Knife Abuse (long) - Mature Audiences Only

Jan 22, 1999

It's not a pretty subject. Most of us treasure and conscientiously tend our edged tools and can not imagine treating them with anything but the utmost of care and respect. Nevertheless, it's an ugly fact that not everyone shares our feelings. Some people are just plain careless and fail to clean and sharpen their blades. Although a shame, I am not talking about mere laziness and negligence. I am also not talking about tough knife tests or the actual use of a knife in extreme circumstances. This is a story of willful abuse.

As I mentioned in the "lost blades" thread, after a friend dropped my large A.G. Russell Sting into a lake, I decided to give him a knife as a birthday present so he would no longer need to borrow any of mine. I picked a very sturdy Schrade with a 4" Schrade+ (non-stainless) drop point blade.

Although we saw each other & fished many times since his birthday, I never saw the Schrade. I once asked him about it and he responded with something like, "Oh yeah, it's a great knife. It's back in my trailer." (We're neighbors in a campground.) He went on to explain that he seldom carries it since he doesn't wear a belt with his jeans or BDUs. His explanation seemed plausible so, with a false sense of well-being, I made a mental note to give him one of the promotional Barlow pocketknives I had in a drawer when we got back to shore. Little did I know then the dark secret that he was hiding.

Some time passed until one day he and his girlfriend stopped by as I was sharpening a knife. They both inspected the hair-popping edge and his girlfriend said that he should ask me to sharpen his knife. I told them I'd be happy to and he said he'd bring it by sometime. His girlfriend then said she had to go back for something and would get the knife. By the way my friend shuffled his feet and averted his eyes, I should have known something was wrong.

She got back, handed me the knife, and said that they had to be going. I noticed some grayish crud on the part of the handle that extended out of the sheath. Even that could not prepare me for what I saw next.

I'm not sure what to describe first. The gray crud that was smeared on the handle was thickly crusted all over the blade. I couldn't even see the edge, let alone sharpen it! (I later found out that it was PVC pipe compound of some sort.) The portions of the blade that were not covered by the compound were heavily coated with rust. The brass that I could see was green. In short, it was a total mess.

I scraped the compound off the blade to find both a broken tip and an edge that was chipped in several places. It turned out that in addition to using it as a putty knife, he also cut baling & electrical wire with it, that is, when not playing mumbley peg into the rocky soil! (BTW, this is a man who has a packed tool shed that could rival the Craftsman selection at Sears.)

After a considerable amount of effort, I got it cleaned up and reshaped, polished, and sharpened the blade. After months of hesitation, I reluctantly returned it him with a pair of spare Arkansas stones, honing oil, and a knife care leaflet. I never had the heart to ask about the fate of the Barlow but I warned him that I would inspect the Schrade from time to time. If he ever abuses it again, he'll lose it for good.
Does anyone else have a tale of knife abuse to share? It may be painful to retell, but sharing can be cathartic.


[This message has been edited by bcaffrey (edited 06 February 1999).]
Yeah, I've always found it strange that some guys will take really good care of that complete Snap On tool set but thrash their knife. I think they regard the knife as a replacable tool that they can abuse instead using the other tools.

I am the other way around. I use my snap-on tools like they are a replacable tool, because they are for life. And have you ever bought any snap-on tools for what they cost I am not going to be easy on them.

But now my knives are diff. I do use them hard, All of my big knives I take to the wood pile and see how they chop. At least once.

I did this with my Jim Hrisoulas knife and told the guys on the swordforum and they couldn't belive I would treat a knife like this. Heck most of those guys buy swords that are UNSHARPENED. But I do abuse my knives by some people standards. But I call it hard work.
All my knives get at least some hard treatmet
maybe only once. But I got to see what it will do.

-Greg Johnson

[This message has been edited by gregj62 (edited 06 February 1999).]
Yes, I am guilty of knife abuse. I freely admit it. *BUT* I always try to return my knives to a servicable condition when I am done abusing them. Especially knives from friends/family. Your friend needs to be slapped around and called Mary for awhile, for not only flagrantly violating the unspoken laws of knifedom, but for disrespecting gifts.



"No, it's a Vaquero Grande in my pocket, but I am happy to see you!"

Yekim -- Rest assured that I heaped plenty of abuse on my friend for his treatment of the Schrade.

Last year, I had something else to pick on him for after he tried to flip my Gunsite closed & opened a finger to the bone. (Is there a "Smiley" to signify bewildered head shaking?)
Ex-marine or not, there are just some people who simply should not play with sharp objects at all.

I carry a Endura Spyderco and Sog Paratool. With these tools i can handle alot of situations. I try not to abuse them to much and try to use the right tool for the right job. But i do cut electrical wires with the Spyderco but only because it take the abuse.
I have a spare head for the Paratool and that means that im nt so afraid abusing the plyer.
Anyway i dont abuse them for fun.

Jens Ansø

Yep, I agree with Anso. You shouldn't be afraid to use a knife abusively if need be, but I think its kind of stupid to do it just for the hell of it. Why would you take a knife to the wood pile when you don't have to?! Sure most quality knives can take a lot of pounding, but why cause premature and unnecessary wear on your knife by forcing it into a job it isnt intended to do? In short, axes and hatchets are much more suited for chopping wood, so why not match the appropriate tool to the job that needs to be done?
Spoonslayer, there are knives that can easily out chop hatchets and even reach the performance levels of axes. They are of course made to withstand strain much greater than you can possibly exert while chopping, especially if its on soft material like wood.

If chopping on a woodpile is considered abusing a knife I would wonder what to call what I have done with some of mine.

I'm not saying chopping wood is necessarily a terrible form of abuse, but why use them for that when we dont have to. Man invented better tools for that job for a reason. And as far as what you said about a knife outchopping a hatchet or equaling an axe, these are pretty lofty claims. Sure, the best knife in the world might could possibly come close to the worst hatchet ever made, but if these tools are of somewhat comparable quality, then there is no contest. If this wasn't so, we would have no need to even make hatchets!

I guess that I ahve to fall into the willful abuser category. It's shameful, but if a knife is the tool I have, I use it for every thing..

I dunno about that putty stuff, though.. I ussually try to clean my knives up, take care of them maintence wise.. I just use them hard.


if it breaks, replace it
I must admit, I am hard on my work knives...then again, if it cant hold up its not a work knife huh. for a tale to tell...One day at work, a fellow coworker asked to borrow my knife for a minute. I had assumed he was going to cut some plastic bands or the like. I finished my immediate task and looked up to see him driving it into a can. He was using it to open a can of bolied peanuts, couldn't snatch it away from him fast enough to suit me...

Needless to say, he no longer borrows my knives


Live every day as if it was your last, for some day it shall be.
Brock I have knives that I use for chopping instead of a hatchet or an axe because they work better its as simple as that. As to why people uses hatchets/axes, they don't in a lot of places because they have experience with better designs.

As for causing unnessary strain, any large steel knife will not be adversely effected by being pounded against wood. I would do so far as to say that only the lowest quality knives would suffer damage from that type of strain. Unless you are some kind of inhuman monster you simply cannot exert sufficient force to damage steel by banging it off of something as soft as wood.

About the only way to break a decent quality knife is to pry with it and I have knives that can even easily withstand me doing just that.

I would be curious to see if you thought that you could damage a decent field knife by chopping or splitting, saying something like a Busse Battle Mistress.


[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 10 February 1999).]
You have valid and probably true points about the strength of knives and their ability to take abuse.
I however still must strongly disagree with you about the effectiveness of knives over hatchets for the purpose of chopping wood. It just doesn't make good sense. Knives dont have the leverage or more importantly the weight to be able to compete with the hatchet in chopping power.
I have also cleaned up some knife abuse before. I've re-ground a few broken tips, sharpened a lot of really dull blades, etc. and always took time to teach the owner how to care for their knife. Some people won't learn, and I've done maintenance on their knives for the last time! Some people need a little extra help and I've given it to them (boy scouts, my children, some co-workers). This sometimes takes the form of an article from a magazine or the instruction set accompanying a knife or sharpener system. But some people just can't be helped--only pitied.