Knife performance standards

Apr 29, 1999
Why hasn't anyone come up with a universally accepted set of knife performance measuring standards? Why can't we just say: this lock rates xyz on the abc scale (meaning it failed at exactly that amount of pressure, when subject to a standard testing procedure)? How about being able to say this knife comes out of the shop at kkk-sharpness, or something like that? What do you think--what would be the categories needed to evaluate a knife, and what types of testing would be appropriate?
(if someone DID think about it already, then trash this one and just show me the thread...
Trueblade, mainly because its hard to precisely measure many aspects of knife performance. Lately I have been bouncing around the idea of having a set of standards that basically consist of a number of knives that perform really well in certain areas. So for example when I am looking at slicing performance in a small knife I compare it to the Calypso Jr., if I am looking at chopping performance in a large knife I compare it to the HI 15" AK, and so on.

Maybe we could get a thread going or even use the forum software to see which knives people think have the best ; handle ergonomics, edge retention on soft materials, edge retention on hard materials; slicing ability, and so on.

Thus when commenting on a knives performance you could compare it to a well known knife and thus give the reader a much more solid feel for the meaning.

This is going to be near impossible to accomplish. As Cliff said, there are so many variables in knife performance, but even worse, so much of it is subjective. We all use and expect different things from our knives. One only has to look thru some of the threads to how many different viewpoints we have.

If you are going to attempt some kind of 'standard setting', my suggestion is to choose one aspect of knife performance only (to start with). For example, perhaps cutting tests on one or two different types of media. The tests would have to be easy to accomplish and use a commonly available media, so that different members could perform them. Even then, results would be varied depending on sharpness, final edge angle, etc.......

I'm getting a headache just thinking about it.

Bill (Yes, we carry knives in Canada - we need them to fight off the polar bears and militant Eskimos ;) )
Just an echo of what has been said already, but there are way too many variables involved.
Besides, a knife you may rate as a C+ I might give an A or vice versa.
Certain aspects are typically comparable, i.e. cutting performance, lock-up, tip and edge strength etc.... but still hard to confine to specific rating.
I think Dexter would have the best input here. Whadda ya say Dex?

God bless!

Romans 10:9-10

"Military" Fans Unite!!
In terms of cutting tests, I don't think that there is one, two , or three different mediums to test knives on. We all use our knives in different applications. I guess if there was a set of standards to test knives, then maybe we won't see the potential of the knife to handle a wide array of mediums.

However, there are standards that one can apply in terms of inspecting the knife for fit and finish, as well as lock up. For instance, testing liner lock effectiveness we all whack the blade spines. When I evaluate a knife for fit and finish, I look as much with my hands as I do with my eyes. Feeling the edges will detect rough spots or mis-aligned parts.

Getting back to the main argument, I think the lack of a set of testing standards "etched in stone" gives us greater freedom to apply the knives to various tasks. Hope this helps.

Dexter Ewing
Knife Reviews Moderator

"The keystroke is mightier than the sword"

OK. I'm going to attempt a "Mattis Mode" answer here, James, please feel free to correct, append or completely reconstruct.
Perhaps the reason it is so difficult to arrive at precise guidelines that we can all relate to, is that the knife, by it's very nature, is at once both the cleaving warrior and the midwife cutting the newborn's cord. The hunter skinning and quartering a deer to the office worker opening packages and envelopes. And every single one of these tasks can be ( and have been done) with just about every variation(with some exceptions) of knife available. The catholic nature of the knife is such that we find it so infinetely desireable and demand so much of it as well. Allright, the virtual soapbox is retracting now so...
that's all.

[This message has been edited by Brian Lavin (edited 11 May 1999).]
Some of this equipment is already available. the variables have been worked out quite well. Computer print outs permit study and much is learned.

Unfortnately these types of equipment are generally too expensive for the average person to invest. Some of the cutlery companies do have this equipment. Spyderco can do fairly accurate edge testing and break strength testing.

Coming up with a standard that everyone will agree does the job is difficult. Not all companies want their items tested or measured, much less made public. If the "standard" helps all within our industry, it could be considered a "good" thing. Otherwise, we end up fighting within the industry to the detriment of the overall industry.

Knife ABC model 2J rated lock strength at 400 inch/lbs to create defeat. defeat was catastrophic. Considered "Acceptable for heavy duty use" by Jabberwock standards.

Steel BH57 sharpened in accordance with Jabberwock standard edge 30 degree cannel "scary sharp" had an initial cutting perforance rating or 110 and a total cutting perfornace rating of 423 condered in "A" class of exotic.

It coould propbably be done. It is a large undertaking.
Thanks for your input, everyone. What I'm seriously concerned about is the following issue. A knife is for me something that gives me unexplainable feelings of blissful delight just by looking at one, however we are talking about a thing that can be extremely dangerous to both yourself and others if the quality level is not above a certain "Standard". So what I'm worried about isn't so much having the chance to boast how cool my knife is for passing some tests, but that I am handling a tool which won't let me down if I use it in the right way. If I know that the folder called WWW has a liner that stands VVV lbs. of pressure, this certainly gives me an idea of what I have in my hands, as opposed to some other model that gives me no indication of its performance and safety standards.
The most meaningful way is just to buy a knife yourself and see how good it is. Discuss in detail with the dealer what you are looking for and make sure that he will take it back if it does not live up to its claims. Once you have done this when one knife you now have a standard that you can apply. For example lets assume you are very familiar with the AFCK, a well know folder. You can now ask very meaningful questions like - does the AXIS have a more secure lock, does it have better handle ergonomics? The answers to these will be much more meaningful to you than the someone just commenting that the AXIS has good grip ergonomics as you have no idea what level of comfort they rate good at.

Your standard does not have to be an AFCK. Go out and buy a much cheaper knife. You will actually have a more useful baseline if the knife has flaws. Then you can get into discussions with people telling you have their favorite knife is so much better than your low end one. Its all about putting things into perspective.