Glossary of Terms


A high-carbon, high-alloy, space age, stainless steel first used for knives by R. W. Loveless about 1972. At that time it was vacuum melted. Content: Carbon 1.05%, Manganese 0.5%, Chromium 14.0%, Molybdenum 0.4 - 0.55%.


A stainless spring steel often used in production knives. Very useful in tanto blades. Outstanding for axe heads. Content: Carbon 0.15 to 0.6%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 12-14%


An improved form of 420 that works well with high production tooling; commonly used by Gerber and other major brands. Content: Carbon 0.5-0.7%, Manganese 0.35-0.9%, Chromium 13.5%.


A high-carbon stainless steel used in most production knives and in some handmade knives. Works well through tooling. Content: Carbon 0.60 to 0.75%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 16.0-18.0%, Molybdenum 0.75%.


Content: Carbon 0.75-0.95%, Magnesium 1.0%, Chromium 16-18%, Molybdenum 0.75%.


The most popular high-carbon stainless used by custom knifemakers for many years. First used by Gil Hibben about 1966.Content: Carbon 0.95 - 1.20%, Manganese 0.40%, Chromium 17.0%, Vanadium 0.50%, Molybdenum 0.50%.

6061 Aircraft Alloy

A commonly available, heat treatable aluminum alloy. Used in heavy-duty structures requiring good corrosion resistance. Can be hot forged. Easily cold worked and formed in the annealed condition. Can be stamped, bent, spun, and deep drawn using standard methods. Machinability in the harder T4 and T6 tempers is good.


A metal, typically aluminum, that has been coated with a protective or decorative layer of oxide, through a process of electrochemical conversion. The anodizing process affects the surface as well as the interior the metal. The anodized parts are quite durable, do not tarnish, resist abrasions, and maintain their cosmetic appearance for a long period of time.
Colonel Rex Applegate
Col. Applegate he was one of the first members of the OSS (forerunner of the CIA), where his missions included clandestine operations behind enemy lines during WWII. Upon his death in 1998 at the age of 84, was highly recognized in the international community for his expertise in Close Quarters Combat. The training manuals he authored on hand-to-hand combat are still in use today. The Applegate-Fairbairn Combat Folder remains a highly sought after military knife and is currently being used by Special Ops forces.


Type of Polyester pack cloth that is flame retardant.


A high-carbon, high-alloy, stainless steel. It's Japan's version of 154-CM, preferred because it is vacuum melted, whereas 154 is not. Content: Carbon 1.05%, Manganese 0.4%, Chromium 14.0%, Molybdenum 4.0%.


Content: Carbon 0.95-1.1%, Magnesium 0.5%, Chromium 13-14.5%, Nickel 0.49%, Vanadium 0.1-0.27%, Molybdenum 0.1-0.31%.


A Japanese stainless that fits between 420 and 440A. Content: Carbon 0.55 - 0.65%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 13.0 -14.5%, Nickel 0.49%, Vanadium 0.1 - 0.25%.


Widely used by top Specialty knife makers like A. G. Russellル, Spyderco, etc. The addition of Vanadium fits this steel between 440A and ATS-34 in performance. Content: Carbon 0.7 - 0.8%, Manganese 1.0%, Chromium 13.0 - 14.5%, Nickel 0.5%, Vanadium 0.1 - 0.25%, Molybdenum 0.1 - 0.3%.

Ballistic Cloth

A heavy nylon material used for gun cases and knife sheaths.


The belly is the curving part of the edge. Bellies enhance slicing ability, so you'll often find yourself doing much of your cutting on the belly. Larger bellies often cause the point to be less sharp. Be mindful of this tradeoff when considering knife designs, balancing your desire for slicing against your desire for penetration.


Imagine the knife when it's just a rectangular stock: The knifemaker puts the bar on the grinder at an angle and starts grinding an edge. This is a bevel. Technically, any plane taken out of the rectangular bar, along either side. Creation of the primary edge and the false edge typically involves a bevel.

Bite Valve

This is the part of a hydration system that delivers fluids directly to the user's mouth. The valve is sealed until the user bites down on it.

Black Oxide

A flat black, anti-reflective coating put on tactical knife blades. Black oxide can be applied on steel, copper, and most stainless steel.


Soft sided fluid container of a hydration system.

Blade Spine

The blade spine typically refers to the thickest and fullest portion of the blade. On a single-edge flat-ground knife, blade spine always refers to the outermost back of the blade. On a classic dagger, the spine refers to the fullest-thickness part of the blade running straight down the middle. On knives with false edges, the term "spine" is used inconsistently. Technically, the spine would be the fullest and thickest part of the blade where the main bevel meets the false edge bevel. However, blade spine is often used to describe the back of the blade instead, right over the false edge.

Blood Groove

A groove in the knife blade that makes the instrument lighter and stiffer, also referred to as "Fuller." A popular misconception holds that the blood groove's purpose is to break the vacuum when the blade is being extracted from a victim's body. In fact, no such vacuum occurs.


The metal material at the blade end of knife handle. Today these are usually made of nickel silver or a mild stainless steel. In older, less expensive knives they were often made of iron or mild steel.

Bowie Knife

Any large, fixed blade knife with a blade ranging from 6 to 14 inches. The original namesake knife had a blade that was probably 9 inches long, with a sturdy guard projecting from both the top and bottom of the knife between blade and handle. Invented by Rezin Bowie and made famous by his brother, Jim, who died at the Alamo.

Butt Cap/Pommel

The pommel refers to the end of the handle of a knife. Many knives have a metal cap over the pommel, called a butt cap. Often the pommel is interesting because of a decoration; however, there are different forms of working pommels.


Opening where fluid enters the reservoir of a hydration system.


A knife designed to do the delicate work of skinning around the eyes and lips of trophy animals. This work is called caping because you remove the cape of the animal.


The choil is an unsharpened section of the blade. If a guard is present, the choil will be in front of the guard on the blade itself. The choil is often used as a way to choke up on the blade for close-in work. The index finger is placed in the choil, and this close proximity to the edge allows for greater control. In addition, the choil is just in front of where the blade itself becomes part of the handle, an area often prone to breakage due to the blade-handle juncture. The choil leaves this area at full thickness and thus stronger.

Clip Point Blade

A blade on which the back line breaks and slants downward to produce a finer and more useful point.
Also, a blade format where the top of the blade has a cutout (or "clip") at the top of the blade. The cutout is either concave or straight. Clipping the blade brings the point of the knife lower, for control. It also makes the tip sharper. Since the sharp point is one of the goals of this format, the clip is often accompanied by a false edge. This format is often combined with a good-sized curving belly, for slicing ability. The combination of a controllable, sharp point and plenty of belly makes the clip point an excellent all-around format.

CNC machined aluminum

The letters stand for Computer Numerical Control, which is the most proficient way to machine aluminum parts.


Brand name of a highly abrasion resistant type of nylon known for its excellent performance characteristics.


CPM S30V (commonly referred to as S30V) was introduced by Crucible in 2002 in response to knife industry demand for a steel with more wear, corrosion resistance and toughness. It has added Vanadium for higher wear resistance and Molybdenum for better pitting resistance. It has superb edge retention because it resists edge chipping. Contents: Carbon 1.45%, Chromium 14%, Molybdenum 2%, Vanadium 4%.
A double-edged or spey blade has two edges. The blade cuts in either direction, with a strong sharp point. This shape is primarily used for fighting knives.
Drop Point
A blade design made popular in handmade hunting knives by Bob Loveless beginning about 1969, used earlier by Randall and others. Characterized by a slow convex-curved drop in the point. The drop-point format lowers the point for control, but leaves the point extremely strong. It's usually coupled with plenty of belly for slicing, making it ideal for hunting knives. An extremely good all-around format that also shows up on tactical and utility knives.

Cargo capacity

Total amount of space a pack can hold of your gear (expressed in cubic inches or liters).

Certified "Class 2 L.E.D."

High Power LED's "Light Emitting Diodes" are classified as to their power level. Class 1 power output is -.5 milliwatts, while Class 2 is 1.2 milliwatts.

Chief Watson

The chief is a Plank Owner (Founding Member) of SEAL Team 2 and decorated combat operator during the Viet Nam conflict. The character "Patches" in Richard Marcinko's Rogue Warrior book series is based on Chief Watson and his accomplishments during twenty years of service in the United States Navy. He served three tours in Viet Nam, where he earned sixteen combat decorations including four Bronze Stars, all with Combat "V". Chief Watson teamed up with Bill Harsey to design the Silver Trident.

Common Mark

The short crescent shaped groove commonly seen on pocketknife blades.


Short for "Every Day Carry".


The cutting portion of the blade.


A means of going out or leaving; an exit; an outlet.

Ernie Emerson

Ernest R. Emerson is the authority on the design and use of knives as tactical weapons. Ernie is one of the top hand-to-hand combat instructors in the world and has instructed thousands of military and police units in surviving violent attacks and the use of knives as tactical weapons. Mr. Emerson collaborated with Gerber Legendary Blades to create Gerber's first "automatic" -- the Gerber-Emerson Alliance.


Creating products that work with the structure, contours and natural grip of the human hand.


A proprietary name that stands for Forward Action Spring Technology: Spring assisted blade opening mechanism designed for Gerber by custom knife maker Butch Vallotton.

False Edge

Many knives have beveling along the top in addition to the bottom sharpening bevel. Bevels on the top edge are referred to as a "false edge". The false edge can be either sharpened or not.

Fiskars Brands, Inc.

A subsidiary of Fiskars Corporation, which was founded in 1649 when a Dutch merchant was given a charter to establish a blast furnace and forging operation in the small village of Fiskars, near Helsinki. In the early years, Fiskars made nails, wire, hoes and metal reinforced wheels from pig iron.

Flame Retardant

Type of fabric that resists igniting when exposed to an open flame. The fabric may still catch on fire and will burn/melt, simply won't ignite with an open flame nearby.

Flat Ground

The surface of the blade is flat from or near the back of the blade to the beginning of the sharpening bevel. Most production pocketknives are flat ground, while most handmade hunting knives are hollow ground.


The framelock is a variant of the linerlock. Instead of using the liner, though, the frame functions as an actual spring. It is usually much more secure than a liner lock.

Full Tang

The tang is the part of the knife where the blade stops and the handle starts. There are many different terms used to describe what kind of tang a knife has, because the strength and other characteristics of the knife depend on the tang format. A full tang knife has a tang that goes the length of the handle at full width, and you can see the tang spine itself because the handle slabs are afixed to each side. This is the strongest tang format. To save weight, the maker can taper the tang so it gets thinner as it goes back into the handle; this is appropriately enough called a tapered tang. If the tang disappears into the handle itself, it's called a hidden tang. If the tang thins out considerably once it goes into the handle, it's called a stick tang.

French Mark

A Long Mark with short marks pressed into the steel at the bottom of the mark that looks like the top of a castle wall.

Long Mark

The long straight groove often seen on the main blade of stock knives.

Jeff Freeman

The Army trained Jeff to be an expert machinist, and then stationed him in Panama to perform aviation maintenance and toolmaking. Upon completion of his tour of duty he earned his BS in Manufacturing Engineering from Oregon State University while working full-time as a welder, machinist and ironworker. He joined the Gerber team in 1998. In the spring of 2000, he was promoted to Senior Mechanical Engineer and has been involved in new product design and development. Jeff's design credits include the Freeman Fixed Blade and collaboration on the Gerber-Emerson Alliance.

Joseph Gerber

Gerber Legendary Blades was established in 1939 by Joe Gerber. Joe was the founder and owner of Gerber Advertising Agency, which opened May of 1910. Joe eventually sold the agency to work full-time running Gerber Legendary Blades. Gerber Advertising Agency still operates in Portland Oregon.

Glass filled nylon

Many of today's thermoplastic materials are improved by adding chopped glass fibers. Often as much as 40% of a product may be glass. Adds great strength.


The guard is a barrier between your hand and the sharp edge. It will project out of the handle, to stop forward motion of your hand. The guard can be a separate component that is soldered or pinned on the blade, or an integral design element that can be formed by including a projection on the blade blank itself. On some fighters, the guards are meant not just to protect your hand from sliding up on the blade, but also to provide protection from the opponent's blade sliding down your blade and onto your hand.

Gut Hook

The unique blade shape is ideal for opening the underside flesh of game during field dressing.


Impervious to or unaffected by water.

William "Bill" Harsey Jr.

Growing up high in the mountainous Cascade Range of Oregon, Bill learned the value of sharp steel as a logger. He put himself through the University of Oregon working in the woods. His designs are in demand throughout the world. Bill's keen insight into the ergonomics of knife design have led to extensive collaboration with the various Special Forces units, here and abroad. His knives are carried today by members of the Army, Navy (including the SEALs), Marines and Air Force. He worked with the late Col. Rex Applegate to design the Applegate-Fairbairn Combat Folder series. Working with Chief Jim "Patches" Watson (QMCS, USN Ret., Plankowner SEAL Team 2) he designed the ultimate combat dive tool/knife


The measure of hardness for tool steels is most commonly done with a Rockwell tester. (See Rockwell.) The best hardness for a given steel is not necessarily the best for another. Generally, steel blades should be hardened to the high 50s or low 60s on the Rockwell C scale. An exception to general hardness rule: Stelite (not a steel) will be about 42 on the Rockwell C scale.

High Alloy

A highly complex alloy, as opposed to a simple one.


A steel with .5 Carbon or more. The term high carbon steel is often used to mean a non stainless steel; this is incorrect, however, because all stainless steel used in knifemaking is high carbon.

High-Carbon Stainless

Any stainless steel used to make a knife blade must be high carbon to make a decent knife. Any high carbon stainless steel will stain, though less than other steels.

High-Speed Steel

Steels designed to machine other steels. These machine tools will hold an edge even when rendered red-hot by friction.


To a sword collector, the hilt encompasses the entire handle and guard. To the modern knife world, hilt and quillion mean the same thing: The guard (single or double) between the handle and the blade.

Hollow Ground

The concave area on the blade surface is ground on a round surface (the face of a wheel.) This forms a hollow just above the beginning of the sharpening bevel and just below the back of the blade.


Used as a noun, it means a fine stone used to put a finished edge on a knife or razor. Used as a verb, it is the action of finishing the edge of a knife.

Honing Oil

A light oil used to keep the surface of a sharpening stone free of steel deposits and debris.


A style of sheath knife. Used for hunting, camping and skinning.


The process of adding water or fluids to the body in order to maintain or reestablish correct fluid balance.


Designs of metal or other material inlaid into the handles of a knife.

Insulated, external fill design

Easy access design to a pack where the cap to refill the reservoir system is exposed, while the main body of the reservoir is housed in an insulated area to keep your beverages cold.

Integral Hilt

The hilt and blade are machined or forged from the same piece of metal. The term "full integral" means that the blade, hilt, tang and pommel are all from the same piece of steel.


Ron Lake, a folding knife maker who achieved world prominence about 1972, invented the Interframeᆴ method of inlaying handle material in solid metal handle frames.

Knife, Boot

A knife small enough to be concealed in a boot, generally considered a defensive knife.

Knife, Combat

It opens cans of food, it digs foxholes, and it's used in hand-to-hand combat.

Knife, Fighting

A knife intended for killing sentries, for hand-to-hand fighting and little else.

Knife, Folding

Any knife that allows the blade to be folded into the handle. Pocketknives, Folding hunters, etc.

Knife, Gentlemen's

Any knife that is trim and elegant in form. It can be carried without embarrassment anywhere, because it conveys prestige.

Knife, Hunting

A knife used for skinning and butchering large and small game. Today it usually means a knife with a blade of 3 to 6 inches with a guard between the blade and the handle. But originally, it was a kitchen knife carried into the field. New styles appear annually.

Knife, Pocket

Any knife that can be comfortably carried in a pocket. May have several blades. Almost always a folding knife.


A tool with a blade and a handle. The blade will have at least one sharp edge. The first blade could have been of bone or stone, while the first handle may have been a piece of hide used to protect the hand from sharp edges of chipped or broken stone.


A man-made material resembling rubber that can be molded into knife handles or handle parts to offer better gripping ability.


Stands for Light Emitting Diode. L.E.D.s are tiny light bulbs that fit easily into an electrical circuit. But unlike ordinary incandescent bulbs, they don't have a filament that will burn out, and they don't get especially hot. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, and they last just as long as a standard transistor. L.E.D. lights don't force your eyes to re-adjust every time you use them. That makes getting around in the dark much easier.


Stands for "Light Strong Tough." The first pocketknives produced using a synthetic material.

Laminated Steel

Tool steel with a very hard core, but with outer areas made of softer material that gives great strength. Harry Morseth began the use of this material in the U.S. about 1946. It had been used for centuries in Scandinavia and Japan.


Sometimes used to attach a knife to clothing or belt.

Lanyard Hole

A hole usually found at the butt of a knife handle to attach a thong or lanyard.

Laser Scrimshaw

Using a laser to mass-produce scrimshaw designs on knife handles.


Thin sheets of metal between the blade and the handle material of folding knives.


A liner lock has a leaf cut out of the handle's liner. When the blade is fully open, the leaf springs open and blocks the back of the blade, preventing it from closing. Since the liner locks has no spring pushing against the blade, it has an incredibly smooth action. To unlock the knife you thumb the leaf out of the way, obviously using just one hand. The blade has a detent in it, and a small ball bearing embedded in the leaf drops into the detent when the blade is fully closed, keeping the knife from opening accidentally. This lock format is extremely strong when done correctly.


Brand name for our new Personal Hydration System.

Lock Out

One-hand adjustable accessory item that provides additional security to prevent fluid leaking from the bite valve of a hydration system.


A folding knife that has a lock release on the back of the handle and spring tension against the blade. When the knife is fully open, a tooth at the end of the spring drops into a cutout in the blade, thus locking the blade safely in place. Pressure from a spring keeps the blade from accidentally opening. Pushing the release lifts the tooth out of the cutout, allowing the knife to close.


Material used to keep screws from unscrewing.

Low IR

Acronym for "Low Infrared". Low IR means that when an article or product is viewed through night vision goggles, it emits low infrared frequencies, making it more difficult for the eye to see.


The unit of luminous flux in the International System, equal to the amount of light given out through a solid angle by a source of one candela intensity radiating equally in all directions.


Fluid container of a hydration system.


This is the opposite side of the knife than the obverse side. Knives are usually marked on the obverse rather than the reverse.


The flat area above and behind the hollow or flat ground area of the blade.

Rockwell Hardness (Rc)

The C scale is used for measuring the hardness of tool steels. The method involves pressing a diamond into the steel a precise distance. This scale is used and understood throughout the world.

Ron Lake

One of the very first knifemakers to become well known for folding knife designs.

Rick Hinderer

Rick Hinderer has been making custom knives full-time out of his Wooster, Ohio shop since 1987. His initial foray into knifemaking featured fixed straight blades. Gradually he began designing and making folding knives as well, and he is now recognized for his unique designs. Recently he returned to his design roots, making working and tactical knives. While incorporating modern design, Rick's creations are built for everyday function. The Game Pro, manufactured by Gerber Legendary Blades, was his first collaboration with a commercial knife manufacturer.


High-Speed Steel that works well in blades requiring a hardness rating of 62-66 Rc. First used in American Cutlery kitchen knives and folders by Gerber Blades in the 1960s. Content: Carbon 85%, Tungsten 6.35%, Molybdenum 5.0%, Chromium 4.0%, Vanadium 2.0%.


A high-speed steel that's very hard to work, but it makes a great knife with excellent edge retention. Very much like M-2. Content: Carbon 1.3%, Vanadium 4.0%.

Main Blade

The largest blade in a knife with two or more blades.

Mark Side

The side of the blade with the Nail Mark, which can be the obverse or the reverse side of the blade.


There is also a patrol pack, which can be used separately or combined with the main ruck for added load carrying capability. MOLLE can be configured in several different variations to fit the load handling needs of the mission. A connecting device on the vest is designed so that the external frame of the main ruck attaches to the waist belt of the vest to transfer the load from the shoulders and back to the hips where it can be carried much easier with less fatigue.

Mother of Pearl

The shell of the pearl oyster from the South Pacific; an expensive and popular knife handle material.

Nail Mark

A groove cut into the back of the blade for the thumbnail to easily open the knife.

Night Vision

A trademark used for a technology that enables vision at night, as by amplification of low light to create visible images or by detection of infrared wavelengths.

No Taste Retention

Polyethylene plastic that retains no taste, used to make parts of a hydration system.


Stands for National Tactical Officers Association. The NTOA is a national non-profit professional police association established by and for the law enforcement professional responsible for the response and resolution of critical incidents.


An International System unit of power equal to one joule per second.


Stands for Personal Flotation Device.

Quiet, water resistant fabric

Low noise fabric that withstands water penetration (like rain) for up to several hours. Not meant to be completely water tight or submerged.

Satin Finish

A finish that is not mirror-polished; the lines from the fine abrasive gives a satin appearance.


This refers to the handle parts on each side of a full tang hunting knife, or the parts on the sides of a pocketknife or folder.


On backpack hydration systems, the overall shape conforms to your back to create a lightweight, internal "frame". Also, this construction helps to keep the contents from shifting.


Scallops in the edge that allow a sawing action; ideal for cutting things like seat-belts and plastic rope.


A method for carrying a knife, tool, light, etc., on your belt, pack or anywhere a strap is. Sheaths are made of ballistic nylon, leather, kydex and various other materials. Sheaths usually come with a Velcro or snap closure.

Sheepfoot Blade

A straight edge with the back of the blade falling in a strong curve to the point of the blade.

Shut-off valve

Prevents leakage in a hydration system.


Material layered between the handle material and the hilt or guard of the knife; generally a contrasting color.

Spear Point Blade

The edge and the back of the blade curve to each other and meet in the middle.

Spey Blade

Blade intended for the castration of livestock. The cutting edge curves up strongly to meet a very minor clip. Most often found in stock knives or cattlemen's knives.

Spring Steel

Any tool steel that will remain flexible when properly heat-treated.


A bevel grind on the edge of the back of a blade. If it were sharp it would not be a swedge, but would be a False Edge.


The tang is the part of the knife where the blade stops and the handle starts. There are many different terms used to describe what kind of tang a knife has, because the strength and other characteristics of the knife depend on the tang format. A full tang knife has a tang that goes the length of the handle at full width, and you can see the tang spine itself because the handle slabs are afixed to each side. This is the strongest tang format. To save weight, the maker can taper the tang so it gets thinner as it goes back into the handle; this is appropriately enough called a tapered tang. If the tang disappears into the handle itself, it's called a hidden tang. If the tang thins out considerably once it goes into the handle, it's called a stick tang.


The classic Japanese tanto shape has the point exactly inline with the spine of the blade, and has a graceful belly curve. Most tantos seen on the American cutlery market are the Americanized tanto format. Like the Japanese tanto, the Americanized tanto has a high-point in-line with the spine. A flat grind is applied to the point, leaving it very thick and massively strong. The front edge meets the bottom edge at an obtuse angle, rather than curving to meet it as in the Japanese tanto. There is a separate grind applied to the bottom edge, often a hollow grind to leave this edge extremely sharp. Other tanto formats have become popular also, and modifications such as clipping the point or applying a chisel-grind are often seen.


Plastic that's been shaped using heat and pressure.


A substance that becomes soft and pliable when heated, without a change in its intrinsic properties. Polystyrene and polyethylene are thermoplastics.

Thong Hole

A hole at the butt of a knife handle intended for a wrist thong or lanyard. (See lanyard hole.)


A material that can be both hard and tough; widely used to armor jet fighters. About 1/3 lighter than steel. Very useful for knife parts, but will not hold an edge so is not useful as a blade.

Titanium Nitride

A corrosion-resistant, silvery, metallic chemical element that occurs in rutile and ilmenite. Its strength and light weight make it useful in the manufacture of alloys for the aerospace industry.


The "straw" through which the user draws fluid from the reservoir of a hydration system.


A hard, lustrous gray metallic chemical element with a very high melting point. It's used in various high-temperature alloys, lamp filaments, and high-speed cutting tools.


A thermoplastic material used in molding handles for knives, generally containing 25 to 50% chopped fiberglass or Kevlarᆴ fiber or carbon fiber.