The Complete Guide to Knife Blade Shapes

The Complete Guide to Knife Shapes: Blades, Edges, and Points

There are about as many different knife blade styles as there are knifemakers.

I’d say that there are more, but for every innovative knifemaker, there are a dozen knifemakers who have no creativity!

However, whether a blade is handmade or mass produced, it is made in a certain style.

You can come up with a new shape, but then it’ll be a new style.

There are more blade styles than you can shake an EDC knife at. Unless you’re particularly good at shaking knives.

What are these different styles, anyway?

And what’re the different uses of these blades?

Types of Knife Blades

Prices accurate as of:

Every knife has to have a tip, else what’s the point?

Knives are generally categorized by the style of their point. A drop point knife is a drop point knife whether it has a serrated or straight edge.

Here is an exhaustive (and sometimes opinionated) list of knife points, presented in alphabetical order.

Knives vs Daggers

What’s the difference between a knife and a dagger?

Well, all short bladed tools are knives, basically. Except for hatchets.

And maybe other specialty tools.

Ah, you know what I mean!

A dagger is a subtype of knife. The blade has to be sharpened on both sides for the knife to be a dagger.

They’re often symmetrical and are a weapon, not a tool.

clip point ka-bar fighting bowie knifeClip Point

The clip point is one of the Big 3 knife shapes, alongside the drop point and spear point. It’s the most aggressive tip of the three.

With this type of blade, the forward part of the knife’s spine has essentially been clipped off of the blade.

This results in either a false edge or a second cutting edge which can be straight or concavely curved.

How It’s Used

That clip point comes to a real thin tip, perfect for penetrating.

This makes them excellent for fighting, which is why you see clip points on Bowie knives and the KA-BAR combat knife.

If you want to fight with a knife, by the way, check this out. You need to know all you can before you trust your life to a blade!

The clip point is also good for precise slicing, though the thinner tip is weaker when used for everyday tasks.

Drop Pointdrop point schrade frontier survival bushcraft blade

Perhaps the most common blade type, drop points are both strong and precise.

The cutting edge curves up toward the point. The spine has a shallow convex curve to the point as well.

While the original KA-BAR combat knife had a clip point, their TDI Law Enforcement Knife has a drop point.

How It’s Used

Drop point knives are good for almost anything. You can use them to skin a deer, prepare tinder for a fire, and defend yourself.

hawkbill talon karambit knife usesHawkbill

Also called a talon or karambit, a hawkbill knife is a hooked blade with a concave curve. It comes to a very fine point.

How It’s Used

Hawkbill knives are often used for draw cuts because it’s not a good design for push cuts or traditional slicing.

This deep curve is good for cutting fibrous materials such as rope, shrubberies, and your grandma’s overgrown carpet. This made them popular with sailors.

For cutting rope, not your granny’s carpet.

It’s also good for cutting through muscle fibers, which is why they are sometimes used as self-defense knives.

Kiridashikiridashi Japanese blade edge tip shape picture

The kiridashi is a Japanese-style knife point. It has a sharply angled edge without curves.

How It’s Used

Though sometimes used for tactical purposes, the kiridashi was developed for woodworking. It excels with delicate carving.

kris Indonesian fighting dagger ritual knifeKris

A kris is a dagger with a wavy blade that sometimes leans off to one side.

The kris comes from Indonesia where it is both a physical weapon and a spiritual tool.

How It’s Used

Though the Javanese use kris knives in ceremonies and to become braver, it’s an effective fighting tool.

All of those curves make for devastating wounds!

Leaf Bladeleaf shaped knife blade convex tip curved edge

A leaf blade is a type of blade with a concave curve followed by a convex curve, or just two convex curves, that comes to a symmetrical point, much like a plant leaf.

How It’s Used

The constant curvature of a leaf blade makes it good for hacking and slashing. It was also easy to make with pre-modern tools.

You don’t find this type of blade on modern knives too often, but they are good for skinning animals if one side isn’t sharpened.

needle point thin dagger for assassination stabbing fighting Cold SteelNeedle Point

Almost always found on daggers, a needle point is a double-edged blade that comes to a long, thin point.

This thin point is good for piercing through an object.

How It’s Used

Stabbing.

You stab someone with it.

Or, put it on display!

Normal or StraightbackNormal Straightback Straight Back Buck Frontiersman knife

A so-called “normal” blade has a straight spine. The belly curves toward the spine.

This results in a strong point.

How It’s Used

Normal blades are good utility blades when you need to apply pressure at the tip for powerful and precise cuts

You can put your thumb against the entirety of the spine.

While they’re often seen on cooking knives, straightback blades make for durable survival knives as well.

sheepsfoot sheep foot lambsfoot lamb foot knife style uses why CRKTSheepsfoot

Sheepsfoot blades are the opposite of straightbacks: The edge stays straight while the spine curves down.

How It’s Used

This blade style is very controllable and was often used to trim sheep hooves.

They’re also good for rescue and sailing knives, because it’s very hard to stab yourself.

Spantospanto curved tanto kershaw rick hinderer thermite blackwash speedsafe folding knife

A spanto blade is a hybrid between spear points and tanto knives. This style was invented by Rick Hinderer.

You can get a spanto by taking a tanto and turning the hard angles into curves, so it has the strong tip of a tanto with the curvature of a spear point.

How It’s Used

Spantos are very versatile blades which can be used for most EDC purposes.

They aren’t the best at slicing but are good when you need to abuse your knife.

Spear Pointspear point dagger Smith & Wesson HRT tactical survival knife

A spear point is a symmetrical convex curve towards the tip, which is in the center axis of the blade.

Spear points are most often sharpened on both sides. When they’re not, many people call that knife a pen knife.

How It’s Used

Spear points were originally used for, well, spears.

They’re good for stabbing, like a needle point, but are stronger, so they hold up to hunting and warfare.

Spay Point

spay spey point uses how to spell neuter animals
The blade on the left has a spay point

Also spelled “spey point,” this type of knife was originally used to neuter animals.

Spay points are kind of like more extreme clip points without sharpening the back. The edge curves sharply to meet an obtusely angled portion of the spine.

How It’s Used

Spay points are good for skinning animals and for when you need lots of power to cut a small section of something.

Like an animal’s testicles.

tanto Japanese stabbing weapon kershaw folding bladeTanto

To the Japanese, a tanto is a short stabbing weapon. The Western world took the concept and turned it into a type of knife tip.

A Western Tanto has a sharply geometric shape without curves. The spine can be straight or curved like a drop point.

Supposedly, tantos have sharper tips than traditional drop points.

How It’s Used

Tanto blades look cool.

Don’t kid yourself; that’s the main reason you want one!

It is a good survival and utility design as well, but we all know that the reason tantos are so popular is because of looks.

Trailing Pointtrailing point knife tip shape style slashing skinning

A trailing point knife is the opposite of the hawkbill.

It curves up and away from the cutting edge, much like a pocket-sized scimitar.

How It’s Used

Trailing point knives have very long curved edges, which makes them excellent for slashing.

They’re also good for slicing and skinning, which is like “slashing” but less violent sounding.

Ulu Alaskan Inuit cooking chef knife skinning dicing slicingUlu

The traditional Inuit women’s knife, Ulus are starting to become more common in the rest of the world.

An ulu is basically a semi-circular blade with no distinct tip. The handle is in the middle.

How It’s Used

Ulus are excellent for chopping food and for scraping.

However, I’ve most often seen them used as souvenirs by people who visited Alaska on a cruise twelve years ago.

Yes, though they’re souvenirs, they’re still weapons and you can’t take them on a plane as carry-on luggage.

Wharncliffe

Another sailing blade, the Wharncliffe has a straight edge and a long, slowly curved spine.Wharncliffe similarities differences sheepsfoot blades Cold Steel tuff lite

How It’s Used

The Wharncliffe blade is good for utility cutting when you don’t want to over penetrate.

Sailors liked this for cutting through naughty knots tied by people who didn’t know how to tie them (not you. You’ve read our knot articles and are very clever).

It’s also good for opening boxes. Box cutter blades are sort of like a straight version of the Wharncliffe tip.

Types of Knife Edges

While the tip may get all the attention in the stores, the edge itself can greatly impact how well you use your knife.

The edge’s geometry is known as the grind. The part of the blade ground away is called the bevel.

Chisel Edge

The chisel grind is only ground on one side, so it’s an asymmetrical grind.

This produces a thin, weak edge that’s best for delicate tasks such as carving wood.

Compound Bevel

A compound bevel, or double bevel, has two bevels instead of one.

This allows for an extra resilient edge while keeping the area behind it thin, which aids in cutting.

Convex Grind

The sides of the blade have a convex curve toward the edge, ending with a relatively obtuse angle.

Convex grinds are strong but not as sharp as the other grind styles.

You typically find convex grinds on axe blades. You can follow these instructions to sharpen one yourself!

Flat Grind

Knife edge grind bevel geometry chart flat wedge scandinavian saber
#1 – Hollow
#2 – Flat
#3 – Scandinavian
#4 – Chisel
#5 – Saber
#6 – Convex
Photo by Waerloeg (CC BY-SA 3.0)

While all knife blades are technically wedges, flat grinds look the most like a wedge.

Flat ground knives have a single bevel, a straight taper from spine to edge.

They are sharp but difficult to make, and so aren’t very common.

Hollow Grind

Hollow grinds are the opposite of convex grinds: The bevel is concave.

This results in a thin edge excellent for when you need the blade to be as sharp as possible. But this is the weakest edge geometry.

Hollow grinds are most commonly found on straight razors.

Sabre Edge

Start the bevel around the middle of the blade and send it flat toward the edge. Then, right before the edge, you put on a secondary bevel.

Congratulations! You have a saber edge.

Saber edges are a great combination of strength and sharpness, so they are often used on military and tactical blades.

Saber grinds are technically a double bevel, but the secondary bevel is very small.

Scandinavian Grind

Take that saber edge and get rid of the secondary bevel, so you have a flat grind that starts halfway across the width of the blade.

That’s the Scandinavian grind. Scandinavian edges are very sharp but can be hard to sharpen.

Still, they’re popular amongst bushcrafters.

Knife Edge Features

Knives can have features on the blade’s belly which also affect how you use the blade.

These affect the edge lengthwise and are generally compatible with most tips.

Though, some of these features are also hallmarks of certain points. All hawkbills are curved, for example.

Curve

A curve increases the blade’s cutting potential.

A convex curve concentrates the force on a small portion of the blade. This allows the blade to bite deeper as the material slides along the curve.

Concave curves may spread the force out some but they also trap the material inside the curve.

Recurve

A recurve is when you curve one way then curve back the other direction.

Recurves effectively give you the advantages of both concave and convex curves at the same time!

Plain

A plain edge lacks the following feature:Spyderco SpyderEdge Hawkbill Byrd folding serrated knife

Serrations

Serrations are scalloped portions of the blade which turn that part of the edge into a saw.

The cutting force is magnified because of the smaller contact area. However, the cut is more jagged because it’s actually a series of small cuts instead of one smooth cut.

Serrations also tend to be harder to sharpen than plain edges.

Knives can be partially or fully serrated.

Conclusion

There are many knife blade types out there, but don’t fret!

You can use this guide whenever you’re confused about a certain type of blade or what it’s used for.

So, please. Don’t try to stab with a talon or use a serrated knife for precision cuts.

And keep that spay blade away from me!

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