Pocket Knife Blade Shapes
The shape of your pocket knife blade is critical to its function. Each shape has a fascinating history, and each was developed to cut in a different way for a different use. If you're new to the pocket knife game, try a variety of different shapes. You'll likely find a knife style that suits you, and if you're anything like us, you'll quickly come to find out that drop points truly are the best blade shape. *Tiptoes quietly out of the room while a riot ensues.*
DROP POINT KNIFE
The drop point blade is used on many hunting and EDC knives, and performs well in most situations. It's the "Goldilocks" blade shape that's just right for most tasks. The strong tip and wide belly excel in meat processing, slicing tasks, and opening boxes from your latest knife purchase. Popularized by the late, great Bob Loveless.
STRAIGHT BACK KNIFE
The straight back knife is useful for piercing, skinning, and bushcraft, and is most frequently found on fixed blade knives. The curved belly and relatively thin tip excel at wood processing and carving. Scandinavian puuko knives gave birth to the best blade shape for bushcraft and survival centuries ago. Today the most common straight back knife is the Swedish Mora.
TANTO POINT KNIFE
Tanto knives are usually great for piercing, and high-risk cutting tasks. They have a heritage rooted in Japanese Samurai swords. To understand their function, think of the French guillotine and how the angle of the tip influences the cut. Many tantos serve as tactical or self defense knives, but they’re also very useful for fine detail work on the job site.
CLIP POINT KNIFE
Named for the crescent “clip” out of the spine of the blade, clip points are thinner in the spine for better piercing and withdrawal. The Buck 110 stands out as the most popular folding clip point knife over the past 60 years, and the Boker Kalashnikov automatic knife is likely a more recent contender to keep the legacy of this shape alive.
The Bowie blade shape is a type of clip point, but we argue it deserves its own callout because Jim Bowie, Davy Crockett, and the Alamo make for a swell story. Plus, it seems the Bowie shape always appears a bit more aggressive than a simple clip point. The shape is also famous for its role in that Crocodile Dundee scene: “That’s not a knoife.”
This blade style has a near-blunt tip to avoid puncturing. It is often found on knives marketed to first responders who need to cut seat belts or clothing close to a victim's body. We've also seen them popular among river guides that are working among inflatables rafts and kayaks. Arguably the best blade shape for work.
The wharncliffe style was originally for whittling and EDC tasks, but in recent years, many tactical knives have adopted the style. The long, piercing tip of the wharncliffe works similarly to a tanto-style guillotine, and the straight edge functions well for razor blade tasks. The wharncliffe is the best blade shape is you need maximum cutting performance.
The classic kitchen and butcher knife shape has evolved into an EDC/work blade shape that looks sweet and slices well. While not ideal for piercing, the cleaver knife shape performs particularly well in everyday tasks like opening boxes, or chopping through tough material. The cleaver is the go to blade shape for maximum durability during hard use tasks.
SPEAR POINT KNIFE
The spear point knife is a symmetrical blade shape with a long cutting edge that also excels at piercing. The difference between a spear point and a drop point is the symmetry of the top and bottom edge. The difference between a spear point and a dagger blade is simply that the top edge of a spear point is not sharp.
The dagger is designed specifically for piercing and is usually found on tactical knives. The top and bottom edges are both sharp to work similarly to a sword: there's cutting power on both sides of the blade for quick entry and exit (<-- that's a pretty aggressive sentence... pretty aggressive knife type, eh?)
This shape originated as a mini sickle for agriculture and has spread as a karambit for tactical, self defense, and mall ninjas alike. Many hawksbill knives have a fine tip that is touted as a last-ditch tool for bad situations. This one is a highly specialized tool that's not going to be particularly good at multi-tasking when you need to cut open an MRE or slice an apple.
LEAF SHAPE KNIFE
The leaf shape blade comes with a strong tip and plenty of belly for slicing. The uniform shape makes sharpening easier. It's often found on Spyderco knives, and some might argue it's simply a type of drop point. Hard to say. This stuff is nuanced.
Recurve blade feature an “S” shape in the edge for a longer overall cutting edge that is excellent for slicing or skinning. The drawback is trickier sharpening that will likely not turn out the way you might have hoped on first attempt. Never fear: if you mess it up too bad, just keep sharpening; it will be a simple drop point without a recurve before long!
A Nepalese style used as a utilitarian tool for chopping, clearing and building. The Kukri knife (or its many machete-length variants) is typically found in jungled (Jungle filled? Tropical? Wild and rugged?) parts of the world. It is also the cutting weapon of choice for the Nepalese military.
Also called a “trailing point” or “upswept” blade. The Persian shape is used most often for skinning and butchering, but it was originally designed to penetrate chain mail and other armor. Originated in Iran and spread through Central Asia in the 1500s. Plus: includes Lawrence of Arabia street cred.
Donʼt know what to call that blade shape? When in doubt, call it a modified _____ . No further questions asked.