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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A knife is any cutting edge or blade, handheld or otherwise, with or without a handle. Knives were used at least two-and-a-half million years ago, as evidenced by the Oldowan tools.[1][2] Originally made of rock, flint, and obsidian; knives have evolved in construction as technology has with blades being made from bronze, copper, iron, steel, ceramics, and titanium. Every culture has a unique version of the knife. A knife may be either a fixed-blade or a folding version with blade patterns and styles as varied as their makers and countries of origin. Due to its role as mankind's first tool, certain cultures have attached spiritual and religious significance to the knife.



The Knife Grinder - Drawn by P. Weenix and engraving by W. French - Published for the Proprietors by AH Payne, Dresden & Leipzig - 1853 (From the Dr. Nuno Carvalho de Sousa Private Collections - Lisbon)

The earliest knives were made by knapping (percussive flaking) of rock, particularly harder rocks such as obsidian and flint. During the Paleolithic era Homo habilis probably made similar tools out of wood, bone, and similar perishable materials that have not survived.[2][3] As recent as five thousand years ago, as advances in metallurgy progressed, stone, wood, and bone blades were gradually succeeded by copper, bronze, iron, and eventually steel. The first metal (copper) knives were symmetrical double edged daggers, which copied the earlier flint daggers. In Europe the first single edged knives appeared during the middle bronze age. Modern knives may be made from many different materials such as alloy tool steels, carbon fiber, ceramics, and titanium.

Materials and construction

Today, knives come in many forms but can be generally categorized between two broad types: fixed blade knives and folding, or pocket knives.

Characteristic parts of the knife

Modern knives consist of a blade (1) and handle (2). The blade edge can be plain or serrated or a combination of both. The handle, used to grip and manipulate the blade safely, may include the tang, a portion of the blade that extends into the handle. Knives are made with partial tangs (extending part way into the handle, known as a "Stick Tang") or full tangs (extending the full length of the handle, often visible on top and bottom). The handle can include a bolster, which is a piece of material used to balance the knife, usually brass or other metal, at the front of the handle where it meets the blade. The blade consists of the point (3), the end of the knife used for piercing, the edge (4), the cutting surface of the knife extending from the point to the heel, the grind (5), the cross section shape of the blade, the spine, (6), the top, thicker portion of the blade, the fuller (7), the groove added to lighten the blade, and the ricasso (8), the thick portion of the blade joining the blade and the handle. The guard (9) is a barrier between the blade and the handle which protects the hand from an opponent, or the blade of the knife itself. A choil, where the blade is unsharpened and possibly indented as it meets the handle, may be used to prevent scratches to the handle when sharpening or as a forward-finger grip. The end of the handle, or butt (10), may allow a lanyard (11), used to secure the knife to the wrist, or a portion of the tang to protrude as a striking surface for hitting or glass breaking.[4]


Knife blade mass production.

Knife blades can be manufactured from a variety of materials, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Carbon steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, can be very sharp, hold its edge well, and remain easy to sharpen, but is vulnerable to rust and stains. Stainless steel is an alloy of iron, chromium, possibly nickel, and molybdenum, with only a small amount of carbon. It is not able to take quite as sharp an edge as carbon steel, but is highly resistant to corrosion. High carbon stainless steel is stainless steel with a higher amount of carbon, intended to incorporate the better attributes of carbon steel and stainless steel. High carbon stainless steel blades do not discolor or stain, and maintain a sharp edge. Laminate blades use multiple metals to create a layered sandwich, combining the attributes of both. For example, a harder, more brittle steel may be sandwiched between an outer layer of softer, tougher, stainless steel to reduce vulnerability to corrosion. In this case, however, the part most affected by corrosion, the edge, is still vulnerable. Pattern-welding is similar to laminate construction. Layers of different steel types are welded together, but then the stock is manipulated to create patterns in the steel. Titanium is metal that has a better strength-to-weight ratio, is more wear resistant, and more flexible than steel. Although less hard and unable to take as sharp an edge, carbides in the titanium alloy allow them to be heat-treated to a sufficient hardness. Ceramic blades are hard, brittle, and lightweight: they may maintain a sharp edge for years with no maintenance at all, but are as fragile as glass and will break if dropped on a hard surface. They are immune to common corrosion, and can only be sharpened on silicon carbide sandpaper and some grinding wheels. Plastic blades are not especially sharp and typically serrated. They are often disposable.[5]

Steel blades are commonly shaped by forging or stock removal. Forged blades are made by heating a single piece of steel, then shaping the metal while hot using a hammer or press. Stock removal blades are shaped by grinding and removing metal. With both methods, after shaping, the steel must be heat treated. This involves heating the steel above its critical point, then quenching the blade to harden it. After hardening, the blade is tempered to remove stresses and make the blade tougher. Mass manufactured kitchen cutlery uses both the forging and stock removal processes. Forging tends to be reserved for manufacturers' more expensive product lines, and can often be distinguished from stock removal product lines by the presence of an integral bolster, though integral bolsters can be crafted through either shaping method.

Knives are sharpened in various ways. Flat ground blades have a profile that tapers from the thick spine to the sharp edge in a straight or convex line. Seen in cross section, the blade would form a long, thin triangle, or where the taper does not extend to the back of the blade, a long thin rectangle with one peaked side. Hollow ground blades have concave, beveled edges. The resulting blade has a thinner edge, so it may have better cutting ability for shallow cuts, but it is lighter and less durable than flat ground blades and will tend to bind in deep cuts. Serrated blade knives have a wavy, scalloped or saw-like blade. Serrated blades are more well suited for tasks that require aggressive 'sawing' motions, whereas plain edge blades are better suited for tasks that require push-through cuts (e.g., shaving, chopping, slicing).

Fixed blade features

A fixed blade knife, sometimes called a sheath knife, does not fold or slide, and is typically stronger due to the tang, the extension of the blade into the handle, and lack of moving parts.

Folding blade features

A folding knife connects the blade to the handle through a pivot, allowing the blade to fold into the handle. To prevent injury to the knife user through the blade accidentally closing on the user's hand, folding knives typically have a locking mechanism. Different locking mechanisms are favored by various individuals for reasons such as perceived strength (lock safety), legality, and ease of use. Popular locking mechanisms include:

  • Slip joint – Found most commonly on traditional pocket knives, the opened blade does not lock, but is held in place by a spring device that allows the blade to fold if a certain amount of pressure is applied.
  • Lockback – Also known as the spine lock, the lockback includes a pivoted latch affixed to a spring, and can be disengaged only by pressing the latch down to release the blade.[5]
  • Liner Lock – Invented by Michael Walker, uses a leaf spring-type liner within the groove of the handle that snaps into position under the blade when it is deployed. The lock is released by pushing the liner to the side, to allow the blade to return to its groove set into the handle.
  • Frame Lock – Also known as the integral lock or monolock, this locking mechanism was invented by custom knifemaker Chris Reeve for the Sebenza as an update to the liner lock. The frame lock works in a manner similar to the liner lock but uses a partial cutout of the actual knife handle, rather than a separate liner inside the handle to hold the blade in place.
  • Button Lock
  • Axis Lock – A locking mechanism exclusively licensed to the Benchmade Knife Company.
  • PickLock – A round post on the back base of the blade locks into a hole in a spring tab in the handle. To close, manually lift (pick) the spring tab (lock) off the blade post with your fingers, or in "Italian Style Stilettos" swivel the bolster (hand guard) clockwise to lift the spring tab off the blade post.

Another prominent feature on many folding knives is the opening mechanism. Traditional pocket knives and Swiss Army Knives commonly employ the nail nick, while modern folding knives more often use a stud, hole, disk, or flipper located on the blade, all which have the benefit of allowing the user to open the knife with one hand.

Automatic or switchblade knives open using the stored energy from a spring that is released when the user presses a button or lever or other actuator built into the handle of the knife. Automatic knives are popular amongst law enforcement and military users for their ease of rapid deployment and their ability to be opened using only one hand. Automatic knives are severely restricted by law in most American states.[6]

Increasingly common are assisted opening knives which use springs to propel the blade once the user has moved it past a certain angle. These differ from automatic or switchblade knives in that the blade is not released by means of a button or catch on the handle; rather, the blade itself is the actuator. Most assisted openers use flippers as their opening mechanism. Assisted opening knives can be as fast or faster than automatic knives to deploy.

Sliding blade features

A sliding knife is a knife which can be opened by sliding the knife blade out the front of the handle. One method of opening is where the blade exits out the front of the handle point-first and then is locked into place (an example of this is the gravity knife). Another form is a O-T-F (out-the-front) switchblade, which only requires the push of a button or spring to cause the blade to slide out of the handle, and lock into place. To retract the blade back into the handle, a release lever or button, usually the same control as to open, is pressed. A very common form of sliding knife is the sliding utility knife (commonly known as a stanley knife or boxcutter).


The handles of knives can be made from a number of different materials, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Handles are produced in a wide variety of shapes and styles. Handles are often textured to enhance grip.

  • Wood handles provide good grip and are warm in the hand, but are more difficult to care for. They do not resist water well, and will crack or warp with prolonged exposure to water. Modern stabilized and laminated woods have largely overcome these problems. Many beautiful and exotic hardwoods are employed in the manufacture of custom and some production knives. In some countries it is now forbidden for commercial butchers' knives to have wood handles, for sanitary reasons.
  • Plastic handles are more easily cared for than wooden handles, but can be slippery and become brittle over time.
  • Rubber handles such as Kraton or Respirine-C are generally preferred over plastic due to their durable and cushioning nature.
  • Micarta is a popular handle material on user knives due to its toughness and stability. Micarta is impervious to water, is grippy when wet, and is an excellent insulator. Micarta has come to refer to any fibrous material cast in resin. There are many varieties of micarta available. One very popular version is a fibreglass impregnated resin called G-10.
  • Leather handles are seen on some hunting and military knives, notably the KA-BAR. Leather handles are typically produced by stacking leather washers, or less commonly, as a sleeve surrounding another handle material.
  • Skeleton handles refers to the practice of using the tang itself as the handle, usually with sections of material removed to reduce weight. Skeleton handled knives are often wrapped with parachute cord or other wrapping materials to enhance grip.
  • Stainless steel handles are durable and sanitary, but can be slippery. To counter this, premium knife makers make handles with ridges, bumps, or indentations to provide extra grip.

More exotic materials usually only seen on art or ceremonial knives include: Stone, bone, mammoth tooth, mammoth ivory, oosic (walrus penis bone), walrus tusk, antler (often called stag in a knife context), sheep horn, buffalo horn, teeth, etc. Many materials have been employed in knife handles.

Types of knives

Knives as weapons

As a weapon, the knife is universally adopted as an essential tool. For example:

  • Bayonet: A knife-shaped close-quarters fighting weapon designed to attach to the muzzle of a rifle or similar weapon
  • Combat knife: Any knife intended to be used mainly for fighting
  • Throwing knife: A knife designed and weighted for throwing
  • Trench knife: Purpose-made or improvised knives, intended for close-quarter fighting, particularly in trench warfare characterised by a d-shaped integral hand guard.
  • Shiv: A crudely made homemade knife out of everyday materials, especially prevalent in prisons among inmates. An alternate name in some prisons is Shank.

Knives as utensils

A primary aspect of the knife as a tool includes dining, used either in food preparation or as cutlery. Examples of this include:

Knives as tools

As a utility tool the knife can take many forms, including:[5]

Diver's knife from Three bolt equipment
  • Bowie knife: Commonly, any large sheath knife, or a specific style of large knife popularized by Jim Bowie.
  • Butterfly knife: A folding knife also known as a balisong, with two handles counter-rotating around the tang such that, when closed, the blade is hidden within the handles.
  • Diver's knife: A knife adapted for use in diving and water sports and a necessary part of standard diving dress.
  • Electrician's knife: An insulated knife used to cut electrical wire.
  • Hunting knife: A knife used to dress large game.
  • Linoleum knife: is a small knife that has a short, stiff blade with a curved point and a handle and is used to cut linoleum or other sheet materials.
  • Machete: A large heavy knife used to cut through thick vegetation such as sugar cane or jungle undergrowth; it may be used as an offensive weapon.
  • Multitool: Customarily with a knife as its most elemental feature, these tools may include a variety of other tools. Made famous by the Swiss Army Knife.
  • Pocket knife: Also known as a multi-tool or jackknife, a knife which may contain several folding blades, as well as other tools.
  • Palette knife: A knife, or frosting spatula, lacking a cutting edge, used by artists for tasks such as mixing and applying paint and in cooking for spreading icing.
  • Scalpel: A medical knife, used to perform surgery.
  • Straight razor: A reusable knife blade used for shaving hair.
  • Survival knife: A sturdy knife, sometimes with a hollow handle filled with survival equipment.
  • Switchblade: A knife with a folding blade that springs out of the grip when a button or lever on the grip is pressed.
  • Utility knife: A short knife with a replaceable triangular blade, used for cutting sheet materials including cardboard boxes.
  • Wood carving knife: Knives used for wood carving, often with short, thin replaceable blades for better control.
  • X-Acto knife: A scalpel-like knife with a long handle and a replaceable pointed blade, used for precise, clean cutting in arts and crafts

Knives as a traditional or religious implement

  • Athame: A typically black-handled and double-edged ritual knife used in Wicca and other derivative forms of Neopagan witchcraft. (see also Boline).
  • Kirpan: A ceremonial knife that all baptised Sikhs must wear as one of the five visible symbols of the Sikh faith (Kakars)
  • Kilaya: A dagger used in Tibetan Buddhism
  • Kris: A dagger used in Indo-Malay cultures, often by royalty and sometimes in religious rituals.
  • Kukri: A Nepalese knife used as both tool and weapon
  • Puukko: A traditional Finnish or Scandinavian style woodcraft belt-knife used as a tool rather than a weapon
  • Seax: A Germanic single-edged knife, used primarily as a tool, but may have been a weapon
  • Sgian Dubh: A small dagger traditionally worn with highland dress (kilt)

Rituals and superstitions

The Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio, (1590-1610; Oil on canvas; Uffizi). Abraham is holding the sacrificial knife.

The knife plays a significant role in some cultures through ritual and superstition, as the knife was an essential tool for survival since early man.[2] Knife symbols can be found in various cultures to symbolize all stages of life; for example, a knife placed under the bed while giving birth is said to ease the pain, or, stuck into the headboard of a cradle, to protect the baby.[7][8]; knives were included in some Anglo-Saxon burial rites, so the dead would not be defenseless in the next world.[9][10][11] The knife plays an important role in some initiation rites, and many cultures perform rituals with a variety of knives, including the ceremonial sacrifices of animals.[12] Samurai warriors, as part of bushido, could perform ritual suicide, or seppuku, with a tantō, a common Japanese knife.[13] An athame, a ceremonial black-handled knife, is used in Wicca and derived forms of neopagan witchcraft.[14][15]

In Greece a black-handled knife placed under the pillow is used to keep away nightmares.[16] As early as 1646 reference is made to a superstition of laying a knife across another piece of cutlery being a sign of witchcraft.[17] A common belief is that if a knife is given as a gift, the relationship of the giver and recipient will be severed. Something such as a small coin, dove or a valuable item is exchanged for the gift, rendering "payment."[8]


Knives are typically restricted by law, although restrictions vary greatly by country or state and type of knife. For example, some laws restrict carrying an unconcealed knife in public while other laws can restrict even private ownership of certain knives, such as switchblades.

Further reading

  • Everybody's Knife Bible by Don Paul, ISBN 0-938263-23-4


  1. ^ "No. 1 The Knife -". Retrieved 2007-05-07.  
  2. ^ a b c "Early Human Evolution: Early Human Culture". Retrieved 2007-05-07.  
  3. ^ "World's Oldest Stone Tools". Retrieved 2007-05-07.  
  4. ^ "Knife Anatomy, Parts, Names".,_parts,_names.htm. Retrieved 2007-05-07.  
  5. ^ a b c "Greatest Tool #10: The Knife -". Retrieved 2007-05-07.  
  6. ^ State Knife Laws
  7. ^ "Bad Luck and Superstition 5". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  8. ^ a b "HouseholdFolklore". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  9. ^ ""The Knife Lore of the Anglo-Saxons" - Knife Articles : Custom Knives - Knife". Retrieved 2007-05-09.  
  10. ^ "The Heroic Age: The Anglo-British Cemetery at Bamburgh". Retrieved 2007-05-09.  
  11. ^ "Bronze age grave goods from Bedd Branwen burial site, Anglesey :: Gathering the Jewels". Retrieved 2007-05-09.  
  12. ^ "Ritual knife". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  13. ^ "Howstuffworks "How Samurai Work"". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  14. ^ "Hellenic Magical Ritual". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  15. ^ "The Clavicle of Solomon, revealed by Ptolomy the Grecian. (Sloane 3847)". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  16. ^ "The Magic of the Horseshoe: The Magic Of The Horse-shoe: VI. Iron As A Protective Charm". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  
  17. ^ "Knife laid across - A Dictionary of Superstitions - HighBeam Research". Retrieved 2007-05-08.  

See also

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010
(Redirected to The Knife article)

From Wikisource

The Knife
by Stephen Crane
Published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Vol. 100, March,1900, No. 598, pp. 591-598.



SI BRYANT'S place was on the shore of the lake, and his garden-patch, shielded from the north by a bold little promontory and a higher ridge inland, was accounted the most successful and surprising in all Whilomville township. One afternoon Si was working in the garden-patch, when Doctor Trescott's man, Peter Washington, came trudging slowly along the road, observing nature. He scanned the white man's fine agricultural results. "Take your eye off them there mellons, you rascal," said Si, placidly.

The negro's face widened in a grin of delight. "Well, Mist' Bryant, I raikon I ain't on'y make m'se'f covertous er-lookin' at dem yere mellums, sure 'nough. Dey suhtainly is grand."

"That's all right," responded Si, with affected bitterness of spirit. "That's all right. Just don't you admire 'em too much, that's all."

Peter chuckled and chuckled. "Ma Lode! Mist' Bryant, y-y-you don' think I'm gwine come prowlin' in dish yer gawden?"

"No, I know you hain't," said Si, with solemnity. "B'cause, if you did, I'd shoot you so full of holes you couldn't tell yourself from a sponge."

"Um -- no, seh! No, seh! I don' raikon you'll get chance at Pete, Mist' Bryant. No, seh. I'll take an' run 'long an' rob er bank 'fore I'll come foolishin' 'round your gawden, Mist' Bryant."

Bryant, gnarled and strong as an old tree, leaned on his hoe, and laughed a Yankee laugh. His mouth remained tightly closed, but the sinister lines which ran from the sides of his nose to the meetings of his lips developed to form a comic oval, and he emitted a series of grunts, while his eyes gleamed merrily and his shoulders shook. Peter, on the contrary, threw back his head and guffawed thunderously. The effete joke in regard to an American negro's fondness for watermelons was still an admirable pleasantry to them, and this was not the first time they had engaged in badinage over it. In fact, this venerable survival had formed between them a friendship of casual road-side quality.

Afterward Peter went on up the road. He continued to chuckle until he was far away. He was going to pay a visit to old Alek Williams, a negro who lived with a large family in a hut clinging to the side of a mountain. The scattered colony of negroes which hovered near Whilomville was of interesting origin, being the result of some contrabands who had drifted as far north as Whilomville during the great civil war. The descendants of these adventurers were mainly conspicuous for their bewildering number, and the facility which they possessed for adding even to this number. Speaking, for example, of the Jacksons -- one couldn't hurl a stone into the hills about Whilomville without having it land on the roof of a hut full of Jacksons. The town reaped little in labor from these curious suburbs. There were a few men who came in regularly to work in gardens, to drive teams, to care for horses, and there were a few women who came in to cook or to wash. These latter had usually drunken husbands. In the main the colony loafed in high spirits, and the industrious minority gained no direct honor from their fellows, unless they spent their earnings on raiment, in which case they were naturally treated with distinction. On the whole, the hardships of these people were the wind, the rain, the snow, and any other physical difficulties which they could cultivate. About twice a year the lady philanthropists of Whilomville went up against them, and came away poorer in goods but rich in complacence. After one of these attacks the colony would preserve a comic air of rectitude for two days, and then relapse again to the genial irresponsibility of a crew of monkeys.

Peter Washington was one of the industrious class who occupied a position of distinction, for he surely spent his money on personal decoration. On occasion he could dress better than the Mayor of Whilomville himself, or at least in more colors, which was the main thing to the minds of his admirers. His ideal had been the late gallant Henry Johnson, whose conquests in Watermelon Alley, as well as in the hill shanties, had proved him the equal if not the superior of any Pullman-car porter in the country. Perhaps Peter had too much Virginia laziness and humor in him to be a wholly adequate successor to the fastidious Henry Johnson, but, at any rate, he admired his memory so attentively as to be openly termed a dude by envious people.

On this afternoon he was going to call on old Alek Williams because Alek's eldest girl was just turned seventeen, and, to Peter's mind, was a triumph of beauty. He was not wearing his best clothes, because on his last visit Alek's half-breed hound Susie had taken occasion to forcefully extract a quite large and valuable part of the visitor's trousers. When Peter arrived at the end of the rocky field which contained old Alek's shanty he stooped and provided himself with several large stones, weighing them carefully in his hand, and finally continuing his journey with three stones of about eight ounces each. When he was near the house, three gaunt hounds, Rover and Carlo and Susie, came sweeping down upon him. His impression was that they were going to climb him as if he were a tree, but at the critical moment they swerved and went growling and snapping around him, their heads low, their eyes malignant. The afternoon caller waited until Susie presented her side to him, then he heaved one of his eight-ounce rocks. When it landed, her hollow ribs gave forth a drumlike sound, and she was knocked sprawling, her legs in the air. The other hounds at once fled in horror, and she followed as soon as she was able, yelping at the top of her lungs. The afternoon caller resumed his march.

At the wild expressions of Susie's anguish old Alek had flung open the door and come hastily into the sunshine. "Yah, you Suse, come erlong outa dat now. What fer you -- Oh, how do, how do, Mist' Wash'ton -- how do?"

"How do, Mist' Willums? I done foun' it necessa'y fer ter damnearkill dish yer dawg a yourn, Mist' Willums."

"Come in, come in, Mist' Wash'ton. Dawg no 'count, Mist' Wash'ton." Then he turned to address the unfortunate animal. "Hu't, did it? Hu't? 'Pears like you gwine lun some saince by time somebody brek yer back. 'Pears like I gwine club yer inter er frazzle 'fore you fin' out some saince. Gw'on 'way f'm yah!"

As the old man and his guest entered the shanty a body of black children spread out in crescent-shape formation and observed Peter with awe. Fat old Mrs. Williams greeted him turbulently, while the eldest girl, Mollie, lurked in a corner and giggled with finished imbecility, gazing at the visitor with eyes that were shy and bold by turns. She seemed at times absurdly over-confident, at times foolishly afraid; but her giggle consistently endured. It was a giggle on which an irascible but right-minded judge would have ordered her forthwith to be buried alive.

Amid a great deal of hospitable gabbling, Peter was conducted to the best chair out of the three that the house contained. Enthroned therein, he made himself charming in talk to the old people, who beamed upon him joyously. As for Mollie, he affected to be unaware of her existence. This may have been a method for entrapping the sentimental interest of that young gazelle, or it may be that the giggle had worked upon him.

He was absolutely fascinating to the old people. They could talk like rotary snowploughs, and he gave them every chance, while his face was illumined with appreciation. They pressed him to stay to supper, and he consented, after a glance at the pot on the stove which was too furtive to be noted.

During the meal old Alek recounted the high state of Judge Oglethorpe's kitchen-garden, which Alek said was due to his unremitting industry and fine intelligence. Alek was a gardener, whenever impending starvation forced him to cease temporarily from being a lily of the field.

"Mist' Bryant he suhtainly got er grand gawden," observed Peter.

"Dat so, dat so, Mist' Wash'ton," assented Alek. "He got fine gawden."

"Seems like I nev' did see sech mellums, big as er bar'l, layin' dere. I don't raikon an'body in dish yer county kin hol' it with Mist' Bryant when comes ter mellums."

"Dat so, Mist' Wash'ton."

They did not talk of watermelons until their heads held nothing else, as the phrase goes. But they talked of watermelons until, when Peter started for home that night over a lonely road, they held a certain dominant position in his mind. Alek had come with him as far as the fence, in order to protect him from a possible attack by the mongrels. There they had cheerfully parted, two honest men.

The night was dark, and heavy with moisture. Peter found it uncomfortable to walk rapidly. He merely loitered on the road. When opposite Si Bryant's place he paused and looked over the fence into the garden. He imagined he could see the form of a huge melon lying in dim stateliness not ten yards away. He looked at the Bryant house. Two windows, downstairs, were lighted. The Bryants kept no dog, old Si's favorite child having once been bitten by a dog, and having since died, within that year, of pneumonia.

Peering over the fence, Peter fancied that if any low-minded night-prowler should happen to note the melon, he would not find it difficult to possess himself of it. This person would merely wait until the lights were out in the house, and the people presumably asleep. Then he would climb the fence, reach the melon in a few strides, sever the stem with his ready knife, and in a trice be back in the road with his prize. There need be no noise, and, after all, the house was some distance.

Selecting a smooth bit of turf, Peter took a seat by the road-side. From time to time he glanced at the lighted windows.


When Peter and Alek had said good-by, the old man turned back in the rocky field and shaped a slow course toward that high dim light which marked the little window of his shanty. It would be incorrect to say that Alek could think of nothing but watermelons. But it was true that Si Bryant's watermelon-patch occupied a certain conspicuous position in his thoughts.

He sighed; he almost wished that he was again a conscienceless pickaninny, instead of being one of the most ornate, solemn, and look-at-me-sinner deacons that ever graced the handle of a collection-basket. At this time it made him quite sad to reflect upon his granite integrity. A weaker man might perhaps bow his moral head to the temptation, but for him such a fall was impossible. He was a prince of the church, and if he had been nine princes of the church he could not have been more proud. In fact, religion was to the old man a sort of personal dignity. And he was on Sundays so obtrusively good that you could see his sanctity through a door. He forced it on you until you would have felt its influence even in a forecastle.

It was clear in his mind that he must put watermelon thoughts from him, and after a moment he told himself, with much ostentation, that he had done so. But it was cooler under the sky than in the shanty, and as he was not sleepy, he decided to take a stroll down to Si Bryant's place and look at the melons from a pinnacle of spotless innocence. Reaching the road, he paused to listen. It would not do to let Peter hear him, because that graceless rapscallion would probably misunderstand him. But, assuring himself that Peter was well on his way, he set out, walking briskly until he was within four hundred yards of Bryant's place. Here he went to the side of the road, and walked thereafter on the damp, yielding turf. He made no sound.

He did not go on to that point in the main road which was directly opposite the watermelon-patch. He did not wish to have his ascetic contemplation disturbed by some chance wayfarer. He turned off along a short lane which led to Si Bryant's barn. Here he reached a place where he could see, over the fence, the faint shapes of the melons.

Alek was affected. The house was some distance away, there was no dog, and doubtless the Bryants would soon extinguish their lights and go to bed. Then some poor lost lamb of sin might come and scale the fence, reach a melon in a moment, sever the stem with his ready knife, and in a trice be back in the road with his prize. And this poor lost lamb of sin might even be a bishop, but no one would ever know it. Alek singled out with his eye a very large melon, and thought that the lamb would prove his judgment if he took that one.

He found a soft place in the grass, and arranged himself comfortably. He watched the lights in the windows.


It seemed to Peter Washington that the Bryants absolutely consulted their own wishes in regard to the time for retiring; but at last he saw the lighted windows fade briskly from left to right, and after a moment a window on the second floor blazed out against the darkness. Si was going to bed. In five minutes this window abruptly vanished, and all the world was night.

Peter spent the ensuing quarter-hour in no mental debate. His mind was fixed. He was here, and the melon was there. He would have it. But an idea of being caught appalled him. He thought of his position. He was the bean of his community, honored right and left. He pictured the consternation of his friends and the cheers of his enemies if the hands of the redoubtable Si Bryant should grip him in his shame.

He arose, and going to the fence, listened. No sound broke the stillness, save the rhythmical incessant clicking of myriad insects, and the guttural chanting of the frogs in the reeds at the lake-side. Moved by sudden decision, he climbed the fence and crept silently and swiftly down upon the melon. His open knife was in his hand. There was the melon, cool, fair to see, as pompous in its fatness as the cook in a monastery.

Peter put out a hand to steady it while he cut the stem. But at the instant he was aware that a black form had dropped over the fence lining the lane in front of him and was coming stealthily toward him. In a palsy of terror he dropped flat upon the ground, not having strength enough to run away. The next moment he was looking into the amazed and agonized face of old Alek Williams.

There was a moment of loaded silence, and then Peter was overcome by a mad inspiration. He suddenly dropped his knife and leaped upon Alek. "I got che!" he hissed. "I got che! I got che!" The old man sank down as limp as rags.

"I got che! I got che! Steal Mist' Bryant's mellums, hey?"

Alek, in a low voice, began to beg. "Oh, Mist' Peter Wash'ton, don' go fer ter be too ha'd on er ole man! I nev' come yere fer ter steal 'em. 'Deed I didn't, Mist' Wash'ton! I come yere jes fer ter feel 'em. Oh, please, Mist' Wash'ton -- "

"Come erlong outa yere, you ol' rip," said Peter, "an' don' trumple on dese yer baids. I gwine put you wah you won' ketch col'."

Without difficulty he tumbled the whining Alek over the fence to the road-way, and followed him with sheriff-like expedition. He took him by the scruff. "Come erlong, deacon. I raikon I gwine put you wah you kin pray, deacon. Come erlong, deacon."

The emphasis and reiteration of his layman's title in the church produced a deadly effect upon Alek. He felt to his marrow the heinous crime into which this treacherous night had betrayed him. As Peter marched his prisoner up the road toward the mouth of the lane, he continued his remarks: "Come erlong, deacon. Nev' see er man so anxious-like erbout er mellum paitch, deacon. Seem like you jes must see 'em er-growin' an' feel 'em, deacon. Mist' Bryant he'll be s'prised, deacon, findin' out you come fer ter feel his mellums. Come erlong, deacon. Mist' Bryant he expectin' some ole rip like you come soon."

They had almost reached the lane when Alek's cur Susie, who had followed her master, approached in the silence which attends dangerous dogs; and seeing indications of what she took to be war, she appended herself swiftly but firmly to the calf of Peter's left leg. The melee was short, but spirited. Alek had no wish to have his dog complicate his already serious misfortunes, and went manfully to the defence of his captor. He procured a large stone, and by beating this with both hands down upon the resounding skull of the animal, he induced her to quit her grip. Breathing heavily, Peter dropped into the long grass at the road-side. He said nothing.

"Mist' Wash'ton," said Alek at last, in a quavering voice, "I raikon I gwine wait yere see what you gwine do ter me."

Whereupon Peter passed into a spasmodic state, in which he rolled to and fro and shook.

"Mist' Wash'ton, I hope dish yer dog ain't gone an' give you fitses?"

Peter sat up suddenly. "No, she ain't," he answered; "but she gin me er big skeer; an' fer yer 'sistance with er cobblestone, Mist' Willums, I tell you what I gwine do -- I tell you what I gwine do." He waited an impressive moment. "I gwine 'lease you!"

Old Alek trembled like a little bush in a wind. "Mist' Wash'ton?"

Quoth Peter, deliberately, "I gwine 'lease you."

The old man was filled with a desire to negotiate this statement at once, but he felt the necessity of carrying off the event without an appearance of haste. "Yes, seh; thank 'e, seh; thank 'e, Mist' Wash'ton. I raikon I ramble home pressenly." He waited an interval, and then dubiously said, "Good-evenin', Mist' Wash'ton."

"Good-evenin', deacon. Don' come foolin' roun' feelin' no mellums, and I say troof. Good-evenin', deacon."

Alek took off his hat and made three profound bows. "Thank 'e, seh. Thank 'e, seh. Thank 'e, seh."

Peter underwent another severe spasm, but the old man walked off toward his home with a humble and contrite heart.


The next morning Alek proceeded from his shanty under the complete but customary illusion that he was going to work. He trudged manfully along until he reached the vicinity of Si Bryant's place. Then, by stages, he relapsed into a slink. He was passing the garden-patch under full steam, when, at some distance ahead of him, he saw Si Bryant leaning casually on the garden fence.

"Good-mornin', Alek."

"Good-mawnin', Mist' Bryant," answered Alek, with a new deference. He was marching on, when he was halted by a word -- "Alek!"

He stopped. "Yes, seh."

"I found a knife this mornin' in th' road," drawled Si, "an' I thought maybe it was yourn."

Improved in mind by this divergence from the direct line of attack, Alek stepped up easily to look at the knife. "No, seh," he said, scanning it as it lay in Si's palm, while the cold steel-blue eyes of the white man looked down into his stomach, "'tain't no knife er mine." But he knew the knife. He knew it as if it had been his mother. And at the same moment a spark flashed through his head and made wise his understanding. He knew everything. "'Tain't much of er knife, Mist' Bryant," he said, deprecatingly.

"'Tain't much of a knife, I know that," cried Si, in sudden heat, "but I found it this mornin' in my watermelon-patch -- hear?"

"Watahmellum-paitch?" yelled Alek, not astounded.

"Yes, in my watermelon-patch," sneered Si, "an' I think you know something about it, too!"

"Me?" cried Alek. "Me?"

"Yes -- you!" said Si, with icy ferocity. "Yes -- you!" He had become convinced that Alek was not in any way guilty, but he was certain that the old man knew the owner of the knife, and so he pressed him at first on criminal lines. "Alek, you might as well own up now. You've been meddlin' with my watermelons!"

"Me?" cried Alek again. "Yah's ma knife. I done cah'e it foh yeahs."

Bryant changed his ways. "Look here, Alek," he said, confidentially. "I know you and you know me, and there ain't no use in any more skirmishes. I know that you know whose knife that is. Now whose is it?"

This challenge was so formidable in character that Alek temporarily quailed and began to stammer. "Er -- now -- Mist' Bryant -- you -- you -- frien' er mine -- "

"I know I'm a friend of yours, but," said Bryant, inexorably, "who owns this knife?"

Alek gathered unto himself some remnants of dignity and spoke with reproach: "Mist' Bryant, dish yer knife ain' mine."

"No," said Bryant, "it ain't. But you know who it belongs to, an' I want you to tell me -- quick."

"Well, Mist' Bryant," answered Alek, scratching his wool, "I won't say 's I do know who b'longs ter dish yer knife, an' I won't say 's I don't."

Bryant again laughed his Yankee laugh, but this time there was little humor in it. It was dangerous.

Alek, seeing that he had gotten himself into hot water by the fine diplomacy of his last sentence, immediately began to flounder and totally submerge himself. "No, Mist' Bryant," he repeated, "I won't say 's I do know who b'longs ter dish yer knife, an' I won't say 's I don't." And he began to parrot this fatal sentence again and again. It seemed wound about his tongue. He could not rid himself of it. Its very power to make trouble for him seemed to originate the mysterious Afric reason for its repetition.

"Is he a very close friend of yourn?" said Bryant, softly.

"F-frien'?" stuttered Alek. He appeared to weigh this question with much care. "Well, seems like he was er frien', an' then agin, it seems like he -- "

"It seems like he wasn't!" asked Bryant.

"Yes, seh, jest so, jest so," cried Alek. "Sometimes it seems like he wasn't. Then agin -- " He stopped for profound meditation.

The patience of the white man seemed inexhaustible. At length his low and oily voice broke the stillness. "Oh, well, of course if he's a friend of yourn, Alek! You know I wouldn't want to make no trouble for a friend of yourn."

"Yes, seh," cried the negro at once. "He's er frien' er mine. He is dat."

"Well, then, it seems as if about the only thing to do is for you to tell me his name so's I can send him his knife, and that's all there is to it."

Alek took off his hat, and in perplexity ran his hand over his wool. He studied the ground. But several times he raised his eyes to take a sly peep at the imperturbable visage of the white man. "Y -- y -- yes, Mist' Bryant....I raikon dat's erbout all what kin be done. I gwine tell you who b'longs ter dish yer knife."

"Of course," said the smooth Bryant, "it ain't a very nice thing to have to do, but -- "

"No, seh," cried Alek, brightly; "I'm gwine tell you, Mist' Bryant. I gwine tell you erbout dat knife. Mist' Bryant," he asked, solemnly, "does you know who b'longs ter dat knife?"

"No, I -- "

"Well, I gwine tell. I gwine tell who, Mr. Bryant -- " The old man drew himself to a stately pose and held forth his arm. "I gwine tell who. Mist' Bryant, dish yer knife b'longs ter Sam Jackson!"

Bryant was startled into indignation. "Who in hell is Sam Jackson?" he growled.

"He's a nigger," said Alek, impressively, "and he wuks in er lumber-yawd up yere in Hoswego."

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From BibleWiki

(1.) Heb. hereb, "the waster," a sharp instrument for circumcision (Josh. 5:2, 3, lit. "knives of flint;" comp. Ex. 4:25); a razor (Ezek. 5:1); a graving tool (Ex. 20:25); an axe (Ezek. 26:9).

(2.) Heb. maakeleth, a large knife for slaughtering and cutting up food (Gen. 22:6, 10; Prov. 30:14).

(3.) Heb. sakkin, a knife for any purpose, a table knife (Prov. 23:2).

(4.) Heb. mahalaph, a butcher's knife for slaughtering the victims offered in sacrifice (Ezra 1:9).

(5.) Smaller knives (Heb. ta'ar, Jer. 36:26) were used for sharpening pens. The pruning-knives mentioned in Isa. 18:5 (Heb. mizmaroth) were probably curved knives.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

A small kitchen knife.

A knife is a metal tool with a sharpened metal blade that is used to cut all sorts of things. The plural form of "knife" is "knives".


Types of knives

  • Cooking or kitchen knives: also known as the chavs knife Several types of knives are used in cooking. Kitchen knives are sharp knives with wood or plastic handles used for chopping food and meat that is going to be cooked.
  • Table knives: These knives are used to cut up food for eating. Some table knives are sharper than others, but none are as sharp as kitchen knives. Steak knives are sharper because they need to cut steak. Fish knives and butter knives are also used at the table and have rounded blades that are not sharp.
  • Hunting knives are used for skinning animals.
  • Fishing knives are used for cutting open fish.
  • Construction knives and utility knives are used for cutting vinyl flooring, insulation, plastic sheathing, and carpet.

Picking the right type of knife

There are many kinds of knives depending what to be cut. With the right knife, the cuts you want to make will happen faster and easier. With the wrong kind of knife, it will take more work to do the same amount of cuts. When a knife is too small to cut something, a saw, axe, or power tool may be needed.

Illegal types of knives

Carrying knives is illegal in many countries, especially if the blade is longer than several inches. Another type of knife which is illegal in many places is the "switchblade", a knife that has a button which when pressed activates a spring to open the knife.

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