In this final article, I will briefly discuss the comparative testing that I carried out between my Titanium Kukri and my traditional Steel Kukri. I was very surprised by the results of the testing. In particular, the comparative cutting test. I honestly and sincerely believed that the Steel Kukri would at least marginally outperform the Titanium version in this test. As it turned out, the results were different to what I expected.
For the purposes of these tests, I did not apply the Tungsten Carbide edge treatment to the Titanium Kukri. The Tungsten Carbide treatment creates micro-serrations along the edge which affect the way the blade can be used. Draw-cuts become more effective due to the micro-serrations whereas push-cuts become more difficult since the blade is no longer capable of holding a razor-edge. I have decided to apply this only after the tests because it will affect how the blade performs as opposed to the traditional smooth edge on the Steel Kukri.
As can be seen in the photo at the header of this article, the Steel Kukri is almost identical in dimensions and overall shape to the Titanium Kukri. No small wonder since I essentially copied the design. If anything, the Titanium Kukri blade is slightly thicker at the spine than the Steel Kukri representing a larger overall blade volume.
Both Kukris have the following overall dimensions:
Width of blade at widest point: 5.2cm
Handle Length: 15cm – Titanium Kukri, 14cm – Steel Kukri
Maximum Blade Thickness: 7.3mm – Titanium Kukri, 7mm – Steel Kukri
This happy accident meant that more of the weight of the Ti Kukri was behind the blade when compared with the Steel version. This drastically altered the point of balance of the Ti Kukri. I believe that the altered point of balance had the greatest effect on the performance of the Ti Kukri over the Steel.
The Point of Balance
The Cutting Tests
As mentioned earlier, in order to do a good comparison between the cutting capacity of both Kukris, I did not apply the Tungsten Carbide edge treatment to the Titanium Kukri. The Titanium Kukri thus has a softer edge when compared with the Steel. In the cutting tests, both Kukris were sharpened between tests.
The first test was a comparison of cutting capacity when cutting paper. There is no real science to this apart from demonstrating that both Kukris were approximately the same level of sharpness. The Steel Kukri was possibly marginally sharper.
Another factor which may have altered the outcome of this test was that during the Steel Kukri cutting test, the pine batten split down the middle and this split may have acted as a minor shock-absorber which could have accounted for some of the performance drop-off for the Steel Kukri. Even so, taking this into account, I feel that the Ti Kukri cut far easier and deeper than the Steel Kukri.
I’m not 100% sure why there was this unexpected disparity. Perhaps the nimbler Ti Kukri was easier to land accurately in terms of placement and edge alignment to more efficiently cut through the pine.
At the end of the day, all tests of this nature are subjective to a certain degree. The more you become involved in the testing procedure, the more of an effect you can be said to have on the outcome. As can be seen from the video footage, the Titanium Kukri marginally outperformed the Steel Kukri despite the different point of balance. I was most surprised about this. I certainly did not expect it.
The Speed and Reaction Tests
The speed and reaction tests were recorded and then timed in video editing software. We estimate that the margin for error is approximately 0.015s.
The first speed and reaction test involved making a series of cuts at a set of three hanging expanded-polystyrene balls between 6 cm and 7 cm in diameter to show speed of transition from one target to another. Although my overall body rotation could be used to power each of the three cuts, each cut had to be distinct. In other words, I would not use a single sweeping cut to engage all three targets. In order to minimize my involvement as far as movement was concerned, I maintained a stationary stance and changed targets without moving. This test was timed and performed three times with each knife to compare the averages.
Average time between the first and second strike: Titanium Kukri – 0.36s, Steel Kukri – o.36s
Average time between the second and third strike: Titanium Kukri – 0.32s, Steel Kukri – 0.33s
It was interesting to note the consistency of speed through all of the ball strikes. Every single time between the first and second strike was 0.36s, every single time between the second and third strike was 0.33s except for one of the Titanium Kukri strikes which was 0.30s. This leads me to believe that I was subconsciously trying to ‘standardize’ the tests. As can be seen from the footage and the averages, the Ti Kukri did not show a significant advantage in this test perhaps due to my overall involvement in the movement.
The second test involved changing undercut orientation mid stroke from left to right. This basic technique can be used in various orientations to capture, parry or change attack lines. This test was also timed and performed over three iterations to compare the averages. It is in this test the Ti Kukri showed the biggest advantage over the Steel Kukri.
Average time between first and second undercut strike: Titanium Kukri – 0.25s, Steel Kukri – 0.35s
This is a hugely significant result! The Titanium Kukri was nearly 30% faster in this test than the Steel Kukri.
The Fun Stuff
Just for fun, I did some cutting of water bottles and soda cans with the Titanium Kukri.
As mentioned earlier, it was really difficult in this series of tests to maintain objectivity and standardisation because of the differences in my methods of force generation. As such, it is hardly fair of me to say that the tests proved anything categorically. What I will say is that the Ti Kukri feels like a precision razor which can strike hard whereas by comparison, the Steel Kukri feels slower and more cumbersome. I was very surprised with the cutting effectiveness of the Titanium Kukri.
At least as far as I’m concerned, the testing has proved that with the correct internal body mechanics of the wielder, similar cutting results can be obtained for a Kukri with a much nimbler point of balance. The weight forward design is not strictly necessary to get cleaver-like results from a weapon. This does require considerably more training investment and instruction from teachers who know what they are doing as far as these internal training methods are concerned.
I believe that the nimbler Ti Kukri design allows for faster and more fluid movement of the weapon, turning it into the epitome of Muhammad Ali’s famous quote, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” I’ve had a lot of fun building and testing the Titanium Kukri and I am very happy to own this beautiful weapon. For all those Tolkien fans out there, this is about as close as you will get in the real world to the handling and physical characteristics of a Mithril weapon. I look forward to passing it on to my son when the time comes.
Written by SiFu Lester Walters, head of the Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia