Pocket Knife Blade Types – A Rundown

So you want to get yourself a pocket knife but don’t know what type of blade to get? Well, you’ve come to the right place. 

It’s hard to go wrong with a knife assuming you don’t have some hyper-specific use for it and just want something for your daily needs. However, it can be very helpful to know what’s out there so you aren’t oblivious to a blade that could become your new favorite.

Below, you’ll find a list of some pocket knife blade types, what they are, and what they’re good at doing. That said, let’s jump right in!

Drop Point

This is the most common blade shape among pocket knives. It’s simple and versatile and it’s easy to maintain. It’s a lot less suitable for stabbing than other types such as the clip point, but I guess that also means it’s safer. 

The drop point is for anyone who needs a blade for general purposes.

Clip Point

If you took the drop point blade and stepped on it, you’d get a clip point blade. 

The clip point shares most of the same attributes as the drop point except that it makes a better stabber. You also get more precision with its tiny tip—but on that same basis, it’s also easier to break.

You would benefit from a clip point if you perform more precise tasks in your day to day life.

Normal/Standard/Straight Back Blade

A blade that’s as simple as you can get. With its straight spine and basic point, there’s really nothing left to remove. Yet, being thousands of years old, it still has a lot going for it.

As said by out good friend Antoine, “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” He was talking about airplanes when he said that, but I guess knives are basically the same thing.

The normal blade is a good bet if simple is your middle name.

Sheepsfoot Blade

The sheepsfoot was probably invented when somebody accidentally sharpened the wrong side of a normal blade. The resulting product would have been a straight edge with a curving spine.

This shape is fairly safe and non-threatening and allows for more control. If you’re extra paranoid about stabbing something or someone, then the sheepsfoot blade is the cure.

This shape is perfect for controlled and nimble cuts.

Wharncliffe Blade

This is basically the sheepsfoot but with a pointier point. Better at stabbing, but still not the stabbiest. And actually, the wharncliffe blade was designed for sailors to prevent accidental stabbing when the boat rocked back and forth, so “not stabbing” is one of its features.

Between this and the sheepsfoot, it’s basically all preference, but “wharncliffe” is pretty fun to say.

Spear Point

The spear point is like the drop point but symmetrical across the length of the blade. If you turn it upside down, you won’t be able to tell the difference—at least with the shadow it casts.

If you couldn’t guess by the name, this shape is designed to be thrust and thrown. The blade could have an edge on one side or both sides, but it differs from knife to knife (for pocket knives, it’s usually one side).

 Definitely get a spear point if you’re planning to stab a thing or two.

Talon/Hawkbill Blade

Possibly the least versatile blade shape in existence (especially when it’s serrated), the talon blade is strangely concave, which may look cool, but won’t exactly cut a block of cheese.

So, what is this thing used for? Well, as the name implies, it’s good at doing whatever talons or claws can do. You can swing, swipe, and slash through all sorts of things (like foilage or bubble wrap). It’s also exceptional for combat.

The talon blade is for you if you’re looking for something aggressive.

Tanto Blade

This is like a drop point if the edge didn’t have any curves. When the edge starts out along the blade, it continues straight until taking a sudden turn where it continues to the tip and ends.

The name has something to do with broken samurai swords, but I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Of course, what really matters is that it’s good at stabbing. It could probably punch a hole in a stone wall and live to tell about it—that is, assuming the metal has enough guts. 

The biggest problem is that it’s not very good for slicing. It would be difficult to make a smooth cut with its jagged shape. You’ll definitely want to stick with poking things.

The tanto shape will be your friend if you need a dedicated stabber.

Reverse Tanto

This is like the tanto but instead of the sharp edge on the blade making a sudden turn, it’s the spine. You might also notice its similarity to the wharncliffe blade, which will definitely add to the confusion.

It pretty much has the same functionality as the wharncliffe except that the tip is stronger and is more suitable for stabbing.

If you want to poke with precision, then give the reverse tanto a shot.

Spey Blade

The spey blade was originally used to spey animals and, well, I bet you can’t guess how it got it’s name. It also just looks like a normal blade if you took a pair of scissors and cut off the tip.

This shape is good at not stabbing things, so, like the sheepsfoot blade above, it’s a lot safer to use.

The spey blade has most of the benefits of a normal blade just without the stabbing part.

Trailing Edge Blade

Here’s a blade that’s great at maximizing edge length without too much surface area. This is done by having the tip point slightly upwards, which makes it extend above the rest of the blade.

The trailing edge blade is used by many hunters due to its great ability to slice and skin. But it’s also good for any other kind of slicing.

Try the trailing edge if you want to get the most out of your cuts.

Leaf Blade

Almost exclusive to Spyderco knives, the leaf blade is basically the same as a normal blade except it has room for a Spyderhole (the signature Spyderco opening mechanism).

This shape is apparently popular enough to earn its own name, so here it is. I will admit, though, I do really like how it looks. It’s super simple yet it’s strangely addicting.

If you get a Spyderco knife, you’ll probably get a leaf blade, which is good for general tasks.

Harpoon Blade

The only thing that makes this blade shape unique is a little slope near the base of the blade. It makes the blade look like a harpoon apparently, so now it’s a harpoon blade. Makes sense to me.

If the only difference occurs as far away from the edge as possible, why would this shape be any different than a drop point? Well, it allows your thumb to catch it and make controlled stabs. That’s it. 

If you want to stab things with maximum precision, then you’ve found your blade.

A Blade Shape Conundrum

Most of these blade shapes are so similar that it can be difficult to tell each one apart. Even if you were to gather every knife that claimed to have a certain blade shape, you’d still find differences. 

So who’s to say a wharncliffe is different from a reverse tanto? And when does a normal blade become a drop point?

The answer is simple: it’s whatever you want it to be. Look at the shape and try to match it with a name, but if you can’t figure it out, choose a category that’s close and that’s what it is.

Maybe some brave soul has created guidelines to what makes each blade unique, but really, it all boils down to what they can be used for. 

If you’re going to use a drop-point-looking blade to stab things with, why not call it a spear point? Seems simple enough.

If you were having trouble trying to figure out what knife to get due to the overwhelming number of options out there, hopefully this guide made things a little clearer. Just make sure the blade can do what you want it to do and that you like how it looks. Apart from that, the differences won’t matter too much.

Also be sure to read up on pocket knife locks before you accidentally get a folder that’s either faulty, unusable, or illegal. It’ll definitely be worth your time.

If I missed anything or you have anything to add (or just want to type stuff), then be sure to leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

4 thoughts on “Pocket Knife Blade Types – A Rundown

  1. I was looking for more detailed information on pocket knives and I found your website. I am looking for a pocket knife that cuts with precision and I am interested in the clip point pocket knife and in the reverse tanto pocket knife. What type of precise tasks can I do with these two knives? Which one is better for cutting small wood objects?

    1. Hi Horatius,

      The clip point allows to stab things with minimal resistance. It also allows you to make turns easier because of its flatter tip, such as when cutting a circle out of cardboard.

      The reverse tanto would be better at carving wood or slicing cheese, same with the sheepsfoot and wharncliffe blades. However, the flat top of the reverse tanto could make it easier to control, but that’s up to preference.

  2. There are so many different types of blades! I spend lots of time on my allotment where blades are handy, for cutting string/ plastic fencing, plant stalks and leaves etc. I currently have a standard serrated kitchen knife which I use for these tasks but actually I think I’d be better off with a drop point. Thanks for finding this information out and the pictures are awesome too. 

    Thanks 🙂 

    1. Hi Robert,

      For cutting things like plant stalks and plastic fencing, a normal blade and a drop point blade wouldn’t be too different. But clearly you use your knife for a variety of cutting tasks, which is where a drop point would shine. I’m glad you found this info helpful!

      Isaac

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