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How to Make the Benchmade Axis Perform

Oct 3, 1998
I've had my Axis for quite a while now, courtesy of Les. I've made
this my everyday carry 4"-blade folder, and have learned a bit about
what makes this knife perform so well. Most strikingly, I've found
that it takes a little work to really bring out the best in the Axis
lock. The incredible ergonomics, solid lock, and recurved geometry
you get for free from Benchmade -- a real high-performance edge you'll
have to do for yourself.

*** Are You Leaving Some Performance On The Table?

I've been testing my Axis versus other people's Axisii over the past
few months. Nothing too rigorous, just a quick test of slicing rope
or whittling, and see how the two knives perform. Usually this is a
test of the other guy's Axis with factory edge versus my Axis with my
edge. A typical test with (say) 1.25" 3-strand rope, might yield the
following: other guy's axis makes it through 1/8-1/4 of 1 strand with
one swipe, my axis makes it completely through 2 strands and partly
through a 3rd strand with one swipe. That's a performance difference
of 700%.

*** Anatomy of the High Performance Recurved Blade

Let's stop here for a second and talk about what makes a recurved
blade work. First let's get our terms straight, starting from the
tip. Underneath the tip, the edge curves downward -- this is the
traditional "belly". The belly reaches bottom and starts curving
upwards again, in what I call the "front recurve". Then about .5"
from the handle the edge peaks and starts curving downwards again, and
this part I call the "back recurve".

When other people try to cut rope with their Axis, I often see them
laying the Axis between the front and back recurves and trying to saw
through with little bitty sawing motions, and wondering where the
promised performance gains are. The performance secret of the recurve
is the FRONT recurve -- the trick is to have the front recurve hit the
thing-to-be-cut with speed and power. I typically lay the back
recurve on the t-t-b-c, then add weight onto the handle and add speed
as I draw the knife towards me, timing it to have the most power as
the front recurve hits the t-t-b-c. The front recurve then bites in
deeply, and I pull the knife all the way through the material, then
lay it back down at the back recurve. I can cut that 1.25" rope in 2
slices this way, whereas it'd take much more time and energy to cut
the rope using itty bitty sawing motions.

As you might imagine, then, getting the front recurve perfect is the
main objective in my sharpening strategy. The back recurve is the
least important part, as it does the least cutting -- which is good,
since it's the most awkward part to sharpen due to the thumb studs. I
use the belly for things like opening mail and other push/zipper cuts.

The first thing I do to Benchmade's factory bevels are thin them out.
I now use the Spyderco 204 Sharpener for this. In theory any v-stick
sharpener will work, but I've found the 204 has features that are a
must for recurved blade sharpening.

*** The Thinning Bevels

First, I'm going to use the 204's 15-degree slots with the coarse
stone, on the triangle edge. Why the edge and not the flat? Because
the key to getting the back recurve sharp is to use a sharpening stick
that is much smaller in diameter than the diameter of the recurve.
This is the thinning bevel phase, and I do this phase in sections.
First I thin the back recurve (the thumb studs get in the way a bit at
15-degrees. Then I switch to the flat part of the stones for the
front recurve and belly. I use a magic marker extensively in this
process. I magic marker up the edge, and the objective is to bring
the 15-degree thinning bevel to within say 1/32" of the very edge (do
not go all the way and create a burr).

*** The Cutting Edge

Once the thinning bevels are complete to my liking, I switch the
coarse stones to the 20-degree slots, using the corner side for the
first few swipes then switching to the flat side of the stone. Now
I'm doing full smooth strokes, from the end of the back recurve all
the way to the tip, drawing the knife towards me. I start with the
corner of the stone because that gets the back recurve the best, then
I switch to the flats because the works faster on the rest of the

During the stroke, it's important to keep the edge of the blade
perpendicular to the stone (or, think of it as keeping the edge
horizontal). So when I start with the back recurve, I raise the
handle up in the air a bit. As I pull towards me, I lower the handle
so it's parallel to the ground just as I get to the beginning of the
front recurve. Then lower the handle through the front recurve, and
raise it again as I get to the belly. This sounds complicated but
becomes very obvious if you just look at the edge and the stone.
Whatever part of the edge is hitting the stone, make sure that part is
completely horizontal.

I do these strokes one side only until I get a burr along the entire
length of the other side of the edge, then switch sides and repeat.
Once that's done, I switch sides between each stroke. Go to the fine
stones and continue switching sides between each stroke, and
lightening the pressure. Strop off whatever remains of the burr.

*** Getting the Right Grit for Performance

Now I have a thin, polished edge with no burr. This edge will whittle
and shave like crazy, but won't slice well due to the polish. Now
stick the coarse stones back in the 20-degree slot. Using very very
light strokes, stroke the front and back recurve ONLY through the
coarse stones (not the belly, we'll keep that polished). Don't push
too hard or you'll create new burrs. This will rough up the front
(most important) and back recurve, so it'll slice like crazy. I keep
the front belly polished to open mail and do push cuts.

*** The Results ...

Now we have an Axis that can outperform the factory Axis by 700% at
times! It's thinner and more polished than the factory Axis at the
belly, so it'll out push-cut the factory Axis. It's thinner and more
coarse than the factory Axis at the recurve, so it'll WAY outperform
the factory Axisfor slicing. In fact, with this edge, the Axis will
probably easily outperform every other non-recurved folder you have
for slicing, and even the recurved blades with more polished or
thicker edges.


[This message has been edited by Joe Talmadge (edited 10 June 1999).]

[This message has been edited by Joe Talmadge (edited 10 June 1999).]
This is definately the most detailed post I have seen on sharpening a recurve and obviously a lot of the information can be readily applied to other blades as well - advantages to thinner bevels - coarse grinds.

Joe you might want to link to some of your forum posts in your on-line FAQs. This would then make it almost an interactive document as people could call up the threads and ask questions. The FAQ would then evolve as their questions were discussed on the forums.

Thanks for the great post, Joe. I've been delaying working on my 710 since I got it, but it's needed a better edge. It's gonna get one this week!

This might be slightly off-topic, but have you experienced any problems with accidently unlocking the blade by dislodging the lock button during use? I haven't gotten my hands on an Axis yet, but from the photos it looks like the lock button is right where my thumb would land in a saber grip, and I am concerned that while working with the knife I might unlock it.

Thanks for the great sharpening info.
AEM --

I was concerned about accidently unlocking the axis lock, but I haven't even come close to doing that, and I've actually spent some time trying to end up with my thumb there near the button. I tend to put my thumb on top of the thumb ramp, or else I use a hammer grip -- I just don't end up with my thumb on the button. I have a couple 2nd-hand stories of people accidently unlocking this way, and Anthony Lombardo posted a method, but none of these are realistic for the way I hold the knife.


Sent an email to Spark asking if I could get the entire "How to Make <X> Perform" series into one set of links here somewhere. Hopefully it'll work out!

Wow, as usual, Joe, you have done an excellent job of explaining sharpening. I am still beholden to you for the advice you gave me a year ago on how to reprofile a knife. Since then I've been getting better and better at getting the performance I was missing on many of my knives. Thanks.
Joe, that would be a good idea. Have you ever approached someone about getting your material published? Its a good deal clearer than most of what is out there.

What boggles me is why most (all?) production knife makers sell their knives with the big thick smooth edges. If someone started selling their blades with high performance edges they would have a significant advantage over a lot of popular production knives. The difference in performance is staggering and would be noticed by anyone using them.

I would like to add my thanks too. Great post. By the way, I was wondering if you sharpen all your knives with a fine edge in front and a coarse edge at the rear.
I do a lot of my knives that way, polished up front and coarse in back. I just recently changed to the process I use now -- take the entire edge to a full polish and stropping, then lightly go back over the back part on a coarser stone.

Joe great info! I had a heck of a time with my first Axis as for sharpness etc. Sent it back and they gave me a new blade with a quick turnaround time. The only problem I can see is that the blade doesn't center the handle slabs at all. Goes off to the right when holding the knife up towards you. Can't figure out how to correct for the problem. Purely cosmetic though. Fit and finsish of the knife other than that is custom quality all the way. Anyways on to my method of sharpening. First of all I use a Lansky diamond hone at 25deg of bevel. This matched perfectly with the cantle that came with the blade. I also used the Sharpie trick along the edge to mark the cantle to match for shapening. Next I started with the extra coarse diamond hone that was well oiled and did medium pressure strokes along its entire edge. Did this for a total of 15 strokes on each side. Alternating with 5 on each side.
Next I went to the coarse hone and did the same thing. Medium pressure once again. Then I went to the medium hone and did the same thing all the way down to the fine hone.
What I did find with this method is that although I put a really scary edge all along the blade recurved portion included, it seemed to be rather fragile. It would absolutely pop hair and grab when doing the hair test on ones arm, and would grab and bite when cutting. The only problem being is that the edge didn't seem to last to long.
Anyways not to get to long winded what I have now started doing is just going with the coarse hone well oiled, and with a slightly liter pressure on the hone. It takes a bit longer but looking at the edge under a BETA viewer it looks like little saw teeth on the edge of the cantle. This edge won't pop hair like the former edge I put on it, but it will cleanly cut the hair on ones arm and seems to even bite a little better than the hair poppin edge. Lasts longer I do know that. Oh yea one last thing when I am done with the coarse hone I lightly go over the edge with very fine crock sticks. I then have an edge that is very consistent in sharpness from the very back to the very front. It only takes a couple of minutes now that I have it down, and BEST of all I can use my Lansky. Which the people at BM said I couldn't. The only other problem I have with this tool is that when I back off on the torx adj. screw I get blade wobble. I am talking a 1/4 to 1/8 of a turn. As when all is said and done it is a very fine knife. I think a bit over engineered in the blade shape dept. as for the recurved portion,(way to hard to sharpen if you don't know what you are doing when you first the knife, as I obviously didn't). I will now yield the floor. Keep'em sharp.

How long did it take you from start to finish?

Dennis Bible
I haven't messed with recurves too much, but here is what I would do with my Edge Pro system:

I would first take the polishing tape blank, and stick a 6" piece of pencil in the middle of the blank and tape it down, then tape a piece of coarse sandpaper over it. That way I will have a round and coarse piece to work with. I grind the edge down to 15-degrees rather quickly (coarse sandpaper cuts quickly).

Then I would remove the sandpaper and just use masking tape, and cover the masking tape in polishing compounds starting with a somewhat fine white rouge down. Then switch to another piece of masking tape, covered in finer red rouge.

After that, I would take the blue sharpening ceramic steel included with the kit and put about 5 light strokes on each side, and then one more on the original side to remove the burr. I've found that these polished, yet toothy edges, with the ends finished on a blue ceramic stick will look factory almost, but slice so much better.

Chang and the Rebels of the East
(Southern Taiwan Shall Rise Again!)

[This message has been edited by Comrade Chang (edited 10-29-2000).]
This is one of my all time favorite posts.


because the 710 is my all-time favorite folder!!

I am starting to carry them in tandem, an early Aluminum pre-production plainedge and a BT2 plainedge.

When reversing the Aluminum's pocketclip, a screwhead broke clean off, but it is sturdy enough for government work.

I re-profiled the edges on these two with the 30 degree back bevel(Sharpmaker) and finishing with 40 degree white stones.
Its sharp now, but still a bit brittle.

I love these knives and wish BM would make a larger, similar blade.

"The most effective armor is to keep out of range"-Italian proverb
Thanks Joe, BTW you are partially responsable for my knife nut status!

When my M2 710 needs a sharpen, I will give it a go!


"To strive to seek to find and not to yield"
Ranger motto
Thanks Joe. This post (and your previous sharpening post) goes into my file of useful knife info.

BTW I always thought the best way to make a Benchmade perform is to have them made by Spyderco...


"Praise not the day until evening has come;a sword until it is tried; ice until it has been crossed; beer until it has been drunk" - Viking proverb
I am ready to buy BM 710 Axis. Thanks a lot Joe for your very informative article. I am looking forward to consult it with our local sharpener. Hope he could help me. Standa

[This message has been edited by Standa (edited 11-06-2000).]
I am ready to buy BM 710 Axis. Thanks a lot Joe for your very informative article. I am looking forward to consult it with our local sharpener. Hope he could help me. Standa

[This message has been edited by Standa (edited 11-06-2000).]
Hey guys, I've been swamped the past week, and just starting going through the posts again. Thanks for the compliments! I'm glad this article helped out.

Start to finish, I can't remember how long this took, but I do remember it took a while. The original re-profiling, from about 25-degrees down to 15 degrees, took quite a while, everything sailed through after that. I'd say it probably took an hour, although I could be misremember and it took more. Putting very coarse sandpaper on a thin rod is maybe what I should have done, at least for the initial profiling.

Nowadays, however, my Axis sharpens up very quickly, and it takes really no more time to sharpen it up than any other folder. Once the reprofiling is done, all you have to contend with is the recurve, and the Sharpmaker makes that much easier.