Throughout most of these articles on knives, we talk about blade shape and material as well as handle material and why those are the specific knives’ benefits. We have also briefly touched on the different parts of the knife, but that is usually thrown in to the article without a description. So while you probably do know what the basic parts of your knife are and what they do, there are a lot of little pieces that may be way over your head. So today, we will go over all of the basic pieces of a knife and what that pieces’ purpose is. Let’s begin.
The belly of the blade is the curved section of the edge that leads up to the tip. The bigger the belly, the more surface area your blade will have, and the easier it will be for you to slice or cut. Blades with large curved edges, such as a fillet knife, have large bellies that are intended for strong slicing cuts.
The bolster is the spot on your knife where the handle and the blade merge into one. This piece of the knife is there purely for balance and to really help with the balancing, the blade becomes very thick at this point. This area can also be used for a little extra support when you are gripping the knife. And, as the multi-tasker that this piece is—it also provides your hand with a bit of safety form getting sliced.
Even though this metal piece is part of the blade, it is not sharpened and will not be able to be used for cutting. The bolster also provides the knife with a bit of weight, which comes in handy when you are taking on those tougher tasks. A good bolster is a sign that your knife is a quality, well-made knife. You can tell that a knife is a lower end knife if this piece is part of the handle instead of the blade. The bolster is going to be found on high quality fixed blades (this piece will not exist on a folding knife).
Sometimes, there are even two bolsters. In these cases, you will find them at the front by the blade and again at the rear around the butt of the handle. In another case, there will be two bolsters at the blade in a cross formation, and those get the name a quillon or crossguard.
The butt of the knife is the bottom end of the knife handle. When a knife is well made, the butt can be used as a tool. On survival or outdoors knives, the butt is usually designed flat, so that it can be used as a hammer. If you’re a chef and lacking a meat tenderizer, the butt of your knife can even be used in place of that. On a folding knife, the butt is usually smaller and it will be rarer to use a folding knife’s butt as a tool. The butt can be rounded, flat, curved, and even angular—many knife designers use the butt of the handle to really add a unique touch to the individual knife style.
In some cases, the pommel is the same as the butt of the knife. However, the butt is usually the generic term used for the end of the handle while the pommel is a specific piece that is place to reinforce the butt. Pommels usually exist when a knife has been designed for striking or hammering.
The cheek or face of a blade is either side of the blade.
This is the sharp part of your blade. The cutting edge is (obviously) the part of the blade that does all of the cutting work. Different edges have different purposes. A few types of edges are the straight/plain edge, the serrated edge, and the combo edge. A plain edge is the most traditional and simple edge; it is a continuous straight cutting edge. The serrated edge sport little teeth that are used for sawing through some of the thicker materials. And the combo edge is a combination of plain and serrated. Usually, the upper portion of the combo edge is a plain edge and the part closer to the handle is serrated. Some people feel that they get the best of both worlds with a combo edge and other people feel as if there isn’t enough of either style for it to be useful.
The grind or the bevel of the blade refers to the cross section of the blade, or the section that has been ground down to form the edge. Depending on how the bevel has been ground, your knife is going to be capable of very different tasks. Some of the most common grinds that you can expect to find is the flat grind, the convex grind, the hollow grind, the chisel grind, the compound bevel, and the asymmetrical bevel.
Each different style of bevel has different qualities that range from their strengths, weaknesses, preferred uses, and different maintenance needs.
This is one of the more self-explanatory parts of the knife—the handle is the portion of the knife that you grip. A quality handle is a comfortable handle, even if you have been holding the handle for long periods of time.
On a full-tang blade, the handle is the portion of the knife that holds the tang. In these cases, the handle allows you to comfortably hold the tang to maneuver the blade.
The heel is the very back portion of the blade edge, or the part opposite the point. On bigger knives, this can be up to about 2 inches of the blade. The smaller the knife, the smaller the heel gets accordingly. The heel is typically there for cutting through materials that need a little extra force to cut. For the same reason, this piece is the widest part of the spine. In a nutshell, the heel is what gives you the control over cutting the harder-to-cut items. The heel does encompass a small section of the grind and is part of the face of the blade.
Jimping is the pattern of notches that is made on the spine of a blade. This is usually on the blade portion that is closest to handle, but can be found on other spots on the knife as well. Jimping is sometimes used on the spine of the handle, instead of the spine of the blade, and can even be found on the bottom portion of the handle. Jimping is used to aid in grip when doing fine work and is sometimes also placed there for a decorative feature. The notches are placed to prevent your fingers form sliding when you are using the knife. Generally, the knives that have jimping are the ones that have been designed as survival, outdoors, or hunting knives.
This piece is also one of the more straightforward pieces that we are going to cover today. The point of the knife is where the knife edge and spine come together. The point is most often used for piercing.
The tip of the blade is the forward part of the knife and includes the knife point. The tip is what you are going to be suing for detailed or delicate cutting. The tip can be curved or flat and some are even pointed, depending on what they were designed to do.
Tip and point are often used interchangeably and can be correctly used interchangeably, but, they can also be used separately to describe two different pieces of the blade. To recap: the point is exactly the point where the spine and edge meet and the tip is the small section at the front of the blade that leads to the point.
The rivets are in fixed blades and are the metal pieces (such as nails or screws) that hold the tang in the handle, or to join the scales to the tang to form the handle. On some knives, they are completely visible, and on others, the designer has chosen to hide or camouflage them.
The scales are the part of the knife that create the handle. Often times, scales are made of synthetic material such as carbon fiber or G 10. In a typical finding of scales on your knife, there are two scales that are attached to the tang with rivets to create the handle. One benefit of having handle scales on a survival knife is that even if they do break, you have the tang left to use. So while it won’t be as comfortable as the knife was with the scales—you still have almost full use of your blade.
The spine of your knife is going to be wider than your blade and is the blunt, dull portion at the top of your knife, opposite the cutting edge of your blade. The spine allows you to put pressure on the knife and what you are cutting, without cutting your hand. The spine can also help you with your grip on the knife. Typically, the larger the knife is, the thicker the spine will be. Double edged blades, or daggers, do not have a spine, but you will find a spine on almost every other style of blade. You can tell when you have a high quality knife, because the spine will be thicker than the spine on lower quality knives.
The tang is only going to be found on fixed blades. This is the portion of the blade that sits inside the handle. The tang is also the part of the blade that attaches to the handle and is what gives the handle or the handle scales their hefty-ness. On certain knives, you can see the edge of the tang running along the edge of the handle (look for a stripe of metal down the middle of the handle). A full tang blade is the better quality knife and has the tang run down the entire length of the handle. The lower quality knives are called half-tangs and have the tang only run down a portion of the handle. In those knives, you usually don’t see the edge of a shorter tang. If you are looking for a survival knife, you need to be looking for a knife with a fully tang that has roughly the same width and thickness. It is that full tang that will provide you with the qualities that you need in a survival knife.
Some Vocabulary About Tangs:
Encapsulated: The handle of the knife is molded around the tang. This means that there are no scales, and the handle is one full piece of material.
This means that the tang extends beyond the handle at the butt, and is usually functioning as a special hammer surface. Because the tang is metal, this will give you a very solid hammering option.
The tang metal is hollowed out. This is to cut down on weight and sometimes even designed to make a storage compartment.
When a tang is a stick tang it means that the tang is much narrower than the blade. This is done to cut down on weight of the overall knife.
This is when the tang is tapered from the blade to the butt to gradually reduce the size, thickness, and weight of the knife and handle.
As a general note, when the tang has been deliberately cut to reduce weight, you can lose the durability of a full tang if the cutting hasn’t been done correctly. I would not recommend these styles of tangs for a survival knife, but rather, for a skinning or fighting knife; where you need to use the knife quickly and not be weighed down.
Now that you know what each of the pieces of your knife is and have a better idea of what the piece is used for, you can be looking for the best knife out there for you.