A Guide to Knife Tang – Full Force Hunting

There are many different designs for full and partial tangs. The most common full tang designs have the handle cut in the same shape of the tang’s with handle “slabs” attached to the tang using screws, bolts, pins, metal tubing and even epoxy. This leaves Have you ever wondered what tang means when referring to knife making? This article has a bit more in depth look at knife tang and what each type of tang is. A must read for any camper or outdoors person.

Ever wondered what ‘tang’ means when discussing knives and cutlery? Here is our A Guide Knife Tang – Full Force Hunting so you always know what tang means and can participate in hunting conversations.

A tang, also known as a shank is found on the back part of a knife or sword. It’s the part that extends into the handle. The various tang configurations are classified by how they’re attached to the handle, their basic appearance and how long they are related to the length of the handle.

A “full tang” runs the full length of the handle’s grip, whereas a “partial tang” does not. However, a full tang does not necessarily take up the handle’s full width.


Full and Partial Knife Tang

Full Tang Knives or swords are generally made to withstand increased force, which would be leveraged by firmly gripping the handle to resist whatever material is being cut into by the blade. This offers a distinct advantage when cutting harder materials and/or when you have a dull blade. When you have a full tang, the amount of stock metal making up the handle is increased, which is beneficial since it changes the point of balance between the knife or sword and the handle. This is because usually the knife or sward part of the tool is quite a bit heavier than the handle.



When you add weight to the handle portion of a knife or sword, it offsets the weight of the blade so that the rotational balance point of the tool is more towards the hand, making it easier to manipulate. This makes the tool more nimble and agile. Generally, a more forward balanced blade, usually found in all purpose knives is good at chopping, but is less agile and harder to manipulate; a blade with a centre or rear balance is more agile, but is lacking in chopping power. When you make knives and swords for specific purposes, you must use whichever design would be best according to its intended use.

A knife or sword made with a partial tang is generally unable to leverage the same degree of force as a full tang knife or sword can against the resistance of whatever material is being cut. This means the amount of force that a user should use on this type of tool or weapon is limited. These designs are more appropriate for light-weight knives and swords, ones that are being kept very sharp and will be used to cut into less resistant materials. The most widely known partial tang tools would be scalpels and samurai swords.
Tang Styles Commonly Found in Knives and Swords

Most of the various designs can be used with either full or partial tangs and when using one, it doesn’t mean you can’t use another. For instance, a sword might have an encapsulated, hidden or rat-tail tang.


Descriptions of various tang designs and styles:

  • Encapsulated Tang:

The material making up the handle is moulded around the tang and fastened to hold in place.

  • Extended Tang:

In this design the tang would extend past the grip on the handle. When this is used on knives, it is usually so the tang can be used as a hammer or pummel.

  • Hidden Tang:

The tang is placed inside the handle and fastened in such a way that the tang and the fasteners are not visible on the handle. Low-priced ornate knives and swords sometimes have a hidden false tang made of a thin bolt that’s welded to a stub tang placed on the blade. It’s held in place by a bolt put through the handle, fastened by a pommel-nut.

  • Push Tang:

When the tang is pushed or inserted into a handle that’s already been made, and then fastened in place.

  • Skeletonized Tang:

This is when large sections are cut away along the tang, which is done to reduce the stock material to a simple framework and still provide enough support in the structure. This is an elaborate, more modern way of reducing the weight of the tang without eliminating a lot of the material’s strength and support. These are usually used as a way of creating storage space within the handle.

  • Stick and Rat-tail Tangs:

In this configuration the transition from the blade to the tang entails a sharp decrease in the amount of metal wherein the tang is thinner than the rest of the tool. This appears somewhat like the transition between a rat’s fat body and its much thinner tail. This tang style can often be seen in ornate knives and swords, which are not meant for actual use and therefore do not need a strong tang. These are not as strong or as sturdy as a full tang.

  • Tapered Tang:

This is when there is a gradual decrease in the width of the tang, in one or possibly more dimensions throughout its length. On a tapered tang there may be thinning on the spine from the blade to the pommel, or perhaps thinning from the spine to the belly, or even a hollowing out from the edges to the midsection of the stock of the tang. This design is not commonly used but it is considered an elaborate attempt to reduce the weight of the material in the handle without significantly sacrificing its strength along the vertical and horizontal vectors.

Now you never have to wonder what does tang mean. Thanks for reading and please browse the website for some other great articles.

Comments (1)

tang for a skinning knife?

By: on 3 January 2017
what kind of tang would you recmmend for a skinning knife? does it need to be full tang? thanks from frank napier.

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