Great detailed explanation of the term/concepts! Thanks for taking the time and great info
Thanks for bumping this, it was a good read and deserves more readers. Good job, Magnamious_G.
Great detailed explanation of the term/concepts! Thanks for taking the time and great info
"Life is too short to carry an ugly knife" - Calvin Coolidge
"I'll take pleasure in guttin you boy!" --From the movie The Rock--
"Love, Peace, and Chicken grease"
Glad it was helpful!
I also like my Arkansas stones. I managed to locate a stone cutting company that cut the stones in house. I came away from there heavily loaded with quality stones. My favorite is an extremely hard stone , almost like glass.If I really take my time and work up to it slowly (coarser stones first) I get a scary sharp edge. These are large 10-12 inch long by 2-3 inch wide stones. Wouldn't part with them for anything.
wonderful article to set new/rookie sharpeners on the correct path. me being one of them; i was thinking that this post should have a video clip should come with it.
am i trying to get you to make a bare bones dvd on the subject? hmmm maybe i am, i can see a nitch for such a thing cause all newbies really need something like this to get there feet wet imho. dreams sometimes come true. thanks for sharing your knowledge and time with us sir. Namaste
Thanks for the in-depth writeup. It's good to know the how and the why, especially for another beginner like myself. So far I've collected a number of various stones, hones, and even made my own strop, but have been waiting for the most important tool, the knowledge, before I continue down the path of experience. I think I'm ready to start now!
great write up and very helpful. My dad, who passed away about 7 years ago was so good at sharpening knives. I used to watch him and he would show me how to do it when I was younger but never was able to get an edge like he did. He has been sharpening things his whole life for work and at home. its true that practice does make perfect. He just knew the exact angle for the particular knife and had that steady even hand and made it look so easy. He did not have fancy equipment, in fact I have the stone he used and its at least 50 years old if not older. One side is coarse and the other side is fine.
Hopefully someday I can get to that level and this article is helpful. thanks
very helpful thanks
Thanks for taking the time to provide an exceptionally clear and well written description. I'm a new member and this kind of information is exactly what drew me here.
I just picked up a Spyderco Sharpmaker and man o man was this helpful.
Absolutely spot on with what I was doing wrong. Not spending enough time on the course rods. I went back and used this guide and made sure the scratch pattern was fully laid down before moving on to the fine rods.
Got MUCH better results after reading this.
Thanks a bunch.
BTW, Mag, great summary.
That was an incredibly useful article; well written and very informative. It helped me figure out a couple things that I could be doing better, and it worked wonders on my EDC knife. Thanks!
To Magnanimous, excellent post. Everything in there seemed accurate to me, well put and understandable. Also, and mainly, it was short enough that it didn't get boring. Everything you said hit on an important issue. No wasted words. My thanks for posting it. I like to save written stuff that I like and yours will be saved.
One area I would like to comment on. Burr removal. I'll try to be to the point like you did Mag. I tend to ramble. From here on I'll state what is my opinion. Not necessarilly fact. In the past what was my opinion changed as a result of more education and experience. I see no indication this will change. So,,, When I sharpen my GOAL is to NEVER CREATE A BURR. As you said Mag, this is impossible. But with my goal being perfection if I fall slightly shy of it the results will be better than if I shoot for "almost" no burr. That's just a personal way to look at it. Since there will always be a burr, what to do about it becomes critical. My main problem is the theory of "straightening" the edge, usually with a steel. I'm talking about the process of taking a burr (big or little) and folding it out straight. Another theory is that you can completely roll the burr over to the other side. I don't know if it rolls or if you removed the first one and created a new burr with new steel. It's not important. Both of these theories need to be re-thought. Why? Not because of haveing a sharp edge when you are finished sharpening. The issue is edge retention. A burr that has been "straightened" or folded out straight will feel very sharp and cut news print or phone book paper nicely. But when you start using the knife, especially if you are cutting tougher stuff like cardboard, these burrs that have been folded out straight will snap off leaving the edge degraded. This can happen very quickly. Not only will your knife not cut as well as it should or did 5 minutes ago, you may think the high quality blade steel you spent serious money on actually has poor edge retention. The problem may not be low quality steel or poor heat treat. It may be the condition of the edge when you start using it. Just a thought to think about.
There is one sure way to be sure you DO NOT fold a burr out straight. That is to only use leading or push strokes. If you are contacting the stone with the edge apex you will ALWAYS remove the burr. You won't MOVE it to the front of your edge. You still need to deal with NOT creating a new burr on the opposite side of the edge. This possibility is reduced by using very light pressure. Enough pressure to GRIND THE BURR DOWN to the edge apex but not enough pressure to form a new burr on the other side of the edge. Or, a very very small burr at the worst. OTOH, if you use trailing strokes, even with very light pressure there is a CHANCE a burr can be folded straight. The key here is to use pressure that is light enough to GRIND the burr DOWN to the edge apex before the weakened steel is folded. I forgot to mention that the burr is very weak steel compared to the steel that is still inside the blade. It's weaker also than the steel that is exposed but has been well sharpened leaving the bevels meeting each other with no burr. Magnesium already said that. I won't say there is only one way to effectively remove a burr or that I use the best method. But, everyone (IMO) needs to think through the process of removing a burr. Listen to lots of opinions. Figure out what makes sense. Finally try the one or two that make the most sense to you. My guess is that if you have a knife with a blade steel that is known for having good edge retention and the knife came from a manufacturer or maker who has a good reputation for good heat treating and the knife is getting dull faster than you think it should the problem may be in the edge condition after being sharpened.
I've been working hard at improving my sharpening skills for about 5 years. I've improved a lot. I've also believed in my heart a lot of things that I now know are false. But I'm also getting better edge retention from any knife I use with any blade steel I use than I used to get. I believe in my heart it's because of my improvement in ability. I'll take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me with advice. Even the "not so good" advice because I know it came with good intentions.
Back to the point. How do you decide what you will do about removing burrs? Consider the options. 1) Slide edge across the corner of a board. 2) Use a trailing or stropping stroke to remove it. I think these two are the most popular. I've heard lots of people say they strop only to remove burrs. While this is true to an extent I prefer to reserve stropping for improving an edge that is already burrless (as possible). I choose to remove burrs using only stones. This has taken me a lot of practice. Especially in the past year. I am retired so I have time to sit in front of the tv and sharpen for as long as I want to sometimes. One of the things I used to believe with all my heart is you absolutely need to strop to get a really sharp edge. I have tried different leathers, balsa, abrasives, expensive sprays, etc. The theory of needing a strop to attain a sharp edge was challenged with intellegance a few months ago. So I put my strops away and only used stones. I replaced the stropping with learning how to apply ultra-light pressure on stones with the edge. I'll explain how I do that in a minute. BTW, I told you I tend to ramble. Now I am getting edges MUCH sharper, smoother and refined using only stones than I could have even imagined by using 3 strops with different grits a year ago. Like Magnesium said, anyone can do it with enough practice. Now I will strop only if I want to put a super-refined edge (according to my ability) on a knife. More than I can using just stones. So, I'm still in a boat where I use strops to improve an edge after stones. THe only change is the level of sharpness. My edges are sharper now because of all the help from people like the ones reading this, a lot of practice and finally because I'm so handsome. Well, the last reason is questionable. Now (until yesterday) the only strops I've been using is a horse hide on glass with CBN .5 micron spray and a bare kangaroo hide strop. These two can really put a smooth edge on an already very sharp knife. I can tell a pretty big difference when slicing news print. But for EDC knives that I use I can't tell the difference when cutting open a box, a letter, rope, string, etc. Sometimes a difference in sharpness levels is difficult to determine unless you are in a laboratory with very specific testing. Personally, if Ican't tell any difference when actually using the knife I don't consider the difference in sharpness a big deal. I still strive for it though just for fun.
So to remove a burr, always grind it down to the edge apex on that side, no further. Do the same thing on the other side. I'm talking about the microscopic burrs you can not feel with your fingers or even when slicing phone book paper. I just assume they are there and the last 4 strokes are as light as I can make them. One stroke per side, twice.
How I control the amount of pressure when wanting to use very light strokes. I don't think this is a secret. I let the handle lay on my fingers (one or two) and the blade rests on the stone. I'll then use leading or trailing strokes at an angle as close to the one already on the edge apex as I can manage. Even lighter pressure? Move your fingers holding the handle closer to the balance point of the knife. If the knife is balanced on one finger you can apply virtually 0 lbs of pressure. Move the fingers back just a bit and "feel" what that feels like when you stroke the stone. Then move your fingers all the way to the end of the handle and see how that "feels". You can feel how much difference there is in the amount of "weight of the blade" that is on the stone. With extremely light pressure you can easily (with practice) grind a microscopic or bigger burr down until the stone is contacting a perfectly apexed edge. Of course the GOAL is a perfectly apexed edge with absolutely now burr. Perfection may be unattainable but the closer you get the sharper your knives will be and the longer they will stay sharp.
That's enough of my opinion for about a year.
Someone linked this thread for me and wanted to say thank you for writing it. It has helped a lot.
Never tried sharpening a knife before. Waiting for my first "quality" knife to come in. I'm going to have to train on a cheapo for sure. I don't know if this post could have scared me any more but very helpful. On to more threads and some videos. Don't know if I should get a "tool" to assist me or just get some stones for a newbie. Still deciding.
Thanks for your thread , it helped a newb like me . Now to go practice .
So now if anyone asks me which I prefer I have to say without a doubt "I don't know". All methods work and all have their pros and cons. But I prefer free hand sharpening I believe. This is only personal preference and is based a lot on the satisfaction of doing it myself without any help from a system that controls the angle. Of course when free hand sharpening I don't know exactly what angle I put on an edge. I can tell however if it is a low, medium or higher angle. I think that's enough. OTOH, using the EP makes it easier to repeat the same angle on knives. I used to write down the angles I used on each knife. But now I absolutely love free hand sharpening. One major key in any method is getting good tools. The DMT aligner comes with good quality diamond stones. The EP comes with good quality water stones. The EP does have the ability to use different type stones as long as they are mounted on aluminum blanks so they can fit in the EP. For bench stones there are lots of great choices. The way to save money is to decide on a stone type (diamond, water, etc.), buy them and use them. There is no need to buy different stones until after you are skilled at free hand sharpening. Getting used to the stones you are using is also a big issue in improving with free hand sharpening.
I don't know if this helped or not with a decision.
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