All About: Knife Jargon

Since we are going to write about the features and usages of cutlery and culinary accessories every week, we thought you might like to know some the of the knife jargon that we are going to use.


Bolster: A bolster is the essential centerpiece that differentiates a forged knife from a stamped knife.  It is the mass of steel that connects the knife blade to the handle.  It provides weight, stability and balance.  These attributes make chopping easier.

Finger guard: A finger guard is the thin curved part of the bolster.  It was originally intended to place weight from top to bottom and create better balance and added heft and leverage to the rear of the blade.  For example, if you cracked a lobster shell, you would do it with the bolster, not the middle or tip.

Heel: The heel is the back edge of the blade.

Hone: To hone a knife, is to simply re-align the rolled edge. Every time a knife is used, the edge will either roll to the left or right making the knife’s edge seem dull.  If the edge has not rolled over completely, in which this case it needs to get sharpened, you can hone it or realign it with a steel.  The honing steel will push the rolled edge straight making the knife seem sharp again.  The better quality of steel, the easier it is to hone or realign the knife’s edge.

Forged knife: Knives that are constructed from one solid blank of steel are the creme de la creme of knives.  They are considered to be the most durable, longest lasting cutlery available.  The centuries-old practice of hot drop (heating steel up to soften it and then dropping 2 tons of force), hammer forging a single billet of steel is the original, authentic method of creating what is known as a one-piece, fully forged knife.  Each knife blank is individually made, one at a time, by a master forger.  The rough blank is then trimmed to shape and heat treated to achieve the best possible molecular structure for a long lasting, sharp edge.  The final finishing process is performed by many craftsmen, each an expert in the fit and finishing of a fine German knife.  Messermeister takes pride in hand crafting each knife through all 45 steps. 

Rockwell:  Rockwell is number system designed to assign a hardness value the steel of the knife.  The hardness of knife steel is generally between 50, as softer, and 67, as harder.  Optimum Rockwell for the steel of a kitchen knife is thought to be between 55 and 60.  Between these two points, the steel content is flexible enough to return to a sharp edge when you hone it with a steel but it is able to hold the edge without becoming brittle and micro-chipping.  If the Rockwell is too hard, then your knife can chip and crack.

Spine: This is the top side of the blade.

Stamped knife: Stamped knives are formed by the continuous feeding of long sheets of prefabricated steel through a die cutting machine.  It is much like when dough is cut with a cookie cutter.  The blades are then tempered, sharpened, and finished by either machine or man. (Messermeister finishes and sharpens the knives by hand.)  A handle is then attached to the knife.  Stamped knives are lighter and thinner than forged knives.  They usually lack the balance and heft of a forged knife and, therefore, requires the chef to apply more pressure when chopping.  They are less expensive than forged cutlery.

Tang: The tang is the steel that extends from the back of the blade or back of the bolster through the handle.  If it has a full tang, the steel will run through the entire length of the handle, and it is usually attached to the handle by metal rivets.  If it has a partial tang, then the steel runs through a fraction of the handle and is enveloped by a solid material handled.  Having a full tang or 3/4 tang makes the knife more balanced and also provides weight.

Taper: Taper or distal taper is the angle at which the steel thins out from both the bolster to the tip and the spine to the cutting edge.


The jargon still might be a little “knife-nerdy”, so just leave us a question or comment if you have any.  We are happy to help!

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