Of all the knives I own, the tanto blade is easily one of my favorites. Its aesthetics are unmatched and self-defense capabilities top-notch. But like all knives, it also needs to be sharpened.
Whenever you get a beautiful blade like this, you’re going to hesitate to sharpen it. That’s natural. After all, the last thing you want is to scratch or ruin your blade.
I used to be just like you. Before, I’d rather have my tanto blade go dull than risk damaging it. But over time, I learned the proper method of sharpening combat knives. And this is what I’m going to share with you today.
What are Tanto Blades?
Before getting into how to sharpen tanto blades, it’s important to know what makes them special. Although we classify them as knives today, tanto blades were originally short swords.
They were developed in medieval Japan and were used by the Samurai as a secondary weapon. In fact, the word “tanto” means “short sword” in Japanese.
These aren’t your ordinary knives, Tanto blades are designed for battles. You’ll even find some that are double-edged, staying true to their short sword origins.
Tanto blades are characterized by two parts:
- A flat body from the hilt
- A near-vertical bevel at the tip
There is tiny belly (that curve we see in knives) in tanto blades. Instead, they are straight with sharp corners. Another characteristic of tanto blades is their thick tip. This makes them sturdy and strong and allows them to take heavy impact.
Advantages of Tanto Blades
My first tanto blade was a black folding pocket knife. I used to carry this whenever I walked the streets at night. While I never had to use it, knowing that I had one of the best combat knives in my pocket filled me with a sense of security.
Since then, I’ve collected a couple more of these blades. And they’re all great for self-defense. That’s why no matter what crazy things happen in the world, I can sit peacefully, knowing that I can defend myself if need be.
The reason why tanto blades are great for self-defense is that they are super strong. Their thick tip can repeatedly puncture through hard materials without breaking. They’re also lightweight and easy to bring along. So no matter where you go, you can take them with you. It’s no wonder Samurais used this for assassin work.
Because of how strong they are, tanto blades do not deteriorate quickly. They’re one of the most durable blades that you can get your hands on. In combat, these knives will never let you down. At home, they’re always going to be there for you.
They’re also extremely intimidating. If someone threatens you, all you need to do is pull out your tanto blade. The killer-look of this blade should scare them off. No one wants to mess with a knife like this.
Finally, tanto blades are very beautiful. Fierce, yes, but in a mesmerizing way.
Disadvantages of Tanto Blades
The biggest disadvantage of tanto blades is that they’re not very practical. Forget trying to use your tanto blade in the kitchen. With very little belly, these knives don’t slice well. When it comes to camping, tanto blades do a decent job. But unless you’re going to fight bears, there are better options.
Tanto blades are great for stabbing, they’re designed for this. But how many times do you need to stab or puncture something? I found stabbing is one of the last things I use my knives for. Yes, this makes tanto blades great for self-defense. But how many times do you find yourself needing a weapon?
The Sharpening Problem
But even if you rarely use your tanto blade, it is still very important to keep it sharp. so you won’t get caught unprepared if the time comes when you need it. Also, if you’re a knife collector like me, you just can’t live with a dull knife. The problem is that tanto knives are quite difficult to sharpen. Their straightness means you can’t sharpen them like you would a kitchen knife.
Because of this, the task of sharpening your tanto blade can be very intimidating. You need to be careful not to ruin the beauty and edge of this blade. But don’t worry, it’s a lot easier than you might think.
How to Sharpen a Tanto Blade
If you don’t want to do this yourself, you can always give this job to the professionals. This way, you can be sure that your tanto blades will come home safe and sharp. But why spend a lot of money when you can do it yourself? Why go through the hassle and waiting when you can sharpen your tanto blades right now?
As I’ve said before, it’s a lot easier than it may seem. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at how to sharpen a tanto blade.
Sharpen Tanto Blades with a Sharpening Stone
Just like other knives, tanto blades can be sharpened with a sharpening stone. Unlike other knives, you need to take extra care when doing this. Instead of holding the sharpening stone on one hand and your knife in the other, use both hands to hold the blade of your knife. Set the sharpening stone down and position the flat of your blade at a 20-30 degree angle. Then you can start sharpening.
Stroke your tanto blade from the top to bottom of the sharpening stone as if you are scraping the surface off. Make sure you don’t twist as you do this. Because the knife is so straight, your strokes have to be very straight as well. Once you begin to feel a burr (rough edge) on your blade, flip it and begin sharpening the other side.
Sharpen Tanto Blades with a Guided Sharpener
Tanto blades are double-beveled. This means that their edge forms a v shape, making sharpening quite tricky. Double-beveled blades need to be sharpened equally on both sides at the same angle. This is why precision and patience are necessary for this task.
The good news is that there are now guided sharpeners. These sharpeners allow you to set the angle at which you will sharpen your knife. This makes getting an equal angle on both sides a lot easier. What’s more, there’s a lot less risk that you will accidentally scratch the flat of your blade when you use these.
Tips for Sharpening Tanto Blades
No matter what sharpening tool you use, I always keep these rules in mind when sharpening my tanto blade:
- Use both hands
- Make strokes straight and avoid twisting from side to side
- Sharpen at a 20-30 degree angle
- Feel for a burr to know when it is sharp enough
- Sharpen the body and tip separately
- Use cut-resistant gloves for safety
Tanto blades are without a doubt, one of the most beautiful knives to have. But knives don’t thrive on beauty alone; they need a blade-sharpness to be perfect. With these simple tips, you should be able to sharpen your tanto blade without fear.