How to 'gauge' sharpness?


July 6, 2008, 11:10 PM
Shaving hair from your forearm?
Slicing paper?
Is there any standard test?
Will any knife slice tissue paper?

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July 6, 2008, 11:27 PM
Depends, I suppose on what you use it for. But, for standard "sharpness" I'm fine with mine slicing paper without too much drag. If I plan on showing it off at all, I get it to shave but don't have too much practical use, myself, for a knife that sharp.:rolleyes:

Pax Jordana
July 6, 2008, 11:54 PM
Depends on what you wanna do. if you read the sharpening thing stickied on the top of the NFW page and also pasted here because you're probably as lazy as I am, a high-grit, 'polished' edge is better for push type cutting - but for sawing cuts a rougher 'toothy' edge actually cuts better.

There are guys around here that could get you a where'd-my-finger-go sharp edge, if you're willing to pay.. or you can do it yourself if you're willing to learn (and practice!)

My personal test is the paper test as well - if only because that's all the edge I need 90% of the time, and freehand I can usually get a knife to between paper cutting and hair shaving sharp.

There is lots of room in the world for sharp cutlery. But then, this one time I saw (the end result of) a guy get stabbed with a golf pencil. So, I guess it depends on what you're doing.

July 6, 2008, 11:57 PM
For most of mine, if it kinda sorta shaves I'm happy. But for my fillet knives, they have to be able to "fillet" a sheet of newsprint. I'm kinda obsessed with not leaving any meat on the bone.

The Tourist
July 7, 2008, 12:56 AM
I have come to the realization that a perfectly formed bevel--uniform in shape and width, front to back and left to right--polished with paste impregnated polishing paper on thick glass until all tool marks and smudges have been buffed out, will cut anything, at any time, in any direction.

Is it practical? Is it affordable? Should a tinker take the time and frustration to even build such a thing? That concept is clearly the topic for a debate by the consumers.

The samurai of 800 years ago had such tools. And I have one here.

July 7, 2008, 02:02 AM
Ed Fowler writes of knives being too sharp in one of his "Knife Talk" books. He took some knives down for field testing at the slaughterhouse and he grabbed one and an employee grabbed another. They started at different ends of a cow, started to cut and they flew by each other in the middle, almost cutting each other's hand off. "Too sharp!" they both said, and took some edge OFF of the knives.

I believe that "sharp" depends on the job at hand. While I greatly admire guys that can sharpen to 8000 grit I just don't think it's needed for most of us.

That said, being here with Tourist has pushed me hard to get better at sharpening and I have. Tonight on the grinder I sharpened 3 knives and each would shave when I got done making the edge at 220 grit. Then I polished them at 400 and 1200 grits - I tried at 2500 but the knife was taking the grit right off the belt (I sharpen into the belt). Then I hit the edges on the buffer. They are "try it on hair and take off a patch of hide" sharp. :)

The Tourist
July 7, 2008, 02:19 AM
Valkman, what guys at slaughterhouses (like my own area and the now defunct Oscar Mayer kill floor) are finding is actually the skill of the average worker, not the quality of the knife.

"That level not needed" is a compliant phrase meaning "our guys would kill each out of clumsiness." In fact, many of these large kill floors have their boners wear a steel mesh glove so they don't cut their own hands and fingers off.

My professional chefs would demand edges cut from laser beams if I offered that service. One local caterer has a deba that rivals a samurai's tanto and he calls to make appointments he probably doesn't need. He wanted me at his hotel during the 4th holidays.

Now, what is needed as opposed to wanted?

Well, I have a trucker client who cut his palm open. I have perhaps a dozen deer hunters per year who cut their own fingers when they cut up inside their kill.

I even saw a professional chef cut herself on an episode of "The Iron Chef."

In most cases the tools surpass the skill of the user. It's like using a Corvette for student driving classes. (And according to a recent cable show on muscle cars, many of the owners who buy these 200,000 dollar GT style Fords bring them back smashed--is the car "too good"?)

If anything, I'm researching ways to make knives sharper.

July 7, 2008, 02:37 AM
My mother was a meat cutter, I have never seen a knife near as sharp as those old carbon bladed butcher knives she had. Had one that had been sharpened so many times it looked like an ice pick, it was her tendon knife so she didn't dull the good ones on connective tissue. Funny how dad taught me to sharpen when it was mom who I should have learned from. Anyone remember when every grocery store had a butcher/meat cutter in back and the beef was delivered to the store in halves?

The Tourist
July 7, 2008, 02:44 AM
Valkman, don't toy with me! I'm counting the days until I receive one of your knives!

July 7, 2008, 03:15 AM
Well I must say that right now I do not care if a knife is "too sharp", if I can even achieve that. I'm too busy trying to make them as sharp as possible, which seems to be working as I practice.

2 of the knives done tonight were for you (Tourist) and hso! :) They'll go for sheaths tomorrow!

July 7, 2008, 09:35 AM
Here's my test - all you need is a few toothpicks, those regular wooden ones with a rectangular cross section that tapers from front to back. Hold the fat end in your fingers and use your knife to shave the corners off, cutting down towards the narrow tip. Use a slicing motion instead of a push-cut so that you test the whole blade.

My very best sharpening jobs will allow me to shave off thin threads of wood all along the edge of the blade. More often, I'll find a dull spot somewhere, where the knife either hangs up, slides off the surface or breaks the toothpick in half.

I prefer this to shaving hair (too easy) and cutting paper (too hard on the edge). Paper often has abrasives in it and I understand that can dull an edge pretty quickly.

The Tourist
July 7, 2008, 11:09 AM
knives done tonight were for you (Tourist)

Don't lose my address! I'm a kid waiting for Christmas when it comes to gifts from the little brown truck!

I prefer this to shaving hair (too easy) and cutting paper (too hard on the edge). Paper often has abrasives in it and I understand that can dull an edge pretty quickly.

This is one of the reasons why tinkers are now moving to a polished edge.

When you feel a "toothy" edge gripping what it's cutting, you are actually degrading the edge. I know lots of guys who use harsh coarse diamonds to sharpen a knife simply because they like this "chainsaw feeling."

Besides grinding off way to much metal and dramatically shortening the life of the knife, their knives are actually more dull than a polished edge.

Which shaves you better in the morning, a rough edge, or a new polished edge?

A polished edge "slips" through any media better, drags less, degrades more slowly over time. Many of my hunter clients are dressing far more deer than they did previously with the same knife.

And some alloys, like S30V, come alive when they finally get an edge which aids that alloy.

Even my fishing clients who clean bony pan fish report that they'd rather use a polished edge than one right from the box. More rigid blades are now being offered.

I'm beginning to believe that the manner in which an edge is prepared is only one of the factors in which we Americans hobble ourselves.

We buy knives on sale, we drag them on diamonds, we do poor maintenance because it's "stainless," and we seem reluctant to try knife styles and edge preparations from other countries. We slide a six-dollar knife into a seven dollar sheath after a trip to a grinding wheel, laugh, and say, "NIH is my motto."

Meanwhile, I have mirror edges that are dangerous to touch.

July 7, 2008, 02:07 PM
I'm open to the idea that different sorts of edges are appropriate for different tasks. Not certain, but open to it.

My best smooth edges (which, I'm the first to admit, are no more than what you would expect from a novice) are no match for crusty bread, and can't compare to a toothy edge for cutting rope and cord. That toothy edge is also easier and quicker to apply, and it requires a lower level of skill.

I have a toothy edge on my folding buck, which gets all the dirty work - opening boxes, cutting 550 cord, sawing blocks of styrofoam. I have a smooth edge on my little folding pocket knife for the finer things, like trimming fingernails or sharpening pencils. The Buck has been going strong for years, and I've sharpened it on everything from river rocks to those horrid little pocket sharpeners you find at walmart. It's a beater, and I depend on it. It fills an important niche.

Would it be better with a fine smooth edge? I dunno. I'm guessing I'd have to do a lot more work to maintain it, and all that crusty bread and nylon rope would not get cut any easier. But I'd be delighted to develop my skill and put an ever-finer edge on that pocket knife. Even if I never use it, I like to know it's there and I like to know I did it myself.

July 7, 2008, 02:57 PM
can a knife ever be too sharp? can a car be too fast? can a motorcycle ever have enough chrome?, can whiskey be older? can a woman be too beautiful?, can you ever be too rich, thin or strong?

July 7, 2008, 05:54 PM
their boners wear a steel mesh glove

Desperate measures...:)

July 7, 2008, 08:21 PM
I usually use a fine ark. stone with honing oil followed by an old leather belt (razor strop style). When I finish I can shave the fuzz off of a peach.

I have a 9 inch stilleto style,(the blade is 9 inch) I did that one years ago , I was showing off and flipped it open and slashed downward thru a 32 oz. paper cup top to bottom and didn't even crimp the roll on the top of the cup. Needless to say, The dude I was showing off for was impressed.

July 7, 2008, 08:39 PM
I'd like a knife so sharp that when you swing it through the air, this happens...

Seriously though, I was going to say shaving with no razor burn.


July 8, 2008, 12:03 AM
No definitive answer so far.
Let's try this:
Can a really sharp knife be compared to a single edged razor blade?
Even a brand new razor blade can not cleanly slice facial tissue (Kleenex).
I've heard tales of Samurai swords that could. Legend or fact?
Sure would be interesting to look at an edge under high magnification.
Think 500x microscope.
I'm going to send a few to the Tourist as my interest is very high. Sounds like he is producing the closest edge to a Jap sword as has been done.

July 8, 2008, 12:12 AM
Also, I guess my stropping technique needs work. I sharpened a blade the other night using my Lansky. Worked on it very, very carefully with the fine (red) stone until the wire edge was non-discernable. Very light strokes alternating sides each stroke. Then I smeared some Simichrome on a piece of heavy cardstock and stropped. The edge felt sharper before the stropping!
It slices and dices notebook paper just fine, but it does not shave arm hair without using quite a bit of pressure.
Are my expectations too high?

Pax Jordana
July 8, 2008, 12:26 AM
You know what's more deadly than samurai swords? thrown rocks. statistically speaking.

By all means, send stuff to the tourist. I'm thinking of weighing him down with a few articles of my own when I get my cash situation straightened out (note to the tourist: I graduate in 2011, look for my packages by 2015!) But beyond "sweet zombie jesus that's sharp" I think the point of edge perfection becomes somewhat moot.

Are you looking to sever limbs? get a cane knife or a machete :)

The Tourist
July 8, 2008, 12:36 AM
The issue for me is not only what it means to own a knife, or what it can do as far as work or prestige, but more of what the process of this work does for the artisan.

I did a knife this morning so mechanically perfect that touching anything produced a slice. I put it in a box, took it to UPS and gave it away.

It existed for me, I produced art with skills and practice, applied that knowledge and a created a condition that had not existed before. I don't see any further relationship with such a tool except loss. I would lose a possession.

I took my EDC to a restaurant a few nights ago and used it to cut food. When I touched it up, it was clearly 99% of the edge I had previously. It needed that final lick of polish. I'll get to it, perhaps I will dull it again, it might even be better.

But it exists now as a loss.

July 8, 2008, 01:06 AM
I'd guess that at the restaurant your food was served and subsequently cut, on a glass plate. (Shudder!)
The thought of such a fine edge encountering glass just hurts.
When I eat a steak at home, one of life's little pleasures is using my EDC. But rest assured, I serve myself ONLY on plastic plates.
I'm sure we all know how to keep a knife at its' peak of sharpness.
Yep........don't use it. :scrutiny:

The Tourist
July 8, 2008, 01:27 AM
I'm sure we all know how to keep a knife at its' peak of sharpness.

I have far too many 'drawer queens,' and I'm constantly on the lookout for a wealthy man who likes to stockpile knives more than I do.

As for the using of such sharp knives, if I do not get the joy out of the experience, what's the use of having it?

I ride my motorcycle every chance I get. Yes, I have to detail it, which in itself is a great joy.

But if I was out dining with my wife, and dulling a perfect edge on a china plate over a fantastic meal was the only drawback, it wouldn't bother me one bit.

In fact, a week ago it happened. I wrapped my freshly dulled EDC, soaked in dried egg, salt and ketchup into a paper napkin, got home, and tossed it into a sink full of soapy water. I went to go watch TV.

"Revenge of the Sith" I believe. Now, that's a strange way to live. Dressing in black, screaming along at high speeds, very sharp and deadly swords. I cannot imagine any biker enjoying that lifestyle...

July 8, 2008, 02:03 AM
Are my expectations too high?

Not really.

Without knowing what kind of knife or steel, my gut says this steel is a stainless steel, the edges are too thick, and being stainless, it cannot get the low total inclusive angle.

I do not know what the Lansky angle(s) are, my gut says they are not low enough for the blade steel and geometry you have.

I freehand only on a dry stone.

I took a 70's era, never been used, Shrade Old Timer Trapper, and used a 4" Norton combo fine/coarse Crystalon that was $10 at the hardware store.

In a few minutes, with the coarse side had it to where it would shave peach fuzz.
I had not stropped it yet.
Then I hit the fine side, stropped on my bare hand ( got yelled at) so I used my blue jeans pants leg.

It is not "polished" but it will shave peach fuzz, cut curls of copper from copper tubing, slice effortlessly through a tomato, and cut wet sisal rope.

1. the old Shrade 1095 was heat treated better, they started wimping out in later 70's.
2. blade geometry, meaning that hard steel is thinner, and will take the very low total acute angle I put on it.

Blade is flat to the stone, then the spine come up, about the height of the thickness of a match book.

On a Stockman , like a Case or Shrade, with CV or 1095 respectfully, the "dull" blade, which is often the Spey blade, has the spine raised up to just tad more than a thin silver dime.
Sometimes as high as a penny, for scraping gaskets or cutting open tin cans and the like.

Thin, properly done carbon , tool steels, will take and keep these edges.

I am currently carrying a Queen, Collectors Club, Mini-Trapper from 1999, a numbered piece, with blue bone, with ATS-34 blades.
Sorta rare for the times, so I am told...

I used this knife, as it came, only a light strop from time to time, and a dry strop, to see what was what.
The clip blade has etching...I did not mess up the etching, and I did not tape up the knife.

I got this one low, not as low as I can a CV or 1095, 01, W2 or 51600...
Nobody will borrow this knife, I did my thing, and only used that Norton, then a less than 3" Case Hard Arkansas stone then my little tricks on strop.
Folks are afraid of this knife and its edges.

The edge is polished, as I wanted to see what it would do, and I felt like showing off.
This edge has busted down racks of ribs, and I can tell it is not as sharp, as say a Case Slimline Trapper, like when cutting dry carpet, or cardboard.

My /our game for a bit (still is from time to time) , is to take a carbon steel, tool steel and use only the coarse stone, and see who can get the sharpest edge, in the fastest time.
Freehand, using those 4" Norton stones, dry, strop on jeans and cut.
We can peel a grape, or tomato, get one long curl from copper tubing, sharpen hardwood sticks, and cut rope and ...

Some old tips/ clues

1. Freehand will always do a a better edge than a doo-dad. *gasp!*
2. All doo-dads have a "setting".
3. Most folks only sharpen edge first.

Someone once asked how some company/companies were able to get the edges they do.

Answer: They sharpen until sharp, edge first, then sharpen pulling the spine back.

What direction does a doo-dad put on an edge?
All doo-dads have restrictive settings.

Steels vary and sharp is what is needed for task. Not all blades do best, nor should they be sharpened to the finest grit, or polished.

Send a Sv30 to someone to have it heat treated as it should be, do the "process" correctly, and that edge, does not have to be polished, to be sharp.

Here is another deal. The trick to doing wood , such as ball and chain, is strop about every 10 min, no more than 15, on dry leather.

Same reason the old cooks and butchers wiped a carbon steel blade on a cloth, and if you knew what to watch for, there was a "strop" being done.
(just had to be sneaky with some of this , to keep the Health Depts from freaking out, like the young , athletic lady butcher, that wore cut off jeans, and used the top of her leg. Good looking thing, but her taut, tanned legs, is what she stropped on. *lol* )

Oh CV or 1095 is great for wood toys, like ball in a cage.
A SAK Pocket Pal, right out of the package will do this too, if, you strop it first, and every 10-15 minutes.
Pocket Pal sells from $10 - $12, and there is a reason it can do this, and that same knife will breast out a dozen ducks too, slice tomatoes, cut wet rope...
Not as well as carbon , tool steels, but it will out perform many knives, much more expensive.

This steel game was played decades and decades ago.
Sales Reps tried to get me and mine to go to newer stainless.
We used our "tool steels" to cut their new stainless steels.

They did not realize tool steels are used to cut stainless steels.
Many of the stainless , were never designed to take edges, and are not best for edges.
Wrong steel for the task.

Joe Talmadge and others have shared about all this.
There is no holy grail, on steels, just some steels , like stainless, resist rust, and since they oxidize slower "seem" to cut wet stuff , like meat, a bit better.

Gillette Blue Razor blades were better blades, still being carbon, they would oxidize.
Wilkenson come out with the Stainless Razor blade, not as sharp, but it oxidized slower, so folks bought the hype, stainless was better.


Those that knew, bought Gillette Blues up, and even on sale. We knew how to maintain them, and these blades stayed sharper, longer, if maintained.

Folks do not maintain.
Doo-dads are not the answer.

The answer to sharp, has always been known, just it gets re-discovered from time to time.
It also gets skewed and lost in hype as well.

Just because a knife will not shave hair, does not mean it is not sharp.
Just because a knife will shave hair, does not mean it is sharp.

July 8, 2008, 02:25 AM
Thank you for the input.
The knife in question is an Al Mar SERE auto.
Blade material is S30V.
On the Lansky, I used the 20 degree setting, very close to the factory grind.

July 8, 2008, 03:16 AM
Just because a knife will not shave hair, does not mean it is not sharp.
Just because a knife will shave hair, does not mean it is sharp.

Truer words were never spoken! A knife that will not shave hair may very well do the intended job. I don't know why so many consider it "The Test" for sharpness.

Use your thumbnail - angle it down about 45 degrees and let the knife edge freely come down on it from about 1/2 inch up. If it sticks it's sharp enough for most jobs. If it bounces off you got work to do. Thumbnails are very hard!

July 8, 2008, 03:32 AM

Sir, by 20 degrees do you mean 20 degrees each side? [40* inclusive?]

Forgive me, just I am not familiar with the Lansky. Some say I run 10* each side, with my freehand. I don't worry about degrees , just by feel.

Try something if you will.
Make sure the knife is sharp, before going to next finer grit.

Take a wood paint stick, and sheets of Norton emery paper, in 220, 400, 600, and then 1500.
Most likely you have these already for other uses in the shop.

Tape the blade with whatever tape to protect the blade from scratches.

Get the smallest binder clip, that black doo-hickey, to hold papers and attach to the blade.

Pull that blade, spine first, on the 1500 grit. In essence, you are keeping a constant angle, using the binder clip for a "angle guide", and instead of stropping, still removing metal, albeit, very little.

You know this appears to be polishing.
Now, strop on dry leather, or the back of a legal pad, then go to Semi-Chrome on the back of a legal pad.

Do you have any old old Arkansas slip stones?
I am looking for the one almost translucent, and about 6".

If you do, try "stropping" on that, after the 1500 grit, and going to the legal pad.

I "think" I know what you are up against. It is not you, you are doing fine.
The steel is the gremlin here.

I know that gremlin, and finally beat that sucker.
Do you cuss?
It helps.


July 8, 2008, 05:07 PM
Yes Sir, I do cuss on occasion, but only in private.
I'll take some pics after my work day is over.
I appreciate your interest and feedback.

July 8, 2008, 05:09 PM
Mr Valkman,
Did I see you at the recent Prescott Valley gun show?

July 8, 2008, 05:16 PM
No Sir - have only been to Prescott once and that was for a Honda Valkyrie rally. Nice place!

July 11, 2008, 03:32 AM
*stays tuned for more SMisms*

July 11, 2008, 10:23 AM
Ashamed to speak amidst such talented sharpeners, here's my rapidly depreciating $0.02:

The 5-stone Lansky set works marvelously well for me. Takes about a half-hour to work thru the stones, focusing on maintaining strict consistency of angle. Seems the actual angle matters much less than keeping that angle, assuring that the whole edge is uniform and polished.

While sharpening, I'll slice some paper towels to get an overall sense of sharpness.
Near done, I'll wipe the blade, hold the knife edge-up with handle near my eye, point it generally toward a bright light, and at a very shallow angle (rotating vertically as needed) examine the edge - not the side of the blade, but the very edge itself. I should see nothing reflect, which would indicate a flattened/distorted portion. This is hard to see, possibly unsuitable for some eyes. Any reflective distortion goes back for more sharpening/polishing.

When visually satisfied, I'll shave some arm hair: if little force cleans off an area, the job is sufficient and the tool undoubtedly exceeds the user.

The Tourist
July 11, 2008, 12:29 PM
the tool undoubtedly exceeds the user

In a forum that caters to professional tinkers, we do polish knives to the point where they could do surgery. In fact, last year I had a mole removed from my forehead. My pocketknife was sharper than my doctor's scalpel. In fact, one of the tinkers in that same forum sharpens metrotomes for hospitals.

One of our members, "Locutus," who is now a tinker's apprentice, opined that within that little cloister of professionals our personal knives are in the 99th percentile of customer knives in service. I agree.

We're sharpening for professional chefs, collectors of custom knives (who never use them), and for the knives we carry.

This year I became the sharpener for a bread and sandwich company. Within days, one woman was taken to the hospital for stitches.

However, a caterer I met through that job now uses a Japanese laminate that is dangerous for the unschooled to even handle.

Are these edges needed? Of course not! The Red Cross only has so much spare blood and plasma.

Are the edges wanted? Well, that's another story.

July 11, 2008, 01:13 PM
Seems the actual angle matters much less than keeping that angle, assuring that the whole edge is uniform and polished.

Near done, I'll wipe the blade, hold the knife edge-up with handle near my eye, point it generally toward a bright light, and at a very shallow angle (rotating vertically as needed) examine the edge - not the side of the blade, but the very edge itself.

Great advice ctdonath!

My own preferred method to put a really sharp edge on my knife/knives is to oil up a soft Case Arkansas stone, work up a burr on either side and then smooth it out, move to ceramic and hone some more while holding the angle, and then to steel/diamond and hone and perhaps work up a burr again, then drag backward if I feel like it. Then I smoke a cigar and put the ashes on an old belt, strop like hell one way at a time (being sure to keep a very acute angle like when I sharpened--it's bad for the belt and the knife to use a large angle while stropping), and then add baking soda and strop both ways alternating, then strop "dry" on a different segment of the belt. Then I rinse and oil the knife. I don't like to test because it dulls the knife a little, but paper or arm hair stands no chance (you'll realize this if you closely examine my forearms :))

July 11, 2008, 01:19 PM
By the way, on some knife site in my bookmarks I read of a very cool "scientific" test of sharpness. It's pretty close to absolute within reason. Again, "task-specific" is the word here, but there is also such a thing as the sharpness of one blade relative to another. Interested? Read on...(I'd like The Tourist to try this on some of his knives relative to the razor, and relative to some NIB factory-sharpened knives and report the results)

You'll need:

Quite a bit of some type of thread or floss/etc
Some single-blade Gilette razors in cartridges
A digital scale
Whatever knives you want to test
Some incremental weights, like gram, half-gram, quarter-gram and so on

The idea is just to rig up a way to test the amount of weight it takes to hang on the string and get the knives to cut it. You can do it however you want, the key is just to be consistent so you know the sharpness of all your knives relative to one another and to the Gilette razor. You guys are smart, and you can figure out how you'd like to do it.

Oh yeah, bust the Gilette blades out of the cartridges, and also don't forget that you're going to need to let gravity do the work here however you choose to rig the weights and thread or floss.

July 11, 2008, 01:58 PM
In no way am I challenging the exercise of talent/skill in making knives "scary sharp"! I was merely recounting my own humble sharpening attempts. A line someone said that stuck with me (paraphrased): "the knives are here, and the bandages are there" - would that all expected blades that sharp.

The Tourist
July 11, 2008, 04:10 PM
ctdonath, I hope I didn't offend you, that was not my intention.

What this cluster of five sharpeners and a supplier have created is a discipline of sharpening that allows waterstones and paste (modern renditions of the tools used by a samurai's polisher) to service pocketknives and fixed blades.

Among ourselves we often joke if a samurai edge should be sold to a guy with the average folder. Sort of the "hundred dollar edge on a ten buck knife."

And when I first started the service commercially, I didn't even know if the condition would be of value to hunters--that first year. After that, hunters and sportsmen wanted additional services after six or eight deer "fell apart."

When I was a little boy, everyone knew how to sharpen. Their dad or their uncle taught them. Now knives are cheap and disposable, folks would rather play video games and polishers make the bulk of their wages from commerical chefs.

In fact, I think the guys at THR value this skill simply because they are the gun guys. Knives and trucks also fascinate them. That's not the general public. For them, the back of a can-opener is plenty good.

July 11, 2008, 04:22 PM
I like sharp knives, I really like very sharp knives, and I strive to get an even sharper knife by learning and practicing my sharpening skills.I will post a photo of the first knife I do that is too sharp. Dont hold your breath

The Tourist
July 11, 2008, 04:28 PM
bikerdoc, may I cordially invite you to the "Keeping Sharp" section of Knife Forums, that is if you're not already there.

This is the most knowledgable group of tinkers I have met.

July 11, 2008, 04:33 PM
Well, I know that reading all the recent and past posts about sharpness and sharpening have definitely made me reconsider my ability to sharpen a blade.
What I previously mistook for a sort-of snobby group of hobbyists snidely looking down on less expensive tools has, with a much longer and closer look, focused in my eyes into a group of people who not only want a sharp blade, but a higher quality material to sharpen.

So, I've been sharpening everything in my house over the last month.
This includes my 2 blade broadheads that I thought were "good enough" for hunting. Now, I look at the factory edge and consider it something that needs a lot of work to be as sharp as it should be.
I've also been digging old knives out of tool boxes and drawers, and new knives I received as gifts retrieved from back corners of shelves and other forgotten places.

Sharpening is fun. And, like anything else, it's fun to do to a higher standard than you had been.

What's sharp enough? I don't know. I just wish I could make something too sharp.

The Tourist
July 11, 2008, 04:52 PM
my 2 blade broadheads

Next time you stock up, try G5® Montec Fixed-Blade Broadheads.

Their design allows each one of their three sides to lie flat on a Japanese waterstone.

A little polish, and they buff like a mirror!

July 11, 2008, 05:13 PM
I use the Zwickey Eskimo right now, which is:

pretty flat. Though the montec is a crowd pleaser.

July 11, 2008, 05:36 PM
pm sent
been lurking

July 18, 2008, 11:05 PM
but unless I am misreading the posts, most of the advice seems to involve flat ground bevels. I have a few knives that are convex ground with virtually no discernable bevel at the edge and properly done these are the most amazingly sharp tools I have ever used. They are also devilishy difficult for me to maintain in that condition with my meager skills. Any pointers for this specific type of edge?

The Tourist
July 18, 2008, 11:11 PM
Any pointers for this specific type of edge?

Go to KnifeForums, and you should be an member, anyway. Find Bark River Knives, and ask Mike Stewart.

If you are a KF member, just go to the Keeping Sharp section. Mike posts there. Type him a post, he answers everything.

Mention my name. It means nothing. But it should confuse a convex guy to get a recommedation from a Japanese style tinker.:D

July 19, 2008, 02:39 AM
Mr. Mike Stewart is a nice guy.
With over 31 years of experience in knife making.
Many of his designs are still being used by other and some of the steel charts one reads comparisons , were written by him.

Since Mr. Stewart was mentioned, allow me to share from memory what he told me , too many years ago, and he would not remember me , but he has said this, and shared it too many times over the years:

[I]-As edge retention goes up - toughness goes down. - Mike Stewart.

What these means is, "sharpness" is going to be affected by the type of steel, how that steal was heat treated, blade geometry, and the tasks ask of that steel.

Bark River uses quite a bit of A2, which is a good steel and BR does the "treat" of the steel very well.

Here is what happens, someone will purchase a "hunting knife" from a store for under $50, and have to dress a deer.
The knife will do this, it may or may not struggle, and may or may not need to be sharpened while dressing that deer.

Get a Barkie, and folks will clean a dozen deer and the "sharpness" for task will hold up, for those dozen deer.

Now at the time I spoke with Mr. Stewart, as I was assisting someone getting a knife for hard use on game and field use - and I will bow to corrections - as I have too much respect for the man, and his staff and what they all do for knife rights, and everything else.

He prefers a "finished" or "refined" edge. I asked if he meant polished, and we discussed his definition of polished.

How to say this...polished does not mean the finest grit one can go to.
I understand this, as one whom apprenticed, and had to do by hand before I could use powered tools.
As one that had and did make things from raw materials.

There is a huge advantage in knowing the "process" from having started with a broom, then graduating to a file and continuing through the metals, and other raw materials, their properties, and then getting the final "finished" or "polished" product completed.

That is why it is hard to jump in , in mid stream and understanding a "step" such as getting and edge geometry, then the final polish.
Err...quite a few steps between getting that blade geometry, and sharp polished edge.

One might need to have a chunk of steel, a marker, some safety eyes and sit down from square one, make a knife and then the light bulb comes on.

Now this Appleseed, Moran, Convex or whatever one chooses to call it, is not that difficult, and has been around a long time.

I will spill the beans on some folks, as I have my ethics and all.
Oh some folks don't mind sharing how they do something, I just feel it is best the person shares it, instead of me, or someone else.
Folks treat me this way, and I even assure folks can quote or cite me. Still I appreciate the common courtesy and respect.

One might consider...

The blade geometry was started before "treat" and the initial sharpening was done before "treat".

Notice I said "treat" as maybe not all treatment is "heat treat" as that term "heat treat" is kicked around to mean every knife is "treated" the same?
They ain't.
Steels have properties, and one does that steel the way that steel needs to be treated.
i.e 01 is not done like A2 , and A2 is not done as SV30.

Light bulb come on yet as to why getting "sharp" is easier for some, and not for others, and why and edge performs for one, and not another?

One might consider...

The blade is sharpened edge first to remove metal needed - then - blade is sharpened with spine first.

Sharpening is removing metal, many folks go past "sharp", numerous times without knowing it.
They had sharp, and lost it, and repeat this.

One can teach one how to fix something, but they cannot teach them when to quit fixing it. - Mentors

So maybe some folks get a knife "sharp" then "treat" then sharpen edge first, then spine first then strop to get a "finished" or "polished" with "polished" being used in the correct context.

Now one is wise to pay attention to the folks that made that knife, how to best maintain it.
The customer that informs the maker of his/her tasks, and listens to how that blade needs to be properly maintained, and sharpened, will have a sharp edge for them and their tasks.

*light bulb*

Oh yes, I have looked at a number of edges, including Mike Stewart's, under a Microscope.

"bright light bulb*

Then again, I apprenticed, and somewhere between the broom and file, and where I ended up, there was magnification, and I do mean "rap that sucker up" to higher magnification.

I used magnification then, including working under a microscope, and I still use magnification today for tasks.

My eyes are not as they once were, still even when they were "Chuck Yeager Eyes" I used magnification.
Learn the correct basics, and if I am caught out, I can sharpen freehand, as I have a mind picture of what I am doing, as I did under magnification.

Look at an edge someone does using the "little circles" method sometime under a loupe or magnification.

You might be surprised what that edge resembles, or is.


July 19, 2008, 03:14 AM
About these geometries and grinds.
What is your task?

Some are better for some tasks then others.
Are you cutting through a Alaskan Salmon , or are you cutting carrots, or having to make fuzz sticks for making a fire?

Did you ever wonder why, looking at the instructions that came with a knife, one company said to sharpen at 10*-13* and another said 20* to 23*.

Smith's oils stones used to come with a yellow sharpening guide, I have no idea if they still do.
First thing one should do with that guide is drop it on the floor and stomp it.

Best recall, it was "set" for 22.5* meaning one had a 45* total ,or inclusive angle.

No wonder some folks could get a knife to cut, and some never could.
The knives with instructions that said 20* to 23* did sorta okay with this angle guide.
The knives with instructions for 10* to 13* never were able to sharpen to the full potential of the steel, geometry, "treat" and anything else.

I'll share who could get any knife sharp, no matter what manufacturer , with whatever instructions for angles.

The folks that stomped them little yellow plastic guides, and free hand sharpened that knife for their tasks.
The person at the fish market, did the knife for fish.
The Butcher, did the butcher knife, the wood carver , whittler, working with rope, cutting boxes down for the incinerator, the Produce knife...

And it differed with fish steaks, and fillets, chicken , slab bacon, picnic ham, beef steaks, or stew meat, softwoods, hardwoods, cabbage or watermelon...

There is no Holy Grail and folks now have more advanced yellow plastic sharpening guides and stones.

Just like fixed sighted .38spl revolvers were designed to shoot 158 gr bullets, and they shot these Point of Aim to Point of Impact [POA/POI].
Sure, these .38spls will shoot 110 , 125, and 135 gr bullets, but they may or may not shoot POA/POI.

Shotguns with rifled barrels, were designed to shoot Sabots. Sure a nine pellet load of 00 buck will exit the choke and muzzle, but the pattern is blown all to hell.

Maybe folks could hit the target with a new snub nose .38spl, with fixed sights at 7 yards with a 158 grain loading, and folks using 00 buck in a smoothbore shotgun, would get a better pattern.

Then again, teh Intrawebz sez you gotta use a doo-dad bullet, and doo-dad shotgun load, just like a knife maker does not know come here from sic 'em on his/her knife steel, treat, geometry, and the like for getting it sharp for tasks.

Just me, still a lot of this here progress is progress going backwards.
Information Age is great, we can totally bamboozle more folks quicker than we ever could before.

We might be closing the Digital Gap [Cisco], but we got a lot of folks loster than all get out in the abyss of bumfuzzled.

July 19, 2008, 06:03 AM
About these geometries and grinds.
What is your task?I wonder if defining "sharpness" is a good place to start?

A razor is very sharp but is a miserable tool for cutting bone or wood. A saw cuts wood & bone very well but really isn't "sharp" in the knife sense of the word.

Knives generally do a poor job of cutting metal, but a file cuts metal with ease even though it's virtually impossible to cut one's self with a file.

Even a very sharp knife won't cut tissue paper cleanly, but a pair of scissors will, and the blades don't even need to be particularly sharp to pull the trick off if the scissors are well made.

I guess what I'm saying is that good cutting performance isn't always a function of the particular quality we have in mind when we say a knife is sharp.

July 19, 2008, 01:17 PM
I wonder if defining "sharpness" is a good place to start?

You and I have visited in regard to sharpening edged tools, and are on the same page.
I have learned quite a bit from you and I thank you.

I think we can boil down the definition of "sharpeness" to:

1. We already know what "sharp" means.
2. Folks want to redefine, or perhaps it is better to say "take out of context" what sharp is.

It ain't no big deal, I ain't either. *lol*

One can mentor someone how to do something, but they cannot mentor them on when to quit doing that. - Mentors

This goes right along with what I shared earlier, about one can teach one how to fix something, but they cannot teach when to quit fixing it.

Humans are a odd bunch.
We are all different, while being the same.

Every human being has quirks. They just things they have to keep messing with to "perfection".

Maturity is not age related.

Recent example.
Person said his knife was sharp, cutting all the tasks he asked of it, keeping its edge and it was only taking a few strops on some dry leather to maintain it.
His concern was, if one looked at both sides of the edge, they did not match up.
Meaning one side was a bit wider than the other.

I said, don't worry about it . The knife is performing as it should. He is new to freehand sharpening, and this getting one side different from the other is normal as the human being has a more natural feel going one direction than the other.
Next time he nicks or damages the edge, and has to use a stone, start on the other side, he normally starts on, and this will even it up.

More guns are messed up by improper methods and going for the "nth degree".
So are knives.

Sharpening is removing metal, no matter how fine a grit, some metal is being removed.
The knife starts with a grind (flat, convex, whatever) and as one removes metal, they are heading toward the spine (opposite side of blade from edge) and changing the geometry of the blade, which changes how the knife performs, which in essence messes with "sharp".

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

One can go back decades and read from knife makers on all this stuff, it just gets re-cycled as new folks come cycling in.
Kids grow up and it is normal to want to learn those things they were raised with, or to rebel against parents with what they did, and how raised.

Half of the Ford vs Chevy debate is based on whether a kid grew up with a Ford or Chevy, and the other half is rebelling against the old man that liked Chevy's and they are by golly going to drive a Ford.

Daughter would not have a Ford, as that was the most embarassing station wagon to be seen in, so she is going to get a Chevy, or really piss off the old man and get a Toyota as she got fed up hearing war stories and how he hated Japs shooting at him during every damn family holiday get together.

Joe Talmadge is a member here, and we have some stickies of his.
Go read his works, and he references others in this "knife bidness".

Most folks are better off going to 400 grit, and no more than 600 grit for everyday, general purpose "sharp".

Strop that edge, and if whittling, strop every 10 minutes. I don't care if one is using a SAK Pocket Pal, a ATS-34 steel, Imperial with 1095, Buck pocket knife don't matter.
If the edge is nicked and all, get it "sharp" with the coarse , then go to 400 to 600 - with the key being, the knife is "sharp" before going to the next grit.

Who cares about the sides of the blade being pretty, perfect, angles are exact, micro "this" and micro" that?

I don't, but for a pretty picture to sell knives, or in a knife contest where knives are sharpened for contest, it is .
Joe Talmadge and others will share, they do not sharpen an edge for contests, for use in everyday tasks.

They do those perfect edges as a test of sharpening skills and for cutting the materials at the contest.

Knife Bidness Folks.
My experience and observations going back is this.

-They don't often have a darn knife in their pocket.
-The knife they have handy is not often one of the ones they make.
-It ain't sharp.
-Meeting up with other knife folks, they grab something someone gave them, they got in trade, and show up with it.
"Dress knife" or "Going out in Public" knife.

One fellow has a SAK he had to Super Glue the red handles on.

Another has a Old Case paring knife, that looks like someone used a sharpener on the back of a can opener, in his shop , he finds sometimes, and uses to open boxes. His wife got him some disposable razor cutters, with snap off blades with orange handles.
Her kitchen knives are Old Hickory and she has to sharpen her own darn knives.

One fella, is using the "thrown in knife" he got on a trade. This poor fella was plumb lied to by his wife.
She promised him air conditioning for his shop. He still ain't got A/C , when he say he has "sweat equity" in his shop, he means it. Rest assured when one buys his custom knives, there is some sweat that went into it.

So he goes to do some knife trading, and gets this knife he really wanted, and "thrown in" is this pocket knife.

The thrown in knife has better steel, fit and finish , takes and keeps and edge that the more expensive and advertised one.

Tip: If you are ever in a gathering and want to know who makes knives, look for the guy or gal asking to borrow a knife, or they rinky-dink they pull out to use, ain't sharp.

The sheath folks are the ones without a wallet, or purse, and if they do have one, it is falling apart.

If it was not for rubber bands, and paper clips, knife making and sheath making folks would fall apart.


July 19, 2008, 03:30 PM
One fella, is using the "thrown in knife" he got on a trade. This poor fella was plumb lied to by his wife.
She promised him air conditioning for his shop. He still ain't got A/C , when he say he has "sweat equity" in his shop, he means it. Rest assured when one buys his custom knives, there is some sweat that went into it.

What an idiot! Wonder who that is?

I'm going to cry now - you'd think with all that sweating I'd at least lose weight!

Yep, that Moore Maker that was "thrown in" on a deal for a Alsdorf custom is what I carry. Love it!

July 19, 2008, 04:19 PM
Have you ever thought of making some knives for Lenox, Rheem or one of the HVAC folks, with the emphasis on Air Conditioning?

Oh, every military outfit has at least one "scavenger".
I mean for a Fighting Knife, a Harley bandanna, and that bag of chocolate chip cookies your wife thinks she has hid from you, you could get a A/C in that shop.


Knife folks ain't always the sharpest folks, they just make sharp and pointy stuff.

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