• The Wait Is Over. From this thread, orders for the 2023 BladeForums Traditional Knife are open & here's your handy order button.
    OPEN TO ALL MEMBERS WITH GOLD OR HIGHER PAID SUBSCRIPTIONS OR have 25+ posts in the Traditional Forum Preorder price is $160 shipped CONUS, price increase on 9/25 11:59PM when ordering opens to anyone on the forums
    User Name

Are forged blades easier to sharpen?

Dec 2, 2001
I'm posting this here, because I don't know of any production forged blades, and I think the readers here would have more insight.

I recently had delivered a wonderful pair of forged knives made by Max Burnett. These are the first forged knives I've ever owned or used. One of them is pretty large, a camp knife with about an 8 1/2 inch blade. I've always had a problem with sharpening big knives. I think it's really that I've had problems sharpening knives with thick blades. Looking for any excuse to take a break from packing, (I'm moving soon) I purposely dulled the blade on my big camper from Max, and then tried to sharpen it again. I assumed this was going to be a big chore, since it always had been in the past. I had it back to scary sharp in a few minutes with an Arkansas stone and a strop. My strop is a little unconventional, it's a piece of thin cardboard with buffing compound rubbed in it. It works pretty well, though.

I don't think it was because of the edge geometry, because I noticed something I had never felt before. When I first put the blade on the stone, it presented some resistance when I stroked it across. This was as usual. As it sharpened up, though, it slid across the stone like it was on wheels. It was eventually sliding off the stone with very little effort., so I tested the edge. It was already at a pretty sharp edge, just starting to grab the hair on my arm. A few minutes on the strop after that, and now it's ungodly sharp. After a few hard wacks on a hard piece of oak, and some whittling, it's keeping it's edge, it still shaves. So, have I figured out now what everyone else already knows, and this is because it's a forged blade, or do you think it's something else?

Thanks for any help anyone can offer!
I have worked with forged blades that were very difficult to sharpen and with forged blades that were very easy to sharpen. What you have discovered is a maker that knows how to make a blade that is easy to sharpen. One cannot catagorically praise or condem any forged blade simply because of the forging process, it all depends upon the maker. Max must have done everything you were looking for in a knife right!
I agree with Ed. I have only had one forged blade that was difficult to sharpen, and it was made by a new maker starting out. Being easy to sharpen to one reason I prefer forged blades over stainless stock removal. Just my two cents worth!
It's up to the heat treatment and how hard the maker decided to make the blade.
Remember that a blade gets sharpened thanks to abrasion and gets dull thanks to abrasion, so a blade that's easy to sharpen will also get dull quickly.
The trick is getting a blade that stays sharp as long as possible and not waiting it gets dull before giving it a pass on the stone.
This way you'll always have to do just touch ups, and never have to remade a dulled edge, which would take forever on a really hard blade.
UnixDork :

In general forged knive are made from simpler steels than stock removal blades, 52100 vs M2 for example, so it is easier to grind the forged knives, however that is only one aspect of sharpening.

When I first put the blade on the stone, it presented some resistance when I stroked it across. This was as usual. As it sharpened up, though, it slid across the stone like it was on wheels. It was eventually sliding off the stone with very little effort.

That is exactly what it feels like if you sharpen above the angle that the edge was applied and it will allow sharpening very quickly. One of the main problem with sharpening are edges that are so obtuse, that people are grinding on the shoulder for an hour before they ever reach the actual edge.

Other problems with sharpening are caused by burnt edges, or scallops in the bevels or sloppy grinds in general. As well, steels that are not suited to the type of blade, so they either end up chipping, being impacted or suffering excessive roll.

In short, forged or stock removal, a blade should become easier to sharpen as you buy higher quality knives because the steel and heat treatment should be chosen to suit the knife, the blade ground to optomize cutting ability, the edge formed with quality steel, and the bevels applied evenly.

Ok, actually, I can explain this phenomenon that UnixDork is experiencing. The blade on the big camper is 5160 spring steel for starters. It was triple normailzed and annealed. Then flat ground from edge to spine (almost). Then triple quenched and triple tempered and finished off with a rolled edge on a belt sander. No big surprise if you use much 5160. And that's also the reason for the quickly restored edge after dulling. The full flat grind allows you to have the most useable edge for the longest service with regular sharpening. And the edge quench hardens the steel all the way up to the quench line for a long, serviceable life of the knife with reasonable use. With a full quench and no spine draw the blade would never wear out until it was a sliver but the blade wouldn't be as tough either so it's a tradeoff. And when you run out of useable hard edge the knife can be returned to the maker for a re-grind, re-heat treat and refit. Pretty cool deal if you ask me.

And UnixDork, if you wear that blade out in my useful knifemaking lifetime I'll be truly surprised and pleased to replace it with one just like it. And the cool part is that the replacement will be much better than the one you have now. Ain't that right Ed? At least I think that's how it works. He he.