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sharpening primer

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by IrvJr, Jan 14, 2003.

  1. IrvJr

    IrvJr Member

    Jan 6, 2003

    I've owned a few knives in my lifetime (folders, kitchen knives, a Bowie knife, etc), but I've never been very proficient at sharpening them. I'd like to learn the proper way to sharpen a knife.

    Can anyone suggest a resource or provide basic info on how to approach this? Should I use a whet stone or an electric wheel? Or should I use diamond sticks, etc.? What techniques and equipment will I need?

    I have a Bowie style knife that I bought a long time ago. I don't know what kind of metal it's made of, but I think it might be stainless steel (the blade says it's made in India). It's not a pricing knife, but I'd like to sharpen it properly (it's been dull all of its existence). I'm hoping the experts can help me learn how to develop and maintain this skill. I also have some kitchen knives whic are sort of dull. I use some kind of sharpening device that I bought from one of the knife manufacturers. It does a minimal job, but the angles of the edge are not well defined and the knife also has chips in the cutting edge, etc.

  2. prhm

    prhm New Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    Longview, Washington
    Here is a link that hso recommended to me. You should check out the rest of Bladeforums while your there. It is a great site with a ton of info.

    It sure saved me a lot of frustration.:banghead: :D
  3. IrvJr

    IrvJr Member

    Jan 6, 2003
  4. Joe Talmadge

    Joe Talmadge New Member

    Jan 9, 2003
    Here are some basic tips for starting out:

    1. Start learning on a system that helps you keep the angle. Spyderco Sharpmaker, Edge Pro Apex, Razor Edge Guides, etc. There's a lot to learn about sharpening, and learning how to keep an edge angle while trying to also learn everything else is a bit much.

    2. Use the magic marker trick. It will help keep you from getting frustrated.

    3. Raise a burr, grind it off.

    4. Keep the edge coarser for better slicing ability, finer for better shaving ability. Most people do more slicing in their cutting, but for some reason they razor-polish, which means they optimize their edge for shaving instead of slicing.

    5. Thinner (lower-angle) edge gives much better performance. Thicker (higher-angle) edge is tougher and stronger. Most people leave a much thicker edge than they need to, thus leaving a whole lot of performance (and I mean hundreds of percents) on the table. My ATS-34 Benchmade 710 is at 15 degrees with a light 20-degree final bevel. It will do in one slice what it would take several slices to do if the edge was 20 degrees all the way through, and many people leave their edges even thicker than that!

    6. For high-wear-resistance, highly-alloyed steels (e.g., ATS-34, BG-42, etc.) man-made and diamond stones make your job much easier. Natural stones work but cut much more slowly.

    7. Develop an objective test for how well you've sharpened. What I did is buy a length of 1" hard poly rope, and when I'm done sharpening, I take a swipe to see how deeply the new edge will cut into the rope, and how many slices total it takes to cut it. Since I use the same rope for every knife, I know instantly how well I did. For example, a Benchmade 710 that's new out of the box will go about 1/3-2/3 the way through one of the 3 major strands; my hand-honed 710 goes all the way through 2 strands, and 2/3 the way through the third (that's right, 700% performance improvement for a single cut -- I made the edge angle thinner and left the final finish coarser on my hand edge).

    8. "Partially-serrated" type performance can be emulated on a plain edge by razor-polishing the entire edge, then "roughing up" the last inch or so nearest the handle on an x-coarse stone. The x-coarse section will slice incredibly well, the razor-polished section will shave incredibly well. I regularly do this with my folder blades (the strategy is different for recurve edges, ask me about it if you care).

    9. Don't automatically believe what people tell you about sharpening (including me). Having objective tests and seeing what works for you is the best guide to figuring out how best to sharpen your knife. I often leave my folder edges at 15 degrees, but if you do that and see the edge start to chip, then you should thicken it up. I leave my edges coarse (350ish grit), but if you find that that isn't working for you, trying going up and down in grits.

  5. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    Jan 3, 2003
    0 hrs east of TN
    Thanks for the credit prhm.

    I like all of these for their various perspectives on the task.

    More than you ever wanted to know about sharpening -


    Sharpening for technogeeks -


    All around good sharpening site -


    I would add that the Chef's Choice is the only electric that I would recommend. As with all electrics it must be used sparingly or you'll end up grinding your Bowie down to a filet knife.
  6. Shmackey

    Shmackey Participating Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Bladeforums has all you need to know and more. If I had to sum everything up tight for someone who has the basics down, I'd say that if you're not raising a burr across the entire length of the edge, you're wasting your time, as the bevels are not going to meet.

    Oh yeah: strop on cardboard.
  7. makdaddy03

    makdaddy03 member

    Jan 17, 2003
    IrvJr, Check out bladeforums.com they have all the info that you need right there. Good Luck.

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