EverydayCommentary Book Review: History of Knife Steel

The knife community, both the IKC and the old timey knife community, have a lot of personalities that claim to have some expertise. You can find an authoritative source on steel, heat treat, ergonomics, economics, design, artistry, whatever you need. There is no shortage of people telling you they know what’s what. Some of them are right and some of them are wrong. A lot of them that are right WORK in the knife industry or related fields and so they aren’t able to share their knowledge as readily. Fortunately for us, Larrin Thomas both knows what he is talking about AND is ready to share information. A lot of the magical thinking (see e.g. a “packed edge”) that infects parts of the knife community are gone, shorn away by science and metallurgical knowledge.

In many ways, Larrin Thomas is to the knife world what Bill James was to the baseball world. Like James early on, Larrin has powerful insights that make knives better, yet he doesn’t work at a knife company. Also like James, these insights are developed from strict adherence to math and science behind the scenes. Finally like James, who was hired as a consultant that powered the Red Sox to their first World Series championship in decades, Larrin has also taken his insights and produced real world results (see Magnacut). Getting a book from Larrin is great, like getting books from Bill James. Of the two books he has written so far, both are excellent, but this one is better.

Dr. Thomas’s first book, Knife Engineering, was excellent, but it was a more technical treatise on knife steel. Being perfectly frank—I don’t think I am smart enough to read and fully understand what he wrote. I am a lawyer which means that science was not my thing, so that first book had me Googling things at a feverish pace. I learned a lot, but I also felt like a smarter, more science-oriented person would have gotten more out of the book than I did. This book, however, is a history of knife steel, and I truly and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am making my way through the book myself. I really like it, but I only have so much time to claw my way through a 500 page nonfiction book. I concur with Sculimbrene’s assessment.


Read the whole thing at EverydayCommentary.com