Choosing a knife: Two things to consider

April 15, 2023

A knife is one of the ten essentials developed by a Seattle based mountaineering club in the 1930’s. It is important to have it for a variety of reasons ranging from first aid, food preparation, repairs and many more. When choosing a knife for your outdoors adventures, there are two things to take into consideration, hardness and the shape of the blade. Read on to learn more about your options.


One of the most important components in the makeup of a quality knife is the hardness of the steel. That is, the strength of the steel and how well it holds its edge. A small investment in good quality steel will lessen how often you must sharpen the knife and reduce the possibility of the blade braking.

There are many factors that affect that hardness, including the other metals and additives in the composition and how the blade is heat-treated. These small differences at a molecular level play a part in determining whether your knife will stay sharp for a few cuts or for a few thousand. And it also plays a part in how and where you might use your knife. For example, a good dive knife will have some nitrogen content in the makeup of the steel blade. Nitrogen helps deter rust.

High carbon steel will keep an edge longer and require less sharpening. Less expensive lower carbon steel being softer will sharpen easier than high carbon steel but will dull easier as well. An investment in a higher quality blade will serve you well.

Shape of the blade:

The shape of the blade will be determined by its use and what it primarily cuts. For example, a dive knife often has a blunted, or rounded, tip so it is less likely to puncture equipment and can also be used for prying. Generally, blade edges fall into three categories.


Straight edge blades cut clean and sharpen quickly. They can be found on most knives and cutlery. Hunting knives usually fall into this category as they are used for skinning animals. A common sharpening stone is used to maintain this type of knife. Cutting cordage can be difficult as one needs to saw the blade to get through all the fibers.


Fully serrated blades have jagged edges that cut through rope and other fibrous materials. These blades tend to stay sharp for a longer period, but they are more difficult to sharpen when it comes time to do so. A special tool is used to sharpen this type of knife.


Partially serrated blades have the best of both blades on one edge, so they are found on a great number of general-purpose knives.

The last thing to consider is whether you want a fixed or folding blade. A fixed blade has no moving parts and requires little maintenance other than sharpening. Folding knives have screws that may become loose. They do have a storage advantage as they fit in the pocket easier.

Bill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure carries a wide variety of brands known for their superior hardness and quality. If you have any questions, please contact us at 727-576-4169 or email at adventure@billjacksons.com.