I love every knife I have and I have a habit of buying more knives then I need. However if you are new to knives or just don’t research the types of knives available it can become overwhelming.
Knife Depot has put together the quintessential Knife guide. This is a small excerpt from the full article that can be found here.
We recommend you read through this and then check out the full article when you get time.
Pocket Knife Edges: Fully Serrated, Partially Serrated or Plain
You can’t buy a pocket knife without pondering the great serrated vs. plain edge debate. What makes this decision even more difficult is that most models come with the option of plain, partially serrated and sometimes even fully serrated blades. To help you parse through the info and figure out which edge suits your needs, we’ve laid out the pros and cons of each.
For centuries, there was only one type of edge: the plain edge. It wasn’t until fairly recently that serrated edges began to grow in popularity. To really understand the basic difference between the two, we first have to look at the types of cuts a knife can make. The first is a push cut. This is done when you push a knife through something, like shaving or peeling an apple. The second is the pull cut. These are cuts that require you to pull the knife across something in order to cut it, like cutting rope or slicing a piece of bread.
Advantages: The general consensus is that having a pocket knife with a plain edge is better at performing push cuts. Along the same lines, the single sharp edge allows you to have better control, more accuracy and cleaner cuts. A separate advantage is that the plain edges are significantly easier to sharpen and don’t require you to send it back to the factory for sharpening.
Disadvantages: One of its major downsides is its inability to saw and perform pull cuts. Similar to how you can’t cut a loaf of bread with a plain edge knife, you can’t slice objects that require sawing motions very efficiently.
Recommended Uses: If you find yourself performing push cuts throughout the day, a plain edge will suit you well. Although it doesn’t perform well on wood or rope, it will excel at things like shaving and skinning animals.
Fully Serrated Edge
Advantages: The disadvantages of the plain edge are the advantages of the fully serrated edge. It does a better job with cutting tougher materials. The reason for this is that additional strength comes from the higher pressure per area due to the serrations. Serrations also tend to be thinner, which allows them to cut better than plain edge knives.
Disadvantages: Serrated blades, while better at cutting hard materials, are much clumsier than plain blades. You would, for example, not want a doctor to perform surgery with a serrated blade unless you want jagged punctive cuts in your vital organs. Serrations are also significantly more difficult to sharpen. In most cases, if you to retain the original blade, you would need to send it back to the factory for sharpening. Alternatively, you can follow our guide to sharpening a serrated blade.
Recommended Uses: When you take stock of your everyday tasks and notice there’s a lot of hard cutting and sawing, a serrated edge is your best bet. Although it has some limitations, a fully serrated blade is useful in specific situations.
Partially Serrated Edge (Combo Edge)
Advantages: A partially serrated edge is a mixture of both edge types and has overtaken the fully serrated edge in popularity. The combo edge is more popular because it allows you to use part of the knife for push cuts and the other part for rigorous cutting.
Disadvantages: The combo edge has some of the same disadvantages of a serrated edge, such as sharpening difficulties. However, other aspects, like its clumsiness, are fixed by the plain part of the knife. Another thing to consider is the placement of the serrations on the blade because they aren’t always useful for certain tasks.
Recommended Uses: If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, a partially serrated edge is the way to go. It combats some of the negatives of serrated edges but allows you to keep the sawing ability on your knife.
Choosing Blade Length
When browsing through pocket knives, you’ll see a wide range of blade lengths—from the whopping 7.5-inch blade on the Cold Steel Espada XL to small 2-inch blades found on many multi-tools. Even though it may only be a difference of a few inches, the size of your blade can make a huge difference.
Like all the other considerations that go into purchasing a pocket knife, this is usually a matter of preference. Still, we break down some of the pros and cons of the various blade lengths below.
Small blades (under 2.75 inches)
Advantages: It may seem more advantageous to get a larger pocket knife, but knives with blades 2.75 inches and shorter have a number of benefits. The first, and oftentimes most important, asset is that pocket knives with small blades are usually legal everywhere. Many knife laws set the acceptable length arbitrarily below 2.75 inches, so having one of these smaller knives will ensure you’re compliant with almost all knife laws.
Smaller blades also have the advantage of being, well, small. Their size allows for an easy carry that’s not as burdensome as larger knives.
Disadvantages: The obvious downside of small blades is that they aren’t as strong or versatile as larger blades. Due to their size, they are often slipjoint blades, meaning they won’t lock into place and are prone to failure during extreme use.
Recommended Uses: These are good for light everyday carry when you only use the knife for basic tasks around the house like cutting string or opening small boxes.
Medium blades (2.75-4 inches)
Advantages: When we put together our best pocket knives guide, every knife fell into this range of blade length. Blades between 2.75 and 4 inches have the benefit of being small enough to be mobile but large enough to handle a wider range of tasks. The blades at this length also have various locking mechanisms that allow you to push it during strenuous tasks.
Disadvantages: There aren’t too many disadvantages of medium-sized blades, but some local knife laws may ban knives larger than 2.75 inches, so it’s important to be on top of laws in your area.
Recommended Uses: This is the sweet spot of blade lengths for pocket knives. Medium blades are ideal for pretty much any task, from small things to the heavy duty.
Large blades (over 4 inches)
Advantages: Pocket knife with blades larger than 4 inches have many of the advantages of larger fixed blade knives but are much easier to carry discreetly. These knives, like the Cold Steel Espada, are focused mainly on self-defense and are more intimidating than small blades.
Disadvantages: Large blades tend to be heavier, making carrying them more burdensome. The blades also make the knife bulkier and less discreet. In some locales, these knives may not meet certain requirements for the law.
Recommended Uses: A large blade is not always practical on an everyday carry knife. These are often seen as novelty knives for display purposes but can also be used for self-defense. It’s important to look at your local laws when carrying a knife with a blade larger than 4 inches.
Blade Types & Ideal Uses
All blades are not created equal, especially when it comes to pocket knives. Whether you’re purchasing a single-blade pocket knife or a multi-blade model, it’s important that you know the blade types in your knife and what their optimal uses are. Here’s a quick and easy guide.
The clip point is one of the most popular blades in circulation today. The back (unsharpened) edge of a clip point has a concave shape, designed to make the tip sharper. This creates a “cut out” area that can be straight or curved.
Ideal Use: Clip-point blades are great for everyday needs, but can also be used for hunting. Since clip points have a narrow point, it’s better for piercing and the deep belly makes it optimal for slicing.
The drop point is another great all-purpose blade. The dull section of the drop-point blade runs straight from the handle, eventually sloping down gently to meet the sharpened edge and forming the point.
Drop-point blades are usually found on hunting or survival knives, but they can also be found on some larger models of Swiss Army knives.
Ideal Use: Drop points are ideal for skinning and piercing, because they have a large belly and a controllable point that makes it easier to avoid nicking internal organs.
The straight-back blade is also referred to as a normal blade because it’s a very traditional blade shape. The front of the knife has a curved edge while the back has a straight, dull back that allows for additional pressure.
Ideal Use: The normal blade is an all-purpose knife great for chopping and slicing, which is why it’s a design you often find on kitchen knives.
A needle-point blade is symmetrical and sharply tapers into a point. The thin point is great for piercing objects, but it’s very vulnerable and can break pretty easily. Needle-point blades have two sharp edges, but the lack of belly makes it difficult to use for slicing. Needle points are much less common on folding knives, but they can be found on certain knives like stilettos.
Ideal Use: The specialty of the needle point is piercing, so it’s not good for much but it can be a great asset for self-defense.
On a spear-point blade, both edges rise and fall equally to create a point that lines up perfectly with the center of the blade. Spear-point blades have an extremely sharp point that is good for piercing, though only if both edges are sharpened.
Spear-point blades can be single or double-edged. They do have a small belly, but aren’t nearly as well suited for slicing as drop-point or clip-point blades.
Ideal Use: The spear point is best with piercing, but unlike the needle point, it has a belly that allows for some slicing.
The tanto point, which is also sometimes called the chisel point because of its resemblance to a chisel, is a well-liked point because of its unique look and strength. A tanto has a high point with a flat grind but no belly.
Ideal Use: The tanto point is not an all-purpose blade but its design does make it great for push cuts and piercing tougher materials.
If you’re clumsy with a knife, do yourself a favor and get a sheepsfoot blade. Though ideal for cutting and slicing because of its flat cutting edge, a sheepsfoot blade has a dull point that makes it difficult—though not impossible—to injure yourself.
Ideal Use: Sheepsfoot knives are popular among emergency responders, as they allow them to slice away at seatbelts and other restraints without stabbing the victim by accident. They were originally made to trim a sheep’s foot, which also makes them good for whittling.
A trailing-point blade has a back that curves upward to make a deep belly perfect for slicing. This design is fairly lightweight, but the point is very weak.
Ideal Use: The large cutting area makes the trailing point ideal for skinning and slicing.
This tiny blade is often found on Swiss Army knives. The dull and sharp sides of the blade slope at the same degree, making it appear similar to a spear point.
Ideal Use: These knives were previously used for sharpening a quill in order to make writing instruments. Though not exceptionally sharp, a pen blade is a great tool to have in your pocket and is perfect for small tasks.
The wharncliffe is nearly identical to the sheepsfoot except for a few minor differences. First, the back of the blade starts to curve closer to the handle for a gradual curve. These blades are also significantly thicker than you’d normally see on a blade this size.
Ideal Use: Perfect for things like carving wood and cutting ability, the wharncliffe is a great all-around blade.
The spey-point blade gets its name from having the dubious honor of once being used to spey livestock. The blade has a mostly straight edge that curves upward and a straight back with a short flat edge that runs to the tip.
Ideal Use: Spey-point blades are often found on knives with multiple blades and are great for skinning fur-bearing animals.
The hawkbill is a very distinctive blade type that resembles the curved shape of a hawk’s bill. It has a concave cutting edge and the spine of the blade is typically dull.
Ideal Use: The shape of the blade is limiting so it isn’t great for everyday carry, but it excels at the jobs it’s good at, such as opening boxes, stripping wires, cutting cord and more.
Other Blade Shapes
The previous blade shapes are the most common ones that you’ll see, but there are also an array of modified versions and completely original designs found in only a few knives. For example, Spyderco has several unique shapes like the leaf-shaped blade not found in this guide. By using the outline of the shapes above, you can figure out what the ideal use of any blade type would be.