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Sharpening Stainless Steel


May 24, 1999
I have sstainless steel broadheads that I cant get a nice hair shaving edge that I want. I ve tried diamond stones, ceramic sticks and arkansas stones and cant get a good edge. Any suggestions??
Some stainless steels are like trying to sharpen Silly Putty -- seems like all you can do is move the burr from one side to the other and back again; it's very difficult to get rid of it entirely using a stone. The solution is stropping. Glue a bit of leather to the back of your stone -- I use thick latigo but a piece of an old belt will do. Rub some tripoli compound on it if you can find any -- some hardware stores have it -- but just the bare leather will work.

After you get a burr (you've read Joe's Sharpening FAQ, haven't you? If not look in the Knowledge Base on this website) make a reasonable effort to reduce the burr on the stone, then start stropping, pulling the edge toward you and alternating sides with every stroke. If you use tripoli just a few strokes will do it, and it's great for touching up the edge later. If you can't get tripoli right away stropping on the bare leather will get rid of the burr with a few more strokes.

If you don't have any leather available stropping on cardboard will work, with or without tripoli. The kind of cardboard used to back pads of paper seems to work better than box cardboard.

The leather indents a little as you bear down on it and where a stone just pushes the burr to the other side leather follows it ... the burr can't get away from it so it gets polished off. You end up with a slightly convex edge bevel which is good; the very edge has more support and won't bend over as easily.

-Cougar Allen :{)
I suggest you use a file. My uncle spent at least 60 years as a bow hunter. I discussed how he sharpened broadheads and he showed me a small mill bastard file. He indicated that a broadhead that was file sharpened not only cut flesh better, it also causes more bleeding. In the 35 years since he told me that, I have made several kinds of slash tests and came to the opinion that almost anything that is soft enough to sharpen with a file should be sharpened with a file.

In many sharpening accidents I can testify that when you cut yourself on a file- sharpened edge it bleeds profusely and it hurts like hell!

For further advice see: www.raptorarchery.com/broadheads.htm

"Defense against knife attack:
Option 1. If you have a gun shoot him."

[This message has been edited by Jeff Clark (edited 27 June 1999).]
There is a perennial argument among bowhunters, one side arguing the sawtooth edge you get with a file actually penetrates better than a polished edge, the other side arguing they're a bunch of lazy dorks trying to excuse not taking the time to polish the edge properly.

One thing you can be sure of is a polished edge causes far more bleeding than a coarse edge. A polished edge makes such a smooth cut there are no irregularities for blood platelets to latch onto and start sealing the wound. Hasn't everybody cut themselves with both kinds of edge and seen for themselves how much longer a cut with a polished edge bleeds?

-Cougar Allen :{)
When I cut myself on a razor sharp knife it often does NOT bleed for a long time. If I stick the wound back together and apply a little pressure it will often seal up and stop. The wound certainly heals faster if cut by a scalpel sharp edge than a burred edge.

In the short run (which I hope is the time interval left my wounded prey) my experience is that a rougher edge bleeds faster.

Regardless of whether you go for smooth or microserrated, you certainly want the edge to slash well. You want an agressive cutting edge that will sever a tough-walled artery that the broadhead clips in passing. My experience with edges is that it takes more skill to achieve a thin razor edge that cuts everything it brushes against than to achieve the same effect with a mill file edge. I sharpen virtually all of my knives for a shaving smooth edge, but it is mostly for fun rather than utility. When carving meat I often choose one of my knives that has a rougher carbide pattern (more bite) rather than one of my knives that is optimum for shaving.

As a final note: If you try all the "smooth edge" techniques and you can't get a razor edge you may just be stuck with bad steel in your broadheads. In that case you have two choices, either replace the broadheads with some good ones or use a file edge. I mostly use file edges on bad steel. One of my tests for bad steel is whether it is soft enough to file effectively. Thus my old dictum "if you can sharpen it with a file, you probably should sharpen it with a file".

[This message has been edited by Jeff Clark (edited 28 June 1999).]
PS: One of the symptoms of a bad stainless steel is that it forms a burr that you just can't get rid of.