Blade Testing: Any agreed rules?

Oct 20, 2000
I have read on numerous occasions about tests done on knives by various people.

Some of these tests, I thought, were rather extreme. Are there any agreed upon standards or tests for knives, perhaps laid down by the American Bladesmiths Society, or even the Bladeforums Moderators Guild?

If there are no Common Laws on Knife Testing, there should be some by now.

Perhaps there can be something like the Ten Commandments of Knife Testing. To achieve a common understanding of what entails in knife testing, certain ground rules must be made clear and agreed upon by knifemakers and recognised authorities on knives.

In this way, there would be no dispute in future about unfair standards imposed on knives. Scientifically, any knife can be broken or bent or knocked out of shape if enough pressure is applied.

Consider some of the best metallurgical products ever marketed. Still we read about flaws and other stuff that happens to these unbelievably strong metals under exceptional circumstances.

Like I say, given conditions experienced under perculiar conditions, anything can happen. Same goes for knives.

It would benefit everybody if some standards or tests are agreed upon. Then when knives are subjected to these tests and still perform magnificently, let no one dispute the results.
Um ... no, there isn't universal agreement on knife testing. Some people object to all posted knife tests and trot out the good old "you can break any knife if you abuse it badly enough" every time they see a report of a knife breaking in half while it was being used to butter toast....

Even among sincere knife knuts there is considerable disagreement. Different knives are made for different purposes so they have to be tested differently ... you might think we could all agree on that much, but some perfectly sincere knife knuts have no clue what a 1/4" (6.35mm) thick knife blade is for, and sincerely believe knives are only good for cutting things and you'd be better off using an ax to chop and a crowbar to pry.

Among people who are both sincere and have a clue there is not as much disagreement, and when we do disagree we don't get so upset about it. There's a whole forum on this website devoted to knife reviews and testing; have a look!
The one rule I am almost sure everyone could agree on is:

Do not cut yourself!

People make really lousy testing material. Unless of course, you are performing the ancient Samurai Sword test, complete bisection of a peasant from shoulder to hip with your katana

The ABS has a set of tests they use for the Journeyman tests that are kinda standardized. It's on their web page somewhere I think
SInce one of those tests is bending the blade to 90 degrees to see if it will break, or spring back partly, that pretty much leaves out folders. Well, maybe the SIFU's blade is long enough.

Beyond that, the knives tested for the journeyman test must be forged. The blade must be able to cut a single piece of free-hanging 1" Manila rope, no longer than 6". Then the knife must chop through a 2x4 twice, then prove it is still shaving sharp. Forgot to say that when the blade is bent 90 degrees, the edge is allowed to crack, but no major cracks or breaks are allowed.

Not real sure of this, but believe many/most of the high alloy steels out there are just too brittle at the hardness level at which they are sold.

I do think that rope cutting could be done. Cold Steel does some rope cutting, at least with it's larger folders. (Don'tbeleive I've heard of any other company doing that??) For some knives, chopping would be appropriate, but not for very many.

I think that the tests need to be directed at the stated forte of the knife involved. Spine whacks on liner locks seems only fair. A fighter/tactical knife should be used for stabbing -- into some acceptable replacement for human flesh. Rich guys use legs of lamb. I just am not sure that stabbing blue jeans stuffed with wet rolled newspapers is a realistic substitute. Have to have controls on # of pages, etc, plus the worn status of the levis.

It ain't easy. Still, I think that for the "average" user of folders, some sort of realistic tests could be devised. Maybe somebody should ask the manufacturers or custom makers of folders to come up with a "standarized testing" system.
Just try not to put somebody's eye out.

Andrew L
who really should cut down on his caffein intake...
There was an interesting article on this topic by Steve Schwarzer (Knife Tests: Slicing Through The Hype pgs 75-81) in the January 2000 issue of Blade.

He argued that the skill and talent of the person performing the test may have a more significant impact on the results than the knife that they are testing. Some of the guys chopping 2x4 might be able to hack through one with raw steel stock faster than you can do it with the knife of your choice.

not2sharp :

the skill and talent of the person performing the test may have a more significant impact on the results than the knife

That is why you always should present the results of at least one other similar knife, the more the better. As well as get the opinions of some friends to see if the results will be altered with different hand shapes, body structures etc. . Also see if you can get a statement from the maker/manufacturer as to if what you describe is the expected performance or not.

Bugs3x :

I think that the tests need to be directed at the stated forte of the knife involved.

I think this needs to be included, but I don't think that the work should be restricted to just that. For example I think that you should also do work in which the blade performs poorly and contrast it with another blade that does very well in that area. Thus the work tends to be less promotional but gives a much more complete picture to the reader.

It should be the reader who decides which is really the "better" blade. This is not a trivial decision and depends on what they need and how badly it is needed. Each advantage comes at the cost of performance in some other area so the performance has to be weighted based on the strength of the needs/wants in the various areas.