How many times have you been in the kitchen, cleaning and maintaining a knife, looked at some of its parts thinking, “What’s that for?”
Knives are an essential tool in our kitchen, garden, hunting, and many other things. But they might not be as simple as they seem.
There’s a lot more to these cutting instruments than meets the eye, and this blog will help you understand the intricacies of the anatomy of a knife.
Essential Parts of a Knife
The blade is the central part of the knife and what you will be using to cut most of the time.
Most blades are made of metal with a sharp edge. The kind of metal used will depend on the type of knife you want. It is the quality of the blade that determines the quality of the knife.
Here are the different parts of the blade:
The point is the tip of the blade where the edge and the spine meet. It can be sharp or rounded. Sharp points are for piercing or stabbing, and rounded ones are for safety.
The tip is the first third of the edge, and they are typically used for detail work like paring, trimming, and peeling.
The edge of the blade is what you will be using to cut with. It runs from the tip, the belly to the heel until the bolsters.
The cutting edge or belly is the bottom of the blade that runs between tip and heel. Chopping, mincing, and dicing are all done with the sharp part of the blade.
There are different types of the edge:
a. Flat ground and tapered- smooth and sharp like the chef’s knife
b. Serrated – an example would be the bread knife
c. Scallop – usually used to prevent tearing of food, and it helps moist food from clinging to the knife while cutting.
d. Hallow ground or Granton- style edge – the blade has a concave shape that originates from the spine and then tapers to an edge. This kind of edge gives less friction and drag while cutting and produces thinner slicing of food.
The blade face is the flat portion of the blade whose use is to crush or transport food.
The spine is the top of the blade, the non-cutting edge, and the widest part of the blade. The shape can be straight or curved, and this part will usually extend all along the length of the knife from tip to heel.
Even though the spine is not for cutting, this is the part that you can place your palm for added force when cutting tough food.
The bolster is only found on forged knives. It is where the blade and the handle meet and can be essential to help keep your fingers from slipping up onto the blade. It will usually have a “lip” on one side that helps protect skin when you are cutting food.
Bolsters can be of different lengths; some may extend down to about half the length of where the blade and the handle meet, while others may only be about an inch long strip of metal that is welded to the blade and extends past the handle. Bolster also gives weight and balance to the knife.
The tang is the extension of the metal that runs from where the blade connects to the handle and down into a point. Tangs can also be full, partial, or rat-tailed.
Full tang runs the entire length and width of the handle and is the most preferred for better coverage and a sign that the knife is of better quality.
The partial tang runs half or just part of the length of the handle.
Rattail tang is found in Asian knives, which means a tapered tang. Sword making also uses this method.
The edge guard is where the blade meets with the handle and can help keep your fingers from sliding up onto the blade when cutting food, which reduces accidents. Typically has ridges or grooves in it that will provide you with more grip.
The handle is the other essential part of a knife, and this should fit comfortably in your hand, so it does not hurt when you are using it for long periods of time.
Usually, grooves or ridges on the backside of handles give your fingers something to grip onto while slicing and dicing food.
Some knives feature a “full tang” handle, meaning the metal runs through where the blade meets with the wood, plastic, or other material.
The length of your grip will determine what type of handle you need, so it is crucial to think about this when picking out which knife to purchase.
There are two kinds of handle:
Western – the tang is sandwiched between covers and with visible rivets
Eastern – the tang is hidden in a handle with no rivets
Today, handles are made of metal like aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, or synthetic knife handle materials like carbon fiber, micarta, G10 ( a grade of Garolite, a laminate composite made of fiberglass). Sometimes, some knife handles are still made of bones.
These are the metal pieces that hold together the handle and blade, so they do not come apart.
These are the layers of material that cover the handle. The scales can be made from various materials such as wood, plastic, or even metal to create contrast with other knives in your kitchen.
The farthest part of the handle away from the point of the blade. It can be curved, which acts as a backstop for your hand, and can have an end cap that helps balance the knife’s weight.
Advanced Parts Of A Knife
The plunge line on the edge of a knife is the point where the blade meets with the handle. The plunge line may have different shapes depending on which part of the world that it comes from.
A Western-style is called a toe or a spitzer grind. It has a beveled edge and looks like an elongated triangle. It has two symmetrical side curves that meet at the tip, making it easy to create smooth and accurate slices.
Eastern-style plunges can take many forms: concave, convex, dish ground, and double beveled edges.
The choil is the unsharpened portion of the blade at the very back end. It’s where your fingers go to help you control chopping motions, and it can also be used as a makeshift thumb rest when cutting with a rocking motion.
Ricasso is the part where the blade becomes thick before the handle.
A thumb knob is a term for a finger or thumb guard often found on the handle of the knife.
Usually shortened to “choke,” this term refers to an area on the blade that helps control the shape of a cut.
Jimping is a textured pattern usually found on the back of knives to provide you with an improved grip.
A lanyard hole is a hole that’s drilled through the handle of the knife. It’s for tethering to your belt loop, carabiner, or hang from a hook when not in use.
Front Quillion or Front Guard
Front Quillion or Front Guard is the front part of a knife that keeps your fingers from sliding up onto it while cutting food.
Back Quillion or Back Guard
The back quillon prevents slippage of your hand onto the blade when doing heavy work like chopping more giant foods, typically meat and vegetables. It has ridges or grooves in it to provide you with the best grip.
A mechanism found on folding knives that lock into place when your blade gets pushed in as far as possible, so there’s no unintentional chance of it closing while working.
Frame Lock or Push Button Lock
Folding knives have a frame lock or push-button lock. It’s a locking mechanism that locks into place when you push the blade in as far it will go and then press down on a button or lever.
A carry clip is found at the end of some blades to help keep them securely sheathed while they’re not being used or sharpened.
Guard or Scabbard
A guard or Scabbard is a protective sheath that’s often used with blades to prevent injury. They are made from a variety of materials like lycra, metal, plastic, and leather.
Pommel or a glass breaker
The pommel is the last part of a knife that’s closest to the hilt. It helps balance out the weight and comes in handy as an emergency glass breaker or smashing hard surfaces.
You now have a better understanding of the anatomy and parts of knives. You are also more aware that they can be used for many purposes in the kitchen or elsewhere. The next time you’re choosing a knife to purchase, keep this information in mind to help make your selection easier!