Knife Sharpening

Discussion in 'Camping, Hiking, Cooking' started by Kent Lufkin, Apr 5, 2012.

  1. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    After years of denial, I'm finally admitting to one of the objects of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: I absolutely can't abide dull knives. There, I've owned up to it in public although doing so doesn't being me any sense of relief.

    Beginning when my father bought me my first Case folding pocket knife in the 5th grade, I've been a bit anal (all right, more than a little bit anal) about keeping my knives sharp. My boyhood carborundum stone gave way to a set of Buck Arkansas oilstones in college. But the problem with hand stones is maintaining a consistent angle. My idea of what 15 or 20 degrees looked like varied considerably from session to session.

    As I learned to cook, I appreciated the value of sharp knives even more. Nothing like trying to squish your way through a ripe tomato with a knife that's little sharper than a butter knife. Despite owning some pretty nice knives, I've tried and discarded any number of sharpening devices, from steels to pocket carbide 'V's to diamond-coated rods to an expensive Chef's Choice electric job.

    A few years ago, I bought a fancy set of stones with metal rods sticking out one end. You clamped the knife blade in a device with a series of holes protruding above it that the rods fit into, keeping the stones at a fixed angle while you used them to sharpen the blade. Problem is, the angles change when sharpening a long blade the further the stones are from the hole.

    I was sharpening a neighbor's kitchen knives the other evening with an Edgecraft hand sharpener her husband had bought before he passed away. At first, I was impressed by the way it maintained a fixed angle on both the coarse and the fine stones. But it would only get the knives so sharp, refusing to get them the rest of the way to true sharpness (here's where my OCD really kicks in!)

    Once again, while some solutions work better than others, no single device allowed me to consistently achieve and maintain an edge.

    In full obsessive mode I started searching again for a sharpening solution and quickly happened upon a product called a Sharpmaker from Spyderco, makers of some pretty impressive pocket knives. After watching a couple of videos on YouTube I was hooked - again. I found one on Amazon for $54 with free shipping, about a $40 discount over MSRP.

    It arrived Tuesday and I stopped everything to set it up and test it out. My first efforts at restoring an edge on a small chef's knife were notable, especially for how little effort the process required. The Sharpmaker's triangular ceramic rods even have a groove down one flat that allows you to re-point a tip that's been blunted by years of slipping off the stone.

    I know me well enough to know that the Sharpmaker won't be the last gadget I try in my quest for the ideal sharpening solution. But it's raised the bar high enough that I don't think I'll be trying anything else for a while.

    That is, unless you've got one that you can recommend that I may not have tried yet.

    dryflylarry and Ed Call like this.
  2. CaddisSunset Member

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    I too share your disdain for dullness! I finnally switched to a 1" belt sander with very fine grit belts (3M Trizact). It takes alot of practice not to burn the blade and to keep proper angles, but I can get most knives razor sharp in under 2 minuets and achieve a convex grind. I also agree with your opinon on the Lanskey systems, you can get a sharp knife but consistant angle across the length of the blade takes paitence.
  3. Patrick Gould Active Member

    Posts: 2,356
    Ellensburg, WA
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    Thanks for the info. It's always bothered me that my rather expensive Chef's Choice sharpener doesn't get the knives as sharp as they should be. I'll have try the sharpmaker.

    The ultimate is the water cooled Tormik T-7.
  4. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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  5. Salmo_g Active Member

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    I'm not OCD, but a knife is sharp when I can shave hair off my arm with it. I have a few systems, but the one that consistently works the best is my old tried and true. I begin with the carborundum stone, coarse, then fine. Then switch to my Arkansas stone, and finally polish up the edge to razor sharp with a few strokes across the very hard small Arkansas stone. Other things like the diamond stone and steel, which is good for touch ups on knives that don't have to be razor sharp, are good alternatives for knives that only need to be "almost" sharp.

    I may look into this Spyderco gadget.

  6. Cliff Member

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    Seattle, WA.
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    Great post, Kent. I've been looking for a good sharpener for awhile now but I don't want to invest lots of money on several sharpeners that are only so-so. Do you know if this sharpener will work with small hatchets?


    ps - I'll be at Lenice tomorrow through Sunday morning.
  7. Ed Call Mumbling Moderator

    Posts: 17,403
    Kitsap Peninsula
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    Kent, I'm not surprised one bit at your OCD for sharpness of the blades you carry. Great information, thank you for sharing. I know that I have a few blades that sure could use some more of my attention.
  8. NewTyer1 Banned or Parked

    Posts: 561
    Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
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    If you go to youtube they have a 4 part video from Spyderco that shows you how to use it and items it will sharpen and yes it will sharpen a hatchet
  9. ribka Active Member

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    I have the Lansky but the KME is a much better sharpening system.
  10. Dottiesdad Member

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    Puyallup, WA
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    Anyone familiar with these? It looks like the one I saw at the Sportsman's Show. Seemed like a good system with multiple grits of belts ranging from "rehabilitate" to "hone", but everything sounds good when you listen to a sales person.
  11. zen leecher aka bill w born to work, forced to fish

    Posts: 3,161
    Moses Lake, WA
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    I bought one of these a couple of sportsman shows ago. It works just like advertised and puts an excellent edge on knives. I had to get over running my Henkel knives on a "grinder". Very sharp edges!!!

    Works on cheap, poorly angled knives too.
  12. dryflylarry "Chasing Riseforms"

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    The Camping, Hiking, and Cooking section on the WFF is so helpful! Great post Ken. :cool:
  13. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    I bought the Lansky system a couple years ago and was very disappointed in how poorly it worked with long-bladed kitchen knives. By the time you stretch out the stones to reach the far ends of an 8" or 10" chef or carving knife, the angles it's supposed to maintain are completely off because of the extreme lateral distortion.

    Unlike the KME with it's padded jaws, the Lansky's clamp ended up putting major scratches in the blades since it had to be screwed down so tightly to keep the knife from pivoting in the mount. I'd love to have my original $45 purchase price back on the Lansky system.

    I've also used a Delta 1" workbench belt sander with a very fine grit belt to sharpen knives. It was a bit too efficient, grinding away about 1/8" of blade over a couple years on an otherwise wonderful little Henkel 4" chef paring knife. I tried any number of jigs and schemes to maintain a fixed angle, but in the end was unable to consistently use it to sharpen any knife.

  14. MT_Flyfisher Member

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    Emigrant, MT
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    Kent -

    Which model did you get? I don't know whether there is just one , or different models available, but I see some 204, some SC204, and some 204MF models offered for sale. If there are different models available, do you know what the differences are?

    Thanks for the info.

  15. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    Sorry John, but I have no clue what the different model numbers refer to. I do know that once you get the basic Sharpmaker, you can buy replacement and/or supplemental rods for it. Spyderco makes a pair of diamond-coated rods (~$45 for the pair) for really aggressive reshaping as well as a pair of extra-fine ones for the ultra-anal among us (ie. me) to put on that final hone. Please post what you find out about the different models.

  16. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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    Update: I was just on eBay looking at the optional ultra-fine rods and noticed that the model 204MF appears to refer to the set that comes with medium and fine rods (MF). Not sure about the others.

  17. Rick Todd Active Member

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    I just ordered the sharpener from Amazon (and I didn't even know I needed a new sharpener!) I really shouldn't spend so much time on this site-it gets expensive!:) Rick
  18. Kent Lufkin Remember when you could remember everything?

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  19. curtis bias Member

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    Shreveport, Louisiana
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    If you are feeling like you have OCD about sharpening your knives, buy a Tormek and prove that you truly are obsessed. This is a great tool. Costs around $300. It is worth that price if you have other sharpening needs (wood working tools etc). You can set the angle to whatever degree you choose. The guy in the video is grinding a 20 degree angle.
  20. bulletsnhooks Pat Coleman

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    I too am OCD about the edge of a knife. I have an old lathe stone I got from the saw filer at one of the local lumber mills. Once you get used to them and figure out the angle to hold your knife they are great. I have tried several other systems (Lansky, ceramic rod, arkansas stones, etc.) and nothing puts an edge like my old lathe stone.