If you want to find the best-quality knife for a particular task, it will help to have a basic working knowledge of the different parts of a knife. Here, we'll explain what each part of a knife is called, and what function it serves. You should note that this is just an overview of the different features you will see on most basic knives many specialist knives may be constructed slightly differently.
Point: The very end of the blade. This is usually sharpened to a fine point, and can be used to pierce or score the surface of food.
Blade: The blade is the name given to the part of the knife which is used for cutting. It’s usually crafted from steel, although it may also be ceramic, titanium or even plastic.
Edge: This refers to the sharpened part of the blade, which is used for the majority of cutting work. The sharpness of the knife is dictated by how finely the edge is ground, and this will depend on both the quality of the knife and how often you sharpen it. It may be serrated (as with bread knives) or it may be straight.
Tip: The front part of the knife’s edge, just beneath the point, is called the tip. It’s the part of the blade which is normally used for delicate chopping and cutting work.
Spine: The spine is the blunt upper side of the blade, opposite to the cutting edge. The thickness of the spine gives strength to blade: as a rule, the thicker the spine, the stronger the blade. It’s also important for providing balance to the overall knife.
Heel: The heel is the lower edge of the blade, furthest from the tip, next to the bolster. It’s often the widest part of the blade. This part of the edge is most commonly used when the chef needs more strength or pressure to cut through thicker or tougher foods.
Tang: The tang is the unsharpened part of the blade which connects the blade edge to the handle. The tang is vital to the overall balance, weight, stability, and strength of the knife. The best knives are often considered to be those with a ‘full-tang’: one which runs from the end of the blade all the way to the butt. In some designs, the tang also functions as a handle.
Handle or scales: Sometimes called ‘scales’, the handle is the part of the knife grasped by the chef during use. It can be made from a number of materials, and may be straight or designed with finger grooves and other ergonomic features that make it easier to hold. Some knife manufacturers will dispense of the handle altogether, instead creating a knife using a single piece of steel, so that the tang also functions as a handle.
Bolster: The bolster is the raised area between the blade and the handle. It puts a small space between the chef’s hand and the blade, to stop the fingers from slipping down onto the blade during cutting work. It also provides additional weight to help balance the knife.
Handle fasteners, or rivets: These are the rivets or screws which fix the handle parts to the tang. Less expensive designs may forego the rivets and attach the handle to the tang using resin or epoxy instead.
Butt: The name given to the end of the handle, at the very bottom of the knife.
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