There’s more to cutting something than just grabbing the closest sharp object. Some jobs are big, some are delicate and that pocket blade you carry with you isn’t going to solve every problem. Use this guide any time you’re at a loss.
Knife Blade Styles & Application
The bird hook is used for cleaning the entrails out of freshly taken fowl. Cut the bird between the legs and turn face down. While applying pressure to the back (with thumbs or foot), pull the legs apart thus skinning the bird. Insert the bird hook into the cloaca (rectum), spin it a few times to entwine the internals and pull to remove.
This blade shape was made famous by Jim Bowie whose fighting prowess became renown after his famous tangle with Norris Wright in Natchez, Mississippi. Known as “The Sandbar Fight”, Jim Bowie killed Norris Wright with his knife that had a blade shape such as this and thus a legend was born. The blade is seen in varying configurations. The design of the blade is effective in both the thrust and slash motions and is essentially a fighting knife although can double as a camp knife/trail knife.
Similar to a drop point, the caping blade is used for field dressing of small game and doubles for meal preparation in the field.
Arguably the most popular blade style made, the clip point is made in a variety of styles, however all share a tip more pointed than a drop point blade with a slight upsweep at the point. The blade may move straight out from the handle or there may be a slight apex along the spine of the blade toward which the blade rises as it moves away from the handle and then drops as it moves to the point. This is considered a general use blade good for indoor and outdoor chores.
The coping blade has a straight spine and blade, creating parallel lines running to the point. At the point the spine angles sharply forward to the tip. The spine also tapers toward the tip so a thin, sharp point is created. This blade is a good cutter at the tip and opens boxes well or is excellent for detail work.
The double-edged blade is often referred to as a dagger and typically has a dagger shape. This shape is designed mainly for thrusting/stabbing and thus is a fighting knife. The blade of the dagger is symmetrical and tapers equally on each edge toward a sharp point. There is no “safe” side to the double edged knife and thus is typically found on fixed blade knives, although some double edged folders can be found.
The drop point may be the second most commonly seen blade style, next to the clip point. The drop point blade is characterized by a gentle downward curve along the spine of the blade giving the blade a slight “humpback” look. The tip may be found in different configurations from slightly blunt to sharply pointed. This blade is used for hunting and general purpose and makes an excellent cutter as the downward curve of the blade maximizes leverage and hand pressure.
The fillet blade is a long, thin, narrow blade made especially for preparation of fish. The blade is usually flexible and very pointed with a slight upsweep at the tip. It is excellent for inserting and then slicing/scraping as a fish is being cleaned. A flat grind is most commonly used and the blade is typically distal tapered to result in a fine, flexible and sharp point.
A gut hook is most commonly seen combined with a skinner type blade in which the spine of the blade has the gut hook cut into it enhancing the use of the knife as a hunter. The hook is made from a semi-circle “C” shape being ground into the blade with the inward part of the “C” sharpened. In hunting use, the underside of the animal is opened for field dressing by hooking the gut hook in a small cut and pulling like a zipper.
The Hawksbill blade takes its name from the shape of a hawk’s bill. Demonstrating a significant downward curve, the blade terminates in a tip that often is extremely pointed and sharp. Useful for aggressive ripping this blade is seen on pruning knives as well as fighting knives, such as the Karambit.
The hoof pick blade is an equestrian tool used for picking and cleaning mud and stones out of a horses hoof. The blade is a thin implement that may have a round or square cross section and a crook at the business end, usually making an angle of 90 degrees or thereabouts.
The Marlin Spike is used by sea farers to assist with untying knots which, through becoming wet and then enduring high tensions, have become ultra tight and cannot be undone by hand alone. The most common and simplest form of the Marlin Spike is a slightly curved, round spike that tapers along its length to a point. The point is worked into the knot between the lines and is used to loosen the knot for untying. Other Marlin Spikes can be more complex and have different shapes or even a hole at the end for threading line and can be used for splicing rope as well.
The pen blade is a short, typically drop point style blade found mostly on folding pocket knives. The pen blade has come down through years of design changes originating with the pen knife which in its purest form was once used to sharpen writing quills. Since then the pen blade has evolved significantly and now holds a place as a secondary blade on a folding pocket knife, more useful on smaller chores or finer detailed work than the larger main blade.
The Rescue Hook blade has a very similar appearance to the hunting gut hook and is also a specialized blade. The Rescue hook is designed for emergency personnel who need to cut through binding materials in a hurry. Cutting seatbelts is especially in view here, or any other material inhibiting rescue or treatment effort. The blade may be hooked on the bottom of a pant leg or shirt sleeve and run upward to expose a wound.
The reverse tanto blade takes its cue from the tanto blade and like the tanto, excels in tip strength and penetration ability. In the reverse tanto, the spine of the blade will angle sharply downward as it nears the tip creating a point that is usually quite sharp.
The sabre blade moves in a upward sweep along the cutting edge from back to front, while the spine slopes downward near the tip with a false edge or swedge on the foremost quarter or third of the blade. This blade is excellent in the draw cut or slash.
The scimitar blade possesses an upswept curve ending in a needle sharp point. The spine of the blade is generally curved upward and this can be subtle or quite pronounced depending on the variation of the design. The blade’s strength is in cutting along the edge as opposed to thrusting and is excellent in the draw cut, slice or slash.
Found on traditional folding pocket knives the sheepsfoot is similar to the coping blade in which the spine and edge run parallel from the handle. The difference between the two however is the drop from the spine to the tip is a rounded curve on the sheepsfoot rather than an angle as on the coping blade. The blade also thins as it approaches the tip and makes it useful for detail work.
A skinner blade is designed with a generous curving belly to assist in the field dressing and skinning of game. Typically without a sharp point, the ample belly is the main using portion of the blade and can resemble a scraper in some examples.
The spatula blade is found on the doctors knife pattern and was used at one time as a pill counter/separator. Made of a flat piece of steel with a rounded tip, the spatula blade has no sharpened edge. Ideal as a stir stick, tongue depressor or grain stick to measure out fine amount of powder, this is a special use blade.
The spear point blade is a straight blade with a single sharpened edge. The top of the blade has a false edge near the tip and the top and bottom of the blade fall and rise equally to create a point at the equator of the blade. The variations on this blade consist mainly in the point, with some being more blunted as in traditional pocket knife examples, or sharper more pointed tips as in tactical knife examples.
The spey blade is a short, blunt blade with a prominent upsweep and a lesser downward slope from the spine at the tip. The top and bottom of the blade run parallel to each other from the handle. This blade is found mostly on traditional pocket knives, particularly a stockman pattern. The blade was originally designed for neutering cattle and saw plenty of this use in its day. It is now most commonly used in more urbane chores but is proving itself an excellent cutter in any era.
The tanto blade brings excellent piercing and tip strength to the table and is found on many of the most popular knives. A typical tanto blade proceeds forth from the handle either straight or curving slightly upward. At the tip of the blade in the final 1 – 2 inches, the cutting edge turns sharply upward at approximately a 45 degree angle to meet the spine in a thick strong point. Of Japanese design from the 9th century, this blade shape has been in continuous use perhaps longer than any other shape.
The trailing point blade has a tip that is upswept to an elevation higher than the spine. This type of knife typically has a large amount of belly and is good for skinning.
The wharncliff blade is usually a traditional pocket knife blade, but can be found one single blade knives as well. Like the coping and sheepsfoot blades, the wharncliff blade has a flat edge with the spine dropping to meet it at the point. Unlike these other two blades, the top of the wharncliff does not run parallel to the edge for quite the same distance. Beginning further back on the blade, the spine begins a gentle, curving slope downward until it reaches the edge in a needle sharp point.