Pocket Knife Blade Shapes and Types
Pocket knives have long been a staple for men throughout the world. For the outdoorsman, they are the perfect tool for survival skills, hunting, and cutting things like rope. For fishermen, the right blade can become the perfect tool for cleaning a fish, and for the everyday man, Swiss Army knife-style tools contain a myriad of handy features, from nail clippers to screw drivers and even beer bottle openers.
As handy as they are, no pocket knife is very useful if it does not contain the proper type of blade for the knife’s intent – and a quality one, at that. There are many types of pocket knife blades available, including a normal blade (straight back), drop-point blade, tanto blade, sheepsfoot blade, spear-point blade, wharncliffe blade, trailing-point blade, needle-point blade, clip-point blade, and spay-point blade – each with their own purpose.
The information below provides an overview of the various types of folding knife blades, along with their shapes, features, and purposes.
Normal Blade (Straight back)
A normal blade is one of the most common types of knife blades and presents a curved front edged with a straight, or flat, back edge. The flat back edge provides a solid panel for the user to press on to apply leverage or force to an object while cutting so that the curved, sharp edge rests a smaller, specific area on the object to be cut, making cutting easier. This knife blade is used for chopping, picking, and slicing.
A drop knife blade is curved on both edges toward the blade’s point in a slightly asymmetrical form. Larger blades found on Swiss Army knives frequently feature this type of blade, which is known as a type of all-purpose blade, more than anything else. Many hunting knives also feature this kind of blade.
This is one of the more oddly shaped blades, as it has two sides that run parallel with a spine running lengthwise down the center – but toward the end of the blade, the two sides bend to form an irregularly shaped triangle tip, of sorts. Classic tanto blades were used in Japanese sword making and, rather than forming a triangle at the tip, one edge dipped only slightly and the other rose severely to meet it. Tanto blades have strong tips that offer very good penetration and prying abilities. This makes them a popular choice for “tactical”, survival or self defense knives. Tanto blades have zero belly, so slicing is not a strong point of this blade shape.
A sheepsfoot blade is shaped with one flat edge that meets the opposing edge at a curved tip; one edge is flat to the tip while the other edge runs parallel, curving at the sharp end to provide a curved tip. The dull flat edge is ideal for providing the user with lots of control over the blade. Notably, this blade’s namesake is because the blade was originally created with the purpose of trimming sheep’s hooves
Spear-point blades have two edges that run symmetrically to meet at a tip at the end of the blade’s length. This type of blade has some dimension in that it has a “spine” that runs down the center of the blade length wise – this spine is the main thing that sets it apart from other similarly shaped blades. This type of blade is most common for purposes that require thrusting, such as hunting – its dagger-like qualities make it a prime blade choice for penetrating skin and other materials.
A wharncliffe blade is initially similar in appearance to the sheepsfoot blade as it, too, has a rounded tip. However, it differs in that, whereas a sheepsfoot blade has two edges that run parallel for the majority of the blade (one sharp, one dull), a wharncliffe blade has one dull flat side and the sharp side presents a gradual curve along the entire side of the blade. The back edge’s curve starts closer to the handle and the wharncliffe blade is much thicker than other knives that are of a similar length. These blades were historically used by sailors – because of the blade’s gradual curve, the knife was far less likely to do accidental damage, such as piercing a sailor’s hands, ropes, or sails, should the ship pitch with waves or other sudden motion.
A trailing-point blade appears as a normal blade with a large, upward curve toward the spine at the tip that gives the blade a larger cutting edge. This blade is a lightweight material and is ideal for slicing. Because they have a large cutting area, they are well known for their use in skinning.
A needle-point blade is aptly named for its shape; the two sides of the blade run at an angle toward each other to meet at the tip in a very sharp point. It is most commonly known for its use in daggers or fighting knives – the long, pointy blade penetrates flesh and, sometimes, even bone – though if it does meet bone, the blade can break.
Clip-point blades share the same basic infrastructure as the normal blade, but vary in that the blade spin bends inward toward the edge about half-way down the blade’s length. The fine tip makes this a good shape for detailed work in tight places. Bowie knives are well known for their clip-point blade shape and it’s a popular type of blade in pocket knives.
Spay-point blades (also known as spey-point blades) are shaped like an elongated, curved edge pentagon. This blade features a long blade with a sharp tip. While one edge of the blade is flat, it takes a sharp angle to provide a short, flat edge that runs to the tip. The other edge of the knife runs parallel to the flat edge, but as it nears the front edge of the blade, it takes a sharp curve to meet the opposing flat edge at a sharp tip. Though the blade looks menacing, it is actually one of the least likely to accidentally penetrate objects because the curved edge technically does not have a point and the curved edge is more perpendicular to the blade’s axis than is found in other types of blades. In the past this blade shape was widely used for spaying animals. Today the spay-point blade is ideal for skinning animal hydes from furry animals and is most frequently used by trappers.