It is important to know knife sharpening terminology if you want to sharpen your knife.

In this article, you will learn all the parts of Western-style knives, the shapes of the edge, and words related to knife sharpening.

Keep reading and you will find out…

Everybody starts from somewhere

The day I visited a knife shop for the first time, an advertising mascot of the knife shop was standing in front of the door…

Let’s talk about the kitchen knife blade first.


Edge is the part you cut with

This is the part you sharpen when you want to have a keen knife.

It is located on the bottom of the blade.

And a kitchen knife consists of…


The belly of a knife is located in the center of the edge.

Usually, it has a rounded shape.

When you slice or shred, you use this part.


This part is located in the front of the knife blade.

You use the tip for detailed and precise work. 

Like for trimming the sinew and fat from meat, cutting fish skin, etc..

The point is also a part of the knife tip.


The front end of the blade is called a point. This is the thinnest part of the knife. 

It is the most important part when used to clean a fish.


This is the edge located next to the knife handle. This part is the easiest part to control.

You use this part for peeling vegetable skins.


The back end of the blade. You use this part for getting rid of potato eyes.

Some western knives don’t have this part or are rounded.

If your knife has a bolster, it won’t have a return. 


Spine is located on the opposite side of the knife edge.

You hold this part with the point of your finger, so you can use your knife precisely when you slice meat or sashimi.

You can also use a knife spine for getting rid of fish scales by rubbing the fish skin with it. 


This is the part you use for holding a knife.

There are many kinds of materials like wood, plastic, resin, and stainless steel.

And there are  many kinds of handle structures.


A bolster protects the handle when you put your knife into a knife holder.

This is a part between the blade and the handle.

There are two kinds of bolster.

Full bolster, and half bolster.

Typical German knife has a full bolster like this picture. 

For some people, it is easier to grip the handle if there is a full bolster.

It has a robust feeling.

Japanese knives have half bolster.

Knives that have half bolsters are lighter, and well balanced.

It is easy to clean and it has a return.

So you can use this part to get rid of potato eyes.

Rivets / Fasteners

This is a part that connects the handle and the blade.

For wooden handles, metal tacks are used as rivets.

If you compare  2 tacks to 3 tacks, 

3 tacks has more stability.


Scales are the parts that sandwich the blade into the handle.

There are wooden scales, resin scales, and stainless steel scales.

Wooden scales

Wooden scales are made of compounds of thin pieces of wood connected with grues by compressional heating.

It is still a wood material so it has good touch and grip.

But it is good at dealing with moisture.

And it has water repellency.

Compared to other materials, wood is the cheapest, and has less durability,

But it has the best hand touch feel in my opinion.

Resin scales

Resin scales usually come with a ceramic kitchen knife.

Resin knife handles can be made as antibacterial. So it is used in the food manufacturing industry.

It usually has many color variations. So factory workers can easily pick the right one.

Knives that have resin scales are very light

And water resistant.

Stainless scales

 Knives that are made of all stainless steel are the most durable.

Because most of the time, the knife handle will have a problem first after using a kitchen knife for a long time.

It is not the blade or the edge.

But the stainless steel handle won’t fall apart, or become rickety.

Because it is one piece.

The disadvantage of this type of handle is that it gets slippery when wet.

And if you want to use it in a cold condition, the handle gets really cold.


This is the metal part that is in the handle.

A longer tang has more stability and durability.


This is the end edge of a handle.

Some knives have a part for smashing a garlic.


A whetstone is made of abrasive particles and binder materials.

These particles are harder than steel or stainless steel.

And the binder material is sticking the particles together.

When you sharpen your kitchen knife,

These hard particles and the knife metal grind together and it shaves the knife edge.

Doing so, the knife edge forms a zig-zag shape like you can see on a saw.

Flattening a whetstone

When you sharpen your kitchen knife with a whetstone,

The knife and the stone are both shaved.

The surface of the whetstone will be gone, and a deeper layer of the particle shows up.

So the stone is still capable of sharpening knives.

However, in order to sharpen a keen knife, 

You need to keep your whetstone flat.

Use a diamond knife sharpener stone to flatten your knife.

Fineness of stones

It is ideal to have 3 kinds of whetstones.

A coarse stone, a medium stone, and a fine stone.

The fineness of these stones have an indicator using numbers and they are like this…

Coarse stone     #80 – #320

Medium stone   #400 – #2000

Fine stone.         #3000 –

When you want to fix a chip, use a coarse whetstone

It can also fix the bevel shape.

It is handy because it is powerful for shaving the blade.

For regular maintenance, you should use a medium stone and a fine stone. 

If you don’t have any whetstone and you are thinking of buying your whetstone,

You need to get a medium whetstone first

Because you use this the most for sharpening a knife.

You can sharpen your knife using only a medium whetstone.

But if you want to make the knife keener than that,

You will need to have a fine whetstone.


A fine whetstone will make your knife keener

And the sharpness will last longer.

The edge of your kitchen knife will also have a mirror polished look when you use this fine stone.


A fine whetstone is for finishing 

Natural whetstone

Long ago, all knife sharpeners used natural whetstones. 

The stone is harvested from the rocks from the hard strata, and they flattened the surface.

Nowadays, natural whetstones are very expensive.

Because the number of whetstone mines have decreased.

You also need to check the quality of the stone by eye since all stones are different.

So having a natural whetstone has a high threshold.

Artificial whetstone

An artificial whetstone is made of abrasive particles and binder materials.

Nowadays, almost all whetstones that you can find at a homecenter are artificial stones.

Unlike natural whetstones, this kind of stones don’t have unevenness.

The size of the particles in the artificial whetstone are all the same.

So it is easier to use.


A sharp knife has a thin edge. And the edge has a zig-zag shape.

However, after using the knife for a while, this zig-zag shape disappears and it becomes a straight shape.

If the edge has a straight shape, then your knife is completely dull.

This is because the knife edge keeps hitting the cutting board.

And the zig-zag peaks get rounded.

Sharpening means bringing the zig-zag shape back to the knife edge.


A burr tells you if the edge of your knife is well sharpened or not.

A burr is waste metal at the edge of the knife.

It forms when you shave a knife using a whetstone.

It looks like a really thin thread.

How to check for the burr?

Try to sense burr using your thumb

The burr is supposed to be on the other side of the edge that you just sharpened.

Place your thumb on the blade and move it towards the edge.

You will be able to catch some rough metal feeling there.

And it is the burr.

If you can’t feel anything, then you need to use your whetstone to sharpen more.

You must get rid of the burr to get to a sharp knife

After sharpening your knife, you have to get rid of the burr, so your knife can cut things well.

You can get rid of it by rubbing the edge of the knife on denim cloth, leather, or a piece of paper a few times.

Whetstone stand

A whetstone stand is useful because it can lift the whetstone to the right height.

If you put a whetstone on the table directly and use it,

Sometimes your hands touch the table.

It is quite annoying, while you need to focus on sharpening in order to avoid any injury.

A stone stand is especially useful when your whetstone becomes thin.

Because it can lift the stone.

A whetstone stand fastens the stone very well

You can adjust the size using the screws depending on the length of the whetstone.

So your whetstone won’t move or shake.


A strop is for getting rid of burr on the edge of your knife after using a whetstone.

You can use a few pieces of newspaper or cardboard as a strop.

But having a leather strop from a knife maker is ideal.

It makes the process easier.


This dirt looking thing on the whetstone is coming from your kitchen knife blade and whetstone.

If it is black, then these are small pieces of oxidized steel from the blade.

When you sharpen really hard metal on the whetstone,

This black looking dirt is an indicator to know if the knife is getting sharpened or not.

This dirt can also be tiny particles of your whetstone.


This residue has grinding power. Either coming from the blade metal or whetstones.

If you keep the residue on your whetstone, you can sharpen your knife faster.

But if you want to do mirror polishing the edge,

I recommend getting rid of it from the fine whetstone by running water.

Because there is a possibility that this residue will cause some scratches on the blade.

A crane neck

Does your knife have this shape?

This is called concorde or a crane neck.

It is such an unpleasant shape.

It happens when you try to fix the round tip.

Yes, the knife tip is sharp,

But now, this knife is so difficult to use because of this odd shape.

In order to avoid this concorde, you should lift the handle when you sharpen the kitchen knife.

So the tip of the blade touches the whetstone.

Shape of the bevel

Generally speaking, if the edge is sharp, it has a better feeling of cutting,

But the sharpness doesn’t last for a long time.

There are so many shapes of bevels in the world,

In order to deal with the problem above.

Convex edge

The bevel has a smooth curve. It means…

This type of bevel shape has less resistance to food,

So you feel good when you use the knife.

In addition, the edge becomes tougher. The sharpness lasts for a long time.

This shape prevents food from sticking on the knife blade.


The cross section of the bevel is straight. This is the standard shape of a kitchen knife.

The flat shape has strength in totality.

Toughness, weight, easier to sharpen, and easy to use.

It has a good balance.


You can see this type of bevel shape on a pocket knife more than a kitchen knife.

The advantages of this shape are its sharpness since the edge is thin,

And it is easily sharpened.

The disadvantages of this shape is that it has less durability.

The face of blade

This must have a sharp angle so that the edge can cut through ingredients easily.

These bevels are for a good feeling of cutting.

Primary bevel

This is the edge that actually cuts food.

Secondary bevel (Micro bevel)

secondary bevels are important for keeping the sharpness of your knife.

With secondary bevels, the sharpness will last 3 times longer than without secondary bevels.

Single edged bevel

A single edged knife is designed for Japanese food.

Especially for fish.

[infographic of single edge]

A knife that has a single edge looks like this picture.

Only one side is sharpened.

And it makes the kitchen knife really keen.

It works really well when you slice soft things like sashimi.

The cut looks fresh and beautiful.

Double edged bevel

A regular western knife has a double edged bevel.

The knife has bevels in both side, and you can push it evenly,

So it is easy to cut food straight.

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