I'm trying to teach myself.  Has/does anyone do it, and know how to do it?  I use knives daily and have for years now...it's time I know how to take care of them for the rest of my years on the earth.


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No matter how many times I've tried, I can never get my knife as sharp as they can when I send it back to the manufacturer.

My personal best results come from just using an oil stone. I have a sharpening set with a guide that you can select the angle and keep it consistent. But it feels like I get better results with a stone in my hand.

I always inspect the edge to verify that I'm using the right angle. I use a coarse stone to flatten out any nicks first, then move to the fine stone. When I'm in the mood, I pull out my super fine grit stone to polish the edge. I've considered getting a strop as well, but figured it might be over kill.
Not overkill. A polished edge on a blade maintains it's sharpness for a very long time as it is less likely to chip away the molecules of metal at the very tip of the cutting edge. A polished tip cuts, a rough tips saws- after a short time the rough saw edge chips away leaving a dull knife whereas a polished cutting tip glides through what you are cutting without damage to the edge.
Not a bad video for the task.

First and foremost you need to be patient with your blade and stone - shortcuts can do damage that will take hours to correct. Many of the guys I know have given up and gotten a new knife after a botched sharpening attempt.

For me sharpening a knife is a calming thing, something nice and repetitive with a tangible result, so I'm not worried about putting the time in. I'm not a hunter, so I've never had to stop and hone up a knife in the middle of dressing out some big kill, so your situation may be different. (I wasn't allowed to use a knife the last time I dressed out game.)

If your blades are larger than a small pocket knife I'd avoid using a guide bracket (like a Lansky) because it will change the angle of the edge as it sharpens - it will be obtuse at the belly of the blade and more acute at the tip.

With your stones you should work coarser grit to finer, and make sure that you whet the stone with water or oil and periodically clear the metal out of the stone. A coarse stone will remove more material, so I'd only use it if there are burrs or if it's really dull. A really dull knife (i.e. "can't cut butter") should probably go to a professional sharpener or back to the manufacturer. In my experience with Benchmade the knife came back about 1/8th in shorter after I sent it back for sharpening; it was like a scalpel again, but after four or five trips like that I wouldn't have a knife left.

After a good sharpening you should only have to just dress up the blade after use with a fine stone or strop it on leather. I usually just whip my leather belt around a doorknob and pull for tension before I work the blade back and forth to finish off the edge. In the kitchen I regularly use a steel on my knives with great success, I haven't "sharpened" any of my knives in years - just the steel works great.

All the effort will make you much more careful of how you treat your knives. They don't go in the sink, they don't go edge on metal or stone, they get hand washed and put away, etc.

Hope this helps; and again, take your time with your blade. It will be worth it.
The key to a razor sharp knife that holds it's edge eluded me for years until I finaly learned the real secret. In a nutshell, the angle of the edge is all important- maintain a consistant angle when sharpening on both sides of the blade going from a course stone to fine stones as you progress with the grind. The secret is that when the blade angle is correct there will be a little curl of metal at the very edge of the blade. You will have to look for it under a good light and you can feel it with your thumb as a rough edge on one side of the blade. That is when your knife is sharp- use a leather or denim strop to knock the curly off and to polish the cutting edge- now you have a knife ready to shave with! Until you get that curly que your grind angle is not correct and your knife is not sharp.

Take your time- it is a slow process to remove the metal of the blade to get the correct angles and proper sharpness. Once you do this the first time then afterwards to sharpen the blade you should only need to dress the edge on a finish stone and give it a quick strop to maintain the razor edge.
Thanks guys, this is all really helpful. I appreciate every post in here. The AoM video was especially useful.

So here's a question: how exactly do you strop? Can I use an old belt or something, any old kind? Is there a technique, like the angle of stone sharpening, or is it really just supposed to rub all over the edge?
It partly depends on the edge of the knife. Knife blades can be different profiles; A good article is shown here http://backyardbushman.com/?page_id=13 . Sharpening needs to take this into account. Broadly speaking, the scandi grind is the easiest to sharpen free hand as you just keep the whole bevel flat on the sharpening surface.
JRE industries sell a variety of strops and are well recommended. http://www.jreindustries.com/sharpening.htm
Sharpening a blade is done by pushing the blade edge first, stropping is done spine first. Stropping a blade is meant to polish the edge and remove any burrs from the sharpening process, it cannot actualy sharpen the blade.

To strop, run the blade spine first (away from the edge) at about the same angle that was used for sharpening, keeping the strop material tight as you go. At the end of the stroke, flip the blade along it's spine and run down the other edge. DO NOT strop edge first or flip the blade along the cutting edge, you will ruin the strop. The strop can be made of leather (best), canvas (next best) or denim (old pair of blue jeans). In a pinch you can strop a blade on your bare skin but dont' do this until you fully understand and master the stropping technique. It takes some practice to get it just right so be patient as you learn.

Once you master a proper stone sharpening and strop your manliness will increase, the hair on your chest will become thicker, your shoulders broader and you will need a stick to fight of the women who will suddenly be throwing themselves at your feet. You will be the object of an old man's envy, and young men will strive to imitate you.

Back to the top.
I have been sharpening carbon steel knives and tools for decades.
I have a set of oilstones and generally know how to use them.
My problems is with stainless steel knives; they are a LOT harder to sharpen that carbon steel. Can anyone share some info about successfully getting a razor edge on a stainless blade like a swiss army knife, a Gerber paraframe or a Wushthoff kitchen knife?

The principle is the same. With my knives I've actually never noticed a difference between the two, unless the carbon steel was pretty soft (not the case with most of my knives). 

Not all stainless steels will hold a razor edge though (440A is not as good as 440C or 420A, etc.), nor do you necessarily want them to. Kitchen knives, for instance, you often want a bit of bite to them, so you don't polish the edge as much (especially for tomatoes and the like). 

  For me, it depends on the knife, or more precisely, on the steel. I was taught how to use a whetstone at a young age, and am not awful with it, but there are only some knives I find that I accomplish anything on.  The old buck lockknife I lugged in my youth was made of such incredibly hard steel that nothing could touch it, one way or the other. I've long since switched for swiss army knives, and while the whetstone does it's job, the best results I've had on them were from those drag through kitchen knife sharpeners.

  However, I have an ancient knockoff Barlow knife I got at an estate sale, which has a softer carbon steel, and that thing has a fish scaling edge on it courtesy of the whetstone. I did the same for a pal back in college, who had a locknife of some softer steel.

  As far as care goes, a little WD40 goes a long way.


Yeah... like I said, I do fine with carbon steel chisels, gouges,.plane irons and knives. I can get a wire edge and razor sharpness no problem. It's the harder stainless that gives me trouble. It seems that the india and arkansas oilstones just do not cut very well on the harder materials. I know that diamond -dust whetstones and water stones can cut stainless effectively but I'd rather not invest in new gear if I don't have to.
There's also the added challenge of getting the angle consistently correct, which is much less of a problem with chisels and plane irons. Is it possible to effectively get a razor edge on ss using india and arkansas stones? Is a diamond whetstone or a pre-angled ceramic kitchen knife sharpener a better solution?

Should be fine with arkansas stones, but maybe need a rougher grade to get the blade profile right? 

But really, I don't think you would need anything other than what you've got, honestly.


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