It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but a dull knife is far more dangerous than one that is sharp. Why? The answer makes sense if you really stop to consider what happens.
The Perils of a Dull Knife
A dull knife doesn’t serve the purpose for which it was intended. You want a knife that will cut through something; a dull knife doesn’t do that. It doesn’t slice through the cutting material cleanly and easily.
With a dull knife, you must exert a lot of force to get it to cut. Whether your are carving stakes for a figure four deadfall or you are processing an animal that you’ve harvested, a dull knife doesn’t do it’s job efficiently.
So most people use extra force. They try to manhandle the cutting rather than letting the tool do the work. As a result the knife can slip or twist uncontrollably. The next thing you know, you’ve cut yourself.
Cuts and other injuries are certainly something you want to avoid in the best of times and even more so during a survival or grid-down situation. Cuts can lead to loss of ability, to a loss of mobility, or to infection. All of which hamper your ability to survive.
Furthermore, cuts are usually more traumatic with a dull knife. The blade rips rather than slices through the skin. This makes it more difficult for the body to heal. Ever cut yourself with a razor blade? Those cuts heal more quickly than a similar cut with a dull knife.
Keeping a Sharp Knife
I’ve found that in life, it’s easier to maintain something than it is to repair or fix it. That goes for vehicles, tools, and yes even knives. (It also goes for keeping your workspaces, houses, etc, clean, too.) That’s why I clean and sharpen my knife blade after each use.
After I process one of our farm animals, after I demonstrate how to make a deadfall or fuzz stick, after a weekend of camping and using my knife to split firewood, I sharpen my knife.
The next time I pick it up, I want it to be sharp and ready for use. I don’t want to guess whether it’s sharp or not.
But use common sense. As a boy, I had a great uncle who was a fanatic about his knife being sharp. He’d whittle for a while and then take our his sharpening stone to put the fine edge back on his knife. Over the course of a year or two, though, his knife blades looked more like toothpicks than its original shape.
So, while you want to keep your knives sharp, you don’t want to over do it. Everything in moderation.
In a follow up post, I’ll share with you the sharpener that I use.