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Knives are flat, hollow or taper ground, beginning at the back of the blade and working toward the edge. The blade may retain visible grinding marks and this can have an effect on service or blade life of stainless-steel blades. The smoother the finish on non-stainless blades, the more resistant they are to corrosion.

A flat-ground knife resembles a thin wedge, thickest part at the back slanting in a smooth V shape to cutting edge. These knives are usually heavier than hollow ground and may have a broader cutting edge.

Hollow-ground knives have a concave area (or indentation) on each side gradually reducing thickness of blade to a razor-sharp cutting edge. The slant (or grinding) begins about midway on the blade. Another version is concave grinding which begins closer to the back and grinds the blade thinner.

Flat ground edges become thicker with sharpening; hollow-ground edges remain thinner as they are ground back toward the back of the blade.

Taper-ground knives have an additional grind which eliminates a shoulder, giving an even, more uniform and smooth taper. This minimizes the blade's resistance as it cuts, making it seem sharper.

Thickness of a knife blade also helps determine a quality product. Better small knives, such as parers, will be .062 gauge steel; utility and light slicing knives will be .085; and heavy slicing knives, butcher knives and cook's knives are generally .100 gauge steel or heavier.


V edging produces a straight carving edge. It is so-called because a cross-section of the blade shows a perfect V shape with the wide part at the back and point at the edge.

Cannell or rolled edging is modified V edging. The blade is ground like a V edge to within 1/32" of the edge, and then rolled. This produces a broader cutting edge like that used for butcher knives.

Two other kinds of edges - scalloped and serrated - are used for sawing or cutting hard-to-cut foods. The scalloped edge is a wavy edge with broad valleys between points. A serrated edge is similar to scalloped, but the teeth are much finer and closer together.

Scalloped edge requires a sweeping cutting motion and produces a clean cut necessary for meat. The advantage of the scalloped edge is that the points prevent the insides of the arcs from being dulled on the cutting surface. Serrated edges take short strokes and are inclined to tear the food; they are best for hot bread.

The two last types of edges are honed and polished Honed, found on a majority of household cutlery, is accomplished by grinding steel down to a cutting edge on a honing wheel. The polished edge is applied by "polishing" on a felt wheel after honing; it is extremely sharp and delicate.


Most handles are wood, with higher-priced knives having rosewood handles. Other better knives have walnut, beech, maple or high-quality plastic handles.

Handle construction is important. The knife must be balanced properly, the handle must be attractive and it must be made from a material that won't split, crack or chip. Right and left-handled contour-grip handles are also available.

A properly balanced knife has its greatest weight in the handle end. When the knife is held loosely in the hand, the blade should hang comfortably. This is especially important with long-bladed knives.

The tang-the portion of the blade extending into the handle-is attached by riveting, friction or cementing. Whichever method is used, the handle should be attached so it won't come under strain.

Tangs are full, half, round or flat. Full and half tangs are riveted in the handle; round tangs are cemented; flat tangs are friction held, sometimes with a pin driven through the end. A handle with a half tang has two rivets only and isn't as strong as one with a full, three-rivet tang. Better knives are constructed with no crevices to gather food where blade attaches to handle.

Cemented and friction-held handles are common among the less-expensive knives, although a round tang with a bolster may be found on fine carving knives, and professional carbon steel knives may have friction-held handles.

The biggest problem with friction-held handles is that they may loosen and come off if they get wet. Dishwashers are especially hard on them.


For a knife to perform its best, here are a few pointers:

  1. Use the knife for what it was intended. Don't try cutting wire with a carving knife.
  2. Store knives individually. Keep them in a cutlery rack, partitioned box or in the cardboard sleeves the manufacturer puts on them. Knocking or scraping together in a drawer can dull or chip the edge.
  3. Cut on a slicing board. It protects kitchen work surfaces and may retard edge dulling.
  4. Wash and dry after each use, by hand unless manufacturer tag indicates it can be washed in an automatic dishwasher.
  5. Keep blade away from direct heat.
How To Sharpen Knives
Types of knife sharpeners include: sharpening stone with fine and coarse sides; diamond sharpeners; "hard Arkansas stone," a ceramic hone abrasive resembling marble, and magnetized sharpening steel (rounded steel pole) with etched, lined or hard surface.
Small knives-hold sharpening stone firmly on table with left hand. Place knife blade against stone at 10 degree or 15 degree angle and draw blade against stone in diagonal direction, beginning at heel and ending at tip. Flip blade and repeat; continue process until blade is sharp enough.
Home cutlery-Hold knife along edge of flat surface, cutting edge up. Place stone against cutting edge about 10 degrees or 15 degrees from vertical position of blade. Stroke stone against knife edge as though to cut a thin slice of the sharpener. Reverse blade and sharpen on other side.
Hints: Knife blades-sharpen against edge.
Scissors-sharpen on bevel, not on side of blade.
Serrated edges-require special equipment; ordinary sharpening will destroy edge. May have to be returned to manufacturer.


Shears and scissors may look alike, but they differ in length, construction and use. They are made in both right and left-handed models, and since 10 percent of all humans are left-handed, it's worthwhile stocking a few left-handed models.

Shears measure 6" to 14", have one round handle for thumb and one oblong handle for two or more fingers and are used for heavy cutting tasks.

Scissors measure 3" to 6", have two small matching ring handles and are used for light cutting jobs.

Shears and scissors are made from one of four methods:

Cast-made from molten metal cast in a form. Cannot be tempered, set or satisfactorily re-sharpened. Are brittle and will break easily. Often fitted with rivet instead of screw.

Cold-pressed steel-make from pressed steel and are relatively soft. Do not hold sharp edge.

Hot-forged steel-made of one-piece hardened and tempered steel. Superior to cast and cold-pressed shears. Useful for barbering and light household work. Heavy-duty forged shears will cut carpet and leather for shoes.

Inlaid-blade section made of high carbon crucible steel welded to malleable steel frame and fitted with screw. Blades are hard enough for most household jobs. Present little danger of breaking and can be re-sharpened, if necessary.

Types of Shears and Scissors
Buttonhole scissors-small scissors with adjustable screw and notched blade for cutting buttonholes of different lengths.
Kitchen shears-long shank gives added leverage for heavy cutting. Top blade is serrated. Can be used to cut light wire, linoleum or rope as well as for food preparation. Some have notched grip for unscrewing jar caps and hook for opening beverage bottles. Some have decorator-colored handles.
Embroidery scissors-blades have sharp points. Used for fine needlework.
Paper shears-also called desk, stationer's, blueprint, editor's, advertising, banker's or paper hanger's shears. Have long, swinging blades (up to 16" long) that cut straight edges in large sheets of paper. Paper hanger's shears usually have wider blades and larger finger holes.
General use scissor-one rounded and one pointed blade. Length varies from 3" to 6".
Pinking shears-meshing teeth cut regular zig-zag edge. Important in dressmaking because they leave non-raveling edge. Can be used on plastics and synthetics. Some have ball-bearing pivot to cut with less effort.
Manicure scissors-cuticle scissors (right) have two sharp-pointed curved blades; nail scissors (left) have two short heavy blades.
Poultry shears-wide, long, curved blades. Some have ordinary shear handles; others have long-straight handles (shown). Specifically designed for preparation of chicken, turkey or other fowl.
Pocket or school scissors-two blunt points for safe carrying.
Scalloping shears-similar to pinking shears. Used for finishing seams in dress-making; also for cutting decorative edges on felt, suede, chamois, leatherette, oil cloth, plastic.
Sewing scissors-also called light trimmers; for lighter work like darning, ripping and millinery projects.
Straight trimmers-general purpose household or dressmaking shears.
Thread snips-unique shape, different from other scissors or shears. Are light-weight and designed to fit into palm of hand. Can be used on thread, fabric, ribbon, fish nets, string, light wire, harness ties, electronic filament, film, etc.
Tailor's shears-long blades that cut from point to point. Handles are bowed and shaped to fit the hand.
Barber's shears-used for cutting hair. Unlike other shears, have equal-size handles.
Bent trimmers-handles are bent slightly upward to cut dressmaking or other materials that must lie flat.


The best shears have blades of equal hardness and are set so that one blade cannot cut into the other, which impairs smooth operation and eventually damages one or both blades. They are fitted with a screw that can be adjusted and repaired if it gets loose or worn. Some can be snapped apart for cleaning of individual blades.

Lower quality shears are made of cast iron or steel and may break. Blades will not hold an edge for long and require frequent although unsatisfactory re-sharpening. They may be of unequal hardness so that the harder blade will damage the softer one.

Some have a rivet assembly which cannot be repaired if rivet gets loose, and when this happens, there is no way to maintain proper blade stress. Handle rings may be rough and cause scratches or blisters.


Taking proper care of shears and scissors keeps them in better working condition longer. Keep them dry, oil them occasionally around the screw and frequently remove lint and dirt from cutting edges. If they are kitchen tools (used with food), wash and dry them thoroughly. Follow manufacturer's instructions and file them for future reference.

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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