Sharpening FAQ

Joe, good to see you here! For those who don't know, Joe is one of those guys who has forgotten more about knives than most of us will ever know.
Welcome Joe.

Very sensible and easy-to-read article. Of special interest to the "casual" knife user like myself because it discusses various sharpening techniques and how they are best and worst used.
Nice Work, Joe!

Joe, your article is an excellent aggegation of information on the subject of knife sharpening. By referencing it here, the material receives increased exposure, bringing the helpful advice and numerous tips to the attention of many more knife fans.

Well written, thoughtfully composed, and highly informative. Efforts such as your article help make the Internet the true Gold Mine that it is.

My compliments.

Bob LaSalle

"ArmaLube Hits The Mark"
Here's a link...

To the knife sharpening thread we JUST went through.

It has all sorts of links within it to this FAQ in it's fancier form, plus a couple of other good sites, AND a good tool sharpening article that's very thorough, and makes a good companion to the FAQ.

There's also the Origin of Scary Sharp. :what:

Here's the link.

My favorite line from the Ameritech sharpening site:
"The Secret of sharpening."

"If there is a "secret" in knife sharpening, this is it: Woodworkers write and publish more about sharpening and have more sharpening toys than knife makers and collectors. To learn more about sharpening, read Woodworking books and catalogs."

It does feel kind of nice having an entire site devoted to sharpening knives come out with a statement like that. I mean, I know that I know what I'm talking about, but it's nice getting deffered to by an Authority on the subject without even asking. :D cheers.gif

The oddest thing, however, is the lack of widespread sharpening knowledge in the woodworking INDUSTRY. A lot of the time, the guys don't even realize that a chisel is a precision cutting instrument capable of amazing things if properly sharp. They find out when I expose 'em to real edges, but at the same time they use mirror-finished tools to chop through nails! :what: Simply because it's what they used last time, even though they know it renders the chisel virtually useless.

I guess it goes hand in hand with the replacement of hand tools with power tools. If they can't use a machine, they haven't been trained. One foreman I worked with didn't even OWN a single hand-plane. Said he had no use for 'em. Of course, this guy was also a second-class woodhacker who produced sloppily-made goods. He didn't NEED precision cutting tools, because he didn't care about precision in his work. Net result? He got to make the cheap commercial-grade particle-board/laminate stuff, work he disliked, because he couldn't be relied on to make things that looked new. I got to make all of the heirloom-quality furniture-grade highest-end cabinetry, which is the work I like the best. No plastic for me! :D

A job worth doing is worth doing right. Knowing how to arrange for the right tools is part of the job. When they run right, it makes the tasks easier so they go quicker, which frees up time and effort that can be spent making sure the quality is the best it can be. (Just proves I'm lazy at heart. I HATE struggling at work, so I want it to go right the first time! ;))

Is there any other way to do things that lets you look in the Mirror?
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Great treatise on sharpening!

For a general purpose very small & light sharpener, I've found nothing better than the TriCeps Sharpener.

It's a bit of a pain to use on big knives, but I've been able to get a good edge on most any kind of pocket knife to medium size fixed blade knives.

I'm the resident "sharpness expert" for the people who know me, and at work, people will often bring their pocketknives by for sharpening. I used to have a bunch of sharpening equipment, but now I mostly use the TriCeps.

At home, I have an array of sharpening paraphernalia. That makes sharpening faster and easier, but not necessarily better!
For a razor sharp edge on almost any knife, from a 1" blade up to an 18" machete, I've found The Sharp Shop Machine to be the best portable machine. With a belt speed of less than 900 FPM, and a clamp to insure an accurate angle every time, it only takes a couple of knives to get the feel of the machine. You have to be real aggressive to take the temper out of a blade because of the lower belt speed. A dull belt is usually the culprit if you get a blade hot with this rig. I have sharpened knives that were said to be un-sharpenable. From High Carbon Steel to Damascus, and everywhere in between, I haven't found a knife that I couldn't sharpen to a razor edge with this machine. I use it at outdoor events that have no power available, with a 12 volt deep cycle battery & a 1200 watt inverter, I have more than enough power to operate the machine and run lights,a radio, and even a fan. You can get by with a 800 watt inverter, if all you need is to run the machine and maybe a light. This is just my opinion, but I encourage you to check it out at this link. Contact me if you have any questions.
Hand Rifle Guy i wish everyone i have had the displeasure of being employed with had the same work ethic as you do.

A job worth doing is worth doing right. Knowing how to arrange for the right tools is part of the job.

So true and So sad its almost forgotten.
My personal "equipment" and technique:

DMT Dia-Sharp, coarse grit
Arkansas stone (Though you can use oil, I use water only)
6000 grit water stone
12000 grit stone
Filly strop

The general technique for knives, whether on a multi-tool, fixed blade, or pocket folder, is to mimic the motion I make when I'm carving off a piece off the sharpening stone, but at a slightly shallower angle. Yes, the edge angle changes over the course of the stroke, but it works perfectly for me for everything I use knives for, from whittling to opening letters and packages to... whatever. Gives a more robust edge near the handle for chopping, and a thinner one at the edge for fine work.

The rule of thumb is "go until it feels consistent, and looks pretty."

If I'm re-setting a bevel or restoring an edge, I start out with the DMT. I also use the DMT to keep everything else flattened periodically. Stored with a thin coat of oil, it gets degreased (usually liquid dish soap) and a bit of water sprinkled on it periodically to clear away swarf particles.

Next is the AR stone, same technique and angle, sprinkling of water.

After that, the 6000 after it's been "prepped" by proper soaking and running the DMT over it a little to build up a slurry in a hurry (heh). For most of my larger knives, this is where I stop, since they don't really benefit from further honing for what I use them for.

Next is the 12000, which when used, takes some time since it's so fine and cuts so slowly. I often watch an episode of Firefly while using it (about 40min).

Lastly, if I'm in the mood, the strop. Rough side, back and forth, spine first, for a dozen or two strokes, followed by 6-12 more on the smooth.

For my straight razors, though, I generally adhere to this:

Hope someone finds all this useful. :)

I have yet to work out exactly what I'll do when (not if) I acquire a proper kukri. :uhoh:
Ruger Redhawk,

You're the first person I can recall having bought a commercial power sharpener for personal use.
Yes I took a big plunge. I have a good friend who works for these people in Ocala FL. I somewhat have plans of opening a cutlery shop. I was going to open a gun shop until our wonderful president was elected.

I have sharpened several knives and this machine is unbelievable. In a minute you can have a razor sharp edge on it. I know it was a lot of money but I hope to make money with it soon. If not I'll never have a dull knife around the house. I already got the okay at our hunt club to sharpen knives for a couple dollars a blade.

I've only had it since Christmas but I'm getting the hang of it .
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well good luck with your business venture! Got start some where:) sharpen a few blades a week start getting your name around never know hope it works out.
well good luck with your business venture! Got start some where:) sharpen a few blades a week start getting your name around never know hope it works out.
Thanks, Time will tell what I do. I'm disabled and I have to check into the legality of making extra money with my disability.

I sharpened one of my Buck 110's and I'm not real happy the way it came out. It's going to take practice. It's real good until I got by the bolsters. I think I tried to sharpen to far down.
I have both models of the Edge Pro, along trying many others. When all is said and done the Edge Pros are second to none.
I was blown away by the fact your strop has grit in it! My grandpa stropped his razor each morning prior to shaving with a plain old leather strop. No grit etc. I use an old leather belt for mine with good success. Thanks for the info.
Ok so I have a question about sharpening. Which way do you stroke the blade against the stone? I made a quick diagram in paint.

Do you push toward A, pull down toward B, or pull toward C?


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It doesn't really matter for the first stage when you're just getting the edge geometry right.

For the final stages when you're putting the finish on the edge and getting everything smooth, you want to apply lighter pressure, alternate sides of the blade with each stroke, and always move the blade along the stone in the same direction you would move the knife if you were cutting something.