Full tang: How do you like your tang?

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Does a full tang really matter? Like any industry with roots in the medieval, knifemakig has its share of mythologies. In my opinion the “full tang” is a fine example of a mythology that has little credence in modern times. The tang is the part of the blade that the handle is attached to.

Some knives have a partial tang others what’s called a pin tang; some a rat-tail tang and othes a full tang, meaning that one piece of metal exists from tip to stern, which besides giving the knife the durability to last the ages, grants the wielder unheralded control over the tool.

Many manufacturers have abandoned fully forged, full-tang construction for the more efficient and economical composite approach in which different metals are used for the blade, handle. and perhaps even the bolster. These components are the welded or fused together in such a way that the knife appears to be forged from one piece of metal. Is this a bad thing? There was a time when I would have said yes.

But the full-tang tradition came out of swordmaking and, since my kitchen knives are rarely used against shields, armor, or other blades, I’ve decided that there are a lot of issues that are more important than the tang: blade design and metallurgy, balance, edge sharpness, edge durability, handle comfort, and overal stability among them.

Full tang Knife: Edges

Taper-ground

The standard edge on forged chef’s knives, boning knives, and paring knives is taper-ground; the cross section of the blade gradually gets thinner from back to edge.

Plain hollow-ground

Most often found on stamped blades, hollow-ground edges are very thin. They’re often easier to sharpen than taper-ground edges, but they lose their sharpness more quicky.

Granton (also called fluted hollow-ground or kullenschliff)

Oval-shape dents ground into the blade create air pockets between the knife and the food, reducing the area of the blade in contact with the food and thus reducing drag when the knife is slicing. These edges, which are fluted on one side or staggered on both sides of the blade are thin and very sharp.

Serrated

On bread knives, the serrated ege breaks through tough crust; on fishmonger’s knives or electric carvers, a serrated edge is useful for penetrating the thick skin of large fish when cutting them into steaks; on smaller vegetable or salad knives, the serrated edge is effective in breaking through the skin of vegetables such as tomatoes without crushing the interior flesh.

Scalloped

Knives with scalloped edges are used to cut many of the same foods as a serrated knife. The scallops are cut into only one side of the knife edge, and are rounded at the ends, not pointed; the rounded ends serve to protect the sharpness of the concave areas of the edge rather than to pierce anything themselves.

Those odd-looking white or black ceramic knives are extremely sharp and are said to hold their edge for years without service, which is a good thing considering their price. The other problem with ceramic knives is that they usually have to be sent back to the factory to be sharpened.