How to Pick the Best Blade Style for Your Next Knife

Courtesy of Weldon Owen

The shape of a knife blade determines how well that blade will perform specific tasks. It’s a world of tradeoffs: Piercing ability, tip strength, slicing efficiency, and how much abuse a blade can take are all factors in deciding which knife blade profile is best for the task at hand. There’s far more than looks involved when it comes to the shape of things that cut. Here’s all you need to know about 11 different style of blades to help you find the right knife for the task at hand.

1) Straight Back Blade

A burly straight-back knife will stand up to the tough tasks of buchcrafting. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

A straight spine with an upward curving edge that rises to the spine to form a semi-sharp point.

Best For

Bushcrafting Kitchen tasksLearning sharpening techniques

Pros

Very strongEasily batoned through woodEasy to apply force to spine with fingers or palm

Cons

Not ideal for piercing tasksNot enough belly for skinning

2) Drop Point Blade

The do-it-all quality of a drop-point blade makes it perfect for everyday carry. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

A favorite of hunters, the drop point features a slight downward curve to the spine to form a lowered, or “dropped,” point.

Best For

Field dressing SkinningEveryday carry (EDC)

Pros

Strong point retains a bit of belly for skinningBest for gutting animals, as the point angles away from organs

Cons

With a tip less sharp than those of other profiles, it’s not a great piercing blade

3) Trailing Point

The long belly on a trailing-point blade lengthens the cutting surface. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

This blade’s spine curves upward, and a trailing point provides a long, curved edge for slicing.

Best For

Skinning and caping animals Filleting fish

Pros

Very sharp pointLots of bellyDesign gives lightweight knives additional length to the cutting edge

Cons

Weak pointDifficult to get in and out of a sheath

4) Clip Point

Clip points excel and skinning game animals. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

The classic Bowie knife profile. A straight spine drops in a slight angle or concave curve to meet the tip, as if the spine were clipped off.

Best For

Skinning and caping animalsFilleting fish

Pros

Very controllable sharp pointDecent bellyExcels at piercing

Cons

If the clip begins too far from the tip, the point of the blade can be weak

5) Spear Point

Spear-point knives have two cutting edges. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

A symmetrical profile with a spine that forms the centerline of the blade. Can be sharpened on one or both sides.

Best For

PiercingThrustingThrowing

Pros

Very sharp tipCan have a double cutting surface

Cons

Not useful for non-fighting tasks

6) Spey Point

The spey point was designed to castrate farm animals. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

A defined, sudden downward curve to the spine that meets a curving, upswept edge. Commonly found on trapper-style pocketknives.

Best For

Traditionally used for castrating farm animals.

Pros

Easily sharpenedSafe to use when a sharp point isn’t needed

Cons

That lack of a sharp point limits piercing abilityOften a short blade

7) Leaf

Knives with leaf blades are common for self-defense. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

This hybrid between a drop point and a spear point features a less aggressive downward slope to the spine with a more acute point.

Best For

Fine cutting that requires a sharp pointEDCSelf-defense

Pro

Easy to carry, as most leaf point blades are short

Cons

Thin point can be weaker than that of other grinds

8) Sheepsfoot

Sheepsfoot blades are easy to sharpen. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

A straight spine curves downward to meet a completely straight edge, with no sharp piercing tip.

Best For

Rescue workUse on inflatable boatsTrimming hooves of small livestock

Pros

Blunt tip can be very thick and strongVery controllable edgeEasy to sharpen

Cons

With no sharp tip, not useful for piercing tasks

9) Wharncliffe

A sheepsfoot blade as a razor-sharp point. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

Similar to a sheepsfoot, with a downward curve or angle to the spine that starts closer to the handle of the knife.

Best For

Rescue workSelf-defenseUtility tasks

Pros

Sharp piercing tipStrong, robust blade often built with thick blade stock

Cons

No belly for skinning tasks

10) Hawkbill

This knife model makes it easy to see how the hawkbill blade got it’s name. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

Shaped like a claw or talon—or a hawk’s bill—the hawkbill profile has a sharply concave spine and cutting edge that meet at a downward point.

Best For

Utility work, such as cutting carpet and linoleumSelf-defense

Pros

Cutting webbing, heavy cordage and linesSharp, inwardly curved tip is great for making long cuts

Cons

No piercing abilityLittle utility for hunting and fishing

11) Tanto

Tanto blades are solid for EDC. Courtesy of Weldon Owen

Characteristics

Thick, with a straight edge that takes a sudden upward, uncurved angle near the blade tip to meet the spine at a straight or slightly convex angle.

Best For

Self-defenseEDCGeneral utility tasks

Pros

Extremely strong and sharp tipRobust blade

Con

Tricky to sharpenNo belly for skinning

This article was adapted from Field & Stream’s Total Camping Manual.

The post How to Pick the Best Blade Style for Your Next Knife appeared first on Field & Stream.

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