Knife Knowledge

A Detailed Guide to the Tanto Blade World

A Detailed Guide to the Tanto Blade World

Japanese knives have long been known as a work of craftsmanship, giving them a place in the overall knife industry.

The tanto blade, deeply rooted in Japanese culture and craftsmanship, has evolved significantly since its inception. Originally designed as a weapon for samurai, the tanto’s distinctive angular profile and strong blade made it ideal for piercing tough materials.

Over time, its design has been adapted to various applications, including modern kitchen knives and rugged pocket knives.

Today, let us explore the world of the tanto blades, looking into whether we had a chance to boost our tanto knife business.

Brief history of the tanto knife

The history of the tanto knife dates back to the Heian period (794-1185) in Japan, where it was initially used as a weapon, particularly by the samurai class.

That’s because, a tanto knife has a shorter blade with a sharp point and a straight back, making it highly effective for penetrating armor.

In ancient times, the tanto was not only used for combat but also ceremonial and religious purposes. Its design made it an ideal self-defense weapon and tool.

Nowadays, the design of the tanto has influenced the manufacturing of many modern tactical and survival knives, with its unique pointed tip still favored in contemporary blade designs.

Americanized tanto, popularized by Cold Steel, a famous American manufacturer of knives and martial arts equipment, is the result of Japanese tanto blades absorbing modern features and transforming into modern variants.

Therefore, as a part of Japanese culture, the tanto knife reflects the traditions and craftsmanship of Japanese sword making and holds a place in collections, martial arts practice, and certain specific modern knife designs, which is still valuable for knife enthusiasts and collectors.

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Tanto blade design and features

A Japanese tanto with modern design

As mentioned above, the tanto blade features impressive piercing ability and cutting performance. Its design is also unique compared to other blade shapes, including the tip, the spine, and the edge.


Tanto blades have a very sharp tip, usually at a right angle or slightly rounded, which makes it ideal for piercing and fine work.


The back of the tanto blade is usually straight with no downward curving arc, which provides better strength and durability, especially in the tip area.


The blade length of a tanto blade can vary from a short stiletto to a longer blade, but traditionally, it is a single or double-edged dagger, ranging from about 6-12 inches in length.

Piercing ability

Tabbing and piercing make up the tanto’s profile, making it excel in whether destroying armor in combat or reshaping hard materials in modern use.

Cutting performance

Nowadays, not only focusing on piercing and tabbing, the tanto blade demonstrates its remarkable cutting ability. The geometry of the blades allows for effective pulling and slicing, especially when you use a tanto kitchen knife or an American tanto.

5 Steels of tanto blades

A bladesmith is forging a blade.

Historically, making a tanto blade is primarily by Tamahagane, a high-carbon steel produced through traditional Japanese methods. However, producing Tamahagane is a complex process that involves refining steel from iron sand and repeatedly folding and forging to improve the quality and uniformity of the steel.

In modern times, tanto blade makers are no longer limited to using Tamahagane but are looking for other employable steels, which are SK-5, VG-10, AUS-10, and M390.

SK-5 is a high-carbon tool steel widely used in the manufacture of knives, saw blades, etc.

VG-10, a stainless steel developed in Japan, is known for its good edge retention and corrosion resistance.

AUS-10 is a high-carbon stainless steel with added chromium, nickel, vanadium, and molybdenum to enhance toughness and edge retention.

M390, a new type of super steel made using third-generation powder metallurgy technology, is known for its excellent corrosion resistance and extreme sharpness.

These modern steels offer different characteristics from Tamahagane, such as better corrosion resistance or easier maintenance, while also maintaining the sharpness and toughness unique to Japanese swords.

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Japanese tanto vs. American tanto

When comparing Japanese tanto and American tanto, we mainly focus on two aspects: blade design and use intent.

American tanto is a newer form of blade popularized by Cold Steel in the 1980s. Compared with the Japanese tanto blade, the tip shape of the American tanto blade consists of two separate edges and an angular tip that forms an auxiliary point, which is the signature look.

The American tanto with different shapes of  blade.

It retains the sharp tip of the Japanese tanto blade for piercing and fine work and the straight-back design for providing good strength and durability. However, due to legal and practical considerations, the blade length of the Americanized tanto may be shorter.

Besides, the American tanto extends in many different shapes and forms in modern times, with the back of the blade sometimes straight or curved downward like a drop point.

When it comes to the use intent of these two types of tanto blades, you will find that they are different. Nowadays, people use the traditional Japanese tanto less, more to transform it than to use it, such as kitchen tanto.

While the American tanto is more popular for outdoor use and EDC use, such as survival knives and pocket knives.

Hence, whether you are an enthusiast or a casual user, whether a Japanese tanto or an American tanto, tanto blades can offer different but practical functions.

Besides the point, it’s worth emphasizing that their distinct characteristics demand a user’s constant mindfulness in its application to prevent any unintended accidents or injuries.

Is it a good chance to selling tanto blades?

With the expansion of the outdoor market, tanto blades as outdoor knives fulfill most needs of outdoor users. Yet, as a specialty knife, it is also prone to some limitations. Here are some pros and cons of selling tanto blades. Let’s take a look.


As we mentioned before, a tanto blade features versatility and utility so that it is suitable for outdoor, survival, law enforcement, and military uses, which means a strong market potential.

On the other hand, the innate cultural and historical significance of the tanto blade has attracted numerous knife collectors and enthusiasts, which is another vital aspect of its market potential.

In addition, the tanto blade will give you branding opportunities. As a specialty product, it benefits you by increasing the brand awareness of your knives.


There are some absolute cons to consider when selling tanto blades.

Firstly, in some regions, the tanto blade may face legal restrictions on the carrying and use. To enter these markets, it is crucial to ensure compliance with local regulations and standards.

Secondly, Weighing cost and price should be taken seriously.

With high-quality materials and precision workmanship, the tanto blade costs more and asks for a higher price, making it limited only to buyers with a certain budget.

Thirdly, it is a competitive market for knives, requiring professional and effective marketing strategies and branding, such as providing differentiated designs.

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Unending guide

To sum up, despite a few drawbacks, there are many potential merits of selling tanto blades, such as extensive functionality, reliable reputation, collector’s value, innovative design, and broad market demand.

If you are considering adding the tanto blade to your store or looking for more knowledge about it, please call LeeKnives for assistance.

LeeKnives is always providing professional consulting and high-quality knives and kitchenware for our customers. We welcome all quotations of knives and other kitchenware and are willing to help customers cross the obstacles.

Whether you are going to start a knife business or have already established your brand, just looking for the right supplier, contact us today.


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