What Is Knife Abuse?

In reading various knife- and survival-related posts, “knife abuse” is a recurring theme. People seem to have a vast range of definitions of what it is. Some think that prying with a knife is abuse. Others think that throwing a knife is abuse. Others think that using it as a spear is abuse.
My opinion is, that any use that needlessly defaces or damages the knife, qualifies as abuse. For example, I have seen youngsters sitting around a campfire, whittling on rocks. A lot of knives with broken points have also come through my shop, and I would class these as “abused” until proven otherwise.
A category that also needs to be considered, is “arduous use.” This is simply heavy, possibly risky, use of a knife by a skilled person who has a good feel for the capabilities of the tool, and who knows how to stop before damage is done. This person can and will use the point of the knife to probe and pry. But, unlike the unskilled “abuser” knows how to tell when the steel is reaching its limit. And he stops before the blade bends or breaks.
Handles are another common victim of abuse. Again, the user needs to consider what material the handle is made of, how strong it is, and how they are applying force to it. For example, if a knife has a beautiful wood (or antler) handle, it would be very unwise to pound on it with a wooden baton, because the wood will be defaced, and possibly destroyed. However, a knife with a micarta handle and good, strong construction could take the same beating and hardly show a scratch.
The most common abuse of knives that I see, is simple neglect to sharpen and maintain the edge. Plant sap and animal juices need to be cleaned off promptly, or they will cause a dreadful amount of friction. Either, or both, of these elements directly increase the amount of force needed to accomplish the necessary tasks; and this increase in force places needless stress on both the knife and user.
Finally, we mentioned the word “skilled.” The more skill a person has, the more work they can accomplish with any given tool, and the less likely they are to damage the tool (or themselves).
So, how to we gain skill? By doing useful work. Not just “busy-work.”
A last observation is, that people who got started early in life almost always have the best intuition regarding the limits of tools. They can “feel” how the tool is reacting to the stress they place on it. They may have broken tools at times, but they learned from this how to detect the signs of stress, and stop short of doing damage. They are not careless, but responsible. They know the value and importance of their tools, and how difficult it can be to repair or replace them. Therefore, while they work earnestly and swiftly, they are alert to detect danger before it springs upon them.


About christophersknifeblog

I am a knifemaker and dealer, and live a very diversified life in the mountains of central Idaho. I love nature, agriculture, and homesteading. My knifemaking motto and advertising slogan is, "Knives Built for the Bush." I intend them to be efficient, durable, comfortable, functional, graceful equipment for life's challenges and opportunities. My website is www.ctfischerknives.com. Please visit!
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