A good blade combines good edge retention, rust resistance and ease of re-sharpening.
First, you must decide between a fixed blade or folding blade. Fixed blades are heavy duty, easy to clean and easily accessed with a sheath. Folders are very safe; most lock open and won't accidentally open in your pack or close on your hand. They may be harder to clean and you have to be careful of keeping the folding mechanisms clean, but they are easier and more convenient to carry and conceal. Whether you decide on a fixed blade or folder, you also need to pick a blade shape and steel that best suits your needs.
Fixed Blades: A fixed-blade knife will never surprise you in use because it is a solid piece of steel.Fixed-blade knives are one solid piece of metal that can have tang or full-tang construction at the handle end. "Tang" construction has a taper that disappears into the handle (wood or other material). Full-tang construction has a solid metal frame, to which "handle slabs" are attached on either side. Full-tang knives are stronger, but a little heavier. with a handle anchored to it. If you are looking for a blade you really trust for tough jobs, such as field dressing and tough camping tasks, a fixed-blade is the best choice.
Folding Knife Locking Mechanisms
Locking folding knives have mechanisms that lock the blade in the open position, activated by opening the blade all the way. A lockback gets its name from a rocker (rocking "lock" bar) partially visible on top of the knife. Opening the blade causes the "rocker" to lock against the blade so it locks open. Pushing down on the rocker on top of the handle releases it and enables the user to close the blade. Lockbacks require two-hand closing, though some are one-hand openers.
A "Liner Lock" (AKA "locking liner") is a folding knife that locks open via a tensioned metal liner inside the handle. Similar to a "Lockback," opening the blade activates the lock. Unlocking is achieved by placing the thumb on the front part of the liner and pushing to the left, which releases the blade. Liner locks are typically one-hand open, one-hand close. A blade thumb stud or hole enables one-hand opening.
A frame lock functions like a liner lock, but the locking mechanism is a section of the handle "frame"-on the side of the knife. The "frame lock" is a channeled lock arm that moves inward to lock against the blade when the knife is opened. Pushing outward releases it from its "locked position" so the user can close the blade. Benefits are fewer moving parts and lighter weight. Frame locks are typically one-hand open, one-hand close.
A push-button is usually located near the front of the handle. The push-button acts as a lock in either the closed or open position. Pushing the button unlocks the blade and allows you to open or close it. Button locks may be one-or two-hand open, one-or two-hand close.
Strong Lock System (SLS)
This is a newer locking mechanism and may be referred to as "Strap Lock" by others in the industry. Utilized on our 830 Marksman model, the SLS uses a metal "strap" along the spine of the knife as a lock bar. Using a flipper to engage the blade, the strap lock bar snaps into the blade lock recess at which point the strap and blade are aligned linearly providing a configuration similar to a fixed blade knife. It has proven to be one of the strongest locking mechanisms available. To disengage the blade, simply lift up the strap with your thumb and use your other hand to rotate the blade closed.
With assisted-opening knives, the user initiates the blade opening, after which a mechanism completes the opening. Typically, the user presses on part of the blade, then once the blade has moved past a detent, the assisted-opening mechanism takes over and opens the blade the rest of the way. A safety lock prevents accidental blade opening-the user disengages it prior to blade opening, then re-engages after the blade is closed. Assisted-openers are typically one-hand open/ one-hand close.
Note: Knife laws may apply (not to be confused with automatic or switchblade type knives).
Pocket knives are still high on the list of favorites - great to carry in your pocket for all the times you might need a blade. The blades don't lock open, but that's not critical for their utilitarian use. When a non-locking blade is opened, generally a spring holds the blade in the open position. Typically, pocket knives are two-hand open/close and have nail notches to aid opening.
Another thing to consider when choosing a knife is the blade shape. What shape will work best for your needs? Below are the most common blade styles.
This blade is full bellied with a strong, thick point for heavier tasks. It can also be used as a general work knife. The top of the blade drops down toward the tip, which minimizes accidental puncturing while skinning. The drop point blade is strong and very versatile.
Holding many of same features as the regular tanto blade, the angled point is modified between the front edge and the bottom edge on this particular blade. Holds up to piercing, scraping, and prying with tough materials.
Very strong for heavy duty use. Holds up to piercing, scraping and prying with tough materials. Many tactical knives utilize this blade shape.
Best suited for skinning game. The tip is narrow, while the wide curved belly gives a nice skinning sweep that aids in getting through thick layers. The downward angled, more blunt point makes it harder to make an accidental slice through the hide.
This is a smaller version of the larger "spear point" blade. Pen blades are usually on pocket knives as a handy, all-purpose blade.
A narrow blade with a sharp, angular point, it is designed to be used for cutting in tight spots or curved patterns, much as you would with a coping saw, only without the teeth.
The crescent tip makes the blade thinner with a sharper point. This shape provides good control for detail work and cutting in tight places. It is also well suited for intentional punctures like new holes in your belt, etc. While the point of the blade is effective for detail work, it's not as strong as the thicker points on drop points and skinners.
Almost scalpel-like in shape, it has a mild drop point, with nearly a spear tip that is used for the delicate removal of the hide of the face of a trophy animal. The shape makes caping knives perfect choices for birds and small game. Caping knives tend to be slim and very light duty so they are not always a right choice if you only intend to carry a single knife.
Serrations give your Buck blade greater cutting power. Especially useful when cutting line and/or cables.
For great performance when field dressing game, a gut or skinning hook is an ideal tool. We’ve paid careful attention to the angles on the sharpened edge, shape and size of the entry opening and location of the hook on the blade, making a Buck gut hook the best.
No matter how good the blade steel, there are always trade-offs. Corrosion-resistance vs. edge-retention. Edge-retention vs. sharpening ability.
Take S30V Steel. It provides the very best in edge retention and tensile strength, but is more difficult to re-sharpen and needs proper care. 17-7PH Steel resists extreme corrosion like salt water, but can’t match the edge retention of harder steels.
Commonly known as spring steel, 5160 has excellent shock absorbing properties making it resilient to shattering and extremely durable as a knife steel. We harden to 57-58 Rc to maximize its performance.
Provides great edge retention and hardness for wear resistance and strength. Also difficult to resharpen yourself, but is a great steel choice. For best performance, we harden to a standard Rc 58-60.
This is Buck's standard blade material because it approaches the wear resistance of high carbon alloys while delivering the corrosion resistance of chromium stainless steels. Add our exclusive heat-treat process and you have a very user-friendly combination of superior corrosion resistance with excellent strength for wear resistance and durability. You also have a blade that is easy to resharpen. For best performance we harden to a Rockwell hardness of Rc 58.
We consider this the absolute best blade steel available, and it is made in America. S30V contains carbon as well as high amounts of Chromium, Molybdenum and Vanadium. This steel combines fantastic edge retention and high ductility combined with corrosion resistance. Double-tempered - it can be hardened to a Rockwell hardness of Rc 59.5-61. However, it is difficult to resharpen yourself, but we do offer sharpening services for a nominal fee.
This steel is ideal for excellent edge retention, great corrosion resistance and for heavy cutting applications. For best performance, we harden to a standard Rc 59-61.