Kitchen Knife Anatomy

Learn the terms for each part of your knife

Kitchen Knife Anatomy

German Double-Bevel With Full-Bolster

German Double-Bevel With Full Bolster
German Double-Bevel With Full Bolster Perspective

German Double-Bevel With Half-Bolster

German Double-Bevel Knife With Half-Bolster
German Double Bevel With Half-Bolster Perspective View

German Double-Bevel With No Bolster

German Double-Bevel Knife With No Bolster
German Double-Bevel Knife With No Bolster Perspective View

Unibody Hollow Handle

Some kitchen knife designs are integral, meaning the whole shape of the knife is made of the same piece of metal. Unibody designs do not have a tang at all, and feature a hollow handle.

Unibody No Bolster Hollow Handle Diagram
Unibody No Bolster Hollow Handle Perspective

Japanese Double Bevel With Western Handle (Only Bolster)

Japanese Double Bevel Knife With Western Handle
Japanese Double Bevel Knife With Western Handle Perspective

Japanese Double Bevel With Wa Handle

Japanese Double Bevel Knife With Wa Handle
Japanese Double Bevel Knife With Wa Handle Perspective
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Japanese Single Bevel With Wa Handle

Japanese Single Bevel Knife With Wa Handle
Japanese Single Bevel Knife With Wa Handle Perspective


Knife designs vary within brand, maker, or country of origin. Western handles customarily include a Bolster, and their design will change with the maker’s prerogative or cultural predispositions. Traditional Japanese Wa-Handles (Hidden Tang) do not include a bolster; they typically have a Ferrule (Collar) commonly made from wood or bone. Bolsters are steel and can be integral or forge-welded. They have a taper towards the blade, which can be blunt or gradual. They are located where the handle meets the blade, helping serve as a connecting point. Generally, their purpose is to add weight and balance at the fulcrum point. Some Bolsters will drop down from the handle towards the heel of the blade, becoming a finger guard. They can simply follow the profile of the handle, offering balance to the knife. It’s a matter of preference for the user on what type of handle is best for their work.


A full-Bolster is integral, meaning it is forged from the same piece of steel that the knife is made of. Its design drops from the handle to the heel, creating a finger guard. The Full-Bolster also offers strength which is beneficial when the knife may be used with a heavy hand or used on hard food products. This extra strength comes at a cost since the finger- guard is thicker than the blade and cutting edge. It inhibits the ability to sharpen the cutting edge at the heel properly. It’s recommended to carefully remove a micro amount of steel from the bottom of the guard to match the amount of steel removed when sharpening. Otherwise, the blade will form a dip in the cutting edge, and the knife will not perform as intended.

Full-Bolster Magnified

Half-Bolster, Semi-Bolster, Demi-Bolster

A Half-Bolster is also integral, meaning it is forged from the same piece of steel that the knife is made of. Its design drops down from the handle only halfway and allows for strength in the blade but enables full access to the corner of the heel when sharpening and cutting.

Half-Bolster Magnified


A knife with a bolster that does not drop down keeps the profile or silhouette of the handle. It can be either forgewelded onto the blade from separate pieces or integral. This design offers moderate weight and enables full access to the corner of the heel when sharpening.

Only Bolster Magnified

No Bolster

A common design for western handles is to exclude a Bolster altogether. In the past, knives without a bolster were considered to be ‘cheap.’ But, with innovations and the progression of materials and manufacturing processes, high-quality knives are often produced without a bolster, especially among small independent knife-makers who often use exotic woods, which are commonly a heavier material, not requiring the added weight. A knife without a bolster also enables full access to the corner of the heel when sharpening & cutting.

No Bolster Magnified


A knife’s tang is the portion of the blade that extends into the handle. There are different types of tangs. Different cultures have produced different styles. Tangs can be important in production costs, balance, weight, and feel.

Full Tang

Full Tang designs are classically found in German and Western knives. Although today you will see Western handles on Japanese knives. The tang extends fully to the butt of the knife and matches the silhouette of the handle. You can see the tang in between the handle materials. Metal pins help affix the handle material to the tang. More metal means more weight, especially if the design includes a metal bolster.

Perspective View Of Knife With Full Tang

Half Tang

Half Tang designs will also be found in Western handle designs. The tang stops at the halfway point, not fully to the butt, and should be affixed with metal pins. You will find this design feature in lower-priced knives. Ultimately, its construction is not as strong as that of a full tang.

Perspective View Of Knife With Half Tang

Hidden Tang

Hidden Tang designs are common in traditional Japanese designs. The tang is tapered and extends into the handle, stopping shy of the butt. It’s in the name; the tang is fully hidden from view. A hidden tang handle overall makes the knife lighter weight.

Perspective View Of Knife With Hidden Tang

No Tang Unibody - Hollow Handle

A Hollow Handle does not have a tang. It is formed from steel then welded to the blade. Hollow Handles can incorporate a bolster which is typically hollow as well. Higher quality designs such as Global, produced by Yoshikin, have sand inside the handle to achieve good balance.

Global Unibody No Tang Hollow Handle Perspective View

Handles - An Overview

A knife’s handle is just as important as the blade. It’s what connects the user to the tool. Without a handle, a knife would be useless. A well- crafted, comfortable, and thoughtful design matters as much as the blade itself. Handles are attached to the blade’s tang in different fashions. Either a hidden tang, full tang, or half tang. A wide variety of materials for the handle can be used, ranging from natural wood, stabilized wood, micarta, resin, bone & antler, and metal.

Once again, there are variables or trade-offs. Certain materials may be visually appealing but may require some amount of maintenance. Trust your gut and intuition with how the handle feels in your hand. Get a feel for the overall balance and character of the knife when choosing it. Understand that you may change your grip depending on what you are cutting. Avoid ergonomic handles that are exaggerated, as they tend to force you to hold the knife in one particular manner, not allowing for versatility. This purchase will be a tool that you will want to love holding, using, and admiring for years to come.

Variety of Kitchen Knife Handles

Handle Materials

Handle materials will play a part in grip, comfort, balance, and appearance. Wood just might be the oldest material used for knife handles. Nowadays, wood can be polymer or resin-stabilized, offering good wear resistance and durability. Other natural products are used, such as bone and horn. Natural woods and materials can be damaged more easily or are prone to cracking in arid climates if not occasionally treated with mineral oil. Synthetic materials such as plastic, micarta, and G-10 are commonplace. Metals like aluminum, titanium, and stainless are used as well.

Common or exotic hardwoods

Common or exotic hardwoods that derive from deciduous trees are also used, such as walnut, rosewood, magnolia, mahogany, cocobolo, and ebony. Make sure to treat the wood with a food-safe oil (mineral oil or cutting board conditioner) from time to time. This will help keep the wood supple and not crack in arid conditions or overexposure to water. Avoid oils that are not food safe or that can turn rancid, like vegetable oils.


Pakkawood is made of quality hardwood laminates. These laminates are layers of resin- impregnated veneers. Pakkawood is durable and heat resistant. A natural look can be achieved, or the resin can be colored.

Stabilized Wood

Stabilized wood uses a pressure or vacuum process to impregnate the wood’s structure at the cellular level with certain acrylics or resins to improve structural stability, offering more durability. It’s common to see burled wood and bright colors used in this method.


Plastic handles such as polypropylene, PP, and POM (polyoxymethylene) are common. These offer an affordable, durable option. Another cost-friendly option is TPE (thermoplastic elastomers). This is a rubberized plastic that is durable and creates a good grip when the handle is wet.


Micarta is a resin-based material made from layers of canvas, linen, or other cloth. These layers are coated in resin and then compressed with heat. Micarta is lightweight and durable. Often micarta has a texture added which offers great grip.


Another resin-based material is G-10. Composed of a resin-based fiberglass laminate. Texture is often added as well. This material is very resistant to heat and water but tends to be a little heavy.

Learning Center Sections

Learning Center Section: Know Your Knife

Know Your Knife

Dive deep into the fascinating world of knives, exploring their history, varieties, and the essentials everyone should know.

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Learning Center Section: Kitchen Knife Anatomy

Knife Anatomy

Uncover the intricacies of a knife's structure from tip to handle, enhancing your knowledge and appreciation for this indispensable culinary tool.

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Learning Center Section: German Vs Japanese Cutlery

German Vs Japanese Cutlery

A comprehensive guide to distinguishing between German and Japanese cutlery, highlighting their unique characteristics, strengths, and uses.

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Learning Center Section: Bevels And Grinds

Bevels and Grinds

Learn about the different bevels and grinds that give a knife its cutting edge, understanding their impact on your culinary adventures.

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Learning Center Section: Forging Techniques And Finishes

Forging Techniques and Finishes

Delve into the art of knife-making with an overview of various forging techniques and finishes that contribute to a knife's performance and aesthetic.

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Learning Center Section: Steel Types And Metallurgy 101

Steel Types and Metallurgy 101

Acquaint yourself with the fascinating science behind knife metallurgy, exploring various steel types and what makes a truly great blade.

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Chef Elan Sharpening A Knife On A Whetstone

Knife Care

Your guide to knife maintenance, ensuring the longevity and sharpness of your blades with proper care and handling.

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Learning Center Section: Knife Cost Considerations

Knife Cost Considerations

Navigate the factors that influence the cost of a knife, assisting you in making informed decisions when adding to your collection.

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Learning Center Section: Common Questions

Common Questions

Your go-to section for answers to frequently asked questions, providing clarity and guidance on everything knife-related.

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