Have you ever thought about what makes up a knife? A non-enthusiast would think it’s just a blade and a handle. And while s/he’s not entirely wrong, there’s more to it.

Another blade part goes inside the knife handle and is not entirely visible. This is what’s called a knife tang or shank.

You’d be surprised to know how vital this part is, its different types, and how each type affects the knife and its use. And that is precisely what we’ll discuss today, come find out!

What is a tang?

A tang is part of the knife blade that goes down the handle. This is what holds the knife together. A knife wouldn’t hold together without such a part, even under minimal pressure.

Now, the average person wouldn’t give it a second thought. But if you know the different types of tangs and their features, you can make better decisions when buying knives.

Tang Types

Knife tangs come in the following general types:

Full Hidden

Skeletonized Encapsulated

Extended Partial

Rat-Tail Push


Full Tang

A full tang is usually shaped to match the shape and size of the knife handle. Knives with blades that extend the entire length of the handles can be considered full tang.  A full tang may not extend entirely through the handle in width.

full tang

The knife handle materials are secured on either side of the tang, known as scales or handle slabs. Manufacturers use epoxy and rivets to fix the two sides of the handle. Sometimes you can see the tang between these handle slabs. Other times the tang is wholly enclosed within these handle cases and is invisible.

Full tang knives are made from single-piece metals and are the most robust, enduring knives one can get. Therefore, you’ll see their use in most intense circumstances, such as cutting beef shanks and other more challenging areas.


  • Can handle heavy-duty tasks where a large force is applied.
  • Offers better balance and leverage since more metal is inside the handle that distributes the weight evenly throughout the knife.


  • Due to a higher amount of metal, full-tang knives are heavier.

Hidden Tang

A hidden tang knife is a variation of a full tang knife. Here the tang is encapsulated within the handle such that it is not visible. Another distinction is that the tang is thinner than the knife blade.

Hidden tang

To make a hidden tang knife, the tang should be longer than the handle, then fix it to a pommel. To keep handle materials from rotating on the tang, tiny “wings” are sometimes made on the end of the tang and then inserted into the tang slot of the handle with a generous amount of epoxy resin.  Hidden tangs are preferred when aesthetics is of primary importance to the appearance of handles.  


  • Are aesthetically pleasing.
  • Offer better control and are lighter to carry.


  • Require complex manufacturing processes.
  • Although hidden tangs are reliable and their strength depends on the manufacturer, they are not as strong as a full tang.

Skeletonized Tang

Like the hidden tang, a skeletonized tang is another variant of the full tang. But here, the center tang is removed to form a ‘skeleton’ of the tang.

keletonized tang

The cutting starts beyond the first inch or so of the tang material to leave the weakest spot alone.

Skeletonized tangs are essentially used in throwing knives.


  • Removing the center tang material rather than the side material helps preserve a portion of the strength of a full tang while allowing for a lighter knife. This is where a Skeletonized tang offers better strength than a hidden tang.
  • Offers better balance.
  • Provides better stability and durability since a skeletonized tang has a greater surface area for the epoxy to fill.


  • Since the material is removed from the tang, the strength of a skeletonized tang is not as much as that of a full tang. But the strength varies on the shape and size of the cuts, and if done right, the difference in strength is not as significant.

Encapsulated Tang

The knife handle material is molded around the knife tang to encapsulate the tang.

There isn’t much difference between a full tang and an encapsulated tang except that the tang is not visible. Since the tang is not visible, you might think of it as a hidden tang knife at first glance.


  • Offers the strength of a full tang knife while being more aesthetic since the tang is hidden.


  • There’s a limit to the knife handle materials since not all materials can be molded around the tang.

Extended Tang

An extended tang is a full tang with a small portion extending beyond the knife handle. The part of the tang that extends out of the knife handle forms a thin pommel and contains a lanyard hole (in most cases).

Extended tang

The extended portion of the tang is shaped or curved to provide a safe and comfortable knife butt. It can also be used to fix the tang or as a hammer pommel.


  • The extended portion can be used similarly to a hammer pommel. For example, to crack nuts.
  • Offers excellent strength.


  • There might be some restrictions on the handle material that can be used to account for the extension. But apart from that, this design hasn’t much of a drawback.

Partial Tang

A partial tang knife has a tang that extends to a portion of the knife handle. Partial tangs save the amount of metal used in construction and are, thus, cheaper to manufacture. But this cost-cutting comes at the user’s stake as partial tang knives are not balanced, making them harder to handle.

Partial tang

The partial tangs can extend to three-quarters, half, or stub of the handle.

Various kinds of partial knives are used for different purposes, so each has a different manufacturing process.

Partial tangs are mainly used for lightweight, folding, and decorative knives. Since decorative knives do not need to withstand any force or perform, partial tangs are deployed as it saves much material, thus, comes at a cheaper manufacturing cost.


  • Cheaper manufacturing costs.
  • Lightweight. 
  • Ideal design for exchangeable blades.


  • Unable to leverage as much force as a full tang knife because of the disproportion in mass.
  • Less durable than full tang knives.

Rat–Tail Tang

The notoriously weakest of the tang designs is the rat-tailed tang.

It got its name because a rat–tail tang is extremely thin and extends to the butt of the knife. The extremely thin tang drastically affects the strength of the knife.

Rat–tail tang


  • Cheaper to manufacture.
  • Requires less material for the tang.


  • Weakest of the knife tangs.
  • Lack of durability.
  • Useless for heavy-duty tasks.

Push Tang

As the name suggests, a push tang (a variation of a partial tang) is pushed inside one end of a pre-manufactured knife handle, and epoxy is applied to fix it.

Push tang

Since the tang is enclosed within the knife handle, polishing it is redundant. This makes it cheaper to manufacture.


  • Cheaper to manufacture.
  • Requires less material for the tang.


  • Lacks the strength of full tang knives.

Tapered Tang

A tapered tang is in the middle of a full tang and a partial tang in terms of strength, durability, ease of use, and weight.

As suggested by the name, this tang tapers off or narrows down as it approaches the end of the knife handle. Doing so allows for saving upon material while retaining much of the integrity and strength of the knife tang.Tapered tang

A tapered tang usually suggests that the knife was custom-made. The manufacturer will gradually narrow the tang to create a balanced knife. Here, the tang’s width is narrowed down, and the thickness is reduced.


  • Lightweight compared to a full tang.
  • Cheaper to manufacture and saves up on the material.


  • Tapering can result in some weak points. But it can still be used for almost all kitchens and everyday use without breaking.

Which tang is best for you?

There are few parts to a knife more critical than its tang. A knife tang is what provides knife stability, integrity, and strength.

For maximum strength and durability, a knife should be made from a single piece of metal that extends to the butt of the knife. Because any attachment or junction would cause stress concentration, making it the weak point of the knife.

While using the knife, you’re putting pressure on the blade, which means the knife is under great stress. This stress concentrates at the end of the tang. So, if the tang extends to the knife butt, there is no opportunity for stress to concentrate and is, thus, distributed throughout. Therefore, full tang knives are more durable because of the even stress distribution.

That would mean full tangs knives are the best, and all rest are useless. However, that’s not the case.

Partial tang knives also offer great utility in specific scenarios. While it is true that partial tang knives are weaker than full tang knives, other factors also come into play.

For one, partial tang knives are lightweight. They are easier to maneuver and do not put much strain on one’s hand after extensive use, unlike full tang knives that are heavier.

Partial tang knives also use up less metal and are cheaper to manufacture.

So, which one should you go for?

Well, it depends on what you use the knife for and how you will use it.

A full tang would be ideal for more challenging materials, providing stability and resilience. But if you’re using a knife to cut fruits and other softer materials or foods, partial tang knives would be much more convenient, primarily if you use them for extended periods.