Tangs and Tips, Steel and Stilettos, EDC and Edges: Common Knife Terms
When we talk about knives, we all understand what we’re saying — right? After all, most everyone uses these ancient implements every day, so we must be familiar with what they look like, what their various design decisions entail, the differences between different metals and materials, and the intended purposes for most blades.
On one level, we can answer in the affirmative, because know that knives are supposed to do one basic thing: cut. But because they’re existed for so long, many different kinds of knives have developed over the years. In this article, we will explain common terms and distinctions you will see when researching or purchasing knives, including the blades here at TacKnives.
Essential Parts of a Knife
Naturally, the most essential part of a knife is its blade. Defined as the entire visibly extruding area of the knife designed to cut and/or stab, it’s the most recognizable element, one that every child understands. Yet even a knife’s blade carries complexities. For example, the edge cuts, but the way in which it manages it varies significantly based on the way in which it’s fashioned. Edge types include:
- Flat Ground (the traditional tapered edge found on most kitchen knives)
- Serrated (tooth-like extrusions found on knives intended for cutting bread, rope, or — in combat-related contexts — flesh)
- Scalloped (while similar to serrated edges, rounded scalloped edges prevent the tearing of the cut material)
- Granton (designed solely for culinary applications, Granton-style edges place oval indentations along the flat of the blade to prevent the adhesion of food)
Other knife elements are less complex. The face is the section that’s called the flat when discussing swords. The blunt spine lies opposite the cutting edge, and when it extends all the way to the handle, it’s called a full tang. If the blunt section extending into the handle isn’t connected (as with folding knives that have some sort of hinge), it’s called a partial tang. The place where the blade and the handle meet is termed the bolster. Right above the bolster lies the ricasso, a section that remains part of the blade but that isn’t actually sharpened. And below it you’ll find the guard, which protects the fingers. Additionally, combat knives may include a length-wise groove dubbed a fuller that’s intended to lighten the knife.
This leaves only one more common knife element, the physically smallest one, in fact: the point. But while a point may prove the blade’s thinnest section, it also largely determines its entire shape. Why? Well, the way the rest of the blade approaches the point is called the profile, and it radically changes the knife’s shape and functionality. There are several main types of profiles:
- Simple (a traditional shape with a straight spine and a curling edge that rises up to meet it)
- Trailing Point (the spine dips and then also curves upward, creating additional cutting area around the edge)
- Clip Point (the point sits in line with a straight-running spine, but a section near the point looks as though it has been “scooped out”; Bowie knives are clip-point knives)
- Drop Point (these knives’ spines gradually curve downward while the edge curves upward until they meet; Swiss Army Knives are drop-point knives)
- Spear Point (this sort of knife situates the point symetrically in the center of the blade, meaning that the spine and edge share mirror-opposite curves; stilettos are spear-point knives)
- Tanto (a Japanese style featuring a largely straight spine and a largely straight edge connected by a sharply slanting, chisel-like tip)
- Sheepsfoot (a completely straight edge and a spine that slopes downward to meet it, minimizing the point)
- Recurve (a profile with an S-shaped edge)
Common Types of Metal
Another set of terms with which you should familiarize yourself is the metals commonly used to make knives. These vary according to both practical and decorate characteristics, and include:
- Carbon Steel: an extremely hard metal with a matte finish that holds its edge for a long time, but is relatively expensive, prone to corrosion, and brittle
- Stainless Steel: non-reactive, resistant to corrosion, and flexible, yet doesn’t remain sharp as long and is more difficult to sharpen
- High-Carbon Stainless Steel: a middle option between the two most popular kinds of steel that seeks to avoid corrosion while maintaining sharpness and hardness
- Laminated Metals: By sandwiching different layers of metal between one another, knife makers can minimize negative characteristics such as corrosion and emphasize positive elements such as strength or hardness.
- Damascus Steel: a visually striking metal crafted by combining iron, steel, and charcoal in specific conditions
- Ceramic: Crafted from zirconia, these knives are extremely hard and hold an edge far longer than other materials, but they are also brittle and typically only used for cooking.
Folding Versus Fixed-Blade Knives
All knife styles fall into two main categories: fixed-blade or folding. Fixed-blade knives, in which the metal runs the whole length of the implement, are the oldest, simplest, and most stable style. Folding knives, though, come in many different configurations and offer unparalleled functionality, utility, and convenience. Read our article on “The 4 Main Types of Folding Knives” to learn more. Additionally, folding knives in general — and out-the-front (OTF) automatic knives in particular — are our specialty at TacKnives. Check out our selection here.
Typical Knife Uses and Categories
One way in which people differentiate between knives is in their intended uses. Different materials, blade shapes, sizes, and configurations play into the ways in which people put them to work. Following you’ll find the most common categories of knives according to use:
- Everyday Carry (EDC): General-purpose blades that can tackle any task. They’re often folding knives that slip easily into a pocket.
- Kitchen / Chef’s Knives: These specialized knives are used in the preparation of food.
- Survival Knives: These hardy knives stand up to tough use and can perform somewhat unorthodox tasks such as chopping, prying, or carving. They often have full tangs.
- Specialty Knives: Some blades are designed for very specific tasks (e.g., diving knives) or contain a wide variety of additional tools (e.g., Swiss Army knives).
- Combat / Tactical Knives: Designed for armed conflict, this category typically finds use by military and police forces.
Here at TacKnives, we offer a wide variety of folding knives fit for multiple kinds of use. Our quality and satisfaction guarantees mean you’ll always end up with exactly the knife you wanted.