The Parts of a Kitchen Knife

When it comes to cooking like the pros, it’s important to understand all aspects of your most important tools, from the different parts of a knife to the materials used to create them. 

You probably already know kitchen knives are made up of two main components  – the blade and the handle – and you probably also have a basic idea of how to use each. But did you know the different parts can be used for different things? 

From the tip of the blade to the butt of the handle, the different parts of a kitchen knife come in handy for a variety of tasks – and becoming familiar with each is the first step to cooking like a pro! This F.N. Sharp guide will help you get to know your knives and how to use them to their fullest potential. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

The Anatomy of a Kitchen Knife

When you see or hear the word “tip”, does it make you think of helpful expert advice, or a nod of appreciation for rendering a service? Do you hear the word “tang” and immediately think about the popular orange-flavored powdered stuff that took off (literally with the astronauts) in the 1960s? What about the word “heel”? Does it make you think of feet?

If none of these words made you think of kitchen knives, then it’s time to get to know the anatomy of a knife! As we mentioned earlier, a kitchen knife is generally made up of two components: the handle and the blade. These two parts are further broken down into different parts, and are created with a variety of different materials that can literally make or break a knife.

Let’s start with the handle and its parts, because how it’s made is equally important to the blade.

The Parts of a Kitchen Knife Handle

Parts of a kitchen knife Diagram showing the different parts of a kitchen knife handle diagram

The handle of a knife consists of four parts: the bolster, the tang, the rivets and the pommel, which is more commonly known as the “butt”.

The bolster is the band that meets the blade of a knife to its handle. This is mainly designed to keep your hand away from the cutting edge of the blade, but not all knives feature a bolster. 

The tang is the attachment of the handle to the blade, which can be done a few different ways. A full tang runs through the entire handle and is usually secured with rivets, while partial and half tangs do not run through the entire handle and are usually pushed in and secured with adhesive.

Rivets are the metal pins used to join the handle of the knife around the tang, but not all kitchen knives have rivets. The butt is the very end of the handle and is usually made of metal. This part comes in handy for crushing up some soft nuts, cookies and crackers. While some cooks may also use this part for tenderizing meat, it’s much safer and better for your knife to use the tools intended for that purpose.

Knife Knowledge 101: How to Properly Hold a Knife

The Materials Used to Create Kitchen Knife Handles

Parts of a kitchen knife handle materials

As mentioned before, handles play an important role in the making of kitchen knives, from how they’re designed to the materials used to create them. Not only are the design and materials used important for when it comes to determining the comfort level and hand-feel of a knife handle, they can also determine several factors when it comes to its overall performance in the kitchen. 

These measures of performance include:

  • Durability and reliability
  • Water and temperature resistance
  • Cut performance and precision
  • Grip and hand control
  • Your level of fatigue based on each task

When it comes to the materials used, wood is one of the most popular for creating kitchen knife handles, thanks to its elegance and comfort. It’s also very soft and easy on the hands, however, wood knife handles can be very delicate and expensive, depending on the type of wood used. Some common ones include ebony, rosewood and cocobolo. 

While wooden knife handles are beautiful, they may not be ideal for home kitchen use since they damage easily, are harder to maintain and can be difficult to clean, which can lead to bacteria harboring. This is why both metal and synthetic materials have become quite popular for kitchen knife handles.

Here are a few different types of handles you’re likely to come across:

  • Titanium: A lightweight metal alloy that offers unsurpassed corrosion resistance compared to any other metal. It has a warm, comfortable grip and can be finished by either bead blasting or by anodization, which is an electrochemical process that adds color to the metal.
  • Aluminum: Another nonferrous metal that gives the knife a solid feel without the extra weight. The most common form of aluminum used for knife handles is a heat treatable grade known as T6-6061, with anodizing as the most common finishing process.
  • ZYTEL®: Developed by Du Pont, this thermoplastic synthetic material is known for being the least expensive to produce, making it quite common for kitchen knife handles. It has a slight surface texture and is known for being “unbreakable”, while also resisting impacts and abrasions.
  • Carbon Fiber is another labor-intensive material that results in a pricey knife. It’s composed of thin strands of carbon that are tightly woven into a weave pattern set in resin. When compared to other lightweight synthetic handle materials, carbon fiber is one of the strongest, however, its main visual attraction is the way the carbon strands reflect light to reveal the weave pattern.
  • Micarta: A synthetic material created by soaking layers of linen cloth in a phenolic resin, micarta is a lightweight, yet strong material that feels extremely smooth to the touch. While some may swear by this material for their kitchen knives, others find it to be a little on the slippery side.
  • G10: Similar to micarta, G10 is a fiberglass-based laminate created by soaking layers of fiberglass cloth in resin to be compressed and baked. G10 knife handles are lightweight, extremely durable and feature a surface texture in the form of checkering, offering a better grip compared to micarta. This is the preferred knife handle material here at F.N. Sharp.

Feel the Difference of G10: Get F.N. Sharp!

The Parts of a Kitchen Knife Blade

Diagram showing the different parts of a kitchen knife blade

The blade of a knife consists of five parts: the edge, the tip, the heel, the flat and the spine. The edge is the sharp, cutting edge of the blade that extends from the tip to the heel. This is where all of the magic happens. 

At one end of the cutting edge is the tip, which is where the blade comes to a point and can be used for fine, detailed work and very delicate cutting. For example, the tip of a chef’s knife can be used to create guide cuts in tough ingredients like melons, squash, and other dense fall vegetables. It can also be used for piercing and separating sinew from meat, or even hulling and slicing strawberries if it’s the only knife within reach. 

The tip of a boning knife can be used to break away the cartilage from joints in bigger hunks of meat, while the tip of a paring knife is handy for coring tomatoes, hulling strawberries, segmenting citrus, and even deveining shrimp.

Knife Knowledge 101: 6 Types of Knives Every Kitchen Needs

At the other end of the cutting edge is the heel of the blade, and since its the widest part of the blade, it has the heft for slicing and chopping tough ingredients like nuts, carrots, squashes, potatoes and even bones.

Knife Knowledge 101: Top Signs of a Dull Kitchen Knife

The flat of the blade is, as the term suggests, is the flat part of the blade located on both sides. This part can be used for crushing ingredients like garlic and cucumbers, as well as for transferring ingredients from the cutting board to a bowl or pan.

The spine is the blunt edge of the blade, opposite to the cutting edge. It can be used for tasks scraping and ingredients from your cutting board or even scaling fish. Using the spine of the knife for these tasks, rather than the cutting edge, can help maintain its sharpness.

Although the spine might seem like the perfect place to rest your finger and apply pressure while cutting, there is a time and a place for this technique. Using the spine as a resting place for all cutting tasks may lessen your control over the knife – and when you need it most. Not to mention, a sharp knife should cut right through your ingredients without adding any extra force.

Generally speaking, the only time you should place a finger along the spine of a knife is when finely chopping and/or mincing ingredients like garlic and herbs.

More Bad Habits to Avoid in the Kitchen: The Kitchen Knife Safety Guide

The Materials Used to Create Kitchen Knife Blades

Parts of a kitchen knife blade materials

Several different types of materials are used to create kitchen knife blades, from budget and premium steels to titanium and even ceramic. Knowing the materials used to create your knives is essential for maintenance and care.

When it comes to steel blades, there are two main types to choose from: high carbon and stainless steel. High carbon steel, which is made of carbon and iron, is a less expensive option that holds an edge very well and is easy to sharpen. However, high carbon steel is also prone to rust and stains, as well as oxidation. 

Then you have stainless steel, which is made of iron, chromium, some carbon and other alloys. It’s well-known for resisting corrosion, hence the name; however, these must be sharpened often, depending on the types of stainless steel used.

Then there’s Damascus steel, which actually isn’t a type of steel, per say, but it is a popular option for kitchen knives. The art of forging Damascus steel dates as far back as 300 B.C., when it was used to create superior swords. The same goes for modern-day Damascus blades, as they’re known for yielding a superior sharp edge. 

Damascus steel blades can be crafted from both high carbon and stainless steel, and are made by “folding” layers of metal to reveal unique patterns. For example, F.N. Sharp uses a combination of VG10 and VG2 stainless steels that are folded into 67 layers to reveal a feathered Damascus pattern.

Beauty and Function in One: F.N. Sharp’s Damascus Steel Kitchen Knives

Titanium is another material used to create kitchen knife blades. While they’re typically lighter and more flexible, titanium is not the strongest or hardest metal in the world, nor does it hold an edge as well as steel.

Ceramic knives also became very popular at one point, and while they are extremely hard, lightweight and can hold an edge longer than steel, they’re made of zirconium dioxide, which makes them brittle and difficult to sharpen. Not only does this mean they’re more prone to chips and cracks, they’re also too brittle to cut through tough ingredients like frozen meat and bones. In other words, ceramic knives are only ideal for slicing,  so you’d have to reach for a different knife every time a recipe calls for chopping.

How to Use the Different Parts of a Kitchen Knife

Want to see how to use the different parts of a knife in action? In this how-to video, F.N. Sharp Brand Ambassador Justin Grimm shows us how to get the most of the F.N. Sharp Chef’s Knife, from the butt of the handle to the tip of the blade 🔪

The Kitchen Knife Essentials

F.N. Sharp 6-Knife Set in Magnetic Knife Block with lemon and garlic on cutting board

Now that you know all about the anatomy of a kitchen knife and the materials used to create its different parts, you may be wondering what types of knives you really need in the kitchen.

When it comes to buying new kitchen knives, you’ll find a ton of options available – from smaller 3-knife and 6-knife sets all the way up to 24-knife sets – and they all almost always include a chef’s knife and/or the Japanese Santoku, along with other essentials such as a paring knife, utility knife, boning knife and bread knife.

Another kitchen essential is a good cutting board, and you’ll also find a plethora of options, from wood and stone to plastic and glass. But, not all cutting boards are created equally in terms of how well they play with your knives. Check out our guide to choosing the best cutting board for a deeper dive into the different materials used to create them and which one is best for keeping your kitchen knives sharp. Or just save yourself some time and order an F.N. Sharp cutting board, made of beautiful Acacia wood and available in large and small.

And if you’re wondering about the best way to store your knives, then check out our guide for the best knife storage options – or just grab this magnetic knife block from F.N. Sharp, available individually and with both our 3-knife and 6-knife sets. Not only does it go with your Acacia wood cutting board, it also gives you plenty of space for both showcasing and storing your favorite knives and kitchen tools! Now that’s F.N. Sharp!

Happy cooking! 

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