SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

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Evil D
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SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby Evil D » Tue Oct 01, 2019 12:23 pm

tl;dr

SE are the bees knees and you need to get with the program. Just as with PE knives, not all SE knives are created equally and different combinations perform better than others. Towards the end there's a bit of why I'm bothering with all this if you'd like to read that.


*What separates great performing SE from poor performing SE*

First lets just lay it out there that there is more to a serrated edge than just having teeth. We've had some discussion in the past about exploring serration patterns (JD I'm looking at you) but even within the already established pattern of "large/small small/large" that Spyderco uses, there are variations in size/depth/curve to the serrations themselves, and then those variations are also combined with blade grind and thickness, and you end up with a LOT of variables of what make a knife slice well or snag or whatever. For now lets leave out the differences in steel and edge retention etc and just focus on the serrations themselves.

I feel that I have a pretty decent representation of those variations here:
Image

The only thing I lack is a much thinner option like the Catcherman (JD I'm looking at you).


Unfortunately nearly all of my SE knives have been sharpened to some degree, some more than others and that sharpening has definitely effected performance (more on that later). This makes comparisons a little "unfair" but the differences are still easy to see.

Lets start with looking at the differences in SE shape. Here we have a thoroughly reprofiled and sharpened Caribbean on top vs a near factory edge Military (only sharpened on white rods) on bottom:
Image

Look close and lets break down three of the biggest contributing factors in how SE cut/slice/snag/excel/fail.

1) Depth of the curve:
Image

Depth of the curve can be thought of as hawkbill vs recurve. Which blade shape is going to hook material more (and in doing so, create drag/resistance)? Just like a hawkbill, I think there is a happy middle ground here, where too much is going to limit or reduce performance while not enough is defeating the purpose. Too much and you may as well have a hawkbill, and too little may as well be a Kriss. More hook may create a more aggressive cutting action, but it will also create resistance in doing so, and if you combine it with the other two factors we're looking at you'll end up with a snagging/poor slicing knife. This detail by itself I think contribues the least to poor performance out of the three.

2) Depth of the serrations INTO the blade, AKA thickness of the blade AT the serrations:
Image

Look at how shallow the ridges are on the Caribbean vs the Military. This seems to be confused or combined with the depth of the curve, but they are not really related. The depth of the grind into the blade has more to do with how thick the blade grind is at the bottom of the blade. This results in very tall "ridges" between the serrations that are quite thick and cause biding and drag. This feature seems to be much more common on older models like this Military and my Stretch. By comparison though, the Stretch has a significantly thinner blade grind at the bottom of the blade where the serrations are cut into, which results in shallower cut serrations and less dramatic ridges. I don't like to think of this as the same as "behind the edge thickness" because you could measure it at the top of the large serrations and again at the top of the valleys between the serrations and get two very different thicknesses, despite both of them technically being "behind the edge". This one detail has a big impact on slicing since the blade is ground thick and snagging since the ridges between the serrations are so thick. Despite the fact that the edge is sharp, the resulting thickness of the blade grind is not going to slice well regardless of SE or PE.

3) Pointy vs round AKA sharpness of the teeth:
Image

The two biggest contributing factors I've experienced that lead to poor performance and snagging are 1) dullness and 2) sharp/pointy teeth. Those sharp/pointy teeth are going to do a lot more scratching than cutting because if they come to a literal point then they don't have an edge anymore. I can imagine some scenarios where sharper/pointier teeth could have an advantage when trying to penetrate into material, but then you're also looking at more of a push cut into the material rather than slicing, and then you're pressing the whole blade through something in a push cut, and in two years of carrying nothing but SE I haven't once encountered anything like that. Once your push cut starts making more of a slicing motion, that's when those points start to scratch instead of cut and that's where rounded teeth have an advantage because they actually have an edge at the very tip of the teeth and that edge will cut before it snags. Also consider that these macro shots make the rounded teeth look more round than they really are...they are still pointy enough to push cut into what you're cutting.

*Blade grind and blade stock thickness*

Bottom line here is, the same rules that apply to making a good slicing PE blade also still apply to SE. You can't lump this into simple categories because there are too many variables. It's more than just "FFG vs X grind", it's more than just "thick blade stock vs thin blade stock" because you can have different combinations of any of those plus the three factors up above and get any number of end results. It's more complicated than just making everything FFG, otherwise the Military and Caribbean from the previous pic would perform the same, but let me tell you they are day and night different from each other in how well they slice and how much they snag. Personally I prefer FFG and thinner blade stock and a blade grind that is thin at the serrations, as I think that combination is the best all around performer.

With that said, some of those factors emphasize and make better/worse some of those 3 factors that effect SE performance. If you have a thick blade stock with a low saber grind that's thick at the edge you'll end up with serrations that are ground very deep into the blade with very thick ridges between the serrations and it isn't going to slice as well as a thin blade stock FFG blade that is super thin at the serrations. If you then take that thick saber blade and give it sharp scratchy serrations, you end up with a frustrating snag fest. It will still cut things, but nowhere near as well as that Caribbean. Ultimately if you start with a blade that will slice well in PE, it should still slice well in SE if you give it the right serration geometry.


*Sharpening, the effects of sharpening to the geometry of SE, and how you may be sabotaging yourself.*

I'm just gonna throw it out there and say, if you've had poor experience with SE, you were probably using a dull knife and/or the knife you were using had some kind of poor combination of those factors we just talked about or all of the above. I'm sure some of you know how to sharpen SE and you still just don't like it and that's fine. This thread isn't for you. This thread is for those who have been mislead and fed negative hype by people who were defeated by those bad factors. Lets break down some good and bad sharpening habits you may have done/heard of and how they effect the performance of SE.


Here we have a Caribbean on top, and a Native on bottom:
Image

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to look at those two edges and figure out which one is going to slice well and which one is going to be a snag fest. In fact I like to call that Native "SNAGgletooth". That knife started out already having sharp teeth and a deep SE grind and the low/thick hollow saber grind all combine to make a knife that didn't slice very well to begin with, but then it was also my first attempt at sharpening serrations and is the victim of some not so great ideas. I started out just looking for a way to get repeatable sharpening results, and I was using a tapered diamond rod to get into each serration. This did work and the knife did get very very sharp after some Dremel stropping, but the knife also continued to snag everything. I wouldn't go so far as to say the knife sucked, but I guarantee that ANY of you could do the Pepsi challenge blindfolded with this Native and my Caribbean and you would choose the Caribbean as the better cutting knife.

The bottom line here is GET A SHARPMAKER. If you know how to use a Sharpmaker already, and you can effectively put a sharp edge on a PE knife with it, then you already know enough to effectively sharpen SE. While there are some extra bits of tips and tricks out there, the same basic concept is the same and if you simply follow what Sal says in the Sharpmaker video you WILL get screaming sharp SE edges. Where I take that a bit further (and actually break some of Sal's rules from that video) is I deliberately sharpen down and round off the tips of the serrations with diamond rods and then go through a full brown/fine/ultra fine grit progression. This helps to not just round off the points so they scratch and snag less, but if you go so far as to reprofile the whole SE grind you'll also smooth down some of the ridge between the teeth which reduces drag in a slicing motion (props to Vivi for this one).

Now, that's not to say that other sharpening tools are ineffective (I'm looking at you again JD). I'm sure the 701's do a fine job of sharpening serrations, but they will also lead to making the teeth sharper and making the depth of the serrations into the blade even deeper which results in taller ridges between the scallops. Again, this won't make a knife unusable by any means, but if you like a knife that slices and doesn't snag, if you've avoided SE because of those reasons, then you need to stick with the Sharpmaker.

Also, don't be stupid like me, avoid the tapered diamond rod. We're not sharpening a chainsaw. Let me just say it again, buy a Sharpmaker.





How I got here.

I just realized this morning that I passed 20k posts recently and I got a little nostalgic over how I got here. It all started with a SE Native, and it seems fitting that here I am nearly 10 years later and I've come full circle back to SE knives. I have learned...well practically everything I know about knives I've learned in that time and my preferences have been shaped by the knives I've bought and used in that time.

If you were to browse through my posts and read over all those 20k (mostly useless) posts you would see a lot of comments about not liking serrations because they snag and because they're hard to sharpen. Those opinions were 100% based on poor experiences, and I've come to the conclusion that this is probably the case for nearly everyone who dislikes SE, or they're just echoing what everyone else said and they haven't given them a fair chance. I hate to make blanket statements like that, but if I can go all this time disliking something only to prove myself wrong and come to love it then I figure most people could do the same if they kept an open mind and gave SE a fighting chance.

It all started with this knife:
Image

Actually, let me back up just a bit. It really started with the PE version of that same knife, which was the "Walmart Native". So yes, I have Wally World to thank for introducing me to Spyderco. After I bought that knife I researched the brand and got paranoid that it was somehow a fake or a cheaper version since it didn't have the bug logo, and then I read on the Spyderco site about SE and let me tell ya whoever wrote that needs a raise because it sold me on SE and I returned the Walmart version and went to Bass Pro Shop and paid over 2x as much for the SE version. So, a SE knife was the first Spyderco I used and I carried that knife for a few years until it got dull and I had no way of sharpening it so I went back in search for another Spyderco, which was the standard PE Delica, and that was the knife that brought me to this forum.

Present day, and why I only carry SE.

Yes you read that right, October marks two years of nonstop SE EDC. I have modded and played with a few PE knives but for my real day to day uses and what I always have clipped in my pocket, it was an Autonomy for a little over a year and has been a Caribbean ever since that. A couple years ago I tried to do a six month SE only EDC to force myself to 1) learn to sharpen them and 2) find out once and for all if the hype or disdain for SE were true or not. Although that experiment didn't last a full 6 months, I did kinda learn how to sharpen SE (refer to the Native up above) and I did learn to appreciate them more but it wasn't until I finally got a Sharpmaker that it really started to click. Over so many years of carrying PE and talking down about SE, there was this one little SE knife in my collection that went against all odds and I couldn't quite wrap my head around why it performed so well for such a small unimposing little knife.

This knife was the knife that brought me to really love using SE:
Image

That little Draginfly Salt was a beater in every sense of the phrase. I used that knife for work for everything from cutting up boxes to cutting plastic wrap, packaging straps/bands, you name it. I was amazed because it didn't snag and rip like my Native did, and it was a serious power house for being so small. That knife was an unintentional taste of what dedicated SE EDC could be like and it was the knife that really got me thinking about why it was so good, or really why SE wasn't so horrible like everyone said and like I had previously experienced.

So why type out all this crap? Most of you probably didn't read it all anyway. Folks let me tell ya, I do have better things to do. I have developed a weird sort of passion for this particular subject because it has changed my perspective, and I really respect anything that can change me like that. For all of those 20k comments I've made here, there are thousands more posts from other people that have taught me and helped me out along the way and I hope this helps someone else.
Last edited by Evil D on Tue Oct 01, 2019 7:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby carrot » Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:18 pm

David, this is amazing. Thank you for sharing!

Like you I've found more and more that SpyderEdge can in fact, be an AFI edge.

It started, for me, with an adventure into a Tenacious SE as a beater knife and discovering that there wasn't anything I couldn't (or wouldn't) do with it. That turned into revisiting CE knives and other Spydies available in SE, and when the Para 3 Lightweight came out in SE... well, I knew I found a new EDC. Now I find it easier to drop an SE knife in my pocket than PE and feel prepared for the day, because those serrations will keep cutting and cutting.

As Sal has alluded to many times on the forums, SpyderEdge really does perform better and better with each sharpening. And I wouldn't worry about the teeth either. I chipped two teeth on my Para 3 Lightweight after my butterfingers dropped it, and I can't even tell any loss in performance after a little time with the Sharpmaker, even though the front teeth look funny.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby carrot » Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:19 pm

I made a meme for you: (and sorry I misspelled it)

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby wrdwrght » Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:25 pm

Well done, David. I never cease to learn from your thoughtfulness.
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby GarageBoy » Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:26 pm

How do you take damage out of a SE edge? (Are the corners on a cbn rod usable?) I bought, tried sharpening, and then sold a knife because I could not get rid of the rolled serrations.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby Ez556 » Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:40 pm

Thanks for taking the time to make such an excellent, comprehensive thread. When I was growing up my dad always carried a fully serrated Delica 1, so I've always had that in my head as what a Spyderco looks like, and consequently, what a pocket knife looks like. I actually have that knife now in my own collection and he carries a SE Para 3 LW. I've been hesitant to jump into the fully serrated game with my own new purchases, but I have a Pacific Salt SE on the way and I'm really looking forward to carrying it and getting used to it. This post certainly gives me confidence to sharpen serrations, and rounding off the points was always my biggest fear, so knowing that it can actually be beneficial takes away my biggest mental barrier!
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby crazywednesday » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:03 pm

Thank you for posting your insite on SE knives. I read every word and appreciate you taking the time to write it out.
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby prndltech » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:11 pm

Well done.

Glad I ain’t the only one that likes teeth on their knives!
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby Bill1170 » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:11 pm

Great post, David. I read it through. I’m with you on the rounded points being better.

Interesting thing about your photos. My brain kept seeing one blade laying on top of the other, and the lower blade having reverse pattern serrations. How is this possible, i wondered? I was seeing the Military and Native as negative space, and the negative space above them as the weird mirror-blade, mostly tucked under the Caribbean. It required an act of will to see those photos correctly as what they actually depict.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby Pelagic » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:13 pm

Really cool write up!!

I am in the vast minority it seems, as I have MUCH better performance cutting rope with deeper serrations and pointer teeth. I want the teeth to catch. When they catch more rope, they cut more rope. I look forward to reading the other half is this later when I get off.
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby Jazz » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:17 pm

Very nice, Dave, and congrats. What, in your opinion , are some advantages of SE vs PE? I know I'm learning more all the time about serrations, especially since I discovered the proper way to sharpen them, and I have a few of them now. I highly recommend the wharnie Endura and Endela in SE. Very nice cutters.
- best wishes, Jazz.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby JD Spydo » Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:58 pm

David it's high time this discussion got out on the table for virtually everyone in Spyderville to consider>> for those who like and use Spyderedges that is. Showing that comparison of the somewhat more rounded serration pattern of the Carribean versus the more "spikey" type serration below it is something I've tried to put out for conversation for almost 8 years now but yet I don't seem to get the attention you've attained on this one. But I don't care because maybe now is the right time.

I wish I had a way of e-mailing you a pic of the SE pattern on the older AUS-8 CAtcherman model I use constantly. It's even more low profile with more elongated scallops and less defined spike between the scallops that gives you a slice close to what a razor sharp, supersteel PE blade can deliver under the right circumstances. I've tried to drive home the point that more testing needs to be done looking into new and different SE patterns. Truly I think Spyderco has only begun the search for better and more efficient serrated blades IMO.

I do use a 204 Sharpmaker on some types of SE patterns but not to the point to where it literally rounds off and somewhat deforms the original factory grind. I still ultimately like manual tools for doing final finishes on SE blades. So I still think the ideal tool for making SE patterns like curved straight razors is still yet to be discovered>> but the Spyderco 701 Profiles were a big step in the right direction.

OK let the conversation proceed folks>> let's put it all on the table>> different patterns, sharpening techniques, Sharpening tools for SE and the grind being on one side versus the grind being on both sides. And which SE pattern is best on certain cutting jobs>> Not to mention stropping SE blades and deburring SE blades.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby StuntZombie » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:19 pm

GarageBoy wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:26 pm
How do you take damage out of a SE edge? (Are the corners on a cbn rod usable?) I bought, tried sharpening, and then sold a knife because I could not get rid of the rolled serrations.
I'm not Evil D, but I've had good luck restoring serrations by wrapping some wet/dry sandpaper around a wooden dowel or pencil, and stropping the individual serrations. If you can find one the proper width, it makes the job a lot easier.
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby The Meat man » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:20 pm

Very interesting and informative David. Thanks for taking the time to write it up.

Like you and many others here, I never liked serrations much until I forced myself to carry only SE for awhile. That was about a year ago, with the Pacific Salt. It opened my eyes to the usefulness and practicality of a serrated blade.

However, since then I have slowly and somewhat unconsciously moved back toward PE and away from EDCing serrated edges, perhaps because as my Pacific Salt's microbevel became larger and larger, it took more and more time to bring it back to acceptable levels of sharpness.
After reading this post, I think it's time for a reprofile, and maybe another round of SE carry.
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby James Y » Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:22 pm

I prefer shallowER,serrations, but not overly shallow. When I say overly shallow serrations, I’m talking about like Benchmade serrations. Too shallow and there isn’t enough “grab” to make serrations worthwhile. From the photos of the SE Endela, that looks to me like an ideal serration pattern.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby StuntZombie » Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:13 pm

It took me a couple decades, but I've finally started coming around on serrations. Like James, I prefer them a bit shallower, like the ones on the Delica Wharncliffe. I'm also finding serrations seem to perform even better after a few sharpening have rounded the points of the teeth a bit. They still grab, but they're smooth enough that they don't snag.

I'm probably at the point where I could go all SE and not look back.
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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby dj moonbat » Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:29 pm

Sure sounds complicated, compared to figuring out whether a PE is sharpened properly.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby ABX2011 » Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:58 pm

Great post. I own a few Spydercos with serrations but I have much less time with them. I look forward to improving my sharpening of serrations so I can fully maximize performance as you've described.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby JD Spydo » Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:59 pm

StuntZombie wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 3:19 pm
GarageBoy wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 1:26 pm
How do you take damage out of a SE edge? (Are the corners on a cbn rod usable?) I bought, tried sharpening, and then sold a knife because I could not get rid of the rolled serrations.
I'm not Evil D, but I've had good luck restoring serrations by wrapping some wet/dry sandpaper around a wooden dowel or pencil, and stropping the individual serrations. If you can find one the proper width, it makes the job a lot easier.
Yeah I know that works>> but what do you do with the spikes and grooves in between the scallops? Myself I've used oddly shaped diamond files with some decent results.

Also on stropping Spyderedges here lately I've been stropping from the back side with some encouraging results.

Evil D's Dremel methods have a lot of good results as well. I've also tried to make the scallops smooth while leaving the spikes and grooves with a kind of rough finish and that has had some good results. Serrations are a completely different animal all together and I'm not so sure there are a lot of rules put in concrete like there are with plain edges IMO.

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Re: SE performance is more than simply teeth vs no teeth.

Postby JD Spydo » Tue Oct 01, 2019 5:03 pm

StuntZombie wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 4:13 pm
It took me a couple decades, but I've finally started coming around on serrations. Like James, I prefer them a bit shallower, like the ones on the Delica Wharncliffe. I'm also finding serrations seem to perform even better after a few sharpening have rounded the points of the teeth a bit. They still grab, but they're smooth enough that they don't snag.

I'm probably at the point where I could go all SE and not look back.
Then you would absolutely love that serration pattern on the old Spyderco AUS-8 full SE Catcherman model. Those are shallow and low profile but for some reason really cut cleanly and efficiently. That is also a relatively easy serration pattern to sharpen as well. But as far as I know that is the only model that Spyderco ever used that pattern with.

Also DAVID I've found some very encouraging results lately only using the Ultra-Fine stones on the 204 Sharpmaker to re-sharpen serrations with.


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