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Thread: Knife sharpening....

  1. #1

    Knife sharpening....

    Lots of good gen on here ref knife sharpening, but a few specific questions please:

    Does anyone not use a Lanksy sharpening system?! Seems to be the industry standard, but can you get as good results from an Accusharp or similar?

    Using an accusharp type system, could you/should you still use a leather strop? They seem to be used to get rid of the burr from the sharpening process, but there won't be one with something like an accusharp will there?

    Just got my first 'posh' knife, a Helle, and hopefully won't destroy it to the point of needing to use a set of stones, mostly as I would not have the patience and it seems a right old faff!

  2. #2
    In theory, yes you can use a strop to remove the burr, but having just googled the accu sharp, you'd maybe have a fair bit of burr.

    It has, hand on heart, taken me a long time to learn to sharpen on flat stones properly, for most people the Lansky really is very good value, easy to use and produces great results, topped off with a strop it gives a great edge for all work on beasts.

    PM me if you need a hand and I'll try to help.


  3. #3
    I do not use any "system" just whatever happens to be at hand when the blade is dull. Oil stone, whetstone, front step!

    I do have a few diamond diafold and a multi grade DMT type files. Blue for coarse, red for fine and ceramic for bur removal prior to strop.

    It depends on the knife and it's function but I find the red/fine diamond grade does most of it. I sometimes strop and have even polished the edge with the buffing wheel on some knives.


  4. #4
    I used one for a while but found very slow to use and gave no real benefit over the kitchen steel or an ordinary small diamond sharpener I keep in my pocket when out. If you want to hone it enough to shave with, then strop it on a piece of cardboard. It's far cheaper, quicker and one thing less to store when not in use.

  5. #5
    Dougster is the knife guru as far as I am concerned ( as always - openly declaring a personal and business interest and leg pulling interest etc between us and Dougster ) - but he is also so flipping diffident and unassuming I could honestly and in his own best interest strangle him! Notice it's always the way - guys that really know their stuff are the least likely to really promote themselves? ( He'll be fizzing about this! )

    So what I write here has largely been learn from or via Dougster. ie blame him

    We sell Lansky 4 rod ceramic box sharpeners and their ( last of the Mohican as discontinued ) Fold a Vee ceramic rod sharpener. So again interest declared. We do not stock their 'system', set angle rod/ key fob thingies nor their diamond 'stones' simply because we either dont feel them necessary or are not happy with their performance.

    In terms of all the systems out there that employ some form of mechanism to set the blade angle consistently - the idea is great. It is an inability to keep a consistent angle that cause the most frustration for people and keeps knife makers in business as thousands of tonnes of blade steel is ground off fruitlessly each year. Its a masterpiece of marketing because it leads people to get stressed about ruining their edge - so they put off the fateful day, milking the last ounce of sharp from their pride and joy before trying to restore it. So very often you actually have a very blunt or even damaged edge - all the harder to fix.

    Every set angle system I have tried did n't utterly clamp the blade angle solid - there was room to vary things by how you used the system. So each took a while to develop a technique. Some people hit that sweet zone straight off - they are ahead of the game. I'd propose that just a little bit more well directed and thought through practise would give them similar results from a normal stone.

    The key is to have very clearly in your mind what it is you are trying to do. A sharp edge basically comes down to a piece of metal coming to an edge at an angle. The steeper that angle, the finer the edge and the higher its potential to be sharp - but conversely weaker/ fragile. The edge itself will perform meat cutting tasks - particularly skin more easily and retain the edge longer the smoother it is.

    Magnify things high enough and every edge will look like a saw blade. But for practical purposes smoother is better. Many products actually put either quite a rough and jagged edge or a very fine bur edge onto your blade. Touch it with your thumb and often you can feel it grab your fingerprints. That feels wicked sharp - but it isn't actually much good to you. Notice how your Mora felt brand new and how quick it needed touching back up? Too jagged and on cutting skin it'll catch and drag - in doing so those ultra fine teeth snap off leaving a blunt edge. The fine bur edge cuts like a laser - for a second of two and then bends over or snaps leaving a blunt stub. Be aware that any number of quick fix products out there do exactly this to your knife. The Helle in the Op is a great blade - I have three. Most are laminate steel with a quite hard centre portion forming the edge. Run that through a carbide type fixed sharpener and it will chatter - you'll end up with a serrated edge and feel sick to your stomach. That's not a lecture, its just relaying my own story!

    Many modern blades are running at Rc hardness upwards of Rc59. Some are into the low Rc60's. Many traditional stones and watertstones in particular run about Rc57-58. Butchers steels are about Rc59 and ceramic 'steels' etc run Rc60 and above. To properly influence your blade steel you need something harder than the blade.

    Diamond is hard stuff. But the industry is a bit sly. Notice there's quite a difference in prices? There are two basic types of abrasive surface - Mono Crystalline and Poly Chrystalline. Mono C surfaces are 'flattened' so to speak. Poly C are simply impregnated/ impressed with raw diamond grit. An ultra fine Lansky diamond stone with abrade/ cut far more coarsely than the very coarsest DMT. In fact, other than cutting metal back to remove damage, I have found no use for the Lansky diamond blocks. Thats not to pick on Lansky - I love some of their stuff. Other makes are just as confusing. But if diamond appeals, stump the cash and buy DMT.

    But I digress! What was it we wanted all these stones etc for?

    Your sharp edge is best comprised a sharp consistent angle that is steep enough to cut well, but wide enough/ has enough metal behind it to be strong. The edge wants to be proper - as in the actual angle in the blade metal, not a feather or bur edge and it wants to be a smooth as possible - we are talking in the realms of polished here.

    How do you know you have that? Take a piece of paper and edge on run the blade across the edge at about 30 degrees or so - depends on the knife. The edge should 'bite'. You should be able to glide the knife through the paper - along its full edge and make curves. Any grab will indicate areas on the blade still needing work. Dont over do it as the self same test is a great way to blunt the blade! If you are really cooking on gas you should be able to shave curls from the edge of the paper.

    Your new knife may or may not do this straight off. We will assume it will and proceed from there.

    Every time you use you blade the edge will be subject to force and wear. This causes the metal to move and possibly abrade. Sooner or later - depending on what you do, the metal, the edge type etc one of the first things to happen is that the edge will 'roll' or round off. Likely in one particular direction. Now instead of a sharp angle you have a folded edge. At this point you think of chefs and butchers. How often do you see them slavish away over an abrasive stone? Compare that to how often you see them work the blade over a butchers 'steel' ( could be steel or ceramic, but we'll call them steels )?

    You'll likely be racing ahead on this. What they are doing is resetting the edge - removing or rather moving the metal to reform the edge. Of course to work it needs to be done at five million miles an hour right? Nope! More butchers slice themselves by drawing and edge up a steel towards themselves and at Zorro type warp speed than through most any other way. CONSISTENCY ( caps deliberate ) is the key. You go as fast or as slow as makes for consistency for you - that's all that matters. That and the angle!

    Angles - its also all about the angle, consistency matter only in regard to the angle. Rub the blade flat against anything and you just wear it away and only touch the edge at the very last. Look closely at your blade edge, you will see its set at an angle - likely equal on both sides. If you have a magnifier look at the edge and see if the sides adjacent to it are rough or polished whilst at it. For best results ( and ruling out fancy stuff like reprofiling for now ) you want to maintain - in both senses of the word, this angle. It is likely to be somewhere from 15 to 30 degrees.

    So when you sweep your blade along that steel you want to maintain the said angle for the whole length of the edge, lift it clear and then do the otherside. Often the edge is curved, so you have to accommodate that curve in your movement to keep a constant angle. If you exert a grip of death/ locked wrist them your angle will drift as any curve starts - hence the most likely flat spot you'll get is right on the apex of any 'belly' on your edge. Most often you need to lift your wrist to follow the curve - go check Youtube.

    So half a dozen swipes on a steel and hey presto your edge is back good as new. almost.

    Each time you do this it will reset the blade, but a pure steel wont effect the actual metal. So any scratches or dings arent really touched. You may however drag a slight amount of blade steel off the edge - creating a micro bur or feather. At this stage, not enough to really matter. Over time though you will reach the stage where you need to actually abrade the blade metal to redefine the edge, remove damage and polish out roughness. How often will vary as above. You can often extend then period by using a combination of a steel and strop or just the strop.

    Whats a strop? Traditionally its a leather 'belt'. You sweep the knife edge along it - edge backwards or else you cut the belt! The leather is resilient and mildly abrasive - you can add compounds to influence the level of abrasion - but really talking polishing terms here. And critically the leather flows around the edge. Logically you'd expect it to round off that precious edge, but at a micro level the leather actually trails the edge - working any bur, but not the edge proper. Forwards and back - lifting off properly each end and ensuring the actual edge is in contact with the leather. as you work, you wear away the bur and leave a highly polished proper edge. It cuts great and lasts. Of late the leather belt type strop has been replaced with strop boards. The thick leather gives enough to perform exactly the same task but in a neater and easier to store/ carry package.

    This process should be 75% of your knife care sorted!

    At this point the Lansky ( and other ) ceramic rods step in. They form a dual role. They act very much like a steel to reset rounded edges, but they have very slight abrasive qualities - swipe along a ceramic rod and you will see a smear of grey steel left behind. So here you are performing two jobs. Reset combined with very mild abrasion. Like the steels, the trick is to get the angle right. With a steel I suggest holding it vertically with the point on a hard surface and swiping the blade over it at your chosen angle. Thjs gives you a point of reference and the brain readily processes vertical references. With the Lansky units you set the rod to your chosen angle and merely have to hold the blade vertical - dead easy!

    A few strokes each side - always stroke equally. I much prefer one side then the other, but other doe 6 one side, 6 the other etc - whatever works for you, but keep it equal - remember CONSISTENT.

    Ceramic is pretty fine stuff so you get a good edge - BUT YOU MUST USE LIGHT PRESSURE. Literally just the weight of the blade. If you press harder then like all abrasive processes you start to form a bur. Hence such set ups work really well in conjunction with a strop for an A+ edge.

    We've now covered 90% of your bases. And no one should be more than 40 maximum invested.

    But we've been hacking away at grit encrusted stag bellies and somehow always miss the flat joint when removing a leg etc etc and we start to see dings in the edge or it gets to the point where on the steep or ceramic we dont feel the edge touching any more. What's happened is that over time the edge moves backwards - into the blade. As it does so the angle changes and in extremis goes completely. We need to reapply the angle. This isnt a case of moving steel alone; we need to resphape it and likely grind some of it away. This is what is actually often captured by the term 'sharpening' - yet as we've seen - if you've keep count of the maffs - its barely the last 10% of blade maintenance.

    The ceramic approach helps because of the very light ongoing abrasion process. But sometimes we reach the stage where substantial work needs doing. This is where the DMT bench stone become a joy to own. No one stone will do it all. You need to start relatively coarse to relatively fine. The coarser levels do the leg work quickly and easily then usually two levels of medium to fine are basically refinishing the surface marks left by the coarser grade. To the point where the ceramic/ strop polishes the final edge.

    If you have the dosh, get the finest stones - they'll repay you in pride of ownership. But its a big spend. More people fall out over blades than stalking leases so I hesitate to suggest it - but quite sensible to split the cost between a few friends? Otherwise invest about 10 in some suitable grades of emery/ micro mesh etc and stick them to a flat piece of wood - they will do exactly the same job.

    Long, long post - hope you survived it! Hope it helped, showed why we sell what we sell and Dougster does his thing. Not looking to trouble cause, but hope it also gave you a basis on which to judge and measure products and the claims of the sellers.

    Its secondhand through me, so also hope it encourages Dougster to weigh in and correct my gaffs and expand on the bits I've fudged.

    He'll be with us on the stand at Kelso if anyone wants to pop over and see us. We're sorry that he just can't offer a sharpener your blade type show - but past experience has people turning up with what are essentially crow bars for all the edge left on them and a show just does allow time to sensibly correct something like that. But he will show techniques - mush easier to see rather than write! And I'm hoping to get some video footage with him 'in the can' for future Youtube etc.

    Stalking and Courses
    BASC Approved Trainer & Assessor. Cairngorm National Park Authority Approved Supplier. Supported by Sauer Arms
    See you at Kelso, Scone & Moy 2016

  6. #6
    Hi, i have started using a electric chefs choice sharpener, a few strokes across the rotating wheels and my knives have never been so sharp.

  7. #7
    I have several Helle knives - they offer great performance and they are about my favourite 'factory' using knives.

    I have the Helle Temagami (one carbon and two in stainless - long story ), the Helle Polar, the Helle Nying and the Helle Dokka folding knife.

    Many people go all out for a perfect zero grind on Scandi blades, but most of the knives I see in Norway and Sweden have a small secondary bevel on the edge and many knifemakers over there regrind knives for people once they take the bevel past the stage where they can easily maintain a good edge.

    You don't say which model you have which is vital in answering this question. Helle do laminated stainless, plain 12C27 stainless, and laminated and plain carbon steel blades - all of them present a variation on the problem set you want to address.

    You could go as simple as an inexpensive 600 grit wetstone and a leather strop loaded with Solvol Autosol.

    The reason I say that is most people wait until their knife is blunt or dinged before dressing the edge. You're supposed to strop often, to maintain the edge (think along the lines of a butcher who regularly runs a few passes over his steel while working with the knife) and only go back to stones or any commercial system once the edge has gone well past the point where you could have done something with it.

    As mentioned above, the commercial 'clamp' systems are either bang on for your particular knife or they can introduce anomalies and change the angles, depending on how well they fit your particular knife.

    I use a Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker for quick and easy sharpening, or a DC4 diamond/ceramic combination pocket stone at a push, but I prefer a single waterstone and leather strop for when I have the time to indulge.

    You can pay lots for a whole range of stones if that's what honks your hooter but, by and large, most of us want a good general purpose edge that can handle skin and meat rather than something polished to within an inch of its life that is a bloody nuisance on flesh.

    My 600 grit stone and strop method produces a fine enough edge for relatively fine work but it's superb on flesh and game preparation. A highly polished edge works better for fine carving, brain surgery and similar, although one or two steels like S30V can benefit from a polished edge to capitalise on the characteristics of the steel.

    Helle laminated stainless knives tend to be mostly around 58-59 HRC so they are relatively easy to sharpen. The plain 12C27 stainless blades tend to be up to a point softer, typically between 57 - 59 HRC, which is a good thing where 12C27 is concerned. 12C27 never feels as sharp as it actually is

    The principle is "little and often" maintenance and only redress the edge if you ding it out - best way to avoid that is keep the edge away from bone...

    A strop or fine ceramic rod will keep an edge going for a very, very long time. If you ding the edge you did something wrong, and that's when you need to dress the edge so that you can go back to maintaining it.

    There's a chap in America that I know of who dressed out almost 30 Whitetail and similar sized animals with a 440C knife (comparatively soft stainless) and all he did was give it a stroke or two over a fine ceramic rod every couple of beasts.

    Once the edge is set, keeping it running ought to be your goal rather than working on how to faff about redressing it.

    Just an opinion - your mileage may vary

  8. #8

    Many thanks for the replies, I am still with it - but more confused than I was before! I read Moray's great post and take it I can use my normal kitchen steel on my Helle? Really?!

    I have a Helle Eggen, but also I have just got a Mora, companion I think it is, as a back up.

    I was hoping that you would all say yes, an Accusharp will do me, but it seems I need to invest more a) time and b) learning in how to do this properly.

    Firsty, anyone recommend a strop? Board best or a loose one? It will mostly be used at home so doesn't matter if its portable or not.

    Then what do I need, is a Lanksy Croc Stick style thing the one to go with? Will this do all I need/want until I need to go with a stone when I f&*k my blade up on bone?

    Sorry to re-drag what has probably being covered hundreds of times before, I was hoping for an easy fix to something that seems to be an art in itself!

  9. #9
    Hi I don't use any 'System' at all for sharpening a knife, in fact i very rarely sharpen a knife, i do however hone them, normally on a small piece of antler and then strop them. If i need to take a knife to stone it would be a waterstone or stones of the correct grade for the job, no point otherwise.

  10. #10
    That is one hell of a post, informative, and confusing all in one article!!. Just give it to us straight, what would you recommend, never mind declaring an interest, people on this site trust you!!, you have more experience than some of us on this subject

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