Khukuri Construction and Terminology Back to Main FAQ
[note: some of the terms used here are Nepali (or from
some other Himalayan language) - the traditional (Nepalese) terminology;
other terms are English (or from some other European language) - borrowed
from the terms used to describe European blades; others may be English translations
of Nepali terms - see also Nepalese terms page]
Edge - the sharpening portion of the blade. on a khukuri, only
the concave-curving lower side is sharpened.
Buttcap - on full-tang knives, the metal cap on the butt of the handle.
also called a 'pommel'
Spine - the top (unsharp) edge of the blade. thickest part of the
Kauri / Kaura - also called a cho. a small notch in blade
Chirra - a fuller in the main body of the blade. fullers are
used in blades in order to decrease the weight without decreasing the strength
of blade (the same concept as that of 'I-beams' used in building-construction).
some khukuris have no chirras, some may have multiple chirras (see
note on chirras below).
Aunlo Bal - the small fuller or groove often found along part
of the upper spine. sometimes also known as a 'blood-groove' or 'the Sword
of Shiva' (origin uncertain).
Other terms used include: "pwankh (the
'feather'), rato karang ('red rib'...from when they used lac to highlight
a design rather than using a real fuller), aunlo bal ('finger of
strength/force/energy') and others I couldn't even get them to translate".
"If the scrollwork and inlay in the Sword of Shiva
had any meaning it has been lost in time. The scrollwork and inlay are the
"khukuri system" which has been around forever". -Kami Sherpa
"Years ago the scrollwork was etched in by the kamis before the
blade was hardened. Later some smart kami made a die so he could punch in
the scrollwork and that's how it is done today. It is usually done after the
blade is hardened. The brass inlay would not hold up to the heat". -Bill
Handle rings - traditionally-made khukuris usually have a number of
rings carved in the centre of the handle
"Kami Sherpa thinks the rings and little ridge once had
a definite meaning of some kind -- almost certainly to do with religion --
but he says today nobody really knows what the meaning is or was. He points
out that the configuration is fairly rigid. A pair of rings down maybe 1/4
of the handle length from the bolster -- small space and another pair of
rings -- then the ridge with a single ring in it -- a final ring just below
the ridge. Personally, I find it very interesting that almost
all good kamis use the same configuration but none of them know why they
put it on the handle or what it might mean". -Bill Martino
Bolster - that part of a knife blade which abuts upon the end of the
handle; metal divider between the handle and blade. sometimes also called
Cho - also called a kauri or kaura. a small notch in
blade near handle.
"It has various meanings according to various people. A
few are: the clitoris of Kali, the penis of Shiva, Surya ra Chandra
(sun and moon, symbols of Nepal), a "Kowdi" ('cow-track' because the
cow is sacred to the Hindus), a blood drip, a substitute guard, and on and
on and on. Take your pick. The true meaning has been lost in time so today
it is anybody's guess". -Bill Martino
Ricasso - unsharpened portion at the base of the blade before the handle
Tang - the (unsharpened) section of the blade that extends rearward
and is contained within the knife handle, which may be secured by pins drive
through the handle (perpendicular to the edge of the blade) or may be extended
out the butt of the handle and secured with a keeper and buttcap (known
as 'full-tang'), or may simply be secured within the handle with some sort
of epoxy, glue, etc.
Tang button - a single, small device added to a keeper or right on
the pommel to secure the tang
Keeper - bigger than a tang button, but some people interchange
the words. this is the diamond shaped device on (some) pommels
Frog - the leather or cloth sleeve that fits over the scabbard on
military pieces. It has a loop or straps to secure the whole unit to a belt
Recurve - the fact that the edge is on the inside of the curve of
Belly - the widest part of the kukri when looked at from the side
Tip - the end of the blade furthest away from the handle
Karda - small 'utility' knife often found accompanying khukuris
Chakma / Chakmak - small sharpening steel often found accompanying
(also see the Viking Sword.com glossary page for a good introduction
to basic knife/sword teminology)
[in Nepali, dui means 'two', tin means 'three']
In the photograph below the green, red and grey areas are depressed.
the ridges are yellow. the spine's edge is blue.
Artwork courtesy of Lee Jones
This is a classic tin chirra:
Measuring a khukuri
The overall length of a khukuri is measured from tip to butcap, in a straight
line, unless otherwise specified. When someone speaks of a 20" Ang
Khola, this is the measurement they are speaking of.
Khukuris are measured as the crow flies from the center of the butt cap
where the tang is peened over straight to the point.
The handle is measured from where the tang is peened over to the center
of the bottom of the bolster and the blade is measured from the center of
the bottom of the bolster to the point. This sometimes causes a discrepancy
between the over all length and the lengths measured separately. -
Copyright (c) 1999-2001 by Howard Wallace / 2002-2003
by Himalayan Imports,
all rights reserved. maintained by Benjamin Slade.
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