Double-edged blades are ferocious implements, so much so that they have entered into common English proverbial parlance as a way to refer to something with paradoxically positive and negative qualities. Consider actress Linda Cardellini’s admission that “I was extremely close with my parents. Breaking away from that is a double-edged sword: It’s something you need to do, but it’s hard to cut the apron strings.” However, that’s not the only way in which a double-edge has intersected with our culture. Certain popular religious writings used the metaphor of a double-edged sword to emphasize the cutting power of specific teachings. But despite the ubiquity of such cutting items in quotes and literature, double-edged knives aren’t the most common type that you’ll find when shopping for a new blade. That distinction belongs to single-edged knives, and it might make one wonder which is the better option.
In this article, we’ll talk about the advantages of both single- and double-edged knives and discuss which would work better for specific situations.
Advantages of Single-Edged Knives
In journalism, “burying the lede” is a colloquialism that refers to treating the most important part of a story as though it weren’t at all important, and we certainly don’t want to do that when discussing the ubiquity of single-edged knives. So at the risk of stealing the thunder from several of the following points, allow us to state one big advantage right at the outset: People buy single-edged knives because they believe them to be more practical. (Of course, as we will soon see in greater detail, practicality depends on the task you want to tackle!) Some of the reasons for their reputation include the following
Better Suited for EDC
Everyday Carry (or EDC) knives are the sorts that you’ll use for common tasks, such as opening a package from Amazon or a stubborn plastic clamshell, doing a little impromptu pruning in the garden, or just whittling on an old, dry stick when you’re bored. Such knives have a few requirements, namely that they fit easily in a pocket, have a modest size, and hold up well during various tasks. Note that none of these EDC requirements necessitate the use of a blade with two edges. However, there are more reasons why single-bladed knives typically work better as EDCs.
Possibly the biggest differentiator between a double-sided OTF (or any other style of knife) and one with a single edge is that you can position a digit on the latter to better facilitate precise cuts. Sure, any EDC task you do with one blade style you can also do with the other, but you’ll likely have far less control when employing a double-edged blade unless you enjoy inhuman motor skills. Additionally, double-edged knives are much more likely to lead to accidental cuts, making them less ideal for EDC than single-edge options.
In order to have a cutting edge, every knife needs to have a certain amount of metal removed. The specific manner in which this is done is called the grind, and while we will get more into grinds in the next section, know that they have an impact on the strength of the blade, particularly its tip. Because double-edged knives require the removal of more metal, their tips can’t stand up to as much force as single-edged options. Single-edged blades are necessarily stronger at their extremities than dagger-style blades.
Facilitates Thinner Grinds
Similarly, having to only sharpen a single side leads to single-edged knives being able to have thinner grinds. As for why, the reasoning is much the same here as regarding the previous point: More metal remains on the opposite (i.e., supporting) side from the cutting edge, which reduces the chance of chipping or breaking. The advantages to thinner grinds are more obvious. The slimmer the cutting edge, the easier it is to cut something.
Legal in More Locales
Believe it or not, having a knife with a single edge helps insulate those who like to carry their knives with them from certain legal risks. Knife laws are (to put it kindly) a mess in the United States, with loophole-riddled federal statutes bumping up against state laws and those laws colliding with the rules of various municipalities. Simply by crossing an invisible boundary line, a law-abiding knife carrier can inadvertantly commit criminal acts simply by having a blade tucked into a pocket. Characteristics that may cause you to run afoul of the authorities may include knives with specific kinds of opening mechanisms, certain blade-length threshholds, holsters that conceal the knife’s presence — and knives with a pair of sharpened edges.
Yes, states such as Masschusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, and more may very well consider the carrying of a double-edged knife a felony. But note the ambiguity in that sentence: Because prohibitions tend to reference things such as “stillettos,” “daggers,” “dirks,” and “dangerous implements” rather than a blade with a pair of sharpened sides, it can be hard to tell if you’re accidentally breaking the law. Carrying a single-edged knife removes some of that risk. (Please note that this isn’t intended to be legal advice. If you have questions about the laws of your state, consult with a qualified specialist.)
Easier to Sharpen
Half the utility means half the labor, at least when it comes to single-edge knives. Since double-edge knives have twice the cutting area, they also require twice as much sharpening — or more. “More?” you ask. “How does that work?” Everyone knows that any kind of knife will inevitably need sharpening, and the issue of stabilization can add extra toil to the task. Remember how single-edge knives make it easy to precisely cut something by stabilizing the blade through the pressure placed on the spine by a finger or thumb? The same holds true when sharpening, and having to unsteadily work on two edges can seem onerous. Add in the accidental cut risk inherent in double-edge blades, and you can can see why maintaining them might seem burdensome.
Advantages of Double-Edged Knives
Judging just by the above section, you may conclude that single-edge knives are the superior option in almost every circumstance. Precise control, ease of maintenance, broader legality — it’s the obvious pick, right? Not so fast, though. Remember that you need to take one’s use case into consideration when examining the pros and cons of a knife. And whereas single-edge knives do particularly well in EDC contexts, double-edged dagger or dirk designs outperform in an entirely different area: combat.
Better Suited for Self-Defense
Hopefully, the only time that you’ll need to enter combat is during a self-defense situation, and in those cases, you’ll definitely prefer a double-edge OTF knife. There’s reason why double-edged weapons connote power, and that’s because they can cut all around their extremities. Any which way that such a blade moves, it’s liable to draw blood or potentially injure a vital organ. Single-edged blades offer far less versatility when it comes to self-defense.
More Versatility in Usage
While double-edge OTFs and other similar sorts of knives get praised for their fighting utility, they’re good for more than merely battling. In fact, according to some ways of looking at them, they’re actually more versatile than single-edge options. For instance, you don’t need to concern yourself with accessibility if you’re left-handed. You’ll be able to hold these blades in a way that works for you. Cut an item with a forward or backward movement — or alternate between the two! You won’t even need to ship your grip in order to do so. Double-edge blades facilitate both economy of movement and versatility of use.
Requires Less Frequent Sharpening
Yes, it’s true that sharpening double-edge knives is more burdensome and potentially dangerous than single-edge blades. However, an added benefit is that you can cut with them for twice as long. Is one side of your dagger getting dull? Flip it over to the other side and keep using it.
Better for Emergency Usage
No one wants to end up in an emergency situation, but if you do, you want every available advantage. A double-edge OTF may very well give it to you. Cutting away a seat belt after a car accident. Slicing gauze or cotton for a bandage. Slicing a stick to apply pressure to a tourniquet. Double-edged knives will ensure that you don’t waste time when seeking to save life or minimize suffering.
Preferable for Certain Kinds of Cooking
While cooking isn’t the intended use for most OTFs, you can certainly use them in the preparation of food, and double-edge blades perform very well in certain kinds of meal prep. A distinct advantage of double-edge knives is that they’re evenly balanced, which means that cooks can make various kinds of cuts without needing to shift their grip as they work.
Potentially Higher Durability
It’s dangerous to speculate about the quality of an entire category of knives based on a single characteristic, but one can tentatively say that many double-edge blades are built out of higher quality materials. Perhaps gravitation toward specialty steels and unique handles is an attempt to compensate for downsides such as weaker tips and difficulties with sharpening. However, take this point with the proverbial grain of salt, and know there are many single-edge knives that can match or even surpass their quality.
Added Cool Factor
Our final point in favor of double-edge knives is admittedly subjective. Still, we think we’ll find plenty of people who think that they possess a certain panache that can’t be matched by more practical cutting tools. Double-edge knives look deadly, feel deadly, and are simply so darn cool.
TAKCOM offers a variety of high-quality single-edge and double-edge OTF EDC knives. Browse our selection here.