The common knife blade shapes and sharpenings: Everyday use explained

Cutting through the confusion: A breakdown of common knife terminology.

Knives are one of those things you don’t realize how much you’ll use until it’s right there with you in your pocket. Whether you’re opening packages, making quick fixes around the house or enjoying the outdoors, a good, sharp knife makes things easier and safer.

But even if you’ve never thought about it consciously, you’ve surely seen that knives come in a seemingly countless number of forms. Each one is designed with a specific purpose in mind, and like the sharpening of a knife, each has its own unique set of advantages and disadvantages.

Parts of a knife

1. Spine

Leaf back, usually rough. Thick spines add strength.

2. Ricasso

The part of the blade between the handle and the beginning of the sharpened edge. Often has a “tang stamp”, the manufacturer’s symbol.

3. Jimping

Grooves in the back of the blade or handle for increased grip.

4. Stomach

The curved part of the blade as the sharpened edge approaches the tip.

5. Dental serrations

Many small points that scrape away a surface like a saw.

6. Choil

The rough part of the blade between the handle and the sharpened edge.

7. Handle

8. Tongs

The part of the knife blade that extends below the handle.

Types of knife sharpening

The shape of the blade seen as a cross section. The four most basic beings:

diagram of hollow knife sharpening

Hole grinding

A hole grind is a style of knife sharpening that, when examined in cross-section, has a concave shape. This grind is made by removing steel from the edge of the blade, resulting in a thin, sharp edge. Because of this, the hollow grind has a reputation for producing extremely sharp edges, making it popular with those who hunt and practice survival skills. However, the edge is thinner and has less steel support, making it more vulnerable to damage and requiring more frequent maintenance and sharpening. Serrated knives are commonly used for tasks such as carving and skinning.

flat edge knife sharpening chart

Flat sanding / V-edge

The simplest type of edge is the flat grind, commonly referred to as a V edge. It has an equal taper from the spine to the cutting edge, so the width of the blade is constant from the spine to the edge. A symmetrical edge is produced by this grind by reducing steel from both sides of the blade. This type of sharpening is perfect for knives used for slicing and cutting, as it is easy to maintain and sharpen. The chef’s knife, which is the primary knife used in kitchens for slicing and chopping food, is a typical example of a flat-ground knife.

convex knife sharpening

Convex grinding

Because of the difficulty of grinding, the convex grind, also known as an “axe grind”, is considered a highly specialized grind. By removing steel from the edge of the blade, this grind produces a convex shape as opposed to a concave shape. This creates an edge that is thicker, stronger and more resistant to wear. However, the wider edge makes it more difficult to maintain and sharpen. Convex-ground knives are often used for labor-intensive tasks such as chopping wood.

compound bevel knife sharpening

Compound bevel

The compound bevel is the most common type of factory-made blade. It has a flat sander-like constant taper and the cutting edge is produced by a secondary chamfer. To achieve this grind, steel is removed from both sides of the blade, resulting in a symmetrical edge. A secondary chamfer is then introduced to the edge to produce a sharper edge. This gives the blade a sharp edge for cutting tasks and increases blade life due to the relative thickness of the rest of the blade. A good general purpose sander that works well for many different jobs.

Types of knife shape

The shape of the blade can determine strength, sharpness, piercing ability and ultimately which task it is best suited for.

Clip Point

clip point knife shape diagram

The classic multi-purpose blade has a concave “clip” on the spine to increase the sharpness of the tip. Useful for piercing, cutting in tight places or as a pick. It is a common blade shape found on traditional pocket knives as well as larger hunting knives thanks to its versatility for various skinning treatments as well as camp tasks.

type of sheep's foot knife

The sheepsfoot blade has a curved back and a flat straight edge. Made to be held with the fingers for precision control, the dull back was originally used to trim sheep’s hooves and was often used for shearing.

Drop Point

drop point knife type diagram

The drop point is one of the most common leaves. Droppoints also make good hunting knives: to avoid the tip cutting into an animal’s organs while field dressing, the droppoint has a downward convex curve that lowers the point. The droppoint design also offers an excellent combination of strength and control, making it a smart choice for both demanding and delicate cutting tasks. They are also common in a wide variety of knives, including fixed knives, folding knives and even kitchen knives.

Shines

rail knife type diagram

A narrow tip and wide, sweeping curved belly, a skinner is perfect for separating a hide from the flesh and cutting through thick layers. Like the drop point, the downward-facing point reduces the risk of cutting through the hide, while the more dramatic sweep up of the blade allows for longer and faster horizontal slices while flailing.

Wharncliffe

Wharncliffe knife type diagram

The Wharncliffe blade is known for its distinctive design and durability. The blade has a straight edge and a convex spine that slopes down to the tip. It works well for rough carving and cutting jobs, and the small tip makes precise cuts possible. Although the blade is often confused with a sheep’s foot blade, its distinctive convex spine sets it apart.

Cover

pocket knife diagram

A short, pointed blade with a slightly sweeping edge makes it easy to control in difficult places. It is a common design for blades used in taxidermy – used to remove the “mantle”, the neck and head of an animal, for mounting. This shape makes it easy to control in awkward situations. The design of the blade makes it easy to command and precise, creating a great option for jobs that require dexterity and accuracy.

Spey Point

spey point knife diagram

Originally designed to castrate livestock, the mostly straight blade with a small tip reduces the likelihood of accidental piercing. Still popular for skinning and dressing small animals, and is common on pocket knives.

Pen

penknife example

A small, multi-purpose blade that resembles a drop point found on pocket knives originally used to sharpen quills. The shape of the blade makes it easy to control and precise, making it an excellent option for jobs that require dexterity and accuracy. People often use it as a small utility knife for opening packages, cutting yarn, or even cooking outside of the kitchen.

Tanto

Tanto knife type

Many tactical knives have the distinctive and eye-catching Tanto blade. The blade has a thick spine where the leading edge angles rather than curves into the back. The tip produced by this design is robust and razor sharp, making it ideal for piercing large objects. In self-defense, survival and tactical scenarios where the ability to cut through strong materials such as leather, rubber and even metal is essential, the Tanto blade is very useful. The broad spine of the blade also makes it less likely to break or bend when used hard, making it a tough option for demanding chores. Knife lovers appreciate tanto blades because they have a distinctive aesthetic appeal.

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