Cutting Performance, rant against sharpened prybars.

Oct 8, 1998

Once again I might get into some hot cyber over this but here we go.

Sharpened pry bars? Why?

I mean doesn't CRKT say it well enough when they say.....

"A knife is the least effective and most expensive prybar you will ever own."

But multiple times a week people come into the knife store where I work and are looking for one quarter inch think, saber ground knives. Why?

You can buy a prybar from K Mart for 5 bucks.

And these sharpened prybars aren't going to cut as well as kithen knives even. Obviously because kitchen knives are thinner equalling less resistance.

But they are looking for choppers.....

So why don't they go get an axe?

A Vaughn 28 oz Rig Builders axe is slightly larger than a hatchet and of much better quality, 35 bucks.

I am getting to the point I am going to buy a prybar and use it as a demonstration tool.

"This is a pry bar."

"This is a knife"

Notice the differences.

The combining of the two is a violation of all that is sensible and efficient.

But then again that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at
I guess I was 10 (well maybe 11) when I figured out that thin blades worked (for a knife "work"=cut) much better than thick blades. When I started throwing knives I went through a phase where thicker was desireable (since I threw everything). Since then I'm back to as thin as I can get away with. Almost any knife you buy these days is thicker than I need. A thin piece of a very fine steel is thing of beauty. I hope AG Russell switches their hunting knives to BG-42 or A2.
I like to keep my folders to about 1/8" and fixed 3/16"-1/4" for the larger ones and I like 1/8-3/16" for the smaller ones. I too like thin knives.


Do you really want to know why or are you like so many self styled so called experts here that in the name of expressing their opinion want to bash something they don't understand and look smart to others that don't understand?
I think even a blade that is saber ground from 1/4" stock will cut well if it is ground thin enough at the edge before sharpening. A knife with a thick strong spine makes sense to me in a combat survival knife where the knife may be the only tool you have with you. They chop better and are better at non-cutting jobs like prying.

Even a knife from .25" stock will cut efficiently if the edge is ground down to around .02" - .03" before sharpening. The edge won't be as strong, but you shouldn't pry with that part of the blade anyway, it is too thin on most any knife.

A saber grind won't cut deep as easily as a full flat grind, and of course thinner is better for cutting, but a thick strong blade can cut well as long as the edge geometry is right.

If you are slicing (not chopping) through a stiff material like metal, bone, wood, plastic, leather, rubber, or even cardboard, blade geometry only partially compensates for excessive blade thickness. For years I used my knife in place of almost every cutting tool and the blade drag effects quickly dominate the effort to get through the material. For heavy chopping get a cleaver, hatchet, or axe. For thin brush clearing get a machete. For survival I favor a small hatchet and a modest sized sheath knife (with sharpening stone). I think one of the reasons serrations have become so popular is to compensate for excessive blade thickness. The serrations help chop up a wider channel for the blade to fit through.

And yes, of course we're being argumentative, but it seems like these heavy knives are so crude. Some of us always preferred rapiers to falchions.
Esteemed colleague eye: I carry two pry bars in all my cars. A standard small J-bar, and a titanium 18 incher of the usual configuration.

The knife I carry on my belt is a Mad Dog pygmy ATAK2, very much a sharpened prybar. Here's why:

I find that it works just fine for routine cutting chores. I do have knives with a more slim edge geometry, but rarely need to resort to them. On the occasions I do resort to them, I am not pressed for time.

I carry the prybars for extricating people from auto accidents. I carry the pATAK2 so that if I am away from my car, and don't have time to get to it for the prybars, I have a reasonable substitute. I do realize that this is a unlikely use to have to put my knife to, however, I saw very many extremely unlikely things in my 20 years in the ER. If I ever have to stick a knife between a jammed car door and the frame, and PRY, in a goldarned hurry, I don't want a flimsy sissy-boy knife in my hand.

Respectfully submitted, Walt Welch MD, Diplomate, American Board of Emergency Medicine
Harv- I think I see your point.

m- I don't consider myself an expert. Even if I did, I wouldn's consider myself a "self styled so called expert." And I resent your implication. I don't know what I did to p you off, but I was expressing an opinion. And yes, I want to know what you think, if you knew me you would know that. I mean, do I really deserve what you wrote? I was simply speaking about an idea, and you had to make it personal, I am hurt. Did I attack you? Did I say m, you dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah?

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at
Well Good Doctor,

I guess you explained the reasoning behing sharpened prybars.

And fairly well too.

Good to hear from you.

I guess I am eating crow on this one.

But there is still something about sharpened prybars that bother me, probably the fact that some expect the world out of them.

Maybe I am just not good with people, I seemed to have hit somebodies hot button with my post.

Marion David Poff aka Eye, one can msg me at
I kind of like the idea of a two bladed knife, one a 0.1" thick 3V slicer, and the other literally a chisel-ended prybar of 0.25" 3V. The problem is that the assembly isn't long enough to give you effective leverage in a crumpled car scenario. I'm not sure you could pry open a bathroom door till your overall length exceeds 10". Maybe what you need is a knife and a special folding crow-bar that extends to 4x it's folded length.
Not for nothing, but if I was in the market for a "sharpened prybar", and the clerk at my local cutlery shop held up a knife and prybar and asked me if I could see a difference, I think I`d find another cutlery shop and never spend another dime at the first one. I hate being treated like an idiot.

From my experience, I can tell you that people that use knives for a living choose thinner over thicker; however, when you use a knife for a living, all you expect it to do is cut (meat cutter, carpet layer, packing and shipping). A meat cutter doesn't use his best six inch boner (no laughing please!) to pry the strapping off a box of top sirloin butts. He gets a pair of pliers, side cutters, etc. to do it.

Soldiers usually cannot carry a multitude of tools. A soldiers is limited in what he can carry. He must carry what his unit SOP requires (based on his job) and by the time he rucks up with his issue gear, he has some, but very little tolerance for anything else. This is where a good, multifunctional combat knife comes in handy for the infantry soldier. My supply personnel, who were in the business of opening boxes, removing plastic strapping and metal banding, and opening crates were issued pry bars, side cutters, and wire cutters. They took care of these tools with almost the same care they took of their individual weapons.

Part of the reason we seem to have divergent opinions is we all have different experience profiles. My experience tells me, (1) Use the right tool for the job, one that was made to do what I want done, (2) A tool that tries to do too many things will do all of them a little worse than a tool that was made specifically for that job, (3) When you buy a tool, like a knife, look not at what some marketing puke wants you to buy, or what the latest fad or craze is, but look at what a professional in that field uses. A really good hunting knife (for field dressing and skinning) should look surprising like the knives used in packing houses where people kill, gut, and skin hundreds of animals per hour.

I'm thinking of bopping over to "" and see if they are concerned about any of the issues we are, like should we sharpen the end of our prybar's, what is the best angle of taper on the claw, carbon or stainless, should we include saw teeth or a camo paint job? NOT!

Bruce Woodbury

[This message has been edited by bruce (edited 30 July 1999).]
The intended purpose of a tool determines it's structure (form follows function). The knife we manufacture is designed to withstand a great deal of hard use, 1/4 in. D-2, very abrupt saber grind, yet this tool can perform cutting chores well. As a skinner, it is much faster than a skinning knife. (I spent two years doing custom slaughter and meat cutting, that's where much of my knowledge comes from). The 1/4 in. thickness also lets this tool perform chopping tasks, where a thin blade might be damaged.
Sharpened prybar, possibly, but anything less wouldn't take it. Form follows function.
Not arguin', just my opinion.

YES,it is sharp, just keep your fingers out of the way!

Some very good points have been made here. Basically I think it boils down to knowing exactly what you`re going to be doing with your knife and how much much extra baggage you`re willing to carry. Who wouldn`t rather use a good paring knife to peel a potato than a Battle Mistress given the choice? The catch is a Battle Mistress can peel a potato if you want it to and do a fair job but try to chop wood for a shelter with a paring knife! I`ll take a nice thin high performance edge any day if it`s appropriate,but I`ll go for something heavier if I`m not sure. Also FWIW I personally don`t care much for hatchets,I have several good ones and they just don`t thrill me. I find that a nice big ,thick knife (khukuri etc.) works better for me for camp chores and survival type stuff. Marcus
I think people are just trying to get the most for their $$. and why not? If you can get a prybar with a sharpened edge you get two for one. If they want a sharpened prybar sell'em a CS SRK. If you held up a prybar and a knife to me in your store and attempted to explain the difference, I would probably tell you where to store them and leave. Well, not really, but I probably wouldn't come back to your shop. Use this as an oppurtunity my friend, give'em what they want and they'll be back when they need a thinner blade. Everybody wins!
Well, I carry a Becker knife & Tool Companion in the car (I think that was Blackjack's firm) just in case I ever have to pry and/or cut... along with an ax and an army shovel, too. The Companion is 1/4" 1095, saber ground, about a 5" blade with bolt-on scales and a tough epoxy coat over everything (including the tang) except for the edge, of course... which shaves. Great camp knife, too.
Ah, the Campanion. That's a fine example of how to make a big, heavy-duty knife that still cuts. A thick spine but a high grind to give good geometry. And tough? Anybody remember the article (some gun mag) where they skinned a Buick? Mighta been the larger BK&T model, but they took most of the sheet metal right off and still had a decent knife for making a camp dinner. It's pretty clear that Busse has this formula down, too.

Having a thick spine and a strong construction does not a "sharpened prybar" make. It's the knives that have these ridiculously short, shallow grinds that ruin the edge geometry. The greatest offender in the production crowd is probably the Timberline Specwar: 1/4" ATS-34 with a grind tht covers only about 1/5 the width and has like a 45-degree angle. Being a chisel-grind helps the total edge angle a bit, but brings all the problems of that style. The definitive "sharpened prybar" IMO.

I've got nothing against a really thick bar of metal getting turned into a really overbuilt knife - so long as the geometry is still good. That means long flat or convex grinds, possibly fully to the spine. otherwise you have a lousy knife and a downright dangerous, ineffectual prybar.

-Drew Gleason
Little Bear Knives
No body considers themselves self styled so called experts, but we have a lot of them here.I didn't say you were one, I asked if you were one. You asked the question why? at the beginning of your post, but then you went on to come close to insulting people who like sharpened pry bars.So before I was going to take the time to answer such a post, I wanted to make sure you realy wanted an answer, I don't think a lot of people do want an answer to some such posts, they just want agreement and accolades. I am glad to see you really do want an answer, and I'm sorry if I offended you, that was not my intent.
I like a sharpened pry bar for the same reason I like other tools that can do multiple jobs. Those that say "always use the right tool for the job" have not had to carry their tools around with them for long distances, for long periods of time, away from their tool boxes or home bases.The rest of us apreciate tools that can do multiple jobs reasonably well, and as far as sharpened pry bars go,you do not have to settle for less in cutting efficiency. I believe the BK&T Campanion already mentioned, as well as other BlackJack .210 or .25 thick convex ground blades are some of the sharpest knives around no matter what the thickness. As far as prying goes,a knife is made of steel,it should not be hardened to the point that a little lateral stress should easily break it,unless its sole purpose is to replace a razor blade.And I can go to WallyWorld and buy razor blades or a razor knife for a few bucks.