Knife Glossary

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10XX (Steel) - 1095 is the most common 10XX steel used for knife blades. 1045 steel has less carbon (.45%), where 1095 has more (.95%), inversely 1095 has less Manganese and 1045 has more. So in essence, 1095 steel would have more wear resistance, but would also be less tough. 1045 holds an okay edge, 1095 steel holds an edge great, and is easy to sharpen. Is not very corrosion resistant.
12C27 Sandvik (Steel)- A very pure alloy. Contains: 0.6% Carbon, 13.5% Chromium; 0.4% Maganese, .03% Phosphorus, 0.01% Sulfur, and 0.4% Silcon.
13C26 Sandvik (Steel)- This steel is similar in composition to the 12c27 steel but with a slight increase in Carbon and decrease in Chromium. This change in composition gives this steel a better edge retention.
14C28N Sandvik (Steel)- has an increase in Chromium for better stainless attributes not as much Carbon as 13c26 however what is unique is the added Nitrogen (.11%) which increases corrosion resistance and hardness to provide exceptional edge retention. Ultimate combination of hardness and corrosion resistance Sandvik 14C28N is the latest development in Sandvik's range of knife steels. Optimized chemistry provides a top grade knife steel with a unique combination of excellent edge performance, high hardness and good corrosion resistance.This new grade matches the previous highest achievable hardness without affecting the microstructure. Blade re-sharpening is therefore easy. At the same time, edge stability in terms of microchipping and edge folding or rolling is also good.With a recommended hardness range of 55-62 HRC, Sandvik 14C28N is ideal for knife applications which place very high demands on edge sharpness, edge stability and corrosion resistance such as chef's knives, pocket knives, hunting and fishing knives. Like most of Sandvik's knife steel grades, Sandvik 14C28N is fineblankable enabling efficient production. (information from Sandvik)
154-CM (Steel) - A high quality steel. Regularly found on Benchmade, Protech, Emerson, Piranha, and Hogue Knives. It has a carbon content of 1.05%. Holds an edge well and is a hard steel. It has pretty good toughness for how hard the steel is as well. It is tougher than 440C. This steel often gets compared to ATS-34 because the two are so similar.
4116 Krupp (Steel) - is used in a number of entry level Cold Steel fixed blades. Similar in composition to 420HC. However rumor has it that it has increased wear resistance. Contains: 0.45%-0.55% Carbon; 14%-15% Chromium; 0.5%-0.8% Molybdenum; 0.1%-0.2% Vanadium.
420 (Steel) - has about .38% carbon. The low carbon content means that this steel is very soft, and doesn't hold an edge well. It is low quality, low cost material. Many cheap knives tend to be made of this material because of its cost. Blades made from this material need to be sharpened frequently, and often chip. On the bright side, all 420 stainless steel is extremely rust resistant. This means that one of the best uses for this material is to make diving knives because of their constant contact with saltwater. Sometimes, you will also see 420J. 420J is the lowest quality 420 steel, but is also the most rust resistant.
420HC (Steel) - is used extensively in Buck knives. It has decent performance for comparative cost and has a higher Carbon content than other 420 steels. Contains: 0.46% Carbon; 0.3% Vanadium; 13% Chromium; 0.4% Manganese; 0.4% Silicon.
425M (Steel) - a material similar to the 400 series that has .5% carbon and is used by Buck knives.
440 (Steel) - there are three different types of 440 steel, ranked A-C, C being the highest quality. The hardest part of telling them apart is that often steel makers mark 440 on the tang of the blade and not the letter grade. This is especially true when it is one of the lower grades. This has led certain knife manufacturers to rename 440C as other things in order to differentiate the quality of the product.
5160 (Steel) - plain carbon steel (1060) that has been mixed with a little bit of chromium. There is not enough chromium to make it a stainless steel, but the chromium has been added to strengthen the material. This type of steel is known for its outstanding toughness.
52100 (Steel) - high carbon tool steel. It typically has .98-1.10% carbon. This steel is harder than many others, and consequently it holds an edge well. This is one of the best steels to use if you are worried about it holding an edge. This material is used often for hunting knives.
8Cr13MoV (Steel) - a steel containing .80% carbon with a typical hardness of 58-59. It also contains 13.00% Chromium, which means it is a stainless steel, so it has good corrosion resistance.
8Cr14MoV (Steel) - very similar to AUS-8. It is manufactured in China and has about .75% carbon content. Very popular on Kershaw and CRKT knives. Decent quality low end steel.
9Cr13CoMoV (Steel) - 440 steel with extra cobalt mixed in to strengthen the blade. Has about .85% carbon.
A
A2 (Steel) - very tough tool steel. However, it has less wear resistance than other tool steels. This steel is often used for custom made combat knives because of its toughness. It has a carbon content range of 0.95-1.05%.
Abalone - a type of sea shell used to decorate knife scales, noted for its iridescent color.
ABS - a common thermoplastic used in sheaths for knives. It is a good material for use in sheaths because of its high impact strength.
Alumite - this is a type of electrolytic coating put on aluminum. This process protects the material.
Aluminum (6061 T6) - 6061 T6 aluminum was developed as an aircraft grade version of aluminum. It is often used in knives as a handle material and works really well when anodized.
Anodizing - an electrolytic process which coats the metal. Usually this is done on knives with aluminum or titanium. The process protects the material. The oxide layer above the material has a higher corrosion and abrasion resistance, this is what protects the material underneath.
ATS-34 (Steel) - very similar to 154 CM. It has 1.05% carbon. It is also one of those classified in the super category. There are lots of high-end custom knives that use this steel.
ATS-55 (Steel) - does not have the vanadium that is present in both ATS-34 and 154-CM. This means that it does hold an edge as well, and has also been reported to be less rust resistant than ATS-34. It has a carbon content of 1.00%.
AUS-6 (Steel) - has .65% carbon. This is a low quality steel, comparable to 420.
AUS-8 (Steel) - has .75% carbon. Cold Steel has made popular use of this steel. This is tough steel, and holds an edge well. A basic knife steel, but very good quality.
AUS-8A (Steel) - is a slight upgrade from typical AUS-8 steel. It is found in a number of Cold Steel knives. Contains: 0.7%-0.75% Carbon; 13%-14% Chromium; 0.5% Manganese; 0.1%-0.3% Molybdenum; 0.49% Nitrogen; 0.04% Phosphorus; 1% Silcon; 0.03% Sulfur.
AUS-10 (Steel) - has 1.1% carbon. This steel is comparable to 440C. It has more vanadium and less chromium than 440C so it is slightly tougher, but also a little less rust resistant.
B
Balisong (Butterfly) Knife - a type of knife with two handles that rotate around a blade pivot. This type of knife is often used in Filipino martial arts.
Bayonet Grind - A blade style most popular on classic stilettos, a bayonet grind features a false edge on the spine of the knife that goes from the tip to about 2/3 down the spine of the blade. Often times if used on an OTF knife, the false edge will actually be sharp (i.e. a legitimate edge.)
Belly (Blade) - the steeply curved portion of the blade. Knives with large bellies are excellent for skinning or dressing an animal. The large belly offers more control when skinning, without the corners and sharp edges/shapes of a normal knife, which can result in a messy skin.
Bolster - metal between the blade and handle, strengthens the knife at critical stress points.
Bowie (Blade) - see picture below. Made popular by Jim Bowie in the early 1800's, Bowie Blades are known for being large fixed blades with a dramatic clip point, and typically bolsters or hand guards to protect the user. The dramatic clip point on the bowie blade is good for penetration when fighting, and useful when skinning animals.
Butt - the rear of the handle of a knife. Also called a "pommel."
C
Candela - the SI unit of luminous intensity. One candela is the luminous intensity, in a given direction, of a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency 540 × 1012 Hz and has a radiant intensity in that direction of 1/683 watt per steradian.
Carbide - a mixture of carbon and a less electronegative element (iron, tungsten, boron, calcium...) that is a very hard material. It is often used in knife sharpeners and on knives that feature glass breakers.
Carbon Fiber - a handle type made with thin strands of carbon (thin as a human hair) woven into patterns, then set in resin.
Ceramic (Blade) - does not rust, so they are popular for use in scuba knives. This material is really, really hard so it almost never needs to be sharpened. It can be almost impossible to sharpen them, but as a trade off ceramic blades are often very brittle.
Chamfer - a beveled edge that connects two surfaces. This is often done a knife handle where two different materials meet.
Chisel (Grind) - see Single Bevel grind. Also referred to as a "single bevel grind," a chisel grind (much like a chisel) is only sharpened on one side of the blade while the other side is flat. This grind is generally used for specific tasks, and is commonly found on Japanese cooking knives. The benefits of a chisel grind are: Ease of sharpening, strong and sharp edge, and for its ability to make a very clean and thin cut (like slicing a tomato into fine slices etc.)
Choil - the area between the cutting edge and the tang of the knife. This is where your index finger would sit when you hold the knife open. Choils make it more easy to choke up on a knife's blade giving more precise control for tasks requiring more dexterity.
Clip Point (Blade) - see picture below. Clip point blades are characterized by their "clipped" look, similar to a bowie knife, a clip point is good for stabbing as its narrow tip is easy to insert and remove.
Cocobolo - a type of tropical hardwood that is often used in handle scales. It is often orange, or reddish-brown in color.
Cordura® - a fabric that is often used on backpacks and sheaths. It is even used on apparel. It is very durable and doesn't tear easily.
CPM 10V (Steel) - one of the most wear resistant tool steels. It also has decent toughness for a tool steel. This is a great choice if you are looking for something with lots of wear resistance, but is not a really tough material.
CPM 154 (Steel) - contains 1.05% carbon. The CPM manufacturing process makes this steel different than Crucible’s standard 154-CM; the carbides are distributed evenly throughout the steel, which makes it tougher than 154-CM. CPM-154 also has good edge retention.
CPM 3V (Steel) - designed to be tough while also being a high wear resistance steel. For the most part it succeeds.
CPM M4 (Steel) - has excellent wear resistance and toughness. Has about 1.42% carbon.
CTS-BD1 (steel) - is a Carpenter Steel. This steel is unique because it is melted in a vacuum. Spyderco is currently experimenting with this steel. Contains: 0.9% Carbon; 15.75% Chromium; 0.6% Manganese; 0.3% Molybdenum; 0.37% Silicon; 0.1% Vanadium.
CTS-BD30P (steel) - is a Carpenter Steel. This is very similar to that of the S30V. Contains: 1.5% Carbon; 0.9% Cobalt; 14% Chromium; 0.9% Manganese; 0.5% Molybdenum; 0.25% Nitrogen; 0.4% Silicon; 0.2% Tungsten; 4% Vanadium.
Cutting Edge - the sharpened edge of the blade.
D
D2 (Steel) - much tougher than most stainless steels, but not as tough as most of the other tool steels. This steel does have excellent wear resistance. It has great edge retention but can be very difficult to sharpen. This is also a tough material to mirror polish, so it you will almost never see it that way. Its carbon content is 1.50-1.60%. D2's major drawback is that it is not really corrosion resistant at all.
Dagger (Blade) - see picture below. Generally characterized by a double edge (sometimes one edge is false or non sharpened) symmetrical blade with a small and pointy tip.
Damascus (Steel) - there are some reports that when the first Damascus steel was encountered it would cut through the sword blades that the Europeans were using. This is reportedly because the material was the perfect mixture of tough steel and hard steel. In the Middle East this type of steel had been made for thousands of years, but the knowledge of how to work this metal was lost at some point. Consequently, the type of Damascus made today is not produced the same way that it was made anciently. Today, pattern welded steel is made to reproduce the look of ancient Damascus steel. This type of steel is made by taking two (or more) layers of different types of steel and folding them together. As an example of how this might work, think of Play-doh that you played with when you were a kid. If you were to take two different pieces of Play-doh and fold them together over and over again, you have an idea of how this type of steel is made. After the two different steels are folded together, the steel is acid etched. The color contrast and patterns on the blade comes from the fact that the two types of steel etch differently. Damascus steel is considered a precious metal, because it is difficult to make, and can result in very beautiful knife blades. This means that knife blades made with Damascus tend to be expensive and only used for custom blades.
Detent - a hole machined into the tang of a blade. A ball bearing drops into the hole when the knife is closed, holding the knife in the closed position.
DLC (Diamond Like Carbon Coating) - is a combination of diamond and graphite used for coating blades.
Drop Point (Blade) - see picture below
E
EDC - every day carry, or a knife that will be used everyday.
Elmax (Steel) - a high chromium-vanadium-molybdenum-alloyed steel. It contains 1.70% carbon, and it has excellent edge retention, corrosion resistance, and compressive strength.
F
False Edge - see Spine Swedge. An edge that is not sharpened, though it gives the appearance of being another sharpened cutting edge. See also Bayonet Grind.
Filework - refers to the decoration cuts on the spine of a knife done by hand.
Fixed Blade Knife - a knife that is solid between the handle and the blade. A knife that does not fold, the knife is a solid piece and is permanently "fixed" in that state.
Flat Saber (Grind) - a blade edge that is ground completely flat without a radius that tapers from the cutting edge to a grind line down the center of the blade. Also, see picture below.
Folding Knife - refers to any knife that is not solid between the handle and the blade.
FRN (Fiberglass Reinforced Nylon) - a handle material similar to GFN, a nylon-based plastic that is reinforced with Glass Fiber. A very strong thermoplastic material, similar to GFN. This material is good as it needs zero maintenence and is extremely tough and durable. The cons are the "cheap" hollow feeling to the material.
Full Flat (Grind) - a flat edge, ground as a completely flat surface from the blade's edge to its spine. Also, see picture below.
G
G-10 - a handle material made with woven layers of fiberglass soaked in resin, then highly compressed and baked.
GFN (Glass Filled Nylon) - a handle material similar to FRN, a nylon-based plastic that is reinforced with Glass Fiber.
Gut Hook - a hook that is located on the spine of a knife. The hook makes it easier to field dress an animal.
H
H1 (steel) - is extremely rust resistant. For use in salt water type situations. Contains: 0.15% Carbon; 14%-16% Chromium; 0.1% Copper; 2% Manganese; 0.5%-1.5% Molybdenum; 0.1% Nitrogen; 6%-8% Nickel; 0.04% Phosphorus; 3%-3.5% Silicon; 0.03% Sulfur.
Hamaguri (Grind) - A blade edge with a convex grind. Also, see picture below.
Hawkbill (Blade) - see picture below.
Hollow (Grind) - A blade edge ground with a radius, leaving a concave shape above the cutting surface. Also, see picture below.
I
Integral Pocket Clip - a pocket clip that is molded as part of the handle, rather than being attached with screws.
J
Jigged Bone - this is bone that has been machined (jigged) in a pattern. Often times the bone is dyed to give it an aged look, or to highlight the shape/pattern.
Jimping - refers to machined cuts or cross-hatched patterns on the back of the spine of the knife designed to increase traction of fingers on the knife.
K
Karambit (Blade) - see picture below
Kraton - a handle material made of thermoplastic polymer.
Kukri (Blade) - see picture below.
Kydex - a sheath material made with PVC and acrylic. Fire retardant.
L
L6 (Steel) - tough and holds an edge well. However, like other non-stainless steel it rusts easily. Some consider this to be one of the best steels available for cutlery. It is also used frequently in saw blades, but any knife made from this material needs consistent maintenance.
Lanyard Hole - this one is pretty self-explanatory. It is a hole in the handle of the knife for a lanyard.
Leaf-Shaped (Blade) - see picture below.
M
M2 (Steel) - extremely heat resistant. It has about .85% carbon. It holds an edge really, really well, but it can be brittle on large knives.
M390 (Steel) - a high performance blade steel with superior cutting ability and wear resistance due to its high concentration of vanadium and chromium carbides. This is a popular steel used in surgical cutting instruments and in applications requiring a high finish. It features 1.9% carbon.
Mammoth Bone (also molar, and ivory)- Used rarely in custom knives. Found during mining operations in the far north, in areas with lots of glacial activity. The distinctive look is made from erosion.
Micarta - a handle material made by taking layers of linen cloths soaked in resin and pressuring them together. Can be colored several different ways.
Mirror Polish - a blade polished to the point that you can see yourself in the blade.
MOLLE - MOdular Lighweight Load carrying Equipment, typically knives with have sheath attachments compatible with this system.
Moran (Grind) - see Hamaguri grind.
Mother of Pearl - used often in custom knives, has an iridescent, cream color.
N
N680 (Steel) - a hard steel that contains .54% carbon. It has good corrosion resistance, especially in salt water.
N690BO (Steel) - an Austrian made stainless steel, which is comparable to 440C in performance. This steel has about 1.07% carbon.
Noryl GTX - a handle plastic that is high-strength and very lightweight.
O
O1 (Steel) - has good edge retention, because it is hard material. Its major problem is that it rusts rather quickly if it isn't maintained. It has a carbon content range of .85-1.00%.
O6 (Steel) - a much tougher metal than O1. This is one of the absolute best edge retention steels.
Orange Peel - refers to the grain polish of some steels, which gives a slightly rougher finish similar to an orange peel.
OTF (Out-the-Front) - These are knives that feature a blade that comes out the front of the knife, typically concealed within the handle. These knives come in either a single or double action.
P
Plain (Edge) - sometimes called a straight edge. This is an edge on the blade that has no teeth or serrations.
Q
Quillion - this is a handguard that protrudes from both sides of the handle where the blade meets the handle. Typically referred to as Bolsters or Finger Guards.
R
RC (Rockwell C measurement scale) - The Rockwell scale is a scale used to determine the hardness of a material. The test is administered by making an indent in a peice of steel (or any material) and measuring the depth of penetration.
S
S30V (Steel) - very tough, and yet still has great wear resistance. For how tough the steel is, it actually has very good hardness also, which is why many consider it to be one of the best choices for knife making. It has a carbon content of 1.45%.
S35VN (Steel) - considered an upgrade from S30V due to its toughness and chip resistance. However S30V will still hold a better edge. The addition of Niobium and Nitrogen increases corrosion resistance and hardness. Contains: 1.34% Carbon; 14% Chromium; 0%-0.5% Cobalt; 0.5% Manganese; 2% Molybdenum; 0.1%-0.4% Niobium; 0%-13% Nitrogen; 0%-0.3% Phosphorus; 0%-0.3% Sulfur; 0.5% Silicon; 0.4% Tungsten; 3% Vanadium.
S90V (Steel) - has superior edge retention. However, it can be almost impossible to sharpen. Right now custom makers are the only ones using this type of steel. Its carbon content is around 2.30%.
Scale - the handle material that is mounted to the tang of a knife. Many times these are replacements for stock knives to give them a tricked out look or feel.
Serrated (Blade) - see picture below
Sheepsfoot (Blade) - see picture below
Single Bevel (Grind) - Also called a chisel grind. The edge is either flat or hollow ground, but only on one side. Also, see picture below.
Sleipner (Steel) - is a non-stainless tool steel. Contains: 0.9% Carbon; 7.8% Chromium; 0.5% Manganese; 2.5% Molybdenum; 0.9% Silicon; 0.9% Vanadium.
Slip Joint - a folding knife that has a non-locking blade.
Spear Point (Blade) - see picture below
Spine Swedge - Also called a false edge. An edge on the back of the blade that is not sharpened. Also, see picture below.
Stag - a material used to decorate knife scales, typically made from male deer horn.
Stainless Steel - this is steel that has at least 13 percent Chromium so that it is resistant to rust.
Standard (Blade) - see picture below.
Stonewash - A blade finish that involves tumbling, or "washing" the knife blade in some sort of media or "stones" This look achieves a look with lots of random scratches, and is favored for its ability to hide or mask use on a knives blade.
T
Tang - the metal piece of the knife on which handle is mounted, it extends into the handle.
Tanto (Blade) - see picture below
Thumb Disk - Similar to a thumb stud, though typically found mounted on the spine of the knife, so that it is perpendicular to the long flat portion of the blade.
Thumb Slide - A Sliding button or "trigger" that deploys or retracts an OTF knife. Most commonly found on the thinner "spine" of the knife, though not uncommon for the slide to be on the front or larger "face" of the knife handle.
Tip Down - Pocket clip configuration in which the tip of the blade is facing down when the knife is in the closed position and carried in the pocket.
Tip Up - Pocket clip configuration in which the tip of the blade is facing up when the knife is in the closed position and carried in the pocket.
Titanium - is popular because it is lightweight and very tough. It does not hold an edge very well so it doesn't usually make a really good blade, but it has been used in diving knives and some custom knives. Extremely resistant to corrosion or rust.
Trailing Point (Blade) - see picture below.
Tritium- Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It is used commonly for items that need "self lighting" without using UV rays to "charge" the light. Commonly used in keychains, gun sights, and watches. Tritium will generally glow constantly for around 10-12 years before needing to be replaced.
V
Valox - a handle material made from reinforced resin.
VG 1 (Steel) - is a San Mai premium stainless steel and is considered an upgrade of the more common VG10. Contains: 0.95%-1.05% Carbon; 13%-15% Chromium; 0.2%-0.4% Molybdenum; 0.25% Nitrogen.
VG 10 (Steel) - another type of steel that gets referred to as super steel. It is a very high end stainless steel. It has vanadium which gives it extra toughness. This steel holds an edge really well. It is also very rust resistant. It has a carbon content of 0.95-1.05%.
W
W2 (Steel) - plain carbon steel with extra carbon. It is very hard and holds an edge well.
Wharncliffe (Blade) - see picture below. Positives include a reinforced tip when cutting, also the ease of sharpening because the blade is generally completely straight.
X
X15 (Steel) - has .40% carbon. This is a French steel that was developed for the airplane industry. It was developed to resist corrosion in the worst possible conditions. It is the most stain resistant steel on the market, and is a hard material. It is not very tough, but is especially good material for diving knives.
Z
ZDP-189 (Steel) - a Japanese powdered metal. It contains 3% carbon, and it has excellent edge retention. Hardness is between 64-66 Rc.
Zytel - a handle material made from glass filled nylon. Has a very high tensile strength, and is very durable/impact resistant.