It’s the age old question every explorer has had the pleasure of asking himself. But let’s be honest here guys, it all comes down to personal preference. When picking out a knife: it should feel comfortable in your hand, it needs to be practical to the environment you find yourself in most, and you want it to look good – curb appeal if you will. So you think you found the perfect knife. It’s a 7in Bowie ideal for cutting down trees and gutting fish, you purposely get lost in the woods to spend time with it. No, it’s an all purpose multi tool knife; making you the readily available handyman wherever you go. Or maybe it’s a simple folder that fits in your dress pants and hiking pants with ease. Whatever the case may be you want this knife to be dependable, something to get you through the ages, something you can pass down to your son. So how do you prevent the tragedies – rusting, bending, breaking, or dulling- that might prevent you from purchasing your next family heirloom. Like everything it comes down to the basics: type of steel, grind, and heat treat.
Stainless steel or carbon steel? Both have their pros and cons. Stainless steel is going to be less susceptible to rust when compared to carbon steel. This is due to the chromium infused into the carbon steel during the creation of the metal. Stainless steel will not discolor from acids found in fruits, vegetables, or various meets. Carbon steel is subject to patina due to acid discoloration. However a pure carbon blade will be harder, less brittle, and hold an edge longer than a stainless steel blade.
What kind of grind is on the blade? Knife blades come down to three simple formats: flat grind, convex grind and hollow grind. The flat grind comes to a point at a V, while sporting a prominent bevel. While the flat grind makes for a sharp knife the rather abrupt bevel makes for a lot of drag while cutting. The convex grind takes on the appearance of an apple seed. This design allows for the largest amount cutting surface area compared to the knife surface area and there is no extra drag due to the lack of a bevel. The hollow grind comes to a point from both sides of the blade at a concave angle. Making for a very sharp blade, however the concave point makes for a tricky sharpening experience and like the flat grind the bevel adds extra drag.
The heat treat on a knife is critical in order to bring the blade to its peek strength and performance. The heat treatment involves elevating the steel to extreme temperatures and then rapidly cooling the blade. In this way the molecular structure of the steel is aligned to its max potential. There are a number of techniques used to do this. You can determine the effectiveness of the heat treatment by looking up the results of the Rockwell test. Very hard steel should rate out at HRC 55-66. If the blade of your dreams is not up to proper standards don’t waste your time.