This is an essential guide to help you choose a knife best suited for sailing, or any water-based activity for that matter!
If you want to get a knife for sailing then it better be made of materials that can withstand the unforgiving marine environment. Whether you need a knife for fresh water or salt water conditions, paying attention to the quality and materials is key to having a knife that will serve you well for a long time. With that being said, we believe that the most important aspect of a sailing knife is the blade material. You will have to spend a little more money on the higher quality metals but it is definitely worth it as it will save you time and money in the long run in terms of knife maintenance, endurance, and longevity.
When it comes to getting a knife for any kind of water activity, be it sailing, diving, fishing, or anything else near and in the water, you will want to ensure that the blade metal is made out of either Titanium or Steel -- but not all steels are made equal as we will demonstrate below.
As a general rule of thumb, you'll want to use a titanium knife for prolonged underwater use and a steel knife for above-water use.
Titanium is a lustrous metal that has a silvery color, low density, and high strength -- with incredible resistance to corrosion in seawater.
It can be alloyed with iron, aluminum, vanadium, and molybdenum, among other elements, to produce strong, lightweight alloys for aerospace, military, automotive, jewelry, etc., but most importantly for sporting goods, such as sailing knives!
Although titanium may offer superior corrosion-resistance compared to various steels, it may be difficult to work with in terms of sharpening. If the ease-of-sharpening is a big concern for you then knives made of steel may be a more attractive option. See the list below of different types of steels to help you choose the best steel for the knife you decide to buy.
There are many types of steel composites out there that vary greatly in their characteristics: corrosion resistance, edge retention, wear resistance, toughness, and hardness. In this guide, we will be focusing on corrosion resistance and edge retention. Below is a list of various steels, ordered by the total number of points, combining their corrosion-resistance and edge-retention scores.
M390 or CPM-20CV Steel
Corrosion Resistance: 7
Edge Retention: 9
Total Score: 16
Here's a great knife made with M390 steel:
Corrosion Resistance: 6
Edge Retention: 10
Total Score: 16
Here's a great knife made with CPM-S110V steel:
CPM-S35VN or CPM-S30V Steel
Corrosion Resistance: 7
Edge Retention: 7
Total Score: 14
Here's a great knife made with CPM-S35VN steel:
Corrosion Resistance: 8
Edge Retention: 5
Total Score: 13
Here's a great knife made with N680 steel:
Corrosion Resistance: 9
Edge Retention: 2
Total Score: 11
Here's a great knife made with H1 steel:
As you can see from the point scores, the best corrosion-resistant steel did not come out on top. This is because there are various trade-offs between choosing one type of steel over another. There are numerous sources online to help you better understand the make-up of these steels and how to select the best knife steel in general.
Depending on the purpose of the knife, you will want to pay attention to the blade tip. The tip will either be designed to pierce (stab) or to prevent piercing (stabbing). Most knives are designed with tips meant for piercing (Drop Point tip, Tanto tip) but if you specifically want to avoid that then look for knives with either a Blunt tip or a Sheepsfoot tip.
Blade edges can come in various flavours: plain, serrated, or a mix of both. This is entirely dependent on what you will choose to use the knife for. One thing to note about serrated edges is that they are notoriously difficult to sharpen.
Knives come in a multitude of designs for every possible function. One thing to pay attention to is whether the knife has a fixed or folding blade, and its lock mechanism. Fixed-blade knives tend to be better for diving as it is much more difficult to handle a folding knife underwater. Some fixed-blade knives come with some form of a sheath or belt clip to allow you to mount the knife to an object or attach it your body. Folding knives are better suited for above-water use.
For folding knives, another thing to pay attention to is the blade lock mechanism. There are various lock designs, and the higher-end knives tend to have liner/frame locks or Axis locks. Both of these lock mechanisms have their pros and cons but it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Knife handles can be made of a variety of materials, from highly durable plastics such as G10 (which is a glass-reinforced resin material), to metals such as titanium, steel, and other alloys. For a lighter knife we recommend going for a G10 handle, but ultimately you cannot go wrong with titanium. There are also various handle composites where the inner lining of the handle can be made of titanium.
What To Avoid
We strongly encourage you to avoid buying a sailing knife that is advertised as a multi-tool. These types of knives look very attractive because they pack many features into a small package which makes it seem like a very versatile product that can save you money. In reality, most multi-tools with knives are made of inferior metals (low-quality stainless steels) and are typically considered a Jack-of-all-trades but a master-of-none type of tool. Avoid disappointment and pay attention to the knife qualities we've listed above that will satisfy you in the long run. Since there are quite a few variables involved when choosing a sailing knife, it may be worth buying 2 or more different knives to cater to specific tasks (such as: diving, rope cutting, general use, etc.).