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Glossary of Knife Terminology

In order to choose the right high-end knife, it's best to know the terminology surrounding them. We've put together this glossary of knife terms to help you understand what the different sections of a knife are called, and what materials they are made from.

Back – The unsharpened back portion of the metal blade. Also known as the spine.

Bail – A metal half-loop for clipping or tying the knife for easier carrying.

Belly – The curved edge of the blade.

Blade – The metal portion of the knife used for cutting.

Blade lock – A mechanical lock that holds a folding knife's blade in place.

Bolster – A piece of metal added to the handle for extra strength and/or decoration. Located above the guard.

Carbon – A common material for making knife blades. Carbon is easier to sharpen into an edge than steel, but more susceptible to corrosion without proper care.

Damascus steel – Created by two types of steel being folded repeatedly during forging, making it more durable than the two parent steels.

Edge – The sharpened side of the blade.

Epoxy – The bonding agent used to combine the different parts of the knife together. Made from polymide or amino resin, and combined with a hardening agent.

Guard – The portion of the knife that separates the handle from the blade to protect the hand; also known as the hilt.

Inlays – Material inlaid into a knife's handle.

Liner – An interior part of the handle, usually made from soft metal and used to protect a blade from damage when closed.

Micarta – A material used in handles. Made from wood laminates, linen, or paper combined with phenolic resin.

Pins- Small pieces of brass or copper used to join scales, tangs, and other knife parts together.

Pommel – A knob or extension located at the end of a knife's handle.

Retention – How well a blade holds an edge.

Ricasso – The unsharpened portion of the blade located directly below the hilt.

Rockwell Hardness Test – The standard test for determining the hardness of a blade's steel, where a diamond point is forced into a finish blade and the level of penetration is then measured.

Scales – Thin pieces of wood, horn, or synthetic material that are pinned or riveted to the tang.

Scrimshaw – An art form in which knife handles made from bone or other softer material have small holes made in them, which are then filled with ink to create a patterned design.

Shield – A metal inlay, located on the handle.

Spine – Another name for the back.

Stainless steel – Steel with a higher amount of chromium and less carbon than standard steel.

Tang – The portion of the knife extending into the handle.

Tempering – A process for reheating steel to increase its toughness.



Understanding knife terminology helps shoppers better understand the knife they are considering buying, and which material best fits their personal needs.

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William Henry is the maker of fine designer jewelry, knives, and accessories for men. Made from only the finest materials and created with expert craftsmanship, William Henry's accessories can add a touch of class to any man's wardrobe. Learn more at

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