There are many knife blade types available, and each type has its strengths and weaknesses. So it can be overwhelming when trying to decide which knife shape is best for you. Some shapes are ideal for outdoor activities like hiking or fishing while other blade styles are designed for survival scenarios like hunting or self-defense. More still, are designed with everyday applications in mind, such as opening boxes or cutting food into smaller pieces. Of course, many knife blade styles are hybrids that are good at more than one thing.
This article discusses the most common knife blade shapes and their usages. When attempting to distinguish one type of blade from another, you should carefully examine the individual parts of the knife blade.
Important parts of all knife blade types
The parts you should always examine include the spine, edge, and tip (see image). First, look at the spine of the knife. It is the top portion of the blade, and it is often dull. Some knives have straight spines and others have curved spines. Next, examine the tip of the knife. Some designs have thin, sharp points while others have sturdier, thick tips. Finally, look at the edge of the knife, which is the bottom part of the blade, used for cutting. Edges can also be straight or curved and may be sharpened, dull, serrated, or swedged.
The basic edge found on a knife is sharpened for general purpose cutting. Serrated edges, on the other hand, have individual teeth cut into the body of the knife. You can use knife blades with serrated edges in a back-and-forth sawing motion to cut easily through ropes or tree branches. It is important to note however that these types of knives are harder to sharpen than plain-edged knives. Dull edges, which are typically found on the spine, are unsharpened knife edges. When cutting, you can apply addition pressure with your hand to the dull edge of a knife, making it easier to cut through something. Dull edges make the knife heavier. Finally, a swedge is a fake edge typically found only on the spine of a knife. A swedge appears to be a sharpened edge, but it is merely decorative.
Most common Knife blade types
The three most common blade types among everyday carry knives are drop point, clip point, and spear point blades.
Drop Point Blades
Drop Point Knives are all-purpose blades with an overall convex curved shape. The spine gradually slopes down from the handle of the knife to the tip. Thus, the dull edge of the spine continues all the way to the tip of the blade, making a thicker, stronger tip that is less prone to breaking. This blade type is popular for hunting and survival situations.
- Suitable for cutting, skinning, and carving because of strong point and the back edge
- Not made for piercing
They are called clip-point because the knives look as if the front half of them have been “clipped off” resulting in a sharpened edge both above and below the tip. The clipped off area can be straight or concaved. Because the tip of a clip point knife is thinner and sharper than the tip of a drop point blade, the knife is good for piercing and stabbing. Additionally, the small tip can more easily cut in hard to reach places. The thin point also allows for more precision and control. However, that thin tip of a clip point knife blade could be broken easier than a drop point.
- Ideal for piercing and slicing with sharp points
- Fragile tip Point can be fractured easier than drop point due to the thinner body of the tapering blade
Spear Point Knives
The spear point blade is a dual-edged, symmetrical blade. The spine on a spear point knife is not dull. Instead, the spine on this style of blade is sharpened to match the edge of the knife. Both the spine and the edge curve symmetrically to the blade tip which is centered. Sometimes these knives have “swedges” (those false edges that are merely decorative). Because there is not a dull edge on spear point blades, these knives are lightweight and good for thrusting and throwing.
Spear Point: M21-14SFG Special Forces on Amazon
- Sharp, strong points. Highly controllable. So it’s good for piercing and throwing
- Difficult for slicing because of small cutting edge
In addition to these three common blade types, there are other blade styles you should be familiar with.
More knife blade shapes
Normal (or Straight-Back) Blades
The straight-back blade has a flat spine (unlike the drop points’ curved spine) which runs all the way to the tip, resulting in a thick, sturdy tip. This blade style also has a curved edge. Because you can use your fingers on top to apply more cutting pressure and because the curve of the blade concentrates force on one small point, the straight-back blade is ideal for slicing and chopping. This blade is also good for skinning.
Straight-back: Cold Steel Bushman on Amazon
- Good for cutting, slicing, and skinning
- Sturdy tip
Blunt Tip Knife Blades
The blunt tip blade is a modified spear point blade. Like the spear point, the blunt tip knife is edged on both sides. However, unlike the spear point blade, the blunt tip does not come to a sharp tip. It is used for boating and water-sports like scuba diving because the blunt tip prevents accidental stabbing.
Blunt Tip: Gerber River Shorty Knife. More reviews here
- Suitable for cutting, digging, and prying
- Blunt, unsharpened tip
The Hawkbill (or hawksbill) knife has rounded spine resulting in an overall hook-shape. The cutting edge is concave in shape. Fishermen use this blade much, because of its usefulness in cutting fishing line and netting. This blade is also good for gardening. The Hawkbill blade, however, is bad for slicing.
Hawkbill: Spyderco Harpy. Check current price
- Good for cutting and pruning plants
- Curved tip acts as a stopping point and prevents slippage while cutting
Needle-Point Knife Blades
The needle-point blade style is symmetrical and tapers sharply to a point. The stiletto dagger is an excellent example of a needle-point blade. This blade style is good at piercing soft objects. However, it is weak at slicing, and the point may break on hard objects.
Needle Point: Cold Steel Ti-Lite. More reviews
- Good at piercing, thanks to thin and sharp point
- Fragile tip. No cutting edge for slicing
The Pen blade is similar to the spear point blade but with a more gradual curve and with only one sharpened side. This blade was named for its original use sharpening quill pens. Modern day pen blades are common on pocket knives.
Pen Blade: Buck Knives 309 Companion Dual. Check current price on Amazon
- Good at cutting and whittling
- Sturdy tip
The Sheepsfoot blade has a blunt tip and a straight cutting edge. This blade style is unusual as it is sharp on top and dull on the bottom. It is popularly used for sailing because of its usefulness cutting rope and sails. It is also used as an emergency rescue knife because it is good at cutting through seatbelts and restraints. The Sheepsfoot blade is easy to sharpen. Like the blunt tip knife, the Sheepsfoot has a false point to prevent accidental punctures. Originally, the Sheepsfoot was used to trim animal hooves.
Sheepsfoot: Kershaw Corral Creek. Check its specs here
- Very controllable, good for cutting and slicing
- No point exists
Styled after Japanese samurai swords, the tanto blade is popular with military and law-enforcement types. The knife has a gently sloping spine which meets the tip at a sharp, obtuse angle. This knife shape is great for piercing, stabbing, and slicing. The tanto blade has an incredibly strong tip which allows the knife to penetrate almost anything. However, the tanto knife blade is not easy to sharpen. Still, it is one of my favorite knife blade types.
Tanto: Kershaw 1990 Brawler. Current price on Amazon
- Extremely strong point. Ideal for piercing hard materials, stabbing
- Hard to control point
Trailing-Point Knife Blades
The spine on the light-weight trailing-point knife blade curves upward. Thus, the tip is higher than the handle. Trailing-point knives are good for skinning, slicing, and fileting.
Trailing Point: Hisshou Knife. Get it now!
- Perfect for skinning, slicing
- Weak point
Wharncliffe Knife Blades
The Wharncliffe blade is similar to the Sheepsfoot blade, but it has a sharpened tip. This blade style is good for whittling and is easily able to get into small holes. The Wharncliffe blade’s cutting edge is straight.
- Good for whittling
- Fragile tip
You should choose knife blade shapes most suited to your needs. Naturally, there is no single blade type that is suited to all applications so we recommend thinking about what you will be using the knife for most and letting that determine which blade shape to get.References