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So you want to buy a folding knife?

So you want to buy a folding knife?by Steven Roman, Ph.D.

Folding knives are captivating little instruments. I don't know exactly why, but I suspect that it has something to do with power. Whenever I take one of my knives from my pocket to cut open a box or cut some rope, I feel empowered.

Anyway, for whatever reason, many people are attracted to folding knives.

I want to tell you the story of how I started collecting knives and how I came to write a book on folding knives.

I remember when I tied to buy my first folding knife. It was quite depressing. I went to a large local knife store that must have stocked 300 or 400 knives. It was bewildering. As I looked at the knives and talked to the sales person, a million thoughts went through my mind, such as:

­Do I want a knife with an uncoated blade or a black blade? Will the coating wear off? Is DLC better than B4C?
Do I want a serrated blade or a plain blade?
Do I want a G­10 handle or an FRN handle or perhaps a micarta handle. What are these materials, anyway?
Carbon fiber sure looks and feels nice, but it is so light that it seems like it might crack. Also, it is significantly more expensive.
Do I want a lockback or a liner lock or a frame lock or an Axis lock or a compression lock?
The sales persons says this knife blade uses S90V steel, which is marginally better than this other knife that uses S30V steel. Why? I know he said that the S90V blade will hold its edge longer, but it is also harder to sharpen. Is the trade off worth it? Or is he just trying to sell me a more expensive knife. Does it really matter?
This knife blade is 154CM, which he says is used on a lot of knives. So it must be good, right? What in the world is the difference between all these steels and more to the point, will I be glad I spent an extra $50 for a “supersteel?” Elmax, now that sounds like a great steel. I think I can impress my friends by telling them that my knife blade is made from Elmax steel!


What made it even worse was that the sales person kept using words I had never heard before. He said the blade on this knife has a large swedge, but I was too embarrassed to ask which part of the blade was the swedge, so I just nodded knowingly.

I left the store without purchasing anything.

Next, I went on line, hoping to get some insight into how to choose a knife. As you no doubt know, there are a million YouTube videos of people reviewing, comparing and recommending knives. There are even videos of people unboxing their new knives, something I must admit I don't understand. Personally, it doesn't help me to watch someone else take a new knife out of its box. I already know how to do that.

I watched several video reviews of knives. Let me just say that what I saw did not exactly inspire confidence for one reason or another and leave it at that.

So I started browsing the online knife stores. What I noticed was that the names of three knife companies seemed to be most prominant—Spyderco, Benchmade and Kershaw. So I thought—OK, I'll buy some knives from these companies.

I bought three knives online. (Incidentally, now I own about 40 knives and never use these three knives! Oops.)

So, after my initial frustration trying to buy some knives, I decided that it was time to get serious. I couldn't possibly be the only person in this situation. Being a technical person and the author of about 40 books on computer programming and mathematics, I have a high tolerance for both research and the gathering of information. So I decided I would learn about folding knives—everything from knife terminology (beginning with the word swedge) to locking mechanisms, handle materials, knife steels and knife sharpening.

Actually, I have been a woodworker for over 30 years, so I already had a pretty good feel for sharpening cutting tools.

What would I do with all this information? Why, do a YouTube video, of course! And I did. But I never posted the video because I felt that it wasn't quite ready for prime time. It just didn't have enough information to help others.

However, as I compiled more and more information on knives, my notes got larger and larger. Then I realized that I wasn't writing a set of notes for a YouTube video, but an actual book on folding knives! I entitled my book “A Primer on Folding Knives.”

Now that it is published, I am a bit sorry I didn't call it “A Book on Folding Knives” because the term “primer” conveys the sense that the book is very elementary. It is not. The book starts with no assumptions that the reader has any knowledge of folding knives, so in that sense it is elementary. But the book goes into enough detail that it should be useful to even experienced knife users. Now I need to figure out how to promote my book. I guess I'll do some more research online.

So, that's my story. Thanks for reading.

About Steven Roman - aka 'The Knife Professor' is the author of over 40 books and is a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Computer Programming. He received a Ph.D. in Mathematics, University of Washington. He is the author of 'A Primer on Folding Knives' both a printed and ebook that was released in 2015.


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