Posted by: SWGK Admin on May 29, 2012
Learn How to Determine Which Edge to Use
Unless you've been carrying a knife all your life, or maybe even if you have, you may not know whether you need a straight or serrated knife edge to best meet your needs and suit your purposes for carrying a knife. While serrated edged knives have become much more popular in recent years, there's still a time when a straight edge (or more properly plain edge) knife is best.
Depends On The Usage
Typically, the type of knife blade you choose will depend on what you plan to do with your knife and how you plan to cut with it. Whether it's hunting, or an everyday pocket knife, there are a number of ways to cut with a knife. For instance, you can use a knife to slice, stab, saw or chop. Each type of cut has a different motion and each relies on a different part of the blade. Knowing what the purpose for your knife is, which help you know what kind of blade to choose.
How Do You Use Your Knife
When you use a knife to slice, or to saw, you drag it across what you're cutting, whether toward you, if you're holding the item in your hand, or down if it's on a cutting board. Think of slicing a tomato. Slicing other things works much the same way.
Stabbing, or chopping, however is done basically by pushing the knife through what you're cutting. If you're chopping an onion, for instance, you push the blade down through the onion repeatedly. Other types of stabbing (done with the point of the blade) or chopping work much the same way.
There may be variations, but these are the two most common ways to use a knife. And the one you plan to use will help you determine whether you need a serrated or plain edge knife to do the job.
The Use of Serrations
Serrated edged knives are most often suited to slicing tasks. The serrations in the blade will help the knife grab the object to be cut more easily and slice through it more efficiently. Consider slicing bread. If you've ever tried it with a straight edge blade you know how hard it is to get the knife to cut without ripping the bread to pieces. Switch to a serrated edge and the job becomes much simpler and you come out with smooth even slices of bread, or anything else.
Accuracy Suffers with Serrations
On the other hand, a straight or plain edge blade is usually better for push cuts or those that require a higher level of accuracy or control. If you're skinning a animal, or a piece of fruit, a plain edge blade is preferable since it gives you the ability to control where the blade goes more easily than you can with a serrated knife.
While serrations give you more cutting power, in a manner of speaking, they don't provide the level of accuracy you need to for such cutting tasks. That's why skinning knives or paring knives are generally smooth edge blades.
Experience often shows that a serrated knife blade is often preferred for slicing tasks. This is due, in part, to the fact that portions of the serrated blade are thinner which gives them a cutting advantage. And the ridges, or raised portions, on a serrated blade pierce a surface more quickly making the cut more efficient.
Using Straight Edges
Straight edge blades can be used effectively for slicing, though, if they're sharp enough. And that depends entirely on the type of knife, the blade material, the method used for sharpening, and other factors.
Ever try to cut that tomato with a plain edge knife? If so, you know how important it is to have a sharp blade or risk tearing the skin of your fruit. Often, even a dull serrated knife is preferable for slicing because of the blade's design.
Sharpening Makes A Big Difference
A more recent philosophy on whether a straight edge or serrated knife is better for a certain task actually recommends plain edge knives for some slicing tasks.
This pattern of thought takes into account the fact that specific sharpening styles, mainly using a knife file to sharpen a blade, actually produces a coarse surface that simulates small serrations. In that case, depending on what's to be cut, a plain edge may actually work better for slicing.
This coarse surface is different from the standard polished edge most often seen on plain edge knives. Polished surfaces are less effective in slicing tasks. But the surface created by using a coarser sharpening stone is more similar to a serrated edge and works well, if not better, than serrations for a variety of cutting tasks.
Best of Both Worlds
Still unsure which knife blade is preferable? You always have the choice of a partially serrated blade. This style blade offers the best of both cutting worlds. You can use the polished or fine edge portion of the blade for push cuts, and the serrated edge portion of the blade for slicing. While this type of knife isn't ideal for all situations, for general use, it can be ideal and quite convenient.
A partially serrated or combination edge blade is becoming more popular and more widely used all the time. Such a blade eliminates the need to carry more than one knife and still gives the variety of cutting options needed for certain tasks. Partially serrated blades are especially good for daily use, camping or general purposes.
In most cases, a partially serrated blade features a smooth, plain edge near the tip with serrations at the back of the blade near the handle. Some knife users would prefer this format be reversed but this is a generally accepted design that most users are satisfied with.
Of course, die-hard knife aficionados will most often choose a separate knife - straight edge or serrated - for every task. And that's okay, too. It sometimes comes down to a matter of preference or personal style where the choice of knife and blade type are concerned.
Stop the Confusion
All of this discussion about whether serrated or straight edge knives or best may be more confusing than it needs to be. But the idea is simple. Just keep in mind what you plan to cut with your knife and whether a smooth surface (a plain or straight edge blade) or a coarser surface (a serrated or partially serrated blade) will do the job best. Then choose the Gerber knife that will provide the type surface you need to get the job done. It's as simple as that.