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Thread: A 'How to' guide to sharpening a knife the traditional way.

  1. #1
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    A 'How to' guide to sharpening a knife the traditional way.

    By 'traditional' I mean by using an oilstone or waterstone. The waterstones are available online from outlets like these or you might have a shop on your local High Street which does them or the oilstone.

    Whichever you decide to buy, there are differences in using them, but for the benefit of confusion, I shall assume that you have bought the oilstone, as that's what many of you will find more readily available.

    A very sharp knife is a microscopically fine saw, the act of sharpening simply re-sets the teeth of that saw.

    OK, we've got an oilstone, some light oil [3-in-1 is fine], some rags, a leather belt and some plasters.

    First off, we assess which side of the stone to use; rough or fine, by determining how blunt the blade is.
    The stone should be placed flat on a clean surface [the inside of the wooden box it comes in perfect] and shouldn't be able to move around on the bench.
    We then need to apply just a few drops of oil onto the stone and smooth this onto the stone's surface with a spare finger.

    Presuming we only need to re-touch the edge with the fine side of the stone, we need to place the blade onto the stone at an angle of around 20 degrees and make steady, even strokes with light pressure edge first from the edge nearest the finger guard[choil] to the tip of the blade [guide to blade geometry]. The handle will need to be raised slightly as to keep the tip on the stone due to the changing geometry of the blade/stone interface.

    Start by doing between 5 and 10 sweeps of the blade from choil to tip on one side away from you, wipe off the oil then turn the knife over and do the same amount of sweeps toward yourself. Stop here and feel the edge with your thumb tip for burrs on either side of the edge; if there are none, carry on with the sweeps. If there is a burr, don't worry..this is what you want.

    Once we have a burr on one edge we need to imagine what our blade looks like from a tip-on perspective. A burr will make the blade look like a ' y ', rather than a 'v'. We just need to straighten this burr out.

    Taking note of which side of the blade has the burr on, that is the side we need to concentrate on. Repeat the sweeps, but this time use very light pressure on the blade and check all along the edge for the burr after each sweep. Once the burr has gone, check the other edge for a burr. The burr, if you've used too much pressure on the blade at this last stage has been too much, will have transferred to the other side of the edge; just 'move' the burr so that its hardly detectable on any side. The stone work has finished.

    All that's needed now is to give the edge a strop on a leather belt. This will polish the re-set saw teeth for a more durable edge.

    Attach one end of the belt to something like a vice or hook so that you can get some tension on it.
    Once you've done this you need to hold the other end in your left hand [right hand if left-handed], and make slow, even draws on the blade working spine [blunt side] toward yourself. After each stroke, turn the blade over and push it away from you whilst applying the same light, even pressure you used on the previous stroke. Continue for multiples of 5 or 10 on each side, just for consistency.

    Once you've done all this, and you've got yourself a very keen edge, you'll begin to see the skills develop which will stay with you for life, and you'll feel better for learning how it's done.

    Try the blade on a sheet of paper; it should cut with pressure alone.
    Last edited by snock; 25-04-2011 at 09:08 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Very informative very good mate, and spot on timing as im just about to buy a nice bushcraft knife myself.

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    Then the guide is for everyone like you, Harv.
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  4. #4
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    You kindly sent me something like the above before Pete when I asked but excellent now everyone has this piece of good advice to hand.

    Merry Xmas.

    Alan
    Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. Winston Churchill

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eagleman View Post
    You kindly sent me something like the above before Pete when I asked but excellent now everyone has this piece of good advice to hand.

    Merry Xmas.

    Alan
    I remember doing just that, Alan!
    In truth, it was Baltipal who suggested I post something in here, and I thought it was a brilliant idea which I wish I'd have thought of.

    Merry Christmas to you too, mate.
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  6. #6
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    If you haven't a handy leather belt, stropping the blade against denim jeans can work well, too.

    Regards,
    MikB
    ...history... is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind. (Edward Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

  7. #7
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    Cheers mate, just the ticket.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikB View Post
    If you haven't a handy leather belt, stropping the blade against denim jeans can work well, too.

    Regards,
    MikB
    Mik's right!
    I was shown by Dave Budd, a professional knife maker, that even your skin can revive a sharp edge if you stroke your thumb across the edge [not along it!] at 90 degrees to it.
    This isn't recommended unless you've enough experience and common sense to ensure your safety.

    For the inexperienced user, a belt will work perfectly.
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  9. #9
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    Once new a chippy who would strop his plane irons on his forearm, and fast! It was a blur. I daren't even try.
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  10. #10
    Neil. is offline Never get out of the boat
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikB View Post
    stropping the blade against denim jeans can work well, too.

    Regards,
    MikB
    Tried that 50 mins ago. I am now replying to this thread via WAP in the reception of the Queens Medical Centre A&E.
    Last edited by Neil.; 26-12-2007 at 02:05 AM. Reason: Punctuation, I know; its a first...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neil. View Post
    Tried that 50 mins ago. I am now replying to this thread via WAP in the reception of the Queens Medical Centre A&E.
    <Groan> You have to do it carefully if you're wearing the jeans at the time. You shouldn't need me to tell you that - ah, and now you don't...

    Worked though, eh?

    Regards,
    MikB
    ...history... is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind. (Edward Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

  12. #12
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    How to sharpen a serrated knife.

    I have been asked by a few members to write some kind of instructions on how to sharpen serrated or part-serrated blades, like those found on the Spyderco range.

    OK, what I've written above is how to sharpen the plain-edge of the blade, now for the serrated part of the blade.

    What you have here is an edge made of a repeating tooth pattern, and to sharpen it you'll need a diamond-coated rod, like this one.

    Place the rod, side on, to the large 'scallop' of the serrated edge and slowly rock it across the angle of the edge to find the 'flat' of it. Then, with slow, even strokes file the rod gently across the scallop - this will eventually put a nice new 'bite' on the scalloped edge.

    Repeat this for each scallop on the edge [we do nothing to the smaller scallops, as they actually are very limited in their cutting power].

    Finish by lightly stropping the non-serrated side[not edge] of the blade. This will straighten out any burrs you may have put onto the edge.

    Serrated knives are great for cutting rope etc, but their use is severely limited to most field duties, like skinning and carving.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by snock View Post
    Serrated knives are great for cutting rope etc, but their use is severely limited to most field duties, like skinning and carving.
    We have quite a good scalloped breadknife, by Friodur Zwillingswerk of Solingen, but frankly, apart from that purpose, I wouldn't give 'em houseroom.

    Regards,
    MikB
    ...history... is, indeed, little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind. (Edward Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)

  14. #14
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    I know what you mean, Mik. It's not by accident that, out of all 47 of my knives, only one is part serrated.


    Pete.
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  15. #15
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    re- knife sharpening

    Best bet is to get a diamond sharpener made by dmt. 30ish, will get you the diafold, which is a double sided jobbie, will sharpen 10 times quicker than an oil stone, and cleaner to. couple of strokes on these , is enough to get razor results. and folds small enough to carry in your shooting jacket. blue is course , red is medium, and green is fine, have found the blue / red combo is best.

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