Owning and collecting knives has always been popular, but it has attracted a healthy new following in recent years.

And for converts to the community, the sheer number of blade options can be initially confusing.

Do you know your clip from your cleaver? Your spay from your spear? Your combat from your classic bowie?

In this article, we take a look at the reverse tanto vs Wharncliffe blades.

What are they? What are they suitable for? Are they practical for EDC? And which one is right for you?

Look sharp, and read on.

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Wharncliffe vs Reverse Tanto – To the Point

Without drawing things out too much, let’s get straight to the point with this too long, didn’t read the section for anyone who might be living on the edge.

A reverse tanto blade is recognized by the sharp angle the spine of the blade turns down towards the lower, curved edge and into the point.

A Wharncliffe blade is identified by its super-straight lower edge and acute-angled spine into the point. Imagine a normal blade upside down, or inverted, and you’ll have something akin to a Wharncliffe.

For stabbing and piercing actions, you should choose the reverse tanto, for cutting and slicing actions, the Wharncliffe is the better choice.

Having said that, both knives can be highly versatile, and if you’re trying to decide between the two and have the budget, then I highly recommend having both in your locker.

But don’t go just yet – read on for more information on each blade’s history, design, and suggested practical use.

And you can check out more blades at this review of the best tactical folding knives on the market.

What is a Reverse Tanto Blade?

Originating in the Land of the Rising Sun, tanto means “short sword,” in Japanese, and was a blade primarily worn by Samurai in feudal Japan.

It was intended as a stabbing weapon, but its single or double-edge could also be used for slashing and hacking. Centuries later, it continues to influence the blade and cutlery industry today.

reverse tanto knife and a wallet

US company Cold Steel is credited with the rise in popularity of tanto blades in the west, introducing the design into their knives in the early 80s.

The “American tanto” blade, both reversed and otherwise, is what you’ll most commonly find when we’re talking in the context of tactical and EDC knives.

While a tanto knife has the blade returning to the spine at an acute angle, for the reverse tanto, the opposite is true – as you might expect.

For this blade, it is the spine of the knife that turns sharply towards the bottom edge and into the point, and the reinforced tip shares similar durability to that of a chisel.

It has a gradual, curved belly, although this can vary depending on the design and manufacturer.

This is another interesting point, as the sky’s the limit when it comes to reverse tanto design. As it’s a relatively new phenomenon, knife companies are experimenting with the overall aesthetic of the blade.

As such, you can get some crazy inventions that can still lay claim to being a reverse tanto – but many of these are for show rather than of any practical use.

Reverse Tanto Uses

The reverse tanto design ensures the knife has more steel behind the tip – which offers significant advantages when it comes to stabbing through tough materials.

The triangle design offers superior stability and control, and should you need to puncture something, the reverse tanto is a good choice to get the job done.

In fact, it’s one of the best knife designs out there for this purpose, as the tip is the reverse tanto’s main selling point.

However, there are better – such as spear, leaf, and dagger designs.

Finally, a quality reverse tanto is simply a stunning-looking blade, and if you’re into your knife aesthetics as much as you are the practical implications, then this is going to be the option for you.

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing how a knife looks over how it performs. In the knife community, depending on a person’s needs, the sexiest blade is commonly preferred over the practical option.

And there are many that would argue this is where the reverse tanto truly excels. It’s just really nice to look at.

Reverse Tanto Self Defense

Of the two blades we feature here, the reverse tanto is arguably better for self-defense purposes.

tactical jacket and stainless steel pocket knife

The heavy-duty business end of a reverse tanto can be very intimidating, while the curved blade is still highly practical for cutting and slicing.

This is, in fact, one of the main advantages of the reverse tanto blade – its versatility in a combat situation.

But that reinforced blade is going to do serious damage when stabbing, just like it was intended to do all those years ago in premodern Japan.

Just remember, with both of these knives, you are just as likely to cut yourself as you are an attacker.

So bear that in mind when considering one for EDC – and make sure you’ve got a good tactical first aid kit on hand as a backup.

What is a Wharncliffe Blade?

A Wharncliffe blade is arguably easier to identify than a reverse tanto, given that it looks like a normal knife blade but reversed.

The super-straight edge of the spine becomes the blade, and what is normally the curved edge of the blade now becomes the spine.

Not to be confused with a sheepsfoot, which generally has a longer, dull spine that suddenly curves down to rejoin the straight edge of the blade.

wharncliffe knife

Why is it called a Wharncliffe?

As with the history of many knives and blades, we have to return to the old country for the answer – this time in Europe.

The story goes that one James Archibald Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie – the first Lord Wharncliffe of England – was discussing the lack of variety in the design of knives in the British cutlery industry.

Wharncliffe happened to be the patron of a Sheffield-based cutlery manufacturing company, and to cut a long and fascinating history extremely short – the Wharncliffe knife was born.

However, the actual design of the knife has been around for much longer than the 18th Century, with roots back with the Vikings.

Wharncliffe Uses

One of the primary Wharncliffe blade advantages is that they offer superior strength right along the blade, which means that it excels at consistent cuts, with controlled shaving its forte.

For whittling branches, carving, and cutting – accept no substitute. It’s terrific for chopping veggies while camping.

Are you impatient?

If you’re anything like me, when you’re taking delivery of all your online purchases, you’ll grab anything to hand to hack at the boxes to access the awesome contents held within.

A Wharncliffe blade is going to make short work of packages, even more so than a standard box cutter or Stanley blade.

In fact, both of those blades have been heavily influenced by the cutting power of the Wharncliffe design.

green military tactical folding pocket knife close-up

This makes it an excellent choice for an EDC knife, as its tough, durable, and simple design gets multiple things done, with a highly versatile approach to many tasks that require a sturdy, no-nonsense blade.

And with that reinforced spine, the user can apply a lot of finger pressure on the non-sharp edge of the blade, which is excellent for adding power and control to your work.

Furthermore, the straight edge is perfect for easy sharpening, and life will never be dull with a Wharncliffe in your pocket. It makes a great addition to your range bag essentials.

Wharncliffe Self Defense

While the lack of obvious stab ability in a Wharncliffe suggests that it’s not as suitable as a self-defense weapon as the reverse tanto, there are some experts who disagree.

Michael Janich, respected knife designer and founder of Martial Blade Concepts, is one such advocate for the use of a Wharncliffe to fend off an attacker.

He is, in fact, partly responsible for bringing the Wharncliffe design into use as a tactical EDC blade – not least because of the full power the straight blade can give the user – right to the very tip.

As such, it’s certainly capable of dealing some serious damage (to yourself included) – so use some common sense when it comes to where and how you’re carrying it.

Other Blade Designs

Of course, the reverse tanto and the Wharncliffe aren’t the only options out there for blade enthusiasts, or for anyone who is simply looking for the best knife for the task at hand.

Check out the video below for a full guide to different blade types, or, alternatively, you can get yourself to the Blade Show when it comes around every year – a hugely popular event for the knife, sword, and cutlery community.

Expect the top names in the industry to be there, all at the cutting edge of their profession.

And if you want to look at the part when you go, then check out the best tactical clothing brands on the market at that link.

A Word on Quality

It’s all very well and good comparing these two knife designs, but when pitting them head-to-head, you need to make sure that the quality matches up.

And that goes for any discussion on knives – poor craftsmanship is going to let superior design down.

Always make sure you’re purchasing top-quality blades, like these examples of the best concealed carry knives on the market.

Use inferior knives at your peril – particularly when you’re in the field, and you need a reliable tool close to hand.

The Verdict

Like most knife and blade designs, the type you choose and/or that is best for you is going to depend on two main factors:

  • What you’re using it for.
  • Which looks the coolest.

You can spend hours on forums debating the pros and cons of each blade, and for every five folks that love the Wharncliffe, there will be another five that love the reverse tanto.

And the same can be said for just about any type of blade there is.

If push comes to shove, I personally would get more use out of a Wharncliffe, and perhaps my bias for this type of blade is pretty obvious in this article.

But at the end of the day, if budget allows, why not add both to your collection? And with that, I’m going to go shopping for a new reverse tanto.


Do I need to carry a knife?

Nope, you don’t need to carry anything, except maybe your house keys and wallet.

But a pocket knife can be useful for so many applications and depending on your situation and circumstances, it might be useful to have one to hand.

I take mine camping, hiking, kayaking, hunting, and fishing, for example – just about any time I’m in the great outdoors, and it’s never let me down yet.

What kind of knife is best for stabbing?

A spear point blade is probably your best bet for a stabbing action (that’s pretty much all they’ve been designed to do) although the reinforced tip and ancient heritage of a tanto blade is also practical for such purposes.

Is it legal to carry a knife?

Great question – and it depends immensely on what state or country you happen to be in.

It also depends on a number of key factors, such as blade size, folding, locking, and spring mechanisms, whether it’s concealed or not, and the user’s intent.

Check out this informative article on concealed carry knives for more general information on the subject.

What kind of knife do Navy SEALs use?

Depending on where you get your info from, the SEALs may use a variety of different knives. However, the Ontario 6141 MK 3 Navy Knife seems to be a common and popular answer.

Are you a SEAL? Let us know what knife you prefer to use.

What type of knife is best for self-defense?

Statistically speaking, knives aren’t actually that practical for self-defense, as the carrier is actually more likely to get it used on them.

To answer the question – there isn’t one. They’re not designed for that purpose, contrary to popular belief.

As such, I always suggest carrying something like a tactical pen, instead – which has multiple, life-saving uses, as well as the ability to write a thank you note to your grandma.

Follow that link to find out everything they can do. They always said the pen was mightier than the sword, anyway.

Alternatively, check out this article on CS gas vs pepper spray – I highly recommend choosing a non-lethal assailant for self-defense over a knife, any day of the week.

But if you must know which type of knife is best for self-defense, both the Wharncliffe and tanto families offer decent advantages. If you’re going down this route, I seriously recommend you learn how to use it, first.


Choosing the right knife for your needs can be confusing, particularly if you’re new to the community.

I hope this article has pointed you in the right direction, and you’re now a cut above the rest when it comes to having the edge on the reverse tanto vs Wharncliffe debate.

Let me know which blade design you prefer and why, or if you have anything else you’d like to share with fellow knife enthusiasts.

None of these fit your needs? Take a look at the best bowie knives and you might just find the tool you need.

Stay sharp, have a knife day, and sorry for all the puns!