Tips needed to review a knife

I'm thinking about getting ready to do a review on my Carnivour. Any tips or suggestions on how to review it or test it before I begin? Anything I should know and NOT do? This is mostly for defensive/tactical applications.
Feb 4, 1999
Here's what I like to see in a review:
1) Easy to follow format. You don't want to jump around too much, as this tends to confuse the reader. Start with the aesthetics, maybe, then move onto materials, how it feels, sheath, etc. Then organize the cutting tests and whatnot into a reasonable flow.
2) Comparisons b/w the knife being reviewed and ones that others commonly have (i.e. Calypso, Endura, etc). This helps in terms of feel, size, cutitng ability, etc.
3) How it carries, opens, cuts, chops, etc.
Will do all that. Anything else? Any special requests?
Hi SB - basically, approach it as a potential buyer, someone who is interested in buying the knife. Explore functionality of the design, handle ergonomics, fit, finish, tip up/down carry, and note any features that stand out in your mind. It is usually helpful to take notes beforehand on what you want points you want to bring up in your review, sort of a road map of where you want to go. I do this often and it has helped me to format all the reviews I have done for BF, KCI, and the magazine. Hope this helps you out and have fun!

Dexter Ewing
Knife Reviews Moderator

"The keystroke is mightier than the sword"

One thing I would recommend for anybody reviewing knives is to first look at what the knife was either designed for, or how you are going to use it. This goes for both defensive and utility knives. I would guess that most of us here have knife uses that overlap probably 80-90% of the time. That last portion may be specific uses that we have that others might not have. For example, I use a knife often around work, which is a testing lab and molding shop. I have some specific uses for a knife that others may not. I reviewed my Rinaldi TKK with this in mind so that others might draw a different perspective or understanding of how a knife performs. The TKK review is at
since it's probably easier to read than for me to explain it.

The above URL has been corrected after Cougar pointed out that I was confusing my ".'s" and my "/'s". Thanks for the heads up, Cougar.
Don LeHue

The pen is mightier than the sword...outside of arm's reach. Modify radius accordingly for rifle.

[This message has been edited by DonL (edited 31 May 1999).]

[This message has been edited by DonL (edited 31 May 1999).]
Cougar, *DOH!*.
Thanks, I'll edit.

Don LeHue

The pen is mightier than the sword...outside of arm's reach. Modify radius accordingly for rifle.

A few things I always like to see:

- Describe the clip. In detail! Tip up or down, mounted how high, does it get in the way of anything?

- Ergonomics. Picking up a knife to see if it's comfortable and secure is one thing. Testing it for 30 seconds is better. Doing a 10-minute continuous-usage test is best -- in fact, I consider it a must now. Just do some light whittling on some pine dowel for 10 minutes if you can't think of anything else. The 10-minute test can really bring out the best and worst in the ergonomics. Many knives will start creating "hot spots" on your hand that quickly, but the really good ones won't. Of course, if this is a fighter, that's not as important; but if it's a utility knife, it must be comfortable for continuous use.

- As mentioned, testing with several different tests versus a good-knife-in-class is a must. Cutting soft and hard rope tests slicing. Whittling tests shallow-penetration push-cutting. Chopping a carrot tests deep-penetration push-cutting. Zipping down cardboard tests zipper cutting. Penetration into a phone book (shallow penetration) and a gourd or whatever for deep penetration. Etc.

- Many knives come with inadequate (to me) edges from the factory. In that case, I like to test with the factory edge, then re-sharpen to my own edge and re-test. I report the results with the factory edge and with my edge, and also report how easy or difficult sharpening was. Sometimes, the sharpening process yields some of the MOST INTERESTING parts of the review (it did in my Cold Steel SRK and my El Hombre reviews). It's a shame sometimes reviewers miss it!

I think you, SB, have already a better take on this than most any of us forumites, and the tips above real are nice, indeed, but here it goes:

Pay special attention to the potential weaknesses and alleged strengths of the particular knife (compared to its predecessors and competitors, if possible). The lock and design must be some of the C's fortes, so it's interesting to hear, how they fail.
And do utilize other's previous perceptions! I think there has been some talk about, e.g., the possibility of a rolling lock inadvertently unlocking with the thumb in full grip. Might that be a problem with the C? Why not? Etc.

Get feedback from the designer/maker, if possible. Start with asking, what was the idea behind the knife (or some detail in it), report your own findings and test results, and let him/them reply. Maybe take some of that into your review.

Follow your "original idea" with that particular review/knife. It is essential to have a comprehensive plan for the tests etc., (and knowing you, I think we'll into a treat here), but without some original idea the review may lack "flow". It's not only a research report.

Don't know about others, but I'm completely fed up with "selling pitch", marketing hype, etc.; won't listen to that any more. Unfortunately, most published reviews are but such (including mine of the CRKT Mirage in the knowledge base of BF, though it wasn't meant that way). I feel sad about reviewers who get me into wanting and buying a knife that I soon find myself neither needing nor liking. Such incidents take the joy out of collecting knives. People who manage to say, after careful consideration, that I don't need a particular knife, I value immensely.

A single review cannot be everything. It's an address in an ongoing conversation. But it is nice to know, what sort of an address it is and where can some other thoughts be found. In this, it might be helpful to include many URL's into the review. But don't water it all down by saying that "this is only one person's opinion", etc. No need to publish mere opinions; just the true and well-founded ones.

I'd just like to emphasize the importance of comparing to something -- preferably comparing to a knife most of us are familiar with that's designed for similar purposes, but comparing to anything is better than nothing. When I read, "The edge holds up fairly well," what does that mean??? When I read, "It held its edge better than my SAK, but not by much," that means something to me! The SAKs and the old-style Ka-Bar are particularly good references, not only because they're common but also because other reviewers use them -- even if I'd never used a SAK I could compare you saying the knife you test holds its edge a little better to some other reviewer comparing another knife to a SAK.

Of course you're limited to what you have available for comparison, but I think even a comparison to a knife I've never heard of helps. When I see a post saying, "The edge-holding is great!" I always wonder if he only thinks that because it's the first knife he's ever used that isn't made of 420 "surgical stainless." "It holds an edge better than my Joe Palazoomie custom, which is made of cryogenically treated A-2," means something even if I've never heard of Joe Palazoomie's knives before.

I hope other people besides SB are reading this thread. We ought to archive it in the Knowledge Base -- or maybe we should get together and write a Knife Reviewing FAQ.

-Cougar Allen :{)
Yeah, I'm taking this thread very seriously. In fact, I've made a hard copy to study. Most of the testing are done and so are the photos. Now I have to piece it all together and polish it up. Should be done somewhere next week.