The Hawkbill Is An Excellent Multi-Purpose Blade, Great For Cutting, Carving And More.
Of all the blade styles at the modern aficionado’s disposal, the hawkbill may be one of the most peculiar.
As its name suggests, the blade is reminiscent of a raptor’s appendage, namely it’s beak. The point curves around, in most cases to a nearly 90-degree angle from the back, creating a hook shape. Overall, pretty dang cool. But it raises the question, exactly what the heck is it good for and why does it look this particular way?
In this article, we’ll delve into the origins, usage and modern iteration of this blade and what the heck it’s actually good for. Along the way, we’ll also perhaps help you pick out the best hawkbill blade for your needs.
Origin Of The Hawkbill
Many blade styles are rooted in history or evolved from another type of knife. The hawkbill, however, doesn’t have the clearest provenance.
The blade style is widely believed to have started as a farming and outdoor tool, an evolved version of the pruning hook. Somewhere along the line some industrious maker most likely figured a pocket sickle might prove right handy.
Likely it did for a classy vintner out among the grapes who did not want to slum it by asking for the help’s pruning hook. Heaven forbid. But as the greater part of humanity has broken free from its agrarian roots the utility of the hawksbill has expanded.
Modern Uses Of The Hawkbill Blade
True enough, rose growers and avocado ranchers likely still find the hawksbill handy. But the quirky style of knife has found a place for those not tilling their living from the soil.
Today, the hawkbill is best known for its utility role, prized by electricians, roofers, floorers and other craftsmen. The hook shape of blade helps it excel at certain tasks a straight blade might struggle. A few of the obvious are cutting carpet or shingles without scoring the unlaying material. Stripping wire is another area it earns an “A”.
Its curved tip also prevents it from being a hazard to its user in precarious positions—say crammed in a crawlspace or dangling on a rafter—where a clip point or the like might prove a bit pokey.
While not generally the go-to whittling or carving knife, the hawkbill earns its keep in this arena. For those who strictly practice this craft with knives, the style of blade is particularly good a removing large pieces of material at the begining of a project.
Well… there are certainly companies out there selling their version of hawkbill knives with this in mind. Though, with healthy supply of DLC anything can be tactical—including a paring knife.
Given the vagaries of the word “tactical,” it’s difficult to claim it doesn’t fill this role. And certainly, there’s probably been more than one farmworker who’s thrown their hawkbill—or pruning hook—in his back pocket as Friday-night-on-the-town insurance. For the average Joe, however, it might not prove a prime choice in this role.
Unless specially trained, the hawkbill—like the karambit—is not the easiest blade to wield as a self-defense option. Funny thing is, many of the tactical “hawkbills” have nearly lost their defining feature—a truly hooked point. Some might argue, they are hawkbills in name only.
On the other hand, in more specialized “tactical” situations this style of blade could have chops. What comes to mind here is perhaps situations involving ropes—maybe nautical or mountaineering. The idea here is cordage could be cut one-handed in a switch, using the hawkbill to both hook and cut. A similar point on this, some law officers have favored a modified hawkbill given it works well to cut a motorist out of their seatbelt in an accident, without causing injury.
Is A Hawkbill A Karambit?
While there is some confusion in some corners concerning this, definitively, no, the hawkbill is very different from a karambit. While both are curved blades, the hawkbill is a utilitarian cutting tool with the point nearly at a 90-degree angle to its back in its more traditional configuration.
The karambit sports a more claw-like profile and generally a thinner blade. It also has a number of features, such as finger ring at the bottom of its curved handle. All of this lends the karambit to its intended purpose, which isn’t pruning grapes, but assailants.
Trusty Hawkbill Knife Options
Spyderco Hawkbill Byrd
Those wed to the idea of a EDC Hawkbill, Spyderco has among the most time-tested renditions. The Byrd’s modified hawkbill blade lends itself to aggressive cutting tasks and its hollow-ground serrated edge makes mincemeat of anything its pulled against. Yet, there is enough of a tip available to puncture or pry, if the situation calls for it.
Like everything that rolls out of the Golden, Colo., concern, the Byrd is ruggedly made—constructed with a chrome-moly steel blade and fiber-reinforced handle. Its tear-drop shaped thumb hole gets the knife into the fray quickly and its four-position clip allows you to keep it at hand.
Spyderco Hawkbill Byrd
Overall Length: 6.82 inches
Blade Length: 2.875 inches
Blade Steel: Stainless steel
Weight: 2.6 ounces
Handle Material: FRN
Klein Tools Hawkbill Lockback
This lockback knife from Klein Tools shows what the hawkbill is capable of as a utility tool. It easily opens one-handed thanks to a thumb stud and the stainless blade holds a mighty edge. It’s capable of being a do-everything tool on the job site or an excellent utility knife around the house.
It’s made with longevity in mind, with Klein utilizing AUS8 stainless steel in the blade, and the impact-resistant nylon resin handle can stand up to the beating of being a work tool. The low-carry pocket/belt clip lets you carry the knife with ease and in a way that best suits you.
Hawkbill Lockback Knife Specs
Overall Length: 6.75 inches
Blade Length: 2.625 inches
Blade Steel: AUS8 stainless
Weight: 2.2 ounces
Handle Material: Nylon resin
Schrade 16 UH Hawkbill Pruner
Schrade offers excellent knives and the company’s hawkbill folder is no exception. With a rustic, rugged look, the 16 UH, which stands for Uncle Henry, is designed to prune shrubs and cut through wood with ease. Its staglon synthetic handle gives the knife a natural look that you wouldn’t get with G-10, aluminum or other handle materials.
The stainless steel blade makes quick work of a variety of woods, and the 3-inch blade is big enough for longer cutting strokes and small enough for precise, finite work.
At under $40, it’s well-priced. This is a knife that most any woodworker would want to have.
UH Hawkbill Pruner Knife Specs
Overall Length: 7 inches
Blade Length: 3 inches
Blade Steel: 7Cr17 stainless steel
Weight: 3.4 ounces
Handle Material: Staglon synthetic
Milwaukee Fastback Hawkbill
Milwaukee markets tools of all types and sizes. The company’s hawkbill folding utility knife is just as tough and durable as its power tools. This folder opens with a press-and-flip method that allows for easy one-hand deployment.
Great for pull cuts, long cuts and edge cuts, the Fastback is a multi-dimensional knife. The stainless blade resharpens easily. The tip is excellent for precise puncturing and slicing with confidence.
It’s an incredibly safe knife as well thanks to the linerlock holding everything in place when deployed. A reversible wire-form belt clip lets you easily attach the knife to your pocket for convenient carry, and it doesn’t damage your clothes fabric.
Fastback Hawkbill Knife Specs
Overall Length: 7 inches
Blade Length: 2.45 inches
Blade Steel: Stainless steel
Weight: 3.84 ounces
Handle Material: Plastic
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