Earlier this year we conducted an in depth review round up of 10 carefully selected Tanto knives across a range of user budgets. With that came our usual detailed buyer’s guide.
However, if you just want some general information about this interesting blade design, we thought now was the time to deliver.
The fact is, the history of the Tanto is both interesting and long. Likewise the uses for the blade itself vary.
Let’s take a closer look.
A Short History of the Tanto Blade
Tanto blade knives first came about in in feudal Japan. The word Tanto in Japanese actually means short blade.
During the age of the Samurai class, these infamous swordsmen would use the short Tanto blade as a secondary weapon of defense and close quarter assassination.
This almost tactical element remains a core use of the tanto blade today, with the knife being highly functional in design in present day North America.
You can also find modern decorative examples of the tanto knife, more in line with the connection that they have to their samurai past.
The Tanto Blade Design
Let’s examine that short blade, tanto design in a little more detail.
As a tradition Japanese short sword or dagger, the blade rarely measures anything more than 6 to 12 inches in length.
The most distinctive feature of the blade is that it has two bevels. A short more vertical bevel can be found at the front, with a longer, straight bevel travelling towards the hilt.
As manufacturers adopted the design in the U.S.A, production veered towards the single edge bevel blade due to user demand. Modern knife enthusiasts seem to prefer it.
The Different Styles of Tanto Blade Available
Due to the long history of the tanto knife and the way the design has been adopted by different audiences over the years, there are, understandably many variations you can potentially get your hands on.
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The Kanmuri-Otoshi Blade
The Kanmuri-Otoshi blade has a double edged construction, so is not particularly common in the USA.
It is forged with a long and wide groove running half way up the front to back, with half of the blade being kept unsharpened on the second edge.
The Moroha is an extremely rare tanto that also utilizes a double edge design.
Here the blade tapers off to a longer point than you’ll find on any other tanto. The blade also features a diamond shape cross section.
The Shinogi is another rare Tanto design type. This is the type of tanto that was made after a long sword was broken. Rather than throw away the blade altogether, it would be recycled into this single edge tanto blade.
One of the most most common Tanto blade styles you are likely to come across is the Hira.
This utilizes a triangular cross section where the edge bevels stretch from the back to the edges without any flat points in between.
Many modern day tactical tanto knives opt for this design and they have prove very popular indeed.
Advantages of the tanto knife
One of the reasons the tanto has existed so long is due to the many functions it has. This is a versatile short blade knife.
The comparably large amount of metal on the front end, along with the beveled tip lead to a greater level of penetration, (which is why it was used as a self-defense tool for the samurai and now for modern day, tactical situations.)
As a combat knife in the field, or even a survival knife the tanto really does have its benefits.
The biggest disadvantage of the tanto knife is that it is relatively difficult to sharpen.
With two primary bevels you do have your work cut out for you if you are inexperienced in this department, (or need to touch up your tool while in the field.)
They are also quite limited when it comes to slicing. You can use it as a slicing tool, but standard, survival knife designs are more efficient.
Overall the tanto is an interesting knife design with a long history. The early versions (if you can find one) are decorative in design and of high value. You may also want to look into making one, Youtube has a few good video guides on the subject.
Or you can simply opt for one of the modern day tanto designs for your tactical needs. Either way, if you haven’t done so already, the tanto will make a worthwhile addition to your knife collection in whatever form it may take.