Free hand sharpening or use gadget.

Houlahound

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Aug 2, 2017
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Looking at buying some Japanese water stones for free hand sharpening. I notice a lot of rigs/gadgets available these days to sharpen knives with.

Who free hand sharpens and why / why not.
 

Houlahound

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I practice free hand because in a shtf situation, I want be able to sharpen my knives without needing to carry around a gadget box. Stones are everywhere.

Not sure if quality stones are everywhere if you want to sharpen to the standard most here would want.

The stones I am slowly putting together are hella expensive and take up a lot of space, some rigs i have seen advertised are way more portable because they use smaller narow strips to provide the abrasive surface.

Wasn't really considering a shtf scenario but good point.
 

GatorFlash1

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I hand sharpen my axe and hatchet freehand on the sidewalk. For almost everything else I use a compact, affordable Sharpmaker because it is so easy to get exact practical edge angles and versatile enough to sharpen all kinds of tools and doesn't require any water and other messy liquids. I have played around with other sharpeners and stones but have gotten to the point where I don't need any more complications or hassles in my life so am sticking with my Spyderco SharpMaker. It is just plain easy!

 
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I do both. For quick touch up and maintenance, I freehand sharpen my knives on natural Arkansas stones (for my carbon steel blades) or diamond hones (for more exotic modern steels). When a blade needs more work done, I'll break out the DMT Magna Guide. I would love a nicer rig, but for me, the Magna Guide is good enough to git er done.
 

CVamberbonehead

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Nov 6, 2017
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I free hand sharpen because that is how I learned. Its cheap too. I can use a $5 stone to sharpen and get a great edge. It is much harder though.... it takes a lot of practice and can be frustrating. It also doesnt work well with supersteels, even using diamond stones.
 

eveled

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I have a water wheel if I need to move a lot of metal or reset an edge angle. The rest is done free hand on a stone. Because it’s how I was taught.
 
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I've been freehand sharpening for over 65 years. Never need a gadget if you learn to properly freehand sharpen.
Rich

THIS!

Learn to free hand and you can sharpen your knife anywhere, at any time, on a wide variety of things like coffee mug bottoms, car window top edges, smooth rock from a river or creek, a pice of broken pottery, bottom of a flower pot. It ain't rocket science.

The main purpose of all those sharpening gizmos is not to sharpen a knife, although they will do that. They are designed to get the money out of your wallet and into theirs. It's commercial over complication of a simple operation for monetary gain.
 
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It's so easy to free hand for me, it's not worth the hassle of breaking out a crutch system and setting it all up for this angle or that angle. Heck, by the time it takes me to do all that, my knife is already sharp by free handing.
 

l1ranger

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Jan 27, 2017
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i tried to freehand for years
then i sorta used a lansky for a bit
then i found this place, did some reading and studying and practicing and really learned how to use a lansky - which lead to me learning and developing freehand skills.
 
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Freehand works for me. Occasionally I use an ancient Buckmaster angle guide that clamps onto the spine of the blade.
 
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I originally used a guided setup (Lansky), which taught the WHYs of the fundamentals, like why angle control is important and why forming, recognizing and cleaning up a burr is probably the most helpful thing one can ever learn to do in sharpening. Decent angle control minimizes and/or prevents edge-rounding, which itself could prevent one from ever seeing a burr in the first place (burrs never form on a rounded apex). If you never get past that hurdle, sharpening will always be a frustrating experience.

Once the angle guide showed me the importance of angle control and also gave me the first recognizable burr I'd ever seen, I was able to take a step up in my learning curve toward freehand sharpening. Once you know exactly what you're looking for, in terms of the burr and everything it implies (full apex), then it's much easier to focus on fixing what you're doing wrong.

After learning all that, my progress toward freehanding really picked up. And since I've been building my touch for freehand, I've never looked back. I can see the usefulness of a guide for producing cosmetically attractive bevels in cases where one might choose to do that. But the guide will never again be necessary, for me, in making an edge sharp. That's what it's all about.

Aside from the independence given by learning freehand, the most obvious advantage of freehand is the working speed it affords on a bench stone. A guide is useful up to a point, but then becomes a handicap in how it restrains the hands from doing what they've been learning to do. I finally gave up the guide when I started to feel like it was holding me back and slowing me down.
 
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I free hand on diamond stones. Guided systems dont usually work well on an FFG blade. Also, sharpening m4 and t440v on regular stones is hell.
 

Tjstampa

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Mar 25, 2019
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I prefer to freehand. I tried a guided system and just did not like the feel. Also the setup took longer than it takes me to sharpen all of my kitchen knives. Once you get the technique down you can bring almost any knife to razor sharp. It is important to have the right stones or media for your knife. With my Caron steel, 440 and 8cr13Mov I find natural stones do better. For my cheap unknown stainless steel and my cold steel knives the diamond hones do better.

I have also recently realized how important strops are to the final finish.
 
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Mar 21, 2007
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It's about 'Getting something done!' If you want to draw a straight line, do you freehand or use a ruler? The Edge Pro, Wicked Edge, KME, etc. are your 'ruler.' Although I can freehand sharpen an edge that is usable, I use the Edge Pro or Wicked Edge to make it much sharper! Welders have said similar things- they use guides for a better result with less stress vs. freehand.
 

tiguy7

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3C1D79AC-4FB6-494A-BA9A-EB9B20E5B57F.jpeg I use the SharpMaker for touch up work, but I made a homemade jig for reprofiling. This jig is set to the same angles as the Sharpmaker.
 
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Me ? I have no stress while freehand sharpening. I do with a guided system though because it gives me absolutely no joy. Sharpening on stones, especially water stones either synthetic or Japanese naturals gives me the greatest joy and actually puts my mind in that Zen mode. It relaxes me. Of course, most all my kitchen knives are of the Japanese variety and they just go hand and hand with a good water stone. I often times have set my table up at the edge of my little quarter acre pond where it is peaceful with maybe a trickle of sound coming from my man made water falls. The wife will find me there hours later. Of course I did start off with a Lansky and later, a KME guided system and they taught me all about burr formation and burr removal. Once I understood the process for creating a very sharp apex, I then let my own brain and my own hands and muscle memory take over in free hand sharpening.
 
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Freehand because its so much faster, and easier to deal with warps and twists. Aside from cosmetics I see no difference in edge quality.

I use a self-made guide for tinkering and occasionally for commercial work, esp on coated blades or thick stock where I want to eke out any last little bit of angle lowering.
 
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