What are the different blades for?

Jun 14, 2001
As I've been poring over all of the pictures on the 'net and looking at all of the patterns, three questions keep coming up. I'm hoping that the esteemed readership of this forum can help answer one or more :)

First, what was the design goal of the specialized blades we find on the various patterns, i.e., the coping blade on a whittler, the spey blade on the trapper, even the clip blades?

Second, regardless of the design goals of the specialized blades, what uses do these blades see in our modern society? I guess I'm looking for the uses you've found for these blades in your everyday carry.

Finally, what is the design goal behind the various patterns, especially the Congress? I imagine that the answers to the first question will help explain this question!

Thanks for your help in everything so far!

May 31, 2004
I'll have a go, but please don't take my answer as the final word.

Spey blades- originally designed for castrating cattle and other stock. Probably why we still find them on most stockman patterns. Also makes a nice skinning blade for game and furbearers.

Sheepsfoot- used to be, in the horse and buggy days, the blade used for working leather and tack. Makes nice, precise cuts for shaping leather. Also a great blade for whittling and shaping wood.

Clip point- general purpose blade, good shape cutting most things.

Spear point- same as the clip, although the point itself is a little stronger due to more steel being near to the point. On older cattle knife patterns a spear was a popular main blade and for some reason looks "right" to me, love those old cattle knives.
Nov 30, 1999
OTguy covered my knowledge pretty well. The coping blade and the wharncliff are like the sheepsfoot, great for whittling, carving and leather work; anywhere you need precise cuts. I would like to know more about the congress pattern myself.
Jul 29, 2002
the coping blade on the whittler is for making "fine" straight cuts. The clip is a more general blade. originally copied from the bowie knife. The california clip blade, similar to a clip on a trapper is for skinning small to medium game. The spey is for...ughhhhhh "castrating". The razor is for one handed use. you take the notch on the end and use it to open the blade (if you only have one arm). That's why it is also "popularly known" as the "one handed razor". The sheepfoot is more of a "utilitarian" blade for general use, cutting leather, other things that require slicing, etc. The reamer, or awl blade on most old folders were used for poking holes in harness leather, used in leather repair, making holes in wood, etc. The spear points are a general use blade, the more "traditonal" blade for "all around use". The pruning blade is of course used for "pruning". The wharncliffe is used for "scoring" and other fine "directed" cuts. The drop point is a general use blade that is usually used for skinning of medium to large game. the pen blade is usually a smaller spear point that was once used to sharpen the quills on your "pen quill". Now its used for small cutting, whittling, etc.

Most patterns of knives are used for whatever you like. The congress was named after some kind of congressional meeting, or soemthing, can anyone shed light on this one?

The stockman usually has three blades, a clip (or spear, more traditonally), spey and sheepfoot. the old "traditonal" stockman use to have a reamer blade instead of the sheepfoot blade.

The whittler usually has one large spear, or clip balde, a coping blade and a small pen, or small clip.

The barlow usually has one large clip, or spear, and one small pen blade. some have only one large blade (the bolster on a barlow are usually longer than most knife patterns, this is believed to make the knife "stronger", more rigid).

The trappr usually has one long clip, also known as a "california" clip and a long spey, usually used as a trapping knife for small to medium size game.

The muskrat usually has two california clip blades on eother end of the handle. usually used for sma;; to medium game, hince the name "muskrat"

The congress usually has two to four blades. usually has one, or two large sheepfoot, or one, or two large spear, one, or two small spear blades. it can be pretty much any configuration.

The gunstock is usually a large spear, or clip and one small spear. It is shaped like a "gunstock" hince the name.

The jack is usually one clip and one small spear.

The toothpick, also known as the "tickler', texas toothpick, arkansas toothpick, etc. etc. etc. is a single california type clip. Many old fishing knives were in this pattern. camillus still makes one that has a hook sharpener set into the handle.

a copperhead is a single clip blade.

a pen knife is a kinfe traditionally used to sharpen a pen quill.

a doctors pattern is a long slender spear and sometimes a spatula, or small spear balde. The end of the handle usually has a flat bolster called a "pill crusher", which of course is used for that.

A "dog leg" jack is usually a small jack knife with a clip and a small spear blade.

a canoe is usually a large "fat" spear blade and a small spear, set on eith end of the handle, the handole is shaped like a "canoe".

a "teardrop" is usually a single, sometimes a second blade is added, spear blade set in a "teardropped" shaped handle. A very tradtional pattern.

a seahorse whittler is a whittlker where the main blade is a wharncliffe, and the handle a "swell" towards the master blade end.

a "swell center" jack is a jack that has a "swell" in the handle.

a "congress" whittler is a whittler in which the master blade is a sheepfoot.

the stockman is usally a three blade knife. the main blade being a clip, the other balde would be a spey and a sheepfoot (or reamer).

the cattleman's knife is a pattern similar to the stockman except the handle is more of a "slender" teardrop type shape and the main blade is usually a spear and the other baldes are usually a spey and a reamer (sometimes the reamer is repalced by a sheepfoot, tradtionally though the cattleman has a reamer).

The bartender patetrn is usually a gunstock patter with a large spear blade a corkscrew and sometimes has a "pruning type" blade used for cutting labels off bottles 9the ones around the stopper). Sometimes a bartender can be a basic slender teardrop shape also (many German style bartenders are this shape).

a senator is a "slender" teardrop with a slender spear on one end and a small spear on the other.

a sunfish is usually a teardrop, or equal "ended" teardrop that has a large 'fat spear and a "fat small spear".

A "toe nail", or "elephants toe nail" is very similar to the sunfish, in most cases the name is "interchangeable".

Okay this is a few types, I hope it helps some. there are some more out there!!!
Jun 14, 2001
Wow! There's some great responses, especially rev_jch! An amazing wealth of information... :)

Rev, you note that the copperhead has a single clip blade. I see that the Queen copperhead is indeed that configuration, but the German brands tend to have two blades - one clip, and what looks to be a drop point. Is the German style copperhead just a variation, or is it mislabeled? I would think it is just a variation, as both the Queen and the German styles have the same distinctive copperhead bolster.

I too would be interested to hear where the Congress pattern came from, mainly because I wonder if the four blades serve a functional purpose or if it is there simply to provide symmetry (ala the bicameral Congress).

Thanks all!

Jul 29, 2002
I use to know about the congress, now? I must be slipping I cant remember!! The copperhead usually has two blades, one blade would be just a variation. the copperhead pattern is actually not, one of the more "traditional" patterns its actually quite modern.

I forgot to mention a couple others the lobster pattern is a small swell end, "teardrop" type shape that is more of the size of a pen knife. Usuually has a slender pen blade and a file, and, or scissors on the opposite side. You can find these in many configurations, options, etc. One example would be similar to the way the blades are set up in a SAK classic.

The coke pattern is usually a large clip blade set in a handle the shape of a "coke bottle" (there have been some spear blades ones, but they are not the "norm").

There are some other patterns, but this could go on.