Shaping Up - Blade Style Guide (Part 3)
This week will wrap up our series on blade shapes for folding and small sheath knives. Today I’ll be covering the trailing point, hawkbill and Wharncliffe blade designs. So far we have covered six different blade designs. Each design has strengths and weaknesses and they each have tasks in which they excel at. These three designs are no different.
The trailing point blade tends to be a favorite amongst hunters and fisherman. This blade has a concave curvature on the spine, with its point actually ending higher than highest point on the handle. This allows for an ample belly on the knife and makes it an amazing choice for skinning. You’ll also see this design often in fillet knives. The added real estate for the curved cutting edge makes this blade easy to maneuver with broad sweeping cuts. These blades make great slicers for the same reasons. The point of the blade is fine, making it great for detailed work but leaving it vulnerable to breaking under pressure. Sharpening this blade style can be done easily. The biggest drawback that I see to carrying this blade style is putting it back in its sheath. Because of the high point and curvature of the blade, you almost have to roll the knife into the sheath. This presents a possible problem in a leather sheath especially, making cutting into the sheath a real possibility if you aren’t used to it. That being said, just be careful, or invest in a kydex sheath.
The hawkbill blade is probably the most menacing blade that I have reviewed so far. Much like the spear point blade, It looks dangerous, and by dangerous, I mean cool. This blade gets its name for its obvious likeness to the sharp beak of a hawk. The spine curves downward drastically, giving it an almost talon-like appearance. The cutting edge either mirrors this curvature, or is increased for a more dramatic look. Blades with a plain cutting edge look extremely sharp, and serrated blades look as if they will rip through anything with this design. The tip of this blade style may possibly be some of the thinnest and sharpest of the entire group. This makes it great for piercing, and cleaning fingernails. Because we all know that if you are carrying a dangerous looking knife, you are going to randomly clean your fingernails with it just so others can admire the blade. The tactical advantages of this blade alone make it worth having, but it brings much more to the table than just ripping through rope and zip ties. These knives are great for pruning and close-quarter self defense. As with any blade, it does have some disadvantages, and unfortunately, they are glaring. The thin tip is not meant for detailed work and is extremely subject to breaking, especially when it is made from inferior steel. This style isn’t a slicer and skinner, and even has very few uses in carving. This style doesn’t allow for easy cuts by pushing forward, so it also presents some safety concerns when using it for anything outside of its’ wheelhouse. All in all, this is a blade design worth having, but just be sure to supplement with a blade that can pick up the slack.
Finally, the very cool, and very useful Wharncliffe blade. This great blade design goes all the way back to the early 1800’s when it was a mere suggestion made to a leader of the a prominent cutlery manufacturer, Sheffield. While the design wasn’t exclusive to the first Lord of Wharncliffe (its general design goes back to viking blades of a similar look), the broad manufacturing of this style began with his suggestion. The blade itself is often confused for the sheep’s foot blade because they both have thick, strong spines that taper down to a usually straight edge. The major difference is how the two approach the tip. If you recall from my last blog, the sheep’s foot blade really doesn’t have much of a tip. The Wharncliffe has a very pronounced tip because the spine tapers in such as way as to give the blade a nice, piercing, point. You’ll find this design on many of your favorite Case brand, multi-blade knives, as well as some new up-and-coming utilitarian knife designs. As seen above, the Kershaw “Barge” knife has a Wharncliffe blade with a gentle curvature to the cutting edge. Modifications like this have been made by various designers throughout the years to help continue this its’ legacy, and extend its uses to other tasks. This design makes a great utility blade. It slices and pierces, and can be used for carving and more. Is it the perfect blade for all of these tasks? No. The blade was originally designed for woodworking, but if you are looking for a blade style that is an all around, great EDC knife; this is a great choice. The cutting edge is easy to sharpen and its only real downfall is that out of all the tasks I can think of, skinning is where it will perform the poorest. Overall, this is a great blade design that has withstood the test of time and is worth having.
It’s been a blast looking at these blade designs! I hope you find this information helpful. At the end of the day, I can honestly say this; there isn’t one perfect knife. As with any other tool, they each work best in conjunction with others. I know that some may be thinking, but what about a reverse tanto, or the lamb’s foot, or a spey point, or…?! This list certainly doesn’t cover EVERY blade design, and maybe I’ll come back to some of these other outliers later. There are so many variations of blades out there, and we haven’t even talked about short swords, machetes, and such! Each design has its benefits and weak points. The more you learn about blades, the more you understand how to use them safely and efficiently. What’s important is that you have one when you need it. If we can help you with that, we’d love to! Feel free to leave questions in the comment section or request more information about this topic. Until next week, be safe and stay sharp!