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Gerber 06 auto tanto

Tanto blades. Theyíre as functional and as cool as any blade on the market. Tanto blades are great because they sport two cutting edges at different and the blade shape supports a very strong point. They can be found in all kinds of cutlery, from automatic folders to fixed blades and swords.

Sharpening a tanto knife is a lot like sharpening any other blade. The idea behind blade sharpening is to remove steel from both sides of the blade to create a finer edge. The method behind sharpening a tanto knife is to sharpen both edges separately, taking great care with the secondary point between the cutting edges. Oversharpening this point can lead to it being rounded off, and believe us, thatís not something anybody wants.

If you finish sharpening a tanto blade and want to see how to strop a knife or other sharpening life hacks, check out our guide on How to Sharpen and Strop a Knife.

Free Hand Sharpening Methods

Free hand sharpening is as old as time (well, pretty much) and is enjoyed by many knife enthusiasts. It can be both therapeutic and frustrating, but thatís why weíre here to help.

Arkansas Sharpening Stone

There are three types of free hand sharpening stones: dry (used with no liquid), wet (use a honing or mineral oil), and water (use with water). Some popular sharpening stones are Spyderco Double Stuff Ceramic Stones, Hard Arkansas Pocket Oil Stone, and the Lansky Puck.

Many stones sport both a fine side and a coarse side. You may need to use more than one stone to finish to a finer cutting edge. Start with coarse stones for duller knives. Work your way to fine stones to finish them.

  1. Find the Sharpening Angle - Set the longer cutting edge flat on the stone. Tilt it up so the blade angle lays flat on the stone.
  2. Sharpen the First Edge - Sharpen like you are shaving off the top layer of the stone with the cutting edge leading. Sharpen from the heel to the secondary point where the angle changes on the blade. Donít drag the point between the cutting edges off the stone because it will round the corner.
  3. Form a Burr - You can feel a burr start to form on the side not being sharpened. Once you see a burr, flip the blade over.
  4. Sharpen the Second Edge - Do the same thing with the secondary cutting edge, making sure not to drag the points off the stone.
  5. Form a Burr - Sharpen both sides of the blade, working up to finer stones for a finer cutting edge.

Guided Sharpening Methods

Guided methods are great for those that want to take some of the guesswork out of free hand sharpening.

Spyderco Sharpmaker Kit

Spyderco Sharpmaker - The Spyderco Sharpmaker is an amazing guided sharpening system that can be used with countless blade styles. It features base slots for a 30 degree angle and a 40 degree angle.

  1. Coarse Pointed Stones - Set the stones in the slot that most closely resembles your blade grind angle. Use the brown coarse stones first with the corners pointed toward each other. With the knife straight out and the cutting edge down, pass it from the heel of the blade to the secondary point (between the cutting edges), making sure to stop on or before rounding the point. Do this on both sides of the first cutting edge about 20 strokes on each side.
  2. Coarse Flat Stones - Repeat the process above using the brown stones with the flat sides facing each other.
  3. Flip the Base Over - Put the white stones flat in the base so the flat sides are facing up. Youíll now sharpen the second cutting edge near the tip like a chisel. Line it up so that the blade grind angle is flush with the stones and push straight on the stones like you are shaving off a layer. Repeat this on both sides of the edge while forming and taking off burrs.

The Sharpmaker takes some practice to use with tanto blades, but it is a very powerful sharpener when used correctly.

Wicked Edge Sharpening System

Wicked Edge - The Wicked Edge is extremely easy to use when set up and allows easy forming of hair shaving edges.

  1. Set the Knife - Put the blade in the vise upside down and tighten.
  2. Set the Arms - Set the arms to the desired cutting edge angle. Some versions of the Wicked Edge have a digital angle gauge that shows the degree of the bevel. Make it so the stones lay flat on the grind of the blade.
  3. Start Sharpening - Use the stones in an up and down motion to form a burr along the first cutting edge of the blade. Do this on both sides of the blade. Move to the second cutting edge and go to the tip of the blade. Work your way up to the finer stones.

Things to keep in mind: Do not roll over the secondary point or it will round it off. Treat each cutting edge separately and work the stones so that they go straight up and down on the edges.

Powered Sharpening Methods

Welcome to the big leagues of sharpening. Use care when using powered sharpeners as you do not want to get the blade too hot. This can mess with the heat treat of the steel and make blades more brittle.

Darex Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener

Darex Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener - The Work Sharp comes with different grits of belts ranging from coarse to fine.

  1. 80 Grit Belt - Start with the 80 grit belt. Using the adjustable angle guide that snaps into place, move the blade from the heel to the secondary tip five times, taking care not to roll over the point. Do the same on the other side. Now do the same with the second cutting edge from the secondary tip to the point of the blade. Place the cutting edge flat down on the guide like you are trying to cut into it.
  2. 220 Grit Belt - Change the belt to the 220 grit and repeat the steps above.
  3. 6000 Grit Belt - Use the 6000 grit and repeat the process. Go from side to side for a total of five passes on each side of each cutting edge.

This instructional video doesnít show a tanto blade in particular, but it will help set up your knife and give you an idea of how it works.

Other Knife Care Guides

  • Pocket Knife Maintenance
  • How to Sharpen and Strop a Knife
  • How to Sharpen a Recurve Blade
  • How to Sharpen a Machete
  • How to Sharpen Knife Serrations
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