Anatomy of a Fixed-Blade Knife

Knife salesmen/women love to fling around the jargon of their trade. It immediately puts THEM in the expert class — not you. Today just might be a good day to level-the-playing-field a bit. Our sub-title could be:

More Than You May Want to Know About a Knife

We’ll examine a fixed-blade knife today.



Anatomy of a Fixed Blade Knife!


1The Blade – The ‘business end’ of a knife.

2Handle – How you grip a knife.  The issue of a tang comes in here but I will save most of  this discussion for later.  One of the tang’s most important jobs is to give balance to a knife.

3Point or Tip of the knife. Its main function is to pierce or create a point of entry.

4The Edge – The cutting area of a knife that extends from the point to the blade heel.

5 The Grind – Where the blade starts to get thinner. The area across the blade that starts at the thinning of the spine and ends at the blade edge.

6Spine – The top of the knife, opposite of the blade edge. It is usually thicker than the edge.

7The Fuller – An indentation on many knives that reduces the weight of the knife.  The fuller does not reduce the structural integrity of the knife, however.

8The Ricasso –  The thick part of the blade that has no edge; where the handle and blade meet.

9 The Guard – This metal barrier protects the hand from injury.

10 The Butt – The end of the knife.

11 Hole for the Lanyard – A method for keeping the knife attached to the wrist, belt, etc.

The advantage of a fixed blade is that it is strong (single weapon from point to butt of knife). It has no moving parts and is easy to make.

In the 2nd entry, I mentioned the ‘tang.’ The tang is the part of the knife not usually seen. It is covered by the wood, plastic or other material of the handle.

To me, the tang is how I determine the value of the knife. A full tang indicates that the blade metal completely fills the handle (and can usually be seen above and below the handle material – as in the photo below). The full tang is indicated below by the first red dot, on the top edge of the handle. The other dots are not significant for this discussion.



Full Tang Knife!


Knives with partial tangs (the metal of the blade extending part way into the handle and held in place by rivets or pins), may also be an excellent knife.

Of the partial tangs, I feel the ‘rat tail’ tang to be the weakest (the knife blade narrows in the handle, to look like a rat tail comb).

The ‘push tang’ is the one you do not want. The tang end extends less than 1/2 the way into the handle. The tang has been pushed in and rivets used to hold it in place.

The next time the salesperson throws a little jargon your way, you can throw a little back!


This blog is a companion to my website:


The 10 Commandments of Knife Use & Maintenance**


Golden Rules for Knives

Golden Rules for Knives


This topic is serious, the way I state it is not. I hope no one is offended.


And the Lord gave unto Abraham 10 Mighty Rules of Knives.

(First) “Thou shalt not let thy blade go dull.” A dull blade is a dangerous blade. It takes more pressure to use a dull blade, and accidents often happen when your hand slips or you lose control of the blade.

(2nd) “Thou shalt not hand thy knife to another – blade first.” If it is a folding knife, pass it on in a folded position. Hold a fixed blade by it’s spine (top, unsharpened edge) with the blade away from you, allowing the receiver to take the knife by its handle.

(3rd) “Thou shalt not use a knife’s weakest point (the tip) as a pry-bar.” Buy a small ‘chisel point rescue’ for daily use, and keep your knife intact.

(4th) “Thou shalt take thy time to sharpen thy knife blade.”  Use the sharpening system as instructed by the directions that came with it. More knife blades are damaged by poor honing than use!

(5th) “Thou shalt keep thy knife as clean as thyself.”  Most of the time, knives traspass where our hands don’t want to go – acids, oils, dirt, etc. Three things that knives come most into contact with are – salt, blood and sweat. They are corrosive and damaging to the blade.

Wash a knife in mild soap, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. Always wash blades before food preparation. To avoid contamination with bacteria, knives should be washed after working with meat, and before using it on other foods.

(6th) “Thou shalt not leave thy knife in water or exposed to heat/sunlight for long periods of time.” As water is the universal solvent, it can unglue the handle, or other parts. Excessive heat can warp the knife.

(7th)  “Thou shalt not throw thy knife – even in fun.” More knife tips are broken by careless handling than  people can imagine. If you are playing a knife throwing game, get one specifically for it – don’t take a chance on your prized knife(s).

(8th) “Thou shalt not oil thy leather sheath.” The oil discolors the leather and sometimes causes thread failure. Best practices: saddle soap for cleaning and dubbing (a water-resistant shoe wax) to protect your investment.

(9th) “Thou shalt protect thy blades during temporary storage.”  Use a light touch when adding a coat of wax to the blade. High carbon blades may need a bit more – a thin layer of petroleum jelly before storage.

(10) “Thou shalt be tender in preparing thy knives for long-term storage.” Knives and sheaths should be placed in plastic bags separately. Use a vapor-protector (desiccant – think little bags placed in shoe boxes to protect leather) in the bag.

And Abraham took these Golden Rules for Knives down to the multitudes. And all was good.

MDH,* who advises God regularly 🙂 has an 11th – Thou shalt not use metal on metal (don’t cut meat in the frying pan – use a cutting board).

This one isn’t nearly as catchy as the first 10. But ‘He who wants to be obeyed – and rarely is’ asked me to add this one.

** This posting was inspired by: Knives: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Knives for Fighting, Hunting and Survival. Pat Farey; 2003; $24.95)


This blog is a companion to my website: