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Sharpening Stone Advice for a Beginner

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by atroxsilver, Jan 3, 2014.

  1. atroxsilver


    Jan 3, 2014
    Hey guys,

    I'm new here (and to the world of knives in general) and I've just started doing research into the art of sharpening. I read the "What is sharpening a knife about?" topic and it was great.
    Recently, I ordered my first EDC knife - a KA-BAR Mule - and I know that I'm going to have to sharpen it at some point. Basically I am looking for some recommendations for what I buy for my first sharpening stone, or other method. Price isn't too much of a factor. What are some brands that people swear by?

    I also plan on picking up numerous other knives such as a BK7 or other larger utility knives in the near future. Let me know if you need any more information.

    Thank you so much for your help!
    I will continue to do more research.
  2. HeavyHanded

    HeavyHanded KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 4, 2010
    For a beginner I always recommend a simple silicon carbide combination stone, preferably a Norton Crystalon (their brand name formula). They are a bit limiting in that they cannot produce extremely fine edges, but they can certainly produce an edge that will shave arm hair. Main advantages are that they have very good feedback and are very consistent - if you have trouble starting out, it almost certainly will not be the stone. Once you get your technique under control you can add a finishing hone, strop, or an entirely different set, but that silicon carbide stone will seldom collect dust. One can also simply collect the mud from the stone and use that on a sheet of paper wrapped around the same stone - makes a very effective strop.

    I also recommend one of my Washboard blocks sold through the link in my signature. Am working on the next batch and will be listing them Monday - on the thread are some video links and text description as well as feedback from people that own one (or several). Is a good tool for beginner or experienced alike. Much of the video content, though tailored toward use of the Washboard, is practical for all manner of freehand sharpening.

    I'd say your first decision is a guided system or freehand, and work down your options from there.

    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  3. StevieWunders


    Mar 9, 2012
    It's been pointed out before that, if you want to learn the science of making edges, buy a sharpening system. If you want to learn the art of making edges, get stones and start practicing. There's an information overload here for a beginner heading in either direction. If you're leaning toward hand sharpening, HH's advice is as good as it gets, IMO. Especially if you wish to be practical. A large Crystolon from Norton, his Washboard w/his stropping compounds, a few sheets of SiC paper enables you to sharpen pretty much anything from a splitting ax to a razor. For under a $100. Oh, you also learn to strop. If , after a fair trial, you decide this is not for you, you have a minimum investment in time and money that won't break your heart to walk away from.
  4. Sadden


    Dec 19, 2011
    Well since price isint really a concern then you can look at quite a bit.

    If you want a guided system opt for the Edge Pro Professional.

    Theres a huge variety of high quality sharpening supplies. Shaptons , Choseras , Nubatamas , JNats , Microscopes and Loupes (Oh my!) Then you get into strops and compounds. All of which is available in fullsized freehand stones , or EP sized stones.
  5. Soap_13


    Nov 22, 2013
    Not to hijack this thread but, when I sharpen a knife the only way I can get good results is to lead with the cutting edge, and go from heel to the toe. I'll make one pass on one side and flip and do the other side. I'm not sure if this is the best way to get good results. I've tried trailing the edge and a sawing motion but, I'm not getting a consistent edge. Will I be able to get the most out of my sharping doing it my way or start over and relearn everything again?? Any advice. Thanks guys.
  6. Kai Winters

    Kai Winters

    Mar 16, 2012
    The Mule uses Aus8 steel...a good quality stainless steel...You can get a great edge using either free hand stones or a sharpening system. This is a great knife/steel to practice on.

    The start up cost is not expensive using either method. I suggest starting with a quality Arkansas set of stones or system hones and learn how they work. The biggest obstacle in free handing is learning to "see" and "feel" the angle, maintaining a consistent angle throughout the process and strokes per side. You have a decent knife to practice with. And the most important part is to practice over and over...it is going to take time...you will not ruin your knife as you practice.

    If you're going to use a system you will get a more consistent edge...arguably...more easily but there is still a learning curve to become good at it. Again it takes time and practice to learn how to use the system for best results. Strokes per side, whether a sweeping or sawing action, etc.

    My Stuff:
    I use a simple three stone system for free hand. I've a set of Arkansas stones in a triangular holder that I bought at Gander Mtn for around $30 bucks. Coarse, medium and fine stones...they are decent quality and work quite well. I have a home made strop with green compound on one side and honing oil treated leather on the other side. I also have 1500, 2000 and 3000 grit wet/dry paper I got at the local auto supply. I'd guess at spending maybe $75 for all of it...perhaps a bit more. I sit the stone holder thingy on a piece of rubber matting used to line a drawer...the local Home Depot.
    I use this for my large fixed blade knives, kitchen knifes, axe and hatchet...

    I also have a Lansky system for all the knives that fit it. I started with their basic Arkansas stone kit, around $50. It works great but I wanted to play with the diamond and ceramic hones so I bought a medium and fine diamond hone, ultra fine and blue sapphire ceramic hones as well as their leather strop hone.
    I really enjoy using this system. I can get the edge angle I want consistently, reprofile to any angle I choose and reach a sharpness I desire up to hair popping. But like anything else it takes time, patience and practice. I use a sawing action and generally fifty or more strokes per side when reprofiling an edge...less when touching up...Consistency is key.
    I probably have around $120 in the Lansky system all told.

    Getting a mirror edge that is sharp as can be is a cool feeling and achievement.

    You can spend more or less...free hand stones can be incredibly expensive and even hard to get a hold of...but like anything else if you don't know how to use them and don't spend time learning and practicing you won't get everything they have to offer.

    I also don't sharpen all my knives to a mirror edge...I find it a bit much for a knife I'll be using to baton wood, or chopping with my axe.

    Start small, practice...learn and develop good habits...and build as your ability demands.
    Good luck and keep us informed.
  7. InSpectre Gadget

    InSpectre Gadget

    Feb 7, 2012
    There are a lot of threads on how to sharpen.. Maybe try a search?
    The way I got started sharpening was to watch videos of Ray Mears and various others on youtube.
  8. Kai Winters

    Kai Winters

    Mar 16, 2012
    I agree. I did a lot of forum searches, read a lot of forum threads and watched a lot of YouTube videos on techniques, systems, etc. Made me realize once you are comfortable and middling skilled you develop your own methods.
  9. pmeisel


    Jul 29, 2012
    My normal method is to do as Soap_13 does above, although at times I have used the "rub in circles" method as well.

    Stones, I have a crystalon/India combo and a soft/hard Arkansas combo I bought recently, replacing some lost in a move. Less that $65 invested... and it does every thing I need. I also have an older EZElap diamond stick and a couple ceramic sticks that I use occasionally for touch up when I am too lazy to get the stones out. Since I moved the stones off the work bench onto my desk that happens less often.
  10. Bob6794


    Apr 21, 2013
    I am a beginner the best advice I ever heard was "Practice practice practice", it make your edges happy happy happy. Personally I like the idea of using some old cheap knives or picking up some cheap knives to practice on. I hear of people picking up victorinox kitchen knives practice on, I personally like practicing on my rough rider knife or opinel they will all set you back just a few bucks.

    Though with how I should have new sharpening gear coming into tomorrow I might just give my buddy who lives down the street a call and borrow his pocket knives to sharpen as he uses his knives as much most of us on this forum but doesn't sharpen them. Last knife I sharpened for him didn't cut paper it creased it, and still creased it when I put a lot of weight into it and tried to cut. Safety scissors were sharper. So thats another alternative, friends who don't sharpen knives. Plus they be happy with just about any edge you give them.
  11. atroxsilver


    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks everyone for the responses. I have really been learning a lot over the last week from reading these forums and watching countless YouTube videos. I received my knife yesterday - I must have destroyed 10 pieces of paper and my arms have a lot less hair on them. Good factory edge on the Ka-Bar.

    I have decided that I want to just start with the free hand sharpening. I have a couple old picket knives that I can use to practice on.

    I looked for a Norton Crystalon stone but amazon.ca (I'm in Canada) doesn't seem to have any. I did find a DMT DuoSharp Plus Bench Stone, Fine/Coarse with Base. Would this work for a beginner? Also, as Kai said the Mule uses Aus8 steel and the Becker I was looking at uses Cro Van. Will this DMT setup work with both steels? I know it's more of a diamond stone.

    Thanks again everyone.
  12. fsatsil

    fsatsil Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 15, 2009
    You can't go wrong with a Norton or DMT both make high quaily sharpening stones. How much are you looking to spend?
  13. atroxsilver


    Jan 3, 2014
  14. fsatsil

    fsatsil Basic Member Basic Member

    Sep 15, 2009
    Bigger is always better but 8in is fine. I would go with the DMT Diasharp instead of the Duosharp and get coarse, fine, and extra fine.
  15. pmeisel


    Jul 29, 2012
    DMT makes good stuff. Like fsatsil I like the Diasharp better than the Duosharp. 8" is nice and that's what I like, but I've had 6" and it was ok. 10" isn't really necessary unless you are working with a lot of really big knives.....
  16. atroxsilver


    Jan 3, 2014
    Thanks guys. I decided to go with the DMT Diasharp 8" Bench stones in coarse, fine, and extra fine. As time goes on and I get better at it, I can pick up more stones likes extra course and extra extra-fine.
    I might also pick up an Aligner kit with extra-coarse and extra extra-fine stones on the side.
  17. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    Good choice. I've relied on DMT bench hones for a couple of decades, coarse, fine and ultra fine, and have yet to wear one out. An aligner is useful for reprofiling.

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