Seax Vs Bowie Knife – What’s the Difference?

Seax and Bowie knives are excellent tools for hunting and camping, but which one should you choose? The decision to buy between Seax vs Bowie depends on the differences between the two.

A Seax knife has a blade with a straight edge and a Wharncliffe-style point, whereas the Bowie knife features a curved blade with a clip point. The Seax knife is perfect for chopping vegetables, splitting wood, and creating shelters outside. Bowie knives on the other hand have a pointy tip and a straight edge ideal for skinning and butchering game, slicing, or carving.

Other differences to consider are the size of the knives, their origins, and how the grind style can affect their cutting ability. Learn all about these two knife styles and find which one is the most suitable for you.

What Is Seax Knife?

Seax knife is a large knife used as a general-purpose tool or a weapon. Usually, seaxes feature a large fixed blade with a single edge and a tang in the blade centerline. There are many types of seaxes, including narrow-long seax, short seax, narrow seax, light broad seax, and more. Currently, brands like Terava, SZCO Supplies, and Condor Norse make the highest quality Seax knives.

Seax Knife Vs Bowie Knife: Quick Summary

SubjectSeax KnifeBowie Knife
OriginIn Scandinavian culture, as a harvesting and defense toolBack in 1838 for self-defense purposes
Angle22-30 Degrees20 Degree Angle for Each Side
Edge ProfileStraight EdgeCurved Edge
Size and ShapeUp to 14 inches, Wharncliffe BladeBetween 12-18 Inches, Clip Point Blade
UsesHunting, Cutting Vegetables, Self-Defense, Harvesting, Batoning, Chopping Wood, Create Campfire SheltersMostly a Hunting Tool Skinning, Butchering, Carving, Cutting Meat, Slicing, Self-Defense
False EdgeNoYes
Grind StyleFlat GrindHollow Grind

7 Key Differences Between Seax Knife and Bowie Knife

The following are the seven most important differences between the Seax knife and the Bowie knife.

1. Origin

The origins of Bowie knives trace back to 1838. James Black created the original Bowie knife as a self-defense weapon for Jim Bowie, who made the knife famous after allegedly using the knife against three attackers in a gunfight. Nowadays, the classic Bowie knife style is popular with collectors and knife makers.

Seax knives have their roots connected to Scandinavian history, as Vikings preferred this blade shape for multiple tasks. The Scandinavians used this knife style for farming the land and harvesting fruits or vegetables.

The knife was tasked with a myriad of chores, from skinning a freshly taken deer to cutting up the turnips they grubbed out of the ground with the same knife.

Emerson Knives owner Ernest Emerson

2. Angle

You can sharpen small or large Seax knives at 22 or 30 degrees. The blade edge is more durable within this range, which benefits the multiple applications of a Seax knife.

Sharpen a Bowie knife at a 20-degree angle on each side. This sharpening angle creates a multi-purpose and slender blade edge, allowing the blade to cut well. A blade sharpened at this angle isn’t good for a particular purpose, but it does decently in almost anything.

3. The Edge Profile

A Seax knife has a straight edge and a clip that comes down to meet the edge. This design has little to no belly, and that’s why the Seax knife is not the most suitable knife for slicing. However, the straight cutting edge cuts more evenly across the edge’s length. This type of blade is better for making even cuts like in notching, planning, or joint work.

The Bowie knife has a curved belly that connects with the clip near the center section of the blade. This shape is excellent for penetrating deeper, but the cuts won’t be uniform across the edge’s length. Still, a curved blade style is often more versatile. You can use it for chopping and slicing.

4. Average Blade Size

Modern Seax knives can measure up to 14 inches, with an 8.50-inch Wharncliffe blade and a handle of 5.30 inches. Traditional Seaxes like the Langseax have a blade length of more than 12 inches, and the handle is over 6 inches. The longest Seax is the Beagnoth, which measures around 28 inches in length, with a 6.5-inch tang and a 21-inch blade.

A Bowie knife has an overall length of 12-18 inches and a long clip point blade that measures between 5-12 inches in length. Bowies are large knives, and they offer enough scope to thrust into objects or animals from a safe distance. The downside to larger knives is that they have more metal and are slightly heavier. As a result, using it for too long is tiring.

5. Blade Shape

The shape of a Seax knife varies a lot, but most share the same characteristics: a tang in the blade’s centerline and a single-edged blade.

The shapes of Bowie and Seax knives are sometimes mostly about perception. People consider Bowie knives as large and intimidating knives with clip-point blades, but the Searles Bowie knife looks different from that. This same principle applies to Seax knives, which most people would consider a long knife with a slender Wharncliffe-style blade. However, the Norse Seax variations have a clipped point. It’s all about perception.

6. Uses of the Knife

The seax knife was originally used for hunting, cutting veggies, and self-defense. Vikings preferred this type of knife due to its versatility, which allowed them to harvest crops, fight adversaries, and chop or slice vegetables. Modern seax knives like the Terava Skrama Bush Knife can chop firewood, or create campsite shelters.

Modern Bowie knives are hunting tools that you can use for skinning or butchering games. The top clip bevel of the blade can remove the skin from a carcass, while the straight cutting edge cuts meat. A Bowie knife like the Bear & Son Cutlery CB00 can also work as a self-defense tool due to the clip point that keeps the blade tip aligned with the handle and offers optimal control while thrusting.

It must be long enough to use as a sword, sharp enough to use as a razor, wide enough to use as a paddle, and heavy enough to use as a hatchet.

Russell T. Johnson, a popular culturist and researcher

7. False Edge

The Seax knife doesn’t have a false edge. Many people argue that a false edge compromises the strength of the tip, and this statement is true in some cases. If you compare a clip point blade to a drop point shape, the clip point is narrower and comparatively weaker.

Bowie knives have a false edge, which provides weight reduction, aesthetics, and improves the penetrating ability of the blade. Plus, you could sharpen this false edge section to turn the knife into a dagger-like weapon. The downside is that double-edged knives are against the law in some places.

8. Grind Style

The Seax knife has a flat grind, which is handy for splitting and chopping wood. This robust grind style provides strength and balance, allowing you to apply plenty of force without losing stability. This type of grind is visible in most Seax styles, particularly the Norse variations.

A traditional Bowie knife has a hollow grind, with a thinner cutting edge but a wider spine. This design allows the blade to cut deeper and carve with more ease. Still, the thicker spine adds extra weight that may feel a bit uncomfortable.

What Was the Viking Seax Used for?

The purpose of a Viking Seax was for skinning fresh deer, cutting up turnips, harvesting, and self-defense. This knife was the equivalent of modern EDC for the Scandinavians. Vikings also used the Viking Seax for chopping, cutting, and slicing vegetables, fruits, and meats.

Are Bowie Knives Legal in the UK?

Bowie knives are illegal to carry in public in the United Kingdom if you don’t have a good reason. You can transport the knife if you’re on your way to selling it, get it engraved, or for hunting. It’s illegal to carry a Bowie knife if you’re going shopping, to a meeting, or as an everyday self-defense weapon.

Bowie Knife or Seax – Which One Is Right for You?

Still not sure which one to buy between Seax vs Bowie?

Bowie knives are the most convenient choice because they’re smaller and easier to carry around. You can use it at home for carving wood or cutting meat and outside as a hunting tool for skinning and butchering games. The fine tip of Bowie knives is also suitable for piercing and thrusting if you shall use it for self-defense.

Modern Seax knives are ideal for outdoor tasks like cutting down branches or splitting wood, two things you usually do while camping. Another reason to use this knife style is that it’s excellent for batoning. The blade is strong and can resist heavy impacts on the spine to force the cutting edge through thicker materials.

Brian Casey
About Brian M. Casey

As a food lover, Brian M. Casey developed a fascination for cooking at an early age. He soon realized that not only the ingredients matter but also the knives and the accessories used to turn those ingredients into a delicious dish. This way, Brian began his journey on the magnificent world of kitchen knives, outdoor knives, knife accessories, and much more. After years of experience with many ups and downs, Brian now wants to share everything he’s learned during his journey as an avid knife collector, a well-seasoned knife maker, and an all-around knives enthusiast.

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