What Are the Notches on a Knife for?

The notch on a knife serves purposes like sharpening, more control while cutting, and aesthetics. There’s also the larger finger choil, which you can use as an extra grip for more stability.

These larger notches keep your fingers at a safe distance from the blade’s cutting edge to prevent slipping and reduce injury risks.

Besides the traditional notch between the blade heel and the tang, you’ll notice that the spine of the knives may also have several notches.

But why do you need a notch on a knife, and what purpose do they serve with their placement on the blade?

This article covers everything about blade notches and why they can be good or bad.

What Are the Notches on a Knife for: Uses

The notch on a knife serves one or different purposes, depending on its location and size.

  • A sharpening notch is a visible relief at the end of the edges and next to the unsharpened area of the blade (ricasso). This small notch takes only a portion of the blade of a chef’s knife, and it is useful for sharpening purposes. 
  • Many knives have larger sharpening notches, which become sharpening choils.
  • The largest notches, also called finger choils, are an extension of the grip. Besides sharpening, you use this choil to place your index finger and gain more control.
  • Notches on the back of the blade are jimping. These are small notches that will improve your control while cutting detailed work.

Let’s talk a bit more about what a blade notch does.

1. Prevents Sliding of the Finger

The notch on a fixed blade allows you to have more control over the blade edge and the knife.

You can use the finger choil to do many things safely, without finger slips, like detailed work that needs a clean cut. This type of notch also works as a forward finger grip to apply more pressure and cut through tougher materials.

2. To Sharpen the Knife Easily

After regular sharpening, the plunge line and bevel of a knife start to look off. Here’s when the sharpening choil comes into place, removing the metal bit where that issue would start. Instead, the notch gives you a clear sharpening line.

The sharpening choil keeps the sharpening stone or your preferred sharpening tools on the blade’s cutting edge, preventing them from going over the ricasso.

You can use the sharpening choil to sharpen a pocket knife all the way to the tang and the bottom of the edge in other knives.

Without a choil, the stone or sharpening tool wouldn’t contact the whole length of the edge. Over time, this issue would cause the blade to wear out unevenly.

3. Aesthetics – Decorates the Knife

Both the jimping and choils are good-looking features that make the knife look more professional. Because of that, people often make their own notches on the knife blade for purely decorative purposes.

Two clear examples of decorative notches are the Spanish Notch and the Kukri knife notch. Both of these notches have a lot of history and symbolism behind them, and they look great.

Myth Busting

One common misconception people have about notches on a blade is that their purpose is to prevent blood from running down to the grip, which would make the handle material slippery.

Like the myth that says blood grooves drain blood more efficiently, this one is also not true, and it doesn’t accurately answer the question of what is the notch on a knife for.

  • All other knives — and swords — would require a feature to stop the running blood if that was the case.
  • If the blade has blood over it, the blood will run down across the entire handle with the sides included. The blood wouldn’t follow a specific pattern down the edge and disappear because of the notch.

Read Also: What a Fuller Does on a Knife?

Can a Knife Function without Notch?

A knife will function properly without a notch, but there are some things to consider. Without notches, the cutting edge of the blade will just end abruptly. Plus, the edge thickens out progressively while the bevel tapers off.

Spyderco Knives is a classic example of knife makers that provide knives without a notch.

What Are the Notches on the Back of a Knife for?

Also called jimping, the small notches on the blade’s spine improve your control over the knife by preventing your fingers from sliding forward while cutting. Other reasons why these notches are useful:

  • Provide fine control and won’t hurt your fingers.
  • Tell you exactly where the center of the blade is.
  • Once you get used to them, these notches give you tactile feedback. You can use them to know the knife position in your hand without looking by identifying where the jimping is.
  • The notches are also decorative.

Why Is There a Notch on the Back of a Butter Knife?

There’s no clear answer to this question, but there are some hypotheses. These are the most common:

  • It provides a quick visual reference to the type of edge, which is broad and non-cutting. This type of edge is useful for getting just a bit of butter.
  • The notch serves as a resting spot against the butter dish edge.
  • It identifies the knives as Master Butter Knives. These knives are not suitable for spreading butter on bread. Instead, you use them to serve pats of butter on individual plates.

What Is a Spanish Notch on a Knife?

A Spanish Notch is a circular cut-out located in front of the unsharpened ricasso of the blade. This type of notch is different from choils, and it serves other purposes.

Originally, medieval blades featured a Spanish Notch to catch the opponent’s blade.

Nowadays, the Spanish Notch is more of an artistic feature. You can still see this type of notch on Bowie knives.

What Are the Serrations on the Back of Survival Knives for?

The serrations on the spine of a survival knife allow the blade to cut through tough materials.

To effectively use them, you must run the serrated teeth back and forth against the material you want to cut. This motion is similar to a saw, allowing the teeth to remove material and slice through.

You can use the serrated spine of a survival knife for:

  • Cutting rope, leather, hide, steaks, plastic water bottles,
  • Cutting through thin metal sheets or carcasses.
  • Shaving wood and bark with pull motions.
  • Getting the blade caught in the material to get more control and a better grip while cutting.

Tip: You can make serrations on the spine of your knives using a rotary tool. Use a sharpie to draw the marks for the serrations. Then, attach a diamond blade to your rotary tool and make the serrations. Finish up by smoothing out the jagged area.

Are Serrated Spines Necessary in Survival Knives?

However, many people agree that survival knives (or combat knives) shouldn’t have serrated spines. These serrations can hang up on stuff, or they may interfere while you’re trying to get the knife out of the sheath.

Plus, a properly sharpened plain edge can do some of the things the serrated spine supposedly does, like cutting rope.

While serrations look good on combat knives, they’re not as functional as you’d expect. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide.

Choil or No Choil?

A finger choil is an excellent feature that improves grip, sharpening, and the aesthetics of a knife. But there are pros and cons to having one. Let’s go over them briefly.

Pros of Having a Knife with a Choil:

  • A small folding knife with a choil provides more usable handle space—the user gets a full hand and comfortable grip.
  • A large knife with a forward finger choil lets the user ‘choke up’ the blade. This benefit guarantees fine control of the blade’s cutting edge.
  • A folding knife with a finger choil is easier and safer to use. If the blade folds unexpectedly, the hand touches the unsharpened choil first. The knife won’t close, and the sharpened edge won’t hit your fingers.

And These Are the Downsides of a Choil:

  • A choil sacrifices a considerable portion of the blade to give your fingers a resting spot. The part of the blade in front of the guard can be useful for making press and shear cuts and notching.
  • The choil’s design can cause soft materials to get stuck while pulling.
  • Some will argue that the choil negates the purpose of a proper handle. You’d put the finger next to the cutting edge, which can be dangerous in the dark.
  • The choil takes up a must-have section for whittling and carving.
  • Many commercial working knives don’t have a choil—for example, butcher knives.
  • The choil can be slightly dangerous under cold weather. With your fingers feeling a bit numb and close to the cutting edge, a minor slip could cause an injury.
  • ‘Choking up’ the blade isn’t necessary. If you need to ‘choke up’ the knife, then perhaps the knife you’re using is not the ideal choice.

Why Do Spyderco Knives Not Have a Sharpening Choil?

Spyderco doesn’t officially say why its knives don’t have choils. Nonetheless, it may be because adding the choil is easier than removing it.

After all, some people like having choil while others don’t. You can add a sharpening choil using a Dremel tool to grind it.

What Is a Bolster on a Pocket Knife?

The bolster is a thick metal piece that works as a junction, and it’s at the location where the sharp edge meets the handle. Pocket knives may have different bolsters, including square, round, threaded, lined, etc.

Finishing Words

They may seem like a minor thing, but each notch on your knife serves a purpose. After finding the answers to what is the notch on a knife for, now it’s up to you to decide whether you need these notches or not.

Brian Casey
About Brian M. Casey

As a food lover, Brian M. Casey developed a fascination for cooking at an early age. He soon realized that not only the ingredients matter but also the knives and the accessories used to turn those ingredients into a delicious dish. This way, Brian began his journey on the magnificent world of kitchen knives, outdoor knives, knife accessories, and much more. After years of experience with many ups and downs, Brian now wants to share everything he’s learned during his journey as an avid knife collector, a well-seasoned knife maker, and an all-around knives enthusiast.

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