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Types of Knife Blades and Knife Shapes

shape and types of blades

Knives are essential tools that come in various shapes and sizes, each designed for specific purposes. Whether you’re a chef, an outdoor enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates a well-crafted blade, understanding the different types of knife blades, their shapes, and the world of knives is crucial.

In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of knives, exploring everything from the anatomy of a blade to the diverse profiles used in culinary arts, survival, everyday tasks, and the bespoke realm of custom knives. Get ready to sharpen your knowledge and discover the perfect blade for your needs, including those one-of-a-kind pieces that resonate with individuality and precision craftsmanship.

Types of Knife Blades

This refers specifically to the design and characteristics of the blade portion of the knife. It focuses on the blade profile, edge type, and point style. Different types of knife blades are categorized based on their shape (such as clip point, drop point, or tanto), the type of edge (straight, serrated, or partially serrated), and the grind style (like flat, hollow, or convex). The type of blade largely determines the knife’s suitability for specific tasks, such as slicing, piercing, or chopping.

Knife Shapes

This term usually encompasses the overall design of the entire knife, including both the blade and the handle. Knife shapes are defined by the outline or silhouette of the knife when viewed from the side. The shape is influenced by factors such as the blade’s length, curve, the shape of the tip, and the design of the handle. Knife shapes are often indicative of the knife’s intended purpose, whether it be for kitchen use, hunting, survival, or tactical purposes. Examples include chef’s knives, Bowie knives, and folding knives.

While knife shapes consider the overall design including the handle, types of knife blades focus specifically on the blade’s design and its functional attributes. Both are important considerations when selecting a knife for a particular use.

All knives on the market, depending on the knife shape, can be divided into different knife types.  Although it seems that there are a lot more of them, we will look at the most popular forms of blades.

Most of these subspecies appeared in different regions to become as useful as possible for their owners. Some were invented by arms companies, including modern ones. Anyway, the difference in shape and thickness determines the purpose of the knife.

knife shapes

Different Types of Knife Blades

Knife blades come in various types, each with unique characteristics tailored to specific tasks. The straight-back blade, known for its straight spine and curved edge, offers strength and control, ideal for chopping and slicing. Drop point blades, with a convex curve and strong tip, excel in hunting and general-purpose tasks. Clip point blades, featuring a concave spine near the tip, provide precision and are popular in pocket knives. Tanto blades, inspired by Japanese swords, offer exceptional strength with their angular shape, suited for piercing tough materials. Spear point blades, symmetrical in design, are excellent for thrusting and are commonly found in throwing knives. Each blade type serves distinct purposes, reflecting the versatility and craftsmanship in knife-making.

 

knife blade types

Normal straight

Straight-butt knives are the classic type of knives. This type of blade is considered one of the most common types of blades. This universal knife cuts and pricks equally well. Such blades are quite simple to manufacture. The normal blade knife is popular among hunters. Due to the rounding of the blade, which increases the length of the cutting edge, it is good to skin and cut meat with such a knife.

normal straight blade knife

Hawkbill

Thanks to the claw-like shape of the blade, these knives have stunning cutting abilities. This form of the blade did not appear by chance, some types of martial arts involve the use of a knife as a weapon, and this form is considered the most successful in a defensive fight, with certain skills. This type of blade is also successfully used on gardener’s knives. Thanks to its shape, it takes pride of place as a permanent assistant to the gardener.

Hawkbill knife

Drop Point

This type of blade has a teardrop shape. Versatile in its application. Because the tip of the drop point blade is located on the axis of the force vector, it is easier to enter the material during a prick. This type of blade has a shorter cutting edge and a stronger blade tip.

 

Drop point hunting knife

 

different types of knife blades

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Trailing Point

This type of blade has excellent cutting properties due to the elongated cutting edge. Stabbing with such a knife is very problematic. Trailing point blades provide a large curved cutting area  (belly)  and are optimal for slicing or skinning. They are most common on skinning knives and fillet knives. Trailing point blades have several drawbacks, one of which is their weak point. Because it is designed for fine, delicate work, it bends or breaks easily when working with stronger materials. They are also difficult to sheath because the tip must be carefully pointed and sheathed.

trailing point blade

Wharncliffe

Designed for cutting only. It is difficult to prick with such a knife; therefore, it is used as a rescue knife. This type of knife can be found among kitchen knives.  Has a good and controlled cut, due to the straight cutting edge. The spine of this type of blade is slightly convex, beveled from the top halfway to the point. The specific geometry of the Wharncliffe blade defines its main applications. The blade is designed for all rough carving and cutting tasks. With a thin point, the blade is also capable of making precise cuts, making pulling cuts particularly easy.

Wharncliffe

Sheepfoot

This type of blade is akin to the Wharncliffe blade type. Most often, blades of this type are used on knives for cutting bread. The main purpose of a sheepfoot blade is to cut and slice, minimizing the chance of anything being accidentally pierced by the point. The design of a sheepfoot knife includes a front blade with a straight edge and a blunt back that curves down to fit a straight edge. The two blades meet at the tip forming a “false point”. Sheepfoot knives are popular with emergency responders, who use them to cut through seat belts and other restraints without injuring the casualty with the sharp point.

sheepfoot blade

Spay Point

It has good cutting qualities, due to which it is well suited for skinning prey. With such a tip of the blade, it is more difficult to damage the processed skin. The spay blade is a long narrow blade with a straight edge running parallel to the spine. The edge passes into a small, very round belly at the tip of the blade, which breaks off abruptly from the spine. Spay blades were originally used by cowboys and ranchers to castrate cattle. The rounded belly and blunt tip were effective in cutting without accidentally piercing the veins and vessels. The spay blade has many practical uses.

Spay Point

hunting knives

Tanto

This type of blade is characterized by an angular, almost noncontiguous edge made up of two cutting planes. The blade of a  tanto knife draws a line out from the handle before making a hard change of direction and running up to the tip. The distinctive shape of these knives has contributed to the popularity of tanto knives as stylish items for everyday carry. The shape is strong, which makes tanto knives good for thrusting and piercing. This reinforced tip is hard to beat when it comes to power penetration. Tanto blades also have an extra point (a “yokote”) which is good for pulling, clipping coupons, and the like.

tanto blade

Clip Point

The clip point is one of the most popular blade shapes today. The back edge of the knife runs straight from the handle and stops about halfway to the knife. After which it turns and continues to the point of the knife. The point that is created by this clip is lowered, allowing more control when using the knife. Because the tip is controllable, sharp, and thinner at the spine, the clip knife is suitable for faster stabbing with less resistance during insertion and faster withdrawal. In some cases, the back edge of the clip point is sharpened to form a second edge, further improving the function of the tip. Clip Point knives also have a large belly area that is ideal for slicing. The only real downside to the Clip Point blade is its relatively narrow tip. Because it is so sharp and narrow, it tends to be weak and can break quite easily.

clip point blade

blade shapes

Bowie

It is quite popular in the USA, and it is believed that this type of knife was invented by the American Colonel James Bowie, and named after him. Early  Bowie knives do not fit the popular image of this type of weapon. The first examples had a thick, heavy butcher knife-like blade with a straight back and no clip point or hand guard. The clip point, the curve at the top of the blade behind the point, became popular. The clip was often sharpened so that a blow on the back could inflict a serious wound. The spear-point Bowie blades were also forged, dagger-shaped, and sharpened on both edges. This type of knife is considered both a  hunting knife and a tool.

bowie blade

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California Clip

This type of blade has a concave curve from the back of the blade to the point and a cutting edge that slopes upward toward the point. These features allow it to be extremely versatile and can handle virtually any cutting task. It has a narrow blade that creates a sharper tip and is better for detail work but is not as strong. This variation differs from the standard clip point blade in that it follows the shape of the state of California.

california clip blade

Spear Point

The spear point blade is good for piercing. However, its point is strong and it has a small “belly” that can be used for slicing. The spear point is a symmetrically pointed blade with a point that is in line with the centerline of the blade axis. Both edges of the knife are mirrored to create a point that aligns exactly with the equator of the blade. They can be single-edged or double-edged; although most spear point knives are double-edged designs. Spear Point blades are often used in the manufacture of throwing knives. For those looking for a good balance between piercing and slicing, a Spearpoint knife is an excellent choice.

spear point blade

Gut Hook

This blade shape is common on skinner knives. The gut hook blade has a special type of blade in which the spine has a pointed semi-circular sharpening. The gut hook is more of a feature of the blade than its shape. Most gut hook knives are retractable point skinners,  with a gut hook added to the back of the spine. Its purpose is to split the skin of a game animal in evisceration in field butchering by hooking the skin and pulling along to sever it. The gut hook is made in a semicircle in the shape of the letter “C”, which is sharpened into a blade with a pointed inner part of the “C”. One disadvantage of the gut hook knife is that the back spine of the knife cannot be sharpened, leaving only the front blade with a single edge. Another disadvantage of this type of blade is the relative difficulty of sharpening the hook.

gut hook blade

Karambit

A highly specialized knife, made in the form of a claw of an animal or bird. It was originally an agricultural tool designed to rake up the roots, harvest, and plant rice in most of the islands of Southeast Asia. The karambit is held with the blade pointing down from the base of the fist, usually curved forward. While it is primarily used in slashing or hooking motions, the finger ring karambit is also used in a punching motion, striking the opponent with the finger ring. Some karambites are designed for striking movements. This flexibility in striking techniques makes it useful in self-defense situations. The finger guard makes disarming difficult and allows maneuvering the knife in your fingers without losing one’s grip. Modern karambites may have folding blades, are finished to a high standard, and are made of expensive materials to give them a clean shape.   

karambit

Needle Point blade

 A needlepoint blade is a double-edged blade, the main purpose of which is stabbing and piercing. They consist of two symmetrically sharpened blades that taper to a very thin, sharp point that easily penetrates soft targets. The two sharp edges reduce the profile of the knife and allow it to cut equally on both sides. This makes them a favorite blade design for melee self-defense. Needlepointed blades are popular with military and police personnel due to their ability to be easily stashed (such as a boot knife) and easily drawn from sheathes. However, this blade design has some drawbacks. Since the geometry of the blade does not have a “belly” and contains rapidly thickening edges, it is not suitable for slicing or slashing.

Needle point blade

Smatchet

The Smatchet is a short heavy combat knife with an overall length of 16.5 inches (42 cm) (including the handle). It has a wide leaf-shaped blade, sharpened along the entire length on one side and from tip to half on the other side. The entire blade is coated with a dull matte finish to prevent detection at night by random reflections. The Smatchet was the perfect close combat weapon for those not armed with a rifle and a bayonet. Its balance, weight, and killing power, whether point, edge, or pommel, combined with the extremely simple training required to use it effectively, make it the ideal personal weapon.

Smatchet

Fillet Blade

A fillet knife is a kitchen knife used for cutting fillets. This gives good control and aids in filleting. Most fillet knives use a retractable blade for slicing and skinning. The back edge of the trailing blade curves gently upward from the handle to the tip. Curving the back edge maximizes the size of the belly of the knife, the curved part of the cutting edge. The blade’s large belly with a trailing edge makes it ideal for fast, precise cuts. Medium hardness gives the blade moderate edge retention and depends on the thinness of the blade for flexibility rather than lack of hardness. The length of the back point blade usually determines the thickness and degree of curvature. The shorter the blade, the thinner and more flexible it is. The fillet knife has a bevel that is longer than other types of knives such as pocket knives, survival knives, or steak knives. This bevel angle provides exceptional sharpness but reduces durability.

fillet blade

Of course, these are only the main types of blades.  There are many more blade shapes. But for a clear idea of the purpose of the knife, this is quite enough.

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If you enjoyed this article on shapes and types of blades, you might be interested in learning more about how to choose the premium custom knife for your needs. Whether you are looking for a Damascus knife, an engraved knife, a scrimshaw knife, or a pocket knife, we have the perfect selection for you. You’ll also get access to exclusive discounts and offers on our products.

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FAQ

What type of blade is best for a pocket knife?

For a pocket knife, a drop point blade is often the best choice due to its versatility and strength, making it suitable for a wide range of tasks. However, for more specific needs, a clip point blade is ideal for precision work, while a tanto blade is excellent for piercing tough materials.

How does blade shape affect a knife’s performance?

The shape of a blade can greatly influence its cutting dynamics. For instance, a tanto blade excels at piercing due to its strong tip, while a clip point is versatile, offering both slicing and piercing capabilities. Choosing the right blade shape ensures efficiency and effectiveness for the intended task.

Can one knife shape serve all purposes?

While some blades, like the drop-point, are considered versatile and multi-functional, no single blade shape can be ideal for every task. Specialized shapes cater to specific needs, ensuring optimal performance in those roles.

How do I choose the right blade shape for my needs?

Consider the primary tasks you’ll be performing with the knife. If you need a general-purpose knife, go for versatile shapes like drop-point or clip-point. For specialized tasks, such as skinning or filleting, select blades designed for those specific functions.

Conclusion

The universe of types of knife blades and shapes is a profound reflection of human adaptation, innovation, and cultural evolution. From the curved elegance of a scimitar to the pragmatic design of a drop-point, each blade has been honed by necessity, environment, and purpose. Their varied designs are not just outcomes of whimsical choices but are deeply rooted in the tasks they were meant to serve and the hands they were tailored for. As we’ve explored the myriad shapes and types in this post, it becomes clear that each blade tells a story of its own — of battles fought, wilderness tamed, art crafted, and meals prepared. Understanding these distinctions not only equips us with knowledge but also deepens our appreciation for the meticulous thought and heritage behind every cut and slice. In the world of blades, form truly meets function most poetically.

Author: Aleks Nemtcev | Connect with me on LinkedIn

Related article:  Guide to Knife Grinds.

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  • BladeGeek101

    Loved the breakdown of blade shapes! To add a bit more for those who might be interested: the geometry and design of a blade heavily influence its primary function. For instance, a tanto blade, with its strong tip, is designed for piercing tough materials, while a drop point or clip point might be more versatile for everyday tasks. It’s fascinating how slight variations in blade shape can create such specialized purposes!

  • Alex Thornton

    Different blade shapes serve distinct purposes, and your post does an excellent job elucidating each one. At Blade Magazine, i often read the importance of choosing the right blade for the task, and this guide is a fantastic reference for both newbies and seasoned knife enthusiasts.

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