GLOSSARY OF KNIFE TERMINOLOGY

October 9, 2022

How do you know which knife to choose? 

Knife terminology will help you understand this issue.

Knives are of the following types: hunting knives, bush craft knives, gift knives, collection knives, custom knives, art knives, etc. Among the many knives, two main groups can be distinguished: folding knives or folders and fixed blade knives. In both types of knives, there are components that indicate the purpose of this knife. The purpose means the type of work that, when using this knife, will be performed with the least effort, time and most efficiently.

Everyone knows that a knife consists of a blade and a handle. But each of these two parts is also subdivided into its own parts.

Knife Parts – What are parts of knives called?

 

The Point on a Knife

The point is where the edge and spine come together. The point is mainly used for piercing.

The Tip of a knife

The tip is the front part of the knife that includes the knifepoint. The tip is usually used for detailed or delicate cutting.

The Belly of a Knife

The belly is the curved edge of the blade.

The Edge of a Knife

The edge is the cutting part of the blade itself. It goes from the point to the heel of the knife.

Heel of knife

The heel is the back of the edge that is opposite the point.

Spine of a knife

The spine is the upper part of the knife blade that is opposite the edge of the knife.

Ricasso 

The ricasso is the unsharpened portion of the blade located directly below the hilt.

Bolster (Guard) 

The bolster is a strip whose function is to connect the knife blade to the handle. The bolster helps balance the knife and helps protect the hand from colliding with the knife blade.

Knife Tang

The tang is the part of the blade that goes into the handle of the knife. Here the handle is attached to the blade.

Knife Scales

The scales are the part of the knife that makes up the handle. Scales are often made of wood or synthetic material. The two scales are usually attached to the tang with rivets.

Rivets for knife handles

The rivets are metal pins used to connect the scale to the tang to form a handle.

The Butt od a Knife

Butt – represents the end of the knife handle.

Bail on a knife

The bail is a metal half-loop that allows fastening or tying a knife for easier carrying.

Blade lock

The blade lock is a mechanical lock that holds a folding knife’s blade in place.

Liner on a knife

The liner is an interior part of the handle, usually made from soft metal and used to protect a blade from damage when closed.

Knife Shield 

The shield is a metal inlay, located on the handle.

In turn, the handle can be of various types of installation and is divided into hidden tang and full tang.

What is a hidden tang on a knife?

With a hidden tang, the tang of the blade passes through the handle through (push-through installation) or at least for the reliability of fastening, three-quarters of the length of the handle (incomplete installation). The most famous blades around the world with a similar tang are Japanese swords and kitchen knives. 

With the full tang, the blade tang completely repeats the shape of the handle. This is the so-called full-length or anatomical tang. Full tangs with overlays are easier to manufacture, several times more reliable and, in addition, the knife does not lose its working qualities even if the scales are lost – just wrap the handle with a cord. There is only one drawback – the price of the knife increases, as the amount of work on the manufacture of the handle increases, and the weight of the knife itself.

Materials for the manufacture of knife blades and handles

Aluminum. Aviation aluminum alloy, popular in the manufacture of folding knife handles for its high strength properties and lightness. As a rule, aluminum is anodized to create a coating of various colors for better ergonomics and wear resistance.

Brass. An alloy consists of at least 56% copper, 10-40% zinc, and additional constituents including tin, lead, nickel, iron, or aluminum. Brass is easily machined and can be plated with metal such as chrome or silver.

Carbon. It is a common material for making knife blades. Carbon is more susceptible to corrosion without proper care, but it is easier to sharpen into a blade than steel.

Damascus steel. Damascus steel is known by exceptional hardness and by a watered, streaked appearance caused by the varying carbon levels of the original material. А single bar is welded up from various kinds of steel. The bar is folded in half, welded, doubled again, and welded again until the various layers of steel are intertwined, and then formed into a blade. The patterns that are obtained after quenching and finishing are distinctive and complex.

Elastron. The commercial name for a group of rubber-like thermoplastic elastomers manufactured by the company of the same name. It is widely used in the manufacture of knife handles and daggers.

Epoxy. Epoxy is he bonding agent used to combine the different parts of the knife together. Made from polyamide or amino resin combined with a hardener.

FRN (Fiberglass reinforced nylon). Composite material, synthetic polyamide, reinforced with fiberglass. It has increased strength at a relatively low weight. It is used for the manufacture of handles for both folding and fixed knives.

G-10. This material consists of phenolic resins reinforced with fiberglass or carbon filaments. A hard, stiff and lightweight material with a textured surface for tactical folding knife handles. It can be polished or milled, depending on this the handle will be smooth or with hard notches.

Horn (buffalo, deer, elk, etc.) By horn, knife makers mean materials such as walrus and seal tusk, buffalo horn, antelope, and others. Antler is received because of the annual shedding of antlers by deer of various species. Horns of other related animals, in particular antelope horns, may also be used.

Kydex. This is a group of thermoplastic acrylic-polyvinyl chloride materials. Issued in sheets. It is widely used in the manufacture of rigid scabbards and other covers molded by heating. Advantages of Kydex: water resistance, abrasion resistance, low coefficient of friction, sufficient elasticity to hold the knife, shape and size retention under normal conditions.

Leather. Material for the manufacture of a typesetting handle. The properties of the handle made of leather surpasses many natural materials. When properly processed, it does not absorb moisture and is “warm”. Leather plates are impregnated with synthetic resin and pushed onto the tang. In addition to leather from the skins of cattle, such exotic types of leather as snakeskin, crocodile skin and lizard skin are used in the manufacture of handles.

Mammoth tusk. The tusks of these long-extinct animals were found as a result of excavations in Siberia, Mongolia, and Alaska. This is a legal substitute for ivory, with a very beautiful texture. Mammoth tusk is used in very expensive custom knives.

Micarta. Similar in composition to G-10, but instead of fiberglass, paper or linen is used as reinforcing fibers. Usually has a smooth silky or polished surface that is tactilely pleasing in the hand. Since it requires manual processing, it is mainly used in the handles of expensive knives. In terms of tear strength, micarta is less durable than G10 or carbon fiber. Certainly, micarta is able to withstand very high loads and therefore has been used as a material for knife handles for many years.

Nacre. The inner layer of the shells of oysters and other mollusks. The material has a striking brilliance and a magnificent play of colors. Layers of the mineral aragonite, which protects the mollusk from algae, form nacre. Knife makers use the most exotic forms of nacre.

Stainless steel. The general name for steel grades that practically do not rust even in humid air, although they may become stained. The constituent elements and their proportions in different steel grades are different.

Thermorun. Similar in physical properties to Elastron, but more durable and resistant to abrasion. Tactilely resembles a mixture of plastic and rubber. Allows not slipping even in a wet hand.

Titanium. It is famous for its properties such as lightness (40% lighter than steel), strength, corrosion resistance and anti-magnetism. Has a high melting point (1668°С).

Wood. It is considered the most popular material for knife handles. There are a great many types and varieties of wood, and each craftsman or manufacturer chooses the wood that is most technologically advanced for him. Modern wood processing provides for deep impregnation with various polymers and resins (stabilization), after which the wood is reliably protected from environmental influences and is not inferior in chemical and mechanical properties to modern composite materials. 

Zytel.  Material of a similar kind to FRN. Name applied by DuPont to a range of thermoplastic polymers. In practice, the name “Zytel” most often means a composite material, which is a glass-filled polyamide. Due to its sufficient strength, low specific gravity and resistance to the environment, it has found wide application in the manufacture of knife handles that require lightweight, in particular, clip-on folding knives.

The shape and types of blades

The blade is certainly considered the basis of the knife. Its purpose or the target audience depends on the shape and size of the blade.

The shape and types of blades

Normal Blade

Straight butt knives are the classic type of knives. This type of blade is considered one of the most common types of blades. In fact, this universal knife cuts and pricks equally well. Such blades are quite simple to manufacture. The normal blade knife is popular among hunters. Due to the rounding of the blade, which increases the length of the cutting edge, it is good to skin and cut meat with such a knife. 

Hawkbill

Thanks to the claw-like shape of the blade, these knives have stunning cutting abilities. This form of the blade did not appear by chance, some types of martial arts involve the use of a knife as a weapon, and this form is considered the most successful in a defensive fight, with certain skills. This type of blade is also successfully used on gardener’s knives. Thanks to its shape, it takes pride of place as a permanent assistant to the gardener.

Drop Point

This type of blade has a teardrop shape. Versatile in its application. Because the tip of the drop point blade is located on the axis of the force vector, it is easier to enter the material during a prick. This type of blade has a shorter cutting edge and a stronger blade tip.

Trailing-Point

This type of blade has excellent cutting properties due to the elongated cutting edge. Stab with such a knife is very problematic. Trailing point blades provide a large curved cutting area (belly) and are optimal for slicing or skinning. They are most common on skinning knives and fillet knives. Trailing point blades have several drawbacks, one of which is their weak point. Because it is designed for fine, delicate work, it bends or breaks easily when working with stronger materials. They are also difficult to sheath because the tip must be carefully pointed and sheathed. 

Wharncliffe

Designed for cutting only. It is difficult to prick with such a knife; therefore, it is used as a rescue knife. This type of knives can be found among kitchen knives. Has a good and controlled cut, due to the straight cutting edge. The spine of this type of blade is slightly convex, beveled from the top halfway to the point. The specific geometry of the Wharncliffe blade defines its main applications. The blade is designed for all rough carving and cutting tasks. With a thin point, the blade is also capable of making precise cuts, making pulling cuts particularly easy.

Sheepfoot

This type of blade is akin to the Wharncliffe blade type. Most often, blades of this type are used on knives for cutting bread. The main purpose of a sheepfoot blade is to cut and slice, minimizing the chance of anything being accidentally pierced by the point. The design of a sheepfoot knife includes a front blade with a straight edge and a blunt back that curves down to fit a straight edge. The two blades meet at the tip forming a “false point”. Sheepfoot knives are popular with emergency responders, who use them to cut through seat belts and other restraints without injuring the casualty with the sharp point.

Spay-Point

It has good cutting qualities, due to which it is well suited for skinning prey. With such a tip of the blade, it is more difficult to damage the processed skin. The spay blade is a long narrow blade with a straight edge running parallel to the spine. The edge passes into a small, very round belly at the tip of the blade, which breaks off abruptly from the spine. Spay blades were originally used by cowboys and ranchers to castrate cattle. The rounded belly and blunt tip were effective in cutting without accidentally piercing the veins and vessels. The spay blade has many practical uses.

Tanto

This type of blade is characterized by an angular, almost noncontiguous edge made up of two cutting planes. The blade of a tanto knife draws a line out from the handle before making a hard change of direction and running up to the tip. The distinctive shape of these knives has contributed to the popularity of tanto knives as stylish items for everyday carry. The shape is strong, which makes tanto knives good for thrusting and piercing. This reinforced tip is hard to beat when it comes to power penetration. Tanto blades also have an extra point (a “yokote”) which is good for pulling, clipping coupons, and the like.

Clip-Point

The clip point is one of the most popular blade shapes today. The back edge of the knife runs straight from the handle and stops about halfway to the knife. After which it turns and continues to the point of the knife. The point that is created by this clip is lowered, allowing more control when using the knife. Because the tip is controllable, sharp and thinner at the spine, the clip knife is suitable for faster stabbing with less resistance during insertion and faster withdrawal. In some cases, the back edge of the clip point is sharpened to form a second edge, further improving the function of the tip. Clip Point knives also have a large belly area that is ideal for slicing. The only real downside to the Clip Point blade is its relatively narrow tip. Because it is so sharp and narrow, it tends to be weak and can break quite easily. 

blade shapes

 

Bowie

It is quite popular in the USA, and it is believed that this type of knife was invented by the American Colonel James Bowie, and named after him. Early Bowie knives do not fit the popular image of this type of weapon. The first examples had a thick, heavy butcher knife-like blade with a straight back and no clip point or hand guard. The clip point, the curve at the top of the blade behind the point, became popular. The clip was often sharpened so that a blow on the back could inflict a serious wound. The spear-point Bowie blades were also forged, dagger-shaped, sharpened on both edges. This type of knife is considered both a hunting knife and a tool. 

California Clip

This type of blade has a concave curve from the back of the blade to the point and a cutting edge that slopes upward towards the point. These features allow it to be extremely versatile and can handle virtually any cutting task. It has a narrow blade that creates a sharper tip and is better for detail work, but is not as strong. This variation differs from the standard clip point blade in that it follows the shape of the state of California.

Spear-Point

The spear point blade is good for piercing. However, its point is strong and it has a small “belly” that can be used for slicing. The spear point is a symmetrically pointed blade with a point that is in line with the centerline of the blade axis. Both edges of the knife are mirrored to create a point that aligns exactly with the equator of the blade. They can be single-edged or double-edged; although most spear point knives are double-edged designs. Spear Point blades are often used in the manufacture of throwing knives. For those looking for a good balance between piercing and slicing, a point knife is an excellent choice. 

Gut Hook

This blade shape is common on skinner knives. The gut hook blade has a special type of blade in which the spine has a pointed semi-circular sharpening. The gut hook is more of a feature of the blade than its shape. Most gut hook knives are actually retractable point skinners, with a gut hook added to the back of the spine. Its purpose is to split the skin of a game animal in evisceration in field butchering by hooking the skin and pulling along to sever it. The gut hook is made in a semicircle in the shape of the letter “C”, which is sharpened into a blade with a pointed inner part of the “C”. One disadvantage of the gut hook knife is that the back spine of the knife cannot be sharpened, leaving only the front blade with a single edge. Another disadvantage of this type of blade is the relative difficulty of sharpening the hook. 

Karambit

A highly specialized knife, made in the form of a claw of an animal or bird. It was originally an agricultural tool designed to rake up the roots, harvest and plant rice in most of the islands of Southeast Asia. The karambit is held with the blade pointing down from the base of the fist, usually curved forward. While it is primarily used in slashing or hooking motions, the finger ring karambit is also used in a punching motion, striking the opponent with the finger ring. Some karambites are designed for striking movements. This flexibility in striking techniques makes it useful in self-defense situations. The finger guard makes disarming difficult and allows maneuvering the knife in your fingers without losing one’s grip. Modern karambites may have folding blades, are finished to a high standard, and are made of expensive materials to give them a clean shape.   

Needlepoint blade

 A needlepoint blade is a double-edged blade, the main purpose of which is stabbing and piercing. They consist of two symmetrically sharpened blades that taper to a very thin, sharp point that easily penetrates soft targets. The two sharp edges reduce the profile of the knife and allow it to cut equally on both sides. This makes them a favorite blade design for melee self-defense. Needlepointed blades are popular with military and police personnel due to their ability to be easily stashed (such as a boot knife) and easily drawn from sheathes. However, this blade design has some drawbacks. Since the geometry of the blade does not have a “belly” and contains rapidly thickening edges, it is not suitable for slicing or slashing.

Smatchet

The Smatchet is a short heavy combat knife with an overall length of 16.5 inches (42 cm) (including the handle). It has a wide leaf-shaped blade, sharpened along the entire length on one side and from tip to half on the other side. The entire blade is coated with a dull matte finish to prevent detection at night by random reflections. The Smatchet was the perfect close combat weapon for those not armed with a rifle and a bayonet. Its balance, weight and killing power, whether point, edge or pommel, combined with the extremely simple training required using it effectively, make it the ideal personal weapon.

Fillet Blade

A fillet knife is a kitchen knife used for cutting fillets. This gives good control and aids in filleting. Most fillet knives use a retractable blade for slicing and skinning. The back edge of the trailing blade curves gently upward from the handle to the tip. Curving the back edge maximizes the size of the belly of the knife, the curved part of the cutting edge. The blade’s large belly with a trailing edge makes it ideal for fast, precise cuts. Medium hardness gives the blade moderate edge retention and depends on the thinness of the blade for flexibility rather than lack of hardness. The length of the back point blade usually determines the thickness and degree of curvature. The shorter the blade, the thinner and more flexible it is. The fillet knife has a bevel that is longer than other types of knives such as pocket knives, survival knives, or steak knives. This bevel angle provides exceptional sharpness but reduces durability. 

Of course, these are only the main types of blades. There are many more blade shapes. But for a clear idea of the purpose of the knife, this is quite enough.

Blade sharpening angle

Knife sharpening is the process of forming an angle between the cutting edges of the blade. With the help of abrasive stone or other devices, the master forms the cutting edge, which is the sharp edge of the angle between the converging planes of the blade. The angle at which the edges converge determines the sharpness of the blade. Depending on the purpose of the tool, different sharpening angles may be needed, and we will talk about them now. Knives are different. Some are designed for butchering carcasses, others for hunting, others for cutting wood, and so on. There are multifunctional or universal samples that can perform two or more tasks. Over the thousands of years of development of blades, standards for sharpening angles of knives have been developed depending on their purpose: 

– Razor blades and similar tools are 8 – 12˚.

– Knives for skinning and cutting meat – 10 – 15˚.

– For kitchen and everyday life, knives with a sharpening angle of 15 – 20˚ are used.

– General purpose hunting knives – 20 – 25˚.

– Blades for cutting branches and wire, opening canned food and splitting wood are sharpened at an angle of 25 – 40˚.

One way or another, the sharpening angle of the cutting edges of the blade is the most important characteristic of its sharpness, strength and, as a result, its purpose.

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