Archive for the ‘knife sharpening’ Category

Since I’ve spent a considerable amount of time butchering deer for guys lately,and 90% of them had knives so dull they couldn’t be used-which is why I always bring my own if going to someone else’s home to cut up their deer- I figured it was time to do another post on knife sharpening.

Guys have handed me these “really great game processing knives and tools” that they wasted their $50.00-$75.00 or more on,and the pieces of crap wouldn’t cut through a cake without tearing it up.

Sharpening a knife is not all that complicated,it ain’t rocket science,you don’t need an engineering degree to get your knives sharp and keep them sharp.

You need a few basic things-a set of sharpening stones-(oilstones/ whetstones)-a butcher’s steel-a real one,not the 8-10″ pieces of shit that come with the equally useless knives in the wooden block on most people’s kitchen counters-an 18″ butcher’s steel-go to any restaurant supply store,any store that sells top quality cutlery,or order one online.

Lastly,you should have ceramic sharpening “sticks’-either the sticks that go in a wood block,or the inexpensive plastic sharpeners that have carbide sticks on one side,and ceramic on the other.

I have a tri-hone set of 3 sharpening stones made by Smith’s,it’s a coarse,a medium,and a fine stone,attached to a triangle shaped piece of wood that rests in notches in the wood base-you just turn it to whatever stone you need,as you do not always need to start with the coarse stone,sometimes you just need to “touch up” a blade.

I have a real butcher’s steel,have had the same one for 35 years or so,got it way back when I was a line cook,before I finished the apprenticeship and became an executive chef.

I’m on my 3rd tri-hone,they seem to last about 10 years-less if you’re keeping a bunch of knives sharp as you’re running a kitchen in a country club.

I use a small sharpener that has carbide and ceramic “sticks” ,along with a diamond coated,tapered rod for sharpening serrated blades.

The key to sharpening your knives is to be able to hold the same angle every time as you move the knife across the stone.If you can not do that-cut yourself some wood wedges,and hold those under the blade.

You want to use a 20-25 degree angle-( 20-25 degrees for each bevel-or a 40-50 degree inclusive angle)- for knives used to butcher game animals,mine always seem to end up at around 22.5-23 degrees,which works fine for me,if I need something more like a razor blade edge,I use a flatter angle-closer to 18-20 degrees-which is what I use for my filet knives.

As long as your knife blades are not full of nicks,or have chunks missing,you should only need 10-15 strokes on each side,starting with the coarse stone and repeated for the med. and fine stones,follow that up with 8-10 strokes on each side on the steel.

The angle is the key-you have to hold the same angle,then hold the same angle on the butcher’s steel.

After following that process,you can also use a razor strop-which is just a wide piece of leather-like barbers used in the old days-that’s got a clip on one end so you can attach it to a table,workbench,etc. and use it to strop the edge of your knife blade-you do this by pulling the knife away from you,sharp edge down,facing towards you to start,then pulling the knife back towards you-holding the same angle you used to sharpen your knife,use 8-10 strokes each side.

When you think you’re done with the whetstones,and think your knife is sharp-get a really bright light-I use a halogen desk lamp that was in my garage when I moved into this house-no idea where it came from,only know that it works great for working under cars at night too-it’s that bright.

Anyhow-holding the knife with sharp part of blade up-looking straight down at sharp edge-look at it under the bright light-your edge should look like this _________________________ a solid black line-any light spots,gaps,etc-and it’s back to the whetstones-starting with coarse-if it doesn’t look like a solid black line the second time you check it-go back through all the steps again-and again until you get it right-I know it’s a pain in the ass-but… you’ll thank me in the end-a sharp knife is a safe knife-and if you do manage to cut yourself-it will be like a surgical cut-not a cut from a can lid-so little to no scar when the cut heals,and likely no stitches of you go to the ER-they’ll just use Dermabond-(superglue for people).

When your knife starts to get a little dull,use the ceramic sticks,or the plastic “pocket sharpener” with the carbide and ceramic “sticks” embedded in it-6-8 times for carbide sticks,then 6-8 for ceramic sticks,and that should bring your blade back to a good edge.

If it doesn’t start with the medium stone,about 14-18 strokes on each side,then 10-12 strokes on each side with fine stone,then 6-8 strokes on each side with the steel.

If that doesn’t bring it back-you waited way too long to re-sharpen,so just start all over with the course stone-and go through the rest of the steps.

Diamond stones work great,but I’ve found that if a knife is really dull,you can not bring it back with a diamond stone like you can with a whetstone-so start with the whetstones.

AS long as you notice your blades getting dull before they are too dull,a few strokes on each side of the blade-6-8 or so,on a coarse or med diamond stone,followed by a few more with a fine diamond stone,and your knife will be as sharp as it was when you started.

I have a small -(6″)-diamond hone-it’s got a coarse and fine side,about a 6″x 1″ diamond stone,it stores in the handle,so you pull it out,place the end with the stone out,and use it sort of like a steel.

You hold the hone in one hand,run the knife across the stone as if you were trying to cut a thin  slice off of the stone-go away from your body first,then towards you body,this counts as 1 stroke for each side of the blade,as away and toward you use opposite sides of the blade-12-16 strokes-(6-8 per side) on the coarse side,followed by same number on fine side,followed by 6-8 strokes on each carbide and ceramic using the pocket sharpener,and you should have a really sharp knife-at least as sharp as you started with.

Tri-Hone-this is a pic of a diamond stone version-NOT the Arkansas oilstone version I recommend-apparently the base is now made from plastic.

Diamond hone…

Smith's 4

Pocket sharpener…

If for some reason you still can not manage to get a good edge on your knives-because you can’t hold the angle the same-or whatever other reason,there’s always a plan “B”-here’s my plan B…

“The Work Sharp Knife & Tool Sharpener is the first knife sharpener designed to sharpen every knife you own. Using flexible abrasive belts, the sharpener is able to sharpen not just straight bladed knives, but also curved knives, tanto blades, filet knives, serrated knives, gut hooks and virtually any other shape of knife blade. The Knife & Tool Sharpener uses precision angle sharpening guides to ensure that you get the proper angle every time. Two guides are included: a 50° guide for hunting and outdoor knives (25° per bevel) and a 40° guide for thinner blades and kitchen knives (20° per bevel). Professional knife makers use flexible belts to put a razor sharp edge on their blades, and now you can have the same technology at home to use any time your knives get dull. You may already have other sharpening methods, but never before has a knife sharpener been able to quickly and easily sharpen this broad range of knives to such extremely sharp results.”

***Notice****  I do not work for Smith’s,represent Smith’s,receive any advertising $$ from Smith’s-or have any connection whatsoever with Smith’s other than I like their products,and have been using them for over 30 years now.  Same with Works sharp-they just make a good product.

I suggest them because they work-that’s all.

I also recommend DMT for diamond bench stones.




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A couple good articles on knife sharpening/blade sharpness testing from Field&Stream…

“Sharpening a knife so that it is keen enough to sever your limb, or, less drastically, skin and butcher a deer, really isn’t that difficult. All you really need to render a serviceable edge is a stone, a little spit and a steady hand, and even the spit is debatable.”

I use a 3 stone system from Smith’s that has 3 different grit stones on a triangular block of wood,that has a base with two vertical supports which are notched so that the triangular block of wood the stones are attached to fit in the notches.

This is what I use to put an edge on every new knife I get-unless it’s a custom made knife-then it is sharpened correctly from the knife maker.

The key is being able to hold the same angle while sharpening the blade.

I use a angle between 20 and 25 degrees,except for fillet knives,which I use an angle of around 15 degrees,a less steep angle allows for a wider cutting edge,but it dulls faster.

One other very important thing to remember is to use the same number of strokes on each side of the blade.

After using the 3 stones,I use a fine diamond stone,then ceramic “sticks”. The ceramic sharpener can be either the set of sticks that goes in a wood block,or one of the pocket knife sharpeners that has both carbide and ceramic.

The last step in my knife sharpening process is to use a razor strop-or a wide leather belt-hey they worked for old-school barbers for a few centuries-so they obviously work.

In my pack-I carry a medium sized diamond hone that has a coarse and fine grit to it,along with one of the pocket sharpeners that has carbide and ceramic sticks,plus a diamond coated tapered rod for sharpening serrated blades.

Both of those products are made by Smith’s-and no,I am not promoting their products,nor do I receive any compensation for mentioning their products-they just happen to make what I was looking for when I bought the shit. Plus there’s the fact that the company has been making knife sharpening products for a very long time-like since the civil war era-or right after the war.

I’ve also used DMT sharpening products,they work great,then there’s the WorkSharp-which uses a sort of sanding belts,Lansky makes good knife sharpening stuff,as does Boker,who makes Japanese sharpening stones-Gander Mountain,Cabela’s,Bass Pro Shops,etc usually have good prices on knife sharpening products.
I use these guys sometimes…

As well as Smoky Mountain Knife Works.

Use whatever works best for you,the important thing is to always keep your knives sharp-dull knives are how you end up cutting yourself,and ruining whatever you are cutting-finding out you have a dull knife as you’re skinning and caping the deer or elk of a lifetime is not a good thing,and could ruin the skin,which would ruin your trophy that you were going to hang on the wall.

Finding out your knife is dull during a survival situation also sucks-and could cost you your life-or the lives of your family.

Keep your knives sharp-all the time.

A dull knife does you no good.

Practice sharpening your knives until you can get a razor sharp edge on all of them in just a few minutes-which is easy to do,as long as you sharpened them right in the first place…




Do more PT !