Blades and Knives

Common Blade Shapes and Their Uses

knives with different blade shapes lined up

I’m sure most readers are already well aware of how useful carrying a knife can be. From opening packages and cutting fruit to self-defense, a good blade is an invaluable tool. But as anyone who has looked for a good knife knows, there’s a wide assortment of blade shapes, and each will have its own pros and cons. I’ll cover some of the more common designs and their best uses.

Drop Point

One of the most common blade shapes is the drop point. This is an excellent do-it-all blade that is simple and straightforward. You get an ample amount of belly and a gradual curve. This makes the drop point blade popular for camping and bushcraft, as well as a general everyday carry. A drop point is one of the easiest blades to resharpen and is a good choice for those that just need something that cuts.

Spear Point

A spear point blade is similar to the drop point, but tends to have a more gradual curve at the belly and a finer point at the tip designed for piercing. Think of a spear head. This provides you a lot of the utility of a drop point, along with a bit more self-defense capability. Spear point blades are frequently found with an edge on both sides, primarily on fixed blades or OTF (Out the Front) automatic knives. This provides you with more cutting power until the knife is dull, but it’s important to check the legality of double-edged blades and automatic knives in your area. A spear point blade is a great option for those looking for a good balance between self-defense and general utility in an EDC knife.

Clip Point

The clip point is another similar variation of the drop point design. However, the clipped tip is better for detailed work, like skinning game after a successful hunt. Unfortunately, this tip is more delicate and could snap if used for harder-use tasks. This is not to say a clip point blade doesn’t make for an excellent EDC blade, plenty of Buck 110s have been riding in pants pockets and serving well for decades — it’s just a factor that should be taken into consideration.

Tanto 

One of the most common “tactical” options is the tanto blade. Tantos feature a reinforced point at the tip for stabbing and penetrating. There’s no doubt that tanto blades make great defensive options, but the blade shape is also great for utility use. The secondary edge at the tip is great for scraping and the point where the two edges join works well for opening packages without cutting into the contents inside. When resharpening a tanto blade, treat the two sections as separate edges, or you’ll end up rounding off the point where they meet.

Recurve

The recurve blade has an aggressive and attractive design. There’s a good belly at the front of the blade and a recurve section at the rear. The recurve section is great for pulling in material and making quick, clean cuts. This works well for both defensive slashing and cutting rope or cording. Unfortunately, the recurve in the blade makes it more difficult to resharpen, especially on very pronounced recurve designs. You will either need to have a lot of skill or some sort of thin, rod-based fixed-angle system to preserve the shape and life of your blade.

Wharncliffe

The wharncliffe blade is great for utility tasks. The straight edge cuts like a laser and the pointed tip still allows for piercing and detail work. It is also an incredibly easy blade to resharpen because you do not need to follow any curves. This straight-edge blade configuration maximizes pressure throughout the edge to maximize the impact of the cut. Michael Janich has adapted this blade shape to design an incredibly effective self-defense knife with the Spyderco Yojimbo 2.

Sheepsfoot

The sheepsfoot blade features a straight edge similar to the wharncliffe, but incorporates a rounded end instead of a pointed tip. This makes it popular as a rescue blade for first responders, because it limits the risk of cutting the individual you’re rescuing in an emergency situation. It’s also great for those who live or work in an environment where a traditional or more tactical-looking knife would stand out and not be acceptable. The blade shape is very durable, as there’s no tip to snap off. The Sheepsfoot is incredibly easy to sharpen and maintain.

Hook

The hook blade originated as a farming tool. The shape lends itself to cutting roots or harvesting crops. It was later adapted for self-defense, as people realized that the blade shape also works well at hooking and slicing flesh. The Karambit and Piikal are two popular knife styles with the hook blade shape. The two look very similar, but feature some key differences.

Though both are typically held in the reverse grip, the Karambit features a blade that hooks outward, while the Piikal uses a blade that hooks inward. The Karambit is designed for slashing and controlling your attacker’s arm movement, whereas the Piikal is designed for stabbing and pulling inward. You either love or hate the distinct blade shape, but there’s no doubt these are effective tools.

Can Have a Combo of Features

A blade can also have a combination of these features. For instance, the Emerson CQC-15 incorporates a unique combo of a recurve blade with a tanto tip. The Persian blade shape incorporates the long gradual belly of the drop point with the sharp point of the clip point (that’s just not “clipped”). Sometimes finding a blade with a combination of features you’re looking for will give you a knife that’s perfect for your day-to-day tasks.

Two knives with unique blade shapes
Emerson PTAC (Top), Emerson Super CQC-15 (Bottom).

Serrations

Personally, I have never found serrations to be all that useful compared to a properly sharpened plain-edge blade, however, some people swear by them. I will say that they may have benefits cutting through fabric, as the serrations will bite and grip the material. This makes them popular for first responders. If you opt for a serrated or partially serrated blade, you’ll need to get some narrow rods to resharpen them after they dull, and the extra hassle has never been worth it to me. For general EDC, a good ol’ plain edge blade will do the trick 99.9% of the time.

Conclusion: Blade Shapes

There’s more than blade shape that goes into making a good knife. Blade stock thickness, type of grind, sharpening bevel angle, steel composition, heat treatment, etc. all come together to make an effective knife. Some blades are always going to be better at certain tasks than others. Find one — or several — that work for the type of tasks you need covered in your everyday life. 

Do you carry a knife? What are your favorite blade shapes? How about your least favorite? Share your answers in the comment section.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a relatively young firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting consistently for around seven years. Though he is fairly new to the industry, he loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related.

Alex tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills. He also enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and to keep them properly cleaned and maintained. He installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn.

Additionally, he is very into buying, selling and trading guns to test different firearms and learn more about them. He is not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
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