A head knife, also known as a round knife, is an essential leather cutting tool with a flat blade that looks like a half-moon with pointy edges attached to a wooden handle. It is mainly used to cut through thick pieces of leather through a rocking motion, but it has other uses as well. This includes cutting corners, cutting straight lines without a ruler, cutting long curves, and skiving if you are a bit more advanced in your leather-working skills.
Due to the head knife’s unique shape, you have to hold it the right way to prevent injury. Curl three fingers underneath the handle, place your thumb on the top part of the ferrule, and position your index finger on the lower pointed end of the blade to assist it as it moves. Now that you know how to handle them properly, this article will recommend the seven best head/round knives for all skill levels by sharing details on the blade material, knife size, and pros and cons, so read on!
C.S. Osborne No.70 Round Knife
Beginners who are willing to invest in a durable knife are often recommended to get from the C.S. Osborne brand due to their time-tested production of good quality leather-working knives since 1826. In this case, their No. 70 Round Knife is part of the top seven because it is made of a high-quality carbon steel horizontal blade which is 4-1/2″ long with a brass ferrule and a rosewood handle, with the whole tool weighing 5.1 ounces.
This is best used by beginners with little knowledge and experience in creating small leather projects.
The good things about this knife are its lightweight feature and its ergonomic handle, meaning it won’t tire your hands that easily. The material used for this blade means it is sharp and durable, something that will make it easy for you in your projects and will last you a long time.
However, you need to have a firm grip to keep the knife steady. When you first receive the product, prepare your sharpening tools because it usually comes with a semi-sharp edge in a box, so you need to sharpen a bit more before using it. Lastly, you might need a bit of adjustment period before you are able to use it well. Other than these, it’s an excellent knife to have in your toolbox!
The C.S. Osborne No.70 Round Knife is currently priced at $59.50.
Leather Wranglers Round Knife
Leather Wrangles Inc. is a leathercraft tool shop based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, founded by an expert leather-worker, Paul Zalesak. Out of the many knives they sell, this round/head knife is one of my recommended tools because its blade is made of martensitic stainless steel with a full distal taper and a Dymond wood handle. This is best used by professionals who have regular and various leather-working projects.
This beautiful round/head knife is customizable. You can select from 11 handle materials (there is a whole range from Black Cherry to Spalted Tamarind!), decorative pins, or choose to have it engraved, all depending on how you want it to fit your overall aesthetic. It is also ambidextrous, making it comfortable for either righties or lefties out there. The blade has a full distal taper and is wear-resistant, while the handle is moisture-resistant.
With all of these features, it is no wonder that it might be too expensive for a leatherworker who is just starting out or someone with a little bit more experience but is not yet fully committed to the craft. For professionals with a real love for leather-working, this just might be one of your best skill-related investments!
If you check their website, the LW round knife is currently priced at $295.
Weaver Leather Supply Round Knife
Weaver Leather Supply is one of the elite leather tools manufacturers. Its founder, Harry A. Weaver, started the company’s humble beginnings doing shoe repairs in his place that was previously called Fryburg Shoe Shop in 1973 and eventually expanded to other leather goods. One of its best products, simply called the “Round Knife,” features a hand-forged steel blade with a white oak handle, with the dimensions of 3.5 x 1.4 x 0.2 inches, weighing 11.2 ounces.
This leather round/head knife is best used by beginners to intermediate leather-workers.
This comes with a very sharp blade, saving you time in sharpening and stropping so you can focus more on creating. It also comes with a comfortable handle, so you can take your time with every cut you need. Along with these features, this knife promises to be a durable tool as well.
However, this does come a bit on the pricey side, but this should be no problem if you are determined to improve your skills and create leather pieces for a long time. One thing that bothers me, though, is that this knife has no ferrule. Instead, the blade is attached to the handle with strong screws. Despite this, the WLS round/knife is still easily one of the best quality knives out there!
This is currently priced at $96 online.
BANYOUR Small Leather Round Head Knife
BANYOUR is one of the lesser-known brands in this list, but they still boast of leather knives that are perfect for those who are dipping their toes into leather-working. Their round head knife comes with a high-quality steel blade with a wooden handle, making the whole thing around 8.19 x 7.99 x 1.57 inches, weighing 10 ounces. The cost of the BANYOUR leather round head knife is $41.99.
This is best used by beginners, although some expert leather-workers still like it for the blade’s sharpness!
This round head knife comes sharp straight from the box, helping you create a good finish on your projects. BANYOUR also offers this particular round head knife in a larger size so you can choose which one you are most comfortable working with.
Even if it usually comes with a sharpened blade in the box, it does not stay the same for too long, but you just need to give it a quick fix by sharpening or stropping it, and you’ll be on your way. Another thing is to look out for factory defects, where a few have reported the knife to have rolled blade edges. However, make sure you buy straight from the manufacturer so they can easily replace this if ever you are faced with this issue. Other than that, it should be fine.
Tandy Leather Al Stohlman Brand Round Leathercraft Knife
Tandy Leather carries a wide range of leathercraft tools since its foundation in 1919. One of its bestsellers is the Al Stohlman Brand Round Leathercraft Knife, which has a blade made of high carbon stainless steel that’s polished to an absolute shine. The four-inch-long blade comes with an engraving of the brand name and is connected to a hardwood handle with a solid brass bolster. Overall, this round/head knife weighs 3.98 ounces with dimensions of 12×0.5×7 inches.
Professionals mostly use this, but it is also recommended to be used by beginners.
Its strong points include its lightweight feature and its ability to cut smoothly and cleanly across the leather, assisted by an ergonomic handle. Even though it is not as heavy as the other round/head knives, it is still sturdy and durable, which is why it’s suitable for leather-workers with varying degrees of skill.
There are a few things you have to consider, though, despite its good features. For one thing, the blade edge does not hold for very long, but this depends on the type of leather project you are working with. The other thing is that this only comes in one size, so it might not be the ideal round/head knife to use if you have big hands.
The Tandy Leather Al Stohlman Brand Round Leathercraft Knife is worth $49.99 via online shops.
ForgedSteelTools Small Leather Round Knife
This is a unique, handmade round/head knife from a brand in an e-commerce site that specializes in producing handmade items and unique craft supplies. Its small leather round knife has a blade made of high carbon chromium alloy steel, is 3.3 inches long, and is 0.12 inches thick. Its blade is attached to a 3.9-inch handle made of oakwood material.
This small knife is suitable for leather-workers with intermediate level to professional level of skills.
The great thing about this round/head knife is its wear-resistant blade, meaning that you can keep using this for a long time, and it still maintains its sharpness. It is also handmade, meaning that it will have a certain charm to it as if it was specially made for you or for any craftsman you want to give to as a gift. With all these features, it is also reasonably priced.
If you plan to add this to your toolset, you might have to wait for a while for it to be shipped, depending on your location, mainly because of the logistical issues caused by the pandemic’s restrictions. Also, depending on your skillset, you might have a hard time sharpening the blade due to its thickness, but it arrives well-sharpened, and you can quickly learn how to sharpen it properly if needed.
This knife is priced at $46.92 if you buy directly from the owner’s shop called ForgedSteelTools, with no spaces in between the words.
STAMESKY Round Leather Knife
STAMESKY is a New Jersey-based brand that sells leather knives and can be found in most retail stores. Their round/head leather knife is made of a carbon steel blade with a hardwood oak handle, with the dimensions 9.7 x 2.8 x 1.3 inches and weighing 0.634 ounces. The STAMESKY round leather knife costs $23.99.
If you’re new to leather-working, this is recommended for you as it can help you in most types of cutting.
This round/head knife has an eco-friendly and long handle which might be ideal for you if you have big hands, is connected to a thick and sharp blade, and is light and easy for you to control.
However, its long handle may also be uncomfortable, depending on your hand size and preference. In addition, you might have to check for factory defects regarding the blade edges. The most extreme-case scenario is getting a blade with rolled edges which you can easily file for a return and replacement, but in general, the only issue you might have is that you might need to sharpen it some more upon first receiving it.
If you have trouble choosing, my advice is to go for the knife that fits comfortably in your hand, is sharp, and can last you a long time (especially if you plan to make leather-working a long-term hobby or business). Once you have selected and received your head/round knife, make sure to disinfect it and continue to do so after every use to keep it in tip-top shape and keep you safe as well during this pandemic. Happy shopping!