Learning to sharpen a knife


July 11, 2008, 10:07 PM
I want to learn to sharpen a knife to a wicked edge like I've seen some of you guys talking about. What's the best way to learn how? Should I buy a practice knife to learn on? If so, what inexpensive knife would be sufficient to start with?

I've been using a sharpener with carbide (?) wheels that does a barely acceptable job, and I think the blades could be worlds better.


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July 11, 2008, 10:43 PM
A) start visiting bladeforums and knifeforums and read a grillion threads about sharpening techniques and technologies

B) buy a Spyderco Sharpmaker and learn how to use it

C) branch out to freehand sharpening and either:
1) figure out it's too much trouble and you're satisfied with the extremely sharp knives the Sharpmaker can give you; or
2) decide that sharpening is going to be a whole new hobby in itself and groove on it and maybe go on to make your own knives

Note that both of these tracks go through the Sharpmaker.

July 11, 2008, 10:46 PM
No one shoots 25/25 on their first round of trap. No one puts down a perfect paint job on their first try. Anyone can wreck a good steak trying to cook for the first time.

1, Read the sticky above on sharpening.

2, Decide what tools you'd like to use. Some prefer the Lansky type kits, others prefer bench stones and others come up with more imaginative ways to sharpen. Like sandpaper with a leather or mousepad backing for a convex edge. All will work but only you know what you will be comfortable with. I try to use every method possible just because there is so much to learn from each of them.

3, get some of those old, dull kitchen knives out and go to work. If you don't have any, hit the local flea market and buy a variety of knives. Stainless and high carbon.

You'll mess up a few but you'll learn from it. I've put some edges on knives that will split a strand of DNA. In my haste, stropped the edge right off by being overzealous. It'll dissapoint ya but keep at it. I'm nowhere near as good as The Tourist but I'm working on it ;).

Before long you'll figure out what type of edge and how fine an edge a given knife performs best with.

Best of luck to ya and keep us posted on your progress.


July 11, 2008, 10:48 PM
Sorry, I should have been more clear in my original post. I was being distracted.

I'm wanting to learn how to sharpen free hand. I've read through the sharpening FAQ link, but could stand to probably reread it.

At this point, I need some direction as to which stones to buy. I've seen several different stones that were mentioned in the FAQ.

The question still remains as to if I should buy a knife to learn sharpening on.


July 11, 2008, 11:00 PM
The question still remains as to if I should buy a knife to learn sharpening on.


I doubt you'll fine anyone here that will discourage you from spending your hard earned cash on a new knife. :evil:

If I had to suggest a knife to start with it woulld be a Gerber LST. One of the US pruduction knives. Reasons are:

- They are inxepensive. Probably under $15 at WalMart.
- Due to Gerbers heat treat, they tend to be a bit softer than knives with higher end steel. They take a mean edge but don't hold it very long.

July 12, 2008, 06:14 AM

Being as I am the resident rebel and reprobate, may I suggest:

Checking your PMs

Steve will never make the cover of Doo-Dad Magazine - hso

*rebel grin*

The Tourist
July 12, 2008, 12:12 PM
I doubt you'll fine anyone here that will discourage you from spending your hard earned cash on a new knife.

Why, Rupestris, for a man to do that he would have to be a heartless, nefarious, blackguard and pecuniary mercenary of the coldest, deepest dregs of an already seedy lot of tinkers.

Let him buy the knife from me...

Actually, I'd sell him two knives. A cheap one to destroy, and an expensive one so I could make a monthly payment on my motorcycle chrome.

July 12, 2008, 12:30 PM
Here you go, buy the cleaver and keep sharpening it until you have a paring knife. By then you should be a pro, right?


The Old Hickory knives are cheap, made of good carbon steel that takes an edge pretty well, and beefy enough to gets lots of practice out of.

The Tourist
July 12, 2008, 12:37 PM
buy the cleaver

You're being very generous.

With some of my young appentices, I recommend a car door.

July 12, 2008, 01:24 PM
The Tourist:

Listen bro' which of the two brands of electric can openers with the sharpener on the back do you suppose has ruined more knives?

I have a theory as to why some marriages end in divorce within 6 months.
New couple gets that electric sharpener for a wedding present and uses it on the new kitchen knife set they also received for a wedding present.

Put me down for the Monkey Wards one.
Some daddies are smart, and that fella ain't good enough for his daughter.
Give the kids a MW electric can opener, and when dumb SIL uses it, his daughter can deck 'em and divorce 'em.

We do stuff different in the South...

July 12, 2008, 01:51 PM
Re: Polish.

Finishes hide a lot of sin.
Hence the reason a lot of items have a emery, satin, bead blast, lined, or even Florentine finish.

Metal prep is the key to the deep bluing Colt, and Smith & Wesson used to do.
I said metal prep, as Master Polishers prepped the metal.
I have done some of this before bluing and hard chrome was done on firearms.

Metal prep is also the key to plating. Plating with chrome, copper, then the silverplate, or copper then the nickel plate.
Same for Gold plating, including matching up Hamilton gold, or Rose gold plating.
Rhodium is used on white metals to make them whiter and brighter.

These precious metals are neat to work with, like making Sterling Silver blades to replace originals that fit into Mother of Pearl, Ivory and even Gold handles.

Oh yes, one can make Sterling hard enough for a knife edge, and it will take and hold an edge.
Easiest to sharpen is to use a old tool steel graver, free hand sharpened and re-cut that edge.
Do this correctly, and you leave a sharp, and polished edge.

Hand polish <razzle dazzle old tricks here> clean, use nail polish to mask the 18k yellow gold handle, with diamonds set in it.
Run this under water, if the water beads, the item is not clean, meaning oil or some thing is causing it to bead up.

When the water run off, it is clean.
Now Rhodium that blade.

No sins, just old school and done right.

You should see the Platinum knife , all Platinum. Plat is 24% heavier than gold and is "softer" still is quite durable. It has a diamond set in the handle

Something about lady that rides a Harley, carries a .44 spl.
Same lady looks good in a hi-dollar outfit, playing the game stepping out of a Pantera.

A lady I worked with. UC and that knife looked good cutting open the bags of Cocaine.
My 18k yg razor blade, cut fine lines.

Serious tools that cut, sharp enough for tasks, and gave perceptions we needed.

Still pretty slick to see her get off a Harley, head into a biker bar and cut a fat, greasy cheeseburger with that plat knife.

The "Scot, Butter Rum" stone , was great for touching this up. Plat gets a neat patina as it wears. That small stone was the color of a Lifesaver butterscotch candy.
Man! did that stone leave a polished edge that was sharp

Sharp for tasks...

July 20, 2008, 06:01 PM
Well an update of sorts for you guys. I bought a Smith combo sharpener at the local hardware store. Came with a "medium" stone and a fine Arkansas stone.

Like the advice I've gotten from others, I pitched the yellow angle guide and didn't use the "lubricant" it came with.

I'm surprised at how natural it felt to sharpen a knife. I've been practicing on SAK clones and some el cheapo stainless steel dollar store knives. Couldn't source Old Hickory knives locally. Best edge I've put so far is on a 5" boning knife that I got to shave hair. My entire arm is bald now! Haven't used any of the knives to see how the edge holds.

What's the best test to determine how an edge will hold? Especially on knives that are cheap like this and will never see much use.

Also, the fine stone doesn't seem to have much effect on the knives I'm sharpening. Is there another technique for it?

Thanks again for all the advice guys.


July 20, 2008, 06:59 PM
Lotta questions to answer in a small space that have been answered better already somewhere else...

Re-read (or read for the first time) the sharpening guide that is pinned to this forum.

Seriously, there are sections that are easy to miss or not comprehend the first time that you will understand better after your experience thus far.

To put that advice in perspective-I've been hand sharpening since I was about 6 or 7 years old on my Grandfathers Carborundum stone and spit. Yes-I have been shaving my arms that long. That doesn't mean that I know it ALL. I still read up on sharpening techniques and stay open to trying new things. I enjoyed reading the sharpening guide even though much of it was familiar to me.

That's why I said what I said...

Now, I don't know any quick answers to test blade retention, but I do know that cutting cardboard (heavy cardboard) and manilla ropes will stress 'most' edges. Your blades all look to be thin so they should handle the cardboard fairly well because of it, whether they are shaving sharp on not. Where that type of blade will stumble is on a chunk of heavy rope.

It will certainly give you something to dull those edges on so you can resharpen them


July 20, 2008, 07:42 PM
some of you are old enough to remember Panteras - I must be in the right place.

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