Essential Parts of a Knife You Should Know About

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When you go to culinary school, instructors put a great emphasis on knife skills.

In fact, many culinary students spend hours upon hours learning different cutting and slicing techniques to get even and precise slices every time.

And even when working in a professional kitchen, a large chunk of a chef’s time is spent with their trusty knives.

Knife skills are integral for any kitchen.

Not only does proper prep make your food taste better, but using a knife properly also makes it much safer for you in the kitchen.

To understand how to use a knife, you need to know all the different parts of a knife first.

Understanding the different parts of a knife will make it easier for you to know where to hold it, how to old it, and also how to use it for different techniques.

In this guide, we’ll be going into deep detail about the different parts of a knife.

That way, it will be easier for you to get the hang of using the most important tool in the kitchen.

Read on to learn more.

The Parts of a Knife

Blade

Let’s start with the most popular part of the knife: the blade.

Whether you’re using a pocket knife, foldable knife, or a piece of kitchen cutlery, you always have to pay attention to the blade.

When it comes to kitchen knives, there are a variety of materials used for blades, but the most common choice is steel.

While there are some blades made out of ceramic, chefs don’t recommend them as they are brittle and chip easily.

Different brands and companies all have their own unique steel blends and recipes that they use to form their blades.

Some companies use VG-10 and VG-Max, which are largely considered premium materials while others settle for more budget-friendly recipes like AUS-8.

Typically, a knife blade is either stamped or forged.

When it is stamped, the manufacturer cuts or “stamps” the shape of the blade out of a large piece of stainless steel.

From there, the blade is sharpened and processed further.

Forged blades, on the other hand, are forged from a single piece of steel, which usually results in a tougher and sturdier build.

Some knives boast double-bevels, which means the blade is sharpened on both sides and is ambidextrous.

Other blades only have a single bevel like Japanese kitchen cutlery, so this results in a sharper edge but it isn’t ambidextrous.

The blade is the defining factor of any knife and any chef or cook needs to pay close attention to it when shopping for kitchen tools.

A knife’s blade is further subdivided into a couple more parts, these are;

Spine

The spine is the back of the blade, it is also usually the widest part of the blade.

Chefs usually grip the spine as it allows them to put pressure on the knife without cutting their hands.

A good knife will usually have a thick spine that gets thicker as the blades get larger.

Heel

The heel is the rear part of the edge of the blade.

It is the part closest to the bolster.

The heel is usually used to cut harder ingredients like nuts, carrots, and sometimes bones.

Tip

The tip is the part of the edge that is closest to the point.

It is usually curved in a Western chef knife and is usually used for detailed and delicate tasks.

Using the tip gives chefs more control, which is why it is used for intricate slices.

Point

The point is the very top of the blade and is different from the tip.

The point is used for piercing different things but is more commonly used with utility knives than kitchen cutlery.

Edge

While the edge is technically a part of the blade, it deserves a spotlight of its own.

A blade’s edge is the sharp side of the blade that is used for slicing through ingredients.

An edge is very thin and can slice through a wide variety of ingredients.

As mentioned earlier, they are usually double or single bevels, depending on the style of the knife.

The edge is arguably the most important part of the blade, and chefs regularly maintain and sharpen them to keep their knives lasting a long time.

There are many different types of knife edges, but here are some of the most common;

Straight Edge

The straight edge is the most commonly used type for blades.

You can find these edges on just about any kitchen knife, whether it is Japanese or Western.

These edges require the most maintenance and sharpening to stay razor-sharp for longer.

Some of these edges have a slight curve on them which allows chefs to use a rocking motion.

Curved edges are typically found on Western kitchen cutlery.

Granton Edge

A Granton edge is very common in home kitchen knives.

A Granton edge is defined by oval divots that are molded into the blade very close to the edge.

The divots allow the knife to slide through ingredients smoothly while also keeping ingredients from sticking to the blade.

Usually, these edges are used for making slices of meat.

Serrated

Serrated edges are sometimes called jagged edges and are known for being rough with the serrations being visible to the naked eye.

These edges require less maintenance and can tear through meat and other fibers easily, which is why they are commonly seen on steak and bread knives.

Scalloped

Scalloped edges are known for different points on the edge that are connected by arches.

These edges are great for bread knives and can also be used to cut cooked meats like briskets.

Hollow Ground

Hollow ground edges are very thin and delicate.

However, they are also very sharp.

Chefs typically use hollow ground edges for delicate and precise slicing tasks.

Bolster

The bolster is still considered part of the blade, but it is much thicker than the spine.

Not all knives have bolsters, but if your blade has a heel, it typically has a bolster.

Bolsters are generally used to strengthen the blade, but they also protect your fingers from coming into contact with the heel.

Since bolsters are heavy, they add balance to the knife and also allow for easier gripping.

Tang

The tang is the part of the blade that isn’t seen.

What most people don’t know is that the blade usually runs throughout the entire knife and just gets hidden by the handle.

The part that is hidden by the handle is called the tang.

A full-tang knife has a blade that runs throughout the entire handle.

And as you can tell by the name, a partial-tang knife only has a blade that runs through a bit of the handle.

Some knives have a visible tang that you can see on the handle.

Many chefs prefer and recommend using full-tang knives as they offer much more stability and balance.

However, partial tang knives are usually the cheaper option and can save you some money if all you need is an average kitchen knife for home cooking.

Handle

Now that we’ve covered all the parts of the blade, it’s time to look at the other main aspect of a knife: the handle.

Handles come in a variety of shapes, depending on the style of the knife.

For kitchen cutlery, handles are either Western or Japanese.

Western handles are what most of us are familiar with that fit very nicely and naturally in the hand.

These handles are also fairly larger than Japanese ones, which some chefs prefer.

When you have a Japanese handle, it is significantly different.

Wa-handles or D-shaped handles are the most common forms of handles on Japanese cutlery.

These sport an octagonal shape which might feel alien or new to chefs who have never tried them before.

But once you get used to the new shape, you’ll find that these handles are actually very ergonomic and comfortable to hold.

Handles are made of a wide variety of materials, and every chef prefers different materials.

For many manufacturers, synthetic materials such as PP are the best choices for knives.

They are sanitary, easy to clean, and can be molded to fit the hands very well.

However, these materials usually don’t sport the best aesthetic.

Other manufacturers combine the best of both worlds with a material called PakkaWood.

This is a combination of resin and real wood and makes for a very aesthetically pleasing, durable, and sanitary handle.

Other manufacturers have their own unique synthetic blends, with some brands even using stainless steel for their handles.

The materials and shape aren’t the only things to consider with a knife handle.

Here are some of the other components of a standard knife handle;

Rivets

Not every knife has these, especially Japanese blades.

Rivets are also called handle fasteners, and all they do is ensure that the handle and the blade are firmly fastened together.

The fasteners hold the two sides of the handle together with the tang and blade in between.

Most rivets are made of stainless steel and give off a very classic aesthetic.

Rivets can be found on both wooden and synthetic handles, but they usually aren’t used for stainless steel handles.

Knives are usually double or triple-riveted.

The more rivets, the more secure the knife, but the number of rivets is usually dependent on the length of the tang and the overall size of the knife.

Butt

The last part of the knife we’ll be discussing today is the butt.

The butt is the end of the handle and it’s sometimes referred to as the pommel.

Many knives actually have the tang exposed on the butt, so keep an eye out for that.

The butt actually serves a practical purpose as well as an aesthetic one.

At the end of your knife, you might find that the butt forms a downward hook, which gives you a more stable grip.

On top of that, chefs also use the butt to pound certain ingredients, though we don’t suggest doing this as it can damage your knife.

Conclusion

And there you have it; all the different parts of a knife.

The first step to developing your knife skills is understanding the ins and outs of a blade and all the different parts of a knife.

That way, it will be much easier to determine which parts to hold or use for specific tasks.

And on top of that, understanding the parts of a knife also helps you maintain your blades and keep them functional for a very long time!

Further reading:

8 Ways to Make Your Kitchen Knives Last Forever

Last Updated on October 11, 2021

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My name is Andy Wang, and I'm a retired chef. I used to work at the City Vineyard restaurant in NYC. I also had a culinary degree from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. And this blog is where I share my love for knives and cooking with people like you.