Parts of a Knife: Knife Anatomy Explained

Knowing the parts of a knife is essential for maintaining the knives you have and choosing a new knife to suit your needs. This helps you to examine any knife you are considering and know whether it will be right for your home.

Most knives can be divided into two sections, the blade and the handle, each of which can be further subdivided into parts. These parts can vary by knife, but they are easily recognizable once you learn their names, locations, and functions.

anatomy of knife

The Blade

The blade is the part of the knife that does the cutting and comes in many different shapes. It is usually made of one metal, though this can be a single piece or some sort of forged alloy. The metals used can vary, but the most common include stainless steel, Japanese steel, iron alloys, and Damascus steel.

The blade is divided into eight parts:

Point

The terms point and tip are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two different parts. The point is where the edge and spine meet.

Points can be sharp or rounded. Sharp points are used for piercing and stabbing. Rounded points are utilized in some types of knives for safety. Depending on its intended purpose, you may want a sharp point, useful for hunting knives and small knives used for self-defense, or a more rounded one for safety. Points can also have various shapes, which lend themselves to different purposes.

Tip

The tip is not the sharp point of the knife, but the part of the edge that is near the point. On some knives, the tip is thought to include the point, but it’s best to think of them as two different parts. This part of the edge is often used for specialized, detailed cutting. It should be applied to areas where you need a delicate touch.

Belly

The belly is also part of the edge. It is the rounded part that is used for the majority of your cutting needs, including chopping and slicing. It usually consists of a curved arc, extending along the edge towards the tip.

There are some types of knives that are referred to as flat-edged knives, due to their lack of a belly. Some pocket knives fall into this category. These types of knives can be useful for slicing and piercing, but they cannot chop foods because they cannot provide the necessary rocking motion that a belly provides.

Heel

The heel is the part of the edge nearest the handle. It is located between the belly and the bolster. It is not usually used for cutting but provides stability since it is the widest part of the knife.

Edge

We’ve already mentioned the edge a bit since it contains the tip, belly, and heel. The edge is the entire side of the knife that is sharpened and used for cutting. It can be either curved, in which case it contains a belly, or flat, lacking a belly.

The edge is the most essential part of a knife since you cannot have a knife without one. This is also the part that will depend the most on your purpose. If you need a kitchen knife that can chop, you’ll need a curved edge with a belly. If you are looking for a small pocket knife that doesn’t need that functionality, a flat-edged knife will suffice.

knife blade

Bolster

The bolster is sometimes thought to be part of the edge, but it is actually a separate part. It falls between the heel and handle. It often appears as a thin or thick band that stands out from the rest of the blade.

The bolster joins the blade and the handle. It provides strength, stability, balance, and safety. It protects your hand from getting cut by the blade. It can also protect the handle from damage.

There are some knives that do not feature a bolster. They often get their stability from other parts, such as the heel and tang. However, knives with a bolster offer many more benefits than those without.

Spine

The spine is the part of the blade that forms the top of the knife. It can be either dull or sharpened. Sharpened spines found on double-edged knives allow you to cut with either side, while dull spines provide safety.

The spine is usually thick and heavy, which is necessary for providing strength to the knife and supporting the cutting action. The thicker and wider the spine, the more force it can withstand.

The shape of the spine is usually flat, but on double-edged knives, it may be curved with its own tip, belly, and heel.

Tang

The tang is the part that holds the knife together. It is a thin metal strip that fits inside the handle and attaches to the handle’s scales with rivets.

There are two types of tangs: full and partial. Full tangs provide the most stability and strength, because they extend throughout the full length of the handle. Partial tangs only attach to part of the handle, and are found in half and three-quarter varieties. Full tangs are often found in kitchen and hunting knives, while partial tangs are useful for smaller pocket knives.

For the most part, handles are usually cut to the size and shape of the tang. Rivets are then fastened to secure everything together.

different knife types showing different parts of a knife

The Handle

The handle is the part of the knife that you hold in your hand. It is mostly there for safety since you would definitely cut yourself if you were holding the sharpened blade. It also protects the blade from moisture and rust.

The handle contains three parts:

Scales

The scales of the handle are the two pieces of material that are fitted together to form the handle. These are cut to the size of the tang, then placed on each side of the tang.

The scales can be made of a variety of materials, including wood, horn, bone, plastic, carbon fiber, resin, nylon, and many others. Natural materials, such as wood, horn, and bone, may shorten the lifetime of the knife by contributing to rusting because they absorb and retain moisture. Synthetic materials, such as plastic, carbon fiber, resin, and nylon, will resist moisture better, protecting the blade and extending its life.

knife scales

The scales can also affect how you hold the knife. Smooth handles may be beautiful and feel nice, but once you start cutting with the knife, you may find it slippery and difficult to use. Handles with etching provide a better grip. There are also handles that are designed with an ergonomic shape, which improves both grip and comfort.

Butt

In simple terms, this is the end of the knife. It is often rounded for comfort and safety. One side may jut out, which allows you to hold the handle easily. This part of the knife needs the most reinforcement, so the butt provides stability.

Rivets

The rivets are the metal pins that attach the tang to the scales of the handle. This provides stability, safety, and ease of use. The rivets are often made of brass but can be found in other metals as well.

knife anatomy

Know Your Knives So They Will Last Longer and Perform Better

Using a knife without understanding how its parts work together can be dangerous, leading to accidental cuts, corrosion, wear, and even damage. It’s far better to take an educated approach, learning the parts of your knife and understanding their functions. This will inform how you use and maintain the knife, which in turn will improve its performance and extend its life.

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