October 04, 2021

Knife profiles – A Detailed Overview

Knives come in many various shapes and sizes, which can be daunting for the new user. This page helps you identify the different knife profiles so you can better understand their purpose.

Bowie/Clip Point

The defining characteristic of a Clip Point is the cutout, which can be anything from straight to concave. A Clip Point enhances the sharpness of the tip and provides a little extra control at the point. It is common to see a swedge or false edge on a Clip Point blade. I listed this point as both a Clip Point and Bowie because a Clip Point is a typical feature of a Bowie knife.

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Drop Point

Unlike a Clip Point, a Drop Point has a convex arc that lowers the tip. Drop Points often have a deep belly and a lot of tip strength. It is also common to see a swedge or false edge on a Drop Point.

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Hawkbill

Often confused with a Karambit, the Hawkbill has a hooked shape towards the tip of the blade that curves down – much like a hawk’s beak. Hawkbill blades see the most use in cutting textiles (commonly found in the tool pouch of a carpet layer) and rope (making them a great marine or sailing knife).

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Karambit

Similar to a Hawkbill, the Karambit has a hook shape that drops as it gets near the tip. However, unlike the Hawkbill, the hook is gradual along the entire length of the blade. The Karambit looks more like a talon and is perfect for self-defense due to its unique hooked shape, providing for deep slashing cuts.

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Kephart

Designed by Horace Kephart, author of many books and articles on wilderness survival and outdoor lore, the Kephart design is hailed by many in the outdoor community as one of the best thought out designs for bushcrafting. The Kephart is a spear point that broadens slightly at the tip, ensuring that it isn’t “too sharply pointed to cook and eat with,” according to Horace Kephart.


Kukri/Khukuri

The Kukri or Khukuri was initially developed for the Gurkhas as their primary utility blade and weapon – one they wielded with deadly efficiency. The Kukri is most distinguishable by its dramatic drop around the middle of the spine and heavy arc in the recurve of the edge, making for an effective chopper – regardless of the subject matter it is chopping.


Machete

The Machete is most notably used in dense jungle regions for its ability to cleanly cut through lush foliage – as well as light, whippy foliage – with a slight whip of the wrist. Machetes are typically long and narrow and utilize a thinner blade stock but can sometimes be shorter for easier wielding in dense jungle. In certain parts of the world, the Machete is also a formidable weapon.


Nessmuk

Named after outdoor writer George Washington Sears (who went by the pen name “Nessmuk” in his writings), the Nessmuk has a very distinct rise on the spine towards the tip. This helps reinforce the tip and reduce the point for better control during chores that a tip would hinder or be detrimental (such as skinning game). The rise on the spine also allowed for a deeper belly, making the Nessmuk an excellent slicer and bushcraft blade.


Parang

Hailing from Southeast Asia, the Parang is similar to a Machete in use but is more robust – for stronger chopping – due to Southeast Asia having more woody areas that require a slightly stronger blade. The design is noticeably different as well, in that the Parang has an upswept arc in the blade profile and dramatic drop at the tip (which can be either a clip point or drop point depending on the maker), where machetes typically do not.


Puukko

A Finnish design, the Puukko is very distinct, with a straight spine (no drop point, clip point, or trailing point of any kind) and no secondary (edge) bevel on the grind. The grind on a Puukko is one of its most distinct features, in that the primary bevel is also the edge bevel – there is no dedicated secondary (edge) bevel. The grind on a Puukko goes from the edge to the middle of the blade—called a Scandi grind.


Recurve

To call a blade itself a Recurve is a bit of a misnomer because any blade type can have a recurve on the edge. A Recurve is a feature of a blade with a slight S curve as it runs the length of the edge. This curve helps to facilitate better chopping and slicing. A knife with a recurve edge excels at draw cuts because the deep belly digs in deeper. Larger blades with a recurve also tend to be better choppers because the deep belly adds extra weight to the “sweet spot” of the knife when chopping.


Sheepsfoot

The Sheepsfoot blade looks just like it sounds. The blade’s spine runs perpendicular to the edge until the tip, where it takes a bit of a dramatic downturn to meet the edge—resembling a sheep’s foot. On a typical Sheepsfoot blade, the edge stays straight the entire length of the blade – although there are some modified Sheepsfoot designs where there is a slight rise to the edge at the tip. Sheepsfoot blades are perfect for utility blades and self-defense due to the pressure on the tip when bearing down on the subject matter.


Spear Point

The spear point is symmetrical the entire length of the blade, with both the spine and edge running perpendicular to each other until both arc at the tip to meet in the middle. Most Spear Point knives typically have a single edge and an unsharpened spine (although many have a swedge running the length of the spine). With both edges sharpened, it becomes a dagger.


Spey Point

Multi-blade slip joint folders, such as stockman and trapper-style knives, typically have a Spey Point. It has a very distinct design with a straight blade that slowly lowers as it reaches the tip. At the tip, the edge takes a sudden arc, rising to meet the spine, which itself takes a very obtuse drop to make a Clip Point. The edge and spine meet just above the halfway mark of the blade profile.


Tanto

Typically, when you hear “Tanto Tip” or see a knife with the tip referenced as a Tanto, it refers to the American Tanto. Many tactical knives use the American Tanto due to its excellent tip strength. The Tanto was not originally a type of tip but was a small Japanese knife that accompanied the Katana and Wakazashi of the Samurai. So, for this reason, this entry is describing the American Tanto tip because it is what is most common on knives today when referred to as a Tanto Tip. 

On a blade with a Tanto tip, the defining characteristic is the dramatic angle of the edge – at the tip – rising to meet the spine and create the point. It can be anything from a straight edge to having a slight curve. The spine is often straight but can sometimes have a Clip or Drop Point (as in the diagram to the left).

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Texas Toothpick

The Texas Toothpick is a very recognizable blade profile found on a lot of slip joint folders. It is defined by its long slender profile with a clip point that typically runs approximately 2/3’s of the length of the blade. The Texas Toothpick design has been around since before 1940 and has a very traditional and recognizable look.


Trailing Point

The Trailing Point looks a lot like an upside-down Karambit. Where a Karambit has the blade drop down to create a hook, the Trailing Point has the tip rise up – above the spine of the blade – giving it a deep belly. The Trailing Point makes for great hunting and skinning knives. It is typically better at slashing and slicing, than piercing or stabbing.


Wharncliffe

Many confuse the Wharncliffe with the Sheepsfoot because they both have the downturn of the spine at the tip. A Wharncliffe looks like someone took a regular knife and turned it upside down. Wharncliffe differs from the Sheepsfoot because, on the Sheepsfoot, the spine and edge are both straight and run perpendicular to each other. Where on the Wharncliffe, the spine typically drops the entire length of the blade slowly. On a traditional Wharncliffe, the edge is perfectly straight the entire length of the blade, but some knife makers opt for more of a modified Wharncliffe, in which the edge has a slight curve (but still not much).