You may think that learning about the different parts of a knife is boring, but we don’t believe that is actually the case. Instead, knife anatomy is more complex and involves more parts than you imagine, and they all impact how the knife functions.
So, if you are at all serious about knives, and knowing how to get the best out of them, then we feel it’s important to understand all of the different components.
What you are about to find is that your knife is made up of more parts than most people realize.
In general, a knife has ten main parts in its anatomy. This often comes as a bit of a shock as people tend to see a knife as a simple tool. The truth is that this is something way more complex than people understand.
The first part of a knife to look at is the point. You find this located at the opposite end of the actual pommel of the knife. It’s also the section where both the spine and the blade come together, representing the very end of the knife.
The point is generally used for piercing. However, not every type of knife has a point like the end of a dart. Some have the point as blunter than this, which varies depending on the kind of knife you are using.
The tip is a part that confuses people as most automatically assume that both the point and the tip are the same thing. Well, that’s not the case.
Instead, the tip of the knife is actually referencing the smallest part of the blade itself. You will find it immediately before the point.
People use the tip of the knife when they want to go for absolute precision with their cutting. Alternatively, the tip is also the preferred part of the knife to use when you need to be more delicate with your cutting.
The knife’s edge is the part of the blade used for most cutting. It runs from the point of the knife all the way to the heel of the knife. However, not every edge is actually the same.
Getting just a bit more technical here for a second, how the edge is made will often be referred to as the grind. But this is where you start to see some differences with different knives.
Here’s an example.
If a knife has a hollow grind blade, you will tend to find it comes with what can only be described as a super-fine cutting edge. This thin edge makes it easier to use this knife with thin and delicate cuts.
This type of blade is often found on chef’s knives, such as Serbian chef knives, thanks to the smooth cuts it can achieve. However, it’s not all perfect.
The problem with a hollow grind blade is it can, at times, be quite fragile. Using it for harder chopping tasks can lead to the edge chipping or fracturing. At that point, it’s the wrong knife to use.
And then you have the flat grind edge. This edge is designed to really chop through more challenging things, so if you need to chop through bone, then a flat grind edge knife is what you need to look for. Check best OTF knives to explore your options.
However, the flat grind edge is simply not good enough when it comes to the more refined tasks. This is thanks to the blade just not being as sharp as the hollow grind blade you see on chef’s knives. But then, they aren’t designed to be used in this way anyway, so it’s not such a problem.
The final option is the serrated edge, so think about a bread knife as an example here. The inclusion of teeth on the blade means it can saw through tough items. Once again, that does mean it’s not the right option for more delicate tasks.
But what this all shows is that parts of the knife’s anatomy can come in different formats. It’s essential to understand what the knife is to be used for before you go ahead and make any purchase. In doing so, you reduce the chances of selecting the wrong knife.
The heel is another part of a knife you may be familiar with, and it directly refers to the back part of the edge. Think of it as the part of the blade at the opposite end to the point. Do note we are not talking about the actual back of the entire knife; it’s just the blade.
The heel sits immediately in front of the actual handle. It will generally represent the widest part of the knife’s spine, and this is because it needs to be strong to cope with the pressure being applied to the knife.
If the heel was thin and weak, you would only increase the chances of the heel and the handle coming apart. So much force is pushed through the blade’s heel that it must be designed to withstand this force, even if it is for finer cutting.
We have mentioned the spine in passing earlier, and there’s no doubt it plays an integral role in the knife. If you prefer, think of the spine as the blade’s back. Basically, it’s opposite the blade, and it’s never sharp in any way.
Also, you should know that one of the main differences between a knife and a dagger is that a dagger does not have a spine. It has a blade on either side, whereas a knife only has an edge on one side.
The spine can come in various thicknesses. Once again, it all depends on what the knife is then used for. If you require more force, such as a flat grind edge, then a thicker spine allows more pressure to be put through the blade without breaking.
Of course, the opposite is then also true. However, you will not generally find a knife with a spine where it is as thin as the blade. This can also upset the knife’s overall balance, which is crucial for you to maintain control throughout the cutting motion.
The bolster may not be a term you are too familiar with when it comes to the knife’s anatomy. Yet, it does play an essential role in the entire functioning of the knife.
The bolster is actually the point where both blade and handle come together to form the actual knife. However, it’s important to point out that this does not refer to the handle itself.
Instead, look at a knife closely, and pay close attention to the joint between the blade and the handle. If you see something resembling a guard between the two, that’s the bolster.
Now, not every knife will have a bolster, so if you don’t see this guard, then it doesn’t mean your knife is faulty. However, its role is very specific, and it does act very much as a safety thing.
You see, the bolster stops your hand from slipping forward off the handle and onto the blade itself. Also, it does provide some added strength since it’s often metal and fuses the two main components of the knife together.
The tang is another part of the knife that people may be unaware of, yet it plays a vital role in the entire functioning of the knife itself.
The tang refers to the part of the blade that then extends into the handle itself. Basically, this is where both the blade and the handle meet and are then joined together. However, the tang can come in three different ways.
First, we have the full tang, which means it carries on right through the entire length of the handle. It may even come out to the pommel part, which is right at the end, and it then forms part of the overall aesthetic component of the pommel itself.
The tang is held together with either screws or rivets with this version. This provides it with some real strength, so this option is regarded as being the most durable.
Next, we have the partial tang, and you have probably guessed that it means the tang only extends part of the way into the handle. The actual length it extends varies between manufacturers, and there’s certainly not an industry standard or expectation.
This particular tang is certainly not as strong and sturdy as the full tang, so it does mean you cannot put as much pressure through the knife. This makes a knife with a partial tang better for knives used for more delicate and refined cuts.
Finally, we have the rat-tail tang, sometimes referred to as a false tang. This is the option primarily used in less expensive knives as it does save on some metal from the blade.
If you were expecting a rat tail tang to hardly extend into the handle, you would be wrong. It does continue the entire length of the handle, but that’s not what worries us about a rat tail tang.
Instead, the rat tail tang is extremely thin. That does mean it is not as strong as a full tang. It ultimately results in this version being relatively weak. That is why cheaper knives can occasionally break, and it’s because you cannot apply as much pressure through the handle, thanks to this.
If you feel confused about what we mean by the scales of a knife, then it will make more sense in a moment. You see, the scales ultimately make the handle.
The scales are often crafted from either a synthetic material or wood. At times, it may also be metal.
The manufacturer will join the two scales together to the tang using rivets.
Handle fasteners hold the handle together and, as a result, the entire knife. The fasteners will be either rivets or screws, depending on what the manufacturer prefers to use.
A rivet is always better for the budget. Also, you will generally find that it is difficult for a rivet to come loose at any point. That does mean your handle will stay on there, and you cannot really change them.
The final part of a knife is the butt. It’s also referred to as the pommel by some individuals if the tang extends right through the butt. As an interesting point, the butt will often be curved to allow an individual to safely feel that this is indeed the rear of the knife when going to pick it up.
And those are the main parts of a knife. As you can see, we started at one end and moved through the length of the knife.
Each part plays an integral role in the functioning of the knife, but how it’s all put together does impact the way in which a knife can be used.
That is why we stress the fundamental need to know what a knife is designed for before you buy. Be aware of how much force can be applied through the knife due to how the various components are combined. This helps you ascertain if the knife you are looking at is indeed the correct one for you.
There is so much more to choosing a knife than simply looking at one that you feel would achieve what you want it to do. However, now having a better understanding of the knife anatomy may make a difference when it comes to deciding.
Considering the money you may potentially spend on a set of knives or even on a single knife. You really should have as much information as possible. Hopefully, this has all helped.
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