This article originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue.
This type of blade is very illegal in almost all jurisdictions where there is actually a functioning law level, and requires its owner to either be a Noble, or to have a permit signed by one (usually the character must be working for the Noble as a bodyguard or equivalent). These blades differ from ‘normal’ knives in two ways:
First, the blade is made from some sort of exotic material. There are three main options, in order of (significantly) increasing cost:
CrystalIron (first availability TL12): Iron treated at the atomic level to form a single crystalline complex. This metal is commonly used for starship hulls. The crystal matrix is unstable, so requires a stabilizing field, supplied by a power system set into the handle, and a realignment system, usually a stand into which the blade must be inserted every so often (after use, and every week or so).
Loss of power to the stabilizing system causes the blade to suddenly lose its edge and shape, at which point it cannot be repaired. Typical standby battery life is 90 days.
Diamond (first availability TL14). The actual diamond blade is usually set into a three-layer construction with tungsten side plates. Diamond is statically stable, so requires no external stabilizing field. Lightest of all the listed blade types.
Bonded Superdense (first availability TL16). Military starship hull material, usually set into a five-layer construction with crystalIron internal, and tungsten external, side plates. Requires two powered stabilizing fields, supplied by a power system set into the handle. Loss of the stabilizing field leads to loss of the blade by (relatively minor) explosion. Typical standby battery life is 60 days. Heavier than CrystalIron.
A simplistic measure of relative cutting ability is that bonded superdense cuts diamond, which cuts crystaliron, which cuts everything else.
The second change from a regular blade is that the power supply, in addition to any necessary stabilizing effect it may have, also (when the ‘on’ button is pressed), causes resonant vibrations in the blade itself. This allows it to cut through anything it could normally cut through without any real effort, just rest the blade against the surface, turn it on, and it will usually cut through using only its own weight.
Obviously the more you use the vibro facility, the more you use the battery, but these are typically equipped with warning lights, buzzers, and so on.
When the vibro is turned on, the blade typically hums, unless it is damped somehow. Holding the blade in a “chef’s grip” (thumb and forefinger holding the actual blade, not the pommel) is a quick and easy way to silence it, although this may cause stress fractures in the thumb- and finger-bones, and impairs the blade’s efficiency.