*Knife Sharpening 101*
By: Murph
08 December 2004

These are some of the items that I use to sharpen my knives. What I have pictured here is an 8 inch Tri Stone. This has three stones glued onto a base of wood. The wood base sits in a platform that allows you to lift the stones and turn them to which ever coarseness you want on the top. Next to that I have a bottle of marvel oil. I have used brake fluid and 3 in 1 and numerous other types of fluid and even water. I like marvels the best. I have even tried dry stones but I donít like dry stones. The pores of the stones get clogged up to easily. What I like about using a fluid like marvels mystery oil is it floats the small grit and metal flakes up away from the stones surface allowing the stones to give a better bite.

It doesnít take much oil to do the job but you canít use to much either. A couple of small puddles on the stones then spread them out to cover the surface and you are ready to go. Remember the most critical thing about sharpening in this fashion, or any fashion is the angle of the blade v the stone. Two things to keep in mind here. What will the blade be used for? The rougher and harder the use the greater the angle. Things like scalpels and skinning knives and straight razors would have a lesser angle than say a Bowie or K-BAR. The other thing to remember is once you determine the angle it has to be maintained with every stroke. I have been sharpening this way (free hand) since I was about 12 and got my hands on a 1940 something Boy Scout manual.

For the smaller knives and or stiffer knives I can usually get by with using one hand to draw or push the knife. But on longer or more flexible blades like the Fillet knife I will use 2 hands the second resting on the spine of the blade closer to the point. This allows me to control the pressure better and helps to control the bend of a more flexible blade.

The method I use is what I call a pyramid. I read about this a few years ago and really liked it so I have been using it ever since. It starts like this. Draw the knife 10 times toward you and then turn the knife over and push it away 10 times. The draw it toward you 9 times and turn the knife over and push it away 9 times. Doing this all the way down to one time per side. On the worst of blades and using a course stone this will usually be enough to get a working edge back on the blade. Then switch stones to a finer grit and start over. Once your blades are sharp itís easy to maintain them. You might start out on the medium grit Arkansas stone and only draw and push 5 times per side working down from there. Remember each stroke, push or draw, is JUST LIKE TAKING A THIN SLICE FROM THE STONE.

Pushing and pulling using two hands.

 

Once you think you have a sharp knife there is a couple of test to make sure youíre your blade is sharp.

  1. Gently feel the blade using your thumb draw it SIDEWAYS across the blade just to feel the bite. Do this at the point all away along the blade to the base.
  2. Another method I once used a lot was to shave my arm. But I have since determined that itís easy to shave hair on my arm. My hair is course and easily cut.
  3. Cutting paper is impressive.
  4. Last one my High school shop teacher taught me was to hold the blade up to the light and sight down it. What you are looking for is glints of light along the edge. This will be the dull areas. If the blade has a good edge it canít reflect light.

 

So the angle is critical and takes practice. Once mastered I really donít think there is another method out there that can do as well.
Murph



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