Tips on knife sharpening?

Discussion in 'Equipment & Survival Kits' started by JohnP, Dec 21, 2008.

  1. JohnP

    JohnP Member

    I think I was meant to have a dull knife. :( I've looked at tons of different websites and tried different devices and techniques and haven't found one that works for me. Anyone got a sure fired way to sharpen a knife? I would love to hear about it. Thanks...

  2. skip

    skip Old hillbilly

    John, I'm in your boat. I can't sharpen a knife to save my soul. But thank God I have a son-in-law that is very good at it. I just let him do it.

  3. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

    Get a diamond steel from a restaurant supply store. It's a long stick covered in diamond dust. Buy one that is at least as long as your knife. Don't bother getting a fancy one. If you get a German on Japanese one you're just paying extra for a fancy handle. Besides they wear out and when all the diamond dust is gone you'll just have to buy a new one.

    Don't buy a normal "sharpening steel." You probably already have one with your carving set. A diamond steel will glitter and sparkle when you hold it up to the light. That's the diamond dust. A normal "sharpening steel" will not sharpen anything. It just keeps the blade "as is." It's like changing the oil in your car. It does not make the car "better" it just keeps it running the way it is.

    Run you knife blade across it with the sharp edge facing away from you. If it's a European knife do it at about a 22.5 degree angle. For a Japanese knife about 10 - 15 degree angle. If it isn't a kitchen knife just look at the bevel of the blade and go based upon that.

    Sweep the blade across the stick so the whole edge of the blade from handle to tip runs across the stick. It's a flick of the wrist motion. Your blade starts with the "heel" (the part of the blade closest to the handle) at a 90 degree angle to the stick. It ends with the blade parallel to the stick.

    Sweep one side and then the other. Always alternate so you don't make the knife uneven. Don't try to do the sweeps fast like the chefs on T.V. just take your time. It isn't the speed or pressure that makes the knife sharp. It is the correct angle. Just go slow.

    A good restaurant or kitchen store will have an employee that will be able to show you how in about two minutes. If there's a "good" butcher shop in town you can probably get the butcher to show you how to sweep the knife across a steel in a few minutes.

    Also never cut on hard surfaces like metal, glass, stone etc. Try to cut on wood or soft plastic if you can. That should do it.

    Also the cheaper (less carbon) you knives are the more often you'll have to sharpen them. You'll end up sharpening the cheapest ones constantly.

    Within a few days you'll be an expert.

  4. Fn/Form

    Fn/Form Function over Form

  5. vikx

    vikx Active Member

    With me, it was practice, practice, practice and much frustration. I can sharpen my knives now! It's a feel you get-I sort of take a thin slice of my stone, turn the knife and another very thin slice; use honing oil. Better quality the blade, the easier it is to sharpen. VK
  6. JeepHammer

    JeepHammer Well-Known Member

    Actually, beginners should stay away from the 'Diamond' hone sticks, round or flat...

    There are a couple of 'Secrets' to sharpening on to 'Razor' or 'Scalpel' sharp, an there isn't much to it, but the "Old Timers" didn't seem to want to come off ways to do it very often.

    I know guys with dads/grandpas that could put a razor edge on a plow but the kids couldn't put enough of a point on a wooden stake to drive it into loose sand!

    I'd stay away from the diamond 'Quick Sharpeners' If you can't get an edge with a whetstone...
    Good way to screw up a perfectly good knife.

    There are several knife sharpening systems on the market made so you simply CAN NOT screw it up...


    Lansky comes to mind right away!
    Lansky Standard Knife Sharpening System

    Remember to take the metal burr off the edge when you are done and you will be fine.

    Knife sharpening is a basic understanding of how to work metal.
    Consider looking metal working up and you will figure it out.

    Personally, Unless someone has screwed up the edge, I use a $1.50 Lansky triangle shaped synthetic pocket stone about 3" long and my belt and I can shave with about anything in the house in short order.
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2008
  7. Magus

    Magus Scavenger deluxe

    I recomend a machineist's ruby stone,its ruby granules on one side and ceramic on the other,its used for honeing HSS lathe bits and it'll set you back about 35$I've got one I've had over 20 years and it yet shows NO WEAR!just wash it off with scrubbing powder when it gets dirty and it'll serve you well.
  8. JohnP

    JohnP Member

    Hot dang! I purchased the Lanksy system this morning and tried it out on my old dull Leatherman. That puppy will now shave hair off my arm.

    Thanks to everyone that replied.:D

  9. Magus

    Magus Scavenger deluxe

    Not to bust your bubble,but that's TOO SHARP for a working knife,it'll dull faster like that. :)
  10. EvilTOJ

    EvilTOJ O_o

    I fail to see how a knife can be too sharp. It will dull regardless of how sharp it is, it's use that will dull it.
  11. mitchshrader

    mitchshrader Well-Known Member

    I've got very possibly more stones than knives, and way more knives than I've any use for.

    I can sharpen a spoon on a flower pot, sharp enough to shave hair.. and that's not an exaggeration. Will bet money.. :)

    One of the best tools for sharpening, given scant skill, is a duo sharp DMT bench hone, 8" or 10", fine/extra-fine.

    It won't give a polished mirror edge, nothing to impress a straight razor guy, but it'll quickly give you a working (1200 grit) edge suitable for skinning, slicing tomatos, chopping veggies, etc..

    for 'finished' edges you'll want 4000 grit and up, and your patience and the need determine how FAR up.. there's a wide DMT xxxFine 8000 grit hone, heavy steel plate with 3 micron diamond dust, that is very fast and works well, about 80$..

    lower priced options exist, norton makes a 4000/8000 grit combination waterstone that's cost effective while learning..

    use a lansky rattail diamond rod for small/medium serrations, a cheap china combo aluminum oxide stone for discount store machetes and yard tools, a round stone for axes and hatchets, and belgian coticules for straight razors and scalpels.. and pocketknives if you like bragworthy edges..

    some of my japanese stones are worth over $500, and many of my stones are in the 200$ and up range.. there's very little need for 'em. fun, but not a requirement for day to day use. Appropriate for a hobby cook that has high end knives, or a dedicated collector. A norton 1000 grit waterstone, and a 4000/8000 combo stone, will 'get r' dun' on 99% of common knives. Only very hard and resistant steel demands diamond (or garnet) and either DMT or Belgian stones are best for L6, D2, and any other super-hard-to-sharpen tool steels. (S30V, S90V, etc)

    Lansky isn't a way to learn to sharpen. It's a way to AVOID learning to sharpen. If that's your intent, it works fine. If you want to know HOW to sharpen, get a bucket of water, a cheap china stone, and an Old Hickory boning knife.. preferably rusty and abused.

    Make it shave. Get a better stone. Make it split hair. Get a better stone.. make it split a hanging hair..

    quit. come over and give me lessons..
  12. hillbilly

    hillbilly Active Member

    Your right a knife can be to sharp and is worthless.The guy that said different better think different a sharp knife that shaves hair will dull quicker than one that is sharpened properly.The best angle for a properly sharpened knife is 30 degrees and a good wetstone with lite honing oil is best for a lasting edge when I butcher we use a stone then while using use a sharpening steel to keep touched up which is only restraightening the edge.
  13. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

    20 degrees is the standard. 30 seems a bit wide. Whatever floats your boat.
  14. ke4sky

    ke4sky ke4sky

    Lansky Kit

    The factory edges on most knives aren't consistent. So I routinely recut them before storing in my kit.

    A 30 degree bevel is standard for machetes, axes and bush knives These are intended more for hacking vegetation, shelter construction, splitting kindling or quartering big game larger than deer than for field surgery, fileting fish or dressing deer or small game.

    A 25-degree bevel is best for larger fixed blades over 5 inches, such as the K-bar or Cold Steel Trailmaster.

    Use 20 degrees for fixed blades and folders smaller than 5 inches, used for fine work.

    To establish a new bevel of a different angle on a new knife use a 120-grit coarse diamond stone for the heavy stock removal. I use nothing but food grade USP mineral oil. Thin 50-50 with aliphatic mineral spirits or Stoddard Solvent in cold weather.

    After completing the major stock removal to entirely clean up the old edge, change to 280 or 320 diamond. Work this until you have removed all deep scratches left by the coarse diamond stone.

    Final edging of fixed blades over 5 inches is done with 600 diamond If any wire edge is visible with a 10X loupe take only a 2 or 3 few passes with 1000 grit at the next steeper set angle, using only a light touch.

    Small blades used mostly for fine work may be taken fully down to 1000 grit (8 microinch RMS)for a shaving edge if you are anal retentive, but a 600 grit edge (about 16 microinch RMS) is fully adequate for anything short of field surgery.

    It takes 3-4 hours to fully recut and perfectly edge a new issue K-Bar, In my experience it takes about half that time for a Cold Steel Trailmaster, and if you are lucky it takes only an hour or so for a new RAT-3. A fine Al Mar folder requires no additional work.

    You DO get what you pay for. If you will have only one knife, get the best you can afford. However, for military and SAR ops redundancy can be a life saver. For most people it makes sense to have several sturdy factory-made knives of proven design, rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket with a custom hand-made semi-jewelry item which you might regret losing or leaving behind in circumstances beyond your control.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2009
  15. Canadian

    Canadian Well-Known Member

    A 30 degree angle seems more suited to an axe. A 30 degree angle is better for "splitting" something that cutting it.
  16. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey


    Isn't that exactly what ke4sky said in his post?
  17. hillbilly

    hillbilly Active Member

    Tips on knife sharpening

    I must have hit the 3 instead of the 2.It was supposed to be 20 degrees,Sorry
  18. The_Blob

    The_Blob performing monkey

    no worries, hillbilly, wouldn't be the first time there was typo on a forum ;)
  19. NaeKid

    NaeKid YourAdministrator, eh?

    Depending on the cutting edge that I am trying to sharpen, I might use a polish-pad on a high-speed grinder, I might use various grits on a belt-sander, I might use a rubber-grit-pad (used for plumbing) to fine-tune an edge ...

    I have "single-pass" shaved hair off my arm during the making of a knife - before I finished the sharpening process. I have cut a single-strand of hanging hair. I have edged a hatchet and machette to "whittle" away branches (to make kindling) ...

    Now - the question to the original poster - what kind of knife are you trying to sharpen? I find some of the cheaper knives will not take an edge properly or hold it. I really like knives made with Damascus-Steel - you will pay more for a blade, but, the edge holding capabilities of a properly forged blade will out-last anything else out there.

    Boker makes some really nice knives that will hold edge for a very long time - even if you abuse the blade's edge it will usually re-sharpen with very little work. I have a few of their blades - the "Top Lock" series of folder-knives are perfect to carry with you camping, hunting or out to a fancy dinner out ..
  20. bassman

    bassman Active Member

    Get yourself a copy of Everybody's Knife Bible by Pathfinder Publications, Hamakua Center, 150 Hamakua Dr. Suite 401 Kailua, HI 96734 It will tell you everything you need to know about knives. Written by Green Berets.