The Cutting Edge

The official blog of Knife Depot

Category: Knife Learning (page 1 of 4)

Best Ways to Test Your Knife’s Sharpness

This post has been updated since it was first posted in August 2012.

The vast majority of people can’t tell a dull knife from a sharp knife. People automatically assume that if a knife can cut, it’s sharp.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

A dull knife will usually cut, but it requires much more force and energy than if you’re cutting with a truly sharp knife. So how can you tell if a knife is truly sharp? Here are a few ways to determine the sharpness of a blade.

Let us know your sharpness tests in the comments.

1. The Paper Test

Probably the most tried and true method is the good ol’ fashioned paper test. Grab a piece of paper, hold it between your fingers, and slide the knife downward. If it’s sharp, it will cleanly and easily slice the paper with just the weight of the knife. If it’s dull, it will usually be ragged or slip right off. This test also allows you to find any jagged or missed spots if you cut the whole length of the edge on a single stroke.

For an even better test of a blade’s sharpness, use a piece of magazine paper. Paper from a magazine is exceptionally thin and slick, which makes it even more difficult for a knife to slice through. According to Mike Vellekamp (who used to work at Spyderco before his current venture of V Nives), Sal Glesser used to make them use paper from National Geographic magazines. Phone book paper is an even tougher test, and  toilet paper is the toughest.

Yet another variation fo the paper test is to fold the paper in half so it has a rounded edge. Cut the paper along the rounded edge and if it’s sharp, it will catch and cut the page.

Here’s a good clip from the legendary Bob Kramer on the paper test.

2.  The Shaving Test

If you’ve ever watched knife reviews on YouTube, you’re probably familiar with the next test. It involves running the knife along your hair (usually your arm hair) and watching the little hairs get lopped off as the blade comes gliding through. Any hairs that fold under will indicate that the blade is not up to snuff.

Continue reading

What is Rockwell Hardness and What Does it Actually Mean?

If you’ve bought a knife in the past, you’ve undoubtedly seen something like “HRC 56-58” in the specs.

You may know that it represents the hardness of a blade or even that it is measured on the Rockwell scale. But if you don’t know what it actually means for your knife, you’re not alone.

Understanding the Rockwell hardness is not the most intuitive thing out there, but with a little information, you can be more informed about the characteristics and performance of your knife.

Let’s delve in.

What is the Rockwell Scale?

A blade’s hardness is based on the Rockwell scale. The Rockwell scale was cocreated by Hugh and Stanley Rockwell in the early 20th century to test the hardness of different materials. There are several different scales by which a material’s hardness is measured on, but blade steels are measured on the C scale. (HRC means Hardness on Rockwell scale C.)

To find the value, a diamond-tipped cone is impressed into the steel to measure the depth of the indentation. It’s pressed into the steel at two levels of pressure and then the numbers are measured before calculating the results into the HRC via a formula.

Here is a quick video talking about the measuring process.

Rockwell testing can leave a mark on the steel, which is why many makers measure it on a part of the steel that’s concealed by the handle.

What Does HRC Mean?

So now that you know how it’s tested, what does the number actually mean? The HRC — which also goes by other abbreviations like RC — lets you know the hardness of the steel. A low HRC number means the steel is softer and a higher number means it’s harder.

Continue reading

6 Reasons Why Some Knives Are Discontinued

discontinued knives

We’ve all experienced it. You had your favorite knife for years—say a Kershaw Groove. You used the hell out of it. You took it to your wedding. You carried it every day for the last 10 years. Maybe you even used it to cut your first born son’s umbilical cord.

Then it finally gives way and simply stops working.

But when you go to Knife Depot to buy another, you find out it’s no longer in production. You drop to your knees, raise your fists to the sky, and curse the gods for such cruelty.

Maybe it doesn’t happen quite like that, but discontinued knives are a sad reality for knife fans.

So why do some of our favorite knives get the boot? Several reasons abound, including some that may surprise you.

1) It no longer makes money.

We’ll start with the most obvious reason why a knife might be discontinued. It’s not a moneymaker. This is actually a lot more complicated than it sounds, so we’ll break it up into different facets.

The knife sold poorly from the start.

Companies tend to release a slew of knives each year. Some hit the mark and others miss it by a mile. There will usually be people who buy every knife, but that’s not always enough to sustain the continued production of a product line.

Kershaw Tremor

Discontinued Kershaw Tremor

The Kershaw Tremor is one of those knives that came and went in only a few years, most likely due to poor sales. Not long into its run, the price of the Tremor dropped significantly. It went away quietly.

The knife sees fewer and fewer new sales.

Extremely popular knives are also discontinued, thanks to the idea of a product’s life cycle. Say a new knife comes out that’s exceptionally popular—the Starbird. The Starbird has huge, record sales when it first comes out and it’s the talk of the town. Sales continue to rise and rise. Eventually, the number of sales will reach a peak. As everyone who wants the Starbird has already bought it (market saturation), sales will begin declining.

Continue reading

What is a Friction Folder and How Does It Work?

We’re in the age of locking knives. Each major knife brand has at least one of its own proprietary locking mechanisms. There’s the Tri-Ad Lock, the Compression Lock, the AXIS Lock, the Arc Lock, the Reeve Integral Lock, and many more.

But it wasn’t always like that.

Not long ago, most knives were slipjoint knives. These folding knives use backsprings to keep a blade open or closed, even though it’s not technically locked. And before that, there were friction folders.

In fact, the first folding knives ever made were friction folders. Let’s find out what these actually are.

What is a Friction Folder?

A friction folder is a folding knife that doesn’t use a lock or springs. It uses the handle’s friction against the tang to stay open. Over the years, the design has adapted to feature an extended tang. This allows the user’s hand to keep the blade from folding shut.

As you can tell by the description, friction folders aren’t for hard use. They are excellent for light cutting, but put any pressure on the spine and your fingers will be toast.

Continue reading

How Portland Became the Knife Capital of the US

portland-gerber

These days Portland is best known for old-timey beards, hipsters, microbreweries, and veganism. But, if you look past the alternative culture oozing out of the city, you’ll find out that Portland is the undisputed knife capital of the United States.

That’s not surprising considering some of the most important knife innovations and designs have come out of the Portland metropolitan area over the past 75 years or so.

How did Oregon’s largest city take a seat among the greatest knife cities of the world—alongside Solingen, Germany; Seki City, Japan; and Sheffield, England?

Read on.

Portland’s Start in the Knife Business

Pretty much all of Portland’s importance in the knife community can be traced back to one name: Gerber.

Gerber-Logo

It started back in 1910 when the Gerber family set up an advertising business in Portland—a business that still runs today. Joseph Gerber, founder of the Gerber advertising agency, was looking to send gifts to his clients during the holiday season. So he obtained carving knives from a local knife maker named David Murphy.

According to a great article in the Portland Business Journal discussing the city’s place in the knife industry, the knives were a hit. Because the knives were so popular, Gerber arranged for Murphy to produce the knives on a larger scale.

Then, in 1939, he established Gerber Legendary Blades and made his first sale to Abercrombie & Fitch.

By 1939, Gerber wasn’t the only knife company to call Portland its home. Coast had been established earlier in 1919. The company, which still makes knives and flashlights, was founded by Henry Brands near the banks of the Willamette River in Portland. An excellent early history of Coast can be found on its website.

Portland_and_Mt_Hood

While Coast remains an important name in the history of Portland knives, much of the city’s stake today can be attributed to Gerber. Thanks to his marketing prowess, Joseph Gerber turned those holiday gifts into thousands of retail accounts around the country. Then, when his son Pete Gerber took over the company from 1951 to 1987, the company only grew bigger.

Continue reading

What’s the Deal with Cancer Warnings on Knives?

538948

If you bought a knife in the past, you probably noticed the inclusion of a sticker or piece of paper that says something along the lines of “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

Don’t be alarmed. You’re not going to get cancer or cause birth defects if you use and carry the knife regularly.

This warning, which can be found on knives from companies like Buck and Schrade, is the result of California’s Proposition 65. Way back in 1986, California voters passed an initiative aimed at reducing the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in drinking water. For the most part, the proposition was successful, but there were some downsides.

Part of Prop 65 prohibits businesses from knowingly exposing individuals to select substances without providing a clear and reasonable warning. That’s fine in theory—who wouldn’t want to know if there are cancer-causing chemicals in things. The only problem is that the substances on the list are pretty much present in everything.

Continue reading

Get the new Knife Law App from Knife Rights

knife-app
I’ve lamented the fact that there aren’t many useful knife apps out there, aside from the fantastic Steel Knife Composition App from zknives.com, but now you can add another to that list: the LegalBlade app.

Created by Knife Rights, the app gives you information on knife laws for all 50 states, along with info on select cities and jurisdictions in the U.S.

As someone who travels frequently, I’ve been waiting for something like this to come along. Knife laws in the United States are a confusing mess. Each state has its own variations of certain laws and some cities have different laws than neighboring ones.

Continue reading

Why Knives Make the Best Father’s Day Gifts

A novelty necktie. A “World’s Greatest Dad” mug. An apron for barbecuing.

If you’re a dad, chances are you’ve unwrapped a present on Father’s Day to find one of the above items and had to force a smile and say “thanks” with as much sincerity as you could muster.

If you’re a child and you gave one of these items, you have no excuses.

Father’s Day should be a time when you give or receive something that’s functional yet touching. Something that’s long-lasting but useful. And yes, this mystical gift that’s all of these things does exist: the knife.

Here are a few reasons why.

Knives are useful.

The absolute worst part of a gift like a novelty necktie is that it’ll never get used. Maybe on some off chance the office will have a crazy tie day, but even then the tie will already be lost in the garage somewhere.

Continue reading

Personalized Knives for Groomsmen

Personalized-knives
Nearly 40% of all weddings take place in between May and August, which means it’s time to get your tuxedo dry-cleaned because you’re probably headed to a wedding in the next few weeks.

If you’re the one getting married, chances are you’ve had to put one of your brothers or buddies up to the task of being a groomsmen. It’s safe to say they’d much rather be out hunting or watching a basketball game than getting fit for a tux or going to rehearsals.

That’s why it’s always nice to thank them with a gift. Whereas the traditional gift is a fancy pocket watch or expensive cufflinks, these items will just collect dust over the years because they’re either too expensive to use or the opportunity to use them never comes up again.

That’s why you should steer clear of those gifts and get your groomsmen pocket knives. Here’s why.

Pocket knives can be personalized Continue reading

Knife Steel App a Must-Have for Knife Nuts

steel appThere aren’t many useful smartphone apps out there that pertain to knives—in fact, there aren’t more than a handful.

There’s a great app called Kitchen Knife Skills that shows you how to expertly cut difficult foods like avocados, but other than that there’s not much for the knife fanatics. That is, except for the absolutely amazing Knife Steel Composition Chart.

We recommended this app back when it came out in 2012, but we thought it’d be wise to come back to the app because it’s definitely a must-have for any collector, custom knifemaker or knife knut.

mzl.lqaukcai.320x480-75The app is a knife steel composition and name cross-reference database for all types of alloys used in knife blades. According to the description, the app features about 5,600 alloy names and more than 930 compositions, which covers pretty much anything you could ever want to look for. Some of the things you won’t find are proprietary steels, which are classified. For those who like to get deep down and dirty, there is a composition comparison that has a bar graph with three different options that show the mass percentage, molar masses and atomic count per 1,000 atoms.

If I lost you there, chances are you probably won’t use that part of the app too much, but the app could be a great resource if you’re trying to learn more about the steel composition of the blades in your collection. One of the most useful things in the app is the “Notes” section of each steel type that gives a brief description of the steel—like where you’ll commonly find the steel and some of the characteristics of it.

Another really useful resource is found not in the app, but on zknives, the website of the creator of the app. The chemical elements effects on steel portion of the site gives a nice breakdown of what effects each element has on the steel. For example, the section says that Molybdenum prevents brittleness and improves machinability and resistance to corrosion. This helps put some of the steel compositions found in the app into perspective. The website in general has a lot of great resources, so we also recommend checking out zknives.

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2019 The Cutting Edge

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑