Need to pick up a new knife for taking on a camping trip? Or do you want a capable, sturdy blade for self-defense? In these scenarios and more, you need to knowwhich type of knife to buy.
You can use any knife with a sharp edge to cut something. However, like any tool, you need to pick the right one for the job. When it comes to knives, a blade’s shape indicates what it should be used for.
There’s a spear point, clip point, straight back blade, wharncliffe blades, and spey blade…just to name a few.
If you don’t know where to start, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s break down some of the most common knife blade shapes and their uses, but first…
Why Does Knife Blade Shape Matter?
There’s a lot to consider when shopping for a great knife, including the handle, blade sharpness, blade length, blade material, and blade shape.
The shape of a knife’s blade or the blade style, will affect:
- How narrowly it cuts
- The kinds of cuts the knife can make (i.e. is it better for stabbing, slicing, chopping?)
- What jobs the knife is suitable for (i.e. hunting, self-defense, carving, etc.)
For example, piercing tough objects with a meat cleaver wouldn’t be all that effective.
In short, a knife’s blade shape affects its potential uses and suitability for certain tasks. Therefore, understanding the different knife shapes available will help you choose the right knife for your specific needs.
With that out of the way, let’s break down some of the most common types of knives based on their blade shapes.
Most Common Knife Blade Shapes
The list below doesn’t list every blade shape out there, but it does cover some of the most commonly used blade shapes.
1. Clip Point Blade
A clip point blade features a straight spine that then tapers into a low convex curve, ending in a sharp point. The clip point blade is actually the inspiration for the famous Bowie knives.
They’re acceptable for self-defense, survival or wilderness training, and other uses. These versatile and affordable knives are popular since they can be used for almost anything.
2. Drop Point Blade
A drop point knife is probably one of the most popular shapes around. This is because drop point blades are versatile and suitable for a variety of situations.
They feature a sloping spine and a slightly sloping blade shape that make them suitable both for quick stabs and cuts alike. Drop point blades are so versatile that they are used for bushcraft, defense, tactical purposes, and as hunting knives.
Read the guide on Drop point vs Tanto knives.
3. Tanto Blade
Tanto blades feature a high position, reinforced knife point and a flat spine.
As a result, these knives are great for combat, self-defense, and survival since they’re very durable and tough. On top of that, these blades also have an iconic, fearsome aesthetic.
4. Reverse Tanto Blade
Reverse tanto knives are similar to the above, but feature a flat, angled drop-off point at the top of the spine.
This makes the blade tip a little easier to stab into tight spaces, which may grant it additional usability as a carving or survival tool. These blades retain the fearsome appearance of their predecessors.
5. Bowie Knife
The famous Bowie knives have a unique shape with a bulbous tip away from the handle. These knives are ideal for cutting through foliage, for campground tasks like carving wood, and for protecting yourself in self-defense scenarios.
However, Bowie knives tend to be a little more unwieldy by nature, and they are usually longer and heavier than other common knives.
Dagger knives have a double-edged shape and a spearpoint-like blade tip. They feature sharp cutting edges along both sides of the blade’s length.
They’re meant for slicing and stabbing, but they can’t usually be used with both hands because they lack a flat, non-sharp spine. They are primarily meant for self-defense, tactical engagements, or as showpieces.
7. Spanto Blade
Spanto knives are similar to Tanto blades in that they have a downward sloping curve on their spines and an upward sloping curve on their bellies.
The knives are sharp and feature a tight point at the end, making them ideal for stabbing, sawing, cutting, and anything else you may require. They can be used for almost anything, ranging from camping to self-defense and more.
8. Dao Blade
Dao blades feature a curved spine and a curved belly. Near the end of the point, the blade thickens into a sharp tip.
These knives have an upward curve that grants them unique silhouettes and that makes them great for cutting through dense foliage or for carving through wood. However, these aren’t the best for tactical survivalists.
9. Sheepsfoot Blade
Sheepsfoot blades are somewhat similar in shape to Dao knives and feature a rounded off point with a slightly curved blade shape.
These knives are ideal for sawing and cutting jobs that don’t require the use of a knife tip. Thus, sheepfoot knives are primarily used by fishermen, hunters, and for those who need a suitable camping knife.
10. Needle Point Knife
Also called stiletto knives, needlepoint knives feature long, thin blades with both sides sharpened for capable stabbing and slicing.
They feature low surface friction points and are primarily intended for self-defense or combat uses. They’re not very good for hunting, camping, or preparing bushcraft supplies due to their shapes and overall small sizes.
11. Straight Back Blade
A straight back knife features a straight spine that gradually tapers up to the sharp point. The belly remains flat until curving up to the endpoint.
This basic and streamlined design is easy to use with both hands as you can press the straight edge spine with your free hand. It can be used for survival purposes, chopping through or cutting wood, and for self-defense.
12. Spear Point Blade
Spear point blades, also called double-edged knives, have a semi-flat spine close to the handle that quickly sharpens and tapers toward a shared point with the belly.
Don’t confuse the spear point blade with a dagger because spear point blades only have a double sharp edges towards the tip.
These knives are ideal for slicing through animal flesh or for self-defense. Some knives may feature a thicker spine to make them more suitable for carving or chopping through wood.
Talon knives, also called hawkbill or karambit knives, have a very curved shape that starts at the handle and follows all the way through to the point. The knife blades are usually short, but the concave curve is sharp and ideal for slicing or hooking into flesh or wood materials.
The knife pictured above isn’t a true talon knife but the overall curvature gives you an idea.
They’re great for camping, bushcraft, hunting, and some limited self-defense uses (their lack of a straight point minimizes this somewhat).
14. Pen Knives
A pen blade isn’t really a blade shape. Rather, it’s a British term used for a pocket knife.
However, it tends to describe a more traditional style pocket knife, like a Swiss Army Knife or something your grandpa use to carry and not so much something like Spyderco Knives.
15. Wharncliffe Blade
Wharncliffe blades have a straight cutting edge with a curved spine that meets at the tip.
These blade shapes are great for tasks that involve rough cuts and carving. However, the fine tip also lends itself well for working in tight spaces and more precise cuts.
16. Trailing Point Blades
A trailing point blade is a knife where the spine continuously curves upwards. An easy way to remember this is that the tip of the knife “trails” away from the belly, producing a convex curve. The blade shape almost resembles a clip point, but there isn’t an angle break between the spine and the tip.
The trailing point blade offers a blade style with a large or long curved belly where the tip of the knife is mostly out of the way. This is why they are a great choice for slicing tasks.
Fillet knives are a great example of a knife with a trailing point.
17. Gut Hook
A gut hook is another example that doesn’t describe the overall shape of a knife but can be thought of as an accessory because many different knife blade shapes have them.
The gut hook is a hook that has a curved belly with a sharpened edge. They are mainly used to open the belly cavity of fish and animals.
The point of the hook is inserted just under the tissue so that the cutting edge can easily slide the length of the cut without penetrating too deeply.
What is the most versatile blade shape?
The drop point blade offers a blade shape that makes it one of the most popular and versatile knives to carry.
Are straight back knives or blades with a curved belly better?
It depends on the task at hand. Straight knives are good for general cutting and piercing tasks, whereas a knife with a curved belly is better suited for slicing.
What is the best blade shape?
This question is inevitably asked about almost kind of tool. And like every tool, there isn’t a “best” one than can accomplish every task perfectly.
To have the “best” type of knife, you first need to decide what that knife will primarily be used for. Then you can decide on the shape. Once this is decided, you will then have the best blade shape for those specific tasks.
As you can see, there’s a knife shape for practically every purpose or need. Whether you need a survival knife, a multitool capable of carving and cutting up wild game after a hunt, or a self-defense weapon, there’s a blade shape that fits every occasion.
There is no “normal blade,” that works for everything, so consider the shapes above when shopping, and you’ll be sure to find the ideal knife for you!