Distal Taper: Why Knives Have It

Distal taper is exhibited in the way Terry Vandeventer's blade goes from thick to thin. (SharpByCoop photo)

Terry Vandeventer’s blade exhibits the reduction in thickness known as distal taper. (SharpByCoop photo)

Distal taper is a concept long used by knifemakers in different parts of the world. Characterized by a reduction in thickness of the blade from guard to tip and spine to edge, distal taper results in a knife that is both lightweight and exhibits excellent edge geometry. The concept is also employed on knife tangs, whereby the tang is tapered in thickness from the guard to the butt.

Since knives with distal taper are both lighter in weight and have super edge geometry, they are easier to handle and cut better—all other things being equal. Who can argue with those kinds of results?

As far as we know, exactly who first used distal taper is undetermined. Some Sheffield-made kitchen knives from the 19th century exhibit the trait, and the concept no doubt was used long before that. A number of custom knifemakers apply distal taper to their knives today, following in the footsteps of such makers as Blade Magazine Cutlery Hall-Of-Fame© members William Scagel, Bob Loveless (http://www.shopblade.com/loveless-legend-w5287) and Bill Moran, as well as Ted Dowell and others.

What about you? Do you own any knives with distal taper? If so, tell us about them—what styles they are, who made them, etc. Or do you use the concept on the knives you make? Tell us about it/them. Why do you like knives with distal taper? Why, in your opinion, is the concept important? If you apply the concept to your knives, how do you go about doing it?

By the same token, if you don’t think distal taper is all that important, tell us why. Is it overrated as a concept or what exactly? Don’t hold back. And don’t worry, you won’t hurt our feelings.

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