Author Topic: Distal Taper  (Read 7676 times)

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Offline Quenchcrack

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Distal Taper
« on: December 07, 2015, 06:40:47 AM »
I read this on Blade Magazine's website: 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."

I have made some knives with a distal taper but it is extra work and, for me, hard to achieve a uniform grind.  I am not sure how much better the knife performed compared to one without the distal taper.

I see very few knives with this feature now days.  Has it fallen into disrepute?  Is it just gilding the lilly?  What do the professional knife makers have to say?
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Offline Dano

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2015, 07:07:38 AM »
I'm not a professional maker, but I have had the opportunity to use a custom with a distal taper and liked the feel of the knife overall.  The balance was extremely good.  I do like the look better than ones with a bunch of holes drilled in the handle area to offset weight, but you rarely see a knife without scales, so that's probably a moot point.

I can see how a maker who forges to do a distal taper easier than stock removal methods, unless you have an attachment such as the Wuertz grinder has.  As for slicing improvement, I'm not sure it's any better than a flat type grind, or one with a good Sabre grind and secondary edge.  Just my thoughts for now anyway...

Another thing that comes to mind from a business standpoint is, anything that adds to extra labor efforts has to be added on to the final cost.  I'm not sure how many users out there are willing to pay the extra cost for the extra labor involved.

All that said, I have talked to a couple makers as I've been trying to learn the craft who forge and both believe what you stated in the clip you included to be true.

Offline Unknown

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2015, 08:44:49 AM »
Only a knife user here. Sorry

The only tapered tang I have is on an old butcher knife, all I can say is it is pretty cool. I would certainly prefer a tapered tang on a full tang knife if given the choice. It looks nice and I'm sure feels better. I never got scales on the old blade that i liked the looks of so dont use it.

One of the reasons I prefer hidden tang knives is lighter weight, better balance, lively. They just feel better to me, perhaps similar to a tapered tang in balance.

All of my best knives have distal tapered blades.YP tommi, MI puukko, Fallk TK2. Those are the ones I use most. My leuku(s) have reverse distal taper-are thicker at the tip, as is the butcher knife/cleaver mentioned above. I think that in both cases(distal taper and reverse dt) that is how it should be.
I like a finer tip on my general purpose knife that can more easily do detail work. I think DT makes the knife cut better, feel better, and even look better.
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Offline PetrifiedWood

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2015, 09:25:26 AM »
I was working on an idea to use a ball bearing drawer glide along with some wedges and magnets to taper tangs but I had to move my shop before I got a chance to try it .

Offline SIXFOOTER

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2015, 02:30:41 PM »
Most of what I make are forged blades and for the stick tangs I use a distal taper, I just form it that way as I forge the blade.
The blade itself usually has a distal taper, again with heat and hammer its pretty easy, then I just clean it up on the belt grinder.
Do you have a belt grinder with a platen? It makes that sort of thing pretty easy
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Offline Mannlicher

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2016, 07:47:43 AM »
so how does grinding down the top part of the blade, change edge geometry?

I have always thought adding a distal taper to a blade was more for looks than function.  You don't really enough  weight to make a noticable difference, but it sure looks nice, and it shows off the blade smith's ability to forge or grind.

Offline Quenchcrack

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2016, 08:31:14 AM »
Years ago I saw some knifesmiths forging a taper both directions from the choil to the blade tip and the butt.  This was supposed to put more mass over your index finger and improve handling.  I have made a few like that but never really found it to be worth the extra work on a 3" to 5" blade.  Where it is more noticeable is on a machete.  I bought a Collins forged machete made somewhere in Central America. It had a perfect taper from the choil to the tip and when the blade bent, it formed a perfect arc.  Most machetes today have no blade taper and tend to flex at the narrowest point which is usually just beyond the handle.  This puts a lot of stress on your wrist.
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Offline 1066vik

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2016, 08:39:17 AM »
distal taper does as good a job of balancing a blade as drilling holes in the tang -- without adding potential weak spots.
it also looks cool.

Offline zammer

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2016, 10:37:59 AM »
Had no idea what this meant, so...... compliments of BritishBlades and EverythingWingChun here's a pic   >:D

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Offline Trekster

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2016, 10:45:19 AM »
I'd like to point out (as a knifemaker) that while distal taper is indeed a nice addition to one's blade, there are ways to obtain the same lively feel, depending solely on blade shape. E. G. The general run of the mill long knife I make with clip or Wharncliffe/seax style blade and longer than average teardrop handle, is almost 100% center balanced without fail. My point is, if your design isn't too point heavy to begin with, you won't need to futz around with grinding or forging away half of your barstock.
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Offline Quenchcrack

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2016, 01:54:29 PM »
When I used a distal taper, I was making knives by stock removal and the extra grinding was a major PITA.  A good part of your steel ends up as dust under the grinder.  Forging in a taper is not difficult if you forge fast.  Reheating due to timid hammer work will get you a lot of scale.
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Offline Trekster

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2016, 01:59:06 PM »
I still need to site and build my forge :(.

I have most of what I need, but I want to do it in the backyard but my neighbor lady is a busybody lawn nazi.

We're all waiting for her to croak or move out of state.
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Offline Quenchcrack

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #12 on: January 03, 2016, 02:57:41 PM »
Set up a coal forge and use high sulfur coal.  It will smell like lightning hit the outhouse!  She will either croak or move.
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Offline lgm

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2016, 04:52:05 PM »
I think a distal taper looks and feel nice. Add a tapered tang & you can make a nice knife something special.
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Offline crashdive123

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #14 on: January 03, 2016, 05:18:49 PM »
To add a distal taper to my blades (all freehand) would significantly increase the time and effort to produce a blade and probably creating a price point much higher than I normally use.

Offline Carbon1

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2016, 01:39:40 AM »
so how does grinding down the top part of the blade, change edge geometry?

I have always thought adding a distal taper to a blade was more for looks than function.  You don't really enough  weight to make a noticable difference, but it sure looks nice, and it shows off the blade smith's ability to forge or grind.

In addition to the posts about how it helps to balance a knife (especially a larger knife), a distal taper helps the geometry by thinning down the entire blade. Thinner blades (in general) slice better. It has less steel on the primary grind from spine to edge, and therefore presents less resistance when cutting through whatever it is you're cutting. It also makes it easier to get a very thin secondary bevel (the edge), so you can take advantage of the thin primary grind and have a real slicer.

It is very function oriented, and especially on larger blades, can totally change the balance of the knife. It definitely takes more skill and precision to taper a blade evenly, but unless someone just wants a hunk of steel to beat on, is almost always desirable, with a few exceptions. In my opinion, anyway.

Offline gmusic

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2016, 02:50:42 PM »
Distal tapers look great! 

But a blades edge and the first half inch up toward the spine (whether flat, hollow or convex ground) do most of the work before the "distal" comes into play.  IMHO.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 04:14:58 PM by gmusic »
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Offline Unknown

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2016, 03:21:04 PM »
maybe so, I dont know for sure. But if you make a slicing cut rather than a push cut you will use the whole length of the edge, works better, I think, and helps edge stay sharp longer because you're not just using that short section.
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Offline gmusic

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2016, 09:14:54 PM »
I kinda understand what you mean unknown.  A long........slicing motion, such as a filet knife or a samurai sword or bread knife?
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Offline Unknown

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2016, 10:26:59 PM »
A Samurai sword or bread knife? I'm sure you can appreciate the disparity between the two, but you were talking about using only 1/2 " of your blade.

slice, yes
« Last Edit: January 29, 2016, 07:55:34 AM by Unknown »
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Offline gmusic

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #20 on: January 29, 2016, 10:23:02 AM »
Bad example.  While a slicer most are serrated these days.  A sushi knife perhaps.  What I mean by "1/2" doing most of the work, is that the edge and the contour or angle 1/2" up from the edge are doing the cutting and separating of the material.  Drawing the edge (or slicing) from the choil to tip through said material and utilizing the ever decreasing angle or thickness of the blade, I can see where the "distal taper" does have an advantage as a slicer.
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Offline Unknown

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #21 on: January 29, 2016, 10:47:21 AM »
I think I see. you meant 1/2" of width, not 1/2" of length that I assumed. Is that it?
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Offline gmusic

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #22 on: January 29, 2016, 12:34:52 PM »
Yes width.  I do mostly hollow grinds and was considering the dt in that respect and just couldn't see it's effectiveness or value.  I have never done a flat grind on anything where the dt I think would be most effective.  The diagram above helped me picture it as well.
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Offline imnukensc

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #23 on: January 29, 2016, 01:21:19 PM »
I believe y'all are talking about blade height, and not width.  A knife with a 1/2" wide blade wouldn't really be a knife, would it?
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Offline Unknown

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Re: Distal Taper
« Reply #24 on: January 29, 2016, 02:10:29 PM »
perhaps

I use the term width, same as I would with a chisel. A one inch wide knife would have the width as a 1" chisel. sounds like you are using the term width where I would say thickness.

Is there a 100% correct way, I'm not sure, but yours seems clear enough
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