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A flat ground blade is a knife blade which is evenly sharpened from the spine to the edge. In order to be considered a true flat ground blade, the knife must be entirely lacking in bevels. There are also some variants which mix different types of grinds, such as a knife which is only flat ground on one side. Many kitchen knifes are flat ground, and the knives can be quite useful and sturdy for some applications. Knives for some other applications may be flat ground as well, and this is usually clearly stated.
The “grind” of a blade refers to the way in which it is finished for sharpening and eventual sale. Typically, a knife is only ground once, as the grinding process removes a great deal of metal. The knife will periodically need to be resharpened, and if it is particularly abused, it may need to be reground. Regrinding is only successful once or twice, as it eats away large portions of the blade.
When a flat ground blade is made, the knife is ground all the way from the spine, the blunt edge which usually contains the bulk of the metal in a blade, to the edge, designed for cutting. Typically, a flat ground blade is V-shaped in cross section, reflecting a grind which gets thinner towards the edge so that it will be a more effective cutting implement. This tapered shape is sometimes replaced with a slightly curved shape, depending on the manufacturer.
Because a flat ground blade is not beveled or shaped, it is very easy to sharpen. However, bits of the edge can break off in the sharpening process, especially if the knife is old. The older a knife is, the thinner it gets. Brittle metal may not be up to strenuous cutting tasks, and it will certainly not hold up to vigorous sharpening. Since flat ground blades have a thin grind to begin with, they tend to fail more quickly than some other blades.
Sometimes, a knife may be flat ground on one side and beveled on another, in an attempt to take advantage of both possible worlds. Such knifes can be sturdier, although they are challenging to sharpen correctly. In either case, a flat ground blade is suitable for cutting, chopping, and crushing ingredients, especially when it is kept clean and sharp. When selecting a flat ground blade, try to find one which feels right in the hand, and look for high quality metal which will last through years of use.