Click on any of the thumbnails below for a more detailed photo
to sharpen your blades
If you're going to use your knife, you're going to need to know how to sharpen it. Even factory edges can often be improved and if you learn how to do this correctly, you're never going to lack for friends. I am constantly amazed at how dull most people let their knives get and I'm convinced that it's simply because they don't know how to sharpen them. You can learn to be a real hero.
I should also mention that practice is important and that this is just a basic overview--a starting point. Although there is a small level of science ( or geometry) involved and knowledge of techniques is terrific, practice is what's going to make you good.
|Wow, there are a lot of options when it comes to knife sharpening. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them don't work and are just gizmos and gimmicks. Not that these are your only options, but the techniques illustrated below are the ones I've had god luck with.
|Sharpening stones are the most common means of putting an edge on your blade. Invest in a couple of good ones with fine and medium grits. The $5 combination stones from the hardware store are good for axes but I wouldn't recommend them for blades. Washita and Arkansas stones are the best and aren't as expensive as they used to be.
|Use a continuous forward sweeping motion, keeping your angle constant and the edge always on the stone. I know some folks like oil on the stone but I don't and think you get better results without it. ( a lot less messy,too).
|Although some people swear by diamond stones, I'm not really sure if I like them. I find them a trifle aggressive when all you might need is to polish, touch up or straighten an edge. I don't like taking off a lot of metal if I don't have to and mostly use them on edges that have been nicked or damaged. Probably best if you decide for yourself.
|For day to day touch ups, I prefer using ceramic sticks angled at 20 degrees, 40 degrees relative to each other. Keep the knife perfectly vertical while swiping it down the rods like you were slicing a decal off. Make sure just the very edge is making contact and you'll have a like new cutting edge. Here's a good illustration, click HERE . I made my own by mounting a couple of ceramic rods in a block of wood, but here's a good video of how to use one of the factory made ones. Click HERE
|Touch ups with hand held little unit like this. Basically there are two ceramic or tungsten rods held at a good sharpening angle that you drag the knife edge through. They straighten the edge like a sharpening steel and take off a small amount of metal to give you a respectable and very useable ( if not razor sharp) edge. The main advantage is that it's such a small little piece, you can have one in the car, kitchen, workshop, etc...
|If I'm doing a volume of blades ( I sharpen the knives at some of the local hunger centers) I really like using a 1" belt sander with a 600 grit belt. This does a terrific job and is great for abused blades or those that haven't been sharpened in a while. Last step is a few swipes on the ceramic rods. A lot of professional knife sharpeners that service restaurants do it this way.
|The leather strop is a great way to polish a razor sharp edge into a blade. I made mine out of a scrap piece of leather--an old belt would work fine. Rub jewelers rouge or rubbing compound , an extremely fine abrasive, into it. Drag the blade backwards with the edge trailing to polish the edge. Do this 15-20 times. This will give you a remarkable edge that you can shave with. I found this video on Youtube showing a good technique. Click HERE. You can use a free hanging strop but I like to mount the leather to a block of wood for ease of use.
|In the world of knife sharpening there is no place for the bench grinder. Not only does it remove a ton of metal, it's high speed will often cause the edge to overheat and lose it's temper (hardness). Save the electric grinder for your lawnmower blades, shovels or axes.
|Chef's Choice sharpeners have long been popular for their ease of use and results. I'll admit they do a pretty respectable job and do it quickly, but it's not going to be the kind of edge that shaves the hair off your arms. There are basically two flavors: two or three various grit small internal grinding wheels. I like the fact that the guides hold your blade at the right angle. I did manage to find a video on proper use of the Chef's Choice also, click HERE
|I use a sharpening steel all the time but keep in mind that it doesn't really sharpen. The very fine edge often gets bent slightly under use (exaggerated in the drawing) , even if it's too small to see it. Imagine trying to cut with an edge like this. The sharpening steel straightens the edge, returning it to true. I also found a little video on the proper use of the steel. Click HERE
|There are a few other machines you might want to look at. These are basically slow speed grinders ( 70 to 400 rpm) using fine wheels. Several keep the wheel wet to avoid building up heat. I like them but would primarily use them for scissors or chisels.
|I don't know who this guy Lansky is, but his devices put a great edge on a blade. The idea is that the clamp holds the blade at the correct angle for a consistent edge. Angles can be easily be changed by changing slots. I even found a nice video showing the proper use of the Lansky style sharpener. Click HERE
|This would be a good time to go back and review my tutorial on "The Edge". All of the techniques shown above will give you superb results ....if you understand the geometry of the edge. Pay extra attention to the secondary bevel--this is the part that cuts and the only part of the knife that you should be really sharpening
|Angles, angles, angles. It's all about the angles. This is what the secret comes down to. Know your angles. Sharpen the edge, not the knife.