The Best Steel Materials for Tari (Slasher Knives)

The slasher knives, tari, are the very weapon of the gamefowl in the cockpit in the Philippines. It plays a vital role for winning fights. From 80s to mid 2000s, Gaffers enjoyed the luxury of winning because of their advantage with the tari knives used. Even with using a quality roosters, a great conditioning system, if you use a low quality blade against an excellent blade, you’re giving up about a third of your fights.

Quality slasher knives are a result of excellent design vis-a-vis with materials used. Nowadays a beginner won’t even need to worry much about the physical design as there are lots of excellent designs available in the market. We will also write design principles of an excellent knife, so many would understand more about tari and get to select tari designs more appropriately, vis-a-vis with apropriate materials.

But what about the materials used? We had seen seasoned gaffers suffer with this area of slasher knives. And yes there are seasoned gaffers out there that don’t really understand about the materials used in tari making. On this article we tackle the materials used for tari, including sharpness sustainability, toughness, hardness, resulting weight and availability.

The Materials Used for Tari (Gamefowl Slasher Knives)

The terms you may encounter regarding tari materials are,, High Speed Steels, carbides, DMo5 ,M2, M35, M41, M42, High carbon steel, toolbit, circular saw blades, power hacksaw blades, stainless steel, toughness, hardness, red hardness, solingen steel, damascus steel and powder metallurgy.Hardened steel, tipped and Bi-metal steel are also discussed.

Damascus Steel

Straight to the point, certainly this is not what you want to use. The only possitive it has is the pattern itself, that may be beautiful to most, and it is also the negativity of the steel. It can make a micro-serration surface, giving the very edge of the blade different strengths, hardness and toughness.

Solingen Steel

Straight to the point, this one needs specifics. Many steels could be called a solingen steel, steels made in Solingen, Germany. There were just so many kinds and grades of Solingen steels. As for now, this one will not be included in the materials you want to use.

High Speed Steels

High Speed Tool are so named primarily because of their ability to machine materials at high cutting speeds (1). Meaning they can withstand the intense heat generated at the tool’s cutting edge and work piece. And different grades of HSS has its own max red hardness. Red hardness or hot hardness corresponds to hardness in high temperatures.

Besides from toughness, the material for tari needed enough hardness to sustain its super sharpness requirement, but not necessarily in high temperatures. The tari wont get literally hot in the actual fight. But the component responsible for red hardness is also responsible for the sustainment of sharpness of the tari blade. See Sharpness Sustainability (Retention) for more.

M and T Classification

M series denotes the class where molybdenum is as one of the primary alloying element. Whereas T series denotes the class where Tungsten is as one of the primary alloying elements.

In addition, a number follows the M or T to distinguish their grades. Different grades have their own different alloying element ratio.You migh wanna read Effect of Alloying Elements for more information about individual alloying elements of HSS.

HSS Grades

HSS Grades(1)
Grade Cobalt Carbon Manganese Silicon Chromium Vanadium Tungsten Molybdenum
M2 – Reg Carbon 0.78 – 0.88 0.15 – 0.40 0.2 – 0.45 3.75 – 4.5 1.75 – 2.2 5.5 – 6.75 4.5 – 5.5
M2 – High Carbon 0.96 – 1.05 0.15 – 0.40 0.2 – 0.45 3.75 – 4.5 1.75 – 2.2 5.5 – 6.75 4.5 – 5.5
M35(6) 4.6 – 5.2 0.85 – 0.95 0 – 0.4 0 – 0.4 3.75 – 4.5 1.75 – 2.15 6 – 6.75 4.75 – 5.25
M41 4.75 – 5.75 1.05 – 1.15 0.2 – 0.6 0.15 – 0.5 3.75 – 4.5 1.75 – 2.25 6.25 – 7 3.25 – 4.25
M42 7.75 – 8.75 1.05 – 1.15 0.15 – 0.4 0.15- 0.65 3.5 – 4.25 0.95 – 1.35 1.15 – 1.85 9 – 10
T4 5.75 0.7 – 0.8 0.1 – 0.4 0.2 – 0.4 3.75 – 4.5 0.8 – 1.2 17.5 – 19 0.4 – 1
T5 7 – 9.5 0.75 – 0.85 0.2 – 0.4 0.2 – 0.4 3.75 – 5 1.8 – 2.4 17.5 – 19 0.5 – 1.25

Phosphorus and Sulfur both <=0.03

Different standards have different grades. And the grades may have a major similarity with the other. So you might not find the grades above in a particular country but you may find grades with other Organization Standards. Like SKH59 (JIS), HS2-9-1-8 (ISO), W2Mo9Cr-4VCo8 (GB), S 2-20-1-8 (DIN) which are all very similar to M42 grade in technical terms called comparable grades(3)(4).

HSS are most used tari material today. More than 95% of tari in the philippines are made from HSS Material. The no.1 reason why it became the most used is the availability, see more about availabitly below. Secondly, It is used to be cheaper than other high quality materials (major reasons [1st and 2nd] for the fast decade). Third reason is you get a good quality out of it, if you chose the right grade and productline you even get a good balanced properties (quality) of a tari material. See more about properties below.

High Carbon Steels

Basically steels with 1 to <2 % carbon could be called high carbon steels. These steels are thermomechanically processed to produce microstructures that consist of ultrafine, equiaxed grains of ferrite and a uniform distribution of fine, spherical, discontinuous proeutectoid carbide particles(2).

Too much carbon can make the steel brittle. Without the exotic alloying elements, regular high carbon steels will not be suitable for tari. HSS and specially made steels for quality knives also contains high carbon content, thanks to alloying elements giving balance to what a tari needs.

Tungsten Carbides

Tungsten Carbides, called carbides for short in knife parlance, are the hardest of all available materials for a tari. Carbides is one of the good materials for tari. I had seen a gaffer enjoyed the luxury of winning for over a decade (90s) just because of this material.

Until now, one of the issue of carbides as a tari material is the availabilty, secondly it is more expensive compared to HSS.

Carbide Tipped

Carbide tipped tools means the carbide is only on the tip of the tool. If you wanna use carbides as a material, go for the solid carbides.

The same goes to bimetal HSS. Use the all hardened ones. Many seasoned gaffers had suffered with these bimetals, and the sad part is they don’t even know it.

Other Specially Made Steels

Specially made steels developed primarily for cutlery and perfectly fit for gamefowl slasher knives are available since mid 2000s, as far as i can remember. Now, there are different combinations to select from for the properties that one may prefer, for shock resistant, toughness, hardness and even with , anticorrosion properties. Thanks to its different alloying elements that is only possible to powder metallurgy.

Powder Metallurgy

Powder metallurgy is a metal processing technology in which parts are produced from fine metallic powders(5).

The grades tackled above, if made through PM will improve the material to optimum level because of its fine microstructure.

For a tari material, the very benefit we are interested with PM is the homogenous microstructure of the material. With the very same steel, PM gives a more reliable performance compared to conventionally made steels. See Properties (Qualities) section below for more information.

The issues of PM, regarding as a tari steel, are the availability (see availability discussion below for more) and it used to be more expensive as a result of availability. But certainly if you want the best tari material thereof, steels made through PM will be your best bet.


The materials above have different degrees of availability. Availability is factor that influence, or ratherly dictates, the tari material trend. Nowadays, people want the material available in precut tari shape and already optimally hardened. Meaning the material do not need any forging, tempering or hardening or any other process.

The forging, tempering or hardening of the smiths in the Philippines is not consistent, unless using an electric furnace, power hammer and hot rolling machine which is not available for most smiths in the Country. And it also an added expenditures and efforts which we want to eliminate.

This section discusses the availability issues of the above materials.

HSS saw blades tari material is the most readily available in the market. You can order it online, it comes already hardened and pre-cut into tari shape material.

The issues like forging, tempering and hardening are removed.

The only issue is, hss circular saw blades tari material are not made through powder metallurgy, there is none that we confirmed using powder metallurgy.

Steels made through Powder metallurgy

Powder metallurgy makes the tari material a more reliable, because of homogenous microstructure and the possibility to make steels with more alloying elements.

Most steels made through PM in the market needs to be rolled, annealed and hardend. People wants the material to be available , already hardened and pre-cut into shape. It is one of the reason that there are just a few who uses these steels as a tari material. The second reason is not many knew about PM materials. It is just a matter of time that people will migrate to use PM materials, specially those who wants to use the best material thereis.

Properties Needed for a Tari Slasher Knife.


Hardness is a property of a material that resist deformation. This property denotes sharpness retainability. Meaning a harder material will retain the sharpness more longer. Hence, hardness is also inversely denotes toughness. That is the material may break or chip (fracture) if toughness is lessened to the critical point and beyond.

For every alloy, hardness and toughness must not exceed beyond their practical level. Different alloys have different practical level of hardness and toughness. If beyond the practical hardenability, the steel will break or chip as mentioned before.

M2 (DMo5) materials is the easiest to sharpen because it has less hardness (or should i say soft) to the hard counterparts like M35 (HSS E), M41, M42(some call this super cobalt) and their counterpart carbides. But even easier to sharpen it is also the one that loses the sharpness first compared to M35, M41, M42 and their counterpart carbides.

Sharpness Sustainability(Edge Retention)

The best material must be super sharp and hold the sharpness after many blows. This includes cutting bones of the opponent. Not all fights are finished with just about 2 buckles. If your tari knife is not sharp on this point (M2 [DMo5]), the opponent have a major edge on winning the fight. Hence, your only chance hangs on the first 2 buckles. And if it is, generally you are losing 18 to 30% more of your fights because of this.

Ease of Sharpening

Ease of sharpening is inversely denoted by grindability, and hardness.

The best materials takes longer to sharpen. But the thing is they are super sharp and retain the sharpness longer. These are attributed to hardness property, and for those made through powder metallurgy, microstructure.

Basyador is vital to the sharpness of the tari. You might wanna check your basyador. If your basyador is lazy, or rushes the sharpening of your tari for some reason, optimum results for your tari won’t be acquired. You might wanna look for another basyador.


Toughness is a property of a material that resist fracturing. oughness denotes ductility. Meaning it would bend insted of breaking. Obviously, we do not want our tari to bend. Usually, M2 (DMo5) bends.

As mentioned before, toughness, inversely denotes hardness. Meaning it would lose it’s sharpness more faster than harder ones. This is true to steels belonging to the same group. But it is also worth mentioning that it would be different for a high-alloy powder metallurgical high-speed steel. As toughness is greatly improved through powder metallurgy even if there is no significant change on hardness.

Wear Resistance

On circular saw blades, many had falsely thought that this property on the steel’s data sheets have a significant effect on tari, specially on coated blades.

Wear resistance are tested through the sides of the blades, abrasive wear test or pin-on-disc test. If a saw blade is coated, titanium, tin or whatever, it greatly increase the wear resistance of the blade. But remember when a tari blade is grind into shape, this coating is removed on the tari.

Corrosion Resistance

For those who make their tari sharpened without use for longer periods, several months, you might wanna regard this property for you. Tari material witch offers good corrosion resistance could be get only to those special alloy material made through particle metallurgy.

Weight and Strenght

It is also worth mentioning the resulting weight of the material. Different materials have different relative weights. And these materials have different strenghts. Remember tari designs (literal shape design and lenght), depending on material, are just 2.25mm to 2.5mm.

A wrongful combination of design (physical shape) and material will result to more unwanted results. These are breakage, chipping or bending. We will tackle physical design vis-a-vis with material in another article. The balance of and optimized strenght, hardness and toughness are included.


Series of testing is done in any production, whether it is a material for a car , a hardware or software for computers. For a tari testing, it is no different, series of tests are conducted prior to final testing and before implementation. If you are trying to find a new material the test options below may help. It is also good if you wanna test the already proven materials to another material for comparing.

Usually first test used is for a quick assessment of hardness. The test is done by rubbing the edge of material against the edge of another tested material. The one that been grinded (as if it was eaten away by the other) is the softer material. If both been grinded, it means they are of the same hardness.

The second test, commonly, is when it is grinded to shape and sharpened. The basyador makes their assessment relative to the materials they usually sharpen. The hardness and max sharpness are now assessed.

The third test most tari makers would do is to literally strike it to a metal sheet, most of the time roofing sheet. The tari must penetrate the sheet and the tip must not be broken or bent.

Another test is done with cutting a bone of an aged cock. The sharpness must still be there after cutting the bone.

As mentioned before, final test must be done for final assessment. It could be actual or any similar scenario such as a simulated fight. After the final assessment, the decission would be made if you want to continue implementing using it.

As with any life cycle of a product or any thing, at some time it would have an end. After implementing it for some time, it would suddenly might show negativities or a more suitable tari material had been made. Do not be afraid to try the new innovative stuff out there, not just for a tari material but any thing. If you don’t, you might end up giving an edge to your opponent. Or at least not having an edge to win it, you are just shooting for luck.

Recommended Materials

  • Special steels (that performs better than HSS) made through powder metallurgy
  • M35, M41, M42 made through particle metallurgy
  • M35, M41, M42
  • T4 or T5 steel
  • M2 steel (selected variants only, and if there are no other available)

There are many materials available in social media. Of all the materials from circular saw blades, just a few are we could recommend to use. These will give you better results than those that are not mentioned (for circular saw blades and power hacksaw blades only).

We will continue this to part 2 of the article.


  1. ASTM International, A 600 – 92a (2004) Standard Specification for Tool Steel High Speed pp 2, 13
  2. (2012). High Carbon Steel
  3. J. E. Bringas(2004). Handbook of Comparative World Steel Standards. ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA p 432
  4. steel database search
  5. Sachin, 2015, A Review on Powder Metallurgy of Iron Oxide and Iron, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ENGINEERING RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY (IJERT) NCETEMS – 2015 (Volume 3 – Issue 10)
  6. High Speed Steel, Molybdenum Steel, Tungsten Steel, HSS Steel Suppliers

About The Total Gamefowl

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is a team of talented and passionate people. Collaborated and united to form their best and optimized standard principles and methodologies regarding current and future gamefowl arts and disciplines.

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