Safety Knives - A Buyers Guide
Whether you are dinghy sailing, racing or cruising, a good safety knife is an essential piece of kit to have either on board or on your person. Here we look at the different types available, as well as giving some advice on features and our favourite models...
Folding or Fixed Blade?
Safety knives can broadly be broken down into two types; fixed blade or folding. Both are extremely useful, but they type you buy will to a certain extent be down to personal preference. It’s worth thinking about how you think you might need to use it, and whether it will be to hand when you do. A folding knife is great for carrying around, but make sure you can open it with one hand, and that it’s not so inaccessible that you can’t access it one handed. A fixed blade knife normally comes with a sheath, and can either be carried on your person or fixed to your boat in a handy place. They are slightly bulkier, and if fixed to your boat will it be where you need it when you need it?
Serrated or Straight Blade?
We sell knives with both straight edge blades and serrated blades. Serrated blades are designed to cut rope quickly, but not neatly. Straight blades are much better for neat cuts, but are slower, so are generally more appropriate as ropework knives. Safety knives should come with either a full or half serrated blade - for their intended purpose tis offers the ability to cut rope quickly - just what you want when things go bad. Some safety knives come with a hooked blade, these are often marketed as webbing cutters, but have the added advantage of making the tip of the blade relatively blunt. The last thing we want to do is accidentally stab ourselves while trying to cut something wrapped around our bodies. A word of caution on hooked blades though, the hook often prevents you from cutting on a flat surface, so if you are looking for a knife to do a bit of ropework with too, a hooked blade may not be for you.
A safety knife blade must be sharp for obvious reasons, but it must also remain relatively rust free. This means that only certain types of stainless steel can be used - many are too soft to retain a sharp edge. Certain grades of stainless steel such as 4116 and 4034 work well, and make good knives, whereas higher grades such as 440A and N680 offer and oven better material for holding a super sharp edge. It’s not just the blade you need to look at either, cheap knives may use a mild steel pin that holds the blade in place. You can be assured that all of our safety knives have corrosion resistant materials throughout the entire knife, not just on the blade. It is also worth noting that no stainless steel is completely impervious to rust, so keep your knife lightly oiled, and look out for teflon coated blades that also help to prevent corrosion during long term exposure to saltwater.
Additional Features to Look For
Now we’ve looked at what sort of knife you should look at, it’s worth noting a few extra features that can make a safety knife a truly great tool. One of the most essential is also one of the simples (but often overlooked); a lanyard attachment point. A knife is useless once you’ve dropped it overboard, and using it in a nasty situation with cold hands makes this much more likely that you might think. A pocket clip can be useful too. It gives more storage options, but again, make sure the knife is attached - pocket clips are not foolproof. A good safety knife should be able to be opened one hand, and the blade should ideally be locking too, so check for these features. A shackle key built in to the blade can come in very handy too. If you are looking for a sheath knife make sure it comes with a variety of attachment points, and that the release mechanism works smoothly and won’t allow the knife to come out of the sheath unless you want it too.
We thought we’d put together a list of our favourite knives at three different price points, along with a few reasons why...
Best Budget Knife
Force 4 Safety Knife
This knife combines all of our essential features in a nice sturdy, simple package. There’s a choice of two blade types, but neither will let you down!
Best Mid Range Knife
Gerber EZ-Out Safety Knife
If you appreciate a quality tool, the EZ-Out won’t disappoint. Gerber gives it’s knives a lifetime warranty, and the 440A blade takes sharpness to a new level!
Best Premium Knife
Wichard Rescue Knife - Fixed Blade
If you want the best, the Wichard Rescue Knife is probably it. The trigger mechanism on the sheath makes the knife easy to remove, and the N680 blade is one of the best we sell. A truly excellent tool.