Overall, the process we used for testing pocket knives is quite similar to all our tested categories. We scour the entire market, educate ourselves on the latest and the greatest (while respecting and considering the category's history), choose the top 1-2 dozen performers, purchase them at retail, and put those through the wringer. That testing process includes about 80% "real world" use, and the remainder we examine and deduce with more clinical means.
Blade and Edge Integrity
Mainly, we cut stuff. We cut meat, tomatoes, cardboard, and wood with every knife. We cut whatever we needed to cut, as we encountered it, with each knife in its daily carry phase of testing. A visual examination can deduce some attributes of the blade. In the cases in which we have tested long enough for it to be required, we can deduce some things by sharpening the blade. Finally, we use our basic understanding of metallurgy to deduce performance attributes from what we can learn from the materials and processes used to construct the blade.
We used the knives in daily and specialized tasks. Simply using a knife draws out all you need to know about its ergonomics. To organize the observations of our testers, we prompted them to consider its opening style, handle size and shape, and lock mechanism.
We weighed each knife on a Polder brand postage scale to the nearest 0.1 ounces. We measured each knife's length (open and closed), width, and thickness to the nearest 0.1 inches. We then prompted our testers to examine its carrying style and external profile related to pocket snagging and wear.
We have found that the initial impressions of a casual tester almost perfectly mirror the findings of a deeper investigation. So we hand each knife to a casual user and have them give us an opinion. Further, we examine materials and performance over long-term use. We look for initial or developed play, staining, sticking, and rattles. In rare instances, we have disassembled a knife to examine some unseen parts.
First, and mainly, does the knife have any other features? Most knives in our test do not. This is ok because knives with other features generally fall under the umbrella category of multi-tool. When a knife has extra features, we test by using those features for their intended purpose. The only notable omission is that we did not bash through glass windows with the tools built for this task. Forgive us for this intentional oversight. Our radial arteries thank you.