Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Knife sharpening

One thing I cannot tolerate is a dull knife, be it my everyday Buck 110, a tacklebox knife, a caping knife. If the motherfucker ain't got an edge on it, it's a piece of metal, not a knife.
Now I've tried all kinds of methods to sharpen a knife. I've tried carbide sharpeners, steels, stones and strops. They all have their place but none will work on their own unless that blade already has an edge.
My method (sometimes 2-3 times a week) is a stone. I use one stone and one stone only. It's a fine grit Arkansas that I've had for so many years that it's got dips in the surface. It's less than an inch wide and about 3 inches long.
Some folks will tell you that there is a perfect angle to get a sharp edge and the best way to find it is this:
Measure your blade depth (from edge to spine) at its' deepest and and then imagine one pennys' width for every half inch.
I never could get that right.
My way is just to keep a consistent angle every time you sharpen. It don't matter how much of a gap there is between spine and stone as long as it's the same the entire length of the blade EVERY time you sharpen. Yeah, it takes practice.
Okay. Take your stone and apply one drop of light viscosity oil to the middle of it. I use 3-n-1 oil myself. Lay your blade down at your chosen angle (I use less than a 20 degree angle) and push it across the stone, then drag it back. Wipe the excess off. Now you're ready to start.
With the edge facing away, start making tight little circles (the ladies know what I'm talking about here) keeping the blade at the same angle and going from tip to hilt. Do this until the stone starts to darken. That dark shit is fine metal shavings and that's a good thing.
Wipe your stone off, flip it over and repeat except do it with you blade FACING you this time. It's very important that you hold the same blade angle.
Do this a couple of times until it feels like it can't get no better. If you feel a bit of grit when you're making them tight circles, you ain't done yet. Do it until it's glassy smooth on both sides.
A tip: If it feels smooth on one side but not the other, you're fucking up. The angle is not the same from one side to the other.
A finishing touch is to strip your leather belt off, step on the buckle end and wrap the tag end around you fist. Do just like you see them old time barbers do in the movies (unless you shave with a straight razor and do this shit everyday) and work that blade up and down to remove any burrs. The more you use your belt the better it becomes.
Okay, I know I'm gonna catch shit from folks that feel that a smooth long stroke is better than tight circles. That's cool and I'll for sure publish your method if you write it up and send it to me. But what I'm saying is this is what works for me.
I carry a Buck 110 every day and sharpen that motherfucker at least a couple times a weeks. I go through one every couple of years because I wear the blades so thin I chip them. And yeah, it kills me every time I discard an old friend and get a new one. I's almost like getting a new dog of the same breed as the one you just accidentally ran over - kinda sorta the same but a whole new personality.
I'll post soon how I modify my 110s to suit my purposes.


Tom said...

Dad always told me a dull knife was much more dangerous than a sharp one. When you try to cut with a dull knife, you have to exert more force. And when you use more force, you have less control over where the knife will go. With a good, sharp knife, a light touch is all you need... well, at least until you hit bone!

Thanks for pointing the sharpening tips out -- amazing how some of the best things we've learned get lost as technology "improves"!

wirecutter said...

Yeah, I can sharpen a knife better on a smooth rock and some spit than I can with any other method. And your Pops was exactly right.

Bella said...

Brings back memories Wirecutter. My Dad used to sharpen his knives with a stone and to test them out, he'd throw a tomato in the air and cut it up on the way down. Used to piss my Mum off coz he'd always do it in the kitchen. Anyways, it's tomato season and I've bought damn near every sharpener known to woman and none of them work. Guess I should get back to basics myself. Thanks.

wirecutter said...

Did Pops clean up the mess, Bella?
I didn't think so.......

Bella said...

Nope, that's what pissed Mum off. What the hell am I saying, my sister and I cleaned it up, not Mum either. That's what kids were for back then.

BillyBob said...

Wirecutter, you should make an instructional video on this, for those of us who are written instruction challenged...

Everett said...

Wirecutter, I grew up on a small commercial fishing boat where we hauled in about 500-600 lbs. of Cod every time out. (daily). By the time we got back to the dock, all the fish had to be gutted. This took a real sharp knife and what we used to sharpen the blade was an old fashioned, (new back then) water stone with a wooden handle sticking out of it. It was in a cradle right on the gunnels of the boat so that you could constantly keep a razor edge on the stone. I was taught by all the uncles and cousins to use the long stroke method and I still do BUT, now I use a 10"x4"x1/8" diamond "stone" on a hard composite backer. Two stroke both ways brings her right back to "dry shave the hair off your arm" condition. Fuck obama!

wirecutter said...

Everett, I have one of those diamond stones and use it to get to almost where I want to be. Maybe I have the wrong grit, I don't know. Can you send me a picture of yours? And I'm impressed about your fishing story. I bet every small commercial fisherman can best me as far as sharpening goes.

BillyBob, I'll try to have one up this weekend.

orbitup said...

I need all of the sharpening tips I can get. My wife is always bitchin' about the knives in the kitchen.

I'll be watching your video.

Everett said...

Hey Ken, Did you get the pictures I emailed you? Just wondering.