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London Jihadi knives: Not ceramic after all?

I want to start by giving a shout out to James Keating, purveyor of JamesAKeating.com. He links to us from time to time, and we always appreciate the referrals. His site is a mix of martial arts, weaponry, and a bit of somewhat out-there new-age philosophy. While the latter is not my cup of tea, I have mined some useful nuggets of information along the way on other subjects.

He linked to my account of Scotland Yard’s evidence photos and the claim from UK Authorities that the jihadis used ceramic knives in their attack. He also linked a very convincing examination by BFE Labs, which makes the claim that the knives are being misidentified as being ceramic, when it is likely that they are stainless steel with a ceramic coating.

From BFELabs:

In the past few days, Scotland Yard has released photographs of the weapons used in the attack, and identified the knives as being Ernesto brand kitchen knives, purchased at a Lidl store. However, in that release, and since then, they have erroneously identified the knives as being made of ceramic.

Many people have shared this information, and included advice about the benefits, or warnings about the security risks, of ceramic knives (which lack a metallic signature). Unfortunately, they are propagating either an error on the part of Scotland Yard, or a politically charged narrative useful to the anti-knife government of the UK.

Viewing the pictures supplied by Scotland Yard, and looking at the Lidl website listing for the exact model of knife pictured, it seems quite clear that the knives are Stainless Steel. It says so on the website, and their appearance (including the damage to the blade pictured) is very consistent with a steel material. However, there’s a great deal of resistance to this idea from many people.

I’d like to examine the evidence with some detail.

Above is one of the evidence photographs released by Scotland Yard of a knife used in the London Bridge attack. In this article from The Guardian, the knives are identified as Ernesto brand purchased at Lidl.

Looking at the large blade, the distinctive coloration, and the straight-backed handle design with angular pommel end, the only knife in Lidl’s Ernesto line-up that matches (and it’s an exact match), is the Ernesto Kushino-Messer 32cm. Astute readers who can read German, or translate the page in their browser, will notice that these knives are listed as being Stainless Steel.

Those with an investigative bent will go look at the other Ernesto brand knives, and see that while they make ceramic knives, those offerings are distinctly different: None of them are that large, the largest being 16cm, and none of them have brightly colored blades. They are also a distinctly different design, being both smaller and with curved handles that drop to a rounded pommel.

Honestly, this should be the end of the discussion. Many folks aren’t satisfied by this, however, and the ceramic narrative persists.

He goes on to document the pattern of damage as being more consistent with steel than ceramic. I suggest you read the whole thing. His case is very convincing.

The damage pattern is more consistent with steel, not ceramic. The edge can be seen under the ceramic coating.

So why the misstatements from UK Authorities? BFE postulates:

Why has Scotland Yard claimed the knives used in the attack to be ceramic? Hard to say. The UK has a long, and increasing, history of being strongly anti-knife. Given that Scotland Yard’s counter terror guys tend to be rather good at their jobs, but that politics runs deeply though all facets of British government, it may be possible that they’re working a narrative towards the goal of further knife restrictions. (Remember, this is the nation that was at one point quite taken with the idea that all kitchen knives should be made without points, to prevent violence).

It is also possible, even more likely perhaps, that a simple mistake was made. One of the other knives used, and not shown to media, may have been ceramic. Or, someone confused a detail in recording the evidence, and conflated having a ceramic coating, with being a ceramic blade. A similar knife, made by Cuisinart for the US market, is clearly marketed as having a “ceramic coating”, and it’s not much of a stretch to suspect that somewhere in the Ernesto marketing a similar statement is made. Ceramic coatings are currently common on even low-end kitchen cutlery, as a “non-stick” feature. It might not be hard to get the two things confused, after all such confusion is very common among knife users here, who often conflate titanium nitride coatings with being a titanium blade.

Whatever the reasoning or cause, the reported “facts” are not correct – The knife pictured in the photos released to the media is not a ceramic knife. It is in no way consistent with the appearance, or properties, of a ceramic knife. And, the exact model of knife has been officially identified, and is listed on the primary retailer as being made from Stainless Steel.

As a final note – Had the London attackers purchased and used ceramic kitchen knives, they would have fared no better at passing through metal detectors. Ceramic knife manufacturers insert a steel-shank into the molded handles as a security precaution, against exactly that threat.

Thank you BFE for such a thorough analysis of tools chosen by the jihadi douchebags.

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