Knife Technical Testing – How It’s Done

When testing knives there are many different aspects to consider. In an attempt to produce truly unbiased information that can be used to directly compare different knives, Tactical Reviews introduced a variety of measurements and technical tests, in some cases pioneering previously unseen methods and tests to develop a knife technical testing methodology.

This level of technical testing, originated by Tactical Reviews, takes things far beyond manufacturer’s knife specifications, and has developed to a point it needs its own page of information to explain how it’s done.

This page will evolve over time as new tests and extra information are added.

The Blade and Handle – Detailed Measurements:

For each knife tested I carry out a detailed examination of geometry, balance, edge bevels, factory sharpness and structural edge testing using the industry leading measuring tools.

These measuring tools include a Vernier protractor, callipers, fixed radius gauges, the unique Arc Master adjustable radius gauge, Edge On Up’s BESS Certified PT50A and SET tester, along with CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor.

This first gallery shows some of those measurements being taken.

Advanced Geometry Measurements:

CATRA’s Hobbigoni LASER Edge Protractor allows for precise and detailed measurements of the cutting edge and primary bevel to me made.

How is Sharpness measured? Using a PT50A BESS Certified sharpness tester:

The BESS ‘C’ scale of sharpness, developed by Mike Brubacher (Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale) is used to determine how sharp each knife edge is. The ‘Edge on Up’ PT50A tester uses a certified test media fibre and records the force required to cut it. The lower the score the better. As an example, a typical Morakniv factory edge scores around 250. This test will be used to verify the sharpness of the factory edge and allow the knife to be brought to a minimum standard sharpness before testing a blade’s cutting performance.

The Main Results Table:

All the measurements are tabulated and are presented along with a few reference blades. The ‘Balance relative to the front of the handle’ tells you if the knife will feel front heavy, or if the weight is in your hand (a positive value means the weight is forward of the front of the handle). The ‘Balance relative to the centre of the handle’ indicates how close to a ‘neutral balance’ the knife has in the hand.

Structural Edge Testing:

Added in 2019 are results from the Edge On Up Structural Edge Tester (SET) to measure the resistance of a knife’s edge to rolling.

The key factors for the SET results are:
Series 1 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one edge rolling cycle. The damage is represented by an increase in the BESS ‘C’ score. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Series 2 Degradation – how much damage the edge suffers from one further edge rolling cycle. (Averages also shown for A and B)
Degradation after strop – has the edge been permanently damaged/chipped or can it be recovered with stropping? A negative number means it actually improved from the starting figure, suggesting there may have already been some rolling of the edge before testing. (Averages also shown for A and B)