In case you don’t already know, we staunchly believe that everyone should have and carry with them at all times a functional pocket knife. Really, there are so many occasions which arise in which to use one, its almost irresponsible not to have one with you. But there are a lot of elements that make up the anatomy of a folder. And, for those who aren’t quite so familiar, that can make picking one out a daunting task.
Take blade shapes, for example. You might not know it at first glance, but the multitude of blade shapes that are available on the market aren’t just for looks. The silhouette of a folding knife actually has a pretty impactful effect on the overall functionality of the knife. Some blades are great for everyday tasks, like opening packages, whereas others were designed with combat in mind. We’ve put together this handy guide to inform you of some of the most common pocket knife blade shapes available on the market today, as well as a bit of information about their usefulness as EDC tools and our pick for a blade of each type.
Clip Point Blade
Our Pick: Gerber Gator
One of the most popular blade shapes available today, the clip point is seen in everything from tactical fixed-blades to folding hunting knives. The unsharpened back of the blade extends about half of its length, before following a concave curve toward its point. The edge of the blade is primarily straight, but for a slight upward slope at the upper 1/3 of the blade toward the point. This blade type makes for an excellent all-purpose knife. It is easily sharpened, comes to an extremely sharp and narrow point, and features a long and functional belly. The primary downside to this blade type is that the very fine tip can be chipped and/or broken with repeated use.
Drop Point Blade
Our Pick: DPx Gear HEST/F
Probably the most popular blade shape amongst the everyday carry community, the drop point is by far the most commonly available pocket knife blade type on the market right now. The unsharpened back of the blade follows a long and slight curve downward from its base toward the point. The belly, or edge, follows a similar but slightly more pronounced slope upward toward the point. The resulting blade features a long and easy to maintain cutting surface and a fairly sharp point. This blade is popular for a reason, as it is one of the easiest to use and maintain. It’s primary downside is that it features a less narrow tip and is, therefore, less suitable for piercing tasks than a clip point blade.
Our Pick: Zero Tolerance 0095BW Titanium Flipper
Not entirely dissimilar a drop point blade, harpoon style blades are marked by an upward ramp on the unsharpened back of the blade. This ramp gives the blade the resemblance of a whaling harpoon with its sharp barb, hence the name. Typically, apart from the back ramp, harpoon style blades have the same gradual sloping silhouette as drop points, but can also be spear pointed, straight/normal, and more – as the ramp is the defining characteristic. The belly most often stays primarily straight, but with an upward slope toward the point at the top 1/3 of the blade. Though they are less common than other blade shapes, harpoon style blades offer a bit of extra leverage, as a thumb can be placed upon the ramp, allowing the user to exert extra downforce during cutting tasks.
Our Pick: Spyderco Paramilitary 2
The signature blade shape of Spyderco, the leaf is called such for its resemblance to the foliage of a plant. This was in part a stylistic decision to make the brand’s knives stand out from the crowd, but it also allowed for the inclusion of their signature Spyderhole oversized thumb hole – used as an alternative to a blade flipper as a means of easy deployment. Leaf shaped blades feature a drastic thumb ramp over the thumb hole, which usually features grip jimping, and then a straight downward slope toward the point. The belly of the blade follows a slight convex curve toward a harsh point. Spyderco’s blades tend to be on the smaller side of the spectrum and have the same point-downside as a clip point blade, but they’re still superb all-purpose EDC blades for.
Our Pick: The James Brand County Knife
About as basic as they come, the normal or straight blade type is the old-school original blade shape dating back literally thousands of years. It is marked by a very simple, yet time-proven silhouette. The unsharpened back of the blade follows a straight non-sloped line from its base to the point. The sharpened belly edge also follows a straight non-sloped line, but for the top 1/3, at which point it slopes upward toward the tip. The long belly of these knives make them excellent candidates for slicing and cutting tasks, but the point is less effective than those of both the clip and drop point blades. That being said, this blade type is also probably the most easy to maintain and is superb for everyday use. Most slipjoint folders, like Swiss Army Knives, feature this type of blade.
Our Pick: Benchmade Mini Griptilian
Sheepsfoot and wharncliffe style blades are somewhat like the opposite of normal/straight shaped blades. That is, they both feature a long slightly or non-sloped belly edge with a back that slopes toward the point. The difference between the two, however, is that sheepsfoot blades feature a straight back that curves toward the point at the top 1/3 of the blade, whereas wharncliffe blades tend to have a more gradual full-blade back slope toward the tip. These blades offer an excellent long straight cutting surface that’s easy to maintain, but they are not particularly suited to piercing tasks, as a result of the sloping unsharpened portion of the blade.
Spear Point Blade
Our Pick: Cold Steel Recon 1
A bit like a more aggressive version of a drop point blade, spear points have a very similar silhouette. The primary difference, however, is that spear point blades are sharpened along a portion (or in some cases all) of the back of the blade. While the addition of an extra edge changes little about the basic cutting functionality of the blade, it certainly makes the spear point a good deal more capable when it comes to stabbing or piercing tasks. Two other blade types that are similar in format to the spear point are the dagger and needle. Dagger blades are straight and come to a more drastic point than a spear point and needles are even thinner and pointier than daggers.
Our Pick: 5.11 Tactical Karambit Folder
Fairly uncommon in the world of folding knives, talon shaped blades are named such for their similarity to the claws of a predatory bird. So, both the back and the edge of the blade follow a similar arcing slope and come to a fairly drastic curved point. This blade type is seen most commonly in knives used for combat, like the tactical karambit seen here. This blade type is all but useless as an everyday cutting tool, but is certainly suited some for piercing and especially slashing tasks. The talon is easily the most combat-focused blade type available on the mass market.
Our Pick: Kershaw Cryo
Named after a traditional short dagger that was carried by the samurai of feudal Japan, tanto style blades have perhaps the most immediately recognizable shape of all of these common blade types, apart perhaps from the talon. Typically, they will feature a straight unsharpened back with a harsh angle toward the point at the upper 1/4 of the blade. The belly follows a similar pattern, but with the upturn toward the point occurring at a harsh angle at about the upper 1/3 of the blade. The result is a knife that has a strong point, but it is somewhat limited in slicing tasks, due to its lack of a curved belly.
Trailing Edge Blade
Our Pick: Cold Steel Talwar
A trailing edge style blade is similar to a talon in that the blade and the back follow a fairly drastic curve. The difference, however, is that with a trailing edge, the outside of the blade’s curve is the belly or edge and the inside is the unsharpened back of the blade. These knives tend not to be as curved as talons, but their shape is certainly more drastic than nearly all other common types. The largest benefit of a trailing edge blade is that it offers the greatest belly surface of any other blade type. They can also be helpful in piercing tasks, if the knife is not too harshly curved. They can, however, be difficult to sharpen due to their curvature.