If you store your knife in a drawer or travel with it in a knife roll, you might want to get a knife guard. A knife guard is essentially a sheath that protects your blade and your fingers, keeping both safe and intact if the knife gets jostled around. It also keeps your knife from poking holes or slits in your knife roll when you’re on the go.
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But finding the right guard for each of your knives can be tricky. As we quickly learned while trying to test guards for our favorite chef’s knife, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution even when looking at guards for knives of similar styles and sizes. That’s because knives vary so much in terms of blade length, blade shape, distal taper (the change in thickness from tip to heel and spine to edge), and handle shape. A guard that fits one knife well won’t necessarily be as great for another, even if the blades are roughly the same size.
Above all, a guard should fit like a glove. It should conform to your blade’s shape and size as closely as possible, and it should sit on the blade tightly enough so that it doesn’t slip off easily in the drawer or roll, but not so tightly that it’s hard to put on or take off. You also don’t want the blade to wobble or shake around inside the guard, as this can lead to dulling.
There are three main styles of guards, and the kind you should get depends largely on the kind of knife you have.
BLADE GUARDS AND CASES
For most knives—chef’s knives, paring knives, and even serrated knives—a blade guard or case is your best bet. Blade guards are rectangular sheaths that fit over the knife’s edge and most of the blade, if not all of it. Blade cases completely enclose the blade and snap on around it. Both types are typically made of plastic and are generally inexpensive, costing about $4 to $15 each.
Choose the guard or case by length. Look for a guard that has a length that is equal to or slightly longer than that of your blade. If the guard is too short, it won’t cover the entire edge; any exposed edge can cut you, and it’ll chip or scratch more easily. If your blade is 8.2 inches, for example, look for a guard that is at least 8.2 inches, sizing up to 8.5 or 9 inches if that’s what’s available.
And be mindful of your knife’s handle shape. Some Western-style knives, including our favorite chef’s knife, have handles that jut out from the blade at an angle. But many guards don’t allow for handles like these, and as a result, you won’t be able to get them all the way onto the blade securely. If your knife’s handle attaches at an angle to the blade, look for a guard that has a slanted cutout at the handle.
For our favorite chef’s knife, the Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 8" Chef’s Knife, we found two good options. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a blade case made by the same company provided the best fit. The Victorinox Swiss Army KnifeSafe Storage holds the knife snugly, with two silicone tabs helping to keep the blade from slipping around within the case. It snaps on and off easily and showed no signs of breaking or weakening after we opened and closed it 100 times. The only downside? The case is quite large and bulky, as it can fit blades up to 10 inches in length, so it takes up more room in kitchen drawers and knife rolls. If you want a more compact, streamlined option, we also liked the Mercer Culinary Knife Guard, 8 Inch x 2 Inch. It’s a more conventional plastic blade guard, with a diagonal cutout that accommodates our favorite knife’s handle well. It holds the blade a touch less securely than the Victorinox case—the case wiggles a bit at the tip of the knife, though it certainly won’t slide off during normal use. (We took a brisk walk around the block with the knife enclosed in each guard and stuck in a knife roll, and both stayed on well.)
If you have a Japanese knife, consider a saya. While you can use a blade guard on Japanese knives such as gyuto, santoku, and nakiri, among others, you might want to invest in a saya instead. Sayas are wooden sheaths made specifically for Japanese knives. They cover a knife’s entire blade and are secured with a wooden pin that essentially buckles the blade into the sheath. Some Japanese knives come with their own dedicated sayas, but you can also buy generic sayas in different sizes at most shops that specialize in Japanese knives. Most shops that sell Japanese knives (including Korin, Bernal Cutlery, and Chef Knives To Go) will help you fit the right saya to your blade and make adjustments to the saya as needed. If you can, try to ensure that the saya fits your knife before you buy it. You can do this in person, or, as Wendy Yang from Korin mentioned, you can send in your knife to certain shops for sharpening and have it sized for a guard then. If you have a knife that’s got a particularly unusual shape or size, some shops will even help you get a custom saya. Sayas are generally more expensive than guards or cases, though; depending on the design and type of wood used, a saya will cost anywhere from about $15 to about $50.
Don’t want to buy a guard? Make one yourself. In a pinch, you can make a DIY knife protector to keep any knife safe for short stints. Just follow the instructions here: