Knives may look straight-forward, but there are lots of features that have been adapted throughout the centuries to achieve the well-crafted tool you see before you now.
What is a knife?
Essentially, a knife can be defined as a sharp-edged instrument to cut, chop, peel, dice, slice, spread, mince, julienne, roll, chiffonade … and more. Some knife sales people will speak about a different part being more important than the rest. So you can understand what they are saying, here is a breakdown of the terminology they may be using.
The Anatomy of a Knife
• Tip: Known also as the point, is located at the end of the blade opposite the handle. It is generally the weakest part of the metal and most prone to breakage.
• Blade: Long, thin metal strip with a sharp edge. It is thickest on a forged knife near the bolster on the top and then tapers to the edge and tip. The shape of the blade and type of edge are determined by its construction and use.
• Edge: The part of the blade that is sharp and used to cut. It can be taper-ground, plain hollow-ground, granton (or fluted hollow-ground), serrated or scalloped. Granton edges have become popular because they are typically easier to cut with and food is released better.
• Spine/back: Part of the blade, opposite the edge.
• Bolster: Metal part of the blade that joins the blade to the handle located on the top between them. It provides a protective barrier to help keep the hand from getting in the way of the knife edge, as well as a natural pivot point providing balance for the knife.
• Heel: On the edge side of the blade, opposite the tip, near the handle.
• Guard: Dull metal at the end of the blade near the handle to protect your hand.
• Tang: The part of the blade that the handle is attached to. A knife can have a full tang, half tang, pin tang or rat-tang depending on its construction. Some people believe a full tang (whereby the blade extends to the end of the handle) will give the knife more durability and control while others think design, balance, sharpness and stability are more important criteria.
• Handle: Made of wood, plastic-impregnated wood, plastic, horn and metal which is anchored to the blade generally with several rivets. It is the part that you hold to control the knife.
Inspect all the parts of a knife before purchasing it.