Interesting facts about knives

A knife is a tool or weapon with a cutting edge or blade, often attached to a handle or hilt.

One of the earliest tools used by humanity, knives appeared at least 2.5 million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools.

Knives form the largest class of cutting implements known collectively as cutlery.

They have been used as weapons, tools and eating utensils since prehistoric times.

However, it is only in fairly recent times that knives have been designed specifically for table use. Hosts did not provide cutlery for their guests in the Middle Ages in Europe. Most people carried their own knives in sheaths attached to their belts. These knives were narrow and their sharply pointed ends were used to spear food to raise it to their mouth to eat.

Originally made of wood, bone, and stone (such as flint and obsidian), over the centuries, in step with improvements in both metallurgy and manufacturing, knife blades have been made from copper, bronze, iron, steel, ceramic, and titanium. Most modern knives have either fixed or folding blades – blade patterns and styles vary by maker and country of origin.

The Romans taught the early Britons to work iron, and the Norman invaders are said to have brought with them smiths and metalworkers. Steel bladed eating knives dating from the Romano-British period have been excavated, but extremely few fine.

In the 15th century, those who dined out brought their eating utensils with them. You were in the minority if you didn’t carry a knife on your person during this time. A knife that could serve both eating and self-defense proved quite useful. Over time, people went from carrying several knives of various sizes, to one knife, to a knife and spoon, and eventually adding a fork to the utensil set.

It was through a decree made by French Cardinal Richelieu in late 1630s that changed the shape of the table knife. The cardinal detested the use of sharp pointed knives to be used when dining. He was successful in convincing King Louis XIV to ban the use of double bladed knives in the whole country. This act gave birth to blunt tipped single bladed knives that became the standard dining knife throughout Europe.

In 1669, King Louis XIV of France decreed all pointed knives on the street or used at the dinner table ‘illegal’ and he ordered all knife points ground down, like those similarly used today…in order to reduce violence!

Other design changes took place following the grinding down of the knife point…cutlers began to make the blunt ends wider and rounder to make for ease of use, in combination with the early ‘two pronged’ fork. Many knives were designed with handles rather like ‘pistol’ grips and a blade which curved backwards so that the wrist would not have to be contorted to get food to the mouth!

The birth of the ‘blunt-ended’ knife in Europe had a lasting effect on American dining etiquette. At the beginning of the 18th Century, relatively few forks were imported to America. However, Knives were still being imported with the ends becoming increasingly blunter. Due to the Americans having very few forks to dine with and no pointed-tipped knives, they were forced to use spoons in lieu of forks. Using the spoon to steady the food whilst cutting, then switching the spoon to the other hand in order to scoop up and eat.

In 1891, Karl Elsener invented the Swiss Army Knife after finding out the army’s knives were actually made in Germany. He wanted to create a knife that could have multiple uses and was made in Switzerland. The term “Swiss Army knife” was coined by American soldiers after World War II after they had trouble pronouncing the German word “Offiziersmesser”, meaning “officer’s knife”.

A Bowie knife is a pattern of fixed-blade fighting knife created by James Black in the early 19th century for Jim Bowie, who had become famous for his use of a large knife at a duel known as the Sandbar Fight.

A balisong, also known as a fan knife, butterfly knife or Batangas knife, is a type of folding pocketknife that originated in the Philippines. Its distinct features are two handles counter-rotating around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is concealed within grooves in the handles. A latch holds the handles together, typically mounted on the one facing the cutting edge (the “bite handle”).

A hunting knife is a knife used during hunting for preparing the game to be used as food: skinning the animal and cutting up the meat. It is different from the Hunting dagger which was traditionally used to kill wild game.

A machete is a broad blade used either as an agricultural implement similar to an axe, or in combat like a long-bladed knife. The blade is typically 30 to 45 centimetres (12 to 18 in) long and usually under 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick.

A pocketknife is a foldable knife with one or more blades that fit inside the handle that can still fit in a pocket. It is also known as a jackknife (jack-knife) or a penknife, though a penknife may also be a specific kind of pocketknife. A typical blade length is 5 to 15 centimetres (2 to 6 in).

In the early 20th century, the introduction of stainless steel blades followed by the inclusion of silver handles paved the way for the knives we are most accustomed to today.

Presently, you’ll find a variety of knives in foodservice operations and restaurants. From pairing knives, chef’s knives, and butcher’s knives in the kitchen to butter knives and steak knives on the table, this handy utensil is used in nearly all aspects of foodservice preparation and dining.

The world’s first micro-knife based on carbon nanotube technology has been introduced by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the University of Colorado. With an edge capable of slicing samples only 300 nanometres thick, the knife possesses the smallest and sharpest of all blade types currently used for preparing very thin subject samples. Truly a ‘cutting edge’ technology!

A fully-operational hand-made penknife with mother of pearl sides, measures 8 mm (0.31 in) long and 3 mm (0.11 in) wide when closed. With the sharp blade snapped open, the knife extends to 14.5 mm (0.57 in) long and 2.5 mm (0.098 in) wide. The penknife’s owner is Joanne Shaw (Canada).

The largest pocket knife / penknife is 10.52 m (34 ft 6 in) and was achieved by Jason Basham and Red Hill Cutlery (USA), in Radcliff, Kentucky, USA, on 9 January 2019.

The largest Bowie knife measures 6.24 m (20 ft 6 in) long, and was achieved by the Bowie Chamber of Commerce (USA), in Bowie, Texas, USA, on 8 April 2016.

The largest table knife measures 2.48 m (8 ft 1.64 in) in length, 19.5 cm (7.68 in) in width and 8.2 cm (3.23 in) in thickness and was made by Claes Blixt (Sweden), in Limmared, Sweden, on 8 August 2013.

The Gem of the Orient was made by Buster Warenski and is adorned with 153 emeralds and 9 diamonds. The knife was estimated to have taken Warenski 10 years to create from beginning to end. It is the most
expensive knife in the world and is sold for $2.1 million dollars at an auction.

An 18-carat gold Swiss army knife produced by Swiss jeweller Luzius Elmer has a current retail price of $4,299 (£3,026).