How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 436

How do steak knives differ in structure from the "super" cut-through-anything non-damageable knives?
A good knife is distinguished both by its cutting edge and the backbone that supports that edge. The ideal knife has a very hard cutting edge (one that never undergoes plastic deformation and thus never becomes dull) and a very tough backbone (one that can absorb an enormous amount of energy before breaking). The backbone can experience plastic deformation when necessary, in order to absorb energy. Cheap steak knives are made of only one steel: a moderately hard and moderately tough material. They gradually dull because of plastic deformation in their edges but they never break because their backbone is flexible. A great knife is made of several steels, which can be formed by proper heat treatment of a single piece of metal: a very hard edge and a very tough backbone. It never gets dull because its cutting edge never yields and it never breaks because it bends before breaking.

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