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Sharp Talk: Honest Musings and Mad Ramblings

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by Eli Chaps, Jul 20, 2018.

  1. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Most Important: All are welcome and encouraged to participate if you want.

    Quick Background: I'm pretty new around here but far from new to forums, knives, and sharpening. But experience doesn't necessarily equal expertise. I've been sharpening knives for around 40 years. But what does that mean? Have I been doing it well? What steels have I sharpened? What do I think is a good edge? What mediums have I used? So on and so on...

    A few days ago, I posted a bit of a ramble in a thread about my experience and I stand by what I said, except for my mention of Arkansas stones on some "super" steels. See, what is absolutely most important to me is helping others learn or make educated decisions. Ego has nothing to do with it. I just want to share my honest experiences so that others can take in what I have to share and digest it as they see fit and hopefully help. The internet can be full of BS and I never want to be a part of that. I love everything about the art of sharpening and I want everyone to know that they can do it. It can be such an intimidating thing.

    Anyway, I let myself get a little sucked down into my own, I don't know, desire I guess, to stand by my silicon carbide and my beloved Arkansas stones. I've posted similar over at Spyderco. I said I was getting good working edges on S90V and such. I was in no way lying or trying to be misleading, but in retrospect, I think I wasn't being completely honest with myself. Yes, I was getting ragged edges, but I've spent the past couple weeks testing myself and my assertions with S30V, S90V and ZDP-189. The truth is, I was wrong. Yeah, I can get passable edges with those media but it takes a long time and I'm not getting the refined edges I like. But when I put them on my KME with diamonds, the edges really crisp up.

    And so, I wanted to right that. As I said, I just want people to get good honest information and encourage people to try. YOU CAN SHARPEN! It is the most complicated simple thing I can think of but you can do it. Start with softer steels as the principles are all essentially the same.

    So, first post...

    What is sharp? This is the basic essential question. What is sharp? Is it polished edges? Toothy edges? Does this or that steel matter? And a million more considerations. But for the most part, all of those discussions are just, pardon the pun, splitting hairs. The first definition of sharp is the knife adequately performs the tasks you want it to perform. Someone who is hard using their knife all day at a construction site may have much different views than a professional chef or a general EDC user etc.

    We see people on YouTube getting insane edges and, if you're like me, you can find yourself chasing them. There's nothing wrong with that at all and it is a fun endeavor, but isn't necessary. I've done a lot of things in my life, a lot of stuff that most people will only ever see on TV or in the movies, but one thing I have never, ever needed to do was whittle a hair. Slicing apples, opening packages, cutting cord, slicing sandbags, and on and on are all tasks that I've needed a knife to do and the truth is, overall, a "lower grit" edge has served me pretty well.

    Steels, tasks, knife design, etc. are all factors, so there is no one-size-fits-all in the sharpening world, but if you ask me, when you're starting out, default to course. A course sharpened blade should be able to shave arm hair. If you can shave arm hair, your knife is sharp. Sharp enough becomes subjective but it is sharp.

    If you sharpen long enough, you'll start to realize that blade geometry is almost if not as important than your edge.

    My quick advice to new sharpeners? Start slow, set realistic expectations, work on softer steels.

    So yeah... What say you all?
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2018
    ponykid, BTGuy, miso2 and 5 others like this.
  2. Blues

    Blues Lapsed SuperMod / Cattle Knife Rustler Staff Member Super Mod

    Oct 2, 1998
    Good post, Eli. Being able to admit when one is wrong or mistaken is liberating and a demonstration of character, imho. So, good for you for stepping up. (I have a lot of experience in this arena. ;))

    I'm in the process of sharpening a number of knives, from kitchen to pocket carry for a neighbor and close friend and I'm amazed that such a smart and capable guy could let his knives go like this.

    What I've gotten from the process thus far, (I'm through about five of the knives so far, a Sabatier, Wusthof, an old pocket carry and a couple of paring knives), is that if you use diamonds to reprofile / set the bevels on neglected knives, be careful not to end up leaving too ragged or chipped of an edge as it will take longer to fix than expected afterward. Best to stop right before the apex, imho, and finish up on ceramic or other less aggressive hone.

    I'd probably have been better served using my Crystolon and India on those various softer stainless knives than the diamond when I need to do heavy repair work, or stop short as I mention above. Otherwise, I'm pretty happy overall with the outcome and I know he'll be happily surprised when he stops by the porch later this morning.

    Sharpening well is, imho, a "journey" rather than a "destination"...at least for me. The process is ever being refined and additional nuance added. It can be frustrating at times...and at other times quite rewarding in a (overused) Zen-like fashion.

    I'm sure your thread will receive some interesting replies from the local denizens.

    Oh...and "geometry" rules. Everything else is pretty much a trade off in terms of the effort required to maintain it. Super steels holding that (great) edge longer, but taking longer to sharpen when it's time to pay the piper. (That's where having the right gear and the right hones really pays off.)
  3. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Thank you.

    I've found pretty much the same thing. I've also found that it is easy to leave some serious scratches with course diamonds so you really do need to think about the steel, the knife, the end result, etc.

    Equipment diversity really is a blessing!
    Chris "Anagarika" and sharpsev like this.
  4. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    I wonder just how many knife owners are knife sharpeners? I mean even those "V" shaped drag sharpeners, just anything that puts some semblance of an edge on a knife? Three percent? Less?


    Edge Retention vs. Ease of Sharpening:

    This really is akin to the chicken and the egg and there is no right or wrong answer. Like most things in life this is a compromise and something for you as an individual to choose.

    Steels like S90V, S110V, ZDP-189, etc. can be humbling. Yes, as we put to rest above, you need the right equipment, but even then they can test your patience and knowledge. I can be working on S90V and feel like I'm going nowhere and I swear ZDP-189 has outwardly mocked me.

    I typically tend to lean toward more understanding steels. Now that I'm getting old and fat and "work" is mostly in front of a computer, I don't need much in the way of edge retention. It's kinda ironic... Back in my younger days when I needed edge retention and higher quality knives, I either didn't know any better or couldn't afford them. Now that I'm in a little better place on both counts I don't really need them nearly as much (well steels at least). :D Of course I like quality knives from EDC to the kitchen but that doesn't automatically equal "super" steel.

    These days, for the most part, I dabble in the super steels for my own exploration and enjoyment. If I'm seeking out a new steel it is probably just cuz I want to see what it is like.

    To me, when a person is trying to answer this question, the first questions they should answer before this are: 1) Edge geometry for the intended use and 2) Ergonomics. You can sharpen a dull blade but it's a lot harder to fix a broken tip and you can't make a tank into a slicer or make a handle feel better. Price might also be a big consideration. Even the super steels will need to be sharpened so you have to account for that if you really intend to use it. The equipment to sharpening those steels is more expensive.

    In the end, it is a personal decision. Like I said, I tend to lean to easier to sharpen.

    What do you prefer?
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
  5. Wowbagger


    Sep 20, 2015
    I'm not sure if this fits here but I was banging the table over in another thread and some how it seems to fit here.
    At best I can say it is short. A rarity for my posts (so enjoy it).

    Well at least I feel it is honest.

    Mad because I have the audacity to not strop. Madness . . . shear madness . . . and yet the edges whittle hair . . . is it slight of hand ? All done with mirrors ? How can this be ?

    Edge Pro Apex with Shapton Glass WATER STONES (or the resin bonded diamond stones . . . hey . . . you will want one or the other sooner or later anyway).

    . . . and do loose the strops. Pointless dirty things . . . IMO.
  6. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    For a guided system I shall be forever loyal to the KME.

    And surely sir, you must realize that stropping is the proper way to end a sharpening session. I mean, those who don't, are well, just short of knife heathens! Blasphemers of proven tradition! ;):p

    I've actually (honestly) stropped steels up to BD1 (Spyderco M2LW) on my denim-clad leg at work. The softer steels can strop up really easily for on the run edge-bringing-backering.

    But, joking aside, I know lots of folks think stropping is a bad idea but I like it and likely always will. I also use stropping as edge maintenance.
    Getting older likes this.
  7. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018

    Before I owned it, I was enamored with ZDP-189. I always questioned whether the difficulty in sharpening it was worth it but everything I read made it out to be this almost mystical steel. Maybe I felt like if I couldn't sharpening it I wasn't a proven sharpener. I don't know but I was totally fascinated by this steel and finally got a sample in the way of a Spyderco Delica 4.

    Out of the box the grind was terrible. I'm not knocking Spyderco, they're my favorite knife maker, but it is a fact. The bevels were lopsided and the knife was no where near sharp. I know I could have sent it to them for correction but I decided that this was my time to shine as a sharpener! Not only did I have my first ZDP-189 blade, but I had a messed up one and now I could show myself what I could do.

    Yeah, except ZDP-189 is a monstrous steel to sharpen. It almost rebels against the process. I've never experienced anything like it. I then understood the mystical conversational swirls around it. It is very unique.

    It is not for me. What possible benefit can this steel in a sub-4" bring? This is more like a "just cuz" steel.

    I could sharpen four or five knives of a "lesser" steels in the time it takes to mess with this stuff! S90V is much easier to sharpen and provides excellent edge retention and better corrosion resistance.

    I often wonder if the knife community get's far too consumed with steels. No doubt the industry has made great strides in offerings and that is all very cool but I wonder how many of these steels that people are screaming for are really "better"?

    I place far more value in ergonomics and design than the steel and I fear that this trend toward needing the "bestest" steel unnecessarily drives up cost.

    What say you all?
  8. ahoward2k


    Sep 20, 2017
    My first "real knife" (i.e. wasn't on sale and didn't come in a blister pack from the end cap at walmart or the base exchange.) Is an endura zdp189. I bought a tsprof to try my hand at sharpening as a side gig. I have "hand sharpened" my cheap knives on cheap stones for over 20 years now since i got my first knife, and I've had some good success here and there. The Tsprof showed me consistency that I didn't know I was missing on edges that I thought were sharp. Enter zdp189. I love this knife, it just feels good every time I slide it on my pocket, and talk about a learning experience. I have gotten it reasonably sharp, and destroyed a stone doing it, and the better i get it, the more i realize that I'm letting it down. That drives me to get better, to invest in better stuff, all while remembering that you can't buy sharp edges.
    Chris "Anagarika" and Eli Chaps like this.
  9. Chris "Anagarika"

    Chris "Anagarika"

    Mar 7, 2001
    @Eli Chaps ,

    Check out Spyderco factory forum. There’s good post by Evil D on ZDP.
    Basically it requires diamond with extra light touch. Otherwise you’ll get jagged apex due to chipping.
    Eli Chaps likes this.
  10. bgentry


    Aug 3, 2009
    Regarding ZDP-189: I only have one blade with this steel, a Spyderco Delica FFG. I have definitely noticed it is harder to sharpen than others, but with diamonds it's not so bad. I have mine at around 11 (or 12 or so) degrees per side right now and plan to take it lower eventually. My progression has been: DMT XXC, C, EF . Later, I got a Spyderco ultrafine and used that to nearly mirror polish the blade. It's quite impressive with that finish as it push cuts like crazy.

    The spyderco M and F stones in the sharpmaker seem to cut the steel just fine also. Of course this is for finishing purposes, not for any real metal removal. When changing the edge angle and grinding in new bevels, the DMT XXC eats it up. A bit slower than other steels, but not a huge difference.

    Eli Chaps likes this.
  11. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Yep, I've read that thread and agree.

    It still makes me cranky though. :D
  12. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    "Your Edge"...

    Sharpeners, I know you when you get a new knife you want to get your own edge on it. Maybe it's changing the angle, maybe it's the finish you're after, maybe it's just peeing on the hydrant, but we all do it. I generally like to "check out" the factory edge but that might mean just a few brushes of my thumb or, usually in the case of a new steel, a few days of use. But then I'm giving that edge a workout and making it mine.

    I'm a couple weeks into my new Yaxell Dragon Fire chef's knife in BD1N and I have yet to go at the edge. I asked here for input on sharpening BD1N as it is new to me and all the inputs were it was basically as easy to sharpen as standard BD1. But, BD1N is much harder and is supposed to retain it's edge much longer so I'm really intrigued by that. Especially since this model is only 2.5mm thick at the spine. I really want to play with sharpening this steel and put my own edge on it and learn what I like with it, but I've been pretty distracted by seeing how long the admittedly very good factory edge will last.

    Do you folks go through these internal debates as well?
  13. Blues

    Blues Lapsed SuperMod / Cattle Knife Rustler Staff Member Super Mod

    Oct 2, 1998
    In a word, yes...but I don't always do something about it unless I feel strongly that the edge as delivered is substandard.
    Eli Chaps likes this.
  14. HeavyHanded


    Jun 4, 2010
    SOP, lower it to 26 - 28° inclusive on a rough stone and microbevel it to 30-32 on a finer one.

    The only real considerations are whether diamonds are needed and if the primary is too thick to support a thin edge without trashing the plunge line. I have yet to find a steel including D2 that won't respond to this formula.

    On a new knife I'll let it dull a bit but the outcome is inevitable. Maybe a regrind of the primary if I like everything else about the knife, but at least a more acute edge. Every now and then the edge is already a good geometry, but not often...
  15. That mirrors my impression of ZDP-189. I sort of feel like it's been engineered and (usually) overtreated for extreme edge retention, at the expense of other attributes I favor more, as it turns out.

    A few years back, I'd finally worked up the nerve to reprofile a Kershaw Leek in ZDP-189. As it came from the factory, the blade was nice & thin, and the tip of the blade was uber-pointy & sharp. Nice light little knife (Ti handle), and it begged to be carried in my pocket. But the edge geometry made me yawn, to say the least. It cut OK, but I expected better from it, for such a steel.

    So, after finally deciding to reprofile to a lower edge angle, I 'learned' something new about this uber-hard super steel that dashed all my confidence in it. I'd decided to use a guide to set the new bevels, as I wanted the bevels to look as clean as possible. I used a DMT Aligner guide with my 8" Duo-Sharp bench hone in C/F (325/600) grit. It got the new bevels ground in relatively short time (think I spent about ~ 40 minutes doing that). Looked GREAT when I was done with the Fine DMT. I took it to a cardboard strop with some compound; the still-uber-thin & pointy tip dug into to the cardboard, and it SNAPPED about 2-3mm of the tip right off. This was straight after completely redoing the edge geometry, with a brand new reprofile job. Never had a chance to exercise it a little bit in real-world cutting, and I was left staring at that blade with a square-blunt tip on it.

    So, my newly-found impression of this steel came down to this: It's just too darn hard for it's own good, as most makers treat it. So very hard, it'll supposedly hold an edge a very, very long time in normal uses. But also so very hard, it's too brittle for me to trust it when set to edge geometry that I like for cutting (that's 30° inclusive or lower).

    I've since reground the tip to be as uber-pointy & sharp as it was. Looks great again, good as new. But I've never regained any confidence to use it much at all, as I just don't have much faith the tip will hold up, if it bumps into something hard or catches something again.
    Chris "Anagarika" and Eli Chaps like this.
  16. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    "Small blades vs. large blades..."

    So, I was all set to make a post about how I seem to do better with "larger" blades than smaller blades. The further down the negative scale you get away from 3" the more "issues" I seem to have. Or maybe more specifically, the pen type blades. It was finding my old Buck 425 that made me think of it. Maybe it's because I get more control over the larger blades with two hands (fingers) on the blade.

    Yep, I was all ready to post all about that in length until my son in law dropped off the Victorinox butchering kit I bought him last Christmas. Him and my daughter are avid big game hunters.


    I also got him a stainless steel table. He already had a grinder and what not. Point being, he was well set up to process game. And he did. He processed their kills and friends and family. Not sure how many animals altogether but suffice to say, the blades need rehab.

    I'm working on getting him up to speed on sharpening but I offered to get his blades squared away for this season. I did a couple of the smaller ones after work the last couple days but tonight I decided to tackle the big ole scimitar.



    That steep-bellied tip is challenging enough but then length just adds to the difficulty. I'm using 8"x3" stones (SiC and Arkansas). Fortunately the steel is of course very receptive but man the shape and size of this blade makes ya work to get a good consistent edge.

    I have it worked up to the hard Arkansas and in the morning I'll put it on the black and then strop it up but as it is now, it will push-cut receipt paper at any point on the edge. I spent a lot of time working that big belly as that is so much of the working surface of the design.

    There's a smaller one in there and then I'll finish up the other couple but this sure has been a learning experience.

    So, I'm way more at ease sharpening larger knives but a little freaked out by larger knives. ;)
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
  17. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Well, I tried to post pics from Photobucket but for some reason they aren't showing up...
  18. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    Ok, got that sorted out. :)
  19. Eli Chaps

    Eli Chaps Basic Member Basic Member

    Apr 20, 2018
    "Walking away..."

    Hello again sharpeners. Today's musing is brought to you by the letter &. As in &$%# gosh %&$#@# I mean what in the *&^%$!!!


    So after making that scimitar my...er...I mean um I was feeling pretty good after getting that big ole beast sharpened up and thought I'd knock out the 6" fillet/boning knife while I sipped a cold beverage and watched TV. Super easy steel to work with so should have it making hairs flee in terror in no time! Right?

    Well, I don't know what my issue was but I could not get an edge on this knife! I had it on my 8"x3" Norton medium Crystolon and it seemed all I could manage to do was tear the edge up. I got flustered. I'm a sharpener damnit! I have four decades of experience. I go on the freaking internet and brag about my skills!!! Yet this simple, what 55-ish HRC knife was mocking me and the more flustered I got the worse I made things.

    Luckily, I realized it before things got too bad and I told myself I had to walk away. I was starting to do more harm than good - second guessing my angles, changing up strokes, etc. I was moving away from my standard practice that I know works and when that starts happening, I've learned, the hard way, to walk away. The knife isn't going to get any duller if it sits over night but it dang sure will if I keep screwing with. Especially considering the small colony of empty beverage cans that was piling up on the table next to me. ;)

    So, back at it this morning only I decided to take a different tack. I popped the pen jaws into the KME and mounted up the blade. In the picture you might notice that one, the clamp is further up toward the tip and not centered. That's because this knife is so dang flexible I kept having to creep forward until the tip no longer flexed under the stone. Second, the red lines and tape. It isn't often that I find a knife that won't stay put in the KME jaws. I know people complain about this all the time but a good solid pinch on the jaws while cinching them down super tight is usually all I need. But this little guy is so small and smooth and the pen jaws lack much surface and it was moving just a bit on me so I marked it and applied some hockey tape and situation rectified.


    Yep, I'd made a bit of a mess out of the bevel. It was even but it was ragged and ugly. Started with the 100 grit diamond and decided to run it all the way through the 1500 grit. I opted not to finish on my Arkansas stones and just went to a 4um strop. I thought a refined but still slightly aggressive edge would work well for this knife's intended purpose. I know it's most definitely sharper than it came from the factory and that seemed to work well so hopefully my edge will too.

    It curls receipt paper and can push cut it at most any spot along the edge so I'm pretty happy.


    I reckon my initial assessment of the edge combined with my laze fare attitude is what started the troubles last night. Even old sharpeners can get humbled. Ah well, got it worked out and all is again balanced in the sharpening universe. :)
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2018
    Chris "Anagarika" and willc like this.
  20. Ben Dover

    Ben Dover

    Aug 2, 2006
    Much of this is personal taste. I don't care how much effort is required to sharpen a good knife all the way to microtome level. What I do care about is that it hold that edge forever.

    I like Maxamet, K390, S90V, CPM M-4 etc. Hard to sharpen? well...yes. At least until you gain some experience with these steels.

    I've never run into anything that I couldn't cut cleanly and precisely with an edge polished to .25 microns.

    There is no right or wrong, it's personal preference. A very dear friend uses a Buck 110 for a hunting knife and he's happy with it. He doesn't mind having to sharpen it in the field during a hunt.

    I, OTOH, would sell off any knife that wasn't capable of field dressing 3 or 4 elk or moose without sharpening.
    Chris "Anagarika" and Eli Chaps like this.

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