Knife Terminology

Knife Terminology


Knife Terminology Glossary

Updated 8.25.15

Anodization- The process by which the oxide surface layer of a metal part is made thicker by electrolytic passivation to make it more resistant to corrosion and wear as well as for aesthetic or cosmetic purposes

Balisong- Commonly referred to as a butterfly knife, this knife has two rotating handles that move around the pivot pin and, when closed, hide the blade in between them. These knives are often used in martial arts.

Bead Blasted- Altering the finish of a metal surface by “blasting” it with particles, usually glass bead, sand or aluminum oxide to achieve a dull, non-reflective matte finish

Belly (of the blade) - The belly refers to the curving section of the blade beneath the point that is ideal for slicing

Bevel- This refers to the angle and shape ground onto the blade’s edge. Beveling gives the blade sharpness and cutting strength.

Bolster- The bolster is the thick joint between the blade and the handle that offers a smooth transition, balance, blade strength and control.

Carbide- A combination of carbon and a less negatively charged element to form an extremely hard material used for cutting or sharpening other very hard materials

Carbon Fiber- Commonly used material for knife handles, this is a resin laminate prized for its appearance, toughness and lightweight.

Chisel Ground- A flat or hollow grind only on one side of the blade

Choil- Pronounced “CH-oyul”, this refers to the unsharpened part of the blade, where it meets the handle. Often shaped to accept an index finger for more finely controlled use of the blade for intricate cutting tasks

Clip Point- Favored among dagger style knives for its narrower tip, this style blade refers to a “clipped off” portion of the blade towards the tip as seen most commonly in Bowie knives

Combo- When the knife’s blade is partially serrated, offering the user both plain edge and serrations

Convex Ground- The bevels are ground to form a convex radius

DLC- Stands for “Diamond Like Coating” or “Diamond Like Carbon”. Basically an amorphous carbon material that shares many of the usual properties of diamond. It is applied to knives primarily to increase hardness, resistance to wear and slickness.

Double Edge- Having a cutting edge on either (both) sides of the blade

Drop Point- Common with hunting knives, this denotes a blade style where the spine of the blade has a convex slope along the spine from the handle to the tip, allowing the spine to continue to the tip which reinforces its strength.

EDC- Stands for Every Day Carry, referring to the all-purpose knife that a person uses in their day-to-day routine

Ergonomics- Describes the relationship between a tool (knife) and the human body designed for ideal interaction, such as a contoured knife handle fitting seamlessly in to the user’s hand. Designed for comfort, ease of use, safety and efficiency.

Flat Ground- Beginning at the spine, flat bevels are ground in to the blade all the way down to the tip

Frame Lock- An offshoot of the liner lock, a frame lock uses the frame as a spring making for a very secure lock.

FRN- Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon, common handle material that is very tough and conducive to texturing for firm handle grip

G10- Similar to Micarta and Carbon Fiber, this material is a resin laminate often used in handles for its moisture imperviousness, ease of use and color options

Gut (Game) Hook- This is a blade feature where a small sharp half-circle is ground in to the spine of the blade and used to field dress game

Hawkbill Blade- An elongated, downwardly curved blade that resembles the bill of a hawk

Hollow Ground- Bevels, spanning either the full width or a section of it, are ground in to the blade to form a concave profile

Jimping- Small notches and grooves, typically on the choil or spine of the blade, that are used to ensure grip and prevent slippage when using the knife.

Liner- The metal plate inside a knife handle that supports both sides of the handle, the bolsters and blade pivot. Sometimes the liner will have a lock integrated in to it, cleverly referred to as a “liner lock”

Lockback- Refers to a knife style that uses a locking spring bar with a tooth at one end. When the tooth falls in to the notch cut in to the blade tang, the blade is held together with spring tension. A cutout in the spine houses a release button for the lock. This style of knife requires two hands to operate the locking mechanism.

Matte- A non-glossy, duller finish


Micarta- Brand name for a modern high pressure laminate commonly used in knife handles

Nail Nick- A small notch in the blade of folding knives used in conjunction with the fingernail to manually open the knife

OTF- Stands for “out-the-front”, where either a single or double action mechanism stores a blade within the handle of a knife and upon activation, the blade shoots out of the front of the knife.

Pommel- A piece of metal that forms the “butt” or end of a knife handle. It is both for appearance and functional, as it protects and strengthens the handle

Powder Coating- Used primarily for protection, anti-glare and striking looks, powder coating involves applying electrically charged powder coat to oppositely charged knife parts, then placing them in an oven to bake, melt and seal in to a tough protecting coating

Quillon- From the French, a straight or curved guard on a knife that is designed to protect the hand.

Ricasso- Portion of the blade just above the handle that is unsharpened either for aesthetic purposes, for reinforced strength at a critical part of the blade or to be gripped to enable more precise fine-tuned cutting procedure

Rivets- Cylindrical metal bolts or pins used to fasten the handles to the tang of the blade

Rockwell Hardness Test- A scale used to measure the indentation hardness of a material, invented by the Rockwell brothers

Sabre Ground- The flat bevels begin at the halfway or center point of the blade and are ground from there to the tip of the edge

Satin-The most common knife finish, with moderate shine and corrosion resistance

Scales- Made from any number of materials in modern knives, these are mounted to the sides of full tang knives. Durability and ergonomics are key here as scales are in contact with the human hand.

Scrimshaw- Engraved or etched artwork designs etched on to the handle of a knife

Sheepsfoot Blade- A blade style with a straight edge and straight dull back that curves downward towards the tip. Originally made to trim the hooves of sheep, they offer superior control of the blade and protection from puncture with a flat tip

Spine (of the blade) - Refers to the thickest part of the blade, along the top ridge of the blade, opposite the cutting edge. Reinforces the strength of the knife much the same way as the spine supports the human body, it supports energy transfer from handle to blade as well as supporting the butt.

Stiletto- A stiletto refers to a long slender blade with a sharp needle point that is efficient for stabbing, as evidenced by its history in self-defense and warfare. Often generically refers to the style of Italian “switchblade” or automatic opening locking knives that were imported to the United States in large numbers during the 1950’s

Stonewash- A metal finish where the blade is rolled and tumbled with pebbles and then smoothed. Gives a worn, broken-in appearance that hides scratches and fingerprints well

Swedge- A bevel grind on the back edge of the blade, its purpose being both aesthetically appealing and to make the spine of the blade thinner so as to improve its cutting ability. On slip joint knives, the swedge also allows blades to freely pass each other when opening and closing and provides access to the nail nick.

Tang- The protrusion or continuance of the blade steel in to the handle of the knife. There is both full tang and partial tang, but generally speaking a full tang knife will be sturdier than a partial or half tang knife.

Tanto- Great for piercing hard materials, this style blade does not have a belly so it’s not ideal for slicing, but this sacrifice is made to ensure the strength of the tip for repeated piercing tasks

Tip Down- Refers to the setup of the knife’s clip when carried in the pocket so that the tip of the blade is pointing downwards

Tip Up- Refers to the setup of the knife’s clip when carried in the pocket so that the tip of the blade is pointing upwards

Walk & Talk- Colloquial term that refers to the action of a folding knife. The “walk” refers to the travel feel of the blade as it’s opened along the spring, and the “talk” refers to the satisfying snap heard when it is closed. Smooth blade travel while opening and strong snap while closing make for good “walk & talk”.