Knife Philosophy: feels good in the hand!

Discussion in 'Knives & Multi-Tools' started by Shorttime, Mar 14, 2018.

  1. Shorttime

    Shorttime
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    This is a revised and much-compressed version of two threads that I posted in another place. Some of the conclusions I draw sound like they might have some kind of actual math behind them, and they do. But I have chosen not to include it here, because time and attention are the most valuable commodities on the Internet. If you're reading, I will try not to waste yours.

    Some knives work better for EDC than others. Beyond the obvious difficulty of opening a letter with your 8" Bowie knife, there isn't a whole lot of information out there about exactly why some knives just seem to "feel better" than others. All people say is "great ergonomics!", if they say anything at all.

    I'm here to kill that magic for you. With one simple line.

    [​IMG]

    For those who care about photo quality, you won't find it, here: I copied them into Paint, and drew a line on them. So they're different sizes, and all kinds of things that would send a proper photographer into convulsions.

    So what? That's not the point. The point is that little black line across the knife.

    This line is part of the "feels good" quality of any knife. It starts at the point, and just barely touches the part of the handle where your index finger should naturally rest. From there, it passes out of the back of the handle.

    Let's look at another.

    [​IMG]

    This is a wharncliffe-blade version of the Hinderer Flashpoint, which is the fixed-blade version of the XM folder. For those who like their accuracy. RH's knives are one of the things that people generally agree have "great ergonomics!", which is what got me thinking about this question.

    Back to this mystery line. If you look at the pommel of the knife, you'll see that it crosses the end of the handle up higher (toward the spine), than it did on the drop point.

    One more example.

    [​IMG]

    This triumph of form over function is brought to you by Benchmade. The line is red this time, like it should have been in the other pictures, but Paint is a stupid program to work with. Never mind.

    Much of everyday cutting involves getting the point of the knife into the thing you want to cut. Many common materials have great shear- and tensile strength, making it hard to open bags and taped boxes. So the measure of a knife that functions well is how natural it feels to control the tip. For some reason, that "natural" feeling is determined by where that red(/black) line ends.

    There is more to it than that, but very little meaningful work is being done to compare folding knives. A lot of noise goes into lock strength, and steel chemistry, but the bestest, strongest, sharpest knife is going to stay in a drawer, because it has to have a lot more qualities than just superior cutting ability.

    The line that I've drawn in those pictures is only part of the story. The rest of this post is another part.

    As mentioned above, I have decided to omit large portions of the original thread. It began with a couple knives from my collection that I enjoyed carrying, because I felt they were good examples of what a knife handle should feel like in use. It continued with measurements of width and thickness at a key point on the handle, and a comparison of perimeter and aspect ratio, to reach the conclusions you see, below.

    For a knife to "feel good", it must have

    Perimeter of 2.56 inches (distance around), at the point where you index finger naturally grips the handle. This one is up for debate, because I can't speak for people at either end of the bell curve, hand-size-wise. It may be that a “better” formula is a comparison ratio of your hand length to the perimeter of the knife handle.

    Aspect Ratio of 0.46 to 0.75, inclusive, to allow for good control while cutting. This width-to-thickness ratio is also measured at the point where you index finger grips the knife during regular cutting tasks.

    Finally, that “tip to pommel line”. I haven't come up with a slick name for it, but it's a graphical representation of how easily you will be able to control the tip of any knife. The further up the spine of the handle that line touches, the better.

    There is more to it, still. I've concentrated on the index finger, but the rest of your hand plays a role, too. I've got some ideas, but I haven't found a way to put them into words, just yet.

    I'm posting all of this because I want to encourage discussion. My conclusions sound really good (to me), and I'm the first person to address this with math. But I'm especially interested in why you think I'm wrong, what else you would like to see me try to figure out about knives, and what you would do differently.
     
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  2. moostapha

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    I have a question...

    Your conclusion about the magic line is that the farther up the spine of the handle, the better....yet you say the Benchmade is a triumph of form over function....

    Either I'm misunderstanding you or these statements are in conflict....

    So....what am I misunderstanding?

    Sent from my BBD100-2 using Tapatalk
     
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  3. Sharaz_Jek

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    I get it. To me, this lady is the most natural in form and function. One of the $2 Wal-Farts folders but this thing just fits my hands so well. It's the most ergonomic knife in my collection and it's just a joy to use. I even use it in the kitchen sometimes.

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Shorttime

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    Hmmmm.

    I might have meant "function over form".

    I hope that minor mistakes in syntax don't get in the way of what I'm trying to illustrate.

    Accuracy is important when you're mapping unexplored territory, so thanks for pointing that out.

    Sent from my accursed mobile device, whether it automatically adds a signature, or not!
     
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  5. dmak

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    I think y'all mean function over form. Form over function is a shitty but pretty option. Function over form is an ugly hard user.
     
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  6. sk33tr

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    function over form is certainly what should be first on the list. too many times i've seen people choose form over function (whether it be regarding knives or anything else) and then be disappointed with the product.

    the first question you need to ask is: "does this serve the intended purpose and does it do it well?"

    i can agree that pretty things can be a temptation. and i must admit that i have fallen into that "trap" (not really the word i wanna use, though) a couple/few times. but over time i have learned to look at the function aspect, first.

    now, i like to look at some things as having the tendencies of a 4x4 truck. it may not be as nice or pretty as a ferrari, but it will carry people to and from a destination just the same. plus it has the added ability to do it with lots of extra space and can go places the ferrari can't. a ferrari is sexy, no doubt. but can it carry 5-6 grown men through the mud, all while carrying a load of lumber or whatever else you can fit in the cargo area? no. but the truck can get you to a downtown destination just like the ferrari; obviously with not the same style, though.

    so while it's nice to get in and drive the ferrari every once in a while and have people stare at you; i'd be more inclined to go for the utilitarian truck to get the job done.
     
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  7. Shorttime

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    Sk33tr's metaphor helps illustrate the range and variability of cutting tools we have to choose from. In this metaphor, the Ferrari would be something like a traditionally forged kwaiken: superbly focused on cutting, but not the kind of thing you want to get dirty.

    A Harsey Pacific or Busse would be something like a light tank: really hard, but again, possibly a little too much for regular use, at least in more built-up areas. I know there are folks who carry 4-5" fixed blades as a matter of everyday use. but again, there is a lot of room in the world.

    You can only bend a metaphor so far before you break it. I know, because I've done it, many times. So, we can only get so much out of comparing knives to motorized vehicles, but you can still compare the relative balance of capability, performance, and efficiency, although not on a one-to-one basis.

    Broadly speaking, choosing a vehicle involves choosing where on the cargo carrying spectrum you need to be from racing bike to tour bus, as well as how far off-road you need to go, what kind of fuel efficiency you want, and how much you can afford.

    Now, there's no such thing as fuel efficient knives, but you may find that the G10 handle slabs, instead of the Titanium ones (for example), are a better fit for you because they cost less, and you will be able to carry and use the knife, because you're not afraid of scuffing the G10. We can go on about blade steel, blade length, lock type, and continue drawing comparisons, but the point is that you're not going to get everything you want, unless you're willing to pay for it.

    All of this allows me to wrap back around to a point I want to make, anyway: every knife is a compromise. Like my sig says, right now. And this includes how well the handle fits your hand, allowing you to get the point in, and control the depth and direction of the cut.
     
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  8. moostapha

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    Everything is a compromise.

    Nothing is perfect.

    Seriously, think of a thing....there's almost certainly a way it could be better, even in the near trivial example of it being the exact same thing with a lower price tag (or a higher one for certain products).

    Sent from my BBD100-2 using Tapatalk
     
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  9. sk33tr

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    both very well said.

    i treat my knives and guns as tools. if they get scratched, i MIGHT get a bit miffed, but it won't keep me from liking it or using it. the blades on all my knives all have scratches on them from use. if you carry a knife without any scratches on it, then it's not being used....at least not enough, in my opinion. and if it's not being used, then what's the point of carrying it?

    my 1911, that i carry every single day, has a couple scratches on it. i actually got a small scratch on it the first week i had it. when it happened, i immediately thought, "well crap!" but then i thought, "well, it won't keep it from performing like it should." and it didn't. it still fires as it should and it still functions as intended. that scratch has no bearing on the performance of the gun, whatsoever. and the same goes for the scratches on my knives. they all still cut very well, and all still function as intended (the folders open and close just as easily today as they did when they were new).

    having said that, i have had someone tell me, "yeah? well what about your truck? i bet if you got a scratch on your truck you'd more than a bit miffed, about it." and i was like, "well, of course i would. but then, again, i didn't spend over $30,000 on any of my knives or guns." and, btw, i have several scratches on my truck and it still functions as intended. it doesn't hold less cargo in the bed, or go slower, or get less gas mileage, or hold fewer people. yeah it might look a bit worse than a new vehicle. but it's not new. it's 7 years old now and looks like it's been used. and it has been used, as intended. i use it to haul stuff; either cargo in the bed or people in the cab. and if i wanted it to stay looking brand new, then i'd never drive it and keep it covered.
     
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  10. moostapha

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    Heh. I found a rusted scratch on my car the other day. I should get around to fixing that at some point.

    Also, I intentionally put an idiot scratch on my 1911 (which was my first pistol) so I wouldn't care about hurting it...it was supposed to be a competition gun and was destined to be dropped unceremoniously into barrels and boxes, probably dropped and fallen on (in a holster), etc.. The only time it's bugged me was the time I broke a FO element. All of my guns are the same way. I don't think I've ever hurt/scratched my Anschutz 2313, but that's just coincidence.

    I did take a bandsaw to the palm riser, though.
     
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