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Parts Of A Knife: Crash Course In Knife Anatomy 101

Looking to learn the proper names for everything that makes up a knife?

Like sailors, stagehands, and sommeliers, knifemakers have some very particular terms for the tools of their trade. It helps to know the lingo if you’re getting into knives, or just want to know what the hell “jimping” is when you read it in a product description.

Most of us use knives regularly, and some of us may even be sharpening pros, but there’s still a lot of knife terminology out there that doesn’t come up that often and some of it can be confusing.

Today, we’re going to clear all that up with a primer on all the major parts of modern knives. This is Knife Anatomy 101.

We’re not going to cover everything because you probably don’t need to know the exact name for the type of guard commonly found on a 14th-century German langmesser, but for those of you shopping for a new kitchen or pocket knife, this should cover everything you need to know.

Blade Essentials: Things (Most) Every Knife Has


Knife Spine

The spine of the blade is the part furthest from the edge or edges. On a single-edged knife, this would be the side of the blade opposite the edge, and on a double-edged knife or dagger, this is the middle of the blade between the edges.

The spine on a good knife will typically be heat-treated differently than the edge. The goal is usually to make the spine of the knife softer, and therefore allow it to flex and absorb energy while keeping the edge harder and more resistant to wear so it stays sharper longer.

This is called a differential heat treat and is especially important on larger, hard-use knives or other blades that might have to take impact forces.


Knife Point

You probably know this one, I won’t lie, but technically the point is the place where the edge and the spine or opposing edge meet, typically at a very sharp (pun intended) angle. This is what you use for piercing, and most knives have one.


Parts of a knife, tip

Technically different than the point, the tip of the blade is the forwardmost section of the blade, usually considered to be the last 20% or so of its length.

This section may be sharpened differently, have an unsharpened false edge along the spine, or be heat-treated differently to achieve different results. It includes the point of the blade.


Knife Edge

The edge of the knife is the (usually) sharpened portion furthest from the spine. It includes everything from the point to the heel, which we’ll get to later. Basically, this is the part you cut with, and on most knives, the whole thing will be sharpened the same.

There are some knives that have serrations for part of the blade, or certain fighting knives that leave sections unsharpened for the user to grip, though this fell out of fashion around the time the pilgrims landed in America. Today, most fighting or tactical knives are sharp from handle to tip.

One related term you will see is “edge geometry” or “edge angle” which refers to the angle at which the knife is ground or sharpened. Typically, this will be 20 degrees for something like a pocket knife or Western-style chef’s knife, or around 17 degrees for Japanese knives.

If you aren’t sure, a simple bevel gauge will tell you what the original edge is that you should be sharpening towards.


Parts of a knife, grind

The grind of a blade, also called the geometry of a blade, refers to its cross-section and how the blade was ground by the maker. There are many different ways to grind a blade, with the most common being some form of hollow or flat grind, with convex grinds being a fairly distant third.

Every grind is a balance between strength and sharpness and is used for different things depending on the type of blade.

Some grinds lend themselves to a more robust edge that is less sharp, and some grinds, like the hollow grind you’ll find on most kitchen knives, give us an edge that is more susceptible to damage if misused, but better at slicing.

Various common grinds you’ll see frequently are hollow, flat, sabre (or saber), chisel, convex, and Scandi.  All have their uses and are worth looking into further if you really want to dive into blade geometry and have the very best knife for the job.

Living on the Edge: Parts of the Sharp Part


Knife fuller

A fuller is a rounded or beveled section of the blade that is either added as part of the forging process or ground in before the blade is heat treated. The purpose is to reduce weight and if forged, to strengthen or widen the blade as needed.


Parts of a knife, bolster

The bolster of a knife, usually found on a kitchen knife or other fixed blade, is a thickened section of the blade that flows smoothly into the handle. This adds strength to one of the weakest areas of any knife (the junction between blade and handle) and helps with ergonomics by providing a smooth transition.


Knife heel

Not all knives have a heel, but if your knife has an edge that extends down and away from the handle, then you can think of the “bottom” of the blade furthest from the tip as the heel.

This is most common on kitchen knives and is typically rounded over or left rather wide to keep your middle finger comfortable when using a pinch grip. Japanese blades are notorious for having a prominent heel.


Parts of a knife, tang

The tang of a knife or sword is the portion that extends into the handle. This can be the back of a folding knife blade that is drilled for a pivot, or the longer unsharpened rectangular section of a fixed-blade knife that the handle is attached to.

A “full tang” is when the tang extends all or most of the way through the handle, and adds a great deal of strength, making it the preferred style for hard-use or high-end fixed-blade knives.


Parts of a knife, choil

The choil of a knife is the space at the bottom of the edge, furthest from the tip and nearest the handle, and is left unsharpened and hollowed out. On some knives, it’s large enough to accommodate your index finger when using the knife in order to give you a bit more control.

However, the main purpose of the choil is so that the whole length of the edge can be sharpened without any issues.


Knife jimping

Jimping is the name of the grooves or notches added to the spine of a knife in order to increase grip. The most common places you’ll see this are on pocketknives and hard-use fixed blades, on the spine right where the blade meets the handle.

By having a grippier, high-friction surface there, you can better manipulate the knife, especially with wet or dirty hands

Getting a Handle on the Rest


Parts of a knife, handle

As you probably know, the handle of a knife is the part you hold. On a sword, or longer martial weapon, you will typically see the handle referred to as the hilt, but there’s not really much of a technical difference here.

It includes the guard, the grip, and the pommel if present.


Knife guard

The guard of a knife is the bit that stops your hand from sliding forward and generally keeps you from hurting yourself with the knife. Many kitchen knives forgo a guard because you aren’t really supposed to stab them into things while fighting knives…well let’s just say swords had crossguards for a reason.


Knife pommel

Historically, the pommel of a knife refers to a weighted cap or round at the end of a handle that was meant to balance out the weight of a knife or sword blade. These days, few knives have one, but you may still see the bottom of a knife’s handle furthest from the tip be referred to as a pommel.

More commonly (and correctly) you’ll see this referred to as the butt of the knife.


Parts of a knife quilon

On a sword or knife, the quillons are part of the guard that extends outwards at a right angle to the blade to keep the user’s hand from sliding up the blade when using it. These would often be very ornate on a more elaborate piece but would often be very simple.

Final Thoughts

And that does it for this one folks, thanks for stopping by. You should now know everything you need to know about the different (common) parts of knives.

There’s some other stuff out there that might come up if you start getting beyond Western-style knives or branching out from kitchen and pocketknives, but this is definitely 99 percent of what you’ll ever need to know when it comes to knife anatomy.

Also, the very distinctive nail-like guard that protrudes out on a messer is called a nagel and it is designed to stop parried enemy blades from sliding down and cutting your hand. In case you were wondering.

More Knive 101:

Gerber Knives: The Blades That Made It Legendary


From kitchenware to commando companions, we go over how Gerber Knives became legendary and some of their all-time best offerings.

Gerber Legendary Blades, often known as just Gerber among the knife community (not to be confused with the equally legendary makers of fine baby foods and formula), is a name that you’ve probably heard. It’s hard to go into any outdoor store without finding one of its many blades.

But how much do you really know about the company?

Today, we’re going to do a deep dive into this iconic knifemaker that has helped shape the knife industry for so many years. We’re going to cover everything from its history to its new and exciting premium knife offerings, along with all the truly legendary knives it’s released along the way. 

Let’s get started. 

History of Gerber Knives

Cooked Up In The Kitchen

In the early 1900s, the Gerber family began their corporate climb with a simple advertising firm in Portland Oregon. As a promotion, Joseph Gerber sent out 24 sets of handmade kitchen knives to clients during the holidays. 

Vintage Gerber Kitchen Knife set
Vintage Gerber Kitchen Knife set. Photo: WorthPoint

These proved so popular that Abercrombie & Fitch, then one of the largest catalog retailers, requested more for its 1939 spring edition. Gerber Legendary Blades was then founded shortly after. 

Originally, Gerber focused on camp, kitchen, and carving knives, and did brisk business around the holidays and wedding season in the spring when many registries included a new kitchen knife set for happy couples. 

Off To War

Following WWII, Gerber expanded its focus and began to work on knives for military contracts, including the now-legendary Mark II fighting knife. Al Mar, a prolific knife designer, added some serrations to the blade allowing it to be marketed as a survival knife as well. 

Since then, the Mark II has been discontinued in favor of the Prodigy and LMF II knives, which are both in service with various militaries. The LMF II in particular currently sees services as an aircraft survival knife. It features a specially insulated handle so that downed pilots can cut their way free of airframes without risk of an electrical shock, even if they have to cut through the fuselage of the aircraft. 

Vietnam Era Gerber Knives Mark II
Vietnam Era Gerber Knives Mark II. Photo: Sharpinvestments.net

Other Gerber knives such as the often-imitated LST lockback folder changed the shape of the knife-making landscape forever. The 06 Auto was, and is, hugely popular with U.S. and NATO forces in the Middle East and has earned a reputation as a tough piece of gear that gets the job done. 

Into Every Niche

Gerber has also collaborated with a wide variety of knife makers and designers, as well as police trainers, special forces operators, and world-class martial artists to design hard-use knives that meet any need in the field. 

One of my personal favorites is Gerber Guardian, a “boot knife” designed by Bob Loveless—the man who popularized the hollow-ground drop-point blade—and is generally considered one of the most innovative knife designers to ever live.

Gerber Bear Grylls compact Scout Knife
Gerber Bear Grylls compact Scout Knife

Another, now collector’s item, is the River Master, a collaboration with legendary knife maker Blackie Collins. The River Master is an aggressive dive knife designed to cut through fishing lines, nets, vegetation, and other obstacles that can spell doom for a diver—particularly in murky water. 

Blackie Collins, incidentally, gave us the assisted-opening spring mechanism that so very many knives today use, including the 06 FAST, the more budget-friendly, non-automatic version of the 06 Auto. Not to mention he was the founder of a little publication called American Blade (i.e. Blade Magazine).

There’s also the Bear Grylls collection, which includes the top-selling Ultimate Pro knife, which has become somewhat iconic in the years since its release. The original Ultimate was a bit of a flop as Gerber outsourced more of its manufacturing and quality control suffered. 

Thankfully, Gerber has taken things more firmly in hand these days, and while it still offers a variety of very budget-focused “beater” knives, its premium Reserve offerings stand tall with the best of the best in the production knife world today. 

Are Gerber Knives Any Good?

Yes, Gerber knives are good. The company’s more affordable lineup offers great value for the budget-conscious, and their higher-end offerings (particularly the Reserve line) are as good as anything you’ll find in the world of production knives.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking those $7.99 knives on the clearance rack in the camping section of your local big box store are all Gerber has to offer these days. 

The new(ish) Fastball cleaver, the Sedulo, Terracraft, and the now-iconic 06 Auto are all incredible knives I can personally vouch for (we’ll talk more about them later, plus a few other iconic Gerber knives). 

Today, Gerber also remains one of the largest suppliers of knives to the U.S. military and has grown into one of the most respected names in the knife industry. Though owned by Fiskars, a Finnish company also known for great blades, most of Gerber’s best knives are made right here in the US as well.

As a great man in the knife industry has often said, quality is about effort, not geography. But it’s always nice to support the home team, especially when it comes to knives. 

All-Time Greats: Best Gerber Knives to Pay Attention To

06 Auto

Gerber Knives Auto 06

The Gerber 06 Auto has been a top seller for ten years now and has been a big hit with US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a knife that has been issued to US forces and flown off the shelves at the PX as well, so it’s safe to say it has the military’s stamp of approval. 

It’s an automatic opening knife, with a 3.6-inch CPM S30V blade. The auto opening and the blade length make it a very useable knife for everything from camp meal prep to self-defense but be sure to check your local regulations before picking one up. 

My time with the 06 Auto has been great, and I’ve used it for all kinds of cutting and sawing tasks around camp and even used it to open a “spam can” of Russian surplus 7.62x54R ammo out in the desert when we absolutely had to have the ammo for a video shoot. 

All in all, a great knife, with a battle-proven pedigree. 

Mark II

Gerber Mark II

The Mark II was introduced just before the kickoff of the American involvement in Vietnam and is one of the most popular knives around. It features a 6.6-inch 420HC double-edged blade with a black oxide coating. It also features serrations on both sides near the handle, giving it its iconic look.

It was originally conceived as a fighting knife by Captain Bud Holzmann, who based the design on a Roman Gladius, specifically the Mainz Gladius, which is a very famous example of the Roman blade that was found in the Mainz River. 

The knife overall takes some cues from the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife issued to British commandos and was the second-most commonly carried knife by American Troops in Vietnam, only behind the iconic Ka-Bar. 

The knife has also been quite famously featured in films like The Road Warrior as the knife carried by Max himself, in Aliens (the cafeteria scene), in the excellent knife fight scene in Captain America: Winter Soldier, and in the bananas knife fight scene at the end of Under Siege with Stephen Seagal. 

LMF II Infantry 

Gerber Knives LMF II Infantry

Currently, the LMF II Infantry is Gerber’s primary tactical fixed blade, and a great option if you need something robust that can be used in the field for just about anything from camp tasks to self-defense (or offense, if you have a profession that sends you into dangerous situations on purpose).  

The blade is 4.84 inches of 420HC stainless with a full tang and a striker pommel that can be used for pounding tent stakes, breaking glass, or whatever other tactical shenanigans you need a striking tool for. 

It also has partial serrations near the guard to allow for quick work sawing tasks, especially if you need to cut rope or thin lengths of wood in a hurry. Or use it to saw open a can because Kevin forgot the can opener. 

The ASEK version has an insulated handle and a partial tang, so it’s less suited for civilian tasks like processing firewood or what have you, but better for say, cutting your way out of a downed aircraft. 

Unless you’re a bush pilot, or cutting copper out of drywall for totally legal and normal reasons, the regular AESK is probably the better option for most folks.


Gerber Sedulo

The Sedulo is a new favorite among Gerber fans, and it takes a bit of inspiration from another insanely popular knife, the Benchmade Bugout, including Gerber’s version of Benchmade’s Axis lock (called the Pivot Lock). 

The basic version retails for less than the Bugout and features a reversible deep-carry pocket clip, a textured FRN handle, and a 3.4-inch CPM S30V stainless blade. That blade length is uncontroversially under 3.5 inches, which is a key cut-off point in many areas in terms of what you can carry, by the way. 

Gerber hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, but they have produced a rock-solid EDC knife with all the modern features we’d expect and is made in America, at a price that won’t lead to any tears when it’s time to whip the debit or credit card out. 

All in all, the knife is something worth paying attention to and a promising direction for the company.

Fastball Cleaver

Gerber Fastball Cleaver

The Fastball is a great knife, but for me (and everyone I could find in an informal inter-office survey of about 20 people) the Cleaver version is just superior. 

It features a ball-bearing action with a precision detent and a robust liner lock mechanism that works well. The real highlight is the hefty 3-inch cleaver-style blade is it’s great for regular EDC tasks, camp kitchen prep, and anything else you can think of. 

The blade is ground very flat and relatively thin at just .11 inches, making it an incredibly good slicer, as well as something you can depend on for relatively detailed work despite the .88-inch blade width. That hefty cleaver profile helps with quite a few tasks and is surprisingly useful for opening packages and such as well.

The 20CV steel is a great choice as well, as it sharpens well while also holding an edge for quite a while. In testing, it held an edge about twice as long as 440C. While more prone to edge damage, it held an edge longer than M390 as well (another incredibly prolific and popular EDC steel). 


Gerber Terracraft

Bushcrafters, survivalists, and wilderness enthusiasts, this one is for you. The Terracraft, along with the Sedulo, is part of Gerber’s new Reserve lineup. The Reserve label is, well, reserved for their premium, American-made offerings. 

The Terracraft features a CPM S30V blade that has a thick drop point profile, and a 90-degree spine for easy fire starting with a ferro rod. The handle is a beautifully contoured G10 that is sculpted to provide maximum grip even with wet or gloved hands. 

If you’re out in the woods a lot and need a fixed blade, the Terracraft is a phenomenal option, especially if you’re a backcountry hunter, bushcrafter, or just like being able to do everything with just one knife.


Gerber Knives Empower

The Empower is another great EDC knife that fits in the same general niche as the regular Fastball. It has a 3.25-inch S30V blade with a black oxide coating that gives it a more tactical look than the Fastball. 

The Armored Grip handles are very high-friction and perfect for use with gloves or wet hands. The rest of the handle is coated with a Type III hard anodization that will stand up to hard use, or to years of riding around in a pocket. 

Like all of Gerber’s US-made stuff, it has a lifetime warranty as well, so you know you’re covered if anything does go wrong, which is always great to know.

River Master (Blackie Collins Clip Lock)

Gerber River Master

Alright, so technically Blackie Collins helped this publication, but I promise that’s not why his knife is on the list. The man had around 100 knife mechanism and design patents and is the inventor of the assisted opening mechanism that so many folding knives use today.

Having said that, I’m including the River Master on here because 1) It’s a great knife and 2) Blackie passed in 2011 and the knife was discontinued so there’s not really a conflict of interest here, and 3) I was stealing my dad’s River Master out of the tackle box 15 years ago before I ever worked here or heard of the guy. I just knew it was a great knife. 

The River Master is a dive-style fixed blade with a handle that is all one piece of stainless so there’s very little chance of anything breaking, or of rust hiding in a gap under a scale or anything like that.

If you’re looking for a classic dive knife, the Clip Lock, specifically the River Master, is a great one to search for on the secondary market. 

Final Verdict on Gerber Knives

Gerber is a name you’d probably already heard of before you opened this article, but you may not have known much about it. Hopefully, we’ve rectified that and opened your eyes to some of the great knives from this industry giant. 

More Gerber Knives:

Best Bowie Knives: In Case You’re On A Sandbar And Need To Fight


As legendary as the man it’s named after.

When it comes to iconic blades, few can match the legendary status of the Bowie knife. This distinctive and formidable knife has a storied history that spans centuries, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its imperishable design and utility.

In this comprehensive guide to the Bowie knife, we’ll take a deep dive into the world of the iconic knife. We’ll look at its history, design, modern uses, and legality. Then we’ll finish up with an extensive selection of the best Bowie knives currently on the market.

History of the Bowie

The debate about who made the first Bowie knife rages on to this day, adding to the mystique of this legendary blade. Some credit the knife’s creation to Jim Bowie himself, while others argue that it was the work of various blacksmiths and bladesmiths in the early 19th century. What is certain is that Jim Bowie’s association with the knife’s name and his prominent role in a violent sandbar fight in 1827 contributed significantly to its fame.

In addition to his participating in the famous Sandbar Fight after which his knife became a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, Jim Bowie also fought and died in the Battle of the Alamo.
In addition to his participating in the famous Sandbar Fight after which his knife became a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic, Jim Bowie also fought and died in the Battle of the Alamo.

One of the most pivotal moments in the knife’s history was the infamous sandbar fight that took place in Mississippi in 1827. During this brutal encounter, Jim Bowie and a group of men defended themselves against an opposing faction. Jim Bowie’s remarkable fighting skills and his knife’s performance in the fight led to the weapon being forever associated with his name. This event catapulted the Bowie knife into the realm of legend, ensuring its enduring fame.

Bowie Knife Design: Choosing a Good Knife

The Bowie knife is known and loved for its distinctive design. While variations exist, several key features define this iconic blade:

Blade Style: The knives typically have a clip point blade, which is characterized by a concave curve on the top edge and a fine, sharp point. This design allows for both slicing and piercing, making it a versatile tool for a wide range of tasks.

Blade Length: Bowie knives come in various blade lengths, with the most common falling between 6 and 12 inches. The length of the blade influences its utility, with longer blades being suitable for chopping and combat, while shorter ones excel at precise cutting.

Crossguard: Most Bowie knives feature a crossguard, a metal piece positioned between the blade and the handle. This crossguard serves to protect the user’s hand during combat and can also be used for utility purposes.

Full-Tang Construction: Bowie knives are typically constructed with a full tang, meaning the blade extends through the handle, providing stability and strength. This design ensures the knife can withstand heavy use and remain a reliable companion in various situations.

Handle Material: Bowie knife handles come in a range of materials, from classic hardwoods to modern synthetics like Kraton. The choice of handle material impacts the knife’s aesthetics and grip comfort, catering to the user’s preferences.

Modern Uses for Bowie Knives

While the Bowie knife was originally designed for self-defense and survival in the wilderness, its uses have evolved over the years. Today, Bowie knives are valued for their versatility and can serve a variety of purposes:

Camping and Outdoor Activities: Bowie knives are popular among outdoor enthusiasts for tasks such as chopping wood, preparing food, and building shelters. Their sturdy design makes them reliable tools in the wilderness, where dependability is crucial.

Hunting: Many hunters rely on Bowie knives for field dressing and skinning game. The sharp blade and clip point make these knives well-suited for precision work, ensuring a clean and efficient process.

Collection and Display: Bowie knives have transcended their practical utility to become sought-after collectibles. Enthusiasts appreciate their historical significance and craftsmanship, often displaying them as works of art in custom cases or on stands.

Self-Defense: While not as commonly carried for self-defense as smaller knives or firearms, Bowie knives can still serve as formidable weapons in a close-quarters encounter. Their imposing presence and sharp blade can deter potential threats.

Survival: Bowie knives remain a popular choice for survivalists due to their robust construction and multi-purpose design. Whether it’s building a shelter, cutting through rope, or processing wood for fire, a Bowie knife is up to the challenge.

Cooking: In the kitchen, Bowie knives with shorter blades can be used as versatile chef’s knives. Their sharp edges and comfortable handles make them suitable for slicing, dicing, and other food preparation tasks.

Legality of Bowie Knives

The legality of owning and carrying Bowie knives varies from place to place and can be subject to specific regulations. It’s crucial to understand your local laws and regulations regarding these knives. In some areas, Bowie knives may be considered illegal if carried in public, while in others, they are legal for both open and concealed carry.

Among those headlining the international knifemakers returning to the BLADE Show after two years of pandemic lockdowns is Sweden’s Anders Hogstrom, author of the Stag G-Ring bowie, one of this issue’s cover knives, in 1050 carbon blade steel with hamon, and antique European stag. (SharpByCoop image)

It’s important to note that while Bowie knives have a rich history and practical uses, they can be seen as intimidating weapons by law enforcement and the public. Therefore, it’s essential to use them responsibly and within the bounds of the law.

Best Bowie Knives And Bowie-Inspired Knives For Any Budget

Cold Steel Trail Master

Cold Steel Trail Master

The Cold Steel Trail Master is a rugged Bowie knife designed for heavy-duty tasks. Its 9.5-inch blade is made from VG-1 stainless steel, known for its exceptional sharpness and resistance to corrosion. This knife’s clip-point blade design, with a concave curve on the top edge, allows for precise slicing and piercing.

The Kraton handle provides a comfortable and secure grip even in wet conditions, making it an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts. The full tang construction ensures durability and stability, making it capable of withstanding substantial abuse. The Trail Master is the go-to option when you need a reliable, high-performance Bowie knife for demanding tasks in the field.

MSRP: $540

Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman

Buck Knives 124 Frontiersman

Buck Knives’ 124 Frontiersman is a classic Bowie knife that pays homage to the heritage of American bladesmithing. Its 6.25-inch 420HC stainless steel blade is known for its edge retention and ease of maintenance. This Bowie knife boasts a timeless design with a sweeping clip-point blade and a polished brass guard.

The handle is made of rich cocobolo hardwood, which not only adds to the knife’s aesthetics but also provides an excellent grip. This knife’s combination of traditional craftsmanship and modern materials makes it an excellent choice for those who appreciate the artistry of a well-made Bowie knife.

MSRP: $185

Gerber StrongArm

Gerber StrongArm

The Gerber StrongArm offers a modern take on the classic Bowie design. Its 4.8-inch stainless steel blade is versatile, featuring a fine edge and serrations on the spine for additional cutting options. The blade’s black ceramic coating enhances durability and corrosion resistance.

What sets the StrongArm apart is its diamond-textured rubber handle. This design ensures a secure grip in various weather conditions, making it an ideal choice for those who value a reliable grip during outdoor activities. The knife also features a striking pommel at the base of the handle, which can be used for various tasks, including glass breaking.

MSRP: $90

SOG Super Bowie

SOG Super Bowie

For those seeking a premium Bowie knife, the SOG Super Bowie delivers both style and substance. Its 7.5-inch AUS-8 stainless steel blade offers excellent edge retention and corrosion resistance. The stacked leather handle adds a touch of elegance while providing a comfortable grip.

This Bowie knife combines the best of classic design with modern materials and craftsmanship. It features a brass handguard and pommel, enhancing its overall aesthetics. The Super Bowie is an excellent choice for collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate the fusion of tradition and innovation in a high-quality knife.

MSRP: $250

Ontario Knife Company OKC 498

Ontario Knife Company OKC 498

The OKC 498 is a straightforward and dependable Bowie knife designed for practicality. Its 8-inch carbon steel blade is rugged and easy to sharpen, making it an excellent choice for outdoor enthusiasts who value simplicity and reliability.

The Kraton handle offers a secure and comfortable grip, even in wet conditions. This knife’s utilitarian design makes it a versatile tool for a wide range of tasks, from campsite chores to survival situations. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense Bowie knife that gets the job done, the OKC 498 is an excellent choice.

MSRP: $98

KA-BAR USMC Fighting Knife

KA-BAR USMC Fighting Knife

While not a traditional Bowie knife, the KA-BAR USMC Fighting Knife has earned its place among classic American blades. With a 7-inch 1095 Cro-Van steel blade, it’s renowned for its durability and edge retention. This knife has a rich military history, having served the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II.

The leather handle provides a comfortable and secure grip, while the double guard protects the hand during combat or utility tasks. The USMC Fighting Knife is a versatile and iconic choice for those who appreciate a knife with a storied history, and one that is of course tied to the Bowie that inspired it.

MSRP: $135

Emerson CQC-7BW

Emerson Bowie Knife

The Emerson CQC-7BW is a modern take on the Bowie design, featuring a folding blade for everyday carry (EDC) convenience. With a 3.3-inch stainless steel blade, this knife is compact and versatile, making it suitable for a wide range of daily tasks. The clip-point blade design provides excellent piercing capability, and the thumb disk allows for easy one-handed opening.

The G-10 handle scales offer durability and a secure grip. Emerson Knives are known for their tactical functionality, and the CQC-7BW lives up to this reputation. If you’re looking for a compact and reliable EDC option inspired by the Bowie style, this knife is an excellent choice.

MSRP: $213

TOPS Knives Tom Brown Tracker

TOPS Knives Tom Brown Tracker

The TOPS Knives Tom Brown Tracker is a unique Bowie-inspired knife with a distinctive multi-purpose design. Its 6.38-inch 1095 high carbon steel blade features a variety of edges and angles, making it suitable for a wide range of tasks, from chopping to carving. This versatility has made it a favorite among survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts.

The handle is made of Micarta, providing a comfortable and secure grip. The Tracker is designed to handle tough wilderness challenges, making it an excellent choice for those who want a dependable tool for camping, bushcraft, and survival scenarios.

MSRP: $320

ESEE Junglas

ESEE Junglas

The ESEE Junglas is a heavy-duty Bowie knife built to withstand the most demanding survival situations. With a massive 10.38-inch 1095 carbon steel blade and full tang construction, it’s a powerhouse of a knife. The blade’s black powder coating enhances durability and corrosion resistance.

The Micarta handle scales offer a comfortable and secure grip, even during extended use. The Junglas is designed for heavy chopping, batoning, and other rugged tasks that might arise in the wilderness. If you need a Bowie knife that can handle the toughest challenges, this is a top choice.

MSRP: $310

Condor Tool & Knife Undertaker Bowie

Condor Tool & Knife Undertaker Bowie

Condor’s Undertaker Bowie combines traditional craftsmanship with affordability. Its 10-inch 1075 high carbon steel blade is known for its toughness and ease of sharpening. This knife is designed for practicality, making it an ideal choice for outdoor enthusiasts and those who appreciate a robust tool.

The hardwood handle not only adds to the knife’s aesthetics but also provides a comfortable and secure grip. The Undertaker Bowie excels in tasks such as wood processing and campsite chores, making it a dependable companion in the great outdoors.

MSRP: $118

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Piercing Pro: Picking The Best Tanto Knife (2023)

Nothing cuts as wicked a profile as a tanto knife.

The tanto is one of the most iconic and recognizable knife designs to ever forged, and today you can find it being made all over the world. From pocket folders to heavy fixed blades, there are a lot of Tantos to choose from.

Today, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about the tanto, from its history and modern usage to the best modern examples you can add to your collection. 

Let’s dive right in. 

Tanto Knives: Rich, Battlefield-Proven History

Japan has gifted the world with some excellent things: sushi, Godzilla, anime, the Honda Civic… list goes on. Perhaps some of the most iconic pieces of Japanese culture to spread around the world though are its blade designs. 

The katana is probably the most famous in terms of combat-focused designs, but a close second is the beloved tanto. A very core idea of many sword-based Japanese martial arts is the idea of daishō, which translates to “big-little”. 

Daishō essentially just means having one long sword, and one short sword or long knife to accompany it. Traditionally, the larger sword would often be left outside when entering a palace or other government building, or a temple, and the shorter weapon would be carried inside, tucked through a sash.

The Sidearm of Choice Before Pistols

Originally conceived as a sidearm to be paired with a long sword, the tanto was first carried primarily by Samurai alongside a tachi, the precursor to the katana most of us are familiar with from modern popular culture. 

Over time, the tanto become more widespread, and a smaller version known as a kaiken became popular as a self-defense tool for women. Over several hundred years, the tanto became shorter and thicker, and closer to the blade we know today. 

Japanese Tanto Knife
Photo: Wikipedia

Though eventually replaced in serious warfare by the wakizashi (functionally just a shorter katana, though with some design differences) the tanto remained popular for ceremonial usage and became a matter of pride and expression to wear or own in later years. 

The tanto then saw a resurgence in the years leading up to WWII, as they were viewed as more traditional by the Imperial Court. Following Japan’s defeat, limits on sword forging caused a decline in all traditional Japanese sword-making.

In the 1960s, American and European obsession with Japanese martial arts (spurred on by excellent films such as 7 Samurai, Yojimbo, and others) lead to a resurgence of the tanto, particularly as a combat-focused knife shape. 

Today, the iconic tanto tip is found on traditional full-length fixed blades, as well as more modern folding pocket knives designed for tactical/defensive use. Plenty of manufacturers make tanto-tipped knives, as well as smiths making excellent traditional tantos. (We’re going to cover both in our reviews, don’t worry).

What makes a Tanto, a Tanto?

Today, the definition of a tanto has shifted far beyond the traditional knife of 10th-century Japan, but we’re going to start there and then we’ll talk about the more modern incarnation where we see tanto tips added to a variety of EDC and tactical knives. 

Traditional Tanto Blades

Originally, the tanto was more what we would call a short sword, or perhaps a long dagger, and was worn by samurai. It was very much a weapon to begin with, but become a more ornate and ceremonial piece over the years as weapon designs evolved.

The traditional tanto was a single or double-edged dagger with a length of around 6-12 inches and was designed primarily for stabbing. It was forged with very flat sides, and some were left short with an extra thick cross-section to aid in piercing armor.

Modern Tanto Blades

The more modern interpretation of the tanto is heavily influenced by American tactical knife designs and proves more common outside of Japan. Traditional blades are still made (and beautiful) but less practical for the modern world. 

A variety of American and European knife makers now produce tanto-inspired knives with a very angular tip with the iconic sharply-upswept blade tip, essentially leaving you with two cutting planes—one parallel to the spine of the knife, and one at a 45-degree(ish) angle to the spine angling up towards the tip.

Tanto Knife Edge

Most of these modern “American tanto” designs are folding knives, and while many are for “tactical” or defensive use, the tanto blade shape has become increasingly popular for EDC knives as well. 

Pros of the Tanto Design

Piercing: Piercing, piercing, piercing. The shape of the tanto is optimized for stabbing and piercing, and it excels in those contexts.

Whether you’re a pre-Edo period Samurai trying to slip a blade between (or through) segments of your opponent’s armor, or a frustrated office worker attempting to poke your way into some plastic clamshell packaging, the tanto is ideal for putting a hole in something.

We see similar knives used for leather work around the world, and with good reason. The tanto is great for putting a hole in tough material. 

Draw Cuts: Modern American tantos are also great for draw cuts and slices, particularly when you’re working with something on a flat surface like a cutting board. The dual edge geometry makes short work of many slicing tasks.

You can also (carefully) use that second point where the two edges meet like a chisel for shaving wood, scraping a sticker, etc. This makes for a very handy EDC. 

Defense: Lastly, as a defensive tool, tantos excel because of their narrow, piercing point. This point easily defeats heavy clothing and makes for an effective means of defense in skilled hands. 

Many knife-based martial arts focus on stabbing strikes as the most effective fight-enders, and the tanto fits that training paradigm very well, while still being perfectly capable of slashing. 

Cons of the Tanto Design

Cutting Edge: The tanto’s main drawback, besides additional time and care needed when sharpening, is the fact that you lose some usable blade edge by having essentially two edges, one parallel to the spine and one swept forward and upwards. 

In practical use, this means you have less effective blade length for certain tasks, around 20% less than you’d have with an equivalent-length drop or clip-point blade. To compensate, tanto blades intended for EDC are usually a bit longer than a similar knife with a different point. 

All of this can be adjusted for, and as long as you aren’t doing something like spoon carving, you probably won’t notice a difference in real-world use. 

At the end of the day, “real-world use” for most of us is opening boxes and packaging, and slicing apart those god-awful packing straps used to hold children’s toys in display boxes. And the tanto excels at all those tasks. 

How The Hell Do You Sharpen a Tanto?

Sharpening a tanto may look a bit scary, but once you break the process down, it’s quite simple. All you’re doing is sharpening two edges that meet at a point. The only real pitfall is that it’s easy to round over the point where the forward edge and the edge parallel to the spine meet. 

To avoid this, be mindful of that meeting point, and stop your sharpening stroke on or before it. Then, when sharpening the forward edge, rotate the blade and sharpen it in much the same way you would a chisel. 

Just be careful not to pull through the point where the two edges meet so you don’t round over that point and you’ll be good to go. Beyond that, it’s just like sharpening any other knife. 

10 Ten Knives with Tanto Blades: EDC, Fixed Blades, and Folders

CIVIVI Elementum Tanto

Tanto Knife Civivi

The CIVIVI Elementum has become something of a modern classic in the EDC knife world. Since its release a few years ago has gone on to become one of the most popular pocket knives around. 

There is a nearly limitless amount of blade and handle combinations out there now, but we’re going to focus on this excellent tanto blade with a copper handle. 

At its core, this is still the same Elementum knife aficionados are already familiar with (a simple, dependable liner-lock flipper folder) but outfitted with a tanto blade that makes piercing tasks a cinch, without compromising on slicing performance. 

Basically, it’s everything you need in an EDC knife for regular daily tasks, and it comes with a gussied-up stonewashed tanto blade and a lovely hand-polished copper handle that adds a touch of class and elegance to this very affordable knife. 

The Elementum tanto is also available in a button lock version and features a 2.96-inch blade made of D2 steel.

MSRP: $80

Kershaw Emerson CQC-7K

Kershaw Emerson Tanto

Ernest Emerson has brought much success to Kershaw with his designs. Back in 2014 he hit it out of the park again with the Emerson CQC-7k, which won that year’s Best Buy award at BLADE Show for sheer value. In the almost ten years since it’s held its own as one of the best EDC options out there. 

It features the iconic Emerson Wave that facilitates blade deployment by simply pulling it from the pocket and hooking the “Wave-Shaped Feature” on the pocket on the way out (sort of an inverted kicker).

It also features an ambidextrous thumb disk that doubles as a comfortable place to press your thumb when doing fiddly work. The scales are nicely-textured G10, and the handle features a stainless frame lock that is one of the more secure we’ve tested (read: beat the hell out of). 

The one thing to look out for is the blade steel. I would suggest spending an extra few bucks on the D2 stainless version and avoiding the 8cr14Mov version. There’s no reason to spend more than $40 on a knife with bottom-tier blade steel like that in this day and age. 

You can get five gas station knives for that price and be better off. 

The Emerson CQC-7K has a D2 blade that is 3.25-inches long.

MSRP: Starting at $74

Benchmade Bailout

Tanto Knife Benchmade

You’ve heard of the Bugout, surely. Now meet its newer, slightly-tacticooler cousin, the Bailout (one of my favorite knives of the past several years). 

As you can surely imagine, the Bailout is a bit of a riff on the Bugout most of us knife fans know and love, but with some notable changes. Our favorite version is the CPM-M4 model which features woodland green anodized aluminum handles. 

CPM-M4 is a great steel, which you would expect from Benchmade, and the knife itself is the perfect length to straddle the line between EDC knife and tactical folder. It also features a lanyard loop if you’re one of those people who like lanyard loops, and more interestingly a micro glass breaker. 

How often do you need to break a car window in an emergency? Probably not very often, but it is nice to have it if you’re leaning toward a more tactical-style knife. You can also get a version that doesn’t have the glass breaker or the aluminum handles if you want to save a bit.

The Bailout features a 3.4-inches, CPM-M4 blade.

MSRP: $129

Ontario Ti-22 Equinox

Tanto Knife Ontario

Ontario Knife Co. is one of the most criminally underrated makers out there. Everything in its catalog is smartly designed and intended to excel in real-world conditions. That includes the Ti-22 Equinox.

It features, as the name suggests, a full titanium handle and an S35VN blade coated black to inhibit rust and corrosion in difficult environments. S35VN is a premium steel that holds an edge incredibly well, and the lightweight titanium handle is as robust as you could ever want. 

The action is flippy and fidget-friendly, and the handle feels comfortable during extended use. The blade slices paper right out of the box, and comes to a sharp angle where the forward edge meets the primary cutting edge, giving you plenty of piercing power. 

Draw cuts, slicing, and even some camp kitchen prep were easy and straightforward, and the knife handled being carried on a sailboat for a week without showing any signs of rust. All in all, a great EDC that again toes the line towards the more tactical/defensive side of things. 

The Ti-22 has an S35VN blade that is 3.03-inches long. 

MSRP: $138

Case Kinzua

Case Tanto

Case Knives made a flipper! Several actually, with the Kinzua being part of the first line of Modern Everyday Carry Knives to come from this iconic brand. 

This isn’t your grandad’s Case knife, though we love some of those old three-blade traditional babies as much as anyone. These are incredibly modern designs for a modern audience that expects things like one-handed opening, a frame lock, and a deep-carry pocket clip.

In addition to all that, the Kinzua (named for a scenic forestry area in Allegheny County, PA) features an S35VN blade and faceted anodized aluminum handles that are a joy to hold. The flipper tab is nicely contoured, and the knife opens and closes smoothly. 

The tip is a now-familiar American tanto and is great for piercing pesky packages, or anything else you might need to poke a hole into during your daily life. 

MSRP: $179

Spyderco Paramilitary 2 Tanto

Tanto Knife Spyderco

The Spyderco Paramilitary 2 (or PM2) is beloved in the EDC community, and it’s not hard to figure out why. 

It features a polished washer pivot system that is very smooth to open and close, features Spyderco’s iconic compression lock, and now, for the first time, comes with a tanto blade. 

That blade is made of CPM-S30V steel, one of the best you can get in a pocket knife at this price range. Sharpening isn’t too difficult, and the edge will last you a very long time, even with aggressive daily use battering away as you slice open Amazon boxes (or whatever). 

The PM2 has fine-textured G-10 handle scales out of the box, but you and your trusty screwdriver can pop those off and replace them with any one of roughly ten bazillion aftermarket options. Companies like Flytanium keep PM2 owners well-supplied with choices.

MSRP: $246  

The Spyderco PM2 Tanto features a 3.44-inch blade made of CPM-S30V steel.  

Cold Steel Recon Tanto

Cold Steel Tanto

Of course, we can’t have a list of modern tanto knives without bringing out something from Cold Steel, the progenitors of the modern “American tanto” that is the most accurate description of most of the knives on this list. 

Their Recon Tanto is our first fixed blade on this list and is positioned as a tactical/rescue blade. The incredibly robust SK5 steel used in the blade is a common for hard-use tools like machetes and survival knives, particularly military ones. 

The grip is made with Kray-Ex, which is designed to maintain good friction in the hand at all times, even if your hands are wet or you’re wearing gloves. It also doesn’t shred your paws like some rougher materials. 

If you’re looking for a more tactical tanto that can handle everything from camp tasks to self-defense, this is a great option that is a bit heavy, but bomb-proof and reliable. 

The Recon Tanto has a 7-inch SK5 high-carbon steel blade. 

MSRP: Starting at $70

Chaves Redención Street Tanto

Tanto Knife Chaves

Ramon Chaves is a custom knife maker that has made a name for himself as one of the premier designers of tough, hard-wearing, but still stylish blades. His Redención tanto is…very expensive, and worth every penny, exactly the way a custom knife should be. 

If you’ve got the cash and you like the look of it, especially if you enjoy the artisan nature of a custom knife, go buy that.

For those of us with slightly less to spend, Reate has put out a production version of the Redención that comes with a slightly more obtainable street price and is considerably easier to find in stock. 

Ramon works hard, but it’s always going to take longer to produce a custom knife than a production knife coming from a factory with purpose-built tooling. The Redención Street is a great way to get your hands on the design, without waiting months for the custom version.

The Street Tanto is an incredibly well-built framelock folder with an aggressive piercing tip. Despite a 3.63-inch blade length, the whole thing weighs in at just over 6oz thanks to the titanium handle design (which you can get in about two dozen different colors). 

The blade is made from the fabulous Bohler M390 steel, one of the best you’ll find in a pocket knife. 

MSRP: $300

Siam Blades Traditional Black Copper Hira Tanto

Lastly, I’m throwing in a little treat for the two or three of you reading this who came here looking for traditional, no-fooling, tantos made the old way. Siam Blades is a traditional blacksmith shop located in Thailand, but they have Japanese-trained smiths that create blades using traditional methods.

For most people, this is going to be a good balance of value and authenticity. A traditional tanto made in Japan will probably run you about three times what this one does. The Black Copper Hira tanto is made to a similar standard, in the same traditional way, and is as beautiful as it is functional.

Best of all, they have stock ready to ship, so you don’t have to wait 18 months for your tanto to be finished and shipped. I’ve chosen the Black Copper version here, but there is a large variety available depending on what aesthetic you’re going after. 

The blade itself is made of extremely durable high-carbon SK5 steel (very common in machetes, and battle-ready sword reproductions) and is 9.5-inches long.

MSRP: $820

Final Thoughts on Tanto Knives

The tanto is an iconic design, whether we’re talking about the traditional Japanese original or the modern American remix. This knife shape has stuck around for a thousand years for a reason. 

Today, most production tantos are more in the American style at least as far as the tip goes, but this battle-tested design has its roots going back much farther. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look into that long history, and you’ve got a better idea of what your options are for picking up a tanto of your very own.

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Best Sharpening Stones To Keep Your Edge (2023)

Delve into the art of honing perfect cutting edges with our comprehensive guide on some of the best sharpening stones available today.

Even the most expensive, well-made knife is only as good as its edge. You can have a blade made from an alloy of adamantium, vibranium, and uru (aka, the stuff in Wolverine’s claws, Captain America’s shield, and Thor’s hammer respectively) and it still won’t matter if it isn’t sharp.

And while a hardware store pull-through sharpener can get the job done in a pinch, especially if you don’t particularly care about the longevity of your knife, the best way to sharpen any blade is with a proper sharpening stone.

Which is what we’re going to talk about today.

We’re going to go over everything you need to know about sharpening stones, including all the different varieties (oil, water, diamond, and ceramic/glass), as well as how to choose based on your sharpening experience, and what type of knife or other sharp things you’re trying to make sharper.

We’ll also discuss things like grit size, and then we’ll dive into some reviews of the best sharpening stones on the market right now. Let’s start with the basics.

Types of Sharpening Stone

Oil Stones

Sharpening Stone Oil Stone 3

Oil stones are some of the cheapest sharpening stones out there, and they do alright for softer steels, particularly for lower-end EDC knives, multi-tool blades, and other similar blades. They’re called oil stones because, as you probably guessed, you use oil with them.

This keeps the blade from catching on anything as you sharpen and helps keep the removed bits of nearly-microscopic metal from clogging too badly on the stone as you move the blade across it.

Available grits are a little limited with oil stones and tend to be a bit more coarse because the stones are made from aluminum oxide or silicon carbide. This means they aren’t great for knives with a highly polished finish, or for very tough knives made of modern “super steels”.

Water Stones

Sharpening Stone Water stone

Water stones are another popular option that many people turn to to get a great edge on a blade, particularly kitchen knives, hunting/butcher knives, and other hard-use knives that require a sharp edge.

They’re called water stones because, as you probably guessed, they need to be wet in order to sharpen properly.

There are both natural and synthetic options available, with most natural water stones coming from central Europe or Japan, with the latter commanding a fairly high price due to its scarcity. These natural stones come in a range of grits, so there’s one for basically every need.

Synthetic water stones are more common (and less expensive) than their natural counterparts and are what you’ll find in most budget-friendly sets. Many of these stones will be dual-grit, with a coarse and fine side to make them a little more versatile.

Synthetic stones are generally very quick to use compared to their natural counterparts, but will occasionally need to be flattened with a special lapping plate in order to maintain a level top surface. This isn’t a difficult undertaking by any means, but it is worth keeping in mind.

Diamond Plates

Sharpening Stone Diamond stone

Diamond sharpeners, also known as diamond plates or diamond stones, are fast becoming one of the more popular options for sharpening among blade-wielding professionals and anyone who demands a high-quality edge without a lot of fussing with a sharpening stone.

Diamond plates utilize a conductive nickel base with synthetic diamonds electroplated onto the surface. This leaves us with an incredibly durable sharpening surface that is unlikely to wear out in anything other than daily professional use.

If you’re a butcher, you might wear out a couple of these plates in your lifetime.

This durability is matched by their effectiveness, as most diamond plates work very quickly, can sharpen everything from very tough high-carbon steels to cheap stainless, and will even work well on tungsten and ceramic blades.

They’re relatively affordable given how long they last, with most high-quality options coming in under $75.

Arkansas Stones

Sharpening Stone Arkansas Stones

Lastly, Arkansas stones are worth mentioning because they’re often listed separately on many websites and they have some specific terms to know if you’re in the market for a sharpening stone.

As you might expect, Arkansas stones are a natural whetstone that is quarried in Arkansas (as well as Texas and Oklahoma) in the United States. This natural stone has been used since at least the 1800s as a sharpening stone and is also known as Novaculite, which comes from the Latin word for sharp knife or dagger.

Novaculite has also been quarried in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Japan, though these stones have a slightly different makeup and aren’t produced in great quantities anymore.

Many native peoples used the stone for arrowheads and other tools because of its hardness and density, and today it is a popular choice for natural whetstones. It has a long history in the US, and the first usage of the word “whetstone” was actually in reference to an Arkansas stone.

All that having been said, Arkansas stones are a great option but are really just a natural type of stone that can be used with oil or water.

Ceramic Sharpening Stones

Sharpening Stone Ceramic Sharpening Stones

Ceramic sharpening stones are synthetic stones made of very accurately-sized grit particles bonded together to create one contiguous block. These stones, being man-made, are incredibly precise and durable, almost on par with diamond stones, but tend to be more expensive than natural stones.

Usually, these stones are made with corundum, which is an aluminum oxide that is commonly used in sandpaper, emery boards, and industrial abrasive applications. This makes the surface very hard indeed (a 9 on the Mohs scale, where a diamond is a 10) and thus great for sharpening.

Many ultra-fine grit stones will be some kind of ceramic-based product.

Grit Size: Bigger Really Isn’t Always Better

Grit Size

The first consideration, after you’ve chosen the type of sharpening stone (and we’re including diamond plates and synthetic ceramics in that) is going to be grit size.

The basic thing to remember is the lower the number associated with grit size the coarser the stone. We’re going to be using the JIS standard as that is what most folks in the US and Asia will be used to (sorry for our European readers, you may have to do some conversions).

The numbering system in the JIS system comes from the number of grit particles that will fit in a certain size square, so the smaller the number, the larger the individual grit particles will be.

These grits are then organized into ranges, typically Coarse, Medium, Fine, and Extra Fine or Finishing/Polishing stones.

  • Coarse is anything under 1000 grit
  • Medium is 1000 to 3000 grit
  • Fine is 3000 to 5000
  • Extra Fine is anything above 5000

This is just a general way to look at things though, and will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Some may call a 4,000-grit stone fine, and some may call it an extra fine, etc.

What you need to keep in mind is that the lower the grit, the more material you remove, so if you have a chip, rolled edge, or broken tip, then a grit of 1000 or below is appropriate. If you really need to restore an edge, pick up a coarse stone. Be careful though, as it’s easy to overdo it with these.

Most people find that a 1000- to 3000-grit stone (or dual-sided 1000 and 3000-grit combo stone) is a perfect option for keeping an edge on a pocket knife or other general sharpening tasks.

For the kitchen, I personally find that a 5000 grit is great for cleavers and butcher knives, and a 6000-8000 is great for knives with duties such as thinly slicing soft vegetables. I have a 1000/6000 grit combo stone that I find very useful for quickly restoring an edge and getting it back to where I want it.

For my woodworking chisels, I typically go from 4000 to 8000, but for finer work, I can definitely see the need to go to 10,000 and beyond for a truly polished edge, especially if you’re a better woodworker than I am (which is a low bar).

Speaking of Size, Make Sure Your Stone is Big Enough

Most sharpening stones are standardized at around 7-inches long, and 3-inches wide which is perfect for most kitchen knives and pocket knives, but make sure you check the face dimensions so you know what you’re getting.

If you’re going to be sharpening something like a carving knife, machete, or sword, a lot of times you’ll want something a bit larger just so you can get more of the edge at once.

Well-Dressed Stones Last Longer

No, we’re not talking about putting your whetstones in a little suit. Dressing a stone refers to flattening the top surface out so that it makes even contact with the edge that you’re sharpening. Sharpening stones wear more towards the middle part of the face, which is known as “dishing”.

To correct this, stones need to be “dressed” or flattened so that they have a nice, even surface for sharpening. This is especially an issue if you use your stones a lot, or use them on lots of fairly short knives.

To fix this, a dressing plate is used to correct the issue and resurface the top of the stone. This can help your stone last much longer, and give you much more even results.

Buyer’s Guide: Best Sharpening Stones on the Market Today

Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone

Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone

First up, we have one of my go-to sharpening stones, the Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone, in particular this 1000/6000 combo stone. Sharp Pebble does a great job sourcing all its stones, and if you’re just looking to keep your kitchen knives in the right condition, this is where I’d start.

This is an aluminum oxide-based stone that offers a course and fine edge so you can quickly get a decent edge back, then polish up the edge to get something that can easily handle everything from butchering a deer to shaving depending on how much time you spend with the 6000 grit side.

It comes with a bamboo base with a non-slip bottom and a silicone—gasket? holder? grippy thing?—for the stone that keeps it from sliding around or messing up the nice bamboo base. It also includes a 20-degree angle guide to help you get the angle right.

The fact that you get two very useful grits in one stone, plus the base and angle guide makes this a great option for anyone who is making the jump to sharpening with a whetstone instead of a pull-through sharpener. If you’re looking to learn, this is a great place to start.

This, plus a strop could easily be all you ever really need if you’re just looking to keep a good edge on your EDC or home kitchen knives.

Diamond Machining Technology 8-inch DuoSharp

Diamond Machining Technology 8-inch DuoSharp

Stepping up a little bit, we have the DMT DuoSharp, which is a large, dual-grit diamond plate that is great for everything from pocket knives to chisels, and will likely last through a decade or more of regular use.

Because this is a diamond surface, it won’t wear away towards the middle or “dish” like an actual stone will, and it will work well without oil, allowing you to sharpen dry or with water if you prefer.

The size makes it a great option for a workshop bench, and I’ve personally used mine on everything from a rusty machete left in the bottom of a sailboat, to my chisels and other woodworking tools that required a touched up.

You can definitely use this for kitchen and pocket knives as well, and the coarse/fine stone will work well for most people. If you’re restoring old tools or putting an edge on a splitting maul or something, the extra coarse/coarse stone might be a better option for removing lots of material quickly.

Naniwa Abrasive 3,000 Grit Stone

Naniwa Abrasive 3,000 Grit Stone

Now we step into the world of natural sharpening stones with a Japanese stone that is a little on the expensive side, but worth every penny if you want a long-lasting stone that will be easy to use and put a great edge on any blade.

Naniwa Abrasive is a major name in natural sharpening stones, and their standard 3,000 grit stone is a great starting point for anyone looking to upgrade their sharpening game a little bit. I got one of these years ago when I wanted a good medium grit stone for my kitchen knives, and it has been a great performer.

If you’re like me and don’t really let your knives get super dull to the point where you need a 1000-grit stone, and also don’t often spend hours sharpening to a mirror finish, this is a great option for a usable, functional edge on most any knife, especially one that you actually plan to use.

Whetstone Cutlery 400/1000 Wet Block

Whetstone Cutlery

If the blade you’re sharpening is less “master-forged Nippon steel katana” and more “machete that’s been sitting out in the woods” then you’re probably going to want a very coarse stone to get it back to a decent starting point.

For that, we like this very simple and affordable 400/1000 stone from Whetstone Cutlery. It’s cheap and cheerful, and more than capable of getting an edge back on even the dullest of knives.

The 400-grit side will remove rust and take out nicks and chips in an edge, and then the 1000-grit side will help you bring it back to something resembling a real blade edge before you start working on it with higher grits.

Unless you’re restoring old tools, you might not ever need such an aggressive stone, but having one on hand for getting that rusty plane back in working order isn’t a bad idea. And it’s cheap enough that even if you only break it out a couple of times a year, you’ll get your money’s worth.

I really enjoy restoring old Case and Victorinox knives that have been used and abused for years, and this is the perfect stone for repairing those flea market finds, even if someone has snapped the tip of the blade off while trying to use it as a screwdriver or something.

Nanohone Superbite Whetstones

Nanohone Superbite Whetstones

Nanohone’s Superbite “Splash and Go” stones are incredibly high-quality, non-porous ceramic sharpening stones that are simple and quick to use.

They’re also incredibly expensive for a whole set of seven, with individual stones costing around $70.

Still, if you’re looking for a high-end sharpening stone set that will work on everything from your beat-up old pocket knife to your fancy Japanese kitchen knives, this is a great option. The stones themselves come in every grit from 70 microns (200 grit) to 1 micron (10,000 grit) so there’s something for every sharpening and polishing need here.

The stage and sharpening ponds are sold separately, so you can mix and match stones and get exactly what you need without spending too much money. If you enjoy sharpening itself as a hobby and want a kit that can grow as you grow your skills, this is a great option.

Tojiro Pro Finishing Whetstone

 Tojiro Pro Finishing Whetstone

Lastly, we have this high-grit ceramic stone from the Japanese maker Tojiro. These are laser-sintered ceramic, which is great for any ultra-fine applications where you need to get a razor edge.

If you treat sharpening as part of your craft and need professional-grade tools, this is a great option whether you’re a chef, barber, woodworker, or you’re just passionate about having incredibly sharp knives.

Tojiro is primarily a maker of incredibly nice kitchen knives, so you’d probably expect them to know what they’re doing when it comes to sharpening. Their Pro line was originally made for their in-house artisans, and now they’ve made them available to the public as well.

If you want to get a great edge on any knife, particularly high-end, super steel knives, then this is a great option if you have the money to spend.

Final Thoughts on Sharpening Stones

A knife truly is only as good as its ability to cut, which makes a good quality sharpening stone (or stones) a key tool in any blade aficionado’s arsenal. Whether you carry a simple pocket knife, are passionate about cooking, or work with edged tools like chisels, planes, and axes, you need a way to achieve a good edge.

With these sharpening stones, you can get the performance out of your EDC knife you’ve always wanted, get those paper-thin slices of tomato when you’re in the kitchen, and get just the right edge on those tools at work.

Just remember to go slowly, especially at first, choose the right stone with the right grit, and you’ll have razor-sharp edges in no time.

More Sharpening Articles:

What To Look For In The Best Santoku Knife: Buyer’s Guide (2023)

A kitchen do-all, the Santoku is a must-have for foodie pros and novices alike. Here’s what to look for to get the best, plus our top picks.

Santoku knives are becoming increasingly popular in the West, especially among foodies, passionate home chefs, and anyone who brings a knife roll to work in a kitchen. If you’ve been dying to learn more about this great Japanese knife, you’re in luck.

We’re going to go over everything you need to know about the Santoku, from its origins and design, to how to buy and use one in your own kitchen. We’re also going to go over the top Santoku knives on the market right now, in case you’re looking to pick one up for yourself (or as a gift).

Origin of the Santoku

Traditionally, in Japanese cooking, knives have different roles based on what you’re preparing, more than how it’s being prepared. Around 100 years ago, you would commonly see a Gyuto (basically what Westerners call a chef’s knife) used to cut beef, pork, and chicken, a Nakiri to cut vegetables, and a Deba to cut fish.

Each of these is designed for its specific task, and so they are specialized. Of course, they can be used differently, but the idea is to have a knife for every task, rather than a knife for any task.

Around the 1940s, as steel started to come at a bit of a premium due to some noted historical world conflicts, the desire for multi-purpose kitchen cutlery rose, and out of that desire came the Santoku, or “three virtues” knife.

The purpose of the Santoku, also translated as “three uses”, was to be able to handle most food prep duties with just one knife. To that end, it is designed to be able to handle chopping, slicing, and cutting tasks, which is another interpretation of the meaning of the name.

Santoku Design

A Santoku typically uses a sheep’s foot blade and tip, which gives you a long, relatively flat blade edge and a tip that sweeps back up in a large radius towards the spine.

Santoku on cutting board
A mid-range Santoku from my personal kitchen.


Most are between 5 and 7 inches and have an edge with a very Western-style bilaterally cutting edge with a 12 to 15-degree shoulder. Many Japanese knives are ground to a chisel edge, which is only sharpened on one side, but a classic Santoku has a more familiar Western-style edge geometry.

This does mean that, for those of us in the West, sharpening isn’t too much different than with any other kitchen knife, just with a different angle. It also means that Santokus are typically made of very hard steel to prevent damage to that thin wedge.

This makes them an absolute dream for slicing and chopping tasks. If you’ve ever wanted to reliably get those paper-thin tomato slices, you’ll have every advantage with a Santoku.


Most Santokus have no bolster, which may also take a bit of getting used to depending on your grip. However, many have a handle that tapers down towards the blade, making it very comfortable for the classic pinch grip most of us home cooks are probably used to.

Granton Edge

Lastly, many Santokus feature a “Granton edge”, which you can recognize by the slightly scalloped sides of the blade that look like someone took an ice cream scoop to the steel and removed little bits of the blade.

These little scallops help sticky, wet foods like meats and certain vegetables from sticking to the side of the blade as you’re chopping. If you’ve ever tried to slice tomatoes quickly or dice something like a chicken thigh, you’ll know how helpful this feature can be.

What To Look For In A Santoku

Here’s a fun fact I don’t get to bring up in my writing career a lot: I’ve worked as a chef in kitchens all over the South for a good portion of my 30ish years on this planet. In that time I’ve held a lot of knives.

Cooking may not be my main gig anymore, but it is something I’m still passionate about. I cook most meals for my family, and I still help out with the occasional catering gig when my chef friends need an extra hand.

All of which is to say, I’ve got some battle-tested, dinner-rush-proven opinions about what to look for in a kitchen knife, and we’re going to apply those to our Santoku shopping.

Blade Length

While Santokus come in a range of lengths, for your first one I definitely recommend sticking to a 5 to 7-inch blade. This is a good range for all the common tasks you’d likely want a Santoku for and makes for a very handy blade.

This gives you a blade that’s most likely shorter than your standard Western-style chef’s knife (or Gyuto), but still more than sufficient for chopping large, hearty vegetables when needed. It’s also not too big to quickly filet a fish, or other delicate tasks.


Blade steel is an important consideration with any knife, but especially the Santoku. As we discussed above, a Santoku has a very thin edge and narrow blade geometry.

While the thin edge gives you immense slicing and chopping performance when we’re dealing with vegetables, it’s potentially a liability. Specifically, the edge is more prone to rolling if you’re doing something like hacking through a chicken carcass.

To protect against such occurrences, a typical Santoku—and Japanese knives in general—are treated to a higher hardness than Western-style knives. Japanese knives like the Santoku are also typically high-carbon steel.

Practically, this means that you’ll have to put in more work to sharpen a high-quality Santoku than a Western-style knife. On the flip side, the edge will likely last you a good bit longer. This makes the Santoku a good everyday kitchen knife, especially if you don’t love sharpening.

Stay away from stainless steel, unless you’re really on a budget and want to try the Santoku out on the cheap before committing to a more expensive model. (We’ll have some very good budget-friendly options below if you want to go that route.)

Stick to a high-carbon steel of Japanese or German origin if possible, and look for something with a Rockwell hardness of 57 or higher at a minimum. I like 60 plus but that starts to get expensive quickly.

When in doubt, when it comes to any kitchen knife really, buy from one of the countries that lost WWII and you’ll probably do alright (I have similar opinions about cars).

Blade Height

Blade length and width are familiar decision points when buying a knife, but for something like a Santoku blade height (the distance from the blade edge to the spine) is also important.

Because these knives are designed for slicing and chopping against a cutting board, you want to make sure the blade is tall enough to keep your knuckles comfortably off the cutting board when using the knife.

This tall blade also makes it easier to create nice, even slices. The edge is less likely to wander to the left or right as you slice, and you have a nice large flat surface to index whatever you’re cutting against as you’re slicing.

A Note on Scalloped Edges, or Granton Edge

You will probably notice in your Santoku shopping many of these knives, and Japanese knives in general, tend to have a Granton edge. You’ll see dimples on the side of the blade.

Granton edge on Santoku
The dimples on my personal general-use Santoku.

The idea behind these dimples is to relieve the suction effect when slicing through thick vegetables or meats and keep things from sticking to the blade. How much does that help? I’ll be honest, I don’t know.

A lot of it depends on the geometry of the dimples, what exactly you’re cutting through, and its moisture content. In other words, you may not see a huge difference, so don’t get too hung up on the dimples.

Done right, they can definitely help though, so don’t completely discount them either.

Using a Santoku

Actually using a Santoku is a bit different from a Western-style chef’s knife, but don’t let that keep you from buying one!

With a Santoku, the chief difference from the knives you’re probably used to for general food prep is the thickness and the angle of the cutting edge.

A Santoku has an edge that is ground to a much more extreme angle than most Western-style knives, and the edge of the blade is fairly linear compared to your average chef’s knife here in the US or Europe.

Why does that matter?

Where a knife with a pronounced belly, like a Western-style chef knife, will slice downward and then you rock the blade forward just a bit to complete your cut. With a Santoku, the motion is more of a flat downward chop, with very little rocking.

I promise, it’s not actually all that different in practice, but you will have to adjust a little bit when you’re first learning to use the knife.

The other thing to keep in mind is that a Santoku is more prone to chipping if you really hammer it into something hard like bone. This is not what you should be using to hack through carcass joints. Use a cleaver for that and leave the Santoku for slicing and cutting meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Santoku vs Western-style Chef’s Knives

The Santoku is a multi-purpose knife with a similar role to the Western-style knives you’re probably familiar with, but with a very different design.

Santoku vs chef's knife

Compared to a Western chef knife, it is typically shorter, thinner, and consequently lighter. The lack of a pronounced “belly” to the edge also means you will have to adjust your technique if you’re used to cutting with a Western-style chef

A Western-style knife, or Gyuto, is going to have an easier time with fine tip work, and will typically have more of a “belly” to the blade to make it easier to rock back and forth on a cutting board.

In my kitchen, I have both and use them regularly. Like most cooks, I find that a Santoku excels in slicing tasks, particularly if you’re trying to get thin, even slices. If you’re caramelizing onions, slicing tomatoes for a BLT, or dicing up chicken into bite-sized pieces, a Santoku is excellent.

If you’re doing something that requires more of a rough chop, such as dealing with a large number of fresh herbs, a Western-style chef’s knife is probably going to be a better option as you can simply rock the knife back and forth through the herbs and be good to go.

A Western-style knife is also much better for preparing heavier proteins, such as breaking down a chicken carcass or carving up a roast. For one, the blade is longer which makes long drag cuts and slices through thick pieces of meat much easier.

The edge profile of the chef’s knife also handles hacking through bones whereas you’re basically asking to chip or roll your edge if you do that with a Santoku.

For things like fish where you’re typically working with much smaller portions, and you have lighter, thinner bones to deal with, a Santoku excels. Its shorter length is a boon instead of a hindrance here, and the thin edge and blade profile keeps those thin slices of fish from sticking.

As a general rule, for something like fish, garlic, or very wet vegetables and fruits that like to stick to your knife, a Santoku is better. For heavier tasks that require a beefier edge, or a longer cutting surface, your Western-style knife is better.

The type of work you’re doing also matters, with a Santoku being much better for a straight up-and-down chop or slice, and a Western-style knife being better for a rocking slice.

Best Santoku Knives for Any Budget

Wusthof Classic Hollow Edge Santoku Knife

Wusthof Classic Hollow Edge Santoku Knife

First up, we have a favorite of professional kitchens, the Wusthof Classic series Santoku. Wusthof, as you can probably tell from the name, is a German company, and they’re known for making outstanding cutlery. This Santoku is no exception.

This is getting into the upper end of the Santoku market (there will be cheaper options below, never fear) but it is still an excellent value if you’re looking for a durable, well-designed option that’s going to see some heavy use.

I’ve personally used this knife for years, and have one in my personal kitchen at home. In my experience, this is the best-slicing knife out there for vegetables and fish, and I use mine several times a week.

It has a 5-inch hollow-edge blade made of X50CRMOV15 high-carbon stainless steel, making it perfect for home cooks and pros alike.

Tojiro 6.7-Inch Santoku

Tojiro 6.7-Inch Santoku

If the thought of paying more than $100 for a kitchen knife makes you a little itchy in the wallet area, don’t worry. Tojiro has you covered.

This Santoku is a bit on the longer side, making it a great choice for almost any kitchen task. I’ve personally used these knives for a number of years now, and I find them to be a bit chunky, but then I’ve got short sausage fingers. Your results may vary.

Even with my diminutive digits though, this knife absolutely sails through fish, chicken, and other light proteins, and slices fruit and veg like a dream. It has a bolster, and an evenly ground edge so it’s perfect for those used to more Western-style knives.

This knife has a 6.7-inch blade made of cobalt alloy steel clad in VG10, which is high-end Japanese steel with high chromium content. This makes it a great budget option for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time sharpening.

Mercer Culinary Genesis Forged Santoku Knife

Mercer Culinary Genesis Forged Santoku Knife

For the even more budget conscious, the Mercer Culinary Genesis Forged series is a great place to start. Yes, you can absolutely get an entire knife block for $40, but they’re going to be less than stellar.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on cooking gear, but there are some places where you definitely get what you pay for. With this knife from Mercer Culinary, you’re getting a solid knife that will last for years, without breaking the bank. This is about as cheap as I’d go, personally, but it’s no less effective for that.

The Genesis Forged Santoku has a 7-inch blade made of X50CRMOV15 high-carbon stainless.

MAC Professional Santoku Knife

This is another staple of professional kitchens and a great option for passionate home cooks, as well. MAC’s Professional line is a great option for foodies and pros, and their Santoku is no exception.

I actually think I like the handle on this knife the most of any on this list, but that’s down mostly to personal preference. The blade has a 15-degree edge that slices like a dream. The high-carbon alloy is sub-zero tempered to increase hardness and wear resistance.

The handle is made of a very lightweight wood laminate that is very tough and grippy in the hand. The blade is 6.5 inches long and is made from MAC’s Sub-Zero alloy steel.

Miyabi Birchwood Santoku

Miyabi Birchwood Santoku

If you’re looking for something that really reflects the Japanese heritage of the Santoku, a knife that has an aesthetic as nice as its cutting performance, this Santoku from Miyabi’s Birchwood line is a great option.

With a blade made from powdered high-carbon steel that’s been folded over a hundred times and a handle made of a beautiful Karelian birch (the only wood to ever be used in a Fabergé egg), this knife is a serious showpiece that you’ll want on display somewhere.

It also cuts like Wolverine’s claws.

Seriously, if you want a beautiful gift to give that special chef in your life, or you just want a super high-end knife that looks great and slices even better, this is a great option.

The Miyabi Birchwood Santoku has a 7-inch hand-honed blade made of G2 micro-carbide powdered steel in a folded, flower pattern Damascus.

J.A. Henckels Zwilling Hollow Edge Santoku Knife at Amazon

Zwilling Best Santoku Profile

Our last two knives are from the same manufacturer, J.A. Henckels, possibly the biggest name in kitchen knives (with good reason).

The Zwilling Signature series is one of its higher-end options, featuring a hollow-ground edge and a very comfortable handle with a very minimal bolster. This is a good cross between a traditional Santoku handle and a more modern Santoku handle design.

The 7-inch blade is made of an ice-hardened (Friodur) steel that is proprietary to J.A. Henckels that lasts for a very, very long time in between sharpenings. For a bonus, you can get it custom-engraved for basically nothing since J.A. Henckels does everything in-house.

J.A. Henckels Zwilling Pro 7 Hollow Edge Rocking Santoku Knife

Zwilling Santoku

Lastly, we have a very similar knife to the one above, but with a more Western-style edge profile geared more towards the familiar rocking motion most of us know already. It still has a relatively flat edge, so you do get all of that Santoku performance, but with a little more versatility when it comes to a rocking chop.

Like the model above, it features a very comfortable handle, but the Pro series features a more pronounced, Western-style bolster, ideal for the pinch grip that we use here in the West.

It has a 7-inch blade made of proprietary high-carbon SIGMAFORGE steel (I don’t know what SIGMAFORGE means either, you’ll have to ask Henckels about it).

Learn More About Culinary Knives:

Best Ulu Knife: Background And Buyer’s Guide

The Ulu knife has grown in popularity in recent times. We cover the origin of this traditional knife of the north, how it’s used and some of the best modern options.

The Ulu knife has become increasingly popular in recent years among chefs, ardent home cooks, homesteaders and more. Traditionally a food preparation knife, this unique blade has come to be used for various household, hunting, cooking, and survival tasks.

Today we’re going to take a close look at this incredibly versatile tool, including its fascinating history among the native peoples of Alaska, how it is used, and how it stacks up against other similar knives. Then we’ll take a deep dive into the top 8 best Ulu knives currently on the market.

Let’s get started.

History of the Ulu Knife

The Ulu knife has its origins as a traditional tool used by the Inuit, Iñupiat, Yupik, and Aleut people of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and far Western Russia. Throughout history, these knives were used primarily as tools around the home, including for sewing, food preparation, and butchery—depending on the size of the knife.

Originally made with a walrus ivory, muskox horn, or caribou antler handle with a slate blade, modern Ulu is typically made with a wooden handle and steel blade, often reforged from a bartered saw or spade blade in traditional communities.

Alaska Slate Ulu
Photo: Wikipedia

While materials have changed, the design has remained much the same, with a wide, curved-edge blade mounted in front of where your knuckles when gripping the handle. It’s almost like a push dagger but with a wide, single-edged blade on the same axis as the handle.

There are a few regional variations where the blade is attached by a central stem to the handle, but in most versions, the handle is attached at each end of a curved blade.

Today, the knife is growing in popularity all over the world for food preparation, while still being used every day in the indigenous communities where it was first brought into the world. The Alaskan style is most prevalent, with a wide, crescent-shaped blade attached at one or both ends to the handle, but there are definitely other versions out there as well.

Using the Ulu Knife

The Ulu knife has a curved blade designed primarily for either a scraping or in a rocking motion, but it can also effectively chop and slice much like a Western-style chef’s knife.

It is very similar to a sharpened bench scraper in some ways, and can easily be used to gather up chopped ingredients. It can also be used to break down a carcass and is very efficient at chopping through bones, much like a heavy cleaver.

Alaska Style Ulu
Photo: Wikipedia

Smaller versions are also traditionally used for household tasks like sewing, working with hides or leather and even wood carving. Larger versions with blades up to 12 inches are also sometimes used as everything from a cleaver to a draw knife.

For most people though, the Ulu is a kitchen tool, something to make prepping meats, fruits, vegetables, and herbs easier when getting lunch or dinner ready. It has a variety of uses beyond that, but for most, it has earned its reputation as a stellar kitchen tool.

Pros and Cons of the Ulu Knife

The Ulu knife is an extremely useful knife, and very versatile, but it can’t quite do everything. Here are some pros and cons of this awesome traditional tool.

Ulu Pros

Kitchen Prep: First and foremost, it’s great for most kitchen prep tasks. Fileting a fish or carefully deboning a chicken might be a struggle, but for everything else, it is a very fast and effective way of taking big chunks of ingredients and making them smaller.

I personally love using one to chop herbs and leafy vegetables where the wide blade and curved profile make long rocking and slicing motions feel very nice. If you frequently find yourself chopping up fresh herbs from the garden, this is a great tool to have on hand.

Game/Meat Processing: It also does a great job of breaking down animal carcasses, as well as dealing with large chunks of meat like a rack of ribs or a whole chicken. That wide cleaver-like blade may not be ideal for chopping through something like beef neck, but for smaller bones you can easily press the blade against, you’ll have no trouble at all.

It’s also very good for scraping meat off of a bone, quickly chopping up root vegetables, halving large fruits or vegetables like navel oranges when you’re making juice and things of this nature. It also makes a phenomenal pizza cutter (which is one of the primary uses mine sees).

Bushcraft: Outside of the kitchen, it is of course still a sharp piece of metal with a handle, so its use is limited only by your own creativity. They work great for a variety of camp tasks, so if you’re looking for one knife that can really do it all in the backcountry, you could certainly do worse.

Splitting small pieces of wood, making feathersticks, carving a quick replacement tent stake, cutting cordage, and other similar tasks are all well within the Ulu’s abilities.

Photo: WikiCommons

Ulu Cons

Cutting-Style Adjustment: The biggest problem with the Ulu knife is that using it requires a bit of a different motion than your typical Western-style chef knife, or even something like a Santoku because of the handle’s placement.

The chopping or slicing motions you’re used to are going to take some adjusting if you want to use an Ulu effectively. It’s not a huge change for most people, but if you have a lot of muscle memory and knife skill with more common kitchen knives, it is definitely an adjustment.

Somewhat Limited Scope: The other big issue is that the size and shape of the knife make it unsuited for some tasks, but you can say the same thing about any knife really. Still, you’re going to have a rough time filleting a small fish with this knife.

Other than that, the handle design of the Ulu makes things like slicing through very thick material or produce difficult if not impossible, so reach for something else when carving through something like a large watermelon or what have you.

Buyers Guide: 7 Best Ulu Knives on the Market Today

Now, let’s take a look at the best Ulu knives on the market today. These are the knives that offer something beyond the competition in terms of value, features, design, or workmanship.

Condor Ulu Fixed Blade Knife Walnut Wood

Condor Ula

Condor Tool & Knife has made a name for itself across the knife world by providing high-quality knives to meet a variety of needs (and budgets). Their take on the Ulu is made in a very traditionally-Alaskan way, with a curved blade attached to a handle at both ends.

The beautiful walnut handle is engraved with Condor’s logo and features stainless pins attaching it to the blade. The handle is very comfortable and shaped well for most hand sizes. This may not be the knife to hand your kid when teaching them to chop veggies for the first time, but beyond that, it should work well for just about everyone.

The blade itself is 6-inches long and is made of high-carbon 1075 steel, and is hollow ground with a thin edge to facilitate chopping, slicing, dicing, and other kitchen tasks. The knife also comes with a welted leather pouch that is made by hand.

Gerber Downwind Ulu

Gerber Ulu

Gerber’s budget-friendly knives often offer great value for the money, and their Downwind Ulu is a great example of this.

Made of high-chromium stainless steel like many mid-range survival knives, the Downwind Ulu is a great camp knife for folks who like cooking more involved meals in the backwoods, and it can still be used for other camp tasks.

It uses a more modern design, with a handle that is more like a cleaver or a small hatchet really, but the overall ergonomics are still very much in line with the traditional Ulu. If you’re looking for a hybrid between your typical chef’s knife and an Ulu, this is a great option.

The handle is a very grippy G10 that is comfortable in the hand, even if you have wet hands, and there is considerable jimping on the spine of the blade to give you extra grip when doing detailed work like skinning game or gutting a fish.

The blade is 3.5 inches long and made of 7Cr17MoV steel.

Lamson Ulu Knife

Lamson Knife

The Lamson Ulu knife is another take on the classic Alaskan Ulu and is made in America. It features a natural walnut handle that is affixed with brass rivets and uses a half-tang construction.

This particular Ulu is made in Massachusetts and is hand finished and sharpened to give it that extra bit of polish. The blade is a high-carbon stainless tempered to a 58 Rockwell hardness so it holds an edge well without being brittle or prone to rolling when cutting something tough.

It also comes with Lamson’s lifetime warranty, which covers any manufacturing defects in perpetuity, and also includes a lifetime of professional sharpening so when you do need to give the edge a touchup, you can send it to them if you don’t feel like doing it yourself.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly Ulu to use for processing vegetables, slicing pizza, and dealing with other food-prep tasks, this is a great option that will look sharp (pun intended) in any kitchen.

The blade is 3 inches wide (on this version, there are several) and made of 420-HC LAM S/S steel.

Ezina Designs Walnut Inupiak

Ezina Knife

This knife by Ezina Designs is made by North Star Knife & Ulu Company and is handcrafted to be rugged and durable in real-world use. This knife is made in Alaska, and the beautiful damascus blade is made of 1074 and 15N20 carbon steel and features a high nickel content.

This high nickel percentage contracts the grain of the metal and helps it resist corrosion so it can stand up to some heavy use and abuse in the field. The gorgeous walnut scales hide a full-tang construction, and the whole handle is set together with three brass through-pins.

It also comes with a handmade leather pouch sheath that Ezina Designs will custom engrave for you with three characters of your choosing, making this a phenomenal gift for the chef or foodie in your life, especially if they also love the outdoors.

Ezina Designs Antler Mini Ulu

Ezina Antler Handle

Another North Star Knife & Ulu product, this smaller Ulu has a 4” blade that makes it a bit more portable, or perfect for storing out of sight and out of mind with a small cutting board in something like a camper or boat.

It features a gorgeous antler handle, and the same awesome damascus steel featured in the above offering. Because it has such a small blade (relatively speaking at least) it utilizes the more Western style of Ulu more common in Greenland with a thick singular stem connecting the blade to the handle, as opposed to the handle being connected to both ends of the blade.

Overall, if you like the traditional aesthetic and want a small vegetable chopper or camp knife, this is a great option.

Hibben Legacy Ulu Knife

Hibben Ulu

Gil and Wes Hibben are both legends in the knife world, so it’s probably no surprise that they’ve turned their attention to the Ulu. Their take on this traditional knife has a modern design, which you probably expect if you’re familiar with their work.

The stainless steel blade is attached to one end of the handle in the updated hatchet-like fashion we see with some modern Ulus and is 6.5” in length so it’s perfect for kitchen and camp tasks. The stainless doesn’t hold an edge as well as some of the carbon steel options on this list, but of course, will be more resistant to corrosion and rust.

The blade on this thing is beefy so if you’re looking for something to really hack into thick pieces of meat or chop through bones, this is a great option. It’s also durable enough for some tasks around camp, making this a great one for the backcountry cooks out there.

Bushmaster Survival Ulu

Bushmaster Survival Ulu

Lastly, we have the Bushmaster Survival Wilderness Ulu, which moves away from the kitchen knife style and more into a true survival or camp knife. It has a very beefy blade made of 1095 high-carbon steel.

If you’re looking to process large game, hack up a rack of ribs, or split some decent-sized logs for the fire, this is the option for you. The hardwood handles are curved to fit most hand sizes, and secured with brass pins.

This Ulu is just under 4.5-inches overall, which makes it a great choice for a variety of camp chores as it’s not too big or too small for most of what you’re likely to have to do out in the woods. At home, it still chops vegetables just as well as any other option we’ve got.

Final Thoughts on the Ulu Knife

The Ulu knife is a great example of traditional wisdom and design that still very much has a place in our modern world. The old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” very much applies here, with this knife that is just as at home in our modern world of hustle and bustle as it was in the native communities it originated in thousands of years ago.

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