What Is An Obsidian Knife? Complete Guide

Obsidian Knife

An obsidian knife is one of the sharpest knives there is in existence. It is made of obsidian, a glass-like volcanic rock material. It is believed that an obsidian knife can be from 50 and up to 500 times sharper than its steel counterpart. Unfortunately, they are as sharp as they are fragile – oftentimes breaking when you exert the normal force you’d place upon a normal, everyday knife.

Obsidian knives are as sharp and fragile as they are old. There’s enough evidence to believe that this volcanic material was used to make knives as early as in 700.000 BC. And it wasn’t used for knives alone, but swords, arrows, and non-weapon items such as pottery as well.

Even though they are both ancient and extremely sharp, obsidian knives are not well-liked among knife enthusiasts. Obsidian scalpels are somewhat popular, but no other type of knife made of obsidian is often used. This has to do with its obvious fragility and high cost, making it somewhat a novelty rather than a tool.

Where Does Obsidian Come From?

Obsidian is a volcanic rock. This means that, quite literally, obsidian comes from volcanoes. More specifically, it is the end-result of lava coming out of volcanoes and quickly cooling down. But how can lava turn into obsidian, considering the former is between 1300ºF and 2200ºF hot?

When a small amount of lava moves from the main flow of it all, they can cool down – but they do so rather quickly. The process is so quick atoms are unable to rearrange into a crystalline form and instead turn into a rock-like material. This happens when lava comes in contact with air or water.

Lava can turn into obsidian in four different scenarios: at the edge of the lava flow, when lava goes airborne, when lava makes contact with water, and at the edge of a volcanic dome. Of course, any of these four scenarios happening do not ensure an obsidian-forming process – but it’s likely to happen.

You can find obsidian rocks all over the world, as long there’s volcanic activity there. From Argentina, all the way into the United States; Italy, Greece, and Russia; Down under, in New Zealand; African obsidian rocks can be found in Kenya as well.

What’s The Story Behind Obsidian Knives?

Obsidian Knife

There’s no way to be sure how or why humans decided to use obsidian to make knives for the first time. Obsidian tools are incredibly old. It is believed obsidian was first used back in 700.000 BC, and it might be even older than that. Written records, unfortunately, started at around 3200 BC, 696.800 years after the first obsidian tools were used. Because of that, we don’t have too many written records about this part of history.

Even though there are no written records for the majority of obsidian toolmaking history, there is plenty of archeological evidence to paint a picture of the obsidian trail throughout thousands of years.

In Europe, plenty of tools were made out of obsidian. This material was often found around Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, and throughout the Mediterranean. Obsidian tools have been found throughout mainland Europe, which leads us to believe it was highly valued. In the Middle East, Ancient Egyptians used obsidian tools to engage in ritual circumcision because of its sharpness and precision.

In the Americas, the native tribes used obsidian mostly for warfare. Several deadly weapons were found around the entire continent. It was a highly valued material as well. Most tribes who could gather obsidian used it for their weapons and commerce as well.

Nowadays, obsidian isn’t as valued as it used to. Both its pottery and warfare aspect has fallen out of use. Knife-enthusiasts keep obsidian alive by making and owning one of the sharpest knives there are, obsidian knives – but its proper use is fairly uncommon. Several veterinarians use obsidian scalpels to perform surgery, as it is believed this type of knife can make one of the cleanest cuts possible. But the FDA does not allow its use on human patients.

What Are Obsidian Knives Good For?

Obsidian knives are extremely sharp so it’s the best knife for cutting. They are one of the sharpest knives in existence – it is believed they are 50 times sharper than their steel counterpart. On the other hand, they are not as durable, strong, or cheap as steel knives. Because of this, obsidian knives are not recommended for what knives are commonly used for, like cooking or hunting.

They are incredibly sharp and can cut through almost anything, steel included. On the other hand, you have to be extremely careful not to exert lateral force when using it, as they are prone to break when this happens. They are almost impossible to sharpen, as they can break when you try that. All in all, obsidian seems perfect for a one-time cutting session – the more you use it, the more likely it is to break.

Is an obsidian knife better than a steel knife?

It depends entirely on what you want to do or why you want to own either one of these knives.

Obsidian Knives

Steel knives are the go-to choice for most things. They are great for hunting, cooking, self-defense, and most things you can think of. They are sharp enough to handle most things you use it for, even though they are not as sharp as obsidian knives.

Obsidian knives, on the other hand, are incredibly sharp but not as durable or useful as steel knives. They are great items for knife collectors, but it is not a good option for anything you might think a knife is good for. Obsidian knives are great for specific purposes, like cutting super-thin slices of something extremely hard. But for most things, almost all things, it’s not the best choice available.

All things considered, obsidian knives are both sharp and beautiful, but not what you want to buy if you are going to use it daily, or even regularly. They are great novelty items – things you want to place in your display cabinet.

Are Obsidian Knives Fragile?

Obsidian Knives

Obsidian knives are incredibly fragile. Not only that, they are almost impossible to sharpen. That’s the main issue with this kind of knife, you can’t place any lateral force on it – unless you want it to break. If its blade became dull, it’d be almost impossible to sharpen it, as it’d break when you first attempt to do so.

If you are thinking about buying an obsidian knife for everyday use, you should think again – it’s almost impossible to encounter such a thing. You’d be better off with steel knives.

Why Are Obsidian Knives So Uncommon?

There are two reasons for its rare status. First of all, the cost. This is linked with the material these knives are made of and how hard it is to come by it. It’s not extremely rare, but there are not a lot of companies that deal with obsidian. Ironically, because of its low demand, the offer is even lower – and thus, the price is higher.

On the other hand, obsidian knives are uncommon because steel knives are better for most of the activities you can use a knife for. People buy obsidian knives either because they need it for something really specific or because they want to have an obsidian knife for having it sakes – neither of those two options makes for a great market.

Either way, its material is hard to come by, and expensive to buy when found. That’s why they are uncommon.

Should I Get An Obsidian Knife?

Do you want a durable knife? Do you plan to use your knife every day? Are you planning to make your new obsidian knife your companion in all your daily activities? Then, you really shouldn’t. Obsidian knives, as you know, aren’t made for daily tasks.

If you want a knife to show to your friends or if you are looking for a new item for your collection, then obsidian knives are the thing to have. They are a little bit expensive, but they are worth it for knife-enthusiasts looking to buy something unique.

My Recommendation For The Best Obsidian Knives

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Final Thoughts

All things considered, obsidian knives are a unique thing to own. They cut like no other and they are one of the sharpest looking knives as well. But here’s the thing: you shouldn’t buy one if you are planning to become a chef, or go out hunting, or anything at all.

Obsidian knives are as sharp as they are fragile, and you are supposed to handle them with care – and that’s not something you can do when the task at hand calls for a knife, at least most of the time.

Do you want a knife for daily activities? Get something else. Do you want to hold a cool thing in your hands? Obsidian is the right choice!



I’m Ahmed, the guy behind Knifepulse.com. I’ve owned several types of knives and sharpeners over the last few years and have become obsessed with everything to do with knives. I’m always trying to improve my cleaning and sharpening process, and always on the hunt for the next best knife. But when I’m not spending time with my hobby, I’m here, writing about Knives and Sharpeners on KnifePulse to share with you what I learn along the way.

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