"Sharpening Phobia"?

Jan 21, 1999
Eversince I got my Sept 99 issue of TK mag and read Steven Dick's editorial, I've been meaning to post here his views as I think his opinion applies to us.

Here's a quote from him:

I tend to think much of the constant harping about edge holding ability comes from users who have never taken the time to learn how to sharpen their knives. Deep in their hearts, they fear that once the factory edge is gone, they won't be able to restore it to that state ever again. In other words, they have "sharpening phobia."

In a nutshell, Steven said he suspects that the reason we demand new steels (CPM440V, BG42, etc.) is because we don't know how to sharpen our 440A or ATS-34 knives.

Please read the entire text (as I might have misinterpreted him) at On The Point

As for me, embarrasing as it is to tell, I wouldn't know as I haven't sharpened a knife in my entire life yet!

But I would like to have a steel that needs less sharpening, i.e., great edge holding, just as I would like a car to hit 100 mpg.

What do you think, folks?

"It is better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot." -- Anonymous

[This message has been edited by Titan (edited 23 June 1999).]
I used to have somewhat of a "phobia" sharpening my old Endura (rest in peace) with the Sharpmaker. I could not get an edge on it for the life of me. However, once I learned how to properly use it (within a matter of minutes), I was amazed at how easily I could shave arms and legs bare. As it stands, I've gotten a lot more confident in my sharpening abilities, but I've yet to tackle the chore of touching up my Recon Tanto..maybe this blade style wasn't such a good idea.

As for easy-maintenace blade steels, I think everyone's looking for the ultimate - minimal touch-ups, maximum edge-holding, strength, etc, etc, but I don't think that's out of sheer contempt for sharpening, but rather simple convenience. I find it easier to have a blade that doesn't require daily visits with the Sharpmaker than one that dulls a lot quicker. It's not like I'm too lazy to sharpen my blade, but I'd rather have an edge that cuts, and cuts, and cuts with a minimum of edge loss.

"Earth has its boundaries, but human stupidity is limitless."
I have never really been too concerned with edge-holding ability. I know how to sharpen a knife, and do so frequently. I am much more concerned with other factors. You know, like grip retention, blade geometry, strength, durability, you know, that kinda stuff. I trust that any maker of decent reputation who makes something I consider buying will use good steel and temper it properly. If it holds an edge longer than knife-x, great. If not, so what? I'll sharpen it when it gets dull.

I like the miles-per-gallon analogy. You wouldn't begrudge the Viper because it had worse gas mileage than the Metro, would you?

Supersteels, like the ever-faster microprocessors, have ceased to amaze me. Just tap me on the shoulder when you're done refining the product and let me know. I'm all for the steel that combines obscene hardness, durability, corrosion resistance, just like I'm all for whatever the fastest computer that physics allows. But at present it's all trade-offs. If they ever do reach the pinacle of developement, I'll buy the steel or computer chip. Since there's no end in sight, I'll just stick with what gets me by.
No phobia on my part though I destroyed the bevels on my first two knives -- the Covert and the Sentinel -- learning to sharpen. JoeT's FAQ was a big help. Wished I had read that before I started in on those blades though.
Also, also going from a benchstone to the sharpmaker helped. Now, I can use either.

Probably, better off for newbies to practice on a less expensive knife first.

You know I'm always searching for a knife I could give to someone that didn't need a lot of sharpening or couldn't be ruined easily.

It's only recently that I've thought of touching up the blade, I would usually wait till it got dull and then sharpen it. I now feel that is not the way. I've had a tricky time sharpening serrations, so now I'm saving for a Spyderco Sharpmaker.
Titan, I want knives that I don't have to sharpen frequently (high deformation limits and high abrasion resistance) for two reasons. First off I can put very thin edge on them with an acute angle to the bevel, and second they look pretty much the same after years of use as I have not constantly been forced to hone metal away. Better steels allow geometries that are not possible with mushier steels. You have to look past the immediate and see what a property implies not just what it says in and of itself. George Tichbourne comments on this in the following thread :



[This message has been edited by Cliff Stamp (edited 23 June 1999).]
I ususally go ahead and re-hone (new word?) most of my knife blades to around a 20 degree (each side) angle, and after I get that done I have little trouble maintaining the edge with brief touch ups. The Delica '98, to me, is the easiest blade to maintain a sharp edge on that I've ever handled, and this is out of several knives I have carried daily.


There's more than one way to skin a cat!

Sharpening phobia? Exactly what I have because I've had nightmares with sharpening by hand. I've managed to scratch up many many blades and sharpen at too low an angle.

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained, and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.
- Mao Tse-tung

I love good steel and I love to sharpen knives (I've been accused of getting knives only so that I have something to sharpen). I have never used a factory edge on a knife. I always resharpen them when I get home to get them really sharp. Like Cliff I want a steel that lets me use a thin edge which implies fairly hard and tough, but I also want a fine grain that allows me to get a really sharp edge.

In a kitchen knife I would trade some hardness for some sharpness. In a kitchen you can always stop what you're doing clean the knife and touch up the edge with a steel. In an elk knife I would trade some sharpness for some hardess (actually I trade in money to get both). In the field when I'm boning out a 500-plus pound animal with blood all over the place it is real inconvenient to stop and sharpen. It can be done, but I don't want to risk cross contamination as I juggle tools. I want at least a two-elk knife when I start to work. For me 1095, BG-42, and VG10 are great for an Elk knife. Not that I'm afraid of sharpening, I just don't want to when I'm doing serious work.

"Defense against knife attack:
Option 1. If you have a gun shoot him."
I should re-read Steve Dick's article before I comment, but I think I remember it, somewhat ...

First, in some ways focussing on edge holding misses the point. Steve's editorial was probably in response to many things, but it definitely had Thaddeus's _Blade_ editorial in mind. And if he had read carefully, he would have seen more complaints than just edge-holding when it comes to ATS-34. The fact is, there are steels that can outperform ATS-34 at just about any level -- edge holding, toughness, and stainlessness -- and some steels that will outperform ATS-34 at all 3.

These factors are not strictly things that relate to edge holding and sharpening. They can seriously affect performance in general, put limits on edge geometry, etc. Boiling the anti-ATS-34 arguments down to a sharpening strawman is disingenuous, especially for a magazine that at least pretends to focus on performance.

I'm not by any stretch an ATS-34 hater, but as a knife lover I of course want the state of the art to progress, and it's natural to look for and demand steels that are better. I'll never apologize for that. Since such steels are becoming available, or are already available, it's perfectly reasonable to openly discuss ATS-34s weaknesses and push the makers towards better materials.


[This message has been edited by Joe Talmadge (edited 23 June 1999).]
I like them so sharp that I'm always touching
them up, so edgeholding is not a huge issue for me, as long as it's withing reason.

Ease of sharpening and the ability to take a
good edge is more important to me.

Keys to happiness:
1) Get a firm grip on reality.
2) Strangle it.
I love getting my edge pro out and re-beveling or touching up the edge. That mirror shine along the edge is cool!!!
Ats-34, 1095, BG42 01 or whatever, I am going to experiment and have fun. Real thick ats34 is the only metal that has given me any trouble. Surprising enough, the bg42 sebenza was easy to resharpen. No phobia for me!!

What? Another knife? Don't you have enough of those things already?
How many does one person need?
I've got every sharpening system known to man I believe, and the only one I use consistently is the Spydie Sharpmaker. It's the easiest and quickest, and once you get good (it took me about three years), you don't need the plastic base anymore; and unless your knife is really dull, you end up only using one white stone all the time. That's me anyway. I'm not sure what Mr. Dick is getting at. Sometimes I think he just wants some filler material and makes stuff up as he goes. Have you noticed how knives seldomly ever (to never) get bad reviews in the mag?

Sharpening Phobia? Far from it. Sharpening Mania would be a more apt description of my condition, thanks to Sal and Joe T. After paying attention to all Joe's tips on how to use Sal's excellent Sharpmaker I am constantly touching up blades for all my buddies at work and family members. A sure sign of this affliction is that you start looking all the time for something to cut so you can dull you knives a bit.

Of course, with judicious use of a kitchen steel and a good quality blade (like one of Mad Dogs or Mad Poets... wow, I guess I am going Mad from this affliction!) you rarely have to resharpen your knife no matter how much you cut

Well, gotta go cut something...

Im only hesitant to sharpen a brand spankin new knife. Not because I cant get it any sharper, but because the only way I can get that perfect crisp bevel is with a lansky. I hate to see a perfect (no scratches, clean lines) knife with this sorta curved edge bevel. Once I've worn away the original bevel however anything goes. My favorite patime is sharpening my knives. Even if they are already as sharp as I can get them(at that time that is)
Jeff and Yoda,

Same here, I always get bored whenever there's not a single dull knife around. Sharpening builds character, don't you think (yea right)?

I also love sharpening knives and have done so for many, many years. I have had most every type of knife sharpener made...I now own a Edge Pro and this will definitely be my last one. With the Edge Pro all blades become simple to sharpen to a razor edge and at whatever angle your want or you can just use the existing angle on the blade. Also, you get a perfect angle every time!!
To further my point that I sharpen even the best steel...Yesterday my Buck Master Series Vanguard model arrive sporting a BG-42 blade. It was sharp enough to do a moderate shaving job. I was busy so I didn't get around to improving the edge for about 2 hours after I got home from the office. Now it gives a much smoother shaving experience.

Even though I'm sharpening impaired, the main reason I am is that I don't have the TIME to sharpen knives properly. This is why I lke to carry the speciality steels, I can go alot longer before I have to make time to sharpen the blade. With a young family, I have alot more things to do than sharpen knives. Then there is always the little hands underfoot. All these things add into why I've never taken the time to learn to do it properly and as such need to go longer between sharpenings. Sometimes here at work, its even hard to get onto the floor to have my blades sharpened. So give me a long lasting edge that I can count on.

Just my .02


Jeff "Without data it's just another opinion" Hubbard
Quality Supervisor

Watch for Pete's Custom Knife Shoppe on www.buckknives.com