How to Sharpen a Tanto Blade: A Quick Guide

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I remember when I got my first tanto blade. I’ve been obsessed with them ever since I saw the sleek Japanese design, and as someone who grew up watching Samurai [1] cartoons, a miniature version of their sword was one of the coolest things I could hope to own.

However, I learned the hard way that sharpening a tanto blade is not as simple as a regular knife. I ruined the ridge lines of at least three knives before I learned how to do it right.

To make sure that you don’t mess up your tanto blade by sharpening it incorrectly, this article goes over the exact steps you need to take to do it right.

Tanto blades are one of the most popular knives among knife enthusiasts, and for good reason. Their looks and utility make them an excellent choice for multiple uses.

If you’re interested in knives and want to learn more about them, check out this complete guide to knife shapes.

About Tanto Blades

The first thing you’ll notice when you see a tanto blade is that it has a distinct Japanese design [2] and resembles a compact sword.

A tanto blade has two different cutting edges that set it apart from a conventional knife. It also has a sharply angled tip in the front that can be used for poking, puncturing, or making holes in items.

The main edge of a tanto blade has very little belly. Their sides also have no ridge line and are nearly flat.

An interesting thing to note about tanto blades [3] is that the modern version of them is a westernized model of the original blade. That said, they still come in a lot of different types. Check out this article on the different tanto blade types.

Sharpen a Tanto Blade

Sharpening Process

Now that you’ve been introduced to what a tanto blade is, let’s talk about how to sharpen it so that it can be kept in the best possible shape.

The sharpening process for a tanto blade is similar to any other knife. However, since the blade comes with two edges and the little belly, you need to keep some things in mind so that you don’t end up eroding the blade over multiple sharpening sessions.

When you first buy the blade, it’s important to know the blade angle and the strokes of the blade edge on both sides. There are different types of tanto blades, but since they all come with a cutting edge on both sides, extra care has to be taken to sharpen the secondary edge for the best possible cut.

When learning how to sharpen a tanto blade, you should start by purchasing a sharpening kit that lets you set the angles and grits with a proper base and slots for the right blade grind angle.

Types of Stones

Sharpening stones usually come with various grits for different parts of the process.

If you use a sharpening stone with low grits, you’ll lose more material from the knife. This is a good choice for blades that have been used extensively and become damaged or blunt with use.

On the other hand, if your blade has just lost its edge and needs to be sharpened, a sharpening stone with high grits will give it the required shine and extra sharpness by removing less material.

You’ll find coarse pointed stones, coarse flat stones, and white stones, and they all serve a different purpose in sharpening your blade.

Steps

Step 1

The first step is to sharpen the blade using the coarse pointed stones. Figure out your blade grind angle and set the stones accordingly.

Keep the knife straight out and the cutting edge of it down.

Pass the knife on the stone from heel to the point where it meets the secondary edge. Make sure that you don’t go past this, as it might cause the meeting point of the edges to round up.

Repeat this process for about 20-25 strokes.

Step 2

After you’re done with the coarse pointed stones, repeat the process with the coarse flat stones for the same amount of strokes. This might leave some burrs, but they’ll be removed in the final step.

Repeat the process for both the cutting edge and the secondary edge of the blade.

Step 3

White stones typically come with more than 4000 grit and are used as finishing stones. These are used to keep your blade sharp and refined.

Repeat the steps from 1 and 2 for a similar number of strokes on the white stones until there are no visible burrs on the knife. These stones come with the finest grits and are meant to give the blades a finishing touch.

Keep in mind that you need to repeat these steps for both edges of a tanto blade.

Step 4

The last step in the process is stropping the knife. This will make the edge razor sharp by removing inconsistencies that are not quite visible to the naked eye.

For this step, you can use a piece of leather or an abrasive paste.

One thing you need to keep in mind with stropping is that you don’t push the knife away from you. This will cause it to become dull. You pull the knife towards you, so that the extra material taken off from the edge of the knife is pushed off the blade edge.

As you can see, sharpening a tanto blade is pretty similar to sharpening a normal knife. The only thing you need to do differently is to sharpen it from both sides, as well as ensure that the point where the two edges meet doesn’t get rounded off.

Final Thoughts

Taking good care of your knife is just as important as choosing the right one. With a tanto blade, you get an enhanced degree of poking, puncturing, and tearing abilities, as well as the option to chisel things away. All this is only possible if you know how to sharpen it and keep it in the best shape.

We hope that this article has helped you figure out how to sharpen a tanto blade. If you want to learn more about similar topics like blades, knives, airguns, and firearms, feel free to check out our other articles, as well!

Resources

  1. https://www.britannica.com/topic/samurai
  2. https://www.martialartswords.com/blogs/articles/comparing-the-different-blade-types-of-the-japanese-tanto
  3. https://bladeprotection.com/tanto-blade-benefits-and-drawbacks

 

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