Want a knife but don’t know where to start? There are many factors you may want to consider when selecting a knife, and it can become overwhelming. We created this guide in order to give you a brief overview of the various components of a knife so it is easier to select the knife that will fit your needs.
Some factors you may want to consider:
Usage- What will you primarily use this knife for? An everyday carry? A tool for processing firewood?
Size- Does the knife have to fit a certain size requirement? Do you want it to fit in your pocket? Do you want wear it in a sheath?
Type of Steel- What are the quality requirements that you want the blade to have?
Color or Coating- Do you have a preference on the color? Do you want the blade to be coated?
Handle Material- What would you like the handle to be made of?
Fixed or Folding- Do you want a knife that folds, or do you prefer to have a knife that does not?
Production, Mid-tech, or Custom- Do you want a knife that is completely manufactured, partially manufactured, or 100% custom made?
Price Range- How much are you willing to pay?
One way to narrow down what kind of knife you want to buy is by what you plan to use the knife for. Most people use their knives as a tool, or as an everyday carry (EDC)
If you are using a knife as a tool, such as to process firewood or cut down brush, a fixed blade that goes in a sheath may be ideal. Common steel used in this type of knife is tool steel or carbon steel.
If you’re looking for a knife as an everyday carry, you probably want to look for a knife that can be placed easily in a pocket or a bag, and that folds. A common type of steel used in this kind of knife would be stainless steel. Most of these type of knives have a pocket clip attached.
Knives come in various sizes. The size of the knife is important if you are looking for an everyday carry. In this case, you would want a knife that is small enough to fit in a pocket or a bag. You want the handle to always be a size that fits comfortably in your hand.
There are a lot of different types of steel (literally thousands), and it’s important when choosing a knife to know the difference. Steel is imperative to blade performance. The most common materials for making blades include carbon steel, stainless steel, and tool steel.
Carbon Steel- Carbon steel is tough, durable and easy to sharpen than stainless steel. They lack chromium; therefore they are more susceptible to corrosion.
Stainless Steel- This steel resists corrosion and is easy to maintain. It does not completely resist corrosion or rust. To be considered stainless it must have a chromium content of at least 13%.
Tool Steel- This steel combines a variety of carbon and alloy steels that are well suited to be made into tools.
Sometimes, other elements are added.
Some common additives include:
Carbon- Increases hardness, increases edge retention
Chromium- Can make blade stainless, increases strength
Cobalt- Increases strength and hardness
Copper- Increase in corrosion resistance
Manganese- Deoxidizes, can increase hardness and brittleness in large quantities
Molybdenum- Increases strength, hardness and toughness. Also improves machinability and is helps with resistance to corrosion
Nickel- Corrosion resistance, reduces hardness, adds toughness
Phosphorus- Adds hardness, improves strength and machinability, creates brittleness in high volumes.
Silicon- Removes oxygen from metal, increases strength
Sulfur- Improves machinability
Tungsten- Retains hardness at high temperatures, adds strength
Vanadium- Improves corrosion resistance, increases strength
Below are common steels found in the knives at Going Gear:
Color and Coating
The color of your knife is purely preference. Some people prefer a plain look, while others prefer add a plate to their handles or have a design. Another option is a coated blade. While a blade can be coated in any color, the most popular coating color is black.
Some common blade coatings include; Diamond-Like Carbon, Powder Coating, Zinc-Oxide Coating, Teflon Coating and TiNi Coating.
One negative aspect of having a coated knife, is that the knife may be more susceptible to scratches.
There are a variety of blade types including a single edge, double edge, plain edge and a serrated edge.
Single Edge: This type is the most common type of edge. This means that the “bottom” of the knife is sharpened, and that the “top” is not.
Double edge- The blade is sharpened on both the top and the bottom
Plain edge- The blade does not have serrations or “teeth”
Serrated or Partially Serrated- The blade has serrations, or “teeth” cut into the blade. If it is partially serrated, then the blade only has teeth on part of the blade.
Fixed, Folding, Sliding
A knife can be classified as either fixed, folding or sliding.
A fixed blade knife, also called a sheath knife, does not fold or slide and is typically stronger due to the tang. The tang is the extension of the blade into the handle. This creates a lack of movable parts making it strong.
A folding blade knife connects the blade to the handle through a pivot. This allows the blade to fold into the handle. These types of knives typically have a locking mechanism that prevents injusty to the knife user’s hand.
A sliding knife is a knife which is opened by sliding the blade out of the front end of the handle. Another form is an out-the-front (OTF) switchblade. An OTF only requires the push of a button, which automatically causes the blade to slide out of the handle and lock.
Handles of knives can be made from various materials and produced in a variety of shapes and styles. Each material has some advantages as well as some disadvantages. These are general qualities and can be overcome by some types of each material.
Some materials include:
Can be hard to care for
Does not resist water
Easier to care for than wood
Durability, Cushioning Nature
Not Flame Resistant, Wears Easily
Tough and Stable
Can be slippery, depending on material
Does not resist water unless treated
Durable and Sanitary
Uncomfortable in cold weather
Durable and Sanitary
Production, Mid-Tech, or Custom
Some people have a preference on whether their knife is a production, mid-tech or custom made knife.
Production- The knife is entirely manufactured by a manufacturer.
Custom- The knife is mostly made by a single person, sometimes with the aid of CNC and other high-tech equipment.
Mid-Tech- A combination of production and custom. Mid-tech knives are usually seen as high-end production knives without a custom knifemaker's name on them instead of a production manufacturer's name. Mid-techs are often hand-finished by the custom maker.
A knife’s price depends on the materials, size, brand, and technology of the knife. Knowing your price point, or how much you are willing to spend will greatly narrow down your options. With so many knives on the market, you are likely to find a quality knife that is within your price point.
Choosing a knife can be overwhelming if you do not understand the various components. So take your time and do your research before you make a decision. Choose a knife that fits to your liking. Once you have completed your research, you can find tons of options to fit your requirements on our website. Have a question or two? Do not hesitate to call or email us!