Glossary of Knife Terms


A high-carbon, high-alloy, space age, stainless steel first used for knives by R. W. Loveless about 1972. At that time it was vacuum melted. Content: Carbon 1.05%, Manganese 0.5%, Chromium 14.0%, Molybdenum 0.4 – 0.55%.


A stainless spring steel often used in production knives. Very useful in tanto blades. Outstanding for axe heads. Content: Carbon 0.15 to 0.6%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 12-14%


An improved form of 420 that works well with high production tooling; commonly used by Gerber and other major brands. Content: Carbon 0.5-0.7%, Manganese 0.35-0.9%, Chromium 13.5%.


A high-carbon stainless steel used in most production knives and in some handmade knives. Works well through tooling. Content: Carbon 0.60 to 0.75%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 16.0-18.0%, Molybdenum 0.75%.


Content: Carbon 0.75-0.95%, Magnesium 1.0%, Chromium 16-18%, Molybdenum 0.75%.


The most popular high-carbon stainless used by custom knifemakers for many years. First used by Gil Hibben about 1966.Content: Carbon 0.95 – 1.20%, Manganese 0.40%, Chromium 17.0%, Vanadium 0.50%, Molybdenum 0.50%.

6061 Aircraft Alloy

A commonly available, heat treatable aluminum alloy. Used in heavy-duty structures requiring good corrosion resistance. Can be hot forged. Easily cold worked and formed in the annealed condition. Can be stamped, bent, spun, and deep drawn using standard methods. Machinability in the harder T4 and T6 tempers is good.


A metal, typically aluminum, that has been coated with a protective or decorative layer of oxide, through a process of electrochemical conversion. The anodizing process affects the surface as well as the interior the metal. The anodized parts are quite durable, do not tarnish, resist abrasions, and maintain their cosmetic appearance for a long period of time.


Type of Polyester pack cloth that is flame retardant.


A high-carbon, high-alloy, stainless steel. It’s Japan’s version of 154-CM, preferred because it is vacuum melted, whereas 154 is not. Content: Carbon 1.05%, Manganese 0.4%, Chromium 14.0%, Molybdenum 4.0%.


Content: Carbon 0.95-1.1%, Magnesium 0.5%, Chromium 13-14.5%, Nickel 0.49%, Vanadium 0.1-0.27%, Molybdenum 0.1-0.31%.


A Japanese stainless that fits between 420 and 440A. Content: Carbon 0.55 – 0.65%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 13.0 -14.5%, Nickel 0.49%, Vanadium 0.1 – 0.25%.


Widely used by top Specialty knife makers like A. G. Russellル, Spyderco, etc. The addition of Vanadium fits this steel between 440A and ATS-34 in performance. Content: Carbon 0.7 – 0.8%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 13.0 – 14.5%, Nickel 0.5%, Vanadium 0.1 – 0.25%, Molybdenum 0.1 – 0.3%.

Ballistic Cloth

A heavy nylon material used for gun cases and knife sheaths.


The belly is the curving part of the edge. Bellies enhance slicing ability, so you’ll often find yourself doing much of your cutting on the belly. Larger bellies often cause the point to be less sharp. Be mindful of this tradeoff when considering knife designs, balancing your desire for slicing against your desire for penetration.


Imagine the knife when it’s just a rectangular stock: The knifemaker puts the bar on the grinder at an angle and starts grinding an edge. This is a bevel. Technically, any plane taken out of the rectangular bar, along either side. Creation of the primary edge and the false edge typically involves a bevel.

Black Oxide

A flat black, anti-reflective coating put on tactical knife blades. Black oxide can be applied on steel, copper, and most stainless steel.

Blade Spine

The blade spine typically refers to the thickest and fullest portion of the blade. On a single-edge flat-ground knife, blade spine always refers to the outermost back of the blade. On a classic dagger, the spine refers to the fullest-thickness part of the blade running straight down the middle. On knives with false edges, the term “spine” is used inconsistently. Technically, the spine would be the fullest and thickest part of the blade where the main bevel meets the false edge bevel. However, blade spine is often used to describe the back of the blade instead, right over the false edge.


The metal material at the blade end of knife handle. Today these are usually made of nickel silver or a mild stainless steel. In older, less expensive knives they were often made of iron or mild steel.

Bowie Knife

Any large, fixed blade knife with a blade ranging from 6 to 14 inches. The original namesake knife had a blade that was probably 9 inches long, with a sturdy guard projecting from both the top and bottom of the knife between blade and handle. Invented by Rezin Bowie and made famous by his brother, Jim, who died at the Alamo.

Butt Cap/Pommel

The pommel refers to the end of the handle of a knife. Many knives have a metal cap over the pommel, called a butt cap. Often the pommel is interesting because of a decoration; however, there are different forms of working pommels.


Opening where fluid enters the reservoir of a hydration system.


A knife designed to do the delicate work of skinning around the eyes and lips of trophy animals. This work is called caping because you remove the cape of the animal.


The choil is an unsharpened section of the blade. If a guard is present, the choil will be in front of the guard on the blade itself. The choil is often used as a way to choke up on the blade for close-in work. The index finger is placed in the choil, and this close proximity to the edge allows for greater control. In addition, the choil is just in front of where the blade itself becomes part of the handle, an area often prone to breakage due to the blade-handle juncture. The choil leaves this area at full thickness and thus stronger.

Clip Point Blade

A blade on which the back line breaks and slants downward to produce a finer and more useful point.
Also, a blade format where the top of the blade has a cutout (or “clip”) at the top of the blade. The cutout is either concave or straight. Clipping the blade brings the point of the knife lower, for control. It also makes the tip sharper. Since the sharp point is one of the goals of this format, the clip is often accompanied by a false edge. This format is often combined with a good-sized curving belly, for slicing ability. The combination of a controllable, sharp point and plenty of belly makes the clip point an excellent all-around format.

CNC machined aluminum

The letters stand for Computer Numerical Control, which is the most proficient way to machine aluminum parts.

Common Mark

The short crescent shaped groove commonly seen on pocketknife blades.


CPM S30V (commonly referred to as S30V) was introduced by Crucible in 2002 in response to knife industry demand for a steel with more wear, corrosion resistance and toughness. It
has added Vanadium for higher wear resistance and Molybdenum for better pitting resistance. It has superb edge retention because it resists edge chipping. Contents: Carbon 1.45%, Chromium 14%, Molybdenum
2%, Vanadium 4%.


A double-edged or spey blade has two edges. The blade cuts in either direction, with a strong sharp point. This shape is primarily used for fighting

Drop Point

A blade design made popular in handmade hunting knives by Bob Loveless beginning about 1969, used earlier by Randall and others. Characterized by a slow
convex-curved drop in the point. The drop-point format lowers the point for control, but leaves the point extremely strong. It’s usually coupled with plenty of belly for slicing, making it ideal for
hunting knives. An extremely good all-around format that also shows up on tactical and utility knives.


The cutting portion of the blade.


Creating products that work with the structure, contours and natural grip of the human hand.

False Edge

Many knives have beveling along the top in addition to the bottom sharpening bevel. Bevels on the top edge are referred to as a “false edge”. The false edge can be either sharpened or not.

Fiskars Brands, Inc.

A subsidiary of Fiskars Corporation, which was founded in 1649 when a Dutch merchant was given a charter to establish a blast furnace and forging operation in the small village of Fiskars, near Helsinki. In the early years, Fiskars made nails, wire, hoes and metal reinforced wheels from pig iron.

Flat Ground

The surface of the blade is flat from or near the back of the blade to the beginning of the sharpening bevel. Most production pocketknives are flat ground, while most handmade hunting knives are hollow ground.


The framelock is a variant of the linerlock. Instead of using the liner, though, the frame functions as an actual spring. It is usually much more secure than a liner lock.

Full Tang

The tang is the part of the knife where the blade stops and the handle starts. There are many different terms used to describe what kind of tang a knife has, because the strength and other characteristics of the knife depend on the tang format. A full tang knife has a tang that goes the length of the handle at full width, and you can see the tang spine itself because the handle slabs are afixed to each side. This is the strongest tang format. To save weight, the maker can taper the tang so it gets thinner as it goes back into the handle; this is appropriately enough called a tapered tang. If the tang disappears into the handle itself, it’s called a hidden tang. If the tang thins out considerably once it goes into the handle, it’s called a stick tang.

French Mark

A Long Mark with short marks pressed into the steel at the bottom of the mark that looks like the top of a castle wall.

Long Mark

The long straight groove often seen on the main blade of stock knives.

Glass filled nylon

Many of today’s thermoplastic materials are improved by adding chopped glass fibers. Often as much as 40% of a product may be glass. Adds great strength.


The guard is a barrier between your hand and the sharp edge. It will project out of the handle, to stop forward motion of your hand. The guard can be a separate component that is soldered or pinned on the blade, or an integral design element that can be formed by including a projection on the blade blank itself. On some fighters, the guards are meant not just to protect your hand from sliding up on the blade, but also to provide protection from the opponent’s blade sliding down your blade and onto your hand.

Gut Hook

The unique blade shape is ideal for opening the underside flesh of game during field dressing.


The measure of hardness for tool steels is most commonly done with a Rockwell tester. (See Rockwell.) The best hardness for a given steel is not necessarily the best for another. Generally, steel blades should be hardened to the high 50s or low 60s on the Rockwell C scale. An exception to general hardness rule: Stelite (not a steel) will be about 42 on the Rockwell C scale.

High Alloy

A highly complex alloy, as opposed to a simple one.


A steel with .5 Carbon or more. The term high carbon steel is often used to mean a non stainless steel; this is incorrect, however, because all stainless steel used in knifemaking is high carbon.

High-Carbon Stainless

Any stainless steel used to make a knife blade must be high carbon to make a decent knife. Any high carbon stainless steel will stain, though less than other steels.

High-Speed Steel

Steels designed to machine other steels. These machine tools will hold an edge even when rendered red-hot by friction.


To a sword collector, the hilt encompasses the entire handle and guard. To the modern knife world, hilt and quillion mean the same thing: The guard (single or double) between the handle and the blade.

Hollow Ground

The concave area on the blade surface is ground on a round surface (the face of a wheel.) This forms a hollow just above the beginning of the sharpening bevel and just below the back of the blade.


Used as a noun, it means a fine stone used to put a finished edge on a knife or razor. Used as a verb, it is the action of finishing the edge of a knife.

Honing Oil

A light oil used to keep the surface of a sharpening stone free of steel deposits and debris.


A style of sheath knife. Used for hunting, camping and skinning.


Designs of metal or other material inlaid into the handles of a knife.

Insulated, external fill design

Easy access design to a pack where the cap to refill the reservoir system is exposed, while the main body of the reservoir is housed in an insulated area to keep your beverages cold.

Integral Hilt

The hilt and blade are machined or forged from the same piece of metal. The term “full integral” means that the blade, hilt, tang and pommel are all from the same piece of steel.

Knife, Boot

A knife small enough to be concealed in a boot, generally considered a defensive knife.

Knife, Combat

It opens cans of food, it digs foxholes, and it’s used in hand-to-hand combat.

Knife, Folding

Any knife that allows the blade to be folded into the handle. Pocketknives, Folding hunters, etc.

Knife, Gentlemen’s

Any knife that is trim and elegant in form. It can be carried without embarrassment anywhere, because it conveys prestige.

Knife, Hunting

A knife used for skinning and butchering large and small game. Today it usually means a knife with a blade of 3 to 6 inches with a guard between the blade and the handle. But originally, it was a kitchen knife carried into the field. New styles appear annually.

Knife, Pocket

Any knife that can be comfortably carried in a pocket. May have several blades. Almost always a folding knife.


A tool with a blade and a handle. The blade will have at least one sharp edge. The first blade could have been of bone or stone, while the first handle may have been a piece of hide used to protect the hand from sharp edges of chipped or broken stone.


A man-made material resembling rubber that can be molded into knife handles or handle parts to offer better gripping ability.

Laminated Steel

Tool steel with a very hard core, but with outer areas made of softer material that gives great strength. Harry Morseth began the use of this material in the U.S. about 1946. It had been used for centuries in Scandinavia and Japan.


Sometimes used to attach a knife to clothing or belt.

Lanyard Hole

A hole usually found at the butt of a knife handle to attach a thong or lanyard.

Laser Scrimshaw

Using a laser to mass-produce scrimshaw designs on knife handles.


Thin sheets of metal between the blade and the handle material of folding knives.


A liner lock has a leaf cut out of the handle’s liner. When the blade is fully open, the leaf springs open and blocks the back of the blade, preventing it from closing. Since the liner locks has no spring pushing against the blade, it has an incredibly smooth action. To unlock the knife you thumb the leaf out of the way, obviously using just one hand. The blade has a detent in it, and a small ball bearing embedded in the leaf drops into the detent when the blade is fully closed, keeping the knife from opening accidentally. This lock format is extremely strong when done correctly.


A folding knife that has a lock release on the back of the handle and spring tension against the blade. When the knife is fully open, a tooth at the end of the spring drops into a cutout in the blade, thus locking the blade safely in place. Pressure from a spring keeps the blade from accidentally opening. Pushing the release lifts the tooth out of the cutout, allowing the knife to close.


The flat area above and behind the hollow or flat ground area of the blade.

Rockwell Hardness (Rc)

The C scale is used for measuring the hardness of tool steels. The method involves pressing a diamond into the steel a precise distance. This scale is used and understood throughout the world.


High-Speed Steel that works well in blades requiring a hardness rating of 62-66 Rc. First used in American Cutlery kitchen knives and folders by Gerber Blades in the 1960s. Content: Carbon 85%, Tungsten 6.35%, Molybdenum 5.0%, Chromium 4.0%, Vanadium 2.0%.


A high-speed steel that’s very hard to work, but it makes a great knife with excellent edge retention. Very much like M-2. Content: Carbon 1.3%, Vanadium 4.0%.

Main Blade

The largest blade in a knife with two or more blades.

Mark Side

The side of the blade with the Nail Mark, which can be the obverse or the reverse side of the blade.

Mother of Pearl

The shell of the pearl oyster from the South Pacific; an expensive and popular knife handle material.

Nail Mark

A groove cut into the back of the blade for the thumbnail to easily open the knife.

Pocket Clip

A clip intended to keep a knife or other tool at the top of the pocket for easy access.


A strong synthetic resin used in molded products, such as knife handles, unbreakable windows and optical lenses.


The extreme end of the blade where the line of the back and the line of the edge come together.

Satin Finish

A finish that is not mirror-polished; the lines from the fine abrasive gives a satin appearance.


This refers to the handle parts on each side of a full tang hunting knife, or the parts on the sides of a pocketknife or folder.


Scallops in the edge that allow a sawing action; ideal for cutting things like seat-belts and plastic rope.


A method for carrying a knife, tool, light, etc., on your belt, pack or anywhere a strap is. Sheaths are made of ballistic nylon, leather, kydex and various other materials. Sheaths usually come with a Velcro or snap closure.

Sheepfoot Blade

A straight edge with the back of the blade falling in a strong curve to the point of the blade.


Material layered between the handle material and the hilt or guard of the knife; generally a contrasting color.

Spear Point Blade

The edge and the back of the blade curve to each other and meet in the middle.

Spring Steel

Any tool steel that will remain flexible when properly heat-treated.


A bevel grind on the edge of the back of a blade. If it were sharp it would not be a swedge, but would be a False Edge.


The tang is the part of the knife where the blade stops and the handle starts. There are many different terms used to describe what kind of tang a knife has, because the strength and other characteristics of the knife depend on the tang format. A full tang knife has a tang that goes the length of the handle at full width, and you can see the tang spine itself because the handle slabs are afixed to each side. This is the strongest tang format. To save weight, the maker can taper the tang so it gets thinner as it goes back into the handle; this is appropriately enough called a tapered tang. If the tang disappears into the handle itself, it’s called a hidden tang. If the tang thins out considerably once it goes into the handle, it’s called a stick tang.


The classic Japanese tanto shape has the point exactly inline with the spine of the blade, and has a graceful belly curve. Most tantos seen on the American cutlery market are the Americanized tanto format. Like the Japanese tanto, the Americanized tanto has a high-point in-line with the spine. A flat grind is applied to the point, leaving it very thick and massively strong. The front edge meets the bottom edge at an obtuse angle, rather than curving to meet it as in the Japanese tanto. There is a separate grind applied to the bottom edge, often a hollow grind to leave this edge extremely sharp. Other tanto formats have become popular also, and modifications such as clipping the point or applying a chisel-grind are often seen.


Plastic that’s been shaped using heat and pressure.


A substance that becomes soft and pliable when heated, without a change in its intrinsic properties. Polystyrene and polyethylene are thermoplastics.

Thong Hole

A hole at the butt of a knife handle intended for a wrist thong or lanyard. (See lanyard hole.)


A material that can be both hard and tough; widely used to armor jet fighters. About 1/3 lighter than steel. Very useful for knife parts, but will not hold an edge so is not useful as a blade.

Titanium Nitride

A corrosion-resistant, silvery, metallic chemical element that occurs in rutile and ilmenite. Its strength and light weight make it useful in the manufacture of alloys for the aerospace industry.


A hard, lustrous gray metallic chemical element with a very high melting point. It’s used in various high-temperature alloys, lamp filaments, and high-speed cutting tools.


A thermoplastic material used in molding handles for knives, generally containing 25 to 50% chopped fiberglass or Kevlarᆴ fiber or carbon fiber.