and the ad­van­tages of each. By Jer­rie Bar­ber

It started at the be­gin­ning of time. Since a cave­man cut him­self on a piece of ob­sid­ian, man has been con­stantly re­fin­ing the way he cuts things. From sin­gle-edge and dou­ble-edge ar­row­heads made of stone, to lim­ber steel, to re­fined steels. From a ground edge to a mir­ror-pol­ished ra­zor’s edge. Blades for pry­ing, for abuse and for el­e­gance. Blades to baton through limbs and blades to clean your fin­ger­nails and open en­velopes with. Sure, when talk­ing about the anatomy of a knife, we could have talked about blade met­als or shapes, etc.

The story could have gone on for days. In the fol­low­ing story, we’re go­ing to fo­cus on a few grinds (the shape of the cross-sec­tion of the blade) and dis­cuss the ad­van­tages of each. We will dis­cuss why some knives may be easy to sharpen or easy to dull and how the ge­om­e­try of the blade plays a role in both. I will also briefly dis­cuss mak­ers be­cause they are the epit­ome of that spe­cific grind. Let's get started.

FLAT GRIND

The flat grind is the most pop­u­lar. This grind is most com­monly achieved by go­ing from the back, or the spine of the blade and sym­met­ri­cally re­mov­ing metal in a straight line to­ward the back of the pri­mary bevel, just be­fore the sharp­ened edge on ei­ther side of the spine. In the end, the ef­fect is an isosce­les tri­an­gle ground down to the cut­ting edge. (Scan­di­na­vian grinds and saber grinds also use flat grinds in that at some point, that isosce­les tri­an­gle comes into play in the sym­me­try of the blade.) Com­monly you would think of a chef’s knife or a butcher’s knife. In our world, the knife that comes to mind is nearly any knife made by Spy­derco that in­cor­po­rates the full flat grind into a myr­iad of prod­ucts in their cat­a­log.

SABER GRIND

The Saber grind most com­monly will keep the width of the spine of the blade to about half­way down the dis­tance of the blade to­ward the cut­ting edge. This is to give strength to the blade for tasks such as slash­ing and chop­ping. When think­ing of the most clas­sic saber grind knife, I of­ten con­sider the KA-BAR Marine knife, though many mak­ers in­cor­po­rate a saber grind in their blade de­sign.

SCANDI GRIND

The Scan­di­na­vian grind (Scandi grind) is sim­i­lar in ge­om­e­try to the saber grind, ex­cept that the width of the spine is car­ried out for al­most three-fourths of the of the blade, un­til a flat grind is in­cor­po­rated to the pri­mary bevel. This grind makes an ex­cel­lent field craft knife. Be­cause the width of the spine con­tin­ues for so much of the blade, when split­ting wood or cut­ting hard ma­te­rial, it acts more like a split­ting maul, keep­ing the ma­te­rial from the sharp­ened cut­ting edge, help­ing the blade stay sharp. A true Scandi-ground knife has no sec­ondary bevel, which makes it dif­fer­ent than the saber grind, and makes sharp­en­ing some­what challenging.

AD­VAN­TAGES

Knives with flat grinds are rel­a­tively easy to main­tain, even as they wear and age. Who hasn't seen that an­cient pock­etknife with the one blade al­most sharp­ened to the spine? With that said, in the knife world, if it is easy to sharpen then it is easy to dull as well, so there is some con­sid­er­a­tion when choos­ing a flat-ground blade.

“CONVEX BLADES ARE EX­TREMELY STRONG, ES­PE­CIALLY BE­HIND THE CUT­TING EDGE, AND MAKE EX­CEL­LENT HARD USE KNIFES, USE­FUL FOR PRY­ING AND FOR FIELD CRAFT.”

HOL­LOW GRIND

One grind that con­tin­ues to spark de­bate is the hol­low grind. A hol­low ground blade start­ing from the spine of the blade, starts to nar­row and con­tin­ues the re­mov­ing of metal in a convex or in­ward grind to the cut­ting edge. Pic­ture a straight ra­zor and ap­ply that to a knife blade. While there are sev­eral who use this grind, I most com­monly think right away of Chris Reeve knives, who have mas­tered the hol­low grind and con­tinue to make im­prove­ments on this cut­ting tech­nol­ogy.

AD­VAN­TAGES

While you may be­lieve this is the most use­less of the four grinds I will dis­cuss, it is prob­a­bly the most use­ful for ev­ery­day carry. While it is true that a hol­low grind will chip eas­ier dur­ing hard use, there are two things to con­sider. One, be­cause of the nar­row­ness of the blade at the cut­ting edge, you can sharpen a hol­low ground knife on al­most any­thing, such as the bot­tom of a ce­ramic cof­fee cup or the top edge of your car win­dow, to bring that edge back to life. While I pre­fer a good sharp­en­ing sys­tem, the above-men­tioned av­enues for touch up are avail­able.

Two, im­prove­ments in met­al­lurgy, in my opin­ion, gives us bet­ter metal to work with and lessens the lit­tle dings we used to get from lesser qual­ity met­als.

CONVEX GRIND

A di­rect op­po­site of the hol­low grind is the convex grind.

A convex grind comes from the spine and con­tin­ues for a span as flat stock then slowly curves in a bow in­ward, to­ward the cut­ting edge. Other blade shapes come to mind, specif­i­cally the Scandi grind, how­ever the Scandi grind comes to a point then makes a flat de­scent to the cut­ting edge. When I think of the convex grind, no fold­ing knife comes to mind; how­ever, what does come to mind is sev­eral of the blade de­signs that Bark River has in their EDC line. I own and of­ten carry a Bark River Lit­tle Creek, which is an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of a convex grind. While it is harder to capture in pho­tog­ra­phy than the other grinds, you can feel the out­ward roll in the con­tour of this grind in this spe­cific blade shape.

AD­VAN­TAGES

Knives with a convex grind are not nec­es­sar­ily hard to sharpen but are harder to sharpen with­out a good sharp­en­ing sys­tem. Convex ground knives over time be­come more dif­fi­cult to sharpen in the long term with­out hav­ing some pro­fes­sional touch ups made to the blade. Convex blades are ex­tremely strong, es­pe­cially be­hind the cut­ting edge, and make ex­cel­lent hard use knifes, use­ful for pry­ing and for field craft.

CHISEL GRIND

Lastly, and prob­a­bly the most ob­scure and least un­der­stood, is the chisel grind. A chisel grind is a com­plete flat back side of the blade, in the front is a com­plete flat for about half the dis­tance of the blade, then a dras­tic flat grind to the cut­ting edge. This is an ob­scure blade shape but is com­monly be­ing used by new mak­ers, now more than ever. While it is ob­vi­ous to me and many oth­ers, when think­ing of this par­tic­u­lar grind Emer­son is the com­pany that rises to the top of the list when uti­liz­ing this grind for a fold­ing knife.

AD­VAN­TAGES

In con­sid­er­ing the chisel grind, there are two ma­jor ad­van­tages that come to mind.

One, when sharp­ened cor­rectly, a chisel ground knife pos­sesses a dev­as­tat­ing edge with the abil­ity to do un­speak­able dam­age to the tar­get it is be­ing used against.

Two, there is only one edge to be sharp­ened, and it is nearly im­pos­si­ble to make a mis­take. Sim­ply use your abra­sive on the ground side. When you have reached your de­sired level of sharp­ness, re­move the burr from the back side and the sharp­en­ing is com­plete. In the chisel grind, you also have a dou­ble use in one blade. Much like a wood worker chis­els with the flat side up, you can curl wood or other ma­te­rial with ease, or turn the blade ground side up and re­move a large amount ma­te­rial with equal ef­fec­tive­ness.

AT A GLANCE

While this is in no way a com­pre­hen­sive look at all the grinds avail­able in the knife world, they are the most com­mon grinds you’ll come across, with­out getting into cus­tom knives. There are plenty more grinds to learn about, and each has its own par­tic­u­lar use.

“IN THE KNIFE WORLD IF IT IS EASY TO SHARPEN THEN IT IS EASY TO DULL AS WELL, SO THERE IS SOME CON­SID­ER­A­TION WHEN CHOOS­ING A FLAT GROUND BLADE.”

No mat­ter how or­nate the grinds on a blade, if the grind be­gins at point A and ends in a straight line at point B, it is a flat grind.

Chris Reeve has made an ex­cel­lent prod­uct with his line of fold­ing knives. Th­ese are the best ex­am­ple of a hol­low grind. No­tice how there is al­most a sweep­ing ef­fect getting deeper and deeper all the way to the cut­ting edge.

Full flat back, with a flat grind start­ing at the mid­way point of the face of the knife with a steeper bevel at the cut­ting edge. Emer­son knives are the epit­ome of the chisel grind knife blade. This knife is an ex­cel­lent user as well as a dev­as­tat­ing tac­ti­cal de­fense blade. While this is a lit­tle tricky to see in a pho­to­graph, no­tice how the cut­ting edge of the knife blade moves away from the straight edge, round­ing to the cut­ting edge. This Bark River Lit­tle Creek is an ex­am­ple of a convex grind.

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