When it comes to the anatomy of a knife, there are a few things that are mutually exclusive to particular blade features. For instance, a fixed blade knife will never have a locking mechanism, as this style of cutting tool cannot fold and, therefore, is always technically locked in position. On the other hand, folding blades can come both with and without a lock, as these mechanisms do not directly impact the folding functionality of the knife itself. Finally, however, there are features that are completely independent of all other knife features — meaning it makes no difference whether the knife is fixed or folding, big or small, sleek and minimalist, or hardcore tactical.
Alongside things like handle materials, blade shapes, and knife steel, a blade’s serration (or lack thereof) fits into this latter category. That’s helpful in that it means any knife from any maker has the potential to come with either a straight, serrated, or combination edge. The downside? It can make choosing between edge types a larger and more difficult task. But that’s why we put together the following guide outlining the differences between the three types of knife edges. That way, you can choose the everyday carry knife that’s right for you.
What's The Difference?
The edge can make a huge difference in the blade’s overall functionality.As mentioned earlier, the type of edge your knife holds is completely independent of its other features. Of course, the edge can also make a huge difference in the blade’s overall functionality. In order to understand which type of edge is right for you, you should first be aware of the options. The following outlines and defines each:
Straight Edge: Also known as a plain or fine edge, this refers to knives that feature a blade with a sharpened cutting side that’s uniform from end to end and has no variation in its shape — with exception given to the curvature or angle of the blade shape itself.
Serrated Edge: Like a wood saw, serrated edge knives feature a sharpened cutting edge marked by seemingly jagged “teeth” which extend from the base of the edge to its end. If the teeth are more gradual and spread apart, this style of knife may be called a wavy edge or, if featured on a kitchen knife, scalloped.
Combination Edge: As you might expect, a combination edge knife features a blade that is partially straight and partially serrated, giving the user the potential for a more versatile spread of cutting styles.
These are the three most common types, though there can be some variation therein — especially in regards to combination edge knives. Remember, the edge your knife holds does not have any bearing on the rest of the knife’s features. So all types — fixed, folding, butterfly (or balisong), or something entirely unique in the industry — and all blade materials can have a straight, serrated, or combination edge. That being said, there are pluses and minuses to each, which should definitely be taken into consideration when selecting your next knife.
The Complete Guide To Knife Blade Steel
Though any edge type can be applied to any knife, it’s still of supreme importance to know the differences between the materials used to make a given knife’s blade. You can find out everything you need to know and more on our complete guide to knife blade steel.
Pros & Cons
By and large the most popular type, straight (or plain) edge blades are easy to manufacture, easy to care for, easy to use, and easy to sharpen — making them a pretty versatile value proposition when it comes to EDC. In fact, for most daily tasks, a straight edge blade is all anyone ever really needs, whether you’re a city dweller or you live a more rural lifestyle. And since the edge is the same from tip to tail, clean and even cuts are easy to maintain — whether you’re opening packages, cutting through cardboard, doing a bit of detail work, clipping twine, or otherwise. For most daily tasks, a straight edge blade is all anyone ever really needs. And once your blade needs to be spruced up, it’s super simple to get it back into fighting shape.
You see, there are dozens of commercial sharpeners — for all ranges of budgets — that will keep a plain edge blade razor sharp. And most of them are incredibly easy to use, requiring little (if any) prior experience. Even if you want to go so far as to keep your knife sharp with a whetstone, a plain edge makes for quick and easy work when compared to the other two types of knife edges.
Their biggest downside, however, comes when the cutting tasks get a bit tougher. While a straight edge is great for most simple cutting tasks, they suffer when the thing that needs cutting is on the tougher end of the spectrum. This tends to come into play most often with the great outdoors. Cutting wood, thick rope, many technical and/or ruggedized fabrics, and more can wreak havoc on a plain edge, requiring more frequent sharpening and a lot more elbow grease to get the job done. That being said, these tasks tend to be fewer and further between when it comes to everyday carry.
Pros & Cons
A lot more common today than in previous years, serrated edges are king when it comes to hardcore cutting tasks. The sawlike teeth make quick work of things like small bits of wood, rope, fabric (even things that are thick and durable, like seatbelts), and even animal skin and flesh (for you hunters out there). And what’s even cooler, thanks to their toothed serration, these edges also tend to stay sharp for a good deal longer than plain edge blades.Serrated edges are king when it comes to hardcore cutting tasks. As a secondary note, serrations can come in many different patterns, but they all work basically the same.
They do, however, require sharpening — which is definitely their biggest drawback. Sharpening a serrated edge is a good deal more time-consuming than a plain edge blade for several reasons. First, they require specialty tools — typically a honing rod but sometimes multiple rods to suit the different sized serrations. But each serration also requires individual sharpening to retain its shape without dulling the tips of the teeth themselves. While a plain edge blade can be made sharp in two quick swipes through a commercial sharpener and be good to go, serrated edges will take ten times as long and require a more careful eye and greater effort.
Their second drawback is significantly less bothersome, though it is still definitely worth consideration. Serrated edges are uneven when compared to plain edges. This means the cuts they make are similarly uneven, sometimes jagged and rough to the touch. Of course, this matters most if you’re trying to use your knife to make precision cuts — though that kind of detail work is somewhat uncommon in the scheme of everyday carry.
As you might imagine, combination edges combine all of the best parts of both serrated and plain edges. Of course, they also have their own set of drawbacks. For instance, more care is required when using either the serrated or plain part of your knife edge — especially with detailing. The small section with a straight edge (generally 1/2 to 3/4 the length of the whole blade) will make clean and quick cuts, so long as you don’t accidentally draw the serrations across your cutting surface.Combination edges combine all of the best parts of both serrated and plain edges. Similarly, the serrations are great for tougher cuts, but slip up and draw the plain edge section across that which you are cutting and you will dull that part of the blade faster.
Unfortunately, combination blades also require the greatest amount of hardware to keep them sharp. Whereas a serrated blade needs just a honing rod and a plain or straight edge can be sharpened with a commercial desktop sharpener or whetstone, a combination blade requires both. Of course, there are plenty of devices that allow for the sharpening of a combination edge — as they contain both honing rods and traditional sharpening methods.
How To Sharpen Your Knife
Regardless of which type of edge your knife has, it will require a bit of maintenance to keep performing properly. Lean how to keep a razor’s edge upon your cutting tool of choice with the help of our guide covering how to sharpen your knife.
Which Is Better?
Unfortunately — and as is often the case — there’s no straightforward answer as to which one is best when it comes to everyday carry knives. You see, there are benefits and drawbacks for each and it’s up to the end user to decide what can be lived with and what’s a deal-breaker. If your everyday carry sees a lot of really hard outdoor usage, you’ll probably want to opt for something with at least some measure of serration — be that a fully-serrated edge or a combination blade. But, folks who require the constant cutting power of a serrated edge are outnumbered by those who don’t. As mentioned before, most everyday cutting tasks can be completed with a plain edge blade and, as such, most folks tend to put a plain edge blade in their everyday carry.
It’s hardly cut and dry, whichever group in which you find yourself. The likeliest outcome, when it comes to everyday carry enthusiasts, is that you’ll find yourself in the possession of multiple knives that suit multiple occasions. For your typical EDC loadout, a plain edge will do fine, but you might want a serrated or combination edge blade for when you go hiking or camping. Even visual preference will come into play. If you like the look of a serrated knife, you’re more likely to carry it. Hopefully, when it comes time to choose your next knife, you’ll be able to take all of this into consideration. After all, carrying a knife should be about utility first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.
15 Best Everyday Carry Knives
Serrated, straight, or combination — whichever edge you prefer, you’ll find the perfect blade to go with it on our list of the best everyday carry knives.