Whether you’re looking for kitchen knives or a pocket knife, knives come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Knife edge grinds say a lot about what the knife should be used for, what their qualities are, and how they should be maintained and sharpened. The knife grind is what allows people to use knives in the way they do – that is one side of the technology of a knife. The other side of the technology is the profile (or shape) of the knife.
You wouldn’t use a knife with a needle-point profile, for example, in the same way as you’d use a blade with a “regular” or tanto profile. In this article, we’ll be going through a variety of knife profiles and what they’re good for. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
The “Simple” Blade Profile
Simple blades are the shape that the majority of knives used in everyday life have. They have straight spines, with curving edges that meet the spine to form the tip or point of the knife. Straight spines allow the user to use blades like this with both hands and safely add pressure to them. Adding pressure with both hands means that the force of the cut can be concentrated on a smaller area, increasing the effectiveness of the cutting edge.
The reason why simple blades are so popular is because of this strength and sturdiness. Knives like this are great for heavy work, such as cutting through thick roots, ropes, or branches or using a baton to drive the knife through wood or another material. It’s also a great blade to practice your sharpening skills on – the simple shape also means that this type of blade is the easiest to sharpen. Thus, beginners to sharpening can work on simple blades and refine their technique before moving on to knives that are possibly more expensive and that have edges that are more difficult to sharpen.
Trailing Point Blade Profile
With a trailing point blade, you get an edge that curves upwards and takes the spine with it for a bit to form the tip of the blade. Usually, the tip is higher than the handle in the profile. The surface area of the edge, also known as a “belly”, is greater because of this upward curvature, and makes slashing and easier. It also enables longer, more even cuts. The most common knives that have this kind of profile are usually called fillet knives, but trailing point blades are also historically popular for slashing weapons.
Keep in mind that a fillet knife is different then a boning knife.
The thin tip, together with the larger surface area of the edge, makes for a great blade for processing small wildlife and fish.
Clip point blade profile
A clip point blade profile has a mostly straight spine. Near the tip of the blade, however, the spine looks like it has been removed or clipped. The clip part of the blade can be concave, straight, and can even on the spine which can be sharpened. A blade with a profile like this has a much finer and more maneuverable tip. This makes it a great for piercing and cutting or slicing in tight, hard to reach spots. The blade tip is usually parallel to the center of the blade or parallel to the blade’s spine. The difference between these two tip positions is that a clip point blade with a tip that’s parallel to the center of the blade provides more control and force to the user when using it for piercing.
Clip point blades are an iconic blade profile and can be found all many different kinds of knives – from pocket and folding knives to larger fixed blade hunting and combat knives. For example, the American Bowie knife is one of the most recognizable knife designs in the world and is a classic example of a blade with a clip point profile.
Drop point blade profile
Drop point blades are very popular and are used in many knife designs. Many chef’s knives and the popular Swiss Army knife have drop point profiles. A drop point profile is a blade that has a convex curve to the spine as it comes up to the tip of the blade. That means that the spine of the blade starts to drop, while the curve of the belly or cutting edge of the knife curves up. They meet at the tip. This profile makes the blade tip strong and sturdy. It’s easy to direct when cutting and piercing, and for this reason drop point blades are ideal for everyday carry knives that you use to do simple chores with. Some Seax blades were known to be drop-point knives, although there were other versions as well.
Spear point blade profile
A spear point blade profile is what you call a knife that has a symmetrical blade that has a tip that is in line with the center of the blade’s axis.
Traditionally, it has double edges and is mostly used for piercing. It’s what many knife historians would recognize as a classic dagger design. Because of the design, spear point blades are not practical for everyday carry and mostly feature on tactical and fighting knives. Some makers create a “false edge” to comply with legal requirements.
Needlepoint blades are considered to be a variant of spear point blades, but the symmetrical blade tapers and forms a needle-like tip. Stilettos – the knife type, not the women’s shoes – are a classic example of a needlepoint blade profile.
Spay point blade profile
A spay point blade has a sudden downward angle to the spine near the very tip of the blade. It also has a shorter upward curve to the edge. This makes the blade more obtuse and better fit for doing fine skinning work.
Originally, it was used for spaying animals, but is now more popular among trappers and hunters who use the knife to skin and dress animals without accidentally piercing the hide.
Tanto blade profile
Tanto-style blades, also known as chisel point blades, come from the Japanese blade-making tradition. Tanto blades have a single edge, with a straight spine and a straight edge until just before the tip, when the edge angles up at a slight convex angle to meet the spine and create the tip. The result is a blade with a very strong and sturdy tip due to its thickness, but which isn’t as good at piercing as different blade profiles.
Tanto knives have become popular over the years and now feature in the everyday carry of many knife users, especially as folding knives. The only drawback of the tanto is that it can be challenging to sharpen due to the angle of the blade at the tip.
Sheepsfoot blade profile
Sheepsfoot blades are characterized by their completely straight edge – unlike many other knives, it is the edge that remains straight and the spine that curves down to meet it and form the tip. The effect is to provide users with a very safe knife that doesn’t really have a tip to pierce with.
The name comes from its original purpose – trimming the hooves on sheep, but sheepsfoot knives are popular for precision work such as woodworking and electrical work, and were also popular on ships which used ropes, as it was harder for the user to stab themselves if the ship rocked or tilted unexpectedly. Being a relatively safe type of knife, sheepsfoot blades are great for teaching novices and children knife skills, sharpening, wood carving, and other “fine” work.
They aren’t very popular for everyday carry – perhaps it’s exactly because they’re relatively safe and unthreatening – but sheepsfoot blades are very useful in a number of ways, and a good addition to any knife collection.
Hawkbill blades have a spine and an edge that curve downwards, leading to a point that is below the rest of the edge and giving it the shape of a hawk’s bill – hence the name. Hawkbill knives aren’t good for piercing, but they’re great for making long cuts, such as when cutting carpet or linoleum to install it. They are also good for carving, because the shape of the blade allows it to grab hold of wood and other materials easily and lessens the risk of stabbing yourself if the blade slips. The blade profile was popular in eastern cultures for slashing weapons, and has gained newfound popularity among modern fighting and tactical blades for that same reason.
Persian blade profile
Knives with Persian blades are essentially the opposite of hawkbill blades – the spine and the edge curve up, instead of down. Historically used in Eastern weapons, nowadays the Persian blade excels at filleting.
Leaf point blade profile
Leaf point blades are so called because they resemble the leaf of a walnut tree. Similar to drop point blades, the drop of a leaf point blade’s spine is more dramatic. These types of knives are often associated with foldable Spyderco knives, and usually feature a thumb-hole as a means of quickly opening or closing the knife.
Blunt tip blade profile
Why would anyone want a knife with a blunt tip? These are undoubtedly specialty knives, but, just as sheepsfoot blades and their relative safety are appealing and useful in certain situations, so are blunt tip knives. Boaters, for example, use them for cutting things on the open water, where an accident with a regular knife’s tip could be deadly, seeing as the user might be on the open seas where prompt medical care is non-existent.
Gut-hook blade profile
Gut-hook blades are knives where the spine makes a small “overhang” or hook which has a ground, sharpened edge, but without a sharp tip. This was intended to be used when skinning animals, as this hook would not damage the hide or cut through internal organs. Originally (and still) popular with hunters and trappers, gut-hooks are now commonly found on military, rescue, and survival knives, due to their ability to cut through seat-belts, harnesses, and cordage (such as parachute cords) without risking injury from a large and exposed edge.
Recurve blade profile
Recurve blades have rapidly become popular in the last decade. With recurve blades, the belly of the knife makes a bow-shaped protrusion from the edge, leading to a greater cutting surface area. Recurve blade profiles are especially popular on hunting knives, self-defense knives, and skinning blades.
When thinking about your next knife purchase, remember this blade profile breakdown and consider what you will be using that knife for. Are you a hunter? Will you be using your new knife to skin a buck that you have brought down? A spay point blade might be the kind of knife that you need. Or are you a first responder, who needs to be ready to save lives at any moment? In that case, a gut-hook knife might be right for you. In fact, gut hook knives would perform well in both situations – whether it’s skinning an animal that you’ve hunted or cutting through a seat-belt to pull someone out of a car wreck.
Perhaps you’ve got other things on your mind. Wood carving might be your favorite hobby, and that’s what you want to use your new knife for. In that case, you need something that will grip well – such as a sheepsfoot or hawkbill blade. A foodie doesn’t need a fighting knife – amateur and professional chefs would do well to buy knives with trailing or drop point blade profiles. Cutting, piercing, and filleting ingredients are what these knives excel at.
All of this is to say that the beauty of knives is largely found in their function. A spear point blade looks out of place in a kitchen, and a knife with a sheepsfoot profile would be an odd choice for people who are looking for tactical use or a self-defense knife. So consider your needs carefully, and make sure the blade profile fits those needs.
This article was last revised on 02/28/2020.