Pocket Knife Jimping: Get a Grip

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Example of jimping on the back of bladeJimping is the name given to the grooves that are cut into the back, or unsharpened half of the blade of a knife. These can form part of the choil (the unsharpened section between the knife and the hilt) or even be part of the handle or hilt of the blade itself.

At first blush the reason for jimping seems obvious and clear cut (pardon the pun).. it’ll help you to grip the knife better when your thumb rests on the back of the blade, and will give you better control, especially for fine or detailed work.

But the reality is a bit murkier, and jimping is becoming a personal choice with opinions being very varied and often heated.

To Jimp or not to Jimp?

Ever since early man decided to do a little less thumping over the head with rocks and start chopping things up with the sharpened version there has been a dilemma. Namely, how to stop the hand from slipping onto the blade and getting seriously sliced up? Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but a sharp knife can cut straight through skin, muscle and tendon quicker than you can think, and those injuries can often scar and maim for life, so the considerations here are real.

The early solution was to create a handle for the knife, but human ingenuity soon came up with better more innovative solutions as the utility for a knife changed from just an early cutting tool to an all purpose tool and weapon.

Soon we had wrappings around the handle, hilts, guards, choils and.. wait for it, jimping.

Why is jimping added to the blade?

Apart from a handle or hilt that are fairly standard on a knife, jimping demonstrates the fact that not all knife work is done by just holding the handle in a fist like grip, which is particularly good for stronger, less precise movements.

Sometimes a knife is used for precise carving or skinning, or as an alternative to other tools that may not be available in a pinch (such as a screwdriver) and often the best way to get the best out of your knife in these situations is to get your hands or fingers on the back of the blade to give you more control. At that point the issue of slipping comes up again. What if the knife is wet? Or in the case of skinning an animal, what if the knife has blood on it, which is full of fat and is notoriously slippery?

At that point it becomes practical to add some form of traction to the back of the knife (where it is going to be held) so that regardless of the conditions your hand and fingers are less likely to slip and cause injury.

Alternative Uses for Jimping

Apart from just being used as a non slip surface there are some nifty and innovative alternative uses for jimping. Some folks use it to rest the handle of a cooking pot on, while cooking dinner over a small gas stove, and others use the jimping as an impromptu rasp or file.

It is often used to make a knife look a little “nastier” or useful (such as for military style or “tactical” knives) or as a way of decorating the knife, and it is here that the detractors of jimping come in, saying aggressive jimping causes the blade to weaken by taking away from the structural integrity of the knife and adding potential break points under stress.

Others say that having jimping on a knife not only looks good, but is useful as well and should be a staple part of knife design.

So where do you sit on the debate? Are you a fan, or not?