Types of Knife Blades: A Complete Guide to Blade Shapes & Uses

There are many different types of knives on the market for almost any need. From hunting to preparing food to ceremonial purposes, you can find a knife or other blade to suit your needs.

When we discuss types of knife blades, we are mostly referring to the shape and style of the blade. This can have a huge impact on the purpose you need the knife for. That’s why it’s important to know your knives so you can choose the right one.

Types of Knife Blade Shapes

There are dozens upon dozens of variations out there, but these are some of the most popular types of knife blades.


Clip Point

clip point knife blade

The clip point knife blade features a curved edge on both sides and a thin tip. This type of blade takes a portion out of the back, which creates a second curved edge and a thinner tip. It can be used for small or hard-to-reach places. The clipped edge on the back of the knife is usually concave, but can also be straight. This type of knife offers more control, but may not perform well for more heavy-duty tasks.

Pros:

  • The curved edges on both sides of the blade offer versatility and control.
  • The thin, sharp point is perfect for small places, hard-to-reach places, and piercing.
  • The part of the spine that is not “clipped out” is flat and unsharpened, allowing you to apply force for more controlled cutting.

Cons:

  • The knife is not meant for more heavy-duty tasks, such as chopping and cutting thick materials.
  • If using the unsharpened part of the spine to exert force, you will need to be careful, so you don’t accidentally cut yourself on the sharpened “clipped” edge.

Tanto Point

tanto point

The tanto point knife blade features a chisel edge. It is inspired by Japanese swords – specifically, the tip of a broken samurai sword which was said to be able to penetrate anything, including armor. It is a popular style for modern tactical knives. The tanto point knife has no belly, so it will not be able to slice, but it makes up for that in tip strength.

Pros:

  • The strongest feature of the tanto point knife is its tip, which is very strong and able to pierce almost anything.

Cons:

  • The knife is not recommended for slicing or chopping, because it has no belly to it.

Trailing Point

trailing point knife

The trailing point knife blade features a long curved edge on both sides, which curves up into a thin point. It is mostly used for skinning and filet knives. The curved edges improve the knife’s ability to slice and skin, and make the blade lightweight. The drawback is that the back of the knife is sharp, so you cannot use your fingers to apply pressure to the back of the blade to increase force.

Pros:

  • The long curved edge is perfect for skinning and slicing.
  • The thin point is sharp enough for piercing.
  • The blade is very lightweight, making it easy to use.
  • The double-edged nature of the knife improves versatility.

Cons:

  • The back of the knife is sharpened, so you cannot apply force with your hand without cutting yourself.

Straight Back

straight back blade

The straight back knife blade features a curved edge and a flat, dull side. It is mostly used for slicing and chopping. The dull back of the blade allows you to safely apply pressure with your hand or fingers, increasing the cutting force. The drawback of this dull side is that it adds weight to the knife, making it heavier to hold and use.

Pros:

  • The curved edge allows for effective slicing and chopping.
  • The spine of the knife is dull and flat, allowing you to apply pressure safely while chopping.

Cons:

  • The sturdy dull side of the knife adds extra weight. This makes the knife heavier.

Wharncliffe

wharncliffe knife blade shape

The wharncliffe knife blade features a thick blade, a straight edge, and a dull back with a gradual curve. Similar to the sheepsfoot blade, the back of the knife curves downward, but it has a gentler curve, rather than a sudden curve at the end.

It was originally used by sailors, since it’s easier to use in unstable conditions on the sea. It’s still used today for slicing. The dull back makes it easy and safe to use and control, and the thick blade gives the knife strength. The lack of a sharp point protects you from accidental punctures, though it also eliminates the ability to pierce or penetrate.

Pros:

  • The thick blade lends strength and stability.
  • The dull spine allows you to apply pressure for extra force and control.
  • The straight edge is very effective for slicing.
  • The edge is strong enough to handle light chopping as well, owing to the thickness of the blade.
  • The point of the knife is not sharp, so you will not accidentally cut yourself.

Cons:

  • The curved spine of the knife is more difficult to apply force to than a straight spine.
  • The point of the knife cannot pierce or stab.

Pen

pen knife blade shape

The pen knife blade features a symmetrical curve on both sides of a center spine, similar to a spear point blade. However, unlike a spear point, it’s only sharpened on one side. It may also feature a more gradual curve. It is used for small folding pocketknives. The main benefit of a pen knife is its small size. A Swiss Army knife is the most popular example of a pen knife.

Pros:

  • The center spine offers an attractive symmetry.
  • Though both sides are curved, only one is sharpened. This leaves a dull back for exerting force and control.
  • Pen knives are versatile and compact, which is why they are used for many small folding pocketknives, such as Swiss Army knives.

Cons:

  • While it is suited for most everyday tasks, the pen knife is not recommended for more heavy-duty tasks, such as chopping and piercing.

Drop Point

drop point knife blade

The drop point knife blade features a slight curve and a convex curve on the back of the knife. It is used for most pocketknives, since the shape of the blade can be applied to many different applications. This type of blade provides extra strength, but is not meant for piercing.

Pros:

  • The curved edge is perfect for slicing and cutting.
  • The knife is versatile, making it a great choice for pocketknives.
  • The blade is double-edged, allowing you to use either side for any task.
  • The blade is very strong.

Cons:

  • There is no dull spine, so you would not be able to use your fingers or hand to apply force.

Spear Point

spear point knife blade shape

The spear point knife blade features a symmetrical curve on both sides of a center spine. It is used for daggers and small knives that are used for thrusting and throwing. The blade is typically sharpened on both sides.

Pros:

  • The center spine provides symmetry.
  • The double-edged nature of the knife gives it an extra sharpness.
  • It is especially designed for daggers.

Cons:

  • The knife would not be useful for slicing or chopping.
  • There is no dull spine on the knife, so you cannot safely apply pressure or exert control.

Hawkbill

hawkbill knife blade

The hawkbill knife blade features a curved edge and a mostly straight dull back. The spine curves straight down at the end, in the same direction as the sharp edge. This creates a sharp point that faces downward. It is used for tasks in which you would pull the knife back in the direction of the handle, such as cutting carpet or pruning plants. The sharp point and edge make the knife very useful for cutting and piercing, while the dull back allows you to handle it safely and apply pressure for more force and control.

Pros:

  • The point is very sharp for piercing and grabbing materials to be cut.
  • The curved edge can cut materials such as carpet and linoleum.
  • The dull spine allows you to apply force and increase control over the knife.

Cons:

  • The knife must be used in a specific way.
  • The knife is specially designed for certain tasks. It may be ill-equipped to handle other types of tasks.

Sheepsfoot

sheepsfoot knife blade shape

The sheepsfoot knife blade features a sharp edge and dull back. Both the edge and back are straight, with the back curving downward at the end. It was originally used for trimming sheep hooves, and is also used for chopping. The dull back allows you to use your fingers to increase cutting force and control. The lack of a sharp point means the knife cannot be used for piercing, but this could also be a benefit since the downward curve could easily cut you accidentally if combined with a sharp point.

Pros:

  • The straight edge is effective for chopping and simple slicing.
  • The spine is dull, so you can safely apply force.
  • The downward curve does not end in a sharp point, which increases safety.

Cons:

  • There is no sharp point, so piercing and stabbing would be very difficult.
  • There is no curved edge for more complex slicing and cutting.

Needle Point

needle point knife blade shape

The needle point knife blade features a symmetrical edge on both sides, which tapers sharply to a point. It is used for daggers that are meant for close range combat and throwing. It’s excellent for piercing, but it is not especially strong.

Pros:

  • The blade is double-edged for extra versatility and efficiency.
  • The point is very sharp for piercing and stabbing.

Cons:

  • The blade is not as strong as other types of knives.

Spey

spey knife blade shape

The spey knife blade features a straight edge that curves up at the end, a small clip on the back, and a very slight point. It is used for skinning and speying animals. The combination of straight edge and small curve make the knife very effective at skinning different kinds of animals. However, the lack of a sharp point means the knife cannot be used for piercing anything.

Pros:

  • The straight edge, curved end, and clipped back make the knife versatile and able to skin various types of animals.

Cons:

  • Because of the clip on the back, you’ll need to be careful if you press fingers on the back to apply force.
  • The point is not sharp enough for piercing or stabbing.

Dao

dao knife blade

The dao knife blade features a single sharpened edge and a straight spine. It is a variation of the dao sword, which is a traditional Chinese single-edged sword. It is used mostly for slashing and chopping. In martial arts and military purposes, the term “dao” refers to the sword rather than the knife. Dao knives often take the form of cleavers used to chop foods in the kitchen. The single curved edge chops effectively and the dull, straight spine improves safety.

Pros:

  • Dao knives are intended to be very high-quality, due to their traditional forging processes.
  • This type of blade makes great kitchen cleavers.
  • Martial arts and ceremonial blades also benefit from a dao style, though these blades are typically swords rather than knives.
  • Dao cleavers can chop most foods very efficiently.
  • The dull spine is straight and allows you to apply pressure for more force during chopping.

Cons:

  • While dao knives are excellent for chopping, they are not recommended for slicing, cutting, or other types of tasks.

Talon

talon blade shape

The talon knife blade is very similar to the hawkbill knife blade. However, instead of a square-looking back that curves down steeply at the end, the curve is more gradual, giving the blade a shorter, talon-like appearance (hence the name). It is used in much the same manner as a hawkbill blade, by pulling the blade back for cutting materials such as carpet and linoleum. The sharp point is good for piercing, the sharp edge cuts efficiently, and the dull back protects your fingers from cuts when applying pressure.

Pros:

  • The curved style of the knife is attractive but useful.
  • The blade can cut carpet and linoleum, as well as prune vegetation for efficient landscaping.
  • The sharp point pierces and stabs easily, enabling you to pierce and “grab” the material to be cut.
  • Tough or thick materials may need more force. The dull spine allows you to press down with fingers or your other hand to accomplish the needed force.

Cons:

  • The knife must be used in a specific way, by pulling back towards the handle. Any other use makes it ineffective.
  • The knife is not suited for other types of tasks.

Gut Hook

gut hook knife blade

A gut hook is more of an individual feature than a type of knife blade in itself. A gut hook knife blade is any blade that features a hook on the back of the blade. This small sharpened hook appears out of the spine near the end of the blade. It’s used for field dressing game while hunting, and is designed for the easy skinning of an animal without damaging any meat.

Pros:

  • Gut hooks make great additions to hunting knives.
  • The gut hook feature allows you to skin an animal without losing any of the meat.

Cons:

  • Hunters should be careful not to accidentally cut themselves on the sharp gut hook protruding from the spine of the knife.

Harpoon Blade

harpoon knife blade

The harpoon blade features a sharp edge and dull spine. The spine features an upward ramp on it. All harpoon blades have the upward ramp on the back, but aside from that, there are many variations in appearance. Some are pointed like a spear or feature straight or curved edges.

Usually, the belly remains straight, with a gentle curve appearing in the top third of the blade. The harpoon knife blade is mostly used for cutting tasks. The ramp on the spine offers extra stability and safety, offering the ability to apply pressure for increased cutting force.

Pros:

  • The upward ramp on the spine allows you to apply pressure to increase force while cutting. It also improves safety when using the knife.
  • The ramp adds stability to the knife.
  • There are many variations in the design and appearance of the blade, which allows you to find a knife that suits your specific needs.

Cons:

  • Harpoon blades are great for cutting, but may not suit other types of tasks.

Leaf

leaf knife blade

The leaf knife blade features a sharp edge that curves upward and a dull spine that slopes downward to meet it. It also usually has a large hole at the end of the spine nearest the handle, used as a thumb hole for easy deployment.

A thumb ramp over the thumb hole features grip jimping, which allows you to hold the knife easily. It’s considered an all-purpose knife blade that is excellent for pocketknives. The benefits of this type of knife are the sharp point, easy grip and deployment, and small compact size. However, the fine point can chip and break after regular use.

Pros:

  • The thumb hole allows you to bring out and use the knife easily.
  • The thumb ramp allows you to grip the knife securely and safely.
  • The knife is versatile and can serve many different purposes.
  • The sharp point makes it easy to pierce and puncture.
  • The small size makes it easy to carry around.

Cons:

  • The point is sharp, but very fine, which makes it susceptible to chips and other damage after regular use.

Serrated

serrated knife blade shape

The serrated knife blade features a sharpened edge with notches, usually called teeth, that make it excellent for cutting. This type of knife is usually single-edged. It is used for kitchen knives, some pocketknives, and any other knife that will be used primarily for slicing and cutting.

Serrated blades are more difficult to sharpen than smooth blades, but they stay sharper longer because there is less contact area. They cut faster than smooth edges, but the cut is not as clean or precise.

Pros:

  • Serrated knives are designed specifically for slicing and cutting.
  • They stay sharper longer than other knives that are straight-edged.
  • They cut faster than smooth edges.

Cons:

  • They are more difficult to sharpen than smooth blades.
  • Cuts are not as clean or precise as those made with smooth edges.

Blunt Tip

blunt tip knife blade

The blunt tip knife blade features a rounded tip, hence the name. This blunt or rounded tip prevents accidental cuts and improves safety in situations when you don’t want to puncture objects. For this reason, it is typically used for dive knives. The blunt tip prevents punctures in important equipment while underwater.

Some may have a single straight or serrated edge, but the best dive knives are double-edged, with both a straight and serrated edge. This allows them to slice and cut with minimal effort. There may also be a notch for cutting fishing line. The blunt tip could be used for digging and chiseling. If you need to pierce or stab anything, though, this knife will do you no good.

Pros:

  • The blunt tip keeps you from puncturing equipment or cutting yourself.
  • The blunt tip can also be used for digging and chiseling.
  • Blunt tip knives may include both a straight edge and serrated edge for different types of tasks.

Cons:

  • The knife will not help with any piercing or stabbing work.

Conclusion

When you’re looking for a knife to suit your needs, it’s important to get to know the different types of knife blades and learn what each type can do for you. This will help you make the right decision.

Clip point knives are best for specialized tasks that require precision. For piercing, puncturing, and stabbing, the best picks are tanto point blades, spear point blades, and needle point blades.

Trailing point blades, spey blades, and blades with gut hooks are useful during hunting. Slicing tasks are best served by straight back blades, wharncliffe blades, and serrated blades, while chopping can be accomplished with straight back blades, sheepsfoot blades, and dao cleavers.

Pen knives, drop point blades, leaf blades, and occasionally serrated blades are used for pocketknives. Hawkbill and talon knife blades are used for specialty knives that are specifically designed for tasks such as cutting carpet and other materials, as well as pruning plants. Blunt tip blades are also specialty blades, used especially for dive knives.

Whatever your need, there is a knife blade that can serve it best.

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