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Top 5 Sharpening Questions

June 14, 2021

Top 5 Sharpening Questions

We receive hundreds of messages every month asking about specific sharpening tips and tricks, so we thought we would share some of them with you.

Here are our Top 5 Sharpening Questions

 

When is the correct time to change to the next sharpening stone grit?

A general rule of thumb is once a burr has been formed on the entire length of the bevel on each side, confirming an apex has been made it is ok to progress.

The burr will indicate that the apex has been met across the entire bevel, this indicates that the metal has been worked and removed appropriately, confirm that your angle is still at the desired amount and continue to sharpen.

Always confirm your angle with the angle cube when changing stones, as when the stones start to change in thickness this can result in minor angle changes and sometimes can cause the user to not achieve a burr.

As you progress through the stone grits the burr will get smaller and smaller to the point that you cannot feel it easily, this is where a magnifier or microfiber cloth can be used to help see/feel the bur.

The Angle Cube will be your trusted friend in the sharpening journey.

 

What is the best grit stone to start on?

Be careful when selecting the starting stone in your sharpening progression as selecting a stone that is to coarse can result in overworking the bevel and removal of to much metal, this can also result in more work trying to remove the heavy scratches from the edge.

A handy tip is to use a stone that is middle range like a 1000 grit Naniwa Chosera, attempt to sharpen the blade at the desired angle and give it some scrubs for about 1 minute just on one side to see the result.

There are three thing that will possibly happen:

  1. A burr will form in most areas along the bevel, this will indicate a good starting stone to begin with
  2. A large heavy burr will form across the full length of the bevel indicating that the stone of choice may be to coarse for that steel and blade option.
  3. Absolutely no burr develops along the bevel, which indicates that the stone is to fine or the bevel is to damaged for that stone to work correctly, you would want to test a lower grit sharpening stone till you achieve the results from #1 option.

 

What Is The Best Sharpening Angle?

How long is a piece of string? There is no 1 size fits all angle for all blades.

So how do you determine what angle is best for my blade?

Their are pros and cons of Higher VS Lower angles, Higher angles tend to be more durable but wont cut as cleanly and require more effort to cut lower angles can achieve a higher sharpness but are far less durable and degrade faster.

Sharpness can be determined by what the knifes intended purpose was, to cut down branches or to sliver a fine piece of tuna sashimi.

As a guide for sharpening here are some general suggested angles:

  • Anything below 15° is saved generally for specialist knives such as razors and knives that do delicate work on softer materials.
  • 15°-20° is a general range for most kitchen knives that are mainly used for slicing
  • 20°-22° is generally for all purpose knives like folding knives and chopping knives 
  • 22° and up is saved mostly for bush craft, outdoors and hunting knives as these blades regularly require a thicker blade stock and are often hitting through harder items like branches and bones.

Match the factory angle, this may seem obvious but is generally overlooked as finding the angle can be somewhat tricky if you do no know how to do it.

The sharpie method is a common trick used by professionals to help determine the angle that the knife was sharpened from factory, simply run a sharpie carefully down the bevel on each side so the primary bevel is "painted" with marker, proceed to run the blade over the stone and watch to see if any of the marker is being removed.

If you’ve only removed the marker near the bevel, then you’re at a wider angle than the existing edge is, i.e. at 25° when the edge is 20°.

If you’ve only removed the marker farthest from the edge, or you didn’t hit the bevel at all, then you’re at a narrower angle than the existing bevel is, i.e. 20° when the bevel is 25°.

For either of these scenarios, you can move to the next angle up or down to see if it is a better match.

If you sharpen at the angle that is the closest match while being wider than the existing angle, then you will not have to remove much metal, and you will create a secondary bevel.

This means that you will lose a small amount cutting power while gaining some durability for the edge.

 

How Often Should I Sharpen My Blade?

A great rule of thumb is that if you maintain your edge frequently it will require less work to keep it sharp.

As part of ongoing maintenance and servicing, the act of doing touch ups to the blade is common good practice, as minor as passing the blade over a Leather Paddle Strop with some Poly Diamond Emulsion Like Gunny Juice or Stropping Paste will generally keep a blade in good health.

A good time for maintenance is when you feel that the blade is underperforming at its required tasks, this is a good opportunity to clamp it into your Wicked Edge or TSPROF system and run a high grit stone over the blade or strop.

The sooner you action that the knife is in need of maintenance the quicker it will be to bring it back to its previous sharpness, this will mean less stones are required and saving you time.

 

What Grit Stone Should I Stop On?

How sharp do you want your knife? The age old question of is it sharp enough.

sharp can be determined on the task ahead, what are you cutting and how frequently?

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Same principle goes with sharpness, A knifes ability to do its chosen work is heavily based on the blade type and what its primary task is, A razor will not be good at cutting down a tree and a butchers cleaver wont be good at shaving fine hair.

The blade type and also stone choice are important factors:

  • Diamond Stones - The 600 grit fine and the 1200 grit extra-fine are often cited as finishing stones. The fine will leave a toothy edge good for cutting soft material, the extra fine will be smoother, which will cut harder materials much easier. There are select diamond stones available in 4000 and 8000 grits if you want to have a polished edge using diamond stones.
  • Oil Stones - The fine grades of the Crystolon or the India Stones are used by some as finishing stones. However, they will leave a quite toothy edge that cuts with a good deal of sawing action, this may be suitable for cutting soft material. However, many people prefer to continue on to Arkansas Stones to refine the edge.
  • Arkansas Stones - All Arkansas Stones are potential finishing stones. Soft Arkansas gives a slightly toothy edge. Hard Arkansas is finer and gives a smoother edge with just a hint of a tooth. Hard Black and Hard Translucent leaves very smooth edges often compared to about 6000 grit water stones.
  • Water Stones - Water stones 3000 grit and higher are generally considered to be finishing stones. A 3000 grit stone will leave a fine edge suitable for many situations, it may have a small amount of tooth to the edge. Water stones 5000 or 6000 are common finishing grits, and give a good slicing edge with a very slight tooth. Water stones 8000 and higher will leave very smooth and polished edge for clean cuts.

If you have any questions outside of our top 5 please send us a message as we will be glad to help answer them.

Check out our Tips and Tricks for sharpening




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