BLADE Magazine

Sharp In Reverse: 5 Reverse Tanto Blades Worth Your Time

The Reverse Tanto Is One Of The Most Interesting Blade Designs. By Putting A Spin On A Classic Pattern, The Reverse Tanto Stands Out From The Pack.

In general terms, a knife profile isn’t something that seems like it should be reversed. The American tanto blade pattern, commonly seen on modern tactical and combat knives, is a modified version of the somewhat longer and more flowing traditional Japanese tanto. While there are variations, the American tanto blade features a hard angle in the belly curve up to the shallow, chisel-ground tip.

A reverse tanto profile keeps the hard angle of the tanto profile but moves it to the spine, thus “reversing” the conventional tanto style. This edge profile doesn’t usually have as harsh of an angle on the spine; on a tanto the tip usually curves up, akin to the larger katana profile. By flipping the edge over, the tip is brought into a straighter line with the hand and offers a good deal more stabbing ability.

An interesting point is that, at least in my direct experience, the reverse tanto is much better at cutting and stabbing tasks than the tanto. Profile matters a great deal in this case. The reverse tanto can be thought of as a very muted bowie in that it has a narrow tip and smooth edge, yet a good height to the spine; the tip can get into a medium easily and the rest follows with minimal effort. 

An American tanto profile’s chisel-type tip has a more severe geometry that doesn’t easily lend itself to going through materials or fine cutting work. The area on an American tanto that usually takes the most damage is the tip angle itself. Not only that but, thanks to the severe angles, it is difficult to keep sharp.

The reverse tanto offers an easily maintainable edge and fine tip while having the strength of a larger blade. This allows the profile to be ground quite thin and remain very strong. The reverse tanto folders in this article are some of the lightest I’ve ever tested, and they cut far above their weight class.

Leatherman Skeletool KBX

Leatherman Skeletool KBX

The Leatherman Skeletool KBX is the smallest knife in the test—so small it could probably ride on a key ring. It is the only serrated knife of the test bunch. Despite being so small, the KBX offers a wide degree of general utility. It is not a heavy cutter like a few in this review. It is neither comfortable enough nor large enough to commit to hard use. It is instead something of a mini multi-tool suitable for the most basic use. It has an integrated bottle opener, which is a very nice touch—and it works!

The size of the piece is the best part and also the worst. As an EDC knife, it is somewhat small. However, for the right person wanting a low-profile knife, this one fits the bill. For basic work like opening boxes, cutting string, or just popping open a cold one, it’s great.

MSRP: $39.95

Benchmade Mini Osborne

Benchmade Mini Osborne

The Benchmade Mini Osborne is a perfect EDC folder. Not only is it extremely lightweight, it’s comfortable in the hand for medium tasks. The AXIS® lock is easy to operate. Closing the knife is not a challenge, though it is something of a two-hand operation in that you must pull back on the lock and then fold the blade down. Locked open it is very strong and has no flex or movement when working.

The Benchmade is probably the best balance of weight to cutting ability in the review. Consequently, it is also relatively costly. Benchmade has an understandable reputation as a top brand and this little folder demonstrates that a knife can be light, comfortable, and very sharp. It is great for domestic and simple chores and can be used to make kindling and spark. Like the Skeletool, it is really too small to be anything other than a light-duty blade.

MSRP: $210

Krudo Vice BA

Krudo Vice BA

The Vice BA (Bad Attitude) folder from Krudo is the largest knife in the test and the heaviest. There is a substantial difference between it and the other test models in terms of cutting ability and the size of materials it can digest. The Krudo has a large disc/thumb rest atop the spine, not only for ease of opening but also as a place to apply downward pressure for cutting. This alone puts the knife in a different category altogether in that it can break down medium sticks, and can even be used to hack off medium limbs. It excels at making tinder and has a thick blade and strong lock mechanism. It is easy to strike with as well.

The knife’s size is both a benefit and a downfall. It’s the toughest in the test but also meaty enough that you are aware of it in your pocket most of the time. If you’re in the woods or on the job site, the Vice BA would be a welcome friend and easy to use constantly.

MSRP: $244

Kershaw Lithium

Kershaw Lithium

The Kershaw Lithium is the only assisted opener in the bunch. It has a large amount of utility for the moderate cost and is a great EDC knife that offers a keen, clean edge and a very sharp point. The knife is heavy in the blade and comfortable in the grip. 

It cuts quite well and can be worked with for extended periods of time comfortably, unlike the two smaller test knives. It has a matte finish, isn’t flashy, and offers nothing to immediately catch the prying eye of a passerby.

The tip can punch through most common materials and there’s enough mass to the blade that it can slash as well. As far as general utility, it can spark and is useful for making kindling and dealing with minor twigs and branches. It lacks true chopping power but like the others will work given the necessity.

MSRP: $51.99

Artisan Cygnus ATZ

Artisan Cygnus ATZ

The Artisan Cygnus ATZ arrived very, very sharp and with a most aggressive tip design. The blade is slender and light and lacks forward mass. As a result, it lends itself well for use in a stabbing motion, easily penetrating many materials. However, the grip is geometric and somewhat angular, thus making repeated stabs somewhat uncomfortable. It is a thin blade and shouldn’t be used to pry (a use most knives shouldn’t be put to in the first place).

While quite visually appealing, the ATZ takes up more space than all but the Krudo. The Artisan offers the best cutting ability of the bunch in general slicing. In the course of testing it maintained an edge very easily and the tip proved strong despite being thin. 

While not designed as an outdoor knife or for preparing kindling, it sparks nicely. If you spend most of your time in town, this one is a bit flashier than the rest but still isn’t outside the realm of daily use, and likely won’t draw much attention from snooping eyes.

MSRP: $85.99

The reverse tanto excels at domestic cutting tasks. All the test folders would make fine EDCs, my preference being the Benchmade in terms of weight to size. You really can’t go wrong with any of the review knives as long as you keep the end use to a realistic setting. Don’t try to make any of these knives your primary outdoor tool. There are better knife styles for such use, though the reverse tanto works if it’s all you have.

Editor’s note: Bob Lum is credited by many with designing the original custom American tanto, while Cold Steel popularized the blade pattern in the factory knife industry.

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