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How sharp is sharp? Towards quantification of the sharpness and penetration ability of kitchen knives used in stabbings

By Sarah V. Hainsworth, R.J. Delaney and G.N. Rutty


This paper was published as International Journal of Legal Medicine, 2008, 122 (4), pp. 281-291. It is available from Doi: 10.1007/s00414-007-0202-6Metadata only entryStabbing is the most common method for violent death in the UK. As part of their investigation, forensic pathologists are commonly asked to estimate or quantify the degree of force required to create a wound. The force required to penetrate the skin and body by a knife is a complex function of the sharpness of the knife, the area of the body and alignment with cleavage lines of the skin, the angle of attack and the relative movement of the person stabbing relative to the victim being stabbed. This makes it difficult for the forensic pathologist to give an objective answer to the question; hence, subjective estimations are often used. One area where some degree of quantification is more tractable is in assessing how sharp an implement (particularly a knife) is. This paper presents results of a systematic study of how the different aspects of knife geometry influence sharpness and presents a simple test for assessing knife sharpness using drop testing. The results show that the radius of the blunt edge at the tip is important for controlling the penetration ability of a kitchen knife. Using high-speed video, it also gives insight into the mechanism of knife penetration into the skin. The results of the study will aid pathologists in giving a more informed answer to the question of the degree of force used in stabbing

Publisher: Springer Verlag
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s00414-007-0202-6
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