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Parts of a knife and Glossary of Knife Terminology

Written by:
Aleks Nemtcev
April 19, 2024
knife terminology

Knife terminology will help you understand this issue.

Knives are of the following types:  hunting, bushcraft, camping, survival, kitchen, 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.

Parts of a knife

knife terminology


The Point on a Knife

The point is where the edge and spine come together. The point of a knife is an important part of the blade and serves many purposes. It is the sharp tip at the end of the blade that helps to provide precision work and detail as well as more substantial tasks like piercing, slicing, and stabbing.


The Tip of a knife

The tip is the front part of the knife including the knifepoint. The tip is usually used for detailed or delicate cutting. The tip of a knife is the part of the knife and plays an essential role in its overall performance. A sharp, well-maintained tip can help you to complete a variety of tasks with ease and will hold up for years when cared for properly. The tip of a knife typically refers to the point where two edges meet at an angle, forming a triangle or V shape which gives it its cutting edge. Depending on your intended use, some knives may have curved tips as opposed to straight ones.

When looking at knives, there are several terms used to describe this part of the blade such as Spearpoint, Tanto Point, Needlepoint, Sheepsfoot, Clip Point, Trailing-Point, or Drop-Point blade just to name a few. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on what it is being used for.

tip of knife

The Belly of a Knife

The Belly of a Knife is a phrase used to refer to the sharp curved or concave surface of a blade, typically seen in kitchen and hunting knives. This curvature creates an air pocket in between the sharp edge and this belly that is advantageous for slicing, cutting food, and using the knife as an effective tool.

The purpose of the Belly on a Knife goes beyond just aesthetics; it actually helps with accuracy while cutting. Because of its curvature, you can use more force when pushing down on it without having worry about slipping off due to an angle change.


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. The angle at which the knife is sharpened determines its effectiveness in cutting through different substances.

A typical kitchen knife will have an edge angle ranging from 15 to 22 degrees while hunting knives typically have a much larger angle of 25 to 30 degrees. A sharp edge helps create smaller and finer cuts that result in cleaner slices.

knife edge

Heel of knife

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

The heel is often used to generate more power in tasks such as slicing, dicing, or chopping, as well as providing an ergonomic base during extended use.

Its size also helps determine how much leverage you can exert when cutting tough materials like rope or wood; larger heels are able to apply more pressure due to their increased mass and surface area.


The spine of a knife

The spine is the upper part of the knife blade that is opposite the edge of the knife. The spine of a knife is the thickest point along the blade’s entire length. It is usually much thicker than the rest of the blade. This part of a knife serves to provide strength and rigidity to the blade, allowing it to better slice through tougher items or materials.

spine of knife


Ricasso is the flat, unsharpened part of a knife blade just above the guard or handle. It’s usually about 1/4-1/2 inch in length and usually acts as a physical barrier between the user’s hand and the blade itself, offering protection from any accidental cuts.

The ricasso can as well as provide more space for custom makers to add details like engravings or artwork with different patterns – all of which are very popular features on modern-day knives.

ricasso on a knife


The bolster of a knife is the thickened portion at the junction between the blade and handle. This part provides extra weight to evenly balance the knife in your hand, as well as keep your finger away from the very sharp edges of a blade when using it.
It also adds extra strength to the construction of a knife.

knife bolster

Fuller (groove)

This blade has a  fuller on it, which is a groove that was historically used to lighten the weight of swords and other blades while maintaining strength. It also helps to reduce drag when cutting, allowing the user to make more powerful strikes with less effort. The fuller is an attractive feature on this blade, adding to its beauty as well as providing practical benefits.

fuller on blade

Knife Tang

The tang is the part of the blade that goes into the handle of the knife. It is the portion of the blade that extends into the handle and essentially connects it to the rest of the knife. Knife tangs come in a variety of styles, which include full, partial, hidden, and rat tail.

types of knife guide

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.

full tang

Partial Tang

Partial tangs are not as strong as full tangs but still provide good strength retention and durability when tackling tough tasks with your knife.

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.

hidden tang knife

Skeletonized Tang

A skeletonized tang consists of a skeletal frame with holes or slots cut into it. The skeleton design reduces weight and allows for greater control when using the knife.

The main advantage of this kind of tang design is that it reduces weight and eliminates any unnecessary bulkiness from the handle’s aesthetics, while still providing adequate strength for everyday use.

Skeletonized Tang

Tapered Tang

A tapered knife tang is a type of knife design in which the metal handle, or tang, transitions from wide at one end to narrow at the other. This design offers many benefits over straight-tang designs. Primarily, this creates a stronger connection between the blade and handle of the knife since there is an increased surface area for contact between them. Additionally, it provides more balance compared to knives with symmetrical straight-tang handles as weight can be distributed along both sides of the tang as needed.

tapered knife

Rat Tail Tang

Lastly, rat tail tangs are similar to hidden tangs in that they feature just a thin strip of metal seen on one side; however they often offer thicker grips made from other materials like wood for greater comfort during use.

rat tail tang

Knife Scales

Knife scales are the two separate handle sections of a knife. The two scales are usually attached to the tang with rivets. They can be made out of different materials and textures, such as wood, G10, carbon fiber, titanium or micarta. The type of material chosen is usually based on the level of comfort desired when held in hand.

knife scales

Rivets for knife handles

The rivets are metal pins used to connect the scale to the tang to form a handle. In relation to knife handles, rivets are often used for decorative purposes as well as for strength and stability.
During the process, small metal pins called rivets are inserted into pre-drilled holes in both pieces being fastened together.

For use with knife handles specifically, different shapes and sizes can usually be found; some even include decorations like dots, triangles, and lines along their length that give blades an even more unique style. Additionally, they come in various colors depending on what type of material they’re made from so they can also act as nice aesthetic details on a knife’s handle too!

knife handle rivets

The Butt of a Knife

The butt of a knife is the end of the handle or hilt, which is opposite from the blade. Depending on its design, the butt may be made of a variety of materials including metals such as brass and stainless steel, plastics, natural woods like rosewood and oak, composites such as micarta, rubberized handles for sure grip, and even bone. The shape may range from simple to highly ornate designs featuring elaborate artwork or intricate carvings.

knife butt

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. A blade lock is an essential safety feature found on folding knives that helps to keep the blade in its open position while it is being used. The most common type of blade lock is known as a liner lock, which uses a tensioned leaf spring located across the spine of the knife and engages with one side of the tang when in the open position. This prevents accidental closing while providing enough flexibility to close easily after use.

Other types of knife locks include frame lock, button lock, back lock, and AXIS lock.

No matter what kind of lock system your folding knife has though, it’s important to take extra care around moving parts so you don’t get stuck or injured by accidentally activating it incorrectly!

Liner on a knife

A liner on a knife is an important component of the overall construction and design. It’s typically a thin strip of metal or other materials, which serves as a support structure for the handle. The liners on the knife also serve aesthetic purposes.

knife liners

Knife Shield

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

knife shields

Materials for the manufacture of knife blades and handles

Aluminum. Aviation aluminum alloy, is 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, and shape and size retention under normal conditions.

Leather. Material for the manufacture of a typesetting handle and sheaths.  The properties of the handle made of leather surpass 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.

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.

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn


List of blade materials

Edge Angles for Sharpening Knives

Knife parts

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