Question Of The Day: To Serrate, Or Not To Serrate?

Image courtest Spyderco

Digging through my knife drawer yesterday, I noticed that almost all my knives had one thing in common that couldn’t possibly be a coincidence: none of my favorite knives have serrated blades. I hardly own any serrated knives, and I almost never use the few that I do own.

It’s time to Ask The Audience: do you like your chips regular, or rippled?

Image: Chris DummMost modern knife designs are available with plain or serrated blades, but it’s always the plain edge that appeals to me. Why is this, and am I alone in this bias?

Maybe my preference isn’t totally illogical. After all, plain edges are better suited to the majority of my cutting tasks, because I don’t cut a lot of straps or rope. And I do open a lot of letters and blister packs. I even use pocketknives in the kitchen (yes I’m a geek) just to stay in practice, and cleaning raw meat chunks out of aggressive serrations is almost as much hassle as sharpening them.

Sharpening serrated edges is a laborious pain in the ass. They’re almost impossible to repair if they get really trashed, and of course they’re impossible to strop for that final edge polish.

In the end, maybe I just prefer the elegance and beauty of a plain-edged blade. A serrated-edged blade is essentially a very sharp saw, but a plain-edged blade is a real knife.

Your thoughts?

comments

  1. Mic says:

    Half serrated. It is how I have always rolled. It gives me more options on my blade, my opinion though. YMMV.

  2. chuck k says:

    A lot depends on the style of the serrations. Spyderco has a good product. I have had an Endura with a full serrated blade since 1995 or so. It is not that hard to keep sharp with the spyderco sharpmaker. Also some good videos on youtube on how to use the sharpmaker on serrated blades. I carry it when I am going to be working outside but I always have a plain blade on hand also. 90% of my knives are plain and I do prefer them overall.

  3. Chas says:

    I have only one knife with serrations. It sits in the drawer and never gets used.

  4. Aharon says:

    I prefer smooth edge knives in the kitchen and for the outdoors. For cutting bread or tomatoes a serrated knife is good.

  5. Mike says:

    The only serrations I’ve really liked are the scallops Kershaw makes even then 99.9% of the time I only carry a plain edge. I feel that if I maintain the edge on my knife and keep it sharp serrations don’t give me much benefit. I also always have a Leatherman on hand that has a serrated blade if I really need it

  6. daveinwyo says:

    No serrations for me. A sharp blade will do anything I need to do, including cutting rope. I carry the Leek for EDC and use it every day, from cutting bailing twine to food prep. My Gerber 600 multi-tool has/had a serrated blade, now its more of a glorified awl for poking holes in leather or other awl-like uses. Wife has a part serrated Geber and I have to work at keeping it sharp.

  7. scubamatt says:

    I used to buy/carry/use serrated and partially serrated knives, but eventually realized that there is nothing a serrated edge can do that a properly sharpened plain edge can’t do. Key phrase is ‘properly sharpened’, of course, and plain edges are easier for me to sharpen. I can see the use for a dedicated rope/cable cutter like an EMT tool of some kind, but (forgive me) I just don’t see the point of serrated blades in my lifestyle anymore.

  8. Too close to chicago says:

    Always plain edge for my knives. I don’t have a use for a serrated edge and I like have the full length of the blade for every day uses. BTW, I also use my pocket knives in the kitchen, you are not alone.

  9. Paul B says:

    Never have found a serrated blade that works better than a straight on. Since they are buggers to sharpen I have written the serrated advantage off to marketing hype.

    They might be good for something, but what ever that might be I don’t do it.

  10. jwm says:

    Before I semi retired I spent a lot of my time opening boxes and then disposing of them. A serrated blade has an advantage over a plain blade in that task. Nowadays, I don’t deal with cardboard that much. Plain edges work better for what I do. Still another reason not to limit yourself to one knife.

  11. Nathan says:

    I will only get serrations if I become a fisherman or EMT

  12. Greg says:

    I’ve got my eye on a dragonfly in H1 with the full spyderedge. Seems like it would be an awesome knife for fishing trips on the outerbanks. It would be the first serrated blade in my collection. I don’t think there’s whole lot a serrated blade can do that a sharp plain edge can’t, which is why I probably haven’t felt the need to buy one as of yet.

    1. crockett says:

      H1 is at its best in full serrated edge because it is work hardened. The plain edge has okay edge retention but when it is fully serrated it will beat out s30v.

  13. knightofbob says:

    I’ve always preferred partial serration. I’ve never had any issues with sharpening, either. Part of that non-issue is that the serrations don’t need to be sharpened as often as the straight part of the blade, and I will concede that a reason for that may simply be due to that section being used less often. One of the many non-recommended uses my Griptilian has survived, however, was cutting thinner gauges of safety wire, and the straight edge would never have accomplished that. Plus, don’t discount defensive potential, a quality designed serration will cut through leather with ease and even defeat kevlar.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, since I’ve come to realize the Griptilian is a little more than I need for EDC anymore, not to mention a little bulky. I’m pretty certain on what I’m going to buy as a replacement, but I’m less sure on whether or not to go half-serrated or not. Past experience and personal preference definitely have me leaning that way, though.

    1. Mark Davis says:

      bob – if you like the Grip but find it a little too much knife for EDC, you may want to consider the Benchmade 940. http://www.benchmade.com/products/940

      Its awesome, and has become my favorite Benchmade. (And I have 4 Griptilians).

      1. knightofbob says:

        I’ve pretty much sold myself on the 530, actually. I’ve handled more than a few, and I’m just consistently blown away by how thin and light they are. And I’m a bit of a sucker for spear-points.

  14. Mark Davis says:

    My first couple of Spyerco’s (in 2000) were serated. I used them a lot and maintaned them with a sharpmaker. Eventually the serations almost wore off. These days I occassionally use an older 6″ Cold Steel Voyager that is serated, but only because I can’t find it in a plain edge. (It’s the older model Voyager, now discontinued in favor of the the Tri-Ad version). Generally I prefer straight edge. Lile scubamatt says, a straight edge that is sharp will cut almost anything. And I think the straight edge versions are generally better looking.

  15. Sam L. says:

    The only all-serrated blade I have is a little Spyderco I got for subscribing to BLADE magazine. I have a half-serrated Mini-Griptilian because I couldn’t find a straight one at the time. The half prevents it from whittling easily. I do like having serrateds on my multi-tools.

    1. Sam L. says:

      Well, except for my 2 bread knives. And a Victorinox paring knife I don’t use.

  16. PubliusII says:

    I’m in the minority here, but the only serrated knife in the house is a kitchen bread knife — and it has a big, fat rounded point! (No steak knives, either, but those would be serrated, I suppose, if we had them.)

    I like to hone a knife with a stone and a steel (plus a ceramic rod), and serrations in the blade just get in the way. Yes, yes, I know you can use a rod to carefully sharpen each and every one of those bazillions of little serrations. But, c’mon, life’s too short, and it offers far more interesting things to do.

    (And to answer the next question — What do I do with a dull saw blade? — the answer is: I buy a new one!)

    I can envision situations where serrations would be handy in a pocket or sheath knife. But I have never been in such a situation, or even been within three counties of it.

  17. Bill says:

    No serrated blades for me, unless my sausage and bread knives in the kitchen count.

  18. Cliff says:

    “I even use pocketknives in the kitchen (yes I’m a geek) just to stay in practice, ”

    No kidding? I thought I was the only one.

    Straight edge is best for EDC, but I would never be on the water without a serrated Spyderco.

  19. Colby says:

    No serrations for me. I keep my straight edges sharp enough to cut as well as a serrated blade for almost any purpose, but once serrations dull, they are hard to re-sharpen and become little more than hacking teeth.

    I’d prefer to have a blade that is 95% as effective as a serrated blade for a life time rather than a serrated blade that is only useful for about 5% of the knife’s lifetime. I also stay away from partial serrations because I prefer to have a whole edge I can always work with rather than a serrated portion that eventually becomes a poor saw.

  20. chuck k says:

    If you’re interested, here is Spyderco’s rationale for serrated blades and what to use them for.

    http://www.spyderco.com/edge-u-cation/index.php?item=6

  21. Derek says:

    I don’t really ‘get’ serrations. I know they’re supposed to cut rope well but a reasonably sharp knife will cut all but the thickest rope just fine. So maybe if I was cutting very thick rope on a very regular basis I’d have a serrated knife. My problem with serrated blades is, and maybe this is just me, I don’t actually know anyone who has a serrated knife because they cut an ass load of rope. Everyone I know who has or carries one does so because “I don’t have to sharpen it.”…

  22. Max says:

    I believe the best knives are either fully serrated or completely plain edged. My problem with half and half is that you’re left with less of both cutting edges. I’d rather carry two knives with effective blade lengths than one with a mediocre compromise.

    The only exception for me is larger knives of 5-6 inches or more where there is enough room on the blade to put in a section of serrations.

  23. Mark N. says:

    Like Publius, my basic serrated knife is an awesome bread knife-and for cutting bread, nothing is better than a serrated edge. Besides that, I have a set of cheap steak knives. All else is straight edged, and either German or American steel.

  24. Frank says:

    Honestly, a serrated edge gives you the advantage in terms of speed when cutting straps and ropes. Many times, especially in synthetic fiber ropes, I find the teeth will pull out fibers, sometimes attached. A well sharped straight edge will cut straps just fine, and in some cases just as fast. A serrated edge also gives you the sawing ability, which in some designs and is a key factor in their intended use. Like ASEK knives.

  25. Matt in FL says:

    My first brand name pocket knife was a Spyderco Harpy with a fully serrated blade. My Leek is half serrated, mainly because that’s what the store had. My Chive is smooth, and I think I prefer that.

  26. Outlander44 says:

    I like to have at least one knife on me when out & about that has a partially serrated blade. Usually it’s my “Oh Shit!” knife, which is currently an older assisted-opening Gerber that I did some edge reprofiling on so it would cut/pierce more efficiently & effectively. It was the first assisted knife I’d ever handled, let alone owned, and is directly responsible for sparking my love affair with assisted opening blades. (However, I’ve decided it’s time to begin looking to “upgrade” to something a bit more…”more”, though I’m not quite sure exactly what, beyond being quality, half-serrated, assisted opening & affordable.)

    I only fairly recently started carrying a plain edge knife in addition to my usual partially serrated knife. It’s a SOG Twitch II and I absolutely love it. If I’m wearing clothes, those clothes will have at least one pocket, and that pocket will have my Twitch II clipped in it, even including my PJ’s (yep, I’m a weirdo).

    I like the versatility a partially serrated edge of practical size gives me. I also like having a slightly smaller, razor-sharp plain edge that looks fairly “innocent” that (hopefully) won’t frighten those with delicate sensibilities should I have reason to use it for some particularly pedestrian purpose while in public.

    1. chuck k says:

      I bought a Twitch 11 at Lowes, of all places, a while ago, not even realizing it was an assisted opener. Love the knive; it is the sharpest out of the box knife I ever bought, including Benchmades and Spydercos.

  27. scubamatt says:

    I read through the comments after mine above, and got to thinking about it again. I *do* own a serrated edge blade, and it actually does have a darn good reason for being serrated. It’s my large dive knife (I carry two when I dive) and it has a heavy chisel point for prying as well as a full serrated edge and a plain edge along the spine that only runs about halfway along the length. This knife is on a leg scabbard, inside of left calf. My secondary dive knife is a plain edge folder on a lanyard attached to my BC, right side.

    So, for a dive knife, where sawing is quite possibly the most efficient cutting motion you will be able to make (in the deadly serious situation of being entangled by fishing line, or other ropelike material) a serrated edge makes perfect sense, and is a solid choice.

    1. Matt in FL says:

      I forgot about that. Yeah, I have a half-serrated dive knife with a blunt chisel point, too.

  28. NavyRetGold says:

    I don’t do serrated blades. The bread knife in the kitchen is the only use I have for a serrated blade and bread is the only thing I use it for. Even my steak knives are plain edge. Most of my knives (I have accumulated quite a few in the last fifty years) are for EDC/Defensive Carry or Hunting & Fishing. Serrations only get in my way and make my knives less useful. So I leave the serrated ones to the “tacticool” crowd who think they look cool, and the handful of pros who actually have a use for one, like divers & EMT. If I cant buy a knife in a plain blade, I don’t buy it. I note that for many models of knives the serrated version will be priced lower than the plain blade version. It makes me wonder if demand is a lot lower for them (seems to be the consensus here on TTAK) and it also makes me wonder why the knife makers make so damn many of them..

  29. Scott says:

    I only have 1 serrated edge knife and I ended up throwing it in the truck. However over time I found out I love that knife for what it is because I don’t take good care of it and it still cuts well. Serrated edges definitely work better for abuse and neglect situations.

  30. Jinete Largo says:

    A little over fifty years ago I left my parents remote ranch in the southwestern US to begin work on my first “real” job as a small town Butcher’s Assistant. The first and most important thing that old world butcher taught me was how to sharpen and care for the knives that he entrusted to my care. When I left his employ just under a decade later he shook my hand and told me that he was proud to call me a Master Butcher, (Carnicero Dominar) and his equal. All Master Butchers know nothing will cut meat better than a well maintained, ie sharp, knife and nothing will saw a bone better than a well maintained saw. A serrated blade is a hybrid (compound) tool that can do either job but can do neither job well! When was the last time you saw a butcher use a serrated bladed knife?
    I next became a Fireman and was among the first ten Firemen in my state to become “certified” as an EMT. Six years later I retired as a Captain of the Fire Department. As a Fireman/EMT I often was called to cut seat belts and found that a well maintained straight bladed knife ALWAYS beat a serrated one in ease of cutting and most importantly speed of cutting seat belts! We Firemen even conducted several tests and I was able to make as many as three complete cuts through seat belts in the same time that others needed while trying to saw through the same belt once using their often new and unused serrated blades! When was the last time you saw one of those dedicated U shaped seat belt cutting tools with a serrated blade in them?
    I later started my own business as a Horse Trainer/Rancher. A job I have done for many years now. As a Cowboy/Horse Trainer I found it absolutely necessary to always have a well maintained straight bladed knife on my person because I oftentimes needed to cut a rope or heavy leather strap to save my horse, cattle or even myself from damage, or worse. The best, most efficient tool for that job is a well maintained, ie sharp, straight bladed knife! A well maintained straight bladed knife will cut ANY rope as fast as any serrated blade, usually faster, and is easy & fast to properly maintain. A serrated blade is so much more difficult to maintain that the proper maintenance to keep it sharp is usually neglected resulting in something much more dangerous than helpful! When was the last time you saw a Saddler/Leather Craftsman use a serrated bladed knife?
    The ONLY job I have found that a serrated blade does better than a straight blade is slicing through freshly baked, soft, still warm bread without crushing it!
    I’m not a diver, so my opinion on the subject of divers equipment and it’s use is really only the guess of a “layman.” However, I do know hand tools and knives and their uses fairly well and all of the “diver’s knives” that I have seen do not seem to me to really be “knives” so much as sharpened pry bars with handles which seem designed for the primary job of prying, digging and chipping things with cutting things being more of an afterthought.
    In all of my varied endeavors through the years if I have learned anything it is to get and learn to maintain and properly use the right tools for the job ahead of you! If that job is to cut something then you need a well maintained knife! If that job is to saw something then you need a well maintained saw! Neither of those jobs ever requires a serrated knife blade, especially a dangerously dull one!

    1. NavyRetGold says:

      Amen, brother. Thank you for spelling it out in detail.

    2. Matt in FL says:

      A long, but good explanation of why I’ve always somehow just felt that straight blades were superior to serrated.

  31. Pat says:

    Fully serrated Endura is a superior slasher for self defense.

  32. Pat says:

    There really are things that serrations can do better. Sharks teeth are serrated, for instance. More cutting surface and grabbing ability from the tops of each serration. It is the maintenance that is the problem.

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Question Of The Day: To Serrate, Or Not To Serrate?

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