Parts of the Knife

You're familiar with the blade and the handle, of course, but if you're serious about knives you should know how to discuss their other parts.

  • The point is the tip of the blade; it comes in numerous varieties defined by their function, such as the clip point, the gut hook, and so on.
  • The tang is the part of the blade that continues into the handle. Only fixed-blade knives have tangs.
  • The bolster is the thicker part of the blade that touches the handle.
  • The sharpening angle is the angle the between the blade's edge and the center of the blade. A thin knife, like most hunting knives, has a lower sharpening angle.
  • The profile is the shape of the blade.
  • The butt (or pommel) is the weighted area at the end of the handle; it balances the weight of the blade.
  • The groove a knife makes in whatever it's cutting is called a kerf [sources: Encyclopedia Britannica, Fisher].

History of Knife Hunting

Knives are among the oldest weapons known to man. We've had som­e version of the knife since the Stone Age, when primitive hunter-gatherers chipped flakes from the sides of wedge-shaped stones to form blades [source: Encyclopedia Britannica]. Other early knives were made of bone or shell. Just like knives today, these early knives were sharpened on stone.

People were hunting with knives at least by the time of the ancient Egyptians, who fashioned wooden handles to hold their stone blades. Bronze blades were widespread in Europe and Asia by the time of the ancient Greeks. By the time of the Romans, it was common for blades to be made of steel, the material that still dominates knife production today.

By any standard, the Bowie knife (sometimes affectionately called the Arkansas toothpick) represents a major development in the history of the hunting knife. There was, in fact, no single Bowie knife; Jim Bowie owned and modified a series of knives until he had one that met his needs, which involved at least as much hand-to-hand combat as hunting. The Bowie knife has a large fixed blade and a clip point. Many Bowie knives feature an S-guard, a serpentine piece between the handle and the blade designed to deflect your opponent's blade from your hand. This feature is, obviously, less important when you're hunting animals, who tend to be unarmed.

Another major development in hunting knives also occurred in the 1800s: the Swiss Army Knife, the folding knife that put an entire miniature toolbox in your pocket. If you're using a knife as your primary hunting weapon, it's unlikely to be a folding blade like this one. But many contemporary hunters still carry some form of folding knife for field dressing, butchering, and general-purpose camping and woodsmanship.

How do people hunt with knives nowadays? Read on.