Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:27 pm
I have been working on my free hand sharpening skills for about 4 months or so. I seem to be able to get a very sharp edge on longer blades easily but it seems considerable harder with my shorter folding knives. I'm convinced it doesn't have anything to do with the blade steel. I don't know what steel my kitchen knives are. We have had them forever and I'm sure they weren't expensive. I'm sure they weren't the cheapest, worst quality either though. A comment from another person made me think it has to do with the ease of maintaining a consistant angle from start to finish on each stroke and from one stroke to another. The comment was that he found it easier to maintain a consistant low angle cut with longer blades than short ones. Since a consistant accurate angle is important in sharpening I thought this may be the problem I'm having.
What do others think I wonder? So, I'm asking the question here. What are your thoughts, anyone? If anyone has other explanations I'd love to hear them. Thanks for any help in advance.
Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:33 pm
Hey there Jack, there are a lot of experts on here and for whatever it's worth listen to what they have to say about this. I am not an expert sharpener.
when I was growing up my grandfather taught me how to sharpen pocket knives/hunting knives. The angles he used and the stones where completely different than what is commonly discussed here but to this day it still works for me. Namely that the angles where nowhere near as acute to kitchen cutlery, I dare say conservatively that on the pocket knives it would be about 25 degrees a side and instead of a single smooth motion it was/is a short series of circles on the stone. I've tried this on my synthetic stones and gauged the heck out of my green brick, so I really wouldn't suggest it. I still have he's Arkansas sharpening puck which is super hard and the only thing I will ever feel safe sharpening this way again.
That said I think a variety of things play onto making the sharpening of larger blades easier, for one there's more material to hang on to. And two I find that when I'm sharpening a paring knife that I put too much pressure on the smaller blade which causes more oscillation over the surface of the stone, causing what you where describing with inconsistent angles.
Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:07 am
Sharpening a paring knife is a lot more difficult for this very reason. Although it takes me much less time to sharpen a 3.5" paring knife than it does a 10" chef's knife, the skill required is higher with the paring knife. Or at least the concentration level. You have to move your arm too much to adjust for the sweeping edge.
Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:31 am
I agree that smaller knives are definitely trickier -- harder to get a good feel for the angle, easier to use too much pressure and burn the edge, etc.
Most of my pocket knives have fully convexed edges (bullet shaped right to the cutting edge, with no bevels), and I don't use waterstones for them at all unless I need to do a major repair. I use 400/600/1000 wet/dry paper on a phone book, then strop with compound.
Swiss Army knives are a great learning exercise, since the skinny blades and small size mean you have to have a very light touch, but the relatively soft steel means you get immediate feedback about your technique. If you can get a SAK right, it's then easier to get a more modern steel just right.
Tue Jan 29, 2013 9:38 am
Pocket knives typically have a drop-point profile with a very pronounced belly. It can take quite a bit of practice to learn to ride that curve -- you have to lift your elbow pretty high and rotate the blade quite a bit, and it goes without saying that it's hard to do that while maintaining your angle.
Also, I believe this is right: since shorter blades tend to be narrower, the wobble in height from the spine above the stone that has only a small effect (on angle) on a long wide blade will have a much greater effect (on angle) on your short narrow blade. But I haven't finished my first coffee of the day.
So yea, like Adam said you have to concentrate more. One thing that can help is shorter strokes (you can see Jason doing this in his videos when he's trying to be precise).
Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:11 am
I agree mistakes are amplified on shorter blades. What I learned is that shorter blades will teach you the importance of mastering pressure. When I started, I was applying way too much pressure on the edge which just created more issues and hindered proper bevel alignment. Once you gain the ability to put a keen edge on a short blade, you can take satisfaction knowing you're making strides in learning how to modulate pressure which in itself can dramatically improve your game, IMO. Josh
Tue Jan 29, 2013 10:58 am
I'd add that if you only use a stropping motion (away from the edge), the deep belly is actually quite easy to ride. Doesn't work in all situations, of course.
Thu Jan 31, 2013 10:12 pm
Thanks for all the replies and help. I appreciate it. Everything said makes sense
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