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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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It's confession time. Although I own multiple knives and use them frequently, I am hopeless at sharpening them. I've tried various methods, and even paid a guy to do it for me, but I feel it's a pretty basic skill that everyone should be able to do with a moderate degree of success. I use knives for chores, for work, for fun, for cooking. I should be able to figure this out!

I'm gonna break down what I have and what I know, and maybe some of you knife wizards can give me a friendly suggestion. I've checked on some other forums and read articles, but the information is either incredibly generic (sharpen your knife at a consistent angle) or way too specific for me to understand (If you're using #G7r12 steel and living in the Southern Hemisphere you need to be sharpening with a whale bone at 12 degree angles...).

So I get the basics of knife sharpening. By consistently removing material from either side of the blade at a set angle you can acquire a sharper edge. And I assume the edge/angle put on the knife is correct, so I'm just looking to sharpen up what already exists. My issue seems to be finding and keeping the correct angle while sharpening.

I started out with a basic knife sharpener from AccuSharp (green and orange image). I've used these before at a restaurant and they work fine, but the angle of the sharpener is often different than the edge geometry of my knife. Sometimes it's close, other times it's not...

So question 1: Is this type of sharpener okay for most knives? Do you just keep swiping away till you've destroyed the old edge angle and established the new one that fits the sharpener?

Next, I've experimented with a whetstone. I have a three sided one from harbor freight (see image 2) with different grits for stainless steel, carbon steel, etc. My dad showed me how to use these as a kid, but I always seem to have trouble finding the proper angle for the knife and then maintaining it. I've tried with a couple knives where I spend a good amount of time carefully honing both sides of the blade only to realize I've been off by a fraction and made the thing duller than when I started.

Question 2: Is the whetstone the type of tool you keep practicing with until you become proficient? ie - is this a skill tool that just requires hours of abusing knives till you've mastered it's potential?

Finally, I've been eyeballing these little wedges you can affix to your whetstone with rubber (See image 3). You pick the one that matches the angle of your blade's edge, and utilize it to make sure you're getting consistent swipes each time. I feel like these might be a good option but haven't seen many reviews on them.

Question 3: Has anyone tried these wedges before and how well did you think they worked?

I'm limited in funds so I'd like to make one of these solutions work. I've seen really fancy electric sharpeners that allow you to dial in the correct angle then sharpen the blade with a motor, but I don't think I can justify a purchase of that level for my cheap knife collection. Any help or tips you all can offer would be greatly appreciated!
 

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The carbide scraper will never get it as sharp as you want it. The trihone is perfect, it's what I started with. Alas there really isn't more to it than keeping a consistent angle and time.
But doing one side first may help you keep your angle and see results faster. With the coarsest stone, pick your angle and go back and forth without taking the knife off the stone unless you're checking it. Go until you raise a burr along the edge. You'll know you raised the burr when you drag your fingers/fingernails across the edge and you feel it on the opposite side from what you're sharpening. Now you can switch sides to remove that burr. Chase that burr back and forth until it's not noticable and your knife will be sharp. You can refine it with strokes on alternating sides after that with the finer stones
 

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Hey Mikey, I had the same deal going on for a long while. I just couldn't get it. I have that same three sided stone. I thought it was garbage until I got it down. Granted, I'm still just ok and not the greatest. But there's a YouTuber that I watch who's tips I believe in. Maybe someone else has better recommendations, but I've dramatically improved from OUTDOOR55's videos and tips on sharpening and honing with a strap.

Here's a link. I hope it works. Otherwise just look up OUTDOOR55 and sharpening tips. He has a couple good videos.

https://youtu.be/-8WxarmQmIY' class='bbc_url' title='External link' rel='nofollow external'>
 

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As a devoted home cook I have a knife collection and sharpen my own knives since many years ago. I only use whetstones. Never used devices like AccuSharp because they usually eat and destroy the edges. Sharpening with whetstones is not that complicated really, if you get proper stones. I use: Shapton Glass Stones:#320 and #1000 and several Chocera SS stones, Bester, etc. A collection of stones indeed, but you can stick to the Glass Stones. I don't use 3 stones jigs. I believe the quality of dedicated stones is much better and stable. Stability of the stone over the counter top is important to get consistent angles. Something I learned through experience is that when you use many stones, like going from #320-550-1000-5000-15.000, etc. you will probably modify the angles and you will end up with a mediocre edge. So nowdays I use just the #320 (to remake horrible bevels) and #1000 Glassstone. That's enough for my cooking. Here's a good channel to see and learn:

Sharpening techniques

Myths of knife sharpening

If you're in doubt about really touching the edge, check the marker sharpie trick:

Good luck and keep those angles constant!
 

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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Alright! Great tips all around guys. So it does seem that it's just a skill that requires some practice and finesse. That is sad, in that some of my knives will suffer from my clumsy attempts, but a good thing in that it's something that won't require fancy equipment and should serve me well throughout my life.

A couple quick questions about stones:

#1 - am I supposed to put water on the tri-stone jig I have? Or do I use it dry?

#2 - My tri-stone block has three different stones and the instructions say they are for 3 different metals. Do I sharpen my carbon steel knife on just the one side, or is it recommended to start with a rougher grit stone and progress your way up to the finer grit to finish up an edge?

Thanks for all the feedback. I may still get the wedges to help me establish the correct angles and stay consistent, but I'll keep at it till I'm splitting paper and shaving hairs! I've got a couple carbon knives that I'd love to bring to their full potential...
 
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If you pick up one of those knife sharpening systems with adjustable angles, you'll get the quickest, most consistent results. If not, then investing in a good set of stones will be the way to go. It takes time to build up a sharpening stone collection.

I do prefer free hand sharpening because every knife is different and I want to be able to feel out each edge and tailor the edge profile I want. Just do some research and watch the many Youtube videos on sharpening. You'll get it very quickly. The tricky part is always the belly and tip of the knife where you need to lift up just enough to follow the curve.

Whatever you use or do, to get a sharp edge, you MUST "apex". And to apex, you need to create a consistent burr on the side you are not sharpening. The burr lets you know that you are grinding to an apex and pushing material over to the other side. If you don't get burr, you are not apexing. Once the burr feels consistent along the entire edge, it means you have properly worked through the entire edge. At that point you would turn over and repeat and work through the stone grits to a point you are satisfied. All the good sharpening videos will tell you this and that's the one tip you must take to heart

For dull knives you need to start with a low grit stone like a 600 or 800. Then move on to a 1,000 and depending how far you want to take the edge you can keep going on finer grits. Generally though, the edge is polished at 6,000 and will easily push cut. Push cut means just that, if you push the edge against a sheet of paper it will cut. This is contrasted with a sheer cut where it will cut only if you draw the knife across in a slicing motion. If your knife won't even sheer cut then your edge is dull.

If your knives are maintained often, a 1,000 stone would be the go to. There are little tricks like pull across end strokes on each grit to remove wire edges but that's getting into refined sharpening. Basically, if you remember nothing else, just remember to burr and deburr. If you can do that you will have a good enough edge. Burr and deburr! Burr and deburr!!

For stones, note that there are oil stones and waterstones and they are not interchangeable or they might be ruined. The method of using oil stones is with a honing motion, meaning you sharpen on the push stroke and relax on the pull and with waterstones, it's the reverse - applying pressure and sharpening only on a pull stroke.

If you are sharpening camp knives and utility knives, just get an Arkansas stone. something from Smiths is good enough. These are oil stones and usually come with some honing oil.

Diamond coated steel plates are also superb but you need to know how to use them as they are very aggressive at removing steel and are great for fixing messed up edges. If your knives aren't precious then using diamond plates is the quickest sharpening. Every sharpening takes away steel and some of your knife's life. But it does take ages to wear through a knife.

If you can sharpen your knives on a stone, then you should also get or make yourself a leather strop. Stropping really does take the edge to the next level and just stropping alone is usually enough to maintain an edge or at least stretch out sharpening intervals.

I hate those wedges or guides as they very quickly become more of a hindrance rather than an aid...

If you are not sure if you are getting on the edge, one trick is the Sharpee mark just the very edge and remove the marking on the stone to sharpen.

I love knives, especially Japanese knives. Here is one of my knives illustrating sharpness...

http://instagr.am/p/BOtnyJRB5qe/
PM me anytime if you need any guidance... or look for someone here who might be a chef coz all chefs know how to sharpen their knives...or at least they should!

And welcome to the rabbit hole of knife sharpening
 

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There is quite a difference in steel quality. A quality knife will sharpen way easier than cheap stainless steel, and hold it's edge way longer. I keep a small cheap washer deal made by RADA on the counter.It's as effective as a good quality steel for touch up. A quality diamond steel is worth owning in my book. You could put a good edge on a grader blade if you have to.I would like to add, sharp is one thing. Razor sharp is another story. You need a strop to do the job perfect. I've sharpend knives, clevers ,axes. chisles. Just takes time and a good eye, which my age is taking from me.
 

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Mike..

The advice from the previous posts is all you need. Find a stable flat surface at a comfortable working hight. Sit down relax follow advice above.

A couple more thoughts that might help. Cheap lower quality blades have a lower carbon content, are softer and are easier to sharpen. I grew up in a slaughter house, that is all we used, all we could afford. We used a steel to stand the edge back up on them. When stainless came out, we didn't like them because we couldn't get them sharp on our cheap stones, They were to hard. You didn't learn to hold a slingshot in a consistent manner overnight and you won't learn to hold a blade at a consistent angle either. Practice young man! Start with cheapos and work up to the harder steel after you get the idea. I was impressed with the advice given above, follow it. Be patient, you aren't launching a rocket into space, you just putting a consistent bevel on a piece of steel.
 

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No time for a complete reply...but please, be aware that all pull-through sharpeners have high likelihood of off damaging your knife at some time...they put these kind of waves or ripple on the secondary bevel that leads to chips or worse...and the edge is never really sharpened.

My vote is to pay someone to sharpen them while you devote some time to learn how.

I use the cheese grater like diamond plates, a bit of oiled leather...sometimes a very fine stone to touch up the edge.
 
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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for all the advice guys! I sat down for an hour and worked on a butcher knife I picked up a while back. While the thing isn't razor sharp, it certainly has a better edge than when purchased. I tried the sharpie method and it really helped me see how my angle was too steep/too shallow. I put some water on the stone occasionally and worked one side till I had a nice even burr, then switched to the other and cleaned it up. I just made a sheath for it too, so hopefully it'll stay a little sharper than banging around in my kitchen drawer.

I do have a couple other questions: The sharpening stone I got is a cheap one from Harbor Freight Tools. It has 3 sides, 120 grit aluminum oxide for carbon steel, 240 grit aluminum oxide for stainless steel, and 150 grit silicon carbide for hard carbide blades. I used the 120 grit since my blade is carbon steel. It sounds like some of you all are recommending starting out on a 300-600 grit and working you're way up to get a better edge. Is there a preferred grit level with which to start? I can probably ask for a decent whetstone for Christmas, but I'm not sure what brand or grit would be preferable. Any recommendations would be great!
 

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Your 3 stone kit is way too coarse. Better get a couple stones: one in the 300-500 grit range and a 1000. That's enough. There're many fine brands (Chosera, Naniwa, Shapton, Norton, King...) but here's a good deal:

https://www.sharpeningsupplies.com/Suehiro-Cerax-Single-Grit-Stone-P1639C4.aspx

When you a want to try a leather strop loaded with chromium oxide, tell us and we can guide you building it.
 

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Thanks for all the advice guys! I sat down for an hour and worked on a butcher knife I picked up a while back. While the thing isn't razor sharp, it certainly has a better edge than when purchased. I tried the sharpie method and it really helped me see how my angle was too steep/too shallow. I put some water on the stone occasionally and worked one side till I had a nice even burr, then switched to the other and cleaned it up. I just made a sheath for it too, so hopefully it'll stay a little sharper than banging around in my kitchen drawer.

I do have a couple other questions: The sharpening stone I got is a cheap one from Harbor Freight Tools. It has 3 sides, 120 grit aluminum oxide for carbon steel, 240 grit aluminum oxide for stainless steel, and 150 grit silicon carbide for hard carbide blades. I used the 120 grit since my blade is carbon steel. It sounds like some of you all are recommending starting out on a 300-600 grit and working you're way up to get a better edge. Is there a preferred grit level with which to start? I can probably ask for a decent whetstone for Christmas, but I'm not sure what brand or grit would be preferable. Any recommendations would be great!
Hey that is an "old Hickery" you got there> Don't sell it short, I still have two or three. Put a good edge on it, Keep it out of the dirt, stand the edge back up when it stops cutting, you could skin a bull moose with it. Make a steel. Take a rat tailed file grind the teeth off, run it back and forth length wise over an old sandstone brick or something. You want the scratches to run the length of it. Run your knife over it LIGHTLY I said LIGHTLY at the same angle you sharpened it at. Remember, you are just straightening that microscopic edge which you honed on there. Oh, and if you do skin a moose, stay away from the teeth. You hit a tooth, and you might as well go back to the hones. :)
 

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Thanks for all the advice guys! I sat down for an hour and worked on a butcher knife I picked up a while back. While the thing isn't razor sharp, it certainly has a better edge than when purchased. I tried the sharpie method and it really helped me see how my angle was too steep/too shallow. I put some water on the stone occasionally and worked one side till I had a nice even burr, then switched to the other and cleaned it up. I just made a sheath for it too, so hopefully it'll stay a little sharper than banging around in my kitchen drawer.

I do have a couple other questions: The sharpening stone I got is a cheap one from Harbor Freight Tools. It has 3 sides, 120 grit aluminum oxide for carbon steel, 240 grit aluminum oxide for stainless steel, and 150 grit silicon carbide for hard carbide blades. I used the 120 grit since my blade is carbon steel. It sounds like some of you all are recommending starting out on a 300-600 grit and working you're way up to get a better edge. Is there a preferred grit level with which to start? I can probably ask for a decent whetstone for Christmas, but I'm not sure what brand or grit would be preferable. Any recommendations would be great!
If you are only gonna have only one stone then I would say you need 1000 grit because that can work out dull edges though it might take a bit more elbow grease and it is still fine enough for daily use.1000 produces a toothy edge that is great for shear cutting. I would then get a 600 as that is rough enough to fix most knife problems. With those two you would have all you need for regular serviceable usage. So, you might want to invest in a 600/1000 combination stone for the best of both worlds and that would set you up for a good while. They are quite common and can usually be found at the kitchen knives area of a good retailer.

Sharpening is a mechanical process of holding an angle and grinding down steel to an apex. So the better you can maintain a consistent angle throughout the entire edge the better a result you will get. Expert sharpeners will also always maintain a knife's edge profile and become sticklers about not altering a blade's profile unintentionally. If you do it right you will find a clean consistent grind appearing as a shiny line along your edge. Just be aware of your blade's profile and try not to alter it by grinding too much in one area (overgrinding usually occurs at the centre) or loosing the point.

If you want to go for more refinement, you can collect finer stone grits. You got some great Japanese stone recommendations above but those can be pricy.

Also all knife edges deform with use. It's microscopic but enough to affect performance. That's why some people use a knife steel to realign the edge between uses. Stropping also helps to realign edges... Enjoy your sharp knives!
 

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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for all the advice guys! I sat down for an hour and worked on a butcher knife I picked up a while back. While the thing isn't razor sharp, it certainly has a better edge than when purchased. I tried the sharpie method and it really helped me see how my angle was too steep/too shallow. I put some water on the stone occasionally and worked one side till I had a nice even burr, then switched to the other and cleaned it up. I just made a sheath for it too, so hopefully it'll stay a little sharper than banging around in my kitchen drawer.

I do have a couple other questions: The sharpening stone I got is a cheap one from Harbor Freight Tools. It has 3 sides, 120 grit aluminum oxide for carbon steel, 240 grit aluminum oxide for stainless steel, and 150 grit silicon carbide for hard carbide blades. I used the 120 grit since my blade is carbon steel. It sounds like some of you all are recommending starting out on a 300-600 grit and working you're way up to get a better edge. Is there a preferred grit level with which to start? I can probably ask for a decent whetstone for Christmas, but I'm not sure what brand or grit would be preferable. Any recommendations would be great!
If you are only gonna have only one stone then I would say you need 1000 grit because that can work out dull edges though it might take a bit more elbow grease and it is still fine enough for daily use.1000 produces a toothy edge that is great for shear cutting. I would then get a 600 as that is rough enough to fix most knife problems. With those two you would have all you need for regular serviceable usage. So, you might want to invest in a 600/1000 combination stone for the best of both worlds and that would set you up for a good while. They are quite common and can usually be found at the kitchen knives area of a good retailer.

Sharpening is a mechanical process of holding an angle and grinding down steel to an apex. So the better you can maintain a consistent angle throughout the entire edge the better a result you will get. Expert sharpeners will also always maintain a knife's edge profile and become sticklers about not altering a blade's profile unintentionally. If you do it right you will find a clean consistent grind appearing as a shiny line along your edge. Just be aware of your blade's profile and try not to alter it by grinding too much in one area (overgrinding usually occurs at the centre) or loosing the point.

If you want to go for more refinement, you can collect finer stone grits. You got some great Japanese stone recommendations above but those can be pricy.

Also all knife edges deform with use. It's microscopic but enough to affect performance. That's why some people use a knife steel to realign the edge between uses. Stropping also helps to realign edges... Enjoy your sharp knives!
Thanks! After I posted my final question I went back and read some answers again and realized you had already given a recommendation. Sometimes all the answers start to swim together...
 

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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks for the feedback. I'll definitely see about picking up a decent stone or two here in the near future and let you know how it goes!
 

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One other tip that could help is to position the knife and stone at about chest level and no lower than your waist when sharpening. Ideally, the level should be just a little higher than where your elbows drop down to. This helps us to maintain the angle as we would be using our arms to move in the right way, to push and pull on a more consistent angle. If we position the knife too low, we would unconsciously have a scooping motion. If you find yourself scooping then try to raise the the stone a little. Something about our body mechanics and the way our joints are hinged. It's not that it can't be done down low but it just takes a lot more effort and attention. Hope this helps!

Sharpening can be quite gratifying... enjoy
 

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A lot of good advice here. It takes practice. Following the pointers will get you there a little faster, but, like anything, practice.

I strictly use Japanese wet stones with water. One thing you need to be mindful of...these stones wear down and eventually have a trough in them. Use both sides until the trough becomes too difficult to work with and then buy a replacement stone.
 
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A lot of good advice here. It takes practice. Following the pointers will get you there a little faster, but, like anything, practice.

I strictly use Japanese wet stones with water. One thing you need to be mindful of...these stones wear down and eventually have a trough in them. Use both sides until the trough becomes too difficult to work with and then buy a replacement stone.
Yeah... they do!!! They have to be flattened to prolong their usabilility... I have to regularly use a flattening stone on my waterstones to quickly get them all level again... They do eventually get to a point where they are so thin they need to be tossed but that's a really really long time...
 
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