This page outlines the most common blade types found in contemporary Western folding and fixed blade knife designs. The illustrations are presented in a “best fit” format as most knives are variations of a more common, traditionally rooted pattern. Variation names are often preceded with the descriptor of “modified” (modified drop point, modified wharncliff etc.)
This article does not cover culinary knives, less commonly used, job specific blade profiles like the spey or folding tools such as bird hooks. It also does not cover blade anatomy which will be handled in a different section.
For lack of a better term, this is called a Standard profile. It is defined by a minimal amount of geometry, created by a straight spine and curving cutting edge. This pattern is a great utility blade and is most popularly used in Finnish Puukkos.
The drop point is probably the most commonly found blade profile. It is defined by a slight spine radius (less than the belly) that “drops” to meet the cutting edge at the point. This pattern is extensively used due to its versatility providing great slicing along with a strong, yet effective point for penetrating cuts.
The point gets its name from the area that is ground or “clipped” away on the top edge to produce a more aggressive tip than on a dropped point. Clipped points are often found on knives that serve double duty as utility and fighting knives. Popular examples include the KABAR WWII USMC or the Bowie Knife.
The spear point focuses on the ability to perform, deep effortless penetrating cuts. They can easily be identified by their symmetrical profile. This profile is most commonly used on daggers and other fighting knives such as the Fairbairn–Sykes Fighting Knife along with bayonets.
Another example of a spear point would be the 888 Professional SOL.
This type of tanto is widely adopted by modern manufacturers over more traditional and diverse Japanese Tantos. This pattern is defined by its normally straight cutting edge and point formed by a hard angle. Largely popularized in the 1980’s the pattern’s focus on tip strength and thrust cutting is generally marketed as a fighting knife. With its wedge like point Westernized tantos are adept at penetrating tougher fibrous materials.
Wharncliffe blades have their roots in sailing knives where an elongated, downward sloping spine was used to help in preventing accidental penetrating cuts on a rocking boat. Modified Wharncliff profiles have found a resurgence in modern fighting knives championed by certain martial art practitioners such as Michael Janich for the way in which pressure is distributed along the cutting edge. This pattern also offers excellent, fine tip control.
The Sheep’s-Foot was originally designed for grooming sheep hoofs. The rounded, downward sloping spine would prevent accidental cuts to the user and livestock alike. While this pattern is rooted in a specific task, this profile is widely used in folding and fixed blade knives used by EMT’s or search and rescue applications.
Trailing points have a geometry that effectively extends the cutting surface by having a long pronounced belly. This coupled with the convex spine defines the pattern. Trailing points are proficient slicers and have the ability to cut on a back stroke. They also perform upward thrust cuts very well. These profiles are often found in Middle Eastern blades such as the Shabaria but have found a resurgence in Western fighting knives such as the Benchmade’s Bedlam or ethnic influenced knives like Spyderco’s Persian designed by Ed Schempp.
Hawk Bill blades are named after their beak or talon-like profile and originate in the commercial fishing industry. This pattern is often found on knives used in pull cutting applications, especially those that benefit from the gathering effect of the concave cutting edge. Spyderco’s Tasman Salt is an example targeting the ability to easily slice through netting and rope. This pattern is also similar to the South East Asian Karambit which will be covered in a different post.