How To Choose a Good Fixed Blade Knife

So, you are ready to buy a fixed blade to add to your knife collection. Buying a knife is easy. To buy a good knife is a bit more challenging. How to choose a good fixed blade? What makes a good knife?

Remember, a knife is a tool that makes everyday life a bit easier. You can find a good quality knife at just about any price if you know what to look for. Let’s talk about that.

What will you use the knife for?  Every day carry or just for display?

  • Size. It matters!
  • Fixed blade or pocket knife?
  • Full tang, partial tang, or rat-tail tang? They each have advantages and disadvantages.
  • Pointed tip, rounded, hooked, or straight cut flat tips?
  • Single-edged or double? Flat or rounded spine?
  • Solid pommel? Rounded or hooked? The pommel or butt of the knife is important to consider with an EDC, not so much if this knife is for display.
  • Knife steel. Last but not least, the knife’s steel needs to be up to the task you plan to use the knife for.

Here are some more details.

What will the knife be used for?

If the knife you are contemplating purchasing is for display and not for daily use, you can buy what looks cool without worrying too much about its work performance. So almost anything goes. If you are an avid collector of ‘show knives, ‘ quality is still important for monetary reasons, but some features, like a full tang, are not as important. If this knife is working for you, the knife tang and other such things.

Size

When choosing a fixed blade, knife size is most definitely important! Of course, the bigger the blade, the more it weighs. That’s not always a bad thing! If you might be chopping small branches for a fire or larger branches or small trees for a shelter, a heavy blade will make that job much easier.

Bigger is not always better! A giant fixed blade or survival knife might be ok during an outdoor adventure, but you will give up much-needed control for more precise actions.

Like gutting a fish or skinning a small game, even carving yourself a wooden spoon would be difficult with a 24-inch blade.

It’s important to choose a blade size that is adequate for you and your work. You probably wouldn’t use a 10-pound sled hammer to swat a mosquito, just as you probably wouldn’t want to use a pocket knife with a 3-inch blade to scare off a mountain lion.

Fixed blade or pocket knife?

Let us start by saying pocket knives come in all sizes. Some have 6-inch blades or bigger, and some have blades as small as 1 inch.

Batoning is when you use your knife as a wedge to split wood by hammer the blade’s spine with another piece of wood. Besides the fear of snapping the blade, most pocket knives are not designed for such abuse and may end up breaking.

Keep your pocket knife for slicing apples and cutting rope. Some people like to have a fixed blade in a sheath on their belt and a pocket knife as a backup for smaller tasks.

The chances of breaking a full tang fixed blade are a lot smaller than a folding knife. Here again, use the right tool for the job!

Full tang or partial tang?

For a fixed blade or survival knife that’s not on display, we highly recommend a full tang knife. A full tang means the blade’s steel continues as one piece of steel from the tip to the butt or pommel.

Generally speaking, with a full tang knife, the blade’s steel also makes the knife’s handle.  Then the scales or handle is put on. Again, generally speaking, the handle will be two pieces, or the handle may simply be some paracord or thin rope wrapped around the handle.

Anything less than full tang, with rigorous work, may result in the handle coming loose or breaking off completely, making your knife useless. Well, that’s not exactly true. It could still be used as a paperweight.

Pointed, round, hooked, or straight tip?

This feature depends a lot on what you’ll use the knife for. For hunting or survival, a sharp pointed tip is most times the best to have. Think of self-defense or wilderness travel and choose among the best knives.

A sharp-pointed tip, such as a clip point, spear point, or straight back, will allow you to efficiently stab or thrust your knife as a weapon thru thick hide or fur or even layered clothing if the need arises.

With a sharp point, you could lash your knife to a pole to use as a makeshift spear. Thus giving you a longer reach and putting more space between you and whatever threatens you.

Some fixed blades allow the scales or the handle to be removed, so tying the blade to a long stick is easier.

Also, this type of tip will allow you to do other tasks like drilling holes, putting a new notch in your belt.

That is not to say that other knife tip styles don’t have their advantages, but from what I have found, a spear point or clip point is the best.

Now, if you are planning on bagging an elk or another of those big animals, maybe a gut hook tip would work better, but if your cleaning a fish, this will be much easier with a clip point and a blade that isn’t too big.

Single-edged blade or double? Flat or rounded spine?

It is recommended that your fixed blade have a single edge with a flat 90-degree grind on the spine or back of the knife. This allows you to place your thumb on the spine to better control the knife when more delicacy is needed. For example, if you are carving a stick into a spoon or a fork.

Also, the flat ground spine allows you to strike a Ferro-rod for fire-starting with ease. This is pretty hard to do with a rounded spine.

The flat ground spine also allows you to baton the knife through wood and trees.

Here again, this recommendation really depends on what you will use the knife for, but I think the spear point or clip point will provide the best all-around coverage for most outdoorsmen.

The serrated blades (full or partial) are hard to sharpen and not really of much use. A serrated blade would be useful for cutting rope or maybe cutting through a thin sheet of metal, but that’s about it!

A straight edge with no serrations will be easier to keep sharp if it comes down to a survival situation. You can read about sharpening a serrated knife here.

Solid, rounded, or hooked pommel?

Remember what you are going to use this tool for. A solid pommel will allow you to use the butt of the knife as a hammer for light-duty pounding. A rounded or hooked pommel is not ideal for hammering on.

A solid pommel is a choice for the things some people use their knife for and is what they recommend, however again, this is really up to you and what you will be using your knife for.

Knife steel

This is where it gets kind of tricky. There are so many different steels available today it may be difficult to decide what steel is best for you. I like 420 high carbon stainless steel and 1095 carbon steel.

420 HC steel is very corrosion resistant and easy to maintain, making it easy to sharpen and keep from rusting. It is also less expensive steel.

1095 carbon steel is great also. It can take a beating. It is very inexpensive steel, and it’s easy to get razor-sharp. However, carbon steel is more prone to rust, so it requires a bit of extra love.

When choosing the type of steel for your fixed blade knife, remember to consider what you will use the knife for and what conditions the knife will be used in.

Is your knife going to be used to split wood or dig in the dirt? 1095 carbon steel may be the steel you need.

For more info on some of the most familiar knife steels, read our other article about the knife steel types.

Final Thoughts

With the eight tips above, I believe you will choose a good fixed blade knife that will cover your hunting or survival needs. Many of the recommendations we have given here come from knowledgeable knife makers, knife owners, and experts.

A knife is a tool, and each of us will have our own set of things we need this tool to perform. Choose a fixed blade that will work best for you and the work you plan to do with your knife.

Be sure you buy a knife not only for its functionality but for its looks as well. Along with the tips above, you’ll have a knife that you love to use, hold and look at!