Question of the Day: What are your knife-buying criteria?

Popular Science recently wrote a piece titled What to look for when purchasing a knife. While I am going fisk their list a little, I wanted to throw the floor open to hear from you all.

The PopSci criteria are:

  • Knife vs. MultiTool
  • Folding or Fixed
  • Type of Steel (including straight vs serrated edge)
  • Length
  • Weight

In fairness, their list is not targeting the knife enthusiast. That said, we can throw out #1. I consider multitools to be pliers that have a knife on them. We are talking about buying a knife. So that leaves Folding/Fixed, Steel, Length. and Weight. We will deal with serrations in a second.

There are plenty of other considerations that the more knowledgeable consumer might add. Among these might be Intended Use, Brand, Place of Manufacture, Price, Warranty, Ergonomics. I will add a catch-all blade category including shape, grind, edge geometry, serrated/plain, etc.


Here is my Top 5 list in rough order of importance:

  • Intended Use – is it a guiding knife or an edc? Kind of charts your course from there.
  • Folder/Fixed – personally, I would simply lump this in with intended use, and include another criterion
  • Blade Geometry et. al. – The shape and grind are where the knife differentiates itself. Otherwise it is just a bar of steel with a handle.
  • Size – Mostly length, is the knife legal to carry? In Tennessee, this is not a consideration legally, but you can shoehorn the “weight” category in here since they are related – gaining another “two-fer”.
  • Steel – While I have no problem carrying a carbon-steel knife around water, if I am going to leave a knife in my boat and not look at it for weeks or months, steel choice is important. Don’t get too hung up on the alphabet soup of steels though. Most end users won’t notice too much difference between steels of similar quality.

I am going to give myself a bonus category, because I consider #2 – Folder/Fixed to be integral to the decision of intended use.

  •  Aesthetics – I have never seen a list include something as simple as “Do you like how the knife looks”? Kind of a make or break thing when it comes to a knife I chose to spend my money on and carry.

In reality, you could make a list with just Intended Use and Aesthetics. All of the criteria I listed need to satisfy #1. Then #6 applies.

Some quick thoughts on some of the other possible criteria:

  • Price – Falls under intended use, or the more basic question: “Why am I buying a knife”? If it is a throwaway, then spend appropriately, likewise if it is going to be an heirloom. You get what you pay for for the most part. Look for a good quality to value ratio. This can be found at virtually any price point along the spectrum.
  • Place of Manufacture: This almost made the list for me, because I would rather carry something made in the USA. But Imported is not a deal-breaker. I have no issue with CRKT knives in particular – this goes back to quality/value/price.
  • Brand – ties into the Place of Manufacture category to a degree. I will trust some imported knives and not others. But brand as a standalone category is not so important to me.

If you have an appropriate list of criteria, you can avoid making these 5 common knife-buying mistakes.

What did I miss? Do you agree with my choices, or would you decide differently? Go ahead and fisk my list. I am curious to what folks will say.


  1. Elcas says:

    My list is way shorter
    #1 do i want it (i’ll find a use for it if I do)
    #2 can i afford if

  2. Sandra says:

    That’s really a great buying guide for the knife users. A man who wants to buy the best knife, he or she should read and follow these criteria. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Peter says:

    Add one to Elcas’ list: #3 can I by-pass my conscience


  4. Nail nick says:

    Do ninjas and navy seals use them ….

  5. Cadeyrn says:

    A) Is it a ground blade or a forged blade?
    1) If it is ground, what was it ground from and is the supplier / manufacturer reputable (or may hidden flaws come up later to bite you)?
    2) If it is forged, is the smith a mastersmith or recognized knifemaker? (Some chances are worth taking, others not so much)
    B) Are there visible imperfections or flaws? Check blade, hilt, handle, butt, all edges for waver, curve, bend and bevel.
    C) What, if any, warranty is there? (I’m kind of tough on knives)
    D) Does it fit my hand well and can I see myself using it in certain roles?
    1) Is the point, shape, and grind appropriate for that task?
    2) Is the tang or lock mechanism strong enough for that task?
    E) Handle testing – any tendency to roll or any hot spots or uncomfortable areas? Can it handle shocks and rough treatment? Is it a composite or natural material? Which is more appropriate for your environment and intended task?
    F) Purely as a matter of convenience – does it come with a sheath, clip, or lanyard that protects the blade while making it instantly accessible? (Yes, I know you can get one later, but that affects the price)
    G) Speaking of price, what’s the price? While you do have to pay for the sheer time and effort involved in making a good blade, some smiths have a powerfully high opinion of themselves while others deliver great value for their price.

  6. Sam L. says:

    1. Do I like its shape?
    2. Do I like it’s price?
    3. Is the steel acceptable?
    4. Is it sturdy enough for the use I have for it?

  7. stuartb says:

    1) Do I ‘need’ another knife
    2) Ha, ha, who the hell am I kidding
    3) Spend hours reading reviews (on TTAK)
    4) Oooh, that’s looks nice and pointy
    5) It must be mine
    6) Wait for brown truck of happiness
    7) Giggles ………

    1. Brown Truck of Happiness ftw

  8. Kevin76 says:

    I always look at handle size and shape. I still like my old buck 110, but sometimes using it feels like I’ve got a brick with a blade attached.

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Question of the Day: What are your knife-buying criteria?

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