Jimping: Not a Dance
Even though it sounds like yet another dance move I’ll never try without a few drinks (joke’s on you, suckers, I don’t drink), “jimping” is not at all related to limping, jumping or even pimping. When we’re talking about writing knives in fiction, jimping is the row of toothy grooves roughly located where the handle meets the blade. Like blade tangs, jimping is an overlooked part of choosing a knife for a character.
Here’s a look at what I’m talking about. This is my Benchmade Nimravus Cub II, my favorite fixed blade knife in fiction and reality.
What Jimping Does
Jimping provides a better grip by giving the user’s thumb (or sometimes an index finger) something to bite into as it slips over the blade while working the knife.
You’ve probably slid a thumb or other finger in the same way while preparing food or opening packaging because it felt natural to you. Jimping is like Velcro to help your digit stay put.
Not every knife design uses jimping, though. It depends on the company or person making the knife.
Matching a Knife to a Character
When you’re choosing a knife for a character, look for models that include jimping if the story calls for hard use. That could go for doing battle with an undead horde, survival situations, military or law enforcement characters, private detectives or any character in need of a no-fail grip on that knife.
Jimping also provides a shortcut for research. Where there’s jimping, there usually are other design elements present that make the knife ready for whatever hell the character puts it through. That includes handle design, blade geometry, materials and other features better explained in a different post.
In my opinion, jimping offers the most benefits when it’s on fixed blade knives, such as that Benchmade in the image. Although jimping is present on some folding, automatic and assisted opening knives, I don’t think it’s significant enough to make a big difference. The jimping isn’t as ergonomic or aggressive, and its benefits can’t be exploited as much because applying too much pressure can make the knife accidentally fold shut onto a finger (ouch). It’s there for looks. That’s just my view, though. I’m sure others feel differently.
Folding Knives: A Tradeoff
Speaking of drawbacks to folders, ruggedness and durability are sacrificed for portability and convenience with any knife that folds. That’s a big decision you’ll have to make for your characters, writerfolk. Folding knives fail (bend, break, refuse to open or close, get ugly-fied, etc.) more often during hard use than their fixed blade cousins. There’s a true story from crime writer Les Edgerton in The Writer’s Guide to Weapons about exactly that. However, fixed blades aren’t as flashy as automatic (aka switchblades), assisted opening and folding knives. Do you want looks or practicality? It’s up to you.