FALSE BE­LIEFS

COM­MON MIS­CON­CEP­TIONS THAT PLAGUE THE KNIFE WORLD

Knives Illustrated - - CONTENTS - TEXT & PHOTOS BY JONATHAN KIL­BURN

Have you ever ques­tioned the “facts” within the knife world? Truth be told, they may not be as ac­cu­rate as you had pre­vi­ously thought. It’s de­bunk­ing time! By Jonathan Kil­burn

There are times when a state­ment or an idea is re­peated con­stantly, over a long pe­riod of time, and it be­comes a true be­lief to most peo­ple. They tend not to ques­tion it, or test it, or do any­thing else ex­cept pass it down to the younger gen­er­a­tion and thus, the cy­cle be­gins anew. This type of mis­con­cep­tion also runs ram­pant in the knife world. As a child, any­thing my grand­fa­ther told me about tools be­came the un­de­ni­able truth, even if it wasn’t the ap­pro­pri­ate tool. As an adult, I have the op­tion to ex­plore the truth, or un­truths, be­hind such age-old state­ments, that can only ben­e­fit me, and knife en­thu­si­asts in gen­eral over the long term. The al­ter­na­tive

op­tions, as op­posed to a life­time of er­ro­neous facts, may vastly im­prove our qual­ity of work and can al­low us to pre­vent cer­tain painful be­hav­iors that could, in truth, be avoided with some mi­nor re­search.

Now is the time for en­light­en­ment, as we take a deep dive into com­mon knife myths and cor­rect those that are just long­stand­ing fal­la­cies with some modern and up­dated in­for­ma­tion.

01. STAIN­LESS STEEL DOESN’T RUST

Ask any Florid­ian about stain­less steel, and they will tell you that any­thing will rust in Florida. It’s ac­cu­rate that a stain­less knife per­forms well and lasts longer in a hu­mid en­vi­ron­ment, but this does not mean it is im­per­vi­ous to the el­e­ments. Stain­less knives are gen­er­ally made of a slightly softer steel that is more cor­ro­sion-re­sis­tant with the in­clu­sion of chromium. For win­ter-use blades and hu­mid en­vi­ron­ments, this steel re­mains an ex­cel­lent op­tion, but still needs to be main­tained.

02. CAR­BON STEEL KNIVES SHOULDN’T BE USED AROUND WA­TER

I can’t tell you how of­ten I hear from peo­ple that they will only use stain­less steel in the kitchen. Granted, there are

ben­e­fits to stain­less, but a prop­erly main­tained car­bon blade may last longer, re­main sharper and can in­deed be­come more wa­ter-re­sis­tant with age. High-qual­ity kitchen knives are pri­mar­ily made from car­bon steel, since they re­main in­cred­i­bly sharp for pro­longed pe­ri­ods of time. With all that use, they de­velop a nice patina over time that does min­i­mally pre­serve the blade.

03. KNIVES CRE­ATED FROM RAIL­ROAD SPIKES CON­TAIN THE HIGH­EST QUAL­ITY MA­TE­RIAL

No, they do not. Ev­ery­one has seen rail­road spike knives. They are easy to forge, and ma­te­ri­als are pretty in­ex­pen­sive, com­par­a­tively. But there is a rea­son why. The car­bon con­tent of the spikes is dras­ti­cally low and will change de­pend­ing on where the spike is. The same can be said about the track it­self. Straight­aways have only 0.12% car­bon and curves have 0.30% car­bon. The stan­dard and ac­cept­able car­bon con­tent for a high-car­bon steel in knife­mak­ing is 0.85% to 1.05%. That is a con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ence. So, put away that rail­road anvil, it’s not go­ing to sat­isfy the re­quire­ments; files re­main a su­pe­rior al­ter­na­tive.

04. ALL STAIN­LESS STEEL IS THE SAME

Peo­ple tend to shy away from the term “stain­less” for very com­pelling rea­sons. But, that has im­proved over the last 20 years. Stain­less steels have some sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits com­pared to other al­ter­na­tive al­loys. There are five types of stain­less steel — fer­ritic, austenitic, marten­sitic, du­plex, and pre­cip­i­ta­tion hard­en­ing — which vary in strength due to the ad­di­tives and al­loys in­cluded in the steel it­self. CPM S30VN, a modern stain­less, is one of the hard­est steel types avail­able for knife­mak­ers to­day, and con­tains more car­bon than a “high car­bon” rail­road spike.

05. ONLY SHARPEN A KNIFE WHEN IT NEEDS IT

The most ef­fi­cient way to keep a blade in tip-top shape is to con­stantly sharpen and hone the edge. Harder steels make it in­cred­i­bly chal­leng­ing to get a top-qual­ity edge from a dull one. As it is used, it will be­come more and more dif­fi­cult to sharpen, but th­ese ma­te­ri­als will re­tain an edge bet­ter than al­ter­na­tives. Keep­ing “con­stant sharp” will limit the amount of time needed to re­fine the blade and also keep it in its best shape, in case disas­ter or ne­ces­sity strike. Hon­ing a blade also doesn’t re­quire much ef­fort, as you can hone a knife on the palm of your hand after each use and be­fore sheath­ing. There’s noth­ing wrong with pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance.

06. FULL TANG IS THE ONLY TANG YOU SHOULD USE

Tech­ni­cally a full tang is stur­dier than other types of tangs, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best op­tion. Dif­fer­ent tang op­tions de­pend on the grip, use, and ma­te­ri­als used. While it’s true, a full-tang blade will of­fer strength through­out the han­dle, this de­sign also adds a sig­nif­i­cant amount of weight. This is es­pe­cially ac­cu­rate when us­ing a high-car­bon steel, like 1095. Also, han­dle de­signs are lim­ited and may be un­com­fort­able or un­safe for the task at hand.

07. KNIVES ARE IN­HER­ENT WEAPONS

This is more com­mon with those who are not ex­pe­ri­enced with knives. It’s ac­cu­rate, in that any blade can be used as a weapon, but knives are first and fore­most a tool. Any de­vi­a­tion from an in­tended pur­pose will put ex­treme strain on the edge and the user, which could po­ten­tially be lethal. There seems to re­main a com­mon­place idea that a knife should in­vari­ably be a weapon. That just isn’t the whole re­al­ity, any more than it is that a wrench can be­come a weapon.

08. FOLD­ERS CAN’T PER­FORM AS WELL AS FIXED BLADES

A gen­er­a­tion ago or more, this idea might have been valid. How­ever, a

“… CER­TAIN PAINFUL BE­HAV­IORS … COULD, IN TRUTH, BE AVOIDED WITH SOME MI­NOR RE­SEARCH.”

well-made fold­ing knife can per­form al­most any task a fixed blade can han­dle. Granted, a folder will be much more likely to break where the blade and han­dle meet. This area will in­evitably have thin, mov­ing parts, so care must be taken to pro­tect this area from un­nec­es­sary dam­age. The blade it­self will han­dle any im­pact or use that a fixed knife of the same steel type will han­dle. Tak­ing a qual­ity folder as a backup for a bush knife is not im­prac­ti­cal.

09. HARDER STEEL OF­FERS GREATER EDGE RE­TEN­TION

This is true … to a point. Un­doubt­edly, how you han­dle the knife for the task at hand is more a fac­tor for re­tain­ing a sharp­ened edge than the makeup of the steel it­self. If im­prop­erly cared for, any knife — no mat­ter how hard the steel may be — will dull. The gen­eral trade-off with harder steel is that it’s also more brit­tle steel. That edge may be ra­zor-sharp, but it’s also go­ing to be con­sid­er­ably easy to chip or dam­age.

“… MIS­CON­CEP­TION ALSO RUNS RAM­PANT IN THE KNIFE WORLD.”

10. ONE KNIFE SHOULD PER­FORM ALL TASKS

This idea both­ers me and is only a re­cent con­cep­tion of sur­vival blades. The idea is that if some­one is left in the woods with only one knife, they could sur­vive. While a good idea in the­ory, it com­pletely di­min­ishes the ca­pa­bil­ity fo­cus of all knives. This cre­ates a mish­mash of knife de­signs that are not ef­fi­cient at one thing, but medi­ocre at all things. The one thing multi-tools do well, is per­form all tasks poorly. Don’t get me wrong, sur­vival blades re­main noth­ing to gawk at, but part of be­ing pre­pared is pos­sess­ing the proper tools for the job.

11. ONE KNIFE IS ENOUGH

Let’s be re­al­is­tic. One knife is never enough, oth­er­wise you wouldn’t be reading this. KI

ANZA Knives are hand­made knives which uti­lize tool files. The file’s tool steel is hard­ened and ground down to a sharp edge. They make ex­cel­lent and durable blades that will han­dle nearly any task they are pre­sented with. This type of steel is a bet­ter op­tion than a rail­road spike.

Bot­tom Left: Stain­less steel is all sim­i­lar in that all stain­less steel is cor­ro­sion-re­sis­tant. S35VN, or Stain­less 35 Vana­dium Nio­bium, is one of the new­est forms of stain­less steel. White River Tool and Knife pro­duces sev­eral high-qual­ity knives made from this rel­a­tively new and ex­tremely durable stain­less steel.

Bot­tom Right: There are many other al­ter­na­tives to full-tang blades. Full tang has be­come quite pop­u­lar over the last 10 years, but many man­u­fac­tur­ers pre­fer other meth­ods to fix their blades to the han­dles. Other tang op­tions also al­low for a han­dle to wrap all the way around and in­su­late the hand from metal. This is ex­tremely im­por­tant in cold tem­per­a­tures.

Even though it’s po­ten­tially prob­lem­atic to use, a fold­ing knife can still help to process wood at a camp site. Find­ing a folder with a pre­ferred grind is a great way to keep a backup ready at all times. If nec­es­sary, this Scandi Folder from TOPS is a valu­able as­set for pro­cess­ing wood.

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