Knife Tips: Get An Edge

A knife expert's guide to blade selection and safety.

Sharp. It's the only way to describe Bernard Levine, a man who's written

10 books and more than 500 magazine articles on the topic of knives (www.knife-expert.com). Here, he gives us pointed advice on choosing, using, and maintaining trail blades.

Invest in good steel

Choose a blade made of stainless steel, which resists corrosion and holds an edge better than high carbon steel, says Levine. Other characteristics to look for: a locking mechanism, an ergonomic handle, and a textured or rubber grip. If you're buying a fixed-blade knife, make sure the blade extends well into the handle, which improves strength and balance.

Cut the right stuff

Most unserrated blades are designed

to slice soft things like food, animal flesh, tape, and the occasional twig. If you use it on anything hard or gritty, the blade will wear down quickly. If you frequently cut rope or webbing, go for a partially serrated blade.

Keep it sharp

The bad news: A dull blade is more dangerous than you think. The good news: A quality blade may need sharpening only every 2 to 3 years. Levine's advice: Take it to a professional. If you do it yourself, use an India stone rather than a diamond hone, which grinds down the blade too much.

Handle it wisely

The most common knife injuries are easy to prevent. Never cut toward yourself, use the blade to pry something open, or press down with all your weight. Avoid using the point as an awl; your hand may slip and run down the blade. And when closing the knife, always use two hands.