Have you ever thought about what makes up a knife? Well, a non-enthusiast would think it’s just a blade and a handle. And while s/he’s not entirely wrong, there’s more to it.
There’s another part of the blade that goes inside the handle of the knife and is not entirely visible. This is what’s called a knife tang or shank.
You’d be surprised to know how important this invisible and mostly unknown part of a knife is, its different types, and how each of these types has different effects on the knife and its use. And that is exactly what we’ll be discussing today, come find out!
What is a knife tang?
A knife tang is the part of the knife blade that goes down the knife handle. This is what holds the knife together. If there were no such part, a knife wouldn’t hold together even upon minimal pressure.
Now, the average person wouldn’t give it a second thought. But if you’re aware of the different types of knife tangs and their particular features, you’d surely want to know the knife tang type before buying. Chefs are especially particular about the knife tangs since it greatly affects the durability and use.
If you’re starting as a chef or want to know more about all the different types of knife tangs, the following guide on knife tang types is all you need:
Knife tang types
There are various types of knife tangs on the market. They can be roughly divided into two major categories: full tang and partial tang.
|Full tang||Partial tang|
A full tang is usually shaped to match the shape and size of the knife handle. By definition, knives with blades that extend the full length of the handles can be considered full tang. A full tang may not extend fully through the handle in width.
The knife handle materials are secured on either side of the tang and are known as scales or handle slabs. Manufacturers use epoxy and rivets to fix the two sides of the handle. Sometimes you can see the knife tang between these handle slabs. Other times the tang is completely enclosed within these handle cases and is invisible.
Full tang knives are made from single-piece metals and are the strongest, most enduring knives one can get. Therefore, you’ll see their use in most of the intense circumstances such as cutting beef shanks and other areas that are tougher to cut.
- Can handle heavy-duty tasks where a large force is applied.
- Offers better balance and leverage since there’s more metal inside the handle that distributes the weight more evenly throughout the knife.
- Due to a higher amount of metal, full tang knives are heavier.
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A hidden tang knife is a variation of the full tang knife. Here the tang is encapsulated within the handle such that it is not visible. Another distinction is that the tang is thinner than the knife blade.
To make a hidden tang knife, the tang should be a bit longer compared to the handle. Then, fix it using a pommel. Another way is to weld a slight projection upon the tang and slot it into a notch within the handle. It’ll keep the tang in place.
Hidden tangs are preferred when aesthetics are of primary importance.
- Are aesthetically pleasing.
- Offer better control and are lighter to carry.
- Require complex manufacturing processes.
- Although hidden tangs are reliable and their strength is dependent on the manufacturer, they are not as strong compared to a full tang.
A skeletonized tang, like the hidden tang, is another variant of the full tang. But here, instead of cutting the tang sides, the center tang is removed to form a ‘skeleton’ of the tang.
The cutting starts beyond the first inch or so of the tang material to leave the weakest spot alone.
Skeletonized tangs are essentially used in throwing knives.
- Removing center tang material rather than the side material helps preserve a portion of the strength of a full tang while allowing for a lighter knife. This is where a Skeletonized tang offers better strength compared to a hidden tang.
- Offers better balance.
- Provides better stability and durability since a skeletonized tang has a greater surface area for the epoxy to fill.
- Since the material is removed from the tang, the strength of a skeletonized tang is not as much as that of a full tang. But, the strength varies on the shape and size of the cuts and, if done right, the difference in strength is not as significant.
In encapsulated tang knives the knife handle material is molded around the knife tang.
There isn’t much difference between a full tang and an encapsulated tang except that the tang is not visible. Since the tang is not visible, you might think of it as a hidden tang knife at first glance.
- Offers the strength of a full tang knife while being more aesthetic since the tang is hidden.
- There’s a limit to the knife handle materials since not all materials can be molded around the tang.
An extended tang is essentially a full tang with a small portion that extends beyond the knife handle. The part of the tang that extends out of the knife handle forms a thin pommel and contains a lanyard hole (in most cases).
The extended portion of the tang is shaped or curved to provide a safe and comfortable knife butt. It can also be used to fix the tang or as a hammer pommel.
- The extended portion can be used similar to a hammer pommel. For example, to crack nuts.
- Offers great strength.
- There might be some restriction to the kind of handle material that can be used to account for the extension. But apart from that, there isn’t much of a drawback to this design.
A partial tang knife has a tang that extends to a portion of the knife handle. Partial tangs save the amount of metal used in the construction and are, thus, cheaper to manufacture. But this cost-cutting comes at the stake of the user as partial tang knives are not balanced making them harder to handle.
The partial tangs can extend to three-quarter, half, or stub of the handle.
There are various kinds of partial knives being used to fulfill different purposes and so each of them has a different process of manufacturing.
Mostly, partial tangs are used for lightweight knives, folding knives, and decorative knives. Since decorative knives do not need to withstand any force or to perform, partial tangs are deployed as it saves a lot of material, thus, comes at a cheaper cost of manufacturing.
- Cheaper manufacturing costs.
- Lightweight. So, you don’t feel exhausted after extensive use.
- Ideal design for exchangeable blades.
- Unable to leverage as much force as a full tang knife because of the disproportion in mass.
- Less durable than full tang knives.
Notoriously weakest of the tang designs is the rat-tailed tang.
It gets its name from the fact that a rat–tail tang is extremely thin and extends till the butt of the knife. The extremely thin tang drastically affects the strength of the knife.
- Easier to manufacture.
- Requires little material for the tang.
- Weakest of the knife tangs.
- Lack of durability.
- Useless for heavy-duty tasks.
As the name suggests, a push tang (a variation of a partial tang) is pushed inside one end of a pre-manufactured knife handle and epoxy is applied to fix it.
Since the tang is enclosed within the knife handle, the need to polish it is redundant. This makes it cheaper to manufacture.
- Ease of manufacturing.
- Lack of strength compared to full tang knives.
A tapered tang happens to be in the middle of a full tang and a partial tang in terms of strength, durability, ease of use, and weight.
A tapered tang, as is suggested by the name, tapers off or narrows down as it approaches the end of the knife handle. Doing so allows saving upon material while retaining much of the integrity and strength of the knife tang.
A tapered tang usually suggests that the knife was custom-made. The manufacturer will gradually narrow the tang to create a balanced knife. Here not only the width of the tang is narrowed down but the thickness is reduced, as well.
- Lightweight compared to a full tang.
- Cheaper to manufacture and saves up on the material.
- Tapering can result in some weak points. But it can still be used for almost all kitchen and everyday use without breaking.
Which knife tang is best for you?
There are few parts in a knife more important than its tang. A knife tang is what provides knife stability, integrity, and strength.
For maximum strength and durability, a knife should be made from a single piece of metal that extends to the butt of the knife. Because any attachment or junction would cause stress concentration, making it the weak point of the knife.
While using the knife, you’re putting pressure on the blade which means the knife is under great stress. This stress concentrates at the end of the tang. So, if the tang extends till the knife butt, there is no opportunity for stress to concentrate and is, thus, distributed throughout. Therefore, you find full tang knives to be more durable because of the even stress distribution.
That would mean that full tangs knives are the best and all rest are rendered useless. However, that’s not the case.
Partial tang knives also offer great utility in certain scenarios. While it is true that partial tang knives are weaker compared to full tang knives, other factors come into play as well.
For one, partial tang knives are lightweight. Meaning, they are easier to maneuver and do not put much strain on one’s hand after extensive use, unlike full tang knives that are heavier.
Partial tang knives also use up less metal and are cheaper to manufacture.
So, which one should you go for?
Well, it depends on what you are using the knife for and how are you going to use it?
For tougher materials, a full tang would be ideal as it would provide more stability and resilience. But if you’re using a knife to cut fruits and other softer materials or foods, partial tang knives would be much more convenient to use especially if you’re going to use them for longer periods.
So, to sum it up, knife tangs are crucial to the stability and strength of any knife. Essentially there are two main types of tangs: full tangs and partial tangs. There are further variations of these two main types, however, as a rule of thumb full tang knives have more strength, are heavier, and are durable while partial tang knives are lighter, cheaper, and easier to use.
So, which one do you prefer?
If you’re looking to buy knives, you can go through our store and find full-tang knives perfect for your needs.