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There are numerous stories about why the sheepfoot blade appears on sailing knives instead of a clip or spear. Some claim that ship's captains would either break of file off the points of knives in order to make them less of a threat during mutinies or fights. The more plausable reason is the sheepfoot blade allows for the most cutting surface for blade length while allowing for a thick spine for almost the entire length of the blade.
Despite the rope cutting advantage of the sheepfoot blade, many sailors want a blade with a point. Thus, many older rigging knives especially those used by military forces will have been re-shaped into a spear or clip blade. A tell-tale sign is that the point of the altered blade is the point of the blade is often exposed when it is folded into the handle. This decreases the value of the knife for most collectors.
However there were many nautical knives made spear blades and these were very popular. Many were issued to military forces during the World Wars . However aroudn the time of World War II, became the more favored style of blade form most nautical knives.
The sheepfoot is often called a coping blade or sometimes a coping-sheepfoot, depending on manufacturer and the overall general appearance.
a folding marlin spike
Old style can opener
Small coping blade on a whittler</p>
The Coping-sheepfoot of a Coast Guard Rope Knife
A pen blade
A punch blade with thumb stud for easy opening
Common shackle key
Compare images below to see difference between the old style can opener and the split blade.
Another Split Blade
Myerchin's P300 with its distinctive "fishhead" wrench