To Swedge Or Not To Swedge, Is That The Question?
In a few recent conversations, it has come to my attention that many now view swedges, unsharpened false edges on the spine side of the tip of a knife blade, are a purely tactical feature purposed designed for knives made to serve in a combative role. This is an eroneous line of thinking, so I felt inspired to write a blog on the subject to shine some light on it from a different perspective.
I suppose this notion has come about because of a few different reasons. One of them being that in our modern world so much of our cutting chores are now done for us by other people, so we advanced humans don't spend as much time using knives as we once did. Another, I assume, would be thanks to the movie and gaming industries, where the tactical nature o knives is played upon very heavily. Putting a swedge on a blade actually accomplishes a few different things, and I will get to that, but for me one of my favorite things about the swedge it the classic timeless appearence it gives a blade. This is a look that goes back in time many yearsm when a person's knife would be put to many uses in the course of a day, and back then yes some of them may well have been fighting.
When it comes to general cutting, no a swedge really does not improve performance to any noticeable degree. Due to the shape of the cross section, there will be a little less resistance as the blade passes through a steak for instance, but in this case the lowerd friction is minimal and hardly perceptable unless you try both knives in the same meal and are very sensitive to resistance. Most people aren't that sensitive and aren't likely to notice the difference. Either knife will do a fine job of cutting the steak. Where the swedge plays a role in this case, is much as with a tapered tang, it is a way of tweaking how the knife feels and handles. It is another way removing excess steel and unnecessary mass, without sacrificing any strength in critical areas.
Where a swedge really enhances the performance of a blade is in penetration of prenetration resistant materials such as tough hides. It is for this reason that they are so often an included feature on dedicated tactical knives. Thus it is also a feature that makes this style of blade desirable for the role of self defense. The enhanced level of penetration serves as a force multiplier versus the leather jackets or mutiple layers of clothing often worn by would be assailants, and when your trapped in close quarters with an attacker, any advantage is a good thing to have.
However prenetration human flesh is definitely not the only thing the swedged blade excels at. In fact many dedicated hunting knives have swedged blades because some animal hides can be very resistant to penetation. Alligator hide is one of them. Yet there is more advantage to having a swedged blade than just penetration hides and flesh, it can also come in handy on a normal day in an urban office. The swedge allows for a thicker blade, even one on which the edge has not been maintained properly to penetrate more fragile materials like tomatoes and bread, to cut them without crushing them.
To me, comparing a swedged blade to a non swedged one is less like comparing a sword to a chef's knife, and more like comparing a sports car to a sedan. Both will get you from point A to point B just fine, but the sports car is lighter, quicker, handles a little differently, and has more sex appeal in the process.