Wharncliffe Vs Sheepsfoot – What Are the Differences?

A Wharncliffe blade has a sloping spine, whereas the sheepsfoot has a parallel spine. This difference has a noticeable impact on the blade’s cutting ability. As a result, a Wharncliffe blade has a narrower tip ideal for detailed work while the sheepsfoot has a blunt tip good for heavy work.

But these are not the only differences between these two blade shapes. Continue reading to learn what other factors set the Wharncliffe vs sheepsfoot apart.

Wharncliffe and Sheepsfoot: Aren’t They Same?

Wharncliffe and sheepsfoot are not the same. These blade shapes have different spine and tip styles suitable for different tasks. Primarily, the purpose of a sheepsfoot blade is to offer a tip with little risk of piercing your hand accidentally, on the other hand purpose of a wharncliffe is for tip cutting, like scoring cuts over a flat surface.

People often confuse Wharncliffe and sheepsfoot because of their similarities which I have listed below.

Similar Cutting Edge. A Wharncliffe has a straight cutting edge, similar to the design of a sheepsfoot blade.

A Lengthier Handle. Similar to many Wharncliffe, most sheepsfoot knives have larger handles in contrast to a slightly smaller blade. As a result, both knife styles are ideal for making highly accurate cuts.

Modified Versions. Many Wharncliffe and sheepsfoot have modified versions with larger bellies and sharper tips. These are often customized models, and they’re good for carving tasks.

Those are only a few of the similarities between the two blade styles. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the same. Take a look at the next table for a quick overview.

Wharncliffe Vs. Sheepsfoot Blade: Quick Overview

SubjectWharncliffe BladeSheepsfoot Blade
Blade ShapeSloping SpineParallel Spine
Blade TipNarrow & Sharp TipBlunt Tip
Cutting AbilityBest for Detailed WorkBest for Heavy Work
AestheticsDecentBetter Looking
Tip ConstructionWeaker, less steelStronger, more steel

Key Differences Between Wharncliffe and Sheepsfoot Blade

There are five noticeable differences between Wharncliffe and sheepsfoot blade: the spine shape, the tip, cutting ability, aesthetics, and the tip construction. Understanding these five difference and their impact will help you to decide which one is right for you.

Blade Shape

Wharncliffe knife has a sloping spine. A Wharncliffe blade has a unique design with a straight edge and a sloping spine. This spine drops all the way down to the point, creating a narrower tip with decent sharpness. Additionally, the sloping spine shape provides more steel over and behind the tip, making it much stronger.

Wharncliffe blades are mostly present in folding pocket knife models, like the Spyderco SwayBack.

Sheepsfoot knife has a parallel spine. Similar to wharncliffe, the sheepsfoot has a straight edge but with a parallel spine instead of a sloping spine. The parallel edge and spine extend through the majority of the blade’s length, up until the point where the spine curves downwards to meet the edge. 

The Blade Tip

Wharncliffe-style blades have a narrow tip, which is also sharp and pointy. This type of tip makes the knives useful as utility or self-defense tools. Despite being narrower, the blade feels sturdy and solid. As a result, you can apply a decent amount of pressure on the tip.

Unlike wharncliffe, a sheepsfoot blade has a blunt tip instead. It’s not as good for piercing, but a sheepsfoot is safer than the wharncliffe. Use it to cut through materials without any concerns about potentially stabbing yourself by accident.

Cutting Ability

The wharncliffe is used to penetrate through materials and making precise cuts. Use it for cutting wire, or making cardboard and foam cut-outs. Plus, it will remove splinters, get under screw heads, and clean tight and small spaces. 

Some people also prefer this blade for making scoring cuts over flat surfaces using the narrow tip of the knife. Another fun use for these types of blades is boating activities like fishing expeditions and exploration.

The sheepsfoot is used for tasks where slicing without piercing is important. It’s suitable for slicing food without damaging the surface below, cutting line, and even for woodcarving tasks. With a non-curved spine, a sheepsfoot blade is also good for heavy work. Place your index finger over the spine, and apply as much pressure as needed to cut through wood, heavy robe, hawsers, and more.

Overall, sheepsfoot blades have a controllable design for cleaner cuts.


Wharncliffe blades have a simple curved spine design, which isn’t innovative. The spine of a Wharncliffe is similar to spines seen in other blade shapes, like drop point and spear point. As a result, it isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as the spine of a sheepsfoot. 

Sheepsfoot blades have different spine styles, which are better looking than a wharncliffe. There are sheepsfoot spines with multiple curvatures like the Spyderco Roadie or the CRKT Pilar II. If you’re conservative, the Gerber Sharkbelly has a less pronounced spine. In general, the variety in sheepsfoot blade styles is better than what Wharncliffe blades offer.

Tip Construction

Wharncliffe blades sacrifice steel at the point to create a narrow tip. Therefore, this blade shape is more likely to wear down faster than a sheepsfoot. Keeping the tip sharpened requires you to remove material off of it, which eventually reduces the usability and durability of the knife.

Sheepsfoot blades have broader tips, which means they have more steel. You can resharpen the point of these blades regularly, and it will likely last longer than a Wharncliffe.

Read Also: Clip Point Vs Tanto Point

What Is a Sheepsfoot Blade?

A sheepsfoot is a blade shape with a curved spine and a sudden drop to meet the point. This blade has a blunt and broad tip, making the knives good for slicing but not for piercing. Sheepsfoot blades are mostly found in fixed and folding knives, with Spyderco being one of the most popular brands to produce them. Some examples are the Spyderco Enuff, Spyderco Roadie, and Japanese-style kitchen knives like Santoku.

What Is Modified Wharncliffe?

A modified Wharncliffe is a customized blade shape with more belly for slicing and better-looking spines. It’s more suitable for game prep and food than the traditional Wharncliffe. The downside of these modified versions is that they lose the extra-narrow tip, which is the main feature of a Wharncliffe.

The perfect example of a well-made modified Wharncliffe is the Sebanza Insgina knife. This knife is versatile, elegant, and convenient due to its folding mechanism for quick blade opening/closing.

Wharncliffe Blade or Sheepsfoot Blade – Which One Should You Pick?

For detailed and precision cuts, the better option is the Wharncliffe blade. This one is sharper, easier to control, and surprisingly durable. People often prefer this type of blade because it can pierce and slice in smooth cutting motions. Plus, it’s much better for everyday use in general.

Alternatively, go with a sheepsfoot style blade if your projects often require doing heavy work. You can use the sheepsfoot blade advantages in various ways. It can make flat cuts, and the cutting edge pulls through materials like clothing with ease. The downside is that this blade is not good for piercing.

When you know the pros and cons of each blade, picking between sheepsfoot and Wharncliffe is not that hard.

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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