ANTI-BACTERIAL - Some knife handles incorporate an anti-bacterial additive as an extra selling point to consumers concerned about home hygiene. Some cutting boards also incorporate a similar agent.
CARBON STEEL - Carbon steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, the carbon steel used for knives usually containing about 1% carbon. The best carbon steel blades contain a high proportion of carbon: the higher the carbon content the easier it is to keep the blade sharp. However, carbon steel can rust and stain and so requires careful maintenance.
CHROMIUM - A chemical element that is highly resistant to corrosion and very hard. Stainless steel used to make kitchen knife blades commonly incorporates 10 to 15% chromium.
HIGH-CARBON STAINLESS STEEL - A grade of stainless steel that contains a higher quantity of carbon, which is designed to achieve the best balance between carbon steel and lower-grade stainless steel when used for knife blades. Such blades keep a sharper edge than ordinary stainless steel and do not tarnish and rust like carbon steel.
MOLYBDENUM - An element that can be incorporated into stainless steel to add strength and hardness. Molybdenum alloyed with steel makes it stronger, and its exceptionally high melting temperature makes it more resistant to heat.
NICKEL - A highly corrosion-resistant metal which is used to give stainless steel its corrosion resistance. When stainless steel is described as 18/10’, the ‘10’ refers to the percentage of nickel in the metal.
POLYCARBONATE - A hard, tough plastic sometimes used for handles on mid-price knives.
POLYPROPYLENE - An inexpensive plastic used for moulded handles on budget-price knives.
POLYOXYMETHYLENE - A hard, dense plastic used for handles on mid-price and some upper-end knives – commonly referred to as POM.
SANTOPRENE - A soft plastic which gives good grip, especially with wet or greasy hands, and which is popular for kitchen knife handles. A good choice for anyone who has difficulties gripping things – users with arthritis, for instance.
STAINLESS STEEL - An alloy of iron that contains at least 10% chromium, with the possible addition in various combinations of nickel, molybdenum and carbon, and used to make, amongst many other things, kitchen knife blades. The low-carbon types of stainless steel are softer than carbon steel and need to be sharpened often, although they need little maintenance compared to carbon steel. High-carbon stainless steel, which, as the name suggests, contains a higher percentage of carbon, aims to achieve a perfect balance between carbon steel and low-carbon stainless steel, maintaining a sharper edge than standard stainless steel and, unlike carbon steel, resistant to staining and rust. The 18/8 and 18/10 grades of stainless steel used to make table cutlery and cookware contain 18% chromium and either 8% or 10% of nickel. These grades cannot be hardened by heat treatment, and therefore are not used to make kitchen knife blades. All grades of stainless steel are fully recyclable.
TITANIUM - A metallic element which is strong, light and corrosion-resistant – all desirable properties in a knife blade. Titanium coating adds strength to a blade, which means it can be made thinner and lighter.
VANADIUM - An element that can be added to the steel of a knife’s blade in order to build extra hardness and superior edge retention.