The Seven Secrets of Sharpening

Status
Not open for further replies.
Joined
Aug 3, 2009
Messages
1,558
The Seven Secrets of Sharpening

Introduction:

The Seven Secrets of Sharpening are a set of observations and ideas about sharpening that I’ve codified. Almost all of these ideas came from other people. I’ve put them together in a way I’ve never seen presented before and I hope the result will help someone else out. Every one of these Secrets has helped my sharpening tremendously.

I had originally planned to make a series of videos to explain the Seven Secrets. Since I never got around to making videos, I think it’s time I tried to explain these ideas in words. Hopefully someone will gain some knowledge and insight from this presentation.

I’d like to acknowledge BladeForums in general for this knowledge. Jason B, HeavyHanded, and many others have given me a lot of insight. Some of the Secrets are almost direct quotes or ideas from the people here.

Without further ado, here are the Seven Secrets:

1. Feeling the bevel on the stone.
2. The Japanese stroke.
3. Following the curve of the blade.
4. Observation.
5. Selective grinding.
6. The burr.
7. The coarse stone.

I'm going to try to explain each secret in the following posts.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 3, 2009
Messages
1,558
Unfortunately, the forums appear to be broken again. I can't post anything that's more than about 800 characters. I'll try again later with secret #1.

Brian.
 
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
11,409
Seems like only 3, 4, 6, and 7 are applicable if you're not using stones freehand.
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2015
Messages
6,975
Thank you for posting this and I honestly look forward to further entries.
I will boldly go where . . . etc., etc.,
and say
A real sharpening jig is the "secret" (and one that SEEMS to be conspicuously absent from the list.
No doubt just a typing error in the spell check . . .

I agree with the step of starting with a coarse enough stone.
PS : I can get shave a curl off a single hair results by hand but have found from sharpening high end woodworking tools as well as knives of most types . . .
Nothing compares to jig sharpening and it presevers the life and flatness of the stones as well as the blade shape and material.
Perhaps #8 was lost in the ether ?
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 2, 2012
Messages
4,383
Great thread!

Wish we could all meet somewhere with a bunch of stones and knives and share our techniques.

I've been to one in Los angeles, and they kept telling me I'm doing it wrong, yet my knives cut circles around theirs.
I was taught the sushi way...
 
Joined
Oct 2, 2004
Messages
16,731
Well, the real thing is, there's no secret to sharpening. There's no arcane arts, nor incantations, or mumbo jumbo.

All you are doing is wearing away metal from the edge in a symmetrical way to form a meeting of two angles. There may be lots of different "techniques," but there's no secrets. Man has been sharpening cutting tools since biblical times, sometimes on a smooth rock. Some Roman Legionnaire may have used some paving stone to get an edge that was up to splitting the skull or spilling the guts of some Gaul. When I was based in Europe, I saw old Italian ladies come out in the late afternoon from their homes and sharpen their knife on the stone front steps then going in to make dinner. MY guess is a life time of experience taught them how to get that knife sharp enough to slice that veil or whatever they were making for dinner. I watched my landlady slice ham with a knife that went right through the meat, and I had watched her sharpen it up just before, on the front stoop.

The only secret is to practice. But I'm sure the makers of the sharpening stuff would love to make knife sharpening seem much more complicated than it really is. It puts money in their pocket that came out of yours.
 
Joined
Mar 22, 2014
Messages
4,790
Well, the real thing is, there's no secret to sharpening. There's no arcane arts, nor incantations, or mumbo jumbo.

All you are doing is wearing away metal from the edge in a symmetrical way to form a meeting of two angles. There may be lots of different "techniques," but there's no secrets. Man has been sharpening cutting tools since biblical times, sometimes on a smooth rock. Some Roman Legionnaire may have used some paving stone to get an edge that was up to splitting the skull or spilling the guts of some Gaul. When I was based in Europe, I saw old Italian ladies come out in the late afternoon from their homes and sharpen their knife on the stone front steps then going in to make dinner. MY guess is a life time of experience taught them how to get that knife sharp enough to slice that veil or whatever they were making for dinner. I watched my landlady slice ham with a knife that went right through the meat, and I had watched her sharpen it up just before, on the front stoop.

The only secret is to practice. But I'm sure the makers of the sharpening stuff would love to make knife sharpening seem much more complicated than it really is. It puts money in their pocket that came out of yours.

I argee,

But our friend bgentry is sharing how HE sharpens and what HE has learned.

Just enjoy
 
Joined
Apr 12, 2009
Messages
12,665
Well, the real thing is, there's no secret to sharpening. There's no arcane arts, nor incantations, or mumbo jumbo.

All you are doing is wearing away metal from the edge in a symmetrical way to form a meeting of two angles. There may be lots of different "techniques," but there's no secrets. Man has been sharpening cutting tools since biblical times, sometimes on a smooth rock. Some Roman Legionnaire may have used some paving stone to get an edge that was up to splitting the skull or spilling the guts of some Gaul. When I was based in Europe, I saw old Italian ladies come out in the late afternoon from their homes and sharpen their knife on the stone front steps then going in to make dinner. MY guess is a life time of experience taught them how to get that knife sharp enough to slice that veil or whatever they were making for dinner. I watched my landlady slice ham with a knife that went right through the meat, and I had watched her sharpen it up just before, on the front stoop.

The only secret is to practice. But I'm sure the makers of the sharpening stuff would love to make knife sharpening seem much more complicated than it really is. It puts money in their pocket that came out of yours.

^^That's sort of my take on it as well. All of the purported 'secrets' to sharpening have all been publicly available for a long (long, LONG) time. Some of the best-reputed books on the subject were written at least 30+ years ago or earlier. There was a time when sharpening was a mystery to me; but, that's only because I hadn't done my due diligence in reading, learning & practicing. Once I finally did, it finally 'clicked' how fundamentally simple it really is. Perhaps the one 'magical' thing about learning it, is how the hands will eventually 'learn' it automatically by themselves, with a fair share of focused and disciplined practice. Sort of an epiphany for me, when I suddenly discovered my hands were able to do it, even when my brain still thought I couldn't. Sort of like learning to ride a bicycle for the first time.

I'm not knocking in any way the expertise or experience shared in threads like these; it's a great resource for anyone wanting to learn (and it has been, for me). The obvious advantage to learning it nowadays is the availability of all that expertise in web forums like this one, where it can be condensed into a couple or three web pages instantly accessible by anyone, anywhere. It's just that I don't think there's any need to make it seem any more mysterious or complicated than it is, or that it's the priveleged domain of only a few. Back when I didn't know how to do it, I'd presumed it WAS a lot more complicated; but it turns out that presumption was just messing with my head, which slowed my learning progress considerably, in retrospect.

BTW, if there were ONE ESSENTIAL ASPECT (secret or not) to learning sharpening for me, it was 'The Burr' (why it's necessary, forming it, then cleaning it up). I was clueless to it's importance in sharpening for a long time; but everything turned on a dime when I finally realized why it's important. Would've saved me a ton of frustration and about 20-30 years' time, had I understood it 'back then'.


David
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 3, 2009
Messages
1,558
Posting is still broken. I can't seem to submit a post with more than about 200 words, give or take.

In the mean time, I'll address the "secrets" part of this. Nothing I'm going to say here is some sort of privileged information that only I know. These are my observations about what *I* think is super important in making sharp edges. As I said in the introduction, I got most of this information from other people.

For me, they are the secrets, or the keys, or the "important stuff". I'd like to think that I'm doing my part here to make sharpening less arcane by sharing what I've learned. I don't think sharpening is super duper hard, but I don't think it's dead simple either. It's a skill and a craft.

I'll be posting secrets #1 and #2 as soon as posting works, or I decide to cave in and break them up into tiny chunks that the forum will accept.

Brian.
 
Joined
Aug 3, 2009
Messages
1,558
Secret #1: Feeling the bevel on the stone.

Damn, still not working.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jun 4, 2010
Messages
6,642
Posting is still broken. I can't seem to submit a post with more than about 200 words, give or take.

In the mean time, I'll address the "secrets" part of this. Nothing I'm going to say here is some sort of privileged information that only I know. These are my observations about what *I* think is super important in making sharp edges. As I said in the introduction, I got most of this information from other people.

For me, they are the secrets, or the keys, or the "important stuff". I'd like to think that I'm doing my part here to make sharpening less arcane by sharing what I've learned. I don't think sharpening is super duper hard, but I don't think it's dead simple either. It's a skill and a craft.

I'll be posting secrets #1 and #2 as soon as posting works, or I decide to cave in and break them up into tiny chunks that the forum will accept.

Brian.

I've had to post as small as a few lines and then once it takes the first, go back and edit it adding a line or two each time.

FWIW, the 7 secrets as you list them could be taken directly from my thoughts as well. If I were to add anything it would be:

#8 - stone condition, selection, and dealing with swarf.

But, by the time one gets to #7, #8 has been learned along the way.
 

ncrockclimb

Gold Member
Joined
Nov 20, 2014
Messages
1,959
Bgentry. I am looking forward to raring your post. It looks like you have put a good deal of thought into it, and I am sure it will lead to some good discussion.

I too have had problems making large posts. Try making many smAll posts. Also, sometimes you can make a short post, then add more info as an edit. This site can be "flakey" and not too user friendly. Keep trying! 😀
 
Joined
Aug 3, 2009
Messages
1,558
Nothing to see here. This is some bizarre behavior from the forum software. Darn.

Brian.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Aug 3, 2009
Messages
1,558
^ At your suggestion, I just logged out. It said "cookies cleared". I logged back in, but I still can't make a large post.

Brian.
 
Joined
Oct 6, 2014
Messages
860
I take it you're copying and pasting from a source into the forum? You're killing me with the suspense. LOL.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top