A Little About Knives

For the Collector

The tools we recognize as knives (not swords or blades or other specialized blades) fall into two general categories: fixed blades (straight knives) and folders. Both use the same general leaf shape descriptions. Here are a few examples:

Trailing Point


Drop Point




 Dagger (double-edged)
 Tanto (chisel grind)

There is an infinite number of modifications on each of these blade types, not all of which have names. Most of these styles can be rubbed in three different ways:

  • Flat groundHollow
  • Hollow ground
  • Cannel (convex) ground

The blade shape and the grinding style are often dictated by the intended end-use of the blade.The parts of the knife have their nomenclature. The following sketch illustrates a typical straight knife.Construction usually is one of three distinct types of fixed knives.

A “full tang” knife is constructed from a single, flat piece of steel that continues from the cutting part of the blade through the full length and width of the holder.

The handle slabs (or “scales”) are generally secured in place by bolts, screws, pins, or rivets.

A “stick tang” knife has a narrow extension of the blade material that extends to the pommel, where it is often secured with a threaded nut. The taste, in this case, goes through a hole bored in the center of the solid handle material.

A “Rabbet tang” knife uses a thin stick-type of tang that only runs partway through the handle, which is pinned in place. The handle material is often divided in half, with a mortise cut out to accept the tang. Hunters are for dressing

Hunters are for dressing game and come in an infinite variety of styles and sizes from small caping knives to serious butchering tools for the large game. Most fall into the range of 2″ to 6″ blade lengths, with 4″ being the most common.

Camp knives is a catch-all term for multi-purpose knives to be practiced in the bush. Needing any real clear definition, they are usually larger than hunters and can be utilized for planning food, intensifying tent stakes, chopping brush, and other similar duties.

Chute knives are appropriate-purpose blades intended for use by paratroopers who might need quick access to them for forming shrouds, as well as for survival activities.

Tactical knives are designed as offensive or defensive weapons, and often have finishes that provide low reflectivity, like bead blasting or powder coating.

Bowie knives are larger blades, usually with clip points and double guards, that fall into some sub-styles such as California, Searles, Sheffield, and so on.

Utility knives are no-frills tools, often with replaceable blades (carpet knives, X-Acto knives, and so on). There are tons of other styles, ranging from scalpels to pen knives, most of which have been designed and made for particular functions.

Knife aficionados gravitate toward blades made of higher-end materials (or in some cases, naturally higher tech materials), and fit and finish become more important than the intended use. Also, embellishment in the form of engraving, inlay, scrimshaw, carving, assume a larger role in these knives, as does the use of exotic steels like Damascus, meteorite, and so forth.

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