For such a simple instrument, there is a lot of jargon around the different parts of a kitchen knife, with lots of different terms that you’ll come across in your research into the perfect knife for you.
Here’s our jargon-busting guide to the components of a kitchen knife, which will help you identify all the various terms you might hear.
This isn’t the hardest part to identify, to be honest. It’s the pointy bit at the end of the blade. However, there are lots of different types of point, so you may hear about the Drop Point, Trail Point, Clip Point, Spear Point, etc, etc. This depends on the actual shape of the point and whether it is above, level with or below the spine of the blade. You can use the point to stab something, pin something in place or start a hole, but the Edge usually does most of the work of a kitchen knife.
The Tip is the front part of the Edge of the blade. It is used for delicate cutting work.
This is the part of a knife that gets the most use. It’s the sharp part of the underside of the blade and takes many different forms depending on the intended use. The most obvious difference is between serrated and non-serrated. Serrated blades are great for cutting through tough materials like gristle, while non-serrated blades are preferred for thin slicing. The grind used to create the Edge can be of many different shapes, with names like Hollow Ground, V, Flat Ground, Convex, Axe or Chisel. All have different strengths and weaknesses, depending on the amount of steel left in the blade. For example, a Hollow Ground blade will have a very fine, sharp edge, but won’t be strong enough to stand up to a lot of heavy chopping. More information on the various grind types is available here.
The Heel is the part of the Edge closest to the bolster or handle.
This is the back, or uppermost, part of the blade. It is the thickest part of the blade and provides most of the strength. As you’d expect, the thicker the spine, the stronger the blade. However, the thickness also affects the weight of the blade and hence the balance of the entire knife. In general, you can expect a knife for chopping to have a heavy spine, whereas one intended for more delicate slicing work will have a heavier handle.
Not all kitchen knives have a bolster and, even for ones that do, it’s mostly decorative.
This is the handle of the knife, and can either be in two pieces on either side of the Tang, or one piece, through which the tang passes. Various different materials can be used, from wood to rubber, polymers, or a wide variety of natural and synthetic materials. The handle may even be one piece of steel along with the blade. It can be straight, or have finger grooves for improved grip.
When you have a two-piece handle, the opposite sides join together using some kind of fasteners, typically rivets or screws. Rivets are very common, as they’re cheap, but they can loosen up over time and are difficult to replace. Screws make it easy to remove the scales for thorough cleaning, but you have to ensure regularly that they’re still tight.
The Tang is the unsharpened continuation of the blade that goes through the handle of the knife. A full-tang knife has a tang that extends right the way through the handle, which allows you to apply much more force to the blade. This is by far the best option. Partial-tang knives only have the metal tang extend partway into the handle, which makes them more vulnerable to accidental breakage.
The butt is the end of the knife, furthest away from the point.