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Exploring Ceramic and Plastic Knives: From EDC to the Karambit


When I first heard the term ceramic knife I will admit that I pictured a knife shattering with very little effort.

There are multiple reasons why someone may choose a ceramic knife but first lets discuss how they are made.

Exploring Ceramic and Plastic Knives: From EDC to the Karambit

Manufacturing process

A ceramic knife is made of zirconia. The zirconia is in powdered form at the beginning of the process. To form the blade, a process called sintering is used. This process compacts the powder into a solid object using extremely high heat but not so much that the material can liquefy. The result is a knife blade that is extremely hard. Whereas a diamond has a Mohs scale rating of 10, a ceramic blade has a rating of 8.5 but is a lot less expensive!

Advantages of plastic and ceramic

Ceramic is very sharp

If you don’t sharpen your own knives or want to sharpen a knife very often, then ceramic will keep the keenest edge for the longest time. Ceramic can chip though so you have to exercise some care when deciding how to use your knife.

No rust

One of the major advantages of ceramic and plastic knives is that they hold up well to corrosive environments. This is one of the properties that makes them so popular in kitchens since so many foods contain acids that can accelerate corrosion. Ceramic and plastic that is of good quality is also quite easy to clean.

Inexpensive

I love a quality knife that has some beauty to it but there is something to be said for inexpensive self defense devices. What if you need to arm others during a SHTF scenario?

Chances are that you will go through a few weapons during a time of true war or long term SHTF. Having a few that are nothing to fret over if they get lost, dropped or left after being used, may not be a bad idea.

Plastic and ceramic knives do not conduct electricity

If electrical hazards are a concern, this may be a time when it is nice to have a plastic or ceramic knife.

Kitchen and butchering use

Super hardened ceramic knives are very brittle compared to many steel knives. This means they will hold an edge extremely well and can be sharpened to a fineness that is loved by professional chefs and cooks. A great many of the ceramic knives available are kitchen knives.

Ceramic knives will not set off a metal detector so they have gained popularity with some

If you get caught carrying a knife into a space where you are not supposed to have one you are going to get in a lot of trouble. Even if you are carrying a ceramic knife and forget you have it on you, it will not look good if you are caught because ceramic knives are not as common as steel and that means that it is going to look like you carried it on purpose.

Not all ceramic knives are non metallic. Knife hardware and handles may have metal so it is important to check descriptions before purchasing if you want a knife that is 100% non metallic.

I am intrigued by ceramic knives and would be open to having a few in the kitchen. As far as for everyday carry and bushcraft use, I will stick to steel. As someone that likes knives I think ceramic knives are neat in a way but I don’t ever see them being anywhere near as popular as metal knife at any time in the future. Getting caught with one that doesn’t get picked up on a metal detector is worse than going through and having someone hold your knife for you or take it back to your car.

I remember having to give up my knife when I was trying to get into a Drive-By-Truckers show years ago. I was shocked that a pocket knife was such a big deal but that shows how often I go out. The girl at the ticket booth looked nervous. I couldn’t help but think “this is the South, everyone has a pocket knife!”

Ceramic knives break easier than most steel knives because they are so hard and thus extremely brittle

If you like to cook or you cut up a lot of meat there is something to be said for a knife that you don’t have to stop and sharpen as often. I know that using knives with a high carbon content when we butcher means we keep sharpening stones close at hand through the whole process. We even have to touch up our stainless steel blades to get through. Reducing the time you have to stop and sharpen could be a positive thing.

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While there is something to be said for the keen edge that you can get with ceramic, it will not withstand the force that the average steel knife will. There are hardened steel knives that are comparable but the average steel knife is much softer than a ceramic blade.

Due to the fact that ceramic blades do not respond to metal detectors and maintain such a sharp edge, they have become available in more styles than ever before. If you have a knife style you prefer then you can probably get a ceramic version of it. I am going to try to include a variety of styles from kitchen knives to boot knives so that you can get an idea of what is out there in the world of ceramic knives.

Ceramic blade knives will not flex like a metal knife. In many cases they will shatter so you have to be careful about how you use them.

Total Length: 7.5 inches

Blade Length: 3.3 inches

Weight: 2.1 oz

This knife features a frame lock mechanism and a super sharp ceramic blade. The handle is made of lightweight carbon fiber. There is a pocket clip and lanyard hole for easy carry. The blade comes to you very sharp. Customers report they are happy with the quality but that even a ceramic blade at this price point will chip if you try to pry with it.

Overall Length: 6.375″

Handle length: 3.75”

Blade length: 2.75”

Blade thickness: 0.087”

Net weight: 1.66 OZ (47g)

This knife is not from a brand I am that familiar with but it has an appealing design and the size is adequate. I cannot help but point out how little this knife weighs. The blade length is under 3 inches which means that it is legal to carry in more places than those that boast blade lengths above 3 inches. The scales are solid carbon fiber. A pocket clip makes it easy to carry and conceal when needed.

This knife does have a few small metal parts so it is not 100% non metallic.

Overall Length:5.75″

Handle length: 3.5 ”

Blade length: 2.25”

This knife is interesting due to the small size and the tanto blade style. The knife itself is entirely ceramic with a paracord handle. The Kydex sheath for wearing on your neck does features a tiny amount of metal. If you want an entirely non metallic knife and sheath combination you can buy or make a leather sheath. This is a super sharp knife according to those that have bought it so caution should be exercised if you are using it for daily tasks. I read a review where a customer said they used to for opening mail and boxes all the time. For self defense it has potential but like any ceramic knife you don’t want to drop it a lot or use it for things that require some flexibility in the blade.

This chef’s knife features a black zirconia blade and a heavy duty plastic handle. The company claims that the knife will stay sharp for 10x longer than a regular steel kitchen knife. Some people wonder what makes the black blade so special and the answer is that Kyocera black ceramic blades go through an extra process called a hot isostatic press that enhances durability. This does increase the cost but sometimes you get what you pay for.

Although the knives stay sharp for a long time, it appears that a lot of people send their knife in occasionally and allow Kyocera to sharpen it to a factory edge once again. This may sound like a hassle but it is important to remember that you really don’t have to sharpen these knives very often.

Sharpening ceramic knives at home

The only thing that will sharpen a ceramic knife is a fine or very fine diamond sharpener. Do not even bother trying anything else. Most people send knives in to be sharpened but I know how preppers are and that you will probably want to do it yourself. If you choose to go with ceramic knives then I advise getting an excellent diamond sharpener.

If you plan on using ceramic knives often, you may even want to invest in an electric diamond sharpener.

Kyocerca Advanced Ceramic Electric Diamond Knife Sharpener

The Kyocera Ceramic Sharpener would be worth it over the years if you use ceramic a lot in your kitchen. I know I would not want to send my knives off to sharpen even if it was just occasionally.
If you don’t want an electric sharpener, there are plenty of manual diamond sharpeners. This all purpose sharpener would be handy to have for general use around the home or bug out cabin. While it is nice to have a set of great sharpening stones, it can be good to have something you can just grab and put a quick edge on anything.

Plastic and Fiberglass Knives

There are some very tough plastics out there today. That being said, no plastic is going to compare to a good steel blade. Plastic is okay for self defense but for hardcore bushcrafting and daily tasks, I will be sticking to metal. I think plastic is neat and has its place but like any tool or weapon, it is best to know the limitations it may have as well as the strengths. No knife or material is perfect in every way.

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Price Point

One thing that plastic has going for it is that even the higher quality plastics are very inexpensive. You might be surprised how little it costs to get a plastic knife from a big name brand company.

The Karambit

A lot of you have read the post I did on karambits. You can get a karambit with a plastic blade and non metallic handle.

  • 2.3-ounce weight
  • 7.5-millimeter thickness
  • 8.5-inch overall length
  • Four-inch blade
  • Griv-Ex construction with Kray-Ex grip

At $8.50 this is real bargain for a self defense weapon. Cold Steel makes these karambits out of fiberglass reinforced plastic that is impervious to heat, cold, and UV rays. It is extremely lightweight and there are no metal parts that I have found.

  • Features a 2.625″ long and 1.438″ wide blade.
  • Overall length is 5.125″
  • Weight is 0.15 lb..

Naturally KA-BAR would have a unique plastic knife to offer for self defense. This knife comes with a chain so you can carry it around your neck. The chain is made of metal but the rest of the knife and sheath is made of a special plastic called Ultramid.

Boot Knives

  • Griv-Ex with Kray-Ex Grip
  • Overall Length: 6.75″
  • Blade Length: 3.25″
  • Blade Material: Grivory
  • Handle Material: Kraton

Cold Steel has been such a front runner in the world of plastic knives that it is hard to not just go to them for just about every design. This boot knife can provide additional self-defense options during a serious situation.

This knife actually brought back some memories of when I was younger and carried a knife in my boot as a backup. At this price point this may be a defense option worth putting back in case you have to arm other members of your group or anyone you take in. While I realize it is plastic and not as strong as steel, there is something to be said for something that is cheap and effective and that can be traded or give away if you feel like it.

This is a decent sized knife that would require an 8 inch boot to conceal entirely. Of course if you wear jeans over your boots this may not matter.

  • Overall Length: 7.0 in.
  • Blade Length: 3.0 in.
  • Cutting Edge: 3.0 in.
  • Blade Material: G-10
  • Blade Thickness: 3/16 in.
  • Blade Width: 1.125 in.
  • Weight: 1.1 oz

This knife is made of fiberglass composite and is designed for major self defense. It does not come with a sheath so you will have to make one or buy one separately. It is small enough to conceal if needed.

Plastic knives are often sold as letter openers

If you are having a hard time finding plastic knives, it is important to note that they are often sold as letter openers, especially the type that is small enough and shaped to be used as a boot knife. This is good to know when researching or making a choice on what to purchase.

My conclusion

Ceramic is so sharp you need to be especially careful when using. Cut proof gloves are a good investment if you have to use knives a lot for food prep.

Remember that fatigue can set in after a long day in the kitchen or butchering and that is when it is easier to make a mistake and cut yourself.

Plastic knives are really only useful for self defense or possibly working around electrical gear. I think it would be worthwhile to have a few plastic boot knives or similar for some cheap defense during a SHTF scenario.

Ceramic really has no appeal to me for a major survival situation because I know I would forget and pry something and break or chip the blade. On the other hand if you want something deadly sharp for defense, ceramic will offer you that.

Do you have a favorite ceramic or plastic knife? Have you every had to use these types of knives?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at samantha@backdoorsurvival.com.



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