knife designs

Among other things, I collect interesting knife designs. As with much of this page, I've realized it's a whole lot cheaper to just collect ideas than to collect actual objects. Who needs thirty-seven different fighting knives, anyway? For that matter, who even needs one? The point is: I used to collect knives; know I just scan the cool designs out of catalogs and try to figure out what it is I like about them. Maybe someday I'll design and build a knife of my own. When and if that happens, the designs on this page will have been my source of inspiration.

Generic boot/dive knife in stainless steel.

This is the blade that first got me interested in minimalist knife design. Its symmetry, while attractive, is not terribly functional. Double-edged knives, in general, are not nearly as useful as single-edged knives, because it is harder to control a double-edged blade (e.g. by bracing the back of it with your finger), and because they are, obviously, much less safe to use. Still, the ubiquity and conceptual simplicity of this knife are and always have been appealing to me.

Generic fighter by united cutlery.

A cheap fighter manufactured by United Cutlery. The quality is poor, but the profile is attractive and well-thought out. Tanto-style blade is easy to sharpen and penetrates effectively. Finger groove and thumb ridges index the knife properly in the hand for fighting. Holes in tang serve to lock the knife into the bundled kydex sheath. Pommel is flattened for delivering butt-strikes or for use as an impromptu flat-head screwdriver or pry-bar.

Buccanneer fighting knife by AngelSword, with matching trainer.

Handmade fighter by AngelSword, of Texas, and matching training knife (by me) in oak, with steel pins to match balance of the original. The difference in weights is still a defect; a good fighting knife package includes not only a knife and a sheath, but an identically balanced and weighted (but safe) training knife.

The SuperKnife.

A novel and practical approach to the problem of keeping a pocketknife sharp: Disposable blades. The handle is static, the blade readily and cheaply replacable with hardware-store utility razors.


So I bought one of these about two months ago. The brandname is Superknife. My boilerplate response: SUPERKNIFE "NOT SO SUPER," SAYS DESIGN WONK. The idea of a folding box-cutter with replaceable blades is excellent; unfortunately the execution leaves something to be desired. I've had the knife in my pocket for about two months and one of the retaining screws for the belt-clip has already come off. Even worse, the liner lock has stopped working: Open the blade, and the lock does not engage. The blade is free to flop around. This is both annoying and dangerous. Finally, the knife comes with a special tool to remove the blade-retaining screw, which is small and easily lost (both the screw and the tool). Even though it's a standard Allen wrench size, you shouldn't need a specialized tool to change the blade. A good concept, guys, but it still needs some work.

If you buy or already own one of these, consider the following retrofit: Dissassemble the whole knife. Take out the liner lock and bend the hell out of it to make it engage more strongly. You might even consider heating it with a torch, once bent, and allowing it to cool slowly back to room temperature to anneal the steel. Now, when you put the knife back together, put a dab of Loctite on all the screws except, of course, for the blade retaining screw. If you're handy enough to do all that, you can easily throw out the included blade-changing tool and just use an Allen wrench when you need to replace a blade. Haven't done it yet myself, but if I do I will post results here.

update 2

So never mind what I said about retrofitting your Superknife: Throw it away, sell it, or give it to a bum (which is what I did with mine) and order one of these Folding Lockback Utility Knives by Great Neck - Sheffield. The knife is equipped with a solid frame lock (instead of a flimsy and poorly-made liner-lock), is held together by rivets (which won't loosen with time), and requires no tool to change the blade. To top it all off, at Automotive Tool Express it costs less than half what you'd pay for a new not-so-Super-knife.

What to buy instead of a 'Superknife'.  Only comes in blue, regrettably.

Meyerco also offers its MCRAZOR speed-assisted one-hand opening razor knife, but I haven't tried it for myself and don't know much about it. Anybody who's got any comments kindly e-mail me.

'Cyberknife 1' by Camillus.

The interesting thing about this folder by Camillus is their use of recycled PCB (Printed Circuit Board) as handle material. Although I generally don't think knives need bolsters, if you're going to use them they might as well be made of cool recycled materials.

Combat Commander by Colt Knives.

Supposedly developed for the US Navy SEALs combat knife program, this design has good lines, an economical price, and useful features such as a wire breaker notch in the pommel.

Inexpensive stainless survival knife from

This is my favorite kind of knife design: No moving parts, only one piece of steel, cut to maximixe utility as a tool: It's got a blade, a gut book, several lanyard holes, a flathead screwdriver, a bottle opener, and 6 different-sized wrenches built in.

'Survival Skinner' from

A design in powder-coated steel obviously related to the one above. It's got all the same features, plus a slightly longer blade and serrations for cutting rope on the top edge. Although generally uglier, nonreflective finishes are better for field use. A shiny knife is easier to see from a distance.

Paratrooper knife in the open position.
Paratrooper knife closed.

Parachuting poses some unique problems to the knife designer: Imagine the irony of surviving a thousand-foot jump from an airplane only to be killed because you landed on the wrong end of your knife. This design operates on the pantograph principle. The blade retracts fully into the handle and is stored safely and accessibly, but with no possibility of accidental opening. The closed, collapsed knife, complete with sheath, is as harmless as an eyeglasses-case. Note serrations for cutting lines.

The Victor Lee Cycloe Three-Bladed Knife.

Sometimes I have to admit that I'm a sucker for cool. This knife has no redeeming functional value, that I can see, but it does show a degree of creative and unconventional thinking in knife design that is laudable in spirit, if not in this particular application. It's just neat. On yeah: These guys are available from Cheaper Than Dirt, last time I checked.

Generic 'Skeleton Boot Knife' identified as pattern DBA025 at

Skeletonized boot knife of the type that first interested me in knife design: What is the most useful profile you can cut out of a piece of stainless steel?

'Wire frame' fighter/thrower from Master Knives.

This design is a bit fantastic for my taste, but it does fit the general pattern I like: A piece of steel, nothing else. It's all about minimalism, doing a lot with a little, less is more. Etc., etc., etc.

Columbia River's K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple Super) is the best folding knife I've ever seen.
The knife is a frame lock, the blade sharpened on one side only (chisel grind), so that only one bolster is needed for the exposed edge to be safe in the closed position.

As many have noted, throwing knifes are rightly thought of as a circus trick, rather than a practical means of self defense. Still, the elegant simplicity of this design, combined with the reserved and tasteful cord-wrapped handle struck my fancy. If my knife has handle material at all, it will be simple cord-wrapping. The industrialization of the prisoner's 'shiv'. A knife profile can't get much simpler than this. Ad copy promotes 'thumb rest' and 'matte finish'.
Miniaturization and good ergonomics at a rock-bottom price ($3.99).
'Lucky Leaf' knife from

Leaf knife in its closed and open configurations. Open length is 4.5in. Note ring passage to facilitate wearing the knife in the open, as a pendant, with ready but discrete access. Although pretentious in form, this pretension serves the function of concealment. The Leaf Knife was featured in a 1979 U.S. Customs Service bulletin on 'Disguised Weapons'.

The profile of Gil Hibbens 'Claw' knife is novel and functional. Button-snap, lower right, secures blade to matching sheath. The Claw has been designed to be wielded in either orientation. Gil Hibben's 'Negotiator II' fighter. Gil Hibben's 'Pro Thrower II' throwing knife. Gil Hibben's Generation II Thrower. Two 'precision' throwers from Rigid Knives. The lower model has been discontinued. 'Cobra' with tanto-style blade from Colt knives. The interesting thing is the blade serrations, which are laser cut. Supposedly, they cut as well as traditional 'scalloped' serrations, but can be sharpened without special tools, just like the rest of the blade.