Choosing the right knife can be confusing but when you know the theory behind ‘bladesmithing’ then it becomes a much easier task. This is the first part of an in depth guide on choosing a knife and I’ve broken it down to ‘Grind,’ ‘Handle & Length’ and ‘Steel & Everything Else’
The Flat Knife Grind
The most common grind you will find in a kitchen and used to get some of the sharpest edges you will find. The flat grind is created by grinding a steady slope from the spine to the bevel at the bottom. This means a very fine fine edge can be created resulting in an exceptionally sharp knife. However with the steel being thin behind the edge it is also vulnerable damage.
If you want a knife that will be robust yet delicate enough to use as a hunters/outdoor kitchen knife then between 2.5 and 3mm spine is the sweet spot for your first knife of this type.
Pro’s – An extremely sharp edge can be obtained, A steady taper allows the knife to be pushed through something making it ideal for a chefs knife.
Con’s – Less durable than other grinds, doesn’t make for a good wood working knife, difficult to sharpen on the field.
The Scandi Grind or V Grind
If you are into bushcraft and survival then you will probably have already heard of the Scandi grind. But what is it?
The scandi is actually just a variation on the flat grind. The difference it doesn’t taper until much closer to the blade which results in a strong spine whilst maintaining a good edge. With the taper being much steeper you won’t quite get the edge you can get on a full flat grind. However with the steel being thicker behind the edge you will have a much more robust blade capable of carrying out heavier jobs such as ‘batoning.’
The other huge benefit of a scandi grind is how easy it to sharpen on the field. Its easy to set your angle on the stone with the obvious change in grind . on the flip side the short taper creates a wedge shaped which is not ideal for food prep as you’ll be splitting your apples rather than slicing them.
Finally it makes for a great carving knife as you can easily see what angle your blade is at in relation to the wood.
Pro’s – Great all round grind. Robust. Great for carving and most tasks around camp. Easy to sharpen.
Con’s – Not great for food prep. Edge will need to be maintained often as it will dull quickly. If the blade is damaged it requires alot of work to fix.
Convex Knife Grind
Not very common but generally very expensive!
The convex grind is similar to the Scandi grind in that the taper begins close to the knife edge. However it has a rounded curve rather than a straight grind which means the steel behind the edge is thicker resulting in one of the most durable grinds on the market.
Ideal for chopping, strong enough for hard working tasks and a long lasting edge make it the ultimate survival knife grind. However it takes alot of skill and time to sharpen. For that reason they are quite uncommon and very much a specialist blade,
Pro’s – Strong. Durable edge. All rounder.
Con’s – Very difficult to sharpen .
High Flat Knife Grind
In between a flat grind and a Scandi grind. Used to give a knife stiffness whilst retaining a sharp edge.
Pro’s – An extremely sharp edge can still be obtained, Knife will be a lot stiffer making it more useful for wood working.
Con’s – Still less durable than the scandi grind, difficult to sharpen on the field.
Hollow Knife Grind
A hollow grind is the go to for skinning. A thick spine stops the blade from bending whilst the concave grind results in an extremely sharp edge. Great for jobs where a sharp edge is essential and a sharpening stone is at hand.
Pro’s – Supremely sharp, Doesn’t have much flex.
Con’s – Requires constant maintenance to keep the edge.
Asymmetrical Knife Grinds
Asymmetrical knives are custom made for the user by a smith. Skilled carvers tend to use them as it allows the knife to be used for two different jobs. Pro and Cons will be dependant on the two grinds used.
Compound Knife Grind
Also known as a ‘secondary bevel grind’ the compound is one grind on top of another. This allows you to achieve a sharper edge whilst maintaining some durability. This is quite common on some all purpose knives.
For e.g. If you take a scandi grind and add a hollow grind on top of it you will have a knife that will be robust and thin enough to skin with. The disadvantage here would be that it wont be as sharp as a straight hollow grind.
more often a Scandi grind may have slight secondary convex grind which makes the edge tougher but less suitable for carving.
A flexible belt grinder will make a convex grind where it sharpens due to the flex in the belt.
Pros – Results in a sharper edge whilst maintaining durability
Cons – Its bang in the middle so wont be as sharp as a flat grind or durable as a scandi. May also be difficult to sharpen.
Chisel Knife Grind
Designed for heavy duty cutting. Extremely easy to sharpen and very robust.
Pros – Easy to sharpen
Cons – Limited Uses