View Full Version : Knife Sharpening

07-29-2010, 04:51 PM
Ok, time for some truths! I have now reached the grand old age of 40. Despite having learned to use a knife in a variety of situations - mostly benign - nobody has taught me how to sharpen one. My pathetic attempts to "learn by doing" have been miserable.
Please help?

07-29-2010, 05:14 PM
Look for a good book(s). I've got several, one called "The complete guide to sharpening" by a guy named Lee. Might still be in print. Also a book on plane making that's pretty good. I've struggled with sharpening various kinds of blades, finally bought a set of three good stones mounted in a sort of "tri mount which can be turned to which ever stone you want to use. I use sharpening oil and get reasonable results. Bought a soft white stone for my grinder which allows me to take off metal without so much risk of burning a blade. A friend taught me how to sharpen an axe with a file, etc. There are right and wrong ways to sharpen, different kinds of blades need different techniques, and I have only peeked in the door of "right." I'm sure there are real sharpening mavens on the list who can give you expert advice.

07-29-2010, 05:23 PM
Send me an e-mail address and I'll try to send you some basics to print out. It will be a few days as I'm not at home.

07-29-2010, 05:24 PM
My dad taught me at a quite young age because it was imperative to have a very sharp blade when marking (castrating) calves and pigs (we used rabber bands on lambs), and although I reckon I can do it better than most I can't really say that I'll ever be any great expert on it. However check out some of the "how to" videos that come up when you do a serach on "Knife sharpening", they'd seem to be a good start, otherwise pay a visit to your local butcher and get a few first hand lessons, no-body knows knife sharpening better than a butcher.

Glen Longino
07-29-2010, 06:03 PM
Upstairs in Resources/Products is an informative thread started by Y Bar Ranch, "Double-Sided Sharpening Stone".

07-29-2010, 06:11 PM
Ok, time for some truths! I have now reached the grand old age of 40. Despite having learned to use a knife in a variety of situations - mostly benign - nobody has taught me how to sharpen one. My pathetic attempts to "learn by doing" have been miserable.
Please help?

Knife? What sort of knife?

I sharpen our kitchen knives on a very wobbly, very well used and oiled old oilstone....by putting just a little water on the blade and then a few wipes across the stone. Works well. The most important things re knife sharpening I've found sofar are; don't let a knife get too blunt and have some sympathy for the bevel.

07-29-2010, 06:28 PM
Buy one of these, it will last a life time and you won't have to get all stressed out every time you need to sharpen a blade.


Just about every one uses a guide to sharpen irons and chisels, why not for blades?

07-29-2010, 06:43 PM
Buy one of these, it will last a life time and you won't have to get all stressed out every time you need to sharpen a blade.


Just about every one uses a guide to sharpen irons and chisels, why not for blades?

If you pay me $749.99 then I'll teach you how to do it without a guide. And you'll have saved some money on the "pro" model.

Nicholas Scheuer
07-29-2010, 06:56 PM
As a former Boy Scout who learned to sharpen a knife of axe for "shaving" (arm hair), then as an adult who carves wood, I have learned a variety of ways to sharpen the implements.

Are you interested in old-timey stones? Or buffing wheels with polishing rouge? Or leather strops? They all work.

I like to use all three, depending on the tool. I have a pocket-sized hunk of slate my grandfather used to sharpen his sythe. I'd be a god dammed fool to not employ that stone once in awhile.

Moby Nick

Nicholas Scheuer
07-29-2010, 06:59 PM
PS: Axe and rotary lawnmower sharpening starts with a Mill File in my shop.

Moby Nick

07-29-2010, 07:12 PM
If you pay me $749.99 then I'll teach you how to do it without a guide. And you'll have saved some money on the "pro" model.

I purchased mine a long time ago. I use it for skew irons, planer/jointer knives and obviously knives. It was a whole lot cheaper when I got it, didn't look at the prices before I posted the link. It does a really nice job, looks just like a factory edge.

07-29-2010, 07:16 PM
I was a Scout too( Troop 177, Flaming Arrows patrol) and first learned to sharpen knives at that time. In fact, I have my 1974 Scout Handbook open in front of me right now. On page 253 are these instructions:

Lay the blade on a sharpening stone.Raise the back of the blade slightly and push across the stone with a cutting motion. Repeat, making sure every bit of the blade is sharpened. After working one side, do the same on the other side. Keep changing sides until the blade is sharp.

Now, while those instructions dont metion lubricating the stone so that metal bits from the blade can slough away or adding a micro-bevel, they served me for many years, and helped me develop the "feel" required to do a better job--whethet a basic sharpening as described or a better sharpening, including a secondary bevel.

I will say, that depending upon the use at hand, a knife can have too fine an edge. A sharp knife stays sharper longer than a shaving sharp knife, in my experience anyway. So for instance, if Im chopping veggies, sharp is good enough, Shaving sharp/secondary bevel jobs, I reserve for "precision" work, like dressing fish or game.(being careful not to nick bones)



Paul Pless
07-29-2010, 07:26 PM
lawnmower belt sander - there is no substitute

07-29-2010, 07:52 PM
Also, depending on what type of knife you have, you may consider a ceramic rod to suit the blade, I use one of these (the heart shaped one) on my serated edge Spyderco knife - much cheaper than a whole sharpening kit


07-29-2010, 08:51 PM
belt sander - there is no substitute

Actually, easier with an angle grinder and a coarse disc, say 36. That will give you a slight hollow grind. IMHO/YMMV. :) (The new smileys are a bit better, but still not as good as the old ones if you are still listening, Scot.)

Some types of stainless steel are notoriously difficult to get a good edge on. You can debate the merits of oilstones or waterstones, but for these types of steel, I have found that a diamond grit stone works best.

07-29-2010, 09:17 PM
This is what I do with my knives....and I can hold a piece of typing paper on edge and slice it into 2 sheets....


Nicholas Scheuer
07-29-2010, 09:21 PM
Haft'a give the belt sander a try, Paul. Never thought of that. I've long wanted a combo belt/disc sander, and finally got myself set with a hunk of junk from a garage sale that only needed a couple of parts remachined in order to be functional.

Sanding wood was always the primary objective, but the lawnmower blade is certainly worth a try.

Moby Nick

07-29-2010, 10:16 PM
Dr. Spoke, I am a crazy obsessive cook, and I have so many knives, good chef's knives, japanese blades, all manner of good cooking knives. I spent years trying to learn to sharpen them the traditional way, I bought diamond honing blocks, I bought the expensive electric thingies, that promise so much, I have used the horrible little carbide sharpeners that shave the blade from either side, they are the worst, the worst thing for your knives, though they do produce a sharp, if uneven, edge. But last year, I discovered the greatest sharpening tool I have ever found, its amazing, fantastic, at what a good edge it gives, so quickly, and its not one of those things that damages, harms, or too-quickly grinds down the blade. Its the Chef's Choice model 464 diamond hone sharpener. You draw the blade between two diamond honing stones that spin as you draw the blade through. Its amazing, absolutely amazing, its the best "quack" medicine type sharpener I have ever encountered, I say that, because, as you know, purists insist on their purism, and most short-cut consumer products in the knife-sharpening field are really awful. This thing is good, really really good, it produces an amazingly sharp edge in the shortest time, with less grinding and wearing away of the blade, than anything I have ever used.

There are few consumer products like this that I will so heartily recomend, but really, this thing is amazing.

07-29-2010, 10:27 PM
I agree with Pat Cox. I was given one as a gift; I -NEVER- would have bought one for myself. It's amazing. You still need to sharpen shorter blades (eg, paring knives) by hand if you want the whole blade sharp, as there is a dead spot near the handle that it won't reach, but for longer cooking blades, it's the bees' knees.

I also use the angle grinder on the lawnmower.

07-29-2010, 10:34 PM
Dr. Spoke, this is the thing of which I speak, I recomend it to all. http://www.edgecraft.com/page2b_m464.html

Glen Longino
07-29-2010, 10:38 PM
Good to see you here, Pat Cox!
We were wondering the other night what happened to you.

07-29-2010, 11:34 PM
I had a problem with my password, I was worried I was banned or something, but I finally got around to sending an email to scott and its all better now.

I'm doing OK, nothing bad happened.

I've been absolutely sick about reading of paladin's health issues, Paladin, I haven't been able to log in for 2 months, man, hold on, the world needs people like you, and you have to finish, or write, your memoir, the bits you have treated us to, the most amazing reading, of the most amazing life, of anyone I have ever met, even so distantly. hang in there, I can't begin to express how much I root for you.

wizbang 13
07-29-2010, 11:49 PM
You wanna "samauri" edge to shave with , or you wanna cut ROPE with a 5 dollar chinee blade?

07-30-2010, 01:07 AM
Lots of good tips here.
Pat, I must look up that sharpener... It might be the best in the short term. Long term I think Ill get some stones and a couple of cheaper Gerbers to practice on.
My problems come with knowing what angle to hold the blade at, when to take it right back ( like in Paladins tip), and how to maintain a good angle on curved blades.... Staright blades are easier. As Wizbang mentions, how to sharpen different materials for different jobs.

Chuck, you can mail me at: phil(at)drspoke.se ; and no stress, take your time
Thanks all!

07-30-2010, 03:20 AM
On my pocket knives (Kershaws, Opinels and a small Kabar) I want a "Chuck edge" that will cut paper. This is achieved using polishing rouge on stitched mops or an MDF disc with polishing rouge on the bench grinder. For my kitchen knives I use an old Mundial steel that gives my carbon steel a wicked edge for the vegetables meat etc.

Robbie 2
07-30-2010, 03:44 AM
This is what I do with my knives....and I can hold a piece of typing paper on edge and slice it into 2 sheets....


I work as a Meat Inspector in an Abattoir and have sharpened my own knives for 33 yrs +............the knives we use though are RUBBISH.
I can get and keep them sharp BUT they are pretty much worn out for working with after a couple of yrs.
My knives do a good job but they don't look pretty.
What Chuck posted here is spot on and will get you a good sharp knife.
My only additional advise is to keep the final stone work to put the cutting edge in place should be with a LIGHT hand.

07-30-2010, 03:45 AM
Diff'rent strokes for diffrint folks......For cooking, I don't think that you want a razor edge...you want something with a little uneven drag that will pass through a tomato skin with no pressure and a slight pull by resting the blade on the fruit and using only the weight of the knife and a short stroke cut through the critter. That requires a slightly "serrated" edge, or one with whiskers along it's length to create drag.
My weapons are just that, they need to penetrate heavy clothing, body armor and the like, so they require a very clean, razor polished edge. I can shave with mine, no drag, or during a bit of personal "competition" with some associates, shave a peach.

07-30-2010, 06:55 AM
I use a serrated bread knife to cut tomatoes with. You need to be able to drag a pointed bit (for example serrations of a bread knife) across a tomato or such to nick it and start your cut. If you want to stick with your ordinary SS kitchen carving or paring knife just use a small round file and file a notch or two back toward the handle. Start your cut there and let the edge of the notch break the skin. The (sharpened) bulk of the blade does the rest once you've started the cut. As for SS kitchen knives, I use a cheap two part sharpener bought at Publix. One part is a steel V shaped sharpener which does the initial job (just drag it through the V a couple times and enough of the blade is scraped off to "sharpen" it). Add a bit of honing by dragging it through the second part of the sharpener (a fine abrasive V). SS is a bitch to sharpen as it is relatively soft and clogs stones. A flat diamond sharpener works well I guess, doesn't clog. SS knives are fine in the kitchen as they don't rust and don't require care beyond regular sharpening as they dull quickly. Steel blades are another thing. I've always used a rouge covered leather strap to hone my steel blades on after sharpening them on assorted stones. Have never had the luxury of any of the expensive power devices mentioned above, but I'm sure they are great. If you have time you'll have fun learning the ins and outs of knife sharpening using various kinds of stones, water or oil, etc.

07-30-2010, 06:56 AM
I recently tried crocus cloth supported on a piece of glass for sharpening sheep sheers. It worked pretty well.


07-30-2010, 07:16 AM
I went to the Randall knife site to see what kind of knives they make. They are very nice. They are expensive, but I expect worth it in that you are paying for a lifetime of quality.

But I was surprised when I saw this:

Delivery time is now approx. 4 1/2 years.

07-30-2010, 07:33 AM
What Chuck said.

His instructions from Randall are (of course) spot on. It's worth pondering the bit about restoring the original edge geometry once the knife's been worn down a fair bit ... as while you can have an extraordinarily sharp edge, if the area just behind the edge rises too steeply you'll have a lot of cutting resistance (e.g. split an apple, rather than slice it).

As you know, I shave with a straight razor. The kind of edge I need there (very smooth and fine) is very different from the kind of edge (ever so slightly serrated) I need in a kitchen knife, or something for whittling etc. Sharpen your edge to the kind use you'll put it to.

Paul Pless
07-30-2010, 07:36 AM
Delivery time is now approx. 4 1/2 years.similar with this guy

bob kramer (http://kramerknives.com/home.htm)

cool video here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OCoS81G2CY)

07-30-2010, 08:58 AM
I know some of the pureist may not like these, but I find that for a pocket knife they do a deceant job. I use one similar to the one pictured below to sharpen my pocket knife. Most of the time my pocket knife is used to cut open boxes or cut rope or something similar. These handheld sharpners will get you an edge that will shave your arm and they also keep the bevel consitant.


Now when I get serious about sharpening knives or planes I use a different techique. I use a diamond stone to rough out a good edge and than I have a hard and a soft Arkansas stone (used with honing oil) to fine tune the edge.


07-30-2010, 10:24 AM
Recommended reading: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/26036-knife-maintenance-and-sharpening/


07-30-2010, 11:42 AM
Randall Knives are made from Swedish tool steel. Mine were made in the sixties and maintained as per Bo Randalls original instructions (he died in 1989). My knives were delivered from stock at about $275-$300 each. The prices and delivery times today will scare the pants off you. You can go to many of the dealers to get them. The dealers order up whatever they can get each year which makes the delivery time from the shop stretch out.

07-30-2010, 03:55 PM
A friend of mine, John, had a Randall knife tragedy! Back in the day when one could just stop by and buy a Randall knife John had gotten one that he treasured. It rested in a beautiful sheath securely fastened to his belt. Sometime after buying the knife John and his family visited Mountain Man, a back woods mutual friend (and I mean REAL backwoods). Mountain Man lived in a falling down "house" up on a mountainside in NC. He lived mostly off of berries and road kill. John and Mountain Man had a few beers, wives chatted, kids played outside. John felt the need to pee. As his children were playing outside he decided to use the outhouse just up the hill. Well, the privy was pretty primitive. Inside the dilapidated little chic sales was just a one hole plank resting on brackets nailed to the wall. John, full of beer, didn't see a reasonable way to pee while standing, so he dropped his pants sat on the plank and proceeded to relieve himself. He returned to the house in tears. He'd not only managed to pee onto his pants, he'd peed on his brand new Randall knife in it's lovely leather sheath. Mountain Man just laughed. He had no sympathy for a man who would pee on a Randall Knife or one who would sit down to pee!