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How to 'gauge' sharpness?

Discussion in 'Non-Firearm Weapons' started by RogersPrecision, Jul 6, 2008.

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  1. RogersPrecision

    RogersPrecision Member

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    Shaving hair from your forearm?
    Slicing paper?
    Is there any standard test?
    Will any knife slice tissue paper?
    ETC.
    :confused:
     
  2. Drusagas

    Drusagas Member

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    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:
     
  3. Pax Jordana

    Pax Jordana Member

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    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.
     
  4. Okiecruffler

    Okiecruffler Member

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    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.
     
  5. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    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.
     
  6. Valkman

    Valkman Member

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    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. :)
     
  7. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    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.
     
  8. Okiecruffler

    Okiecruffler Member

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    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?
     
  9. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    Valkman, don't toy with me! I'm counting the days until I receive one of your knives!
     
  10. Valkman

    Valkman Member

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    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!
     
  11. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Member

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    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.
     
  12. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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

    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.
     
  13. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Member

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    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.
     
  14. bikerdoc

    bikerdoc Moderator Staff Member

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    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?
     
  15. conw

    conw Member

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    Desperate measures...:)
     
  16. Claymore1500

    Claymore1500 Member

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    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.
     
  17. Thernlund

    Thernlund Member

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    I'd like a knife so sharp that when you swing it through the air, this happens...

    [​IMG]

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


    -T.
     
  18. RogersPrecision

    RogersPrecision Member

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    Hmmmmmm........
    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.
    :)
     
  19. RogersPrecision

    RogersPrecision Member

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    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!
    :eek:
    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?
     
  20. Pax Jordana

    Pax Jordana Member

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    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 :)
     
  21. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    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.
     
  22. RogersPrecision

    RogersPrecision Member

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    Tourist,
    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:
     
  23. The Tourist

    The Tourist member

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    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...
     
  24. sm

    sm member

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    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.

    Why?
    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 ...


    *grin*
    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.
    *grin*

    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.

    *grin*

    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.
     
  25. RogersPrecision

    RogersPrecision Member

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    sm,
    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.
     
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