New guy ~ Wants to learn about sharpening!

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by Moby, Dec 2, 2019.

  1. Moby


    Dec 2, 2019
    Howdy gents,

    I'm Moby from Dallas Texas.
    I've been in the Coast Guard, a commercial diver, and other industries where a sharp knife is important.

    Not until I've gotten into butchering deer and other game has the thought occurred to me I really am a novice at getting that razor-sharp edge and keeping it.

    It's one thing to cut a rope. Skinning and butchering take a much different type of edge.
    I searched the forums but didn't see a thread. Likely just missed it.
    Other than youtube- anyone on here a master at the art?
  2. Worldwatcher

    Worldwatcher Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 19, 2015
    Check out the knife maintenance section. Lots of good info there.
    GABaus likes this.
  3. Rich S

    Rich S

    Sep 23, 2005
    Hint: learn to freehand sharpen. Don't to carry a sharpening jig or gadget into the field with you.
    GABaus and strategy9 like this.
  4. marcinek

    marcinek Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 9, 2007
  5. Monofletch

    Monofletch Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 14, 2010
    GABaus and marcinek like this.
  6. marcinek

    marcinek Gold Member Gold Member

    Jan 9, 2007
    I'm living testimony that it is idiot-proof.

    Though I also like convex sharpening via a series of wet/dry sandpaper on a leather strop or cardboard. Cheap freehand that takes advantage of not being able to hold a steady angle.
    GABaus likes this.
  7. Moby


    Dec 2, 2019
    Thanks gents
  8. dalefuller

    dalefuller Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 2, 2005
    There are all kinds of ways to sharpen a knife. One is not necessarily "better" than the others. Your success depends on the method YOU like that produces the results YOU want. And that's going to depend somewhat on your preferences for sharpening systems and how much effort you're willing to put into learning what needs to happen when you maintain a knife edge. Freehand... jigs... crock sticks... electric sharpeners... they'll all sharpen a knife and do a fine job of it. But each of us has our own preferred ways to sharpen that we're willing to learn and refine to produce the results we need.

    My best suggestion is that you spend some time (think "hours", not "minutes") reading the threads in Maintenance, Tinkering, and Embellishment, our sharpening & tinkering subforum, and figure out which method you'd like to start learning first. Even something as simple and effective as a Sharpmaker has a learning curve. It's a good place to start for a lot of us, but it takes some time and skill to actually "master" it. OTOH, if you really like the feel of hands-on, DIY sharpening, you're probably going to want to go freehand to start with... and there'a a learning curve with that also.

    Figure out what kind of edge you want and pick the method that you'd like to learn. The success will come from you and your dedication to learning the system, rather than from the system itself.
  9. Monofletch

    Monofletch Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 14, 2010
    BFD65FD2-0099-4E44-BBD3-366B16C99348.jpeg I just found this.... interesting!!
    BenchCo Spydermade likes this.
  10. sgt1372

    sgt1372 Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Oct 16, 2018
    The is a certain an "art" to knife sharpening of knife that cannot be conveyed thru any instructional manuals or videos that can only be "learned" thru trial and error.

    Don't misunderstand me.

    You can learn all you need to know to sharpen a knife "acceptably" thru "instruction" but the finer points of knife sharpening (the last 10% or so) can only be learned IMO from sharpening many knives of many different types yourself using the various tools available to you.

    Nothing beats actual experience to achieve this level of competence in doing this (and anything else for that matter).

    BTW, I've sharpen a lot of knives in my 69 years, mostly using just a plain double sided rectangular carborundum stone that my father (who was a professional sous chef) taught me to use (which was the only thing, other than a sharpening steel, that he used to sharpen his kitchen knives razor sharp) BUT I'm still learning how to sharpen my knives better each time I attempt doing it.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2019
  11. 22-rimfire

    22-rimfire Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 20, 2005
    Me too. May in fact get one after looking them over a bit. I like V sharpeners for edge maintenance but not to put a fine edge on a dull knife. The tool for serrated blades would come in handy for me.

    On general knife sharpening, I suggest you learn to free hand on a bench stone first and if you want to try one of the "systems" get one later. Get a "fine" DMT.
  12. strategy9

    strategy9 Gold Member Gold Member

    Apr 27, 2015
    Buy a cheaper knife, from a respectable maker, in a decent higher carbon content steel like 8Cr13MoV, 440, 14c28n;

    (Brands that come mind are Kershaw, Boker+, or Real Steel)

    And practice the #$%* out of shapening them; holding a decent angle, eliminating the wire edge, etc...
  13. Moby


    Dec 2, 2019
    Thanks all for the input.
    I can see I’m going to like it around here

    Lone_Wolfe likes this.
  14. Ajack60

    Ajack60 Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Apr 21, 2013
    Welcome to BF Toby,
    It would also help if you include the particular knife you’re wanting to get sharp. I’ve learned that blade geometry makes a difference when sharpening a knife. It dictates the amount of time I’ll spend on a sharpening system in order to get it as sharp as I need. In my experience, a full flat grind is easier to sharpen than a hollow grind. I have to pay more attention to a hollow grind in order to fully reach the apex of the blade. I’m in no way an expert on sharpening and rely on a guided system for help. What comes natural for some, is a struggle for others.
    I’ve also learned that the blade steel makes a difference also.
  15. TRfromMT

    TRfromMT Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jan 4, 2016
    Welcome Moby.

    I started working on my sharpening game 3 years ago with a sharpmaker, and got pretty good results. But in hindsight I did not really know WHY.

    I tried a strop and only got frustrated. The knife seemed to become dull when I stropped. I gave it up because I just couldn't get the hang of it and I stuck with the S.M.

    I upgraded to a Wicked Edge and got much better results. I watched all the knowledge base videos on their website. This is when I really started studying the mechanics of sharpening and came to fundamentally understand raising a burr. This is so important. You need to figure this part out.

    Now, armed with a much better understanding of raising a burr and truly getting to the apex, the Sharpmaker makes more sense and using it well (to raise a burr) I can get even better results than just following the foolproof instructions with the Sharpmaker.

    Subsequently I can now use a simple ceramic rod freehand and a strop and get screaming sharp edges.

    For me, using the guided system taught me the most (with a Sharpie marker and a 10x loupe), and now I use it the first time to set the edge, but then a rod and strop for maintenance.

    TLDR: learn about raising a burr and cleaning it off. That's the key to learning how to sharpen.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
    JJ_Colt45 likes this.
  16. TheFactor

    TheFactor Life is good ! Platinum Member

    Feb 26, 2015
    Quick and simple fundamental that will help you. Always keep the same angle on the side your sharpening. Doesn’t matter if it’s a different angle then the other side as long as you sharpen at the same consistent angle for each separate side. Use a sharpee to mark your edge to see were your stones hitting.
    You always want to sharpen/hit the edge first unless your reprofiling .
  17. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Welcome and good for you wanting to learn to sharpen!!!

    #1 - Angle is king

    #2 - A marker (I prefer red) is an awesome tool to help achieving #1. Mark the edge bevel and it will show you what is happening. Be aware, factory edge are notoriously uneven so you might be getting a good bit of the edge but not all of it. That's just the way it goes and there's pretty much always some amount of re-profiling that you do. If for no other reason, than just working the bevel to your chosen media and style.

    Unlike a lot of folks, I'm absolutely not a fan of fixed V "systems" like the Sharpmaker. Sal designed the Sharpmaker for his knives so the angles are set to what he chose to grind his edges to. You have very little flexibility and therefore all your knives must conform to one of the two available options.

    The types of steels you want to sharpen will play some role in the stone types you want but there is no hard rule here and there are nuances.

    I used a KME system for many years and it is a great system. There is nothing at all wrong with using one of the many systems out there (although I'd avoid cheap ones with only a couple angle choices).

    That said, I would really encourage learning how to freehand. It opens up so many possibilities in terms of stone choices, tailored and preferred edges, simplicity. I strongly recommend sticking with 8" stones. 6" stones can be attractive due to price but they can be really limited. An 8" will work for small pocket knives to most home kitchen knives.

    You would be hard pressed to beat a Norton Cystolon combination (JB8) or Norton Crystolon course and a Fine India as starting stones. I would recommend a universal stone holder to go with it. Techincally, the Norton's storage case can serve as a stone holder so you can even skiip that if you really want but the dedicated holder is very nice. You do not want polished edges for the work you're describing and a silicon carbide stone like the Crystolon can handle most all steel types. Folks will tell you that you can sharpen high vanadium steels like S30V, S90V, etc. on SiC but that's not accurate. You can and they will sharpen those steels. Now, past around 600 grit or so, things can change with those steels and tear out and such starts becoming an issue but for what you want, I wouldn't go that high anyway.

    You can strop on paint stick from the hardware store.

    @ToddS has a great website called the Science of Sharp. Very good info for beginner to advanced sharpeners.

    It really comes down to this:

    Step One: Achieve First Burr. Work one edge of the knife until you form a burr. The burr will be on the opposite side you're working. In the case of bench stones, the burr will form on the side of the knife that is facing you. You'll be able to feel it. The worked side will be smooth and the other side will have a little "catch". Feel each side before you start for reference. The marker will help you see if you're getting the full bevel and all the way to the edge. If the marker is only coming off the very edge, you're too high. If it is just coming off the shoulder, too low. Get a burr along the entire edge. You have to lift a little for the belly and tip.

    Step Two: Achieve Second Burr. Do the exact same thing on the other side of the knife.

    Step Three: De-burr. Once you've raised that second burr, then you do very light strokes on the stone flipping sides with each stroke. Some will do this as edge leading (the edge is moving into the stone in the direction of your stroke) and some will do it as edge trialing (the spine is moving in the direction of your stroke). This might take a couple passes or maybe more but you don't want any burr left on the edge. A 10x or 20x loupe can help you see things. This basically stropping on the stone.

    Then you can do some very light stropping on an old belt, piece of denim, cardboard, wood, whatever. For lower alloy steels you can probably get away with no compound, but even a little wheel polish or rouge from the hardware store will work.

    Now, there is a ton to learn in sharpening and people will have their own preferences an such, but those three steps are the fundamentals. Sharpening is very rewarding and you can do it!
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
  18. TRfromMT

    TRfromMT Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jan 4, 2016
    I would add, for your intended uses -skinning, fiberous materials - skip the mirror polishing. Work out how to get a good working edge that has a little tooth. For me this was stopping at 600 grit, then a few light honing strokes with a very fine rod.
  19. lonestar1979


    Mar 2, 2014
    Buy norton economy stone and grind,its not a rocket science,you have many videos on youtube,and its not that hard,dont be afraid to put your knives to the stone,you can polish all the scratches later on when you get better.
    Darryl D.. likes this.

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