There are times when the phrase “the cutting edge” should be taken literally. It’s easy to become enamored with the wide variety of blades that are currently on the market, but the buyer should be aware that it’s far too easy to get hornswoggled by appearance and grandiose claims.
I’ll admit to having been taken in more than once by knives that were drop-dead gorgeous but really weren’t that useful. I’ve kept some of these beauties for display . . . but the fact of the matter is that they were usually less functional than blades ground and sawed from the leaf spring of an old Chevy truck. I say “old” because I don’t think I’d trust the structural integrity of a leaf-spring blade that came from a pickup manufactured after about 1970 (when car makers started going cheap on parts and materials).
The strength of the steel in a blade is far more important than looks, style, or purpose. This is merely a quick glace at different blade materials – knife buffs could debate this topic till long after the cows come home – but it will give you an idea of pros and cons.
Lots of folks love stainless steel. It doesn’t rust or corrode (usually) and the shiny appearance is derived from the fact that the steel itself has a chromium content of about 10 to 11 percent. Just keep in mind that stainless steel is available in a variety of grades. Do a bit of research when considering the purchase of a stainless blade; read the fine print and discover the hardness of the steel.
If you’re seeking strength alone you’ll find no shortage of people singing the praises of carbon steel. But, unless you care for it (which is something you should do with any knife . . . but it’s easy to forget or become sloppy) carbon steel is quick to rust or corrode. A positive point is that carbon steel tends to hold a pretty good edge.
High Carbon Stainless Steel
It was a bright fellow who decided to combine the longevity of stainless with the toughness of carbon. I always think of these blades as a very good choice. You get something of the best of both worlds . . . a strong blade that holds an edge but that is also relatively free of potential rust problems. It’s one of those alloys that work well, with a higher degree of carbon being added to the stainless steel.
This can mean a number of different things. The titanium blade might consist of a carbon and titanium alloy. On the other hand, it might be stainless steel that has been coated with titanium. The good points of titanium (either type) is that they’re lighter than steel. They’re generally flexible and hold a decent edge. Since they don’t corrode, titaniums are extremely popular with divers and the like. They’re tough. The only titanium blade I own is found on my filet knife, but I can tell you that it slices through the flesh of a very old, very tough catfish like nobody’s business.
Okay . . . just because I’m paranoid I’m always leery of claims stating a blade is Damascus steel. This type of steel originated in the Middle East and Asia (probably India) and was the height of excellence for about 2,000 years (beginning in 300 BC or thereabouts). We’re talking the great and legendary swords here, created in a process of banding, mottling and folding that resulted in blades that were incredibly sharp, tough and virtually shatterproof.
Fact . . . the arcane and artistic metallurgical science of making real Damascus steel was lost over time, though more than a few places claim they’ve been able to duplicate the process. Maybe yes . . . likely no. Whenever you see the term “Damascus steel,” fortify your sense of reality with a grain, box, or 50-lb. block of salt. So now that you know what you are looking at and the benefits the different blades can provide, why not go see the large selection of Swiss Army Knives that Wenger has?