Japanese blades have always made an impact among blade aficionados from both sides of the world – from combat blades like the famed Japanese katana to the popular kitchen utensils like santoku. Because of their world-wide recognition, many knife makers and manufacturers have come up their own versions of different Japanese blades, and the tanto is no exception.
Currently, there are two known designs of the tanto blade – the authentic, Japanese style tanto and the Americanized version which seems to be the more popular of the two and is the most sought after design for custom tanto knife.
East Vs. West
It is no question that the original design of the tanto blade came from the eastern side of the globe, and is (from some angles) a very different design, when compared with its western counterpart.
The Japanese tanto blade has a smooth, curved belly, much like what you see in Japanese katanas – the same design which has been used centuries ago by Japanese swordmakers. This belly is what distinguishes it from the Americanized version of the tanto knife, where the curved belly is replaced by an angular point – thereby creating two distinct edges instead of one – a style which emerged in the United States back in the 1980’s.
Despite this major difference though, both of them can be considered equals, as far as their original purpose is concerned, which is piercing armor.
The Strength of the Tanto Blade
In the olden days of Japan, tanto blades were forged from broken katanas. These short blades were then carried by Japanese warriors and have proven their mettle when it comes to close quarters combat. Unlike other blades though, the tanto was not primarily used for slashing, but rather as a piercing blade that is able to penetrate the enemy’s armor. In order to do this, the tanto blade need to have a very strong tip or point which is able to withstand the impact when colliding with the armor and make its way to the flesh.
Several centuries later, an American knife manufacturer decided to create their own version of the tanto blade – keeping true to the tradition of a strong piercing tip. What they didn’t stick to though is the design.
The company designed a blade where the bladed edge slants upward at an angle, which they claim gives it a much stronger tip – a claim which has been validated by renowned American knife associations.
Just how strong is this new tanto knife design as far as piercing is concerned? Strong enough to pierce through a flak jacket or a car’s metal hood as you can see from this tanto blade demonstration video.
Whether you choose to buy a Japanese or American style tanto blade, whether it is mass produced or a custom tanto knife, you are assured of the same strength and piercing capabilities. There may be subtle differences, but these are usually due to a variety of factors including the force exerted or the item being pierced. But with all conditions being equal, it can be very difficult to determine which is better, and will then depend on your own discretion.