Many homeowners have sets of partial and full tang knives in their kitchens, but most wouldn’t be able to answer the question, “what is a tang on a knife?” If this is you, you’ve stepped upon a pot of gold. All the answers can be found here at Learning the Kitchen.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about the part of a knife known as knife tangs. This includes their historical context, the various types of tangs, and most importantly, why you should care!
What is a tang on a knife?
A tang on a knife or a “knife tang” is the blade part extending through the knife handle material. The type of construction used for a knife’s tang significantly affects its performance and feel, and can even affect its market value. The two most common tangs are the full tang knife and the partial tang knife.
Related: Wusthof Knife Review
The concept of tangs is not strictly limited to kitchen knives. Anything with a handle connected to a metal blade or rod requires some degree of a tang to attach the two entities. Common examples outside of kitchen knives include screwdrivers, swords, spears, arrowheads, pikes, and more (1).
People didn’t give as much thought to how to build these tools back in the day. As a result, consumers would often not know the differences between the tangs of their products. Nowadays, it’s common practice for homeowners to research their home products to know if they meet their needs.
As such, knife manufacturers worldwide now make key product information readily available to customers. This includes the types of tangs used in their products.
Full tang vs partial tang
Moving onto the most common types of tang construction among kitchen knives, we have the full tang and the partial tang knife. As its name suggests, full tang characteristics involve the blade extending through the handle’s full length.
The tang may or may not be the same width as the blade itself. So long as it fills the entire interior of the handle, then it would be considered a full tang knife.
Similarly, partial tang means the blade only partially extends through the handle and does not fill the whole interior as a full tang knife does. Among the partial tang category is a series of various types of partial tang knives.
Generally speaking, there are a few notable differences in feeling and performance when we compare full tang and partial tang.
In terms of durability, full tang knives are naturally more sturdy and long-lasting than partial tang. That is because of the unique construction aspects of the different types of tangs. In addition, full tang knives are typically a similar width to the blade itself. They offer a more balanced knife that is less likely to snap in half under immense pressure.
However, remember that the full tang design results in a heavier knife due to the extra mass inside the handle.
Contrastingly, partial tang knives have very little mass inside of the handle. Although the degree to how much tang there with partial tang knives differs from brand to brand. As you can imagine, the partial tang knife is significantly cheaper due to its minimal requirements.
Unlike full tangs, the partial tang blade offers more maneuverability and wrist flexibility for the user due to the lighter knife.
Forged vs stamped
While not entirely relevant to the matter of tangs, it does help to understand the concept of forged vs stamped. Partial tang knives often get a bad rep because of their lower durability than the full tang knife.
On the other hand, full tang knives also get a bad rep regarding price, as they are often more expensive than partial tangs.
Forged and stamped terms refer to how a knife’s blade is constructed without regard to the handle. Forged blades are made by exposing a thick body of premium metal to extreme temperatures and manipulating its shape into the design of the blade. Stamped knives are made by laser cutting a piece of metal from a large sheet of stainless steel and heat-treating it from there.
Forged blades undergo more exposure to extreme temperatures during their crafting process. This allows them to sustain a stronger, more durable finish. As a result, they can retain their cutting edge for longer. For this reason, forged knives are significantly more expensive to purchase, and their thicker blades make them heavier too.
Contrastingly, stamped knives are cheaper to mass produce and feature a thinner blade, ultimately making them more cost-effective for consumers.
You should understand that both these types of constructions can feature any tang, partial or full. Remember the different benefits of forged vs stamped knives. With that in mind, if a full tang knife feels pricey, remember that you could go for a full tang stamped blade at a more reasonable cost.
Likewise, if you find forged knives a little out of your budget, you can check out some forged knives with a half tang, which could also affect the price.
Types of tangs
There is a plethora of knife tang options that are available in both full and partial tang designs, each offering unique benefits and aesthetics as featured below:
As its name suggests, the push tang (also known as the half tang) knife is constructed by pushing the blade into a pre-made handle. The handle material covers the whole tang and comes with a pre-made hole that the tang part of the blade is inserted into. The push tang design is only available as a partial tang knife as the steel only reaches about half the length of the handle.
The encapsulated tang knife pretty much works in the reverse of the push tang knife. However, rather than pre-making the handle and inserting the blade inside, encapsulated tang knives have the handle material molded over the shape of the blade’s tang and secured into place.
This allows for more creative blade designs as they don’t need to conform to a pre-made handle with an insert for a specified tang size.
Perhaps one of the most aesthetically pleasing tangs is the hidden tang design. Hidden tang knives work by concealing the mechanism to which the handle and blade are attached. Hidden tangs typically feature a screw-like design at the bottom of the tang and a threaded pommel nut at the end of the handle in which the tang is screwed in.
Stick and rat tail tang
The rat-tailed tang may initially sound like an obscure name, but it makes sense once you understand its design. Basically, rat tail tangs feature a blade shape that is wide around the cutting edge, but has a very thin tail where the tang begins. The wide blade and thin tang resemble a rat’s fat body and thin tail, hence the naming convention (2).
Tapered tangs typically gradually decrease the blade’s width as it transitions into the tang. The thinning point could start from the spine to the pommel, the spine to the belly, or through the hollowing of the edges toward the middle of the tang. This type of tang tends to be affordable on the market as it reduces the amount of material used in the knife blade.
The skeletonized tang knife is certainly the most unique-looking tang design out there, as it strays from the typical linear design of most knives. Like the tapering tang method, skeletonized tangs also reduce the materials needed to craft the knife, though it uses a different execution method.
Instead of a gradually decreasing blade length, the skeletonized tang essentially starts out as a full tang knife with large sections of the metal cut out. This makes it more affordable and lightweight as a result.
The extended tang is the only type of knife tang whereby the blade’s tang extends beyond the handle itself. This results in a slight bump at the bottom of the knife with a piece of metal sticking out. One of the benefits of this design is exceptional durability, and long-lasting performance as the knife’s balance point becomes more centered.
What is a tang on a knife FAQ
How to tell if a knife is full tang?
You can usually tell that a knife is built in full tang by observing the handle and how the blade is connected to the handle. Of course, it is nearly impossible to tell for some tang designs, such as the hidden tang knife. That is the design’s point.
What is the purpose of the tang on a knife?
The purpose of the tang on a knife is to offer a greater range of ergonomics, durability levels, and costs of production to suit customers and suppliers.
Is a full tang knife better?
Full tang knives are typically better in terms of durability and balance but tend to be heavier than partial tang knives. Furthermore, full tang knives are often more expensive than other knives due to the additional materials needed for their construction.
What is the tang part of a knife?
The tang part of a knife refers to the part of the blade that is concealed by the handle material.
Which knife is most appropriate to cut meat?
The best knives for cutting meat are butcher knives, meat cleavers, chef’s knives, and santoku knives.
Are Bowie knives full tang?
Bowie knives are made in full tang as they need to be as durable as possible for high-pressure tasks such as hunting and fighting.
Is fixed blade knife full tang?
A fixed-blade knife uses full tang construction to maintain its shape while hunting.
What is the difference between a forged and stamped knife?
A forged knife is made through excessive heat treatment of a thick steel rod, while stamped knives are made by laser cutting a metal sheet into shape from a large sheet of steel.
(1) – https://weaponsofchoice.com/the-tang-of-the-blade/
(2) – https://web.jhu.edu/animalcare/procedures/rat.html