My first experience sharpening

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Slaphead

Member
Nov 6, 2020
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Bolton
I bought a worksharp tilting bench sharpening kit recently and have just tried it out.

I have one or two knives (two Mora Companions and a Hultafors heavy duty, plus an Ontario Rat 1) but they are all razor sharp as they have not yet been used. The only one that is blunt is my 12 old Spyderco Endura, so against all advice I decided to try and sharpen it. Yes, I am a fool.

It was used for a couple of years to cut packaging and cardboard until it went blunt, and has been lying around unused in a drawer for the last ten years.

So I thought sod it, if I mess it up it's no big deal.

I began with the fine diamond stone at 20 degrees but it made no impression. Then I thought the 17 angle might prove more effective. It didn't, but it certainly made the edge look a mess. I have watched videos and done plenty of research so I was careful to keep my arm rigid in order to maintain the angle, and I worked slowly.

So then I turned to the course diamond stone. I worked for ages on one side to get a burr- an uneven burr I might say; it was too big towards the end and two small further back. After many hundreds of passes I found it almost impossible to get a burr on the heel of the blade.

Eventually I had enough of a burr to sharpen the other side. Once again it took many hundreds of passes to get the burr down. My arms was aching, blisters were developing on my thumb and forefinger, and I eventually stopped and put the sharpener and knife away.

What have I learned?

I am no good at sharpening. I don't like sharpening. VG10 may not be a super steel, but it is not one I want to try and sharpen again. I have a feeling the coarse stone was not coarse enough.

In future I will make do with cheaper steels that are easier to sharpen (high carbon whenever possible and things like Aus 8 for stainless), always choose knives with Scandi grinds and sharpen them on sand paper.

I will also strop my knives after every use in order to cut down on regular grinding.

My Ontario Rat 1 is Aus 8. I was going to wait until the D2 versions were back in stock, but now I am glad I didn't.

My most recent purchase is a Real Steel Bushcraft Plus in Sandvik 14c28n. It is a very nice knife of a quality well above its price, but I have no idea if I will be able to sharpen the flat grind blade. I wish now I had bought the Scandi grind version.

Oh well. You live and learn. To be honest the knives I am drawn to most are the cheap Moras and the Hultafors. I could have lived without the others.
 
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Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,761
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Canada
Well, now you have knackered it :) you may as well keep going back to the Endura til you nail the technique.

Sorry to hear that it hasn't gone brilliantly, but Perseverance!

Stick at it. You will get it. We all screwed up a bunch of blades in our time. Point is that they can be fixed. There's a bit of a knack in keeping the angle constant ... it is a bit like a body memory not so much in your hands and fingers (though there too) but more in your legs and torso.
 
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Slaphead

Member
Nov 6, 2020
41
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Bolton
Thanks for your reply.

I used the Worksharp guided system as per the directions, and always thought that pressure should only be put on the blade in one direction ie. blade facing away from you and knife pushed forward for grinding, blade facing towards you and knife pushed backward for stropping.

Yet I have been a bit surprised to see videos in which the blade is pushed up and then pulled down on the same side either on sand paper, stones or even with the Lansky system.

Are my eyes deceiving me? Are they actually removing pressure on the return stroke and I can't see it?
 

C_Claycomb

Mod
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Oct 6, 2003
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Bedfordshire
Don't give up! Just like riding a bicycle. Falling off is part of the process.

9Q0ptHbeCDp_y1bBjjXrqC1ZythjoSyNdN_zXzbP0v8.jpg
 
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C_Claycomb

Mod
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Oct 6, 2003
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I sharpen backwards and forwards on the same side, equal pressure. If you are removing metal, it does not matter which way you go, provided the abrasive is stuck down flat. When you have a burr, which forms more easily when you are moving the blade away from the edge, dragging metal out into a burr, you can then change to sharpening only in one direction, towards the edge, like you are trying to shave slices off the stone. This direction is better for removing a burr or at least minimises its formation.

Remember that if you let a scandi grind get that dull, you have a lot more metal to abrade away, even if you do have a built-in guide for the angle.

If you cannot bring yourself to sharpen one of the knives bought for practice while they are sharp, dull it! A few taps on the edge of something hard should do. That said, I have yet to have a Mora or Hults knife that could not be made sharper than it was when it left the factory.
 
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Slaphead

Member
Nov 6, 2020
41
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Bolton
Thanks.

So backwards and forwards is actually not necessarily wrong? I learn something new every day.

The blade on the Spyderco is either hollow grind or flat. Mine is an older version and it looks like a hollow grind to me.

One thing that puzzles me with the Worksharp is that the diamond stones are coarse and fine. And then there are two ceramic rods, one coarse and the other fine. Am I supposed to go from the diamond fine to the ceramic coarse, or is it just providing two different options?

Thanks to you both for the encouragement. I will persevere. If I want to have knives, I have to learn how to sharpen them.
 

pieinthesky

Forager
Jun 29, 2014
139
39
Northants
If you have got a burr you are nearly there.

Once you have the burr move to the next grit and do 20 strokes or so on each side and then move to the next grit. When you are finished with the finest grit, a quick strop and you are done.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,761
797
Canada
You might like to watch virtuovice ... hello knife people ... civilized and informative company:)

Here's a little mod he did on the thick convex of a 3v Barkie ... he's working on the area behind the edge here

 
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Slaphead

Member
Nov 6, 2020
41
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Bolton
Thanks for the link.

Well I switched over to the fine diamond stone again and gave the blade about a hundred passes on each side. This finished off what little was left of the burr and began to tidy up the edge. I then moved on to the coarse ceramic rod with equal passes of three or four groups of twenty on each side. Then the fine ceramic rod.

The blade has approved appreciably and is now able to cut paper, although not consistently. It tears in places and is no way near done. It still isn't what I would call sharp enough for any practical application but it is getting there.

I knew I was beginning to get somewhere when the blade slipped off the stone. Previously when this has happened it was still so blunt that I received no injury. This time it cut my thumb. I have never been so happy to see my own blood.

One thing I began to realise is that lightening the pressure on the blade when sharpening is also important. I understand now that light passes also have their place. Previously I was grinding away with a lot of pressure - probably far too much.

I agree that however many videos you watch or instructions you read, you only really learn by doing it and screwing up countless times.

Any way I will continue to use the finer surfaces of the sharpener and get myself some leather and wooden blocks and make a couple of strops, one with medium compound and one with fine.

In future I will sharpen my blades lightly on a regular basis and use the strops as much as possible.

Thank you all again for your help.
 
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C_Claycomb

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Oct 6, 2003
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Be careful of excessive pressure on diamond stones. The diamonds are hard, but the bedding of the particles into the nickel plating used to adhere them to the steel plate isn't that strong. It is possible to make the diamonds dig into the blade steel enough that they are popped out of the nickel and your diamond plate wears out. I have seen it done on a DMT, Duofold, do not a cheap sharpener.

You should try stropping your blade. Leather with some abrasive compound. I like Autosol, available from car supply stores like Halfords, but there are other pastes and solid cakes that work. Particularly good for removing the last burr from a fine stone, but can make a marked improvement from any grit of stone. Just use a lower angle than you were sharpening at, and wipe the blade, like spreading butter, away from the cutting edge.
 

Slaphead

Member
Nov 6, 2020
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Bolton
Will do.

Thanks.

I have been wondering if three strops, one with coarse, one with medium and one with fine abrasive compound, would have been the best way to go in the first place, instead of going with the diamonds.

My knives are unlikely to see heavy use, and so a regular strop might just be enough to keep them sharp.
 

mikehill

Settler
Nov 25, 2014
739
182
Wigan
I’d try just one first. For many people they are great but for me I reckon I made the knife more blunt lol !
 

Stew

Bushcrafter through and through
Nov 29, 2003
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Aylesbury
stewartjlight-knives.com
Will do.

Thanks.

I have been wondering if three strops, one with coarse, one with medium and one with fine abrasive compound, would have been the best way to go in the first place, instead of going with the diamonds.

My knives are unlikely to see heavy use, and so a regular strop might just be enough to keep them sharp.
I wouldn't worry about having three too much. I've never found the need. On occasion, I've used a different one but only using the skin side of the leather instead of the flesh. Personally I think getting into the ever increasing fineness of abrasive can go too far. (and I say this as someone who has a Wicked Edge sharpener with about 14 different grades of abrasive!!)

A simple idea of three more strokes of the next level of fineness versus the previous is a good basis to work from. So one at coarse means three medium then nine fine. Not a definite but gives a structure to work from. Also, use a marker pen on the bevel! You can see what you're removing a lot easier.
 
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MrEd

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I wouldn't worry about having three too much. I've never found the need. On occasion, I've used a different one but only using the skin side of the leather instead of the flesh. Personally I think getting into the ever increasing fineness of abrasive can go too far. (and I say this as someone who has a Wicked Edge sharpener with about 14 different grades of abrasive!!)

A simple idea of three more strokes of the next level of fineness versus the previous is a good basis to work from. So one at coarse means three medium then nine fine. Not a definite but gives a structure to work from. Also, use a marker pen on the bevel! You can see what you're removing a lot easier.
The ‘marker pen on the bevel’ was the best tip I ever got, it made it much much easier to visualise what meta I needed to remove, when was enough and was I doing it evenly etc.

I prefer using water stones, having tried a variety of jugs and set ups over the years / lansky System and various other ‘set at an angle’ systems.

practise and practise so more, and you will soon be getting knives sharp enough to scare yourself.

we have all messed up knives with sharpening. I messed up a hollow ground knife a while back, and it’s still messed up to this day. Must go back to it lol....

a flat glass chopping board and wet and dry is quite good for a flat aggressive surface if you need to remove a lot of metal
 
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Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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I freehand sharpen all the edge tools in my house. Most of those are top quality wood carving tools. The concept is to maintain the bevel angle*, keeping enough steel behind the edge to support it in service. That's why scalpels are thinner than chisels.
Never any push strokes to ram the bevel face first into the abrasive. Always pull.
Arms tight to my sides and move from my knees, not from my elbows.
I am the jig. Black felt marker stripes to monitor my progress.
*measure it. Draw it on a card to stand up and follow.

All the different sharpening systems are expected to yield a common result. Pick one and learn it.

I'm learning to lay a Pacific Northwest First Nations crooked knife across my knee and do all the needed sharpening with a river rock and a bucket of water.
Pretty neat when I get it right.
 
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Mr Wolf

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Jun 30, 2013
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Out of interest as I may have missed it.. what kind of diamond stone at what grit?
And why a diamond stone?
You probably would get better feel and feedback from other abrasives
 

Robson Valley

Full Member
Nov 24, 2014
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McBride, BC
Monocrystalline diamond plates just last longer than other abrasives. They have no magical qualities. Mine are tucked away under my main carving bench with the water stones. None have been used in 7(?) years). I use 3M fine automotive silicon carbide finishing wet&dry sand papers. They wear and I replace them.
They have measured nominal grit particle sizes. No Japanese guesswork.

There's an odious mythology about gluing the sandpapers to some optically flat surface. Don't bother. A few dabs of masking tape and a scrap of float glass and you get busy. Let gravity be your friend.

I carve with mostly crooked knives and use adzes for the rough outs. That implies that the curved edges are fixed and the abrasives move. The adzes are really awkward shapes so I use a tennis ball as a mandrel. Very effective.
 

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