Know Your Knives: What is a Recurve Blade?

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Knife terminology
Four examples of recurves, from left: Spartan Ronin Shinto, Condor Tool & Knife Vipera Machete, W.R. Case & Sons Winkler Utility No. 6 and TOPS Desert Son.

A blade’s profile geometry has a considerable effect on how well the knife works for an intended use. A blade with a substantial curve facilitates slicing cuts along the length of the edge, as on skinners and some butcher knives, such as steak scimitars. Straighter blades work well for tip control and power cutting.

A recurve combines features of a couple of blade styles. Depending on the size of the knife and its intended use, the recurve provides certain benefits. The edge line is “S”-like in shape. The overall form leaves the front part of the blade with a sweeping curve. Such a curve provides the edge with belly for slicing and plow/furrow-like cuts, along with the ability to do detailed cuts using a reverse pinch grip.

Are Recurve Blades Better?

Recurve edge definition
You can see how material being cut can get locked in the pocket of a recurve blade, here with the Ronin Shinto.

As to which cuts work best with which knife, it depends on the other characteristics mentioned in the story. On large knives such as choppers, the use of a recurve gives the blade a weight-forward advantage.

Simply adding length to a blade does make it heavier by default, but, to actually have a weight-forward design, the front half of the blade needs to have more weight than the back. The idea is to look at the weight of the blade and not the whole knife to classify it as “weight-forward.”

Near the handle the recurve forms a pocket, which tends to lock material in. The subsequent curve formed by the pocket provides a leading edge to a cut, depending on the curve’s circumference. A leading edge is an edge angle that leads into the work, as opposed to approaching the cut at 90 degrees to the material. You can also generate a leading edge by angling a straight blade while cutting. On a recurve, the arch formed by the pocket provides a leading edge.


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