In the knife world, the tang of a knife is the unsharpened and often unexposed area of the knife blade that extends to and into the handle.
When the fixed-blade knife has a full tang, this indicates that there's a solid piece of metal from the knife blade that runs into the handle. A full-tang knife features a continuous piece of metal, which gives it its strength and structure.
Alternatively, a partial tang means that the blade extends partially and thinly through the handle. Today, you can learn about the different knife tang options and figure out more about handle materials and all the rest.
The Different Types of Tangs
Knives come in many sizes and shapes. Therefore, you can find different knife tang options on the market. Typically, though, they are referred to as having a partial tang or a full tang.
Many survival knives have a regular full tang. A full tang extends to the entire length of the handle. Ultimately, the handle features two pieces, which are fastened onto the tang with metallic rivets.
Generally, a full-tang knife is reliable, robust, and steadfast, making them ideal for survival and kitchen knives. Variations of the full-tang construction include hidden, encapsulated, and extended tang. These full tangs ultimately mean that the tang extends past the blade, but the tang ends at the base of the handle.
Partial Tang Knife (Half Tang, Stub Tang)
A partial tang blade is the opposite of the full tang. With partial tangs, they extend to a portion of the length of the handle material. Therefore, partial tang knives aren't as durable and strong as their counterparts.
Still, the partial-tang knife is often cheaper and easier to make. Those who want to invest in good knives may not wish to choose a partial-tang, though.
Stick Tang Rat-tailed Tang
The rat-tail tangs are controversial. Typically, they have a thick body and a significantly narrower handle. Though the rat-tail tang often extends the full length of the knife handle, they have a thin tail. With that, rat-tailed tangs are usually secured to the handle using a threaded pommel or bolt.
Hidden Tang Knife
Hidden tangs are a variation of the full tang. With a regular full tang knife, the width is often the same as the blade, but that doesn't happen with the hidden tang. Instead, they have smaller tangs compared to the cutting edge.
However, there's still plenty of handle material running through the knife's blade, so they are often safe and robust. Still, there's no visible tang, and you can't see the blade within the handle at all.
Tapered Tang Knife
A tapering tang means that the tang loses size as it goes through the handle. Therefore, it slopes down the knife handle. Tapered tangs are either a partial tang or full, and it depends on where the tang tapers.
For example, if it slopes toward the back and not the full length, it's a partial tang. Full tang tapered knives have a slope going the entire length of that handle.
Encapsulated Tang Knife
Encapsulated tangs are a full-tang knife. They extend for the length of the handle material, but you can't see any of it, so you may think it's a partial tang. That's because the handle material covers it. They've got the same advantages of full-tang versions, though they're often mistaken for partial tangs.
Skeletonized Tang Knife
With skeletonized tangs, larger sections of the tang get cut away during manufacturing. However, it extends through the handle, so it features full-tang characteristics. With that, a skeletonized tang is often a lighter knife because some of the tang stock has been removed.
Push Tang Knife
The blade of the knife gets pushed into the handle and then fastened during the manufacturing process with a push tang. Therefore, it's a partial, meaning the blade isn't attached to the handle. Ultimately, push tangs have a weaker blade, but they're easier to make. There are a few good quality options, but you might want to go with something you know is excellent.
Extended tangs are basically full tangs. Ultimately, it extends into the handle and also into the end of the handle. The result is a hammer pommel that you can use for various purposes. Most knives like this have tangs that stick out and feature a lanyard hole for more security.
How to Tell if It's a Full Tang Knife
Typically, these knives feature a strong blade material running through the entire handle to be considered full tang. Therefore, you could have a kitchen knife that is encapsulated, tapered, skeletonized, or hidden.
Many times, you can see the outline of the metal between the parts of the handle. However, if you don't see that, it doesn't automatically mean it's not a full-tang knife.
Generally, knife manufacturers try to make different styles to meet various needs.
What Are Partial Tang Knives and Full Tang Knives?
Full tangs are often called by these names:
Partial tangs are often referred to as:
Benefits of Full-tang Knives
The advantages of a full tang over partial tang knives are plentiful:
- Partial tangs could become loose with time.
- The joint between the handle and blade is stronger and can take as much force as you need.
- Handle breakage is reduced.
- You get more leverage because the balance point falls in the middle.
- It's more robust for full tangs and they are always a better choice for a chef's knife and other types commonly used in the kitchen.
Disadvantages of a Full-tang Knife
Knife makers worked very hard to ensure that there are few disadvantages of a full tang. However, you may find that it's a heavier tang with a sizable overall weight compared to partial tangs.
Generally, a full knife tang is much better than other options. The tang construction does matter for kitchen knives and any knives that you might use outside for various purposes.
Now that you understand the different knife tangs, it's time to look at what you have in the knife block. Replace any partial tangs and make life easier when cutting.