Description: A very common and straight forward blade shape is the straight back and just as the name suggests, the spine is perfectly straight from the handle to the tip and the belly is mostly flat until curving up to the point. The point of a straight back will always be level with the top of the handle. This blade shape can be used across many use cases as its versatility almost rivals the drop-point.
Common Use Cases: One big reason to grab a straight back blade is for the option to firmly press with your hand on the spine of the blade. These blades can also be made to be very thick, tough, and heavy, capable of chopping wood or hacking your way through dense foliage. Straight back blades have been used in combat applications as well and of course, could be used for self-defense purposes.
Drawbacks: Compared to the superbly versatile drop-point, you lose some of the cutting edge the belly has to offer by forcing the belly to meet the tip all the way at the top of the spine.
Example ： Ganzo FH11 FH12 FH13 Buy Link
Description: The clip-point is an extremely popular and well-known blade shape due to its simplicity, versatility, and classical heritage. Bowie knives were based on this design and for good reason, the clip point style blade features a very long cutting surface with a belly that juts out straight for a nice straight edge but then trails upward to a tight point at the end. Clip-point blades generally have an unsharpened spine that, just like the belly of the knife, begins to appear straight and flat, but towards the point, it immediately drops into a convex curve such as it would look if you cut it with nail clippers.
Modern iterations of the clip point design can include a more straight area where the convex curve would be almost appearing to look like a reverse tanto. Furthermore, some manufacturers sharpen the clip-point on both the belly and the curve on the spine, making these useful for cutting rope, wire, and fishing line.
Common Use Cases: Clip-points encompass the Bowie, so technically these have a long history of combat use cases but the clip-point blade is extremely versatile and is useful for just about anything. This style of blade also truly excels at bushcraft and whittling. These are some of the most common blade shapes due to their ease of use and versatility.
Drawbacks: Clip-points aren’t generally used on tactical style knives so that may be a drawback if you want that tactical feel.
Example : Sanrenmu 7315
Description: The drop-point is by far the most popular blade shape today and that’s due to a simple and versatile design. This blade features a gradually sloping spine that ensures the point is centered on the axis line. The belly of the blade begins somewhat flat but also gradually slopes up exponentially until it meets the point.
Common Use Cases: Drop-points are useful for just about everything. These are commonly carried as EDC pocket knives but are found among a wide user base for many different applications. The tight point makes thrusting and stabbing quite effective and the long gradually upward sloping belly is excellent for sawing, cutting, slashing, etc and since the spine isn’t normally sharpened, the spine is typically extra thick which increases the strength of the blade.
The drop-point can often be found with serrated or partially serrated blades and some designers get funky by adding features along the spine, like sawteeth or short serrated sections. The number of variations the drop-point can be found in makes these knives a fit for just about anyone.
Drawbacks: While the drop point isn’t the best for every task it doesn’t have any serious drawbacks that come to mind since they are so versatile and found in so many variations. I guess I would choose something else, like the Tanto blade if self-defense or combat was your sole use case for the knife as there are better blades for that, and the clip-point moves through tight spaces a bit better but that really comes down to personal preference.
Examle: FREETIGER FT903
Description: Spear points are basically the same as the Stiletto and Needle Point but align the grind and bevel on the centerline of the blade which positions the point slightly lower than the axis, making the blade far more symmetrical. Spear points can be either double-edged or feature a false edge or swedge. This design creates a slightly easier to cut with belly and increases the strength of the point, making the knife a stronger and more durable weapon.
Common Use Cases: Many people think spear points are primarily made for combat and self-defense and while that is true in many cases, a good spear point blade can be incredibly useful across the board. Of course, if it’s double-edged you won’t be able to use your other hand as a guide but the spearpoint EDC knives that lack a double-edge are useful in many similar ways to the versatile Drop-Point or Spanto.
Drawbacks: Sacrifices some of the cutting edge along the belly to create a slim and lethal point.
Example ： Ganzo F/G704
Description: Daggers are essentially spear-point blades resembling the Stiletto design that are much longer in length and generally thicker as well with a cross-guard. Basically, Daggers are purpose-built combat weapons that encompass the maximum wounding effect by utilizing a long and heavy double-edged blade that comes up to a very deadly point.
Some knives that appear to have the same shape and length but lack one side being sharpened to an edge are mistakenly labeled as daggers. This can be found in many knife laws as well, so do not assume that having one edge unsharpened disqualifies your blade from any dagger related legislation. Blades with only one edge but the same shape as a dagger are technically called thrusting knives. Thrust knives rely on the point to do the work and thus don’t really need sharp edges and as a result, gain more blade rigidity.
Common Use Cases: Long deadly blades meant for combat and self-defense. Commonly used as decorative showpieces.
Drawbacks: Daggers are not very user-friendly for day-to-day tasks and are illegal to own and/or carry in many places around the world, especially in the states.
Description: The Tanto blade with its rather high positioned reinforced point and flat grind has become extremely popular, especially in the Western world due to its effectiveness in combat and deadly appearance. The point is especially strong due to the geometry of the angle under the point and thus making the Tanto one of the best penetrating blades that remains user-friendly. These points are so strong that a well made decent-sized Tanto blade can pierce body armor quite easily.
Usefulness as a daily use knife? Eh, it’s not great but if you like the design and you also carry a knife you want to utilize in a self-defense situation, the Tanto might just be right for you. The reason a Tanto blade lacks in day-to-day normal usage is due to the cutting edge being really flat with no curved belly, making the total cutting area of the blade much less than an equally as long drop-point blade.
US vs JP Tantos: The US version of the Tanto came much later than the Japanese version and features a much stronger point with that notorious flat-faced cutting edge on the bottom near the tip. The Japanese version has a slightly curved cutting edge where that flat section is on the US version giving it a bit more versatility but less strength at the point.
Common Use Cases: Combat and where excellent piercing capability is needed. Many people will EDC a Tanto because it looks cool, offers exceptional self-defense, and can be used for many tasks despite not being as versatile as something like a clip or drop point blade.
Drawbacks: Lacks versatility compared to the clip or drop point blade shapes.
Example : FREETIGER FT902
Description: These are actually relatively new compared to many of the shapes on this list and, as the name reads, is a Tanto flipped upside down. An excellent Benchmade designer named Warren Osborne made these especially popular among premium EDC enthusiasts. Some reverse Tantos can be a little different from his designs though such as the design of Bob Dozier, who designed a blade that has a more curved belly like a drop-point but has that harsh slope on the end of the spine.
Either way, reverse Tanto blades really only have one major difference from the regular Tanto blade and that is the top of the spine having that harsh usually flat but angled drop off to the point. This makes the blade tip easier to work through tight spaces as the point is a bit thinner overall. One last comment here is that the Dozier design sets the point lower in relation to the midpoint than a spearpoint does, trading off some of its belly length for perhaps better tip control.
Common Use Cases: I think these are designed mostly just to appear different than other knives on the market. Both versions of the Reverse Tanto offer great versatility for EDC applications and with the extra material gone from the spine near the tip, these blades offer pinpoint tip control when maneuvering through touch or thick material.
Drawbacks: The tip of the blade won’t be nearly as rigid and strong as a traditional drop-point and thus isn’t as versatile and tough overall. You’re trading off strength at the tip for a thinner more controllable experience.
Example : FREETIGER FT908
Description: This blade shape may seem quite alien to those of us living in the West but these are quite common on the Eastern side of the world as they were originally created by the Nepalese for farming and later used by armies in Asia as combat weapons. Now the Kurki blade is more of a novelty and showpiece than something a lot of people regularly use, however, people still do use them and they are quite handy for hacking through thick foliage or for some farming applications. I suppose you could keep a big old Kukri around for some good home-based self-defense applications as well!
These blades kind of look like super sharp boomerangs attached to a handle. The blade has a distinct recurve right in the middle of the belly with the spine also curving downwards towards the tip in relatively the same place as where the belly curves in.
Common Use Cases: Originally created for farming, hunting, and combat but now used for bushwacking.
Drawbacks: Not exactly something you would carry around with you on a daily basis and is often replaced by other blade styles for its primary uses. These are typically heavy and would require some serious practice to use effectively.
Trailing Point (AKA Skinner, Upward Curve, or Upswept)
Description: The purpose of a trailing point is to create a large amount of cutting surface using an upswept belly. This creates a very long cutting edge in a shorter overall package length and is especially useful for skinning and slicing. Although most popular in food preparation, some people use these to clean fish or field dress their hunt. Fillet knives are also classified as trailing point blades.
Common Use Cases: Filleting, food preparation, general usage, etc. The trailing point is a very versatile utility blade that offers exceptional cutting length along its upswept belly. The point is not very strong but this is the tradeoff of having a very long and easy to use cutting edge.
Drawbacks: As mentioned before, the point lacks the strength to be used as a piercing blade to tradeoff for that long and handy cutting edge along the belly.
Example : harnds CK9172
Talon (AKA Hawkbill or Karambit)
Description: Talon shaped blades encompass a spine and belly that curve in a concave fashion. Aside from looking awfully menacing, these are really only used for self-defense or activities that require a pulling motion such as cutting webbing or clothing.
The tiger claw inspired Karambit style was first developed by the Minangkabau in West Sumatra as a general-use tool to cut with a pulling motion in farming and textile work. As it spread out of Indonesia, it took a more lethal route, being used by people in combat.
People train for years to learn how to effectively use the Karambit in combat and/or self-defense. It can be very deadly but the Karambit is not user-friendly nor is it a good knife to utilize for someone inexperienced. If you are looking for a general self-defense solution, I would not recommend the Karambit unless you are willing to properly train with using this specific style.
Common Use Cases: Very popular in some Martial Arts. Used commonly for self-defense or use-cases in which a pulling motion is warranted. The tip of the blade is designed to slash while pulling the blade in deeper to cause more damage.
Drawbacks: Severely lacks versatility and utility and isn’t very effective for outward cutting as it would require you to angle your wrist outwards as you move away from your body, limiting your range of motion.
Example : Sanrenmu S635
Needle Point (AKA Stilleto)
Description: These are technically part of the dagger family but are usually found in much smaller form factors than what most people would consider a technical dagger. Needle-point blades appear exactly as how they sound, the point comes to a sharp needle-like end while the blade itself is long and slender featuring double-edged sides.
This form factor is almost exclusively designed for thrusting and stabbing with its low surface friction point and thus are primarily used for combat or self-defense. It is not a very useful form factor for EDC, camping, hunting, etc and since both edges are generally sharpened, it’s hard to handle the knife and push through thick materials when sawing or cutting. Furthermore, these blades lack tensile strength since the edges are sharpened and there is no thick spine to support the blade.
Sometimes these blades can be found with one edge or even both edges unsharpened. These are technically called thrusting blades but you may find them mislabeled as needle or stiletto knives. The term “Stiletto” is Italian and technically the “Stiletto blade” was designed in Italy in the 15 century, however, it’s unclear whether there were other shortened double-edged blades used by other civilizations before that time period so we cannot conclude that Italians designed the first shortened daggers. These may also commonly be coined as switchblades and as such, can be illegal to own or carry in many places around the world.
Common Use Cases: Combat or self-defense. Otherwise used as show-pieces.
Drawbacks: Like daggers, these aren’t useful for much outside of combat or self-defense.
Description: The Sheepfoot is similar to the Assist style blade but usually comes with a more rounded off point than the Assist blades flat blunted tip. Both styles are ample for sawing and cutting where penetration would like to be avoided. These are excellent blades to use if your only task is sawing or cutting, for example, a commercial fisherman using a Sheepfoot blade exclusively to cut line and netting.
Common Use Cases: Any sawing or cutting applications where penetration of the tip is to be avoided.
Drawbacks: Having a rounded off point means no stabbing capabilities.
Example : Ganzo Firebird FH81
Description: Have you read our take on the straight back blade? If so, take that idea and flip it upside down and then sharpen the opposite side, now you have a Wharncliffe. The cutting edge is perfectly flat and sharp from tip to grip with a spine that begins flat from the grip but then slowly curves downwards into the tip.
Common Use Cases: This blade shape is especially useful for opening boxes or as a letter opener. This particular shape is difficult to cut soft tissue and as such may be a safer option to use in a warehouse or office when working in close quarters to other people.
Drawbacks: The obvious drawback here is the lack of curve along the belly and the point is basically useless.
Example: Ganzo firebird FH31
Description: The Spey blade shape is pretty much solely designed to cut through flesh with accuracy and maneuverability at the forefront of attention. Spey points are commonly used as a scalpel or speying tool.
The shape is kind of a reverse tanto with the top of the spine near the point being blunted and flat, moving the point really low along what otherwise could be called a drop-point style belly. This positioning of the tip allows for minimal penetration capability while keeping the tip low and easy to move through flesh with the belly of the knife at an angle.
Common Use Cases: Speying or anything you would use a scalpel for.
Drawbacks: Really only designed to spey animals or use as a scalpel to cut flesh so versatility and overall tensile strength is low.
Example : Sanrenmu 7065
Description: Dao blades were traditionally used solely by the Chinese as single-edged short and long swords. These blade shapes consist of long and flat spines and bellies that, at the end near the point, encompass a thick tip. On the belly side of the tip, you get something resembling a drop point with its gradual upward curve to the tip. On the spine you see an upward curve that rounds out into the tip, giving the end of the sword a significant boost in weight and momentum when being swung.
These blades are obviously not EDC compatible in their original form but some manufacturers have changed things slightly to make them easier to use for regular tasks. Not many EDC or pocket knives come with these blades but if you do get a long blade it would be excellent for hacking through dense foliage.
By the way, these are actually pronounced with a “T” sound, like “Tau”.
Common Use Cases: Traditionally used as Chinese swords but now used mostly as showpieces.
Drawbacks: Extra weight at the end makes this sword style blade shape fatiguing to swing and not very agile.
Description: While the official Nessmuk origin isn’t quite clear, the blade has been used by many different groups of people around the world and is hailed for its excellent slicing capability and performance in food preparation. It is rumored that a man in the mid-1800s named George Washington Sears specially requested the shape for his own personal use and since he was a known traveler and explorer, the knife shape was adopted by people he met along his excursions.
This blade shape is unique but does resemble a trailing or skinning style blade shape. The belly swoops upwards just like you would expect on a skinning blade but the spine is where the shape takes a different form. There is a large upward bump located near the point on the spine that I can only imagine simply adds weight to the end of the knife making it easier to slice through thick and heavy materials.
Common Use Cases: Bushwacking, food preparation, or skinning applications.
Drawbacks: Heavier than a similarly sized skinning knife, however, this may be an advantage too depending on what you need to use the knife for. These really aren’t very common and thus not many designs or manufacturers carry knives with this blade shape.