The “Alchemist” asks:
Could you explain the differences between knives with a Tanto point versus a standard point? What is the advantage of a Tanto point on a pocket knife (if any?). I’m considering buying a new Benchmade pocketknife and don’t know what to choose!
Good question! First let’s talk about what a Tanto blade is. A Tantō (短刀) is a traditional Japanese short sword with a blade length less than 1 shaku (11.93 inches) Below is a 436 year old Hira Zukuri Tantō from the Koto period. As you can see the spine has a soft upwards sweep and the belly matches that sweep. At the tip the edge rises upward dramatically creating a strong tip with powerful slashing capabilities. Supposedly this was intentional for use on armored opponents.
Now that we have the origins of the Tanto covered let’s talk about the American (or Westernized) Tanto. Back in the 80’s Cold Steel popularized the new American Tanto blade shape. Ever since then there has been hot debate about the advantages and disadvantages to the double primary grind American Tanto blade. Lynn Thompson himself will talk about the combative advantages to tip strength and the secondary point’s (yokote) use in snap cutting but honestly these benefits are relegated to offensive knife duties.
Your question asked specifically if there was an advantage to a Tanto pocket knife. Well yes and no. Yes the Tanto blade shape has the potential for leaving more steel at the tip and making it stronger BUT every maker/manufacturer grinds their Tantos differently. Honestly, unless your job involves perforating car hoods regularly, I doubt you will miss the tip strength on a more traditional spear / drop / bowie pointed blade. If you’re looking for a reliable EDC blade that will fill a variety of roles I would recommend sticking with a more versatile blade shape like the drop point.
There are a few disadvantages to the Tanto design. Firstly, sharpening is more difficult. You have two primary bevels to deal with and keeping the first and secondary points razor sharp will take some time and practice. Secondly, Tantos have two flat edges and zero “belly” to the blade. Slicing tasks can be more difficult depending on the medium.
Bottom line. If you love the look of the Tanto blade go for it! But be aware that there are no practical advantages to the Tanto design in a folding EDC knife.