Glossary Of Knife Terms

This guide contains definitions and illustrations for many knife related terms


Back: The unsharpened side of a blade. Click for illustration

Bail: A half loop at the end of some knives; enables the user to clip or tie something on for carry and to ensure it does not get dropped. Click for illustration

Barehead: This term refers to a knife that does not have a rear bolster. Click for illustration

Belly: The curved part of the blades edge. Click for illustration

Blade Bevel: The ground-away portion of the knife blade that tapers from the spine to the edge. Note that the blade bevel does not include the cutting edge called the edge bevel. Click for illustration

Blade lock: The mechanical part of a knife that  engages or disengages the blade of a folding knife. A back Lock is the most common  (Click for illustration). Others have a liner lock or some other mechanism.

Bolsters:  Metal covers that are located between the handle and the blades.  Also found on the rear of a single end knife; usually made from nickel silver, brass, or stainless steel. Click for illustration

Carbon: Often found in knife blades; it takes an edge easier than most other steels, but is highly susceptible to corrosion if not properly maintained.

Choil: An unsharpened part of the blade located opposite the point on the sharpened side. Click for illustration

Circa: This is a term that you may hear mentioned when someone is describing the date of a knife. It simply means around or approximately. For instance, circa 1930 means approximately 1930.

Clasp: A style of jack knife that curves upward at the end. Click for illustration

Clip: An accessory on some knives used to attach a knife to clothing or a belt. Click for illustration

Clip Blade: The clip blade is generally the most common blade found on American folding knives.  They have a concave curve from the back of the blade to the point, and a cutting edge that slopes upward to the point.  These features make them extremely versatile and enable them to perform almost any cutting tasks.  Some of these blades have a longer concave curve on the top that generally makes for a more narrow blade.  The narrower blade creates a sharper tip that is better suited for detail work but are not as strong.  The narrow clips are often called California clips, muskrat clips, or Turkish clips. Click for illustration

Concave Grind: A grind that results in a blade bevel that tapers from the spine to the edge in an arched manner. It is the easiest grind to keep sharp, but has a weak edge that will chip easier than most other grinds. Click for illustration

Coping Blade:  These are narrow blades that have a sharp point.  The edge is flat like a sheepsfoot, but the back angles sharply from the spine.  They are ideal for cutting patterns on a flat surface.  Also, their thin size makes them handy when cutting in tight spaces. Click for illustration

Cover: The material covering the liner between the bolsters. Click here for illustration

Crink: A bend at the beginning of the tang of a multi-blade knife that prevents the blades from rubbing one another. Click here for illustration

Damascus steel: Very beautiful steel that is crafted by incorporating both hard and soft steel and welding and layering them together. Click here for illustration

Drop-Point Blade:  The drop-point style blade has a convex curve on the back that slopes downward toward the point, and a cutting edge that slopes upward in a slightly more dramatic fashion to the point.  These features create a wide tip that is very stout and ideal for heavier tasks.  The wider tip is not as handy for penetrating through an object as the spear and clip blade. Click here for illustration

Easy Opener: This is a style of knife handle that has a curve shaped cut out that exposes enough of the blade for the operator to grasp the blades between two fingers for easy opening. Click for illustration

Edge: The sharpened side of the blade. Click for illustration

Edge Bevel: The honed part of the blade that starts after the blade bevel and continues to the cutting edge. Click for illustration

EZ Opener: See Easy Opener.

Flat Grind: Also referred to as a V grind, it results in a blade bevel that tapers in a uniform fashion from the spine to the edge bevel. Most pocket knives are flat ground. Click for illustration

Front: It is the side of the knife with the company logo or the side that the master blade folds to.

Guard: The metal piece located where the blade and the handle meet. It is designed to stop the hand from slipping into the blade. Click for illustration

Handle: The handle of a pocket knife serves several purposes.  It serves as a sheath, handle, and spring mechanism.  Materials used in constructing handles range from deer antler to bone, hardwoods, synthetics, and various metals.

Hardness: The compactness of the steel molecules determine the hardness of the steel. Harder steel tends to hold an edge longer, while softer steel is easier to sharpen. A blades hardness is measured by the Rockwell test which is understood and accepted worldwide. A Rockwell hardness above 60 will be difficult to sharpen, but a hardness below 56 will not hold an edge very well.

High Carbon Steel: This describes any steel that is made up of .5% carbon or more. Blades made with high carbon steel sharpen more easily and hold an edge better, but are more susceptible to corrosion. The higher the carbon content, the more this is the case.

Hollow Grind: A grind that results in a blade bevel that tapers inward in an arched manner from the spine and slightly back outward to the start of the cutting edge. Click for illustration

Inlays: Any material inlaid into the handles of a pocket knife.

Jigged bone: Bone that has been given a textured finish. This is done for better grip. It also adds to a knife’s look. It was first used to imitate genuine stag scales.

Kick:  A projection on the front end of the tang that keeps the blade from touching the spring. Click for illustration

Laminated handles:  Handles that are made from various materials that are layered together and held together by an adhesive.

Lanyard:  A piece of leather attached to the butt of a knife used for carrying or holding or hanging from the belt, neck, or wrist. Sometimes referred to as a thong.

Liner:  An interior part of a knife frame located between the handle and blade edge (when closed) used to prevent damage, usually made of a soft metal that resists corrosion. Click for illustration

Liner lock:  A lock incorporated into the liner of the handle.

Lock back:  Design of knife that has a locking mechanism located on the back of a folding knife. The mechanism keeps the blade open in a safely locked position when open. Click for illustration

Long Pull:  This term refers to an extra long nail mark that runs the length of the back of the blade; from the tang to the swedge.

Mark side:  It is the side of the blade with the nail slot and company logo. Click for illustration

Master Blade:  This is the largest blade in a multi-blade pocket knife also known as the pocket blade.

Nail: A pin that holds the knife together. Click for illustration

Nail Mark or Nail Nick:  Located on pocket knife blades. It is a semi curved slot cut into the steel used for opening with a thumb nail. Click for illustration

New Grind:  This term describes a knife that has an even taper from the back of the blade to the tang.  It was used on some Case knives in the mid 80′s. Click for illustration

Pen Blade:  This blade is very common on knives with two or more blades.  It is popular because of its versatility  in performing smaller tasks.  The back and the edge of the blade generally slope evenly (at the same degree) to the point.   They are much like the spear blade but are smaller.  These blades  were originally designed to sharpen quill pens. Click for illustration

Pile side: The opposite side to the front or mark side.  Also called the reverse side. Click for illustration

Pins: metal pieces used to hold a pocket knife’s parts together.  They are usually made of brass or nickel silver. Click for illustration

Pruner’s Blade: These blades have an edge that curves in a concave fashion to the point.  The back of the blade curves in a convex type fashion to the point.  These characteristics result in a blade that resembles a hawk’s bill.  Because of this, they are often called hawkbill blades.  They were originally used for pruning shrubs and fruit trees, but are now more handy for cutting sheetrock, carpet, roofing paper and other such materials. Click for illustration

Pocket blade:  This is the largest blade in a multi-blade pocket knife also known as the master blade.

Retention: The degree to which a blade holds an edge.

Reverse: The opposite to the side of the blade with the nail slot and company logo. Click for illustration

Rockwell Hardness Test:  A standard test used to determine the hardness of steel whereby a diamond point is forced in a finished blade at a set pressure.  The depth of penetration is then measured. Hardness above 60 will be hard to sharpen, while hardness below 56 will not hold an edge well.

Run up: Click for illustration

Saber Grind: A grind that results in a blade bevel that is flat from the spine to about the middle of the blade where it then begins to taper toward the edge.  Ideal for heavy chores. Click for illustration

Scales:  Any material used to make the handle.

Scrimshaw:  The art of cutting or poking holes & filling them with ink to create meticulous designs. Often done to knife handles made of ivory or other soft materials. Some harder materials such as bone are used on occasion. Knife manufacturers have designed knives that have mechanically engraved images that some collectors refer to as scrimshaw. Click for an illustration of hand made scrimshaw design

Serpentine: Used to describes the shape of a handle.  Serpentine knives have an s curve, much like a snake or serpent (hence the name).

Serrated: Edge bevel that has teeth cut into the blade. Click for illustration

Sheepsfoot Blade: This blade has a flat cutting edge, and a back that slopes to the point.  The blade looks much like the hoof of a sheep (imagine that…..).  This blade is ideal in yielding a clean cut on objects lying on a flat surface. Click for illustration

Shield:  A metal inlay on the handle of a knife. It is often placed there as a trademark or decoration.  Many times, it will have a name on it or a symbol that identifies the maker. Click for illustration

Slip joint:  A term used for a folding knife that does not have a locking mechanism. These knives rely on a backspring for resistance in keeping the knife open.

Spear Blade:  This blade has a back and cutting edge that curves in the same fashion or degree and meet at  the point.  Some spear blades are more thick than others.  The thinner blades are ideal for penetrating through an object, while the thicker versions are slightly less handy for penetration, they are quite stout and are handy for heavier tasks.  The blade tip is less likely to break than the thinner version. Click for illustration

Spey Blade:  This blade has a very blunt point that makes it unsuitable for penetrating objects.  This makes them ideal in skinning.  They are much less likely to be accidentally poked through a surface.  These blades were originally developed for use in castrating animals. Click for illustration

Spine: The unsharpened edge of a blade opposite to the cutting edge, also known as the back. Click for illustration

Spring: A flat piece of steel kept under pressure by the rivet assembly that holds the blade in an open position.  They can be one end springs or two end springs.  One end springs hold a single blade open, while two end springs hold two blades open; one on each end. Click for illustration

Stainless steel:  There are many different grades of stainless steel, but almost all stainless steel blades contain a large amount of high carbon, so none are completely “stainless”. All are subject to corrosion from body acid, humidity, salt, etc.  The term has come to mean that the steel has less carbon and more cromium, and thus will stain less than most other steels.

Swedge:  An unsharpened bevel on the spine or back of the blade Usually toward the tip. Click for illustration

Tang:  The back portion of the blade that extends from where the blade attaches to the handle to the start of the edge. Click for illustration

Tang Stamp:  Any markings located on the tang of a knife. Most often, the stamp will have the manufacturer’s name, date identification, or other informative markings. Click for illustration

Walk and Talk: This describes the actions of a pocket knife when opened and closed. The walk describes the feel of the tang as it moves along the spring when the blade is opened. The talk refers to the sound of the knife when the blade is closed. A well adjusted knife “walks and talks” (has a nice strong snap and has blades that slide smoothly across the springs).

Wharncliff Blade:These blades have a strongly curved back and a flat edge. This design results in a needle type point that is ideal for cutting cleanly on flat surfaces and for cutting meticulous designs. Click for illustration