Before a knife can be used in competition it must be certified as tested. The testing of knives is an old idea, but what does it mean to test a knife for a cutting competition? Knives used in competition are put through some grueling exercises. Cutting 2×4’s, rolling golf balls, 3/4-inch hardwood dowels, heavy 1/4-inch walled cardboard shipping tubes, and vertical 2x4s are hard on a knife. These are just examples of some heavy cuts that may be presented when the clock is ticking. When a knife fails in competition, it can cost a competitor a win or valuable points. On the other hand, a knife failure during testing can be an opportunity for advancement in design, materials, edge geometry and heat treatment.
The Good Side of Failure
How does a competitor know that his knife will not fail when he needs it to perform most? We test our knives extensively. Sometimes these tests make a knife fail and it’s better to have a knife fail behind closed doors than to have it fail in competition where reputation, the score, and even lives are at risk. But what can be learned from a knife failure, and how does this translate into a better competition knife?
Heavy cuts are what make knives fail. Chips, wrinkles, tang failures, handle de-lamination are all problems that can occur during these power cuts. Each type of failure tells a different story. Has an edge been ground too thin? Did the steel’s heat treatment make the knife too hard or soft? Is the appropriate steel being used for the task at hand? Are there stress risers causing fracture points? Is the epoxy being used to secure the handle shock-resistant enough, and can it stand the sheer forces of a heavy cut? Looking critically at a knife failure and asking these and other questions may lead to answers that could lead to a new discovery. Testing to the point of failure, then making improvements and pushing the limits is one way to achieve our goal—a better competition knife.