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When knife people talk about knives, you will often hear knife and blade used interchangeably, but is there a difference between a knife and a blade? This may be a matter of semantics for some, but it is an exciting investigation nonetheless!
The difference between a blade and a knife is that a blade can be a part of a knife or a totally different tool with another intention and purpose than a knife. A razor blade is an edged tool, but it is not a knife, while a switchblade is a knife for combat or criminal purposes.
There are some crossover terms and terminology in the knife world, some of which may be confusing. We aim to clarify so that we all speak the same language when discussing knives and blades.
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Differences Between A Knife And A Blade
When it comes to tools for cutting and slicing, many people use the terms “knife” and “blade” interchangeably. There are essential differences between these two tools that are worth understanding.
There are several implied meanings to the word “blade,” which often come from the context in which the term is used.
The term “knife” is an all-encompassing word that also requires context to understand the type of knife being referenced.
To clarify these terms and avoid any confusion, we need some definitions of the terms to understand the meanings and inferences when knife users use these terms.
The Definition Of A Knife
A knife is a cutting tool typically consisting of a handle and a blade in its simplest form. In the definition of a knife, the word “blade” refers to the flat, sharp steel part used for cutting, slicing, and chopping various materials.
The knife handle is the part the user grips to use the knife safely and can be made from various materials. Many handle designs exist, but we will not get into that topic in this discussion.
When discussing the parts of a knife or talking about any knife and someone references the cutting part of the knife, it is generally called the blade.
For interest, here are all the components of a knife.
- The blade. This is the main cutting part of the knife. It is typically made of steel or another hard material and comes in various shapes and sizes depending on the intended use.
- The tang. The knife’s tang is part of the blade that extends into the handle. A full tang extends the length of the handle, while a partial tang only extends partway into the handle.
- The bolster. A bolster is the thickened part of the blade that sits between the blade and the handle. It adds balance and weight to the knife.
- The knife handle. The handle of the knife is the part held in hand to use the knife. It can be made of various materials, such as wood, plastic, or metal.
- The heel. The heel, often referred to as the heel of the blade, is the back, lower part of the blade closest to the handle. It is often used for heavier tasks such as chopping.
TIP: All knives have essential parts, such as a blade, handle, and sharp cutting edge. But pocket knives are quite different. Check out all parts of pocket knives in the article below:
What Are Parts of Pocket Knife Called? ALL Parts Explained
What Is The Blade When Referencing A Knife Part?
As we have mentioned, when talking about a knife as a tool, the term blade means a component of the knife, not the knife as a whole.
A blade on a knife has several components to it as well, which knife enthusiasts should be familiar with to understand what other knife specialists are talking about.
- The blade edge. The edge is the sharpened part of the blade that cuts through the material.
- The point. This is the very tip of the blade used for piercing and detailed cutting.
- The blade spine. The spine is the upper edge of the blade, opposite the cutting edge, which provides support and strength.
- The tang. This blade part extends into the handle, providing stability and balance.
Blades can be made from various materials, such as several different steel or ceramic materials. Each blade material has its own unique properties and advantages, such as durability, sharpness, and ease of maintenance. Blades also come in various shapes, depending on the knife’s intended purpose.
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- Santoku: Yoshihiro NSW Hammered Damascus Santoku
- Gyuto: Yoshihiro VG-10 Hammered Damascus Gyuto
- Nakiri: Yoshihiro Hammered Damascus Nakiri
When A Knife Can Be A Blade
There is a distinction in specific contexts between a knife and a blade in the function for which the tool is used.
The term “knife” generally refers to a knife being used as a domestic tool, such as a bushcraft knife, a kitchen knife, or a pocket knife. These knives are not commonly referred to as blades.
However, there is a context where a knife is called a blade. When a knife is used as a weapon or for criminal activities, it is often referred to as a blade rather than a knife.
In this context, a blade is used as a weapon for stabbing, slashing, and other generally unpleasant tasks.
While a blade in this context is still technically a knife, the purpose for which the knife is used determines the colloquial term used to distinguish it from other knives used for peaceful purposes.
The term “blade” can also be used for long-bladed instruments like swords. In this case, the term “blade” is often used interchangeably with the term “sword.”
TIP: There are many advantages to fixed blade knives, most practical, but some disadvantages in some circumstances. Find out more in the article below:
Explained: 8 Honest Pros And Cons Of Fixed Blade Knives
When A Blade Is Not A Knife
There are various cutting tools, often referred to as a blade, to differentiate them from a traditional knife. These are generally tools with a specific purpose and often do not have the shape of a standard knife.
In this instance, a blade is a cutting tool that does not resemble a knife and has a different purpose than a knife.
An example of this distinction is a razor blade. The shape of a razor is not the same as that of a knife, even though it has a cutting edge and is designed to cut material.
Another example is a rotary blade used to cut leather or fabrics. These tools have a circular blade that rotates as the tool is pushed through the material.
These blades are cutting tools but are differentiated as blades rather than knives due to their shape and purpose.
TIP: Find out my TOP 3 picks of pocket knives if you are interested in buying a pocket knife (Amazon link):
- Victorinox Swiss Army Rangergrip knife: Our favorite feature is the one-hand-opening lock blade, a crucial feature of this tool.
- Opinel No.8 Carbon Pocket Knife: Robust, reliable everyday carry knife, suitable for those who only want a knife blade on their pocket knife.
- Spyderco Para 3 Maxamet Pocket Knife: Lightweight knife featuring a blade made from high-performance Maxamet steel, with a full flat grind for edge durability and easy sharpening.
Knives and blades are terms that can be used interchangeably for knives, but the term blade can also refer separately to the cutting component of the knife. A blade can also refer to a knife used as a weapon or for criminal purposes.
Context is the key to understanding the reference when the terms knife or blade are used, and often difficult to define unless the context is known.
TIP: Why do knife blades chip, and what can you do when it happens? Find out the answer in the article below:
Common Reasons Why Knife Blades Chip & What to Do Now