Serated versus plain edge

May 15, 1999
How come that serated edges are so popular? Joe Talmadge has a informative article in the Knifes FAQ´s. There is a lot of cutting that is difficult with a serrated egde - precise cuts, push cuts etc. But there are only a few cutting where the serrated edge outperforms the plain edge. Is the serrated being so popular because of its more dramatic look?


After raising the question of "Why serrated?", I have concluded that there are good and valid reasons for the serrated edge (cutting hard to cut items such as rope, pvc, cardboard, etc.) but that for most buyers, it seems to be the dramatic appearance or because the stores seem only to stock serrated blades becausae they think that they sell better. This latter is circular logic if I have ever seen it! Stock only an item that you think will sell and, sure as Hell, it sells! Why some are attracted to the dramatic appearance is better left to others, I do not wish to go there.

Walk in the Light,
I have used both serrated and unserrated blades and my preference is the plain edge. I had a Gunsite folder and liked the serrations at first, but I couldn't sharpen them and I didn't really like the way they cut thru the stuff I cut, like some cardboard boxes and tape. On my Supertool, I was using the serrated blade for cutting apart boxes when it was factory sharp, but when it dulled, I went to the plain blade and have been using it even since unless it is very thick cardboard. The plain edge went thru the cardboard much smoother and faster and didn't need to saw back and forth. And I could sharpen it when it needed it. Serrations are defintly good for tough materials, like PVC pipes and rope as FullerH said, but for an every day knife, I would go plain blade, unless you get a second serrated knife and carry both. People think that serrations will cut thru everything and never need sharpening like the "miracle kitchen knives". When it gets dull, they just push harder. Sometimes the serrations look nice or different or give the knife a more deadly look, but many times I find that they just get in the way. I think a plain edge makes the knife look smoother and sharper cuz I have seen some funky serration patterns, like on the new Ka-Bars, and I prefer the plain blade for looks and function.
Aside from the areas where serrated legitimately does outperform plain edges -- very hard plastic, for example -- I think the popularity of serrated edges is due to the fact that they cut and cut and cut, only rarely needing sharpening. When they do need sharpening you're stuck using a sharpening rig, but sharpening serrations is relatively infrequent.

These days, for my carry folder, I prefer the edge to be THIN and COARSE. The thinness provides great performance for most cuts (provided it's not so thin that it rolls or chips easily), and the coarseness provides excellent slicing ability for most materials.

Before, I was a 100 % plainedge person, but I do see the use of serrations in some cases. I have a few part-serrated knives (AFCK, Ascent, Ladybug, older Endura), and only one fully-serrated (Delica '98). Of the lot, I use the Delica most. For general utility I still prefer plain, and for most stuff I do the serrations would get in the way, not to mention the chisel-type grind that can cause the knife to not cut straight.
I rarely need to saw with the serrations, for thin enough materials I simply push using the recessed edge between serrations. For rope and such you would need to saw.
I guess it depends on what i plan to do that day, but still lean toward plainedge.
It seems like most knife veterans like the plain edge and the newbies the partial serrated ones. From what I have read and seen thus far on this forum, many people start off buying the partial ones and then eventually come to back to plain blades. I had always used plain blades until recently where I have gotten a few partials. If I am going to be cutting up vension steaks, I use a fixed plain blade. When I am working around my yard or at work, I like the partial for weeding dandelions, cutting up double walled corregated boxes, and stacking up #2 plastic milk jugs. I'm not easy on my knives: they are tools made to be used. An easy solution is to carry one of each.
I make & use Plainedge knives. I prefer them above serrated. There is not many times, I find, that I need a serrated edge.

The other day, however, my wife tried to cut a loaf of very crusty bread we just bought. She picked up my 12" steak knife. Well, it just skated across the top. She looked at me & had the nerve to say, "your knife isn't very sharp"
Yea, right. If she had slipped with that, she would have found out real quick just how sharp it was. I had to take over in a hurry. (The way women handle knives just scares the pee out of me, I dont know what the rest of you guys find, but they just seem to have no respect for knives). Maybe I do need a serrated knife???

Happy Knifemaking...
I do prefer a plain edge, but if you are going for serrations, go all the way. A partially serrated blade works well on a large fixed blade, but most folders are too small to give you enough of either edge to be effective. You just can’t do much sawing with less than two inches of edge, but I do use and own a few fully serrated knives that are great.

The Spyderco Rescue is a great knife, tough, strong and perfect for the job it was designed for. Always within easy reach in my car, I think I should get one for the truck I drive at work. I’d like to try the ’98 version, so I guess I am just looking for an excuse

Serrated is the only way for me, I’ll never go back. You can’t cut everything without having the option of both edges. The versatility out ways any negatives IMHO. Serration’s act like scissors, the notches hold the material against the edge. It’s not just for sawing, it works like a small gut hook for cutting narrow round objects like string, pruning flowers, and other wimpy every day things. I haven’t used a pair of nail clippers for year’s, try that with a plain edge and you’ll cut your nail down to the quick.

The down side is re-sharpening. I’m no pro but I have success with a round diamond sharpener. The hard part is taking off the burr without having to sharpen from the other side. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Yours in the bond,

I generally prefer plain edge.

My kitchen bread knives, however, are serrated and thanks to the Sharpmaker 204 that old Sabatier is cutting much easier.

BCK, I agree with your wife. Any of my sharp knives will slice bread just fine, including my Umfaan. I may generally use serrated knives on bread, but do not find that I have to, if the knife is sharp. (Does dendritic cobalt count as micro-serrated?)

Before someone asks, the Umfaan was used to cut the end, plus some more, off of a thin french loaf, rotating the bread clockwise. Very smooth cut. Have to eat something on the way back home when I have not yet had lunch.
I was on business and did not have my larger knife....or did I just want an excuse to use my relatively new Umfaan.

I bothered to post, in part, because I recall reading once someone saying that bread gummed up if cut with a non-serrated knife. I never had that problem, of course I did pick a sharp alternative on those occasions where I used a plain edge.

Re cardboard, I have not cut double walled for a while. I have used my Sebenza to cut single wall to fit in trash can/recyling. It just pushes through with no slicing. Amazing! I do not know how long that will last, but the few strokes on the Sharpmaker 204, I used to touch up the edge certainly worked. [I wish it had diamond sleeves for really dull knives.]

Perhaps I will bring this up in a seperate thread, but for now, I'll raise it here as it seems appropriate in debating serrated blades versus plain edges. Boye Knives has a quote in its promotional literature from J.D., Kodiak Island, Alaska. The related story was about cutting a commerical crabber's line made of Spectra. Apparently it was rather thick (anyone want to guess how much that would cost!!!???) Various blades including a very reputable brand serrated knife had been used to little effect. The effort had even caused the serrated edge to roll over. The writer pulled out his Prophet Companion -they laughed- but with a few strokes it went right through. The quoted letter does not mention whether it was dendritic steel or cobalt. Does anyone have any comments? Better yet does anyone have a thick piece of Spectra they can send me to try this for myself--with results posted of course-
Larry --

Spyderco and Benchmade type serrations are handled easily by the Spyderco Sharpmaker. If sharpening your only objection to serrations, then get the Sharpmaker and you'll be real happy.

If people switch from partially serrated back to plain edges, I think it's because the serrations are in the wrong place or rather it's the plain part of the edge which isn't where they want it. If you want to use the plain part to "push" cut, I think it's better to have it near the handle.

At least, that's the way I would make a 50/50 edge.


You raise a good point re placement of serrations on combo edge. Knives of Alaska puts them near the tip on the fillet knife, to get the knife into the fish. After thinking about it this makes sense to me. I actually ordered one, did not get it, and $$$ concerns re too many knives then intervened so I unfortunately can not say from first hand the last decent size fish I caught, I released.

When whittling I use the part of the edge nearer the handle first. If cutting and the knife is sliding off, serrations nearer the tip will get their chance.

If cutting open a package a plain edge tip could be used, with serrations just down from it if needed.

Most combo knives seem to have the serrations near the handle. What knives place them nearer the tip? For instance a Project I or II place them near the handle. I wonder how users like that???

I look forward to seeing some comments from users of combo knives. Until some convincing ones come along I'll generally stick to plain edges with a few exceptions.

[This message has been edited by Donald (edited 03 June 1999).]
To all who worry about sharpening serrations, Harley-Davidson has the answer.

"HD4 series blades feature super-glide serrations that offer extra cutting power without the need to complicated resharpening tools. The unique serration design requires resharpening on the flat part of the edge only when dull".

There you have it, its in a catalog so its got to be fact.

(its basically a CS serration pattern that just has the little teeth).

I like Combo Edges the best... I dont know why. But if I had to choose ... I would go PLAIN edged.

I had a Spyderco Police that was fully serrated, and it was the most useless knife I ever had. I found, even on duty, I needed a blade with a belly to it. And all serrated really didn't help much, and in fact, go tin the way a few times. I quickly switched to a BM Sentinel, with a plain blade. It worked much better.

I mean, if I went around saying I was an Emperor because some
moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, people would put me away!


Here we go again (get ready for David Rock's "best of both worlds" stuck record harrangue).

A combination plain/serrated edge is not the best of both worlds. If you want to use the plain part of the blade, the serrations can get in the way and vice versa. In mathematical terms, a + b = c; notice that you no longer have a and b. Here's a stupid example: suppose you have a quart of milk and a quart of water. Okay. Now put both into the same jug. What you now have is both milk AND water, right? Well, sort of. What you really have is diluted milk or contaminated water, depending on your point of view. To a person who likes to drink either milk or water or both, the mixture is clearly not "the best of both worlds."

I like plain edges better than serrated edges. But I also recognize and appreciate the advantages of a serrated blade for certain tasks. I carry both types of knives on my person, three or four at a time, usually in a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1 with plain edges being in the majority. None of my preferred carry knives are partially serrated. The only partially serrated knife I ever owned (a Benchmade 812sbt mini AFCK) I gave away, I hated the combo-edge so much.

By the way, I also hate McDonald's Special Sauce.

David Rock
Spyderco's new Dyads offer a serrated blade and a plain blade. "High performance matter separation" and "articulate matter separation". Spyderco felt that was the only "real" way to have "the best of both worlds". Every thing else is some type of compromise.
Serrations? Phooey! A pain to sharpen, with or without doohickies.

That said, I carry a Project 1 every time I go out into the Everglades, I use it for camp chores and dispatching/skinning out game. It has an inch and a half or so of serrations at the base of the blade. They're made so you CAN sharpen them on a flat stone. I think the same thing is on a version of the Boker Applegate/Fairbairn. They work, it helps in getting through gator hide. They're not neccesary, I didn't like them when I got the knife, but I've come to find them useful occasionaly. I wouldn't want a half and half on any knife, and wouldn't even want an inch or two on anything shorter than a Project.

The idea of modifying a blade's edge to make it cut better is nothing new. Many straight-spined bowies had an edge that was curved the whole length, like it was all shallow belly or something. Then there are the wavy blades, the "kris" style in the East, and "flamberge" in the West. This acts essentialy like serrations without points, and do make for a nasty cut. These seem to be slice-specific, I could't see chopping wood with a flamberge or kris styled blade.

I'm going to take this time to point out that in the West rapiers have been made with flamberge-style blades. Everybody thinks they're hot stuff when they remark that the old guys thought that it made the wound more deadly, but we know better. Often saying they think it looks cool anyway. Well, guess what? They DO make for a more deadly wound!

You see, while the rapier is great for thrusting, the narrow blade and thick spine means that it's harder to put a good, sharp edge on it. So some were made with slightly wider blades, which worked to a degree, but they don't handle like other rapiers. Others were narrow up to the last few inches of the tip, where they widened to allow for a cutting edge. Weird, but works to a degree. The flamberge bladed rapiers could be as narrow as "pure" rapiers, but due to the wavy edge, cut much better. They DID make a more deadly wound, not on the thrust, but on the cut. Still, nothing compared to the purpose-built slashers, but much better than any rapier.

Oh yeah, I'm not really a fan of the rapier, even though I am a Western stylist. I prefer what is colloquialy known as a "broadsword". Two good edges, a point, and a pommel. All usable. They suit me better. Also, rapiers were never battle swords, they were a civilian's weapon of self-defense. That's not to say a General couldn't wear one about town if he wanted, they were just used in a civilian context.
Sal, since you seem to be following this thread...anything that mentions serrations ???
What would be nice would be a Harpy and a Catcherman with Talonite blades...ideal for those tough lines if the Boye story, related above, is accurate. Any comments? If they also have rolling locks, just send them along with an invoice!