How broad is the definition of "knife"?


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Eleven Mike
June 22, 2008, 04:52 PM
I'm not talking about legal definitions here, although those might be interesting to consider.

Is a Leatherman tool* a knife? I don't believe it is. A Swiss Army knife* is a knife, with other tools attached. A Leatherman, on the other hand, is a pair of pliers with other tools attached, one or more of which might be a knife. If a Leatherman tool is a knife, then so is an SKS or other rifle with an attached bayonet.

What about the very long bayonets that were once used on rifles? Some were of sword length. Are they knives? What about spike bayonets with no real edge?

What about very long blades, such as machetes, swords or even bowie knives? What about smatchets or the Woodsman's Pal?

Thanks for your input, and remember to just have fun. :)

*When I these terms, I think you all know what I mean. I am well aware that Victorinox makes plier-type multi-tools, and that Leatherman makes folding-knife multi-tools. The distinction I'm making is between tool designs, not brand names.

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CZ.22
June 23, 2008, 12:26 AM
Knives are tools designed primarily to cut, generally using chopping, slicing, paring, pushing, and stabbing cuts. It distinguishes itself from sciccors in that it uses only one blade to cut, from an axe in the sense that it does not have a long haft designed to give leverage for chopping, hacking, and splitting, and from a sword or a machete by size.
Knives become tools when you carry them more for the tools than for the blade (I'm not saying knives all knives aren't tools, just using this to specify between tools used almost exclusively for cutting). For example, I carried my Leatherman the other day and viewed it more as a tool than as a knife or cutting tool. Sure, it can cut, but I had a knife to do that.
So, whether a knife is a cutting tool or a tool is dependant on the tasks and intent of the user.

auschip
June 23, 2008, 12:41 AM
My take -

A leatherman by definition is a multitool, and one of the tools on there is a knife. Machetes are also tools, but I wouldn't consider them to be a knife. I consider the smatchet more of a knife then a hatchet, but think the woodsman's pal is more of a tough machete. Bayonets are made for sticking, and not really cutting (although the latest iteration I have seen are more like knives on rifles vs the traditional bayonet). I have seen knives longer then machetes, and machetes as long as swords. I think the original function should be taken into account.

Legal definitions get even more hazy. The difference between dirks, daggers, poniards, and what really make a knife an automatic knife can be nebulous. Heck, new TX case law says (erroneously in my opinion) that the assisted opening kershaw leek is a switchblade. Talk about mixed up.

Eleven Mike
June 23, 2008, 12:54 AM
auschip,

Speaking of newer bayonets, they definitely seem more field knife than bayonet. I'm no expert on bayonets, but from what I can tell, they went from being long spikes, to short swords or very long knives; to the current "combat knife" style of bayonet that is better suited for (and probably exclusively used for) mundane chores or occasional use as a fighting knife.

Makes sense of course, given the changes in military technology and tactics.

ArfinGreebly
June 23, 2008, 03:29 AM
I'm fine with "machete = knife" and "bayonet = knife."

In general, that is.

A sword is really just a knife that's been stretched to deal with a very narrow discipline.

But for me, a knife is one of a class of hand tools designed to do a broad range of up-close-and-personal cutting tasks.

I have a number of qualifying tasks which I might require of a knife, and since the tasks are of varying nature and size, it is expected that "real knives" will cover a range of sizes and designs.

I expect, however, that even a large knife can be made to do kitchen duty, help prepare a tomato sandwich, cut string, open boxes, and serve as a steak knife. If it's too large to be used in those basic tasks, I tend not to apply the "knife" tag.

I have a basic expectation of a knife's design.

In general I expect to find a more-or-less flat blade (or multiples thereof), at least one cutting edge, a point, a handle, and I expect it to be large enough to be hand-held and effectively wielded and directed, and small enough for one to effectively wield and direct.

I can accept that a "knife" may have other functional tool parts, but my sense of "knife-ness" is predicated on the overall original purpose of the tool. Cutting is pretty much a defining first function.

I carry a Leatherman because of it's ability to function effectively as a knife. Nonetheless, the primary presentation as a gripping tool (pliers) renders it a "general tool with knife capability" rather than a knife.

Good question, though.

It made me think.

Todd A
June 23, 2008, 07:07 AM
Bayonets yes and no.Some qick examples. Depends on the period and nation of issue.

A 1866 French Chassepot..
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v249/todda/100_0220.jpg

This was sharpened and was issued as a bayonet and even as the only arm to non-combat troops. Used as a short sword.

A German WWI 98/05 "Butcher Blade"
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v249/todda/busch3.jpg
Was made dull but the Germans had regulations on sharpening at issue or field level. But they also had varius trench knives as issue or available for private purchase. I guess it could be considered an official "knife".

A WWII Japanese Type 30..
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v249/todda/100_0221.jpg

These had a factory edge for the first 3/4 of the blade meant to be used to cut and stab.

Yet the Germans and Americans issued dull bayonets with no "Official" regulations on sharpening. So meant to stab,as well both countries made knives available to the troops.Either issued or available for purchase in addition to the bayonet. Like these..
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v249/todda/100_0222.jpg

My Granpa's AAC Case , a Navy contract Imperial (bone) ,and a MLK Utility.The Brits had spike bayonets,not even close to being a knife.

Nowadays the bayonets are more of a field knife than a weapon only meant to stab.

TimboKhan
June 23, 2008, 09:23 AM
American Heritage Dictionary defines a knife thusly:


A cutting instrument consisting of a sharp blade attached to a handle

I think thats a pretty good definition, because it includes a wide range of tools. I mean, many swords are sharp blades attached to a handle, as are bayonets, as are machetes as are butter knives. Thinking about it, some cutting implements, like a razor blade, would not qualify, and that makes sense as well because no one that I know of would consider a razor blade a "knife", although a razor encased in a utility knife is obviously such, and an old-timey straight razor is by this definition a knife.

However, it does leave out some tools, and I guess it depends on what your definition of "cutting" is. You can cut wood with a saw, but that's not a knife, you can cut wood with an axe, but that's not a knife either. One saws and one chops, but aren't both "cutting instruments" with sharp blades?

Fred Fuller
June 23, 2008, 12:14 PM
I like Mick Dundee's approach :D.

lpl/nc

Eleven Mike
June 23, 2008, 05:34 PM
A cutting instrument consisting of a sharp blade attached to a handle
I think thats a pretty good definition, because it includes a wide range of tools. I mean, many swords are sharp blades attached to a handle, as are bayonets, as are machetes as are butter knives.

And I think it's a bad definition, because it includes a wide range of tools. If the word knife includes gigantic claymores and little utility "razor knife" boxcutters, you've got a term so broad that it doesn't communicate as clearly as it should.

And did you really men to say that butter knives have sharp blades? ;)

JShirley
June 23, 2008, 06:55 PM
CZ,

That's not a bad definition, there. :)

John

TimboKhan
June 23, 2008, 08:36 PM
And did you really men to say that butter knives have sharp blades

Mine do. They are tactical.

I think as a broad term it's OK to classify claymores and utility knives under the same general term. I mean, you can call everything from a kitten to a tiger a cat and be right. The specific names indicate a specific type of knife, but I still think it's OK to call a claymore a knife in the broadest sense of the word.

Now, thats the technical answer. Practically, I feel like I can identify a knife at face value, and I wouldn't necessarily ever call a claymore a knife, anymore than I would call a lion "kitty-witty" and pet it.

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