Obsidian is one of the lesser-known materials used to make knives.
That leaves you to wonder why they are lesser-known – whether it is for the fact that they are not good enough, too expensive, or something else.
If you are ever in the market for an obsidian knife, you might have wondered if they are strong enough or not to justify your purchase.
The obsidian blade is very brittle as it is made of volcanic glass and will shatter on enough impact. It is the least strong material that can be used to make a knife as ceramic knives will fare better than this material on impact.
Thus, the obsidian knife will not handle heavy cutting tasks, sit against abuse well, or find extensive knife applications with most users.
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Where is Obsidian found?
A little history as to where the material for this knife is found won’t hurt.
Since it is a volcanic material, it can only be found at volcanic sites. This includes regions in Argentina, Chile, Georgia, Canada, Australia, and Japan, among others.
That said, the obsidian is formed when molten lava runs and cools rapidly. That cooling hardens the material which makes it possible to obtain as a mineral (even though obsidian is not considered a mineral, no thanks to the lack of crystalline structure).
However, even though it cools into a hard material, it is still brittle and can be shattered on impact.
If you have never come across an obsidian material before, think about your traditional bathroom sink.
That is made of ceramic and you can see how hard it gets. However, it takes enough force and impact to see it start breaking and chipping.
Imagine if that bulk of ceramic that was your kitchen sink is fined down into a thin sheet of the knife blade – and imagine how easy it would be to break.
Now, consider the fact that obsidian is even more brittle than that ceramic.
What are the pros of an obsidian knife?
For something so brittle, why are we even talking about it?
Well, these knives have found their way into surgery because of how sharp and precise they can get. This is the same reason why most collectors and knife lovers have them.
Even though you won’t be able to use them the same way as a normal knife due to their brittleness, they will still perform well when you use them.
For comparison, an obsidian glass knife will be sharper than the best high carbon steel knife that you can find out there. If you know high carbon steel knives, you know that they are as sharp as can be and retain that edge for long also.
It is, thus, little wonder that obsidian was one of the knife tools for the early man. Given how sharp the shards can get even without sharpening, it was a ready cutting tool.
Is obsidian stronger than steel?
The material makes for sharper knives than steel can ever manage, but it does so at the expense of the strength that you get from a steel knife.
One of the reasons why steel, in its various forms, remains great for knife making is because of all the fine features that it brings to the table. While it doesn’t do any one thing (such as sharpness, strength, longevity, etc) too well singly, it combines all of these in just enough quantities into one body.
Thus, it makes sense that steel is used for the majority of knives you see around today.
That, and steel is easier to work with/ modify into different forms and shapes than you could manage with materials like obsidian.
Can you use obsidian knives?
If you are simply doing kitchen cooking, I don’t see why you would need an obsidian knife.
Find a proper kitchen knife or buy a small knife set and you will have all you ever need.
For hunters and outdoor lovers who process game, or butchers who handle the meat processing themselves, I might see why you would need such a knife.
Once the initial cuts are done, obsidian knives could make skinning very easy and fast for you.
While steel knives will be too sharp (yes, a knife can be too sharp) to skin the animal properly without cutting/ piercing the skin, an obsidian knife will work just fine.
But, are obsidian knives not sharper than stainless steel knives? They are, and by far, but they won’t work on the skin the same way that a stainless steel knife would – and you get the benefit of speed to match.
In a nutshell, obsidian knives are one of the sharpest, if not the sharpest set of knives, that you will find around these days. These knives can be as much as 300-500 times sharper than the sharpest stainless steel knife that you know, telling you how well made they come naturally.
However, there is a trade-off between sharpness and toughness when making knives. While they are sharp, obsidian knives cannot hold up to the daily usage that stainless steel knives are subjected to.
Thus, it is more economically sound and wise to use stainless steel in place of obsidian when mass producing knives.