Anatomy of Kitchen Knives


So you want to buy a kitchen knife or more likely kitchen knives. Once you start to scratch the surface all of these odd words start creeping into the conversation, bolsters, heel, tang, and why exactly are they talking about butts!

All of these words apply to pretty well every knife you will purchase. With a little understanding of the anatomy of a kitchen knife you will be better prepared when getting out there and buying kitchen knives.

If the word “Blade” perplexes you it is definitely not time to pick that knife up just yet. The Blade of course is the working end of any knife, yes it is the part of the knife that does the cutting. I know, I know it seems obvious what the blade is but this is an article about knife anatomy and the blade is a pretty important part. Dissecting the blade anatomy we have:

1. The Tip – the very end of the blade opposite the handle and usually a very sharp point. As said the tip is usually very pointed but some knives will have a rounded tip or even blunted. The tip is often the thinnest part of the blade used for things like cutting thin strips, or making incisions.

2. Cutting Edge – is the true working part of the knife. It is the sharpened part of the blade and runs from the tip to where the handle meets the blade. It is most often a smooth cutting edge but can be serrated as well. We just don’t have the space to get into the different types of edge grinds here but will spend time in another article just on grinds and what to consider when buying kitchen knives.

3. Heel – is the last couple of inches of the cutting edge where it meets the handle. The heel is usually the thickest part of the blade and is used when some pressure needs to be applied to what you are cutting. It is the section used when you see someone quickly slicing food such as onions, those show offs!

4. Spine – is the back of the blade. It is the thick “backbone” opposite the cutting edge. Generally the thicker the spine the heavier the knife. It is not sharp allowing the user to put a thumb or palm on the spine to add more pressure.

5. Ricasso – Not always found on all kitchen knives but when they are you will notice them by it being the flat area where the heel meets the handle. It would show the grind lines of the blade.

Getting all of the dangerous parts out of the way we can now move onto the handle of the knife:

1. Bolster – not all knives have bolsters but if they do they are usually metal and are the starting point of the handle. Some knives will have bolsters that are integral to the blade meaning that the blade will “swell” out when it meets the handle. This section adds weight and often helps with balancing a knife. Many people say that a perfectly balanced knife will balance on one finger at the bolster. Whether this is your preference or not will only be determined from handling many knives.

2. Guard – Whether the kitchen knife has bolsters or not there is typically an area called the guard or finger guard. This is the part of the handle where it meets the heel of the knife. If there are bolsters these will make the guard, if not the steel of the knife will make the guard. It serves to protect your fingers from the cutting edge.

3. Tang – This is the part of the knife that runs through the handle. Your kitchen knife can be a hidden tang (no steel shown in the handle), a partial tang (some length of steel in the handle but not all the way around), or full tang (steel running through the entire handle. A hidden tang makes for the lightest knife but weakest handle where as a full tang makes for the heaviest but strongest handled knife.

4. Handle – The section where you can safely hold the knife. It is the part that surrounds the tang, usually made from wood or synthetic materials. Of all the parts of a knife this one varies the most in terms of people’s preferences. You really have to try out several knives to find the handle fit that works best for you.

5. Rivets – These are the bolts that go through the handle and tang in order to attach the handle scales to the knife. For comforts sake the rivets are usually ground smooth to the handle in order to avoid irritation.

6. Butt – Yes finally we get to the Butt. It is go figure the end of the handle. The part of the knife furthest from the tip. Some people use the Butt for pounding but this is not recommended as it can damage the handle.

There you have it, that is the majority of terms used to describe the anatomy of every knife. This is of course not the end of it all when it comes to odd words used when discussing kitchen knives but understanding these terms will give you a good start in your search for buying kitchen knives.

Article Source: Anatomy of Kitchen Knives