Raising a burr. (wire)


Gold Member
Oct 5, 1998
I have read Joe's Sharpening FAQ and I should prob. read it again, but I am having problems raising a burr. I bought the Smith's Precision Sharpening Kit for use on ATS 34 and it just won't raise a burr. I actually found that I did better using the stones freehand rather than using the guide. I spent a total of 5 hours just grinding away at this poor blade with both the coarse and the fine stones, using both angles. Nothing. I just can't get it right. I figure my problem is the inability to raise the burr. Why can't I do this? What am I doing wrong? Thank you. -AR

- Intelligent men, unfortunately, learn from fools, more often than fools learn from intelligent men.

Well, I`m not clear on exactly what you mena by "raising a burr", but it sounds like you`re talking about what is called a "wired edge". It has been my experience this is something you don`t want, so I reckon you mean you`re trying to get rid of a wired or burred edge.

A wired or burred edge results from either uneven sharpening or from the edge rolling over during hard use. The best and only way I`ve found to remove it is by holding the knife up to a light to determine which side the burr is bending to, and then giving it a couple of measured swipes on a stone and re-checking. Once you get the edge back into equilibrium, it`ll shave again.

Yeah, I`ve never personaly drawn any great benefit from "sharpening systems". Some people seem to, but I do best on a regular old flat stone, be it Arkansas, diamond, or ceramic. People keep saying that on something like Croc Sticks where you got these rods sticking into the air at angles, these help maintain constant sharpening angle. I never have figured out the technique. Just one of those things that escapes me. Doesn`t matter, don`t need`ed to sharpen my knives.

I don't know much about Smith's Precision Sharpening kit, but I use Lansky, DMT, and Gatco kits. They are all working in a same principle (rod-guided), hence I assume the Smith's work the same too.

Here's my experience. With all three of them, I have no difficulty raising a burr. I usually use the coarsest stone first until I raise a burr (you could actually feel the burr with your thumb, but use caution!), a few strokes on the other side (to counter the burr) and move to finer stones on the original side. So the pattern for each stone is always the same: raise a burr--stroke the other side--move to a finer stone. When you reach the finest stone, it's just a matter of a few strokes to get rid of a very fine burr. This always works for me.

However, this could take a longer time if you move up to finer stones BEFORE you raise a burr with the coarser stones. One other thing is that if you sharpen your blade in a lower angle than the original, hence creating a new bevel, it will take some time too until the new angle reach the edge of the blade.

But you said you spent 5 hours grinding the blade, so I suspect the problem was with stepping up to finer stones before you developed a burr. I was also thinking that it is possible that the quality of the stones is not on par with the other systems I mentioned, but I seriously doubt it.

Just my $0.02,

Somewhere someone said that it is a help to use a black magic marker on the edge, and when you run the stone you can see where the stone is and isn't hitting. Using this method you can find the proper angle to grind at. It helped me when I couldn't put a decent edge on my Ascent..realized that I was trying to sharpen at too sharp an angle (the factory edge was pretty LAME and the angle was really obtuse). A little trip to the beltsander corrected the problem..

Jackyl, just use the coarse stone and one angle (whichever setting is closest to the bevel on the knife as it is now) and try to raise a burr. Some steels do not raise much of a burr at all (very hard tool or high speed steel), but ATS-34 is not known for this. If you can get this done then you can use the fine stone to polish the edge in a similar manner to setting it with the coarse stone.

The Smith's Kit is like that of the Lansky. It uses Arkansas stones and comes with honing oil. I guess I'll just keep working at that burr. Thanks again for all your help. -AR

- Intelligent men, unfortunately, learn from fools, more often than fools learn from intelligent men.

Also, stay on one side of the blade until you get the burr, then flip and grind on the other side until the burr is felt on the other side. Remember the burr will form on the opposite side than the one you are grinding. And you can press a little harder with the course stones since you are just taking off metel the real sharpening starts after you have formed the burr from both sides of the blade.

Try using a fingernail to feel for the burr. Assuming there is a burr, you should be able to feel it as a tiny ridge running lengthwise along the edge, on the side you haven't ground yet. To feel the burr, apply a fingertip or fingernail to the side of the edge as if rubbing or scratching gently across the edge perpendicularly (i.e., from spine to edge). Note that you probably will not acheive the burr consistently along the entire edge. Depending on sharpening technique, uniformity of edge thickness, etc., you may have to work longer on different sections of the edge. The magic marker trick is a good one. Once you've got the burr along the entire edge, turn the blade over and work the other side. In effect, you will grind the other side until the first burr is gone and is now on the other side. You can only have the burr on one side or the other. Once you've got the burr on the second time (it'll now be on the side you ground first), move to a smoother stone and repeat the procedure.

In order to understand the basic concept, I recommend you practice on a cheap kitchen knife and a course stone. You should be able to get the burr fairly quickly. If not, use a steeper angle. Once you understand what a burr is and how to feel it, sharpening becomes A LOT easier and more effective. For really sharp knives, sharpen with a flatter angle. This can take some patience until you have thinned out the edge sufficiently. But hang in there. After reprofiling the original edge, subsequent sharpenings should go alot faster.

I hope this helps.

David Rock