How to Sharpen a Knife

Discussion in 'Blades' started by Tracy, Feb 14, 2008.

  1. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    There. I've got the thread started for you (whomever). Now; please tell me how to get the best edge on my knife.

    I want it sharp enough so that I don't notice when I cut off the end of my finger ;)

    I have a steel, so it'd be great if you could show me the best way to utilize it. I'll get a stone if necessary (or if it's a better option).

    Thank you!!!
  2. BigO01

    BigO01 Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Tracy I have one of the Smiths shapening kits "$30 or so" and It works great , I am sure the Gatcos and other brands of kits that are similar work just as well .

    I also broke down and bought one of the Chef's Choice electric sharpeners $120 , works great and will sharpen serrated knives like new .
  3. Valkman

    Valkman Knifemaker Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    What kind of knife? I don't know much about kitchen knives and have heard some of the electric sharpeners are now pretty good (like Big001 just mentioned). If it's a hunting/fishing type knife I like the Spyderco Sharpmaker and use one for the final sharpening on all the knives I make. I would not recommend a stone unless you know what you're doing. Heck I don't know how to use 'em very well!
  4. hartage

    hartage Monkey+++

    I bought one of those lanskey sharpening sets. Then I found out it won't fit on a knife with a .25" spine. So I made my own sharpeners patterened after the lanskey set just scaled up a tad to fit. I used L brackets to attatch to the knife. I then used a straight rod epoxied to 2 diamond hones 300 grit and 600 grit. The bracket has marks on it to get 25 deg and 20 deg that I set originaly with an angle measuring protractor doohicky. I just set the "place holder" nut to one of the angles then sharpen away. The guide keeps it at the proper angle. Works great so far. I can't do it by hand (not good enough). Besides my knife has a two angle grind to it like the bussy battle mistres. (25 deg one side 20 deg the other) Not sure about splitting hairs but sharp enough to pass the paper cutting test.

    If you have a standard thickness knife the lanskey thing at wally wart should do a decent enough job with little fuss.

    Oh yeah, stay away from the "automatic" sharpeners any of them. They will change the angle of your grind to whatever the sharpener is set to. (usualy 20-30 deg) Will make your fillet knife cut like an axe. (slicing knives have maybe 15 deg grind while axe have around 30) Or make your axe have a fragile edge like a fillet knife. All depending on what angle the "automatic" sharpener is set to. Different knives for different uses have different grinds to them to acheive different things. Both on the body and the edge grinds. The lanskey sharpeners you can adjust to the actual angle your knife uses. Good luck.
  5. Valkman

    Valkman Knifemaker Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    And if it's a custom you can always send it back to me - uh I mean the maker. :)
  6. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    I use a stone exclusively. Granted, it takes a lot of practice, and one needs to watch the wear on the stone; once it gets a belly in it, you have to compensate for it when pushing the edge to and fro. But it works for all edges (excepting double angles) from straight razors (haven't done one of them in a LONG while) up to axes, even hollow ground. One of these days, I just may have to invest in a patent sharpener, but for now --. Anyway, don't forget, if stoning, to use oil (some say water works, I've had less success with water.) I use motor oil or 3in1 most times. If you are unaware, the oil is not a lubricant, it floats the metal particles out of the stone, keeps it from filling with metal and losing it's "tooth." Dressing a stone to get the filings out is one huge PIA and it is well worth it to avoid the need.

    Tracy, the steel is not used to remove metal when the edge has dulled, and NEVER with oil to avoid contamination of the steel and eventually the roast (or whatever.) Use it to de-burr the edge after sharpening, whether you use a patent sharpener or stones. Watch the guy at the next beef dinner you go to where they custom cut the roast before your very eyes. He won't use a stone very often, but just about every two or three slices, he'll take a pass on the steel to true up the edge for a straight cut. If he uses a stone the first and second slice will have stone dust, however little (unless he wipes the blade, of course, which he should.)

    I've had pretty good success with a ceramic "steel" as well. Just don't drop it. They do remove a bit of metal, but damn little, and function well for de-burring. A good finishing tool, if steels make no sense to you. So far as steels go, it makes little if any difference if they are bead blasted (dull finished) smooth (shiny?) or grooved, the end result is the same. I don't care for the grooved/fluted ones because I can't see or feel if there are burrs on them that could screw up all the careful work on the stone if a burr catches the edge.

    Mind your grits --
  7. BigO01

    BigO01 Monkey+++ Founding Member

    LMAO Ghirt , no offense but the last time I was at a restaurant where they would cut the Prime Rib per your request they had some punk Black kid who looked to be 18-20 doing it .

    Every once in awhile or when there was an attractive women at the head of the line he would pull out a steel to run the knife over , there he was Gold teeth shining swinging this knife as fast as he could "trying to make sparks I think" he certainly looked COO as he wanted to . Problem was the only part of the knife that ever touched the steel was the back part "near the handle" of this 12 in knife that never actually touched the roasts as he was carving them up .
  8. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    I mainly use knives in the kitchen (I'm a domesticated breed), and that's where my dull knives live.

    It's been years since I've used the stone/water method and I've recently been given a steel, which sounds really cool :cool:, but I'm not sure does the job I'm looking for (hence this thread). I like to have a nice, lethal edge on my blades, as I take pride in my paper-thin slices and meal presentations.

    I don't think that motor oil gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling of having a sanitary kitchen knife (but sounds like a great method for my outside blades).

    It sounds to me (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that a stone AND steel are necessary to obtain what I'm looking for.
  9. Blackjack

    Blackjack Monkey+++

    Here ya go Tracy:

    Are you familiar with Alton Brown from the cooking channel? Here's his youtube video about sharpening (I haven't watched it 'cuz I'm on dialup, but it's Alton, so it must be good). Here it is.

    Then a page about using a stone with diagrams here.

    Just out of curiosity, what brand knives do you have? My wife uses Wusthof. They are expensive, but you will never regret the premium.
  10. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    No, silly, I don't have a TV in the kitchen ;).

    I have quite the variety of knives (more than the average [oops - I almost said bear, but I bet Bear's made more knives than I own ;)] gal). I'll have to go check the brands, tho' that one doesn't sound familiar. I even have some "lifetime" blades. I guess they didn't expect me to live this long :lol:.

    Thanks for the links! I'll give them a look-see. :)
  11. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Yup, that be so. Or one of the other patent widgets and a steel.
  12. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Classy joints, eh? [rofllmao] And I hate the presentation when they use an electric or serrated blade. Looks bad compared to a nice even slice with no ripples. [drooling]
  13. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Motor oil won't go rancid, but you can use cooking oil, it is marginally better than water. In any case (for me at least) it makes me want to be sure I clear up a bit after the session.
  14. BigO01

    BigO01 Monkey+++ Founding Member

    Well Tracy if you want to do the job by hand and not drive yourself crazy I strongly urge you to get one of the kits that comes with guide rods to keep the angle correct as you work .

    BassPro sells the Lanskey brand kits and you can purchase extra honing stones to do serated blades .

    When I use my Smiths kit I can sit down with a bunch of standard straight edge knives like say pearing and carving knives and be all done in less than 30 minutes and they will litterly be razor sharp .

    I also have a few of those "lifetime" deals and this is where my electric Chefs Choice shines , it can put them back to like new in no time .

    We have a large assortment of knives mostly fairly inexpensive , I think the best we have are my hunting knives LOL , the best kitchen set we have bothered with was a Block and knife set perhaps $50 and with what we have for sharpeners they're never dull .

    Sharpening knives isn't hard at all with all of the quality tools available today it just depends on how much time you want to spend doing it and how much $$ you want to spend on the sharpener .
  15. mage2

    mage2 Monkey+++

    I use a stone all the time.
    The thing you have to practice at is keeping the blade at the same angle to the stone while going going across the edge the entire time.

    If you are sharpening kitchen cutlery you will want a pretty fine edge and therefore a slight angle.

    The steel is used once you are at the scary sharp stage to keep the steel in the edge smooth and straight.

    There are plenty of sharping systems out here that will ensure you keep the angle the same while sharpening the blade. , like someone else said always use some lubricant as a clogged stone is going to make it seem like you will never be done. Each system has its good and bad points. It really depends on how much time you want to spend learning , and how much you want to spend on the equipment.

    I personally am a knife freak. so i have many different stones , i don't have any of the "systems" yet though.

    I would suggest one of the 3 stone systems for someone to learn on. they usually have a holder of some sort that holds a triangle and each face of the triangle is a stone. it will have something like med,fine, extra fine. with a bottle of oil. they are pretty inexpencive and will come with instructions. I would suggest staying away from the ceramic rod systems as the rod shape makes it more difficult for most to keep the angle constant while sharpening. The systems have in them something to keep the blade at the same angle all the time.

    on another note. one thing that will make your knifes get dull fast is using the wrong cutting board. Using a metal or glass (or anything harder than the knife edge) will damage the edge when they hit.

    a few links Smith's TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System.: Home Improvement@@AMEPARAM@@
  16. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I have tried some of the 'systems' and also the 'automatic' sharpeners and have never personaly been hapy with the results. I use either (or a combination) dimond dust stones or a belt sand locked on and with the handle griped in a vice to hold the moveing belt up.

    To sharpen them the simple explaination regardless of which you use is that you keep the SAME angle to the sharpening surface all the time and more the blade in circular motions or (and becomes IMO much easier to use when working the edge the final bits to a razor edge) along the surface in a motion like you are trying to shave a thin slice off the surface. The finer edge you are putting on the knife (fine edge is 'sharper' and better for fine sliceing but dulls faster, coarser edge dont seem as sharp but holds that edge longer and is better for heavy harsh use, razor vs ax uses and edges) the finer the edge the thinner the 'slice' you want to 'cut off' the stone. You use plenty of pressure to start off then as you get the edge nearly complete you use lighter and lighter pressure and smoother and smoother stones. When you get the edge all the way down you will develope a bead, wire, or foil on the edge. If you looke REAL close you will see that it looks like a super fine thread layed on the edge, you can use the steel and 'cut' a slightly thicker slice with each side of the knife to remove this thread. Now the knife is ready for most applications but if you want that REAL sharp edge on it you are ready to hone it with light pressure and straight motions on an ultra fine/smooth oil stone then if you want to touch it up further with a razor strop or buffing wheel turning toward the edge from the spine. With JUST a decent job on the stones though you will have no trouble getting it sharp enouph to shave hairs, the rest is just get a smoother or more comfortable shave.
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