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So does anybody sharpen a knife with a file?

Joined
Dec 26, 2013
Messages
444
Because I have, when I wanted a fast, no BS sharp edge and I have more important things to do than try and finesse my blade at the correct angle over a stone or sandpaper trying to coax a sharp edge out of the too long major ritual, hoping it doesn't end up more dull than I started.

After trying for hours to sharpen the serrations on my ESEE 4 I just said screw it and put the little three sided file on it. I did finish with 320 sandpaper and round chainsaw file for the actual grooves and maybe 15 minutes total time it is now very sharp.
 
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Joined
Nov 9, 2009
Messages
44,314
You can use a stone to sharpen a knife, files are for sharpening axes, shovels, and other yard work tools. I don't think you'll find many people will take a file to a knife upwards of $100.
 
Joined
Jun 4, 2010
Messages
6,642
Because I have, when I want a fast, no BS sharp edge and I have more important things to do than try and finesse my blade at the correct angle over a stone or sandpaper trying to coax a sharp edge out of the too long major ritual, hoping it doesn't end up more dull than I started.

After trying for hours to sharpen the serrations on my ESEE 4 I just said screw it and put the little three sided file on it. I did finish with 320 sandpaper and round chainsaw file for the actual grooves and maybe 15 minutes total time it is now very sharp.

Much of this will come down to Rockwell hardness and high carbide stainless or carbon steel (though RC is a bigger factor). I've used a file on hatchets, axes, and machetes. Have used small chainsaw files to cut serrations into softer knife steel. On harder steel this doesn't work well in my experience. The RC of the file and its abrasive potential aren't high enough to use on many smaller knives that are in the high 50s. Mid to low 50s and the file works great. Put a face shaving edge on a factory CS bolo machete using only a single cut file and a 1200 grit King stone. The smaller the file, the finer the teeth and "grit" rating, and if you draw file you can get a very nice edge with no other means, especially on hard use (low RC) carbon steel.

Once made the mistake of trying to cut serrations into one of Benchmade's 154cm blades and ruined the unfortunate thing, the file fared little better - lasting only long enough to trash the blade...
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2013
Messages
444
Well it wasn't a course tooth Bastard file, rather a very fine tooth Nicholson and with a Sharpie I used it like a jeweler's file and watched the result of every stroke. I didn't dare touch the razor sharp smooth part of the blade.

And you're right HeavyHanded, the chainsaw or round file pretty much glides off the harder ESEE steel but managed to get the grooves almost as sharp as the serrated teeth.
 
Joined
Apr 14, 2002
Messages
740
My grandfather used a file on the knives he used to butcher hogs.These were carbon steel knives like Old Hickory and the things cut like lasers but required constant touch ups on the file.You will hear and read a lot about the superiority of a highly refined and polished edge but just last week I used a Mora that would whittle hair to cut large catfish filets into smaller and thinner pieces.That polished edge that did so well on newspaper and hair was not working so good until I put it on a Norton Fine India.I would rather have an edge that aggressively cuts denim than one that push cuts toilet paper.
 

me2

Joined
Oct 11, 2003
Messages
4,781
If the knife is soft enough for the file to work, yes, I'll do it. Most knives now are not soft enough for a file to be effective.

willis, how was the Mora polished/refined?
 
Joined
Apr 14, 2002
Messages
740
Me2 after using a coarse India to flatten the bevels and get past the soft parts(that the mora rep at SMKWorks called putty metal)that the grinding and polishing wheels at the factory sometimes leave It was sharpened on a 50 year old Norton Lily White washita.Then I used a hard black Arkansas stone followed by stropping.
 
Joined
Feb 12, 2011
Messages
2,520
My grandfather used a file on the knives he used to butcher hogs.These were carbon steel knives like Old Hickory and the things cut like lasers but required constant touch ups on the file.You will hear and read a lot about the superiority of a highly refined and polished edge but just last week I used a Mora that would whittle hair to cut large catfish filets into smaller and thinner pieces.That polished edge that did so well on newspaper and hair was not working so good until I put it on a Norton Fine India.I would rather have an edge that aggressively cuts denim than one that push cuts toilet paper.

The older knives were softer than modern knives. Often times with HRc values in the low 50s. A fine single cut file will work well for these knives. And it only takes a couple of strokes for each side.
 
Joined
Jul 26, 2008
Messages
2,848
The farmers around here use parang, machete, coconut knives, corn knives, etc., etc., as their daily work cutting tools. All sharpen using files. In fact, when I asked one about why she used the file rather than a stone for her sickle, she said she prefered the rougher edge for harvesting rice.

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Stitchawl
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2013
Messages
444
As I stated, this little Nicholson file went through the ESEE steel on the serrated teeth like buttah. I did lightly chase a bur back and forth on both side on fine sand paper but it now has an aggressive fine saw edge that seems to grab and pull whatever slides down it into the blade, like my thumb.
 
Joined
Apr 12, 2009
Messages
12,592
Back in the '70s & 80s, my Dad used to sharpen his fishing knife (softish Japanese stainless) with a small triangular file. He cleaned a whole lot of trout with that knife over a couple decades' time, and the rather toothy edge left by the file zipped right through them. I think that might've been the impetus for my interest in knives and sharpening, as I was always fascinated watching him sharpen that knife. :)


David
 
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Joined
Jul 17, 2006
Messages
2,231
Like stitchawl mentioned, bigger, softer blades can be made to perform very well with a file. A machete and a medium file can be a great combination for cutting through fiber outdoors.
 
Joined
May 19, 2007
Messages
7,350
My dad knew a guy who wore out the big old hickory butcher knives every decade or so, butchering muskox. Used a file to touch them up. eventually they would thin down enough to look like boning knives.
 
Joined
Dec 26, 2013
Messages
444
And have you ever got up in the morning anxious to see if the knife you sharpened the night before really was as sharp as you thought it was? Well I did. And running my finger the same way over the serrated part as I always have to see how dull it is I found out.
Yeah, it's sharp alright, it bit me. I think I've solved the "serrations are a pain to sharpen" riddle.


 
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NRA

Joined
Feb 15, 2014
Messages
286
Videos on you tube showing people using files, sometimes with jigs.
 

David Martin

Moderator
Joined
Apr 7, 2008
Messages
19,520
As a kid, I would watch my dad sharpen his U.S.N. Kabar mark II knife using a fine Nicholson file. He then took it to a stone of around 300 grit for a few passes. Then he'd process a whole deer without touching it up. I'm sure this steel was somewhat softer than todays knives. Still, he knew how to get it sharp to cut and hold an edge. I doubt the stone was of good quality nor flat but it worked. DM
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2013
Messages
83
Back in the '70s & 80s, my Dad used to sharpen his fishing knife (softish Japanese stainless) with a small triangular file. He cleaned a whole lot of trout with that knife over a couple decades' time, and the rather toothy edge left by the file zipped right through them.

That answered the question I was about to ask. On my last two fishing trips I wanted to impress everyone so I sharpened and polished the daylights out of my fishing knives until they were shaving sharp. Only problem was that they did not slice into our bass, walleyes and northerns the way I expected them to. I'm now guessing they simply were not aggressively toothy enough. Next time out I'll leave the files at home, but will stop sharpening after the coarser stone.
 
Joined
Apr 12, 2009
Messages
12,592
That answered the question I was about to ask. On my last two fishing trips I wanted to impress everyone so I sharpened and polished the daylights out of my fishing knives until they were shaving sharp. Only problem was that they did not slice into our bass, walleyes and northerns the way I expected them to. I'm now guessing they simply were not aggressively toothy enough. Next time out I'll leave the files at home, but will stop sharpening after the coarser stone.

I seem to recall a toothy edge is favored by at least one of our other experts here, for the same purpose (slicing/cutting fish); more so, if the scales are in the way. For a high-polished edge, the geometry (i.e. very thin/acute edge angle) and a very crisp apex are more important, if the edge isn't quite so toothy. A nice thin & pointy-sharp tip on the blade works great for cutting out the pectoral & dorsal fins too, if one is doing that (we did, back in the day).


David
 
Joined
May 19, 2007
Messages
7,350
I've found with most edges that the more polished they are, the less sharp they act. The only blades that I can get to cut well with a high polish are very thin, very acute blades like a SAK or Opinel. I think the other problem with doing too much sharpening, is that tiny mistakes get compounded. And depending on your method, your polishing might be making a very smooth, round apex.
With fish, it can be difficult, because you want a very sharp edge to get good fillets, without mashing the fish. But you also need a sturdy edge so you don't have a butter knife after the first set of bones. I use a "medium" ceramic stones for pretty much everything. I've found that the toothy edge helps cut through that first bunch of scales, and that helps set the tone for how the rest of the fish is going to go. I'm sure there is a way to get very polished edge to cut but I've not been able to reliably get there. So you are not the first guy to end up with a sharp knife that couldn't cut!

When it comes to edges, a mean, toothy edge may not be pretty, but its going to cut. why do think carbide sharpeners are popular in some kitchens? they give a mean toothy edge.
 
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