How To Sharpen A Tanto Blade.
The Tanto Blade is a unique blade style that poses an interesting issue for someone not familiar with sharpening them. This article will explain in detail exactly how to sharpen a tanto blade cutting edge.
If you want to see more information on sharpening all different types of knives then check out our article here; what is the best way to sharpen a pocket knife.
You can also check out our post about the best knife sharpener for hunters here.
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Basics of sharpening a tanto blade.
A tanto blade knife can be sharpened in a myriad of different ways, just like other types of knives. The main difference with sharpening a tanto blade vs other blades such as a drop point or clip point blade etc. is that it is performed in two separate steps almost like it is a two distinct blades.
One of the biggest mistakes that a person new to sharpening tanto blades is to try to sharpen both angles in one motion like you would on most other types of blades. This can round over the tanto blade "corner" and also make it very difficult to maintain a consistent edge angle along the entire length of the cutting edge bevel.
Before we try to explain exactly how to sharpen a tanto blade we need to explore the blade style a little bit more to hone in one exactly what we are trying to accomplish and why.
What Is A Tanto Blade?
The modern Tanto blade as we know it was made popular by Cold Steel in the early 80's. The Tanto blade style is designed to mimic the traditional Japanese tanto knife. The traditional Japanese Tanto blade had more belly curve and a less prominent front edge angle than the modern Tanto.
These differences don't draw away from the fact that the traditional design still had the same overall structure as the modern Tanto. The design was intended as a secondary blade that was designed as a strong puncturing tool, originally intended to excel at puncturing armor in close quarters.
On the flipside, the modern Tanto will probably never see a piece of armor to pierce but the overall design still makes it a very effective puncturing tool. Part of what makes it such a great puncturing tool is that it has a sharply angled front edge that keep a lot of steel behind the edge to provide support.
One other design function is that many Tanto blades have a strong spine whose edges run parallel almost right up to the front edge bevel. Although some manufacturers do taper this spine thickness towards the tip most of them tend to keep a very strong spine that helps maintain this blades styles formidable strength.
Most Tanto blades have very little belly curve. This straight and flat main cutting edge leads some people to say that the Tanto blade is not a very good slicer. However, as long as you maintain an extremely sharp edge then a Tanto blade can perform quite well at most slicing duties.
If you want to know more about the Tanto blade benefits and drawbacks you can read our full article here.
Tanto Blade Purpose.
As mentioned above, the traditional Tanto blade was designed to puncture armor in close quarters. The modern Tanto purpose does not sway too far from this and is still arguably the best blade design for puncturing and poking into harder materials.
Many people today use their Tanto blades for rougher duties such as breaking down boxes, prying or chiseling, and various work type functions. Much of this type of work will require the Tanto blade to be sharpened regularly and maintained to a high standard. These every day type uses can make the Tanto blade can make a great EDC knife.
I have heard from some Tanto blade users that they purposely keep the front blade edge and angle more obtuse than usual to accentuate the inherent strength of the Tanto tip.
Benefits Of A Tanto Blade
There can be no doubt that the Tanto blade is one of the best blade styles when used for puncturing and poking. It may not be as efficient as a more slender pointed blade but it is definitely one of the strongest blade styles for this task.
This overall strength, especially in the tip area, makes the Tanto blade a very effective defensive tool. This trait also makes it a very good rough duty knife for tasks that would include poking holes and prying or chipping. A high quality full tang fixed blade Tanto knife is one of the most robust knife styles around.
It can also be said, that one of the other benefits of a Tanto blade is its striking style and looks. Many people are drawn to the way this blade looks and appreciate it for its strong form.
What Makes The Sharpest Knife?
Before we get into the detailed specifics and how sharpening a tanto blade differs from sharpening any other blade we will go over the basics of what makes the sharpest knives.
The angle at which the bevel is sharpened and maintained to can determine the level of sharpness as well as the durability of the edge. Much discussion is had over the types of knife steels required to get the sharpest knife and which steels will hold their edge the best. Suffice to say that just about any modern blade steel can be sharpened extremely sharp and the angle of the bevel will determine more about how sharp the cutting edge is and how durable that edge is.
depending on what you want to achieve when sharpening your knife will determine which edge angle you want to sharpen to. For rough duty and work knives a knife should be sharpened to a more obtuse angle such as around 30 degrees. A fairly standard angle for hunting knives and most pocket knives is around 25 degrees.
To achieve an extremely sharp kitchen knife many people sharpen them to around 20 degrees. This will give a very sharp edge which will need to be treated with a bit more care than a field knife and will also need to be touched up more often than a wider angle.
Blades such as razor blades and scalpels can be sharpened to around 17 to 15 degrees. These edges will be extremely sharp and of course, will be quite delicate as well and not suited to rough cutting duties.
How To Properly Sharpen A Pocket Knife?
One of the main things to keep in mind when sharpening any knife is to maintain a consistent edge angle at the angle that suits the tasks that the knife will perform as determined above. Once your edge angle is set the next task is to refine that edge as precisely as possible to an extremely fine and polished finish.
This is usually accomplished with standard sharpening stones, whetstones, diamond stones, or one of the various sharpening systems on the market. We will detail some of those specific systems below.
The basics of sharpening is to start at as coarse of a stone as you need to get your angle refined and set to the desired angle. Once that is complete you progress through finer and finer grits and repeat the sharpening process until you decide it is sharp enough for you.
One key to keep in mind is to make sure you are maintaining your precise edge angle as you progress through each grit. Also, be sure to completely remove the scratches from each grit before stepping down to the next finer grit.
Many people advocate sharpening each side of the edge until you have a consistent burr along the edge opposite the stone and then flipping the knife and working the opposite side until this burr edge is replicated before stepping down to the next finer grit to repeat this process. This helps you get to the finest and sharpest edge possible.
Once you get up to your finest grit then a next step can be to lightly strop your edge. Stropping consists of using a polishing compound or stropping compound on a leather or similar material and drawing your knife across it to remove the final burr and polish the cutting edge.
The video below shows this process in detail and talks about maintaining your edge angles and stepping through the grits as needed.
Best Way To Sharpen A Tanto Blade.
The main differences between sharpening a Tanto blade and any other blade is that the Tanto tip is sharply angled and needs to be treated as a secondary edge and sharpened separately from the main edge.
The second difference between sharpening Tanto blades and other curved belly blades is that the Tanto usually has a very straight main edge without much belly curve. This lack of curve makes it simultaneously easier and harder to sharpen depending on the technique and tools you use.
For those who use larger traditional sharpening stones this straight edge is actually quite easy to sharpen by hand. The biggest thing to keep in mind is to maintain your edge angle and perform long continuous strokes that keep a consistent edge from end to end of the main blade.
Most people recommend sharpening the main long edge first and then sharpening the smaller secondary cutting edge separately. This helps keep the intersection of the two edges sharp and at the proper angle. Keep in mind that you do not want to round over this corner which will change the look and style of the blade.
Many people do lightly touch this edge intersection with their stones to give it a very small rounding to it . This helps keep that "corner" stronger rather than leaving it exactly pointed which would lead to an unsupported edge portion that could roll over easily or chip and break.
How To Sharpen A Tanto Blade With The Spyderco Sharpmaker.
The Spyderco Sharpmaker is an extremely well known and effective tool for sharpening your blades. Many people use it to sharpen all types and styles of edges and it can be used fairly effectively to sharpen your Tanto blade.
One issue with using the Spyderco Sharpmaker to sharpen your Tanto blade is that it is fairly difficult to sharpen the front edge portion separately. Sharpening of the main long cutting edge is performed as usual with the Sharpmaker.
This video below shows exactly how to sharpen a Tanto blade with the Spyderco Sharpmaker.
How To Sharpen A Tanto Blade With The Darex Work Sharp Motorized Electric Knife Sharpener.
One of the best electric motorized knife sharpeners in the Darex Work Sharp Knife And Tool Sharpener. This specific sharpener is extremely effective at sharpening Tanto blades.
The Work Sharp has an adjustable angle sharpening guide that gives consistent bevel angles from 15 to 30 degrees. One nice thing about the Work Sharp is that it forms a slightly convex edge grind that keeps a strong and sharp edge.
Make sure to not get the blade too hot when using the Sharp Maker. It can be easy to heat up the fine edge and lose the heat treatment of the edge which will drastically effect the strength and durability of your edge.
There can be no doubt that the Tanto blade style is very popular and is a great style for a rough duty knife. As such, it is a knife style that will also need to be sharpened quite frequently to maintain its effectiveness. Especially if you use your Tanto as an EDC knife.
As you can see, sharpening a Tanto blade has its own specific skills and techniques that should be learned in order to keep it functioning at peak shape. With the information provided within this post you should know know how to sharpen a Tanto blade.