Razor Edge sharpening systems...

Jan 18, 1999
I've heard that Razor Edge makes a pretty good system, but I've bought too many different sharpeners and most of them collect dust! I have a Lansky that I wouldn't give away, a Firestone that's good for steak knives only, an EZ-LAP steel that I don't use, assorted Arkansas stones that are lost and will prob never be found, and one Spyderco tri-angle that gets used regularly. I'm not a very good knife sharpener, admittedly; I'd rather chop and modify knives with my Dremel than sharpen the freakin' blade! But, I'm always searching for a new solution. Should I get a Razor Edge kit, or learn how to do the marker-on-the-edge trick to get the correct bevel (using my tri-angle)? I might need a diamond rod or block for harder steel knives, as my tri-angle kinda' falls short on being able to sharpen them (or so it seems). Maybe I should just hire someone to sharpen my knives for me...I don't know!

I pretty well put away my oilstones in favor of diamond hones from DMT. They come in coarse, regular and fine and do a great job. They only require water as a lube and I have yet to wear one out (after five or six years). You can get them in various sizes. They're not inexpensive but still a good deal, I think. Occasionally when the bevels get off kilter I get out the old honemaster guide from Buck (similar to Razor Edge, I think) and used that to start a new bevel on the coarse stone. Using a guide does make quite a difference.

I have a lot of sharpening systems as well. Oil, water, diamond, they all have their uses. For knives, I use the Lansky at home and the DMT diamond diafold in the field.

One way to put a 'razor edge' on a knife is to take a old leather belt, glue a 10-12 inch piece to a flat stick and sprinkle on some valve grinding compound. Strop the edge backwards and it will produce a razor sharp edge. I put half of the old belt on one side of the stick belly-up, the other side I put the belt belly down. The smooth belly down side produces a real keen edge. A wide plain cowhide belt works best. But even cardboard will strop just fine. Hmm...wonder why they call this a razor edge?

I find stropping rolls the edge over slightly and makes it noticeably stronger as well as sharp. I roll my edge slightly on purpose. If you hold steady and just polish the edge it might be a little sharper.

Oil and water stones, I use for chisels. Diamond flat bench stones I use to flatten the other stones and for plane bottoms and chisel backs. Diamond stones also do a good job setting a new edge on a knife or fixing the factory edge so it works right. I have a few jigs which I made to hold tools steady as I am not too good at it freehand.

If you have ever used a 8000 grit water stone, you know what polished and sharp really looks like. Water stones cut really fast.

For serrated edges I use the round DMT diamond diafold and the Spyderco triangles.

I use sandpaper and an aluminum 3/8 inch thick 12x12 plate to sharpen alot of tools and sometimes a big knife. But it costs too much to buy new paper, although it works and will deliver a really sharp edge.

I find that slower works better. Trying to hurry always seems to me to produce an inferior edge. I try to sharpen things when I am not busy.

IMHO new systems aren't the answer. Practice with what you have.

Those are good ideas, fellas. I think I'll SLOW down first, that's prob my biggest downfall. It seems that my Spy triangle does an OK job, I'll have to practice more on it. I'm thinkin' about getting a DMT stone soon.
Going slower is a good start... but your Sharpmaker should really be working great for you, not just OK. Have you thrown out the directions and instead concentrated on raising a burr along ONE SIDE ONLY, then doing the other side, then working to grind the burr off? Do that, and your knives will come off razor sharp. For more info, head to the front page of bladeforums and go the link (knowledge base?) to the Sharpening FAQ.

The Razor Edge system is great, I recommend it highly. It works well provided the spine on your knife isn't too thick (>3/16"). It's a step above the Sharpmaker in accuracy. The Sharpmaker works because you can basically keep the knife straight up and down, and that holds the angle. The Razor Edge clamps hold the angle perfectly, not just close to perfectly. However, you will not have good results with any system until you get the fundamentals down of raising a burr and grinding it off.

With my Razor Edge clamps, I use the big DMT diamond stones, DRY. They cut better that way, even though DMT recommends using oil.

Whether or not you get the Razor Edge system, you should DEFINITELY get the video if you've been having sharpening troubles. The video lays out the fundamentals of sharpening, and shows you how to do it.

Like bglover, I sometimes use the strop, it's an easy way to polish the edge. Be really careful here, though. A polished edge is good for push cuts, very bad for slicing (especially slicing hard materials). With most knives, most of your work will be slicing rather than push cutting. In fact, my general rule is, keep the edge as coarse as you possibly can, provided it still works well for whatever push-cutting you need to do. I often leave all or part of my edge at medium or even coarse grit, so that part of the edge will slice better (kind of like partial serrations without the serrations). It won't shave hair off your arm well at coarse grit, but it'll slice like nobody's business.

Anyway, the strop can polish off the coarseness, and leave you with an edge that shaves your arm hair great but won't slice rope. Sometimes I do just a quick stropping to finish the burr off; I only do long stroppings on knives that I know I'll be push-cutting a lot with.

I'm beginning to feel like sharpening again! Normally I cringe at the thought, because I haven't had enough proper instruction to get the results that I want. I thought about Razor Edges' video, but I will get it now. I'll get a kit of theirs and a DMT stone, too. I've only raised a burr on an AUS-8 knife of mine. The harder steels like ATS-34, have given me trouble. Thanks for all the help!
I forgot to mention stropping. Lee Valley Tools (www.leevalley.com) offers a great stropping compound, I think chromium-based, as well as a variety of honing stones, steels, systems, and a very good book on sharpening. You rub the waxy stick of the stropping compound on a buffing wheel or strop. I have a two-sided strop, a length of wood with heavy harness leather glued on each side, one with the stropping compound, the other without.
Savman --

One other thing. If you're having trouble raising a burr on ATS-34, it could be because you're not matching the edge. If the edge was ground at (say) 24 degrees, and the sharpening system you're using is sharpening at (say) 20 degrees, you're going to have to remove a lot of very hard ATS-34 before the burr will show up. If you check out the Sharpening FAQ, you'll see the "magic marker trick", which is a way to find out if you're sharpening at the same angle as the edge.

Eventually, as you gain more confidence, you'll want to grind your own edges in at your own angles. I regularly re-grind the edges on my knives, because the factories grind 'em way too thick. However, for your first couple tries, I'd suggest just sticking with the factory edge.

One thing about the Razor Edge clamps. The clamping point is very important -- ask about it here if you're unsure about it. Once you clamp, you can use the magic marker trick to see if you've matched the edge. If you need to raise the angle, you move the clamp towards the edge and the tip; to lower the angle, you move it away from the edge and tip.

The Razor edge system is good, but if you know how you should sharpen, it just takes a medium or large size stone, some time, and practice to learn. It is very satisfactory to be able to sharpen by hand, and if I can learn it everybody can. Just take you time and consentrate!

Good luck!

Jan Dirk Wijbenga

Gold is for the mistress - silver for the maid
Copper for the craftsman cunning in his trade.
"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall
But iron - cold iron is master of them all.

Rudyard Kipling
I think that I'll just try to match factory grind angles for now, then move on to setting my own. I know that I'll want to reset some factory angles because I don't like 'em too thick, either. I'll prob just use the angle guide of the Razor Edge system for now. But, I really want to be able to sharpen my blades on a stone without the guide eventually. Thanks again for all of the tips everyone. I'll be checkin' out the Sharpening FAQ section on this site!