I thought I'd try to put up a little tutorial on knife sharpening, as it comes up all the time on the Hoodlums... In particular, I wanted to chat up the convex edge, as it is not as well known as other blade geometries...
There are several techniques, each of them effective, and which you choose depends on the particular use you have for the knife. Instructions can be found all over the 'net, so I'll not address all of them here.
Back when I was a kid growing up in West Virginia, everyone carried a pocket knife, and used a carborundum stone to sharpen them. There were no sharpening "systems" back then. Today, most folks are aware that there are bench stones, yet most cannot use one correctly. So they gravitate to one of the sharpening systems that hold the blade at a pre-selected angle to the stone. Lansky is one that has been around for a long time, and does a really good job on most knives... I have used one for many years. Recently, I changed to using a Pro-Edge, when I need a "V" shaped secondary bevel.
Before going further, go here and read this article on edges...
If that link disappears, you can Google "convex edge" and find it in a couple of places...
Now that you have read that, I have only a few comments re: the convex edge. I have changed over to using it on most all my knives. If an edge gets too thick, I will use the Pro-Edge to knock the shoulders down, and create a thin "V" edge, then convex that. It might make a purist weep, but hell, I'm the one using it...
The vast majority of my knives are now convexed, and most of them are used in the field. As a wilderness knife, I expect to cut cordage, whittle things like a spoon or a trigger for a trap, create a fishing pole, or maybe shave wood for a fire. I find that the convex edge is easier to use than a "V" edge, in particular when shaving bark off of a piece of willow. The "V" edge will dig in, where the convex edge will glide down the length of stick, taking off the amount I want. There really is a noticeable difference.
You can flop a piece of mouse pad down on your workbench, and hold a piece of sandpaper on it with your off hand. That works just fine. However, if you want to take a kit into the field with you, you might consider what is known as a Hoodoo Hone. It is named after the inventor, Dr. Terry Trier, who is known around the various blade and knife forums as Hoodoo...
Glue a piece of mouse pad on a block of wood, and make a couple of slits into the ends... You can use some wooden wedges or even use guitar pics to hold the paper firmly in place.
|Here are a few examples... Hones and pic by Hoodoo...|
Here is another good idea: mouse pad for sandpaper on one side, and a leather strop charged with green polishing compound on the other. Hone and pics by Dannyboy...
Dannyboy tells me that the hone is 4" long by 1 1/2" wide. The cedar block is only 3/4" thick. It weighs all of 3 ounces. As you can see, it does not take a huge hone to be effective.
Various grits of paper will give you lots of options. After you have achieved the proper edge, stropping it on a leather strip charged with polishing compound will maintain it pretty well... Sometimes if it gets a little too dull, you might use a piece of old, worn 1500 grit paper to touch up the edge. If it gets really buggered up, you might have to go all the way back to 220 grit, and reshape it all over again.
In any event, draw the blade away from the edge, sanding the entire edge until there is a burr (wire edge) along the whole blade. Then turn it over, and do the other side until you have a wire edge again. Go to the next finer grit, and do again...
The only major thing I would say is that I can see two possible mistakes a beginner might make. I've made them both...
1. Holding too high of an angle between the back of the knife, and the sandpaper. As you can see from the graphics, the soft backing allows the sandpaper to roll around the edge. The higher you hold the spine of the knife, the more that rounds off the edge. You can get a really dull edge in a really short time doing that, lemme tell ya! ;-)
2. Failing to hold a constant angle. Mostly, this consists of allowing the spine to come up, as you draw the knife backwards over the paper. You can see that graphically represented in the convex edge article, where the technique for using a bench stone is shown. The effects are the same as #1. You really have to watch that you hold it at the same angle throughout the stroke.
It takes some practice to find the right angle, it is lower than you think, especially if you are experienced with using a sharpening stone... Along with this, please understand that you will scratch the sides of your knife. If you have a nicely polished custom knife, I would think twice before attempting this.
The strop is used after the sandpaper, to remove the wire edge that will have developed. You can also screw up and round off the edge with the leather strop, by being too aggressive with the angle, as well... Polishing compound gives the leather a bite, and can really polish the edge up nicely. Most of my woods bumming knives I leave with a very toothy, coarse edge. I just knock off the wire edge, and call it good. Polished edges are great for shaving, but the coarser edges are better for working field knives, IMHO.
The harder the steel, the harder it will be to use any technique for sharpening. Once, I reshaped the edge on a TOPS knife. I used a Lansky system, with an extra coarse diamond stone, and a magnifying glass to follow the progress. It took a week to grind a new edge on it. Some of the new wonder steels are tough to work with, and the more abrasion resistant it is, the harder it is to re-sharpen.
For one of those blades, I would use the Lansky or Pro-Edge system, and call it good.
I want to thank Hoodoo and Dannyboy for their generous permission to use their pics. They really show the hone well.
Hope this helps in some way...
Copyright © 2005 by William Hay.
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