What is a Leaf Knife? Best Options to Buy in 2021

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To most of us, all knives tend to serve a single purpose of cutting something. Thus, it is a normal human tendency to buy a knife that has a cool aesthetic appeal and is made to last.

However, it is worth realizing that even for the simple job of cutting, there are a few elements that make up the knife’s anatomy. It is perhaps these elements that help you select an ideal knife designed for a specific job. Of all the elements, the blade has a major role to play.

Not all blades are equal, as they come in different shapes and sizes. Well, it is the shape of the blade that works behind the scenes to get your intended job done. It is exactly what makes a knife special.

There are some cool blade designs as well, which we feel are just made for aesthetic appeal. One such design is the leaf knife, a tool having a blade in the shape of a leaf. Although it is made to have a distinct visual appeal, it has its specific functional usage too.

What is a Leaf Knife?

Spyderco Native 5 Signature Folder Leaf Knife

As the name indicates, a leaf knife resembles the leaf of a plant in terms of shape. It is usually very small and belongs to the category of pocket or EDC knives. The design and size specifically promote stealth carry as well as use where long blades are legally prohibited. For this purpose, mostly, a leaf-shaped knife is attached to a keychain.

The leaf-shaped blade typically has a sharp edge curving upward along with a downward sloping dull spine intersecting the edge. Most leaf blades are made using stainless steel.

Some models like those from Spyderco come with a hole located closest to the handle and at the end of the spine. It is used as a thumb hole so that you can deploy the folder easily.

A ramp over this hole is likely to have jimping due to which you can easily hold the knife. Such design features give you an all-purpose blade, which is the main feature of a pocket knife. Thus, you can easily find a leaf pocket knife.

The leaf profile provides a decent belly for slicing even if the material to be sliced is wood. The tip, full flat ground, and the standard leaf height improve the slicing abilities. This blade profile can appear tactical like Striders, cool like keychains, or pretty utilitarian such as the ones from Spyderco.

A leaf knife, acting as a discerning hidden tool, can also be a part of a necklace to be a conversation starter. Yes, you can easily find one such necklace online, which features a silver chain and silver leaf knife doubling as a pocket knife. In short, you get a chain with a leaf as a pendant that actually has a small blade in it.

This design is also seen on keychains that have a silver leaf opening to reveal a sharp knife. The silver pocket knife folds into a discreet leaf shape and fits well on a key chain. Such a knife is an ideal pocket or survival tool, as you can carry it anywhere and anytime.

The most attractive keychain models are the ones with a mini green leaf knife. The green color truly retains the natural look.

Following are the benefits of this blade shape:

  • Cool aesthetics
  • Versatile enough to serve different purposes
  • Compact size; portable
  • Easy to pierce and puncture using the sharp point
  • Stouter tip than usual
  • Easy deployment via the hole
  • Secure grip via a ramp
  • Easy to resharpen using a powered sharpener

On the flip side, the sharp but fine point is vulnerable to chips after consistent use. Still, the leaf profile is unbelievably powerful and sturdy. Even if it gets damaged, you can hone it to preserve its functionality. This is a plus point as compared to the curved or straight profiles that demand an instant replacement at times.

2021’s 3 Best Leaf Knives

Spyderco Mantra 3 Leaf Knife

Spyderco is known for its high-performing EDC folders and this flipper knife is just one of them. The Mantra 3 version uplifts the proven functionality and style of the original Mantra design to an EDC profile with a flipper-style opener and the proprietary compression lock.

At the core is the full-flat-ground, 3.17-inch blade boasting a leaf shape. It is ground with flat bevels stretching from the spine to the edge. This alleviates the overall knife weight and minimizes drag at the time of cutting.

The blade is made with precision using CPM S30V stainless steel that ensures the best mix of corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and toughness. You can open the blade well by using its index-finger flipper or its easily reachable round hole. There are also ball-bearing washers between the stout steel liners and the blade to enhance the opening action.

These liners are responsible to render physical strength to the handle. They also form the basis of the highly robust compression lock mechanism. The liners are inside the striking scales reflecting a faint texture for a good grip. The handle is made using carbon fiber/G-10 laminate.

Carbon fiber fused with G10 epoxy resin ensures high tensile strength, rigidity, great grip, and resistance to chemicals and temperature changes. There is a reversible wire pocket clip facilitating a discreet, tip-up, or left- or right-side carry.

Pros

  • Light and compact
  • Super sharp
  • Super smooth action
  • No drag during cutting
  • Resistant to slippage, chemicals, and temperature changes
  • Great finish

Cons

  • A bit weak due to not being assisted open
  • Need to enlarge the detent hole

Spyderco Caribbean Salt Leaf Folding Knife

This leaf blade knife from the Caribbean Salt collection of Spyderco comes with some unique features that make it stand apart from other folders of the Salt series. Designed for use in and around the water, the full-flat-ground blade measuring 3.66-inch long is known for its unbelievable corrosion resistance.

The credit goes to its construction from LC200N, tough and hard alloy rich in chromium and nitrogen. This steel does not rust even in or around saltwater, does not chip, and renders and sustains a sharp edge.

The leaf-shaped blade facilitates efficient slicing and fine tip work. Its edge reaches the handle without a coil. The compression lock allows closing the blade without using the hand in the way of the blade.

The handle is quite light and comes with G-10 scales with two layers of alternating colors outside and LC200N steel inserts within the scales. The layers create a ridged pattern to ensure a non-slip texture. The inserts deliver remarkable structural strength.

For quick access and convenient carry, the knife has a reversible pocket clip of titanium. The clip facilitates left- or right-side tip-up carry. There is also a lined lanyard hole so that you can easily attach a lanyard.

Pros

  • Sturdy
  • Sharp
  • Light considering the big size
  • Eye-catching, not blinding color
  • Smooth opening and closing action with one hand
  • Super resistant to corrosion due to salty water
  • Sturdy grip even with wet hands

Cons

  • Pricey

Ochi&Moji Pocket Knife

This leaf-shaped knife is an ideal folder for camping, traveling, survival, and tactical use. It features a distinct car keychain design holding a professional pocket knife. This green leaf knife and its clip keychain are made using strong 420 stainless steel that is known for edge retention, hardness, and sharpness.

You can easily hang this knife-cum-keychain from your car key or your bag. The small design and stable performance make it possible for you to rely on it anytime as well as convenient to carry. There is a locking liner for your safety, which keeps the knife locked safely while in transit.

With this knife, you can even cut veggies and fruits while in the wild. It is easy to reveal the blade due to the rotating nail, which is helpful in survival scenarios. The tactical ergonomic design, at the same time, ensures you a comfortable grip.

Pros

  • Light
  • Small, discreet
  • Foldable
  • Attractive
  • Stable
  • Sharp
  • Ergonomic design ensuring perfect grip
  • Easy to carry in purse or pocket
  • Anti-slippery
  • Super affordable

Cons

  • Plastic feel from green parts

Straight versus Leaf Blades

Are dual-edged and symmetrical leaf blade knives more beneficial than those with straight blades? Well, it depends on the purpose of use. For beginners, the straight blade has more capacity to be a center of balance nearer to the handle. This makes it better for stabbing.

It is easier to make lighter as well as longer straight knives or swords than leaf knives, as there is no need for additional mass to maintain the leaf shape. On the other hand, a leaf-shaped blade is better for slashing as well as hacking due to its geometry, just as an ax.

Overview of Spyderco Leaf Knives

If you search online for the different types of blades, many posts will reveal leaf blade as one of the types. Well, this is attributed to the Spyderco brand that has characterized this shape with the natural resemblance of a walnut tree leaf. It is now a signature blade shape of this brand.

This leaf blade is analogous to a drop point but the rear’s slope is more striking and moves toward an aggressive point. It is even more hit-inclined than a clip point to ensure protection.

Just as the drop point, the leaf-shaped blade of Spyderco has sufficient belly as well as a tip to perform a myriad of cutting jobs, ranging right from light piercing tasks to slicing food.

The drop point, for those who are unfamiliar with it, features an arc on the knife’s rear that moves downward rather than moving straight out. The full rear of a drop point is not sharpened so that you can perform precision work by laying a finger along with it or grip the tool well for detailed work.

A lightly broad tip keeps the risk of breaking at bay but is less adroit at piercing. To instill a leaf shape to a knife’s blade was a formal decision to not only make the Spyderco’s knives stand out visually but also include their signature jumbo thumb hole, the Spyderhole. This hole substitutes the blade flipper as a mechanism of effortless deployment.

The leaf-shaped Spyderco blades come with a radical thumb ramp over the hole to hold grip jimping followed by a straight slope down to the point. The belly has a little convex curve toward an aggressive point.

These blades are pretty smaller and come with an identical point-downside, like in the case of a blade having a clip point. Still, they are reliable and versatile Everyday Carry (EDC) blades.

Unlike the spear point blades, the leaf-shaped ones have a continuous edge as well as a spine curve instead of a more sudden curve toward the blade’s end. They may seem similar to the spear point blades but are not fully symmetrical and contain a more acute point.

History of Leaf Blade Knives

Leaf-blades have regained popularity with the Spyderco models. This is because they have their roots dating back to the ancient days. Both Spyderco and knife industry people know that leaf blades are similar to the conventional barong knife and several lithic knives in use for tens of thousands of years.

As per the historic records, interestingly, the stone age knives and the early metal knives typically boasted a leaf shape. Over time, the forging of metal into blades resulted in different other blade shapes and styles for fulfilling the numerous cutting requirements.

The records have specified that the Adena culture thriving between 500 B.C. to 100 A.D. in southern Ohio created two types of leaf blade knives. The first type was named Adena and was thick and narrow. This style formed the base for making Adena-type spear points.

The second type contained wide chipped, thin blades made from quality flints. These blades were called Robbins. Several leaf-shaped blades were unearthed in stores buried in Adena mounds and distant areas from an Adena archaeological site.

The stores or caches obtained were likely to be the property of someone buried, while some seemed to trade the buried stock for taking away the blades and boost their value.

Many believe that the leaf blades were also made during the bronze age. As bronze is more effortless to shape than iron, it was widely used to make these blades. The leaf blades are also known to exist during the early days of steel or iron European swords. Some of the recognized leaf-shaped swords, including the non-European ones, are as follows:

  • Hallstatt: The initial iron Hallstatt swords were just like their Bronze ancestors in terms of shape and size. It is believed that swords made up of bronze or iron and/or steel were simultaneously in use during 700 and 600 B.C. Their blades were truly long, reaching over 80 cm. Designed by the Celts, the double-edged LaTène swords replaced the long leaf-shaped Hallstatt tools. However, they were not leaf-shaped.
  • Roman Pugio: Some of these Roman knives had leaf-shaped blades.
  • Xiphos:
    Xiphos
    Modern reconstruction of a Greek xiphos and scabbard. Source: Phokion 

    These were the thrusting swords that the Greeks preferred for slashing as well as stabbing. Their designs were based on the bronze predecessors although were made using soft iron. The term ‘Xiphos’ means penetrating light. Featuring a straight slightly leaf shape, Xiphos differed in size with time and according to regions. However, the blade’s moderate length was around 50 to 60 cm. The hilt had a sandwich design featuring organic slabs for grip over a tang. Over these slabs were the thin iron or bronze strips all riveted well. The structure of the hilt was analogous to the Roman Pugio dagger with the only addition of a pommel that was small and typically shaped as a barrel. The scabbard came with a strengthening piece at the mouth for a secure placing of the guard. This is something that even the earlier bronze swords had. A Xiphos sword was carried in a thin baldric due to which it dropped close to the body beneath the left arm.

  • Gurka Khukuri: Kukri knives feature a unique leaf shape with a double-edged design at the forward area.

However, some of these historic leaf-blades became extinct. To know why they disappeared, it is essential to know why they appeared. As daggers used for thrusting became longer, fighters wanted something for slashing. It was found that several longer bronze age daggers had torn out rivet holes due to the lateral strain induced by cutting.

The hilt development during the bronze age seemed to resolve this issue, which also changed the blade’s shape to that of a leaf. Now, there could be many reasons why leaf blades vanished. First, it could be the use of iron material, which demanded more skills to forge a good leaf shape. Second, the Celtics used swords more due to which saving the material for swords could be a major contributor.

Many believe that the Romans were perhaps the last historic culture to use leaf blades. As they started focusing on the straight-sided blades for thrusting, leaf blades lost their fame. The underlying reason behind the shift in focus was that straight ones were relatively more economical to make.

Conclusion

A leaf knife is a tool with a blade in the shape of a leaf. There are both historic and contemporary leaf blade knives although the former ones are now tough to find. While many are functional for cutting, slicing, and thrusting, a few of them are novelty tools that can be a part of a unique knife collection.