Joe Talmadge: La Griffe Sharpening


Dec 30, 1999
Didn't you instruct us how to sharpen the Emerson LaGriffe in a thread Joe? Do you have that URL? I have taken a round fence post and split it lengthwise. I glued a 12" x 4" leather strop on it and put 4 suction cup feet on. I needed to grind off a small amount of blade edge at the junction of the handle and edge. I needed the grind so that the curved edge would lay touching the leather pretty much all the length of the
blade edge. Now I have a strop that works.
I am looking to learn how to sharpen. Have an old Spyderco with the 2 triangular 6" ceramic thingees. I don't believe my Norton 12" triple oil bath set up would work on a curved edge. Help please.


I don't know specifically about the Le Griffe, but for the recurved bladed knives I have sharpened, the key has simply been to get a small enough contact point between the blade and the stone. Since my stones are pretty well used, I often use a corner of the stone for this kind of sharpening.

So, I take a corner edge of the stone, line the correct angle up with the blade, and then go down the length of the stone on the edge, while also sliding the blade along the edge of the stone. Hmmm, that explaination sounds overly complicated. So imagine you have a typical rectangular sharpening stone. Start at the back of the stone and choose one of the long corner edges. Start at the base of the knife and slice down the length of the stone, going through the whole cutting edge.

This can be a little slower process than some, but it has always worked for me. It takes a bit of practice, but isn't difficult if you are comfortable with sharpening by hand.
I use a similar technique. The blade is curved, so you want the sharpening stone to be as small as possible in relation to the stone. I use the Spyderco Sharpmaker on the stone points for this, but even a small-diameter ceramic stick would work fine. The other thing I do is always try to have the part of the edge touching the stone to be parallel to the ground. That means I rotate my wrist slightly as I go through the stroke. At the beginning of the stroke, nearest the handle, I'll raise the handle up slightly. As I move towards the blade tip, I move the handle downwards.

The short line of edge contact with stone is essential, exactly as Qwertyname mentioned. The best would be to reduce the contact between edge and stone to point.
You can obtain this result in several ways:
  • Using any kind of V-style rod sharpener, SPYDERCO Tri-Angle Sharpmaker should work well in this role.
  • Using old worn out sharpening stone with rounded edges.
  • Using any kind of diamond sharpening steel, DMT Diafold Serrated Knife Sharpener works nicely for me as well as Eze-Lap or Edge Crafter diamond folding steels (to be reviewed soon).
  • Using specialized tools like Eze-Lap Model D diamond sharpening steel with oval surface or the folding one named Eze-Fold.
Though I do not have La-Griffe all these methods work very well on my CRKT Bear Claw.

Thank you Q, Joe and Sergi. Let me try your methods and see if I can follow your instructions.

Happy New Year,
Grinding a new relief into the La Griffe with crock sticks is working - but slowly. I have raised a burr on 3/4s of the edge. During my searching for sharpening information I learned that the edge near the tip of a La Griffe is profiled with a narrower (sharper and weaker) grind. The post that alerted me to this change of profile near the tip of a La Griffe mentioned that the poster had a titanium and 2 steel La Griffes. All three of his exihibited the narrower grind near the tip. When I painted my La Griffes edge with black magic marker and made a few strokes on the crock sticks I could tell that my La Griffe (I'll do my other La Griffe later) also had the narrower profile near the tip. That is 4 out of 4. All have the narrower profile.

I am dealing with this change of profile by sharpening without changing my stroke. I hope to end up with a profile that is constant along the entire edge and therefore easily and quickly resharpened. The area of
my La Griffe that has not raised the burr yet is the area near the tip.

Happy New Year,

How do the factories sharpen these
recurved blades? Is there some wheel
that makes a grinding belt curved or
I don't know how Emerson sharpens the La Griffe, Gearfreak. This Thread is my attempt to learn how to do it myself. There was a post on the Emerson forum by their spokesperson, Derek, that addressed the matter. It did not mention how the factory does it.

I have my Sharpmaker set up in front of my computer and whenever I compute, like now, I take the La Griffe off of my neck and give it 20 or 30 strokes. The tip of the blade is gradually getting a burr too. I've been at it for about five or six days. However I feel more comfortable using the La Griffe now that I know I can re-sharpen it myself. As you honers know after this it will go much faster.

Happy New Year,
While I don't own a La Griffe yet (it's one of those "I don't really have a use for but I'll get one day" knives) I have sharpened a fair number of recurved blades, including the Emerson Commander. I used my EdgePro to regrind the profile with no problem, I'm guess it would be the same for a La Griffe.
The LaGriffe is a bit too small to
use my EdgePro, so, its either the
Sharpmaker or look for some other way.
I'm looking the other way as usual - help
me not get run over.. ahh.
The ceramic stick Sharpmaker has still not raised a burr near the tip of the La Griffe after about 6 days. I haven't even started sharpening my second La Griffe.

Today I purchased a DMT Diafold Serrated Knife Sharpener. I'm hoping it will arrive Saturday. It is 4" long rod that is coated with diamond dust and folds into a handle. The rod tapers from 1/4" to 1/16". The feature that gives me most hope is that the sharpener comes in various grits. I purchased coarse. Here is the URL:

Thank you all for your help. I'll let you know how it works.

I intend to stick the Diafold into the hole in the base of the Spydero sharpener to get the 30 degree angle. After I raise a burr the entire length of the La Griffe (fingers crossed) I plan to switch back to using the medium and fine ceramic sticks. Then, (are you ready for this?) strop using the 10,000 grit green powder on the curved 12" strop I made especially for the La Griffes.

Crossing my fingers,

Your original post made me realize that I had never sharpened my La Griffe. So, I went the same route as you, only I didn't have any problems raising a bur. I used the grey stones on the 204 and tilted the blade to the right, so that I was hitting the entire primary bevel on the left side of the blade. I didn't notice any difference in angle near the tip.

After a couple of strokes, I noticed a huge bur on the right side of the blade. Stropping would not even touch it, so I carefully ran it down the grey stone to remove it from the right side, just barely raising the spine of the blade to prevent scratching the black coating. What happens? The bur moves back over! I had never seen this kind of behavior in a properly hardened blade before.

Moving to the white stones and applying gentle pressure, I was able to grind off the bur and prevent it from merely swinging to the other side. Some light stropping and I had a very sharp edge. BTW, I made a strop from a 2X12" piece of leather glued to a 1.5" dowel. Works great.

Anyway, back to the edge. From what I can gather, the edge was sort of ground convex, leaving a sharp but very thin/weak edge. That might explain the behavior of the bur. I guess it's just that it's a different edge geometry than I'm used to dealing with. It doesn't appear to be heat-treated poorly, because some tests in cardboard showed decent edge-holding. I know that my method resulted in a slightly steeper angle, but it's repeatable and it worked for me. If I had to remove a lot of steel to restore a very dull edge, I might approach this differently.

What sort of compound are you loading your strop with? I'm using this stuff I found at Woodcraft that comes in a pink cake. You have to scrape some off to get a powder and then spread it into your strop. Marketed for woodworkers to use for honing plane blades, gouges, etc. Works well, but moves around the strop a little too much and doesn't like to stick in the rough side of the leather. I'm thinking that a grease-based compound like a chromium-oxide (is that the green stuff?) might work better for me.

[This message has been edited by Greg Melcer (edited 01-03-2001).]
Glad to hear of your success Greg. I think the difference in our burr can be found in your words, "(I) tilted the blade to the right." After six unsucessful days on the ceramic sticks I love to hear that you got a huge burr. You've given me a fall back if my diamond rod doesn't work, ie. tilt the La Griffe to the right. However then I'd lose the benefit of the constant 30 degree angle when I hold the La Griffe vertical. I don't care about 30 degrees, 25 or 35 is fine with me. But I want it to be constant.

I use the green chromium oxide powder on my strop. I got it here:

I'm not sure what you mean about the compound you're using not sticking to the rough side of the leather. I strop, and put the green powder, on the smooth side of the leather.



I guess that using buffing wheels has me thinking that I need a glaze of the compound over the surface of the leather. I'm using some compressed leather from Handamerican that's glued rough side out. I'm seeing the compound that I'm using move around the surface of the leather and migrating towards the ends as I strop. Not that big a deal since the strop is working fine anyway.

What do you think of the chromium oxide powder? Does it provide a high luster on the edge? The stuff I'm using creates a very high polish, and I'm thinking that I may want to switch to something a little coarser. I don't want a high polish, I want an edge with a little more bite.
One note regarding the corner of the stone technique I described ...

When doing this kind of sharpening, for the first several strokes, I often hold the knife and stone up level with my eye, so I can make sure that through the whole stroke, the stone is making contact with the cutting edge itself. I generally try and get this angle correct by starting from flat and tilting the knife edge toward the stone until I don't see any shadow any more. Thus, if you can do this carefully, it doesn't matter what the actual edge grind looks like, you should be able to get it sharp. Obviously this is important, if you aren't exactly on the edge grind itself, you aren't doing anything to make the knife sharper.

I've never really tried to use a sharpening stone or ceramic to actually change the grind angle at the edge, mostly because it seems like too much work. Some of the previous posts would seem to confirm that.

Finally, I am not certain how Emerson sharpens the LaGriffe, but for alot of recurved blades, the maker or company uses a narrow slack belt grinder, and applies just enough pressure and angle to cause the belt to curve properly. I have heard of custom makers also doing this on the edge of a square wheel but have never seen it. The difficulty with the slack belt method is that there will be a tendency for the edge grind to form a little differently along different sections of a recurved blade, because the pressure applied to the belt isn't exactly uniform through the whole process. From what has been described about the edge geometry of the LaGriffe, this process would be my guess.
I purchased a 12" Arkansas Black stone with a strop on top from HandAmerican Greg. It came smooth side out. Since learning from you that HandAmerican sold you a strop that came rough side out I went to their website. To my surprise it talks about stropping both with rough and smooth sides here:

You say, "I want an edge with a little more bite." I prefer that too Greg. After purchasing the expensive Arkansas Black stone I mentioned above I learned that my edges don't seem to cut as well after honing on the Arkansaw Black. My basic stones are the Norton oil bath coarse/medium/fine stones. I don't use the Black now. The method I presently use is Norton coarse to medium to fine to strop with smooth side out 10,000 grit green chromium oxide. It seems to give me noticably more bite. A coarser stropping powder may be even better - I don't know.

To be honest I felt that I was sharpening using an inconsistent system - not using the very fine Arkansas Black - but using the very fine 10,000 grit green powder. I am living with the inconsistancy because I easily shave hair from my chest without the blade of my Doziers touching skin. Recently I was pleasantly surprised to learn that maker Matt Lamey uses a similar system. You may read it here, it is post #4:

As I mentioned above the stones I use are three 12" Norton stones mounted in an oil bath. I wouldn't be able to lift the system up to eyeball when sharpening a La Griffe. Thank you for the information on how makers sometimes sharpen curves with a slack belt pressed enough to curve the belt. That does sound likely how Emerson did it.

Take care,

[This message has been edited by bug (edited 01-04-2001).]