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Knife Sharpening Tricks
by TimAnderson on June 24, 2006
Table of Contents
Knife Sharpening Tricks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Intro: Knife Sharpening Tricks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Step 1: Look at the Edge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Step 2: Thumbnail test the edge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Step 3: Flatten the Stone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Step 4: Flatten Away . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
Step 5: Thin the Edge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Step 6: The Sharpening Finally Begins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Step 7: Gilding the Lily . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Step 8: Cut Your Leg Off . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Step 9: Don Montague Tests the Edge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Step 10: Improvised Sharpening Stones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Related Instructables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
Author:TimAnderson author's website
Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer"
output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific Island sailing canoes are at http://www.mit.edu/people/robot.
Tim's philosophy involves building minimum-consumption personal infrastructure from recycled scavenged materials.
Redirecting the waste stream. Doing much with little. A reverse peace-corps to learn from poor people all over the world.
Intro: Knife Sharpening Tricks
There are many ways to sharpen a knife. This method produces a good general purpose edge.
Safety note: As my Granddad used to say: "Don't cut toward yourself, and you'll never get cut."
Excellent photos by Christy Canida the whale butcher.
See what she does with these knives at Skinning and Filleting Catfish
People have always cared about sharp tools. Some "Bog Man" remains from thousands of years ago have been found with sharpening stones worn as a pendant.
This first video shows how to make your own Bog Man stone from a regular sharpening stone, or any soft abrasive stone you happen to find.
First we will make a drill bit from a nail, drill a hole in the stone, saw the stone in half, and flatten it. Just like an ancient bog man would have if he had the battery drill we
fixed last week.
This second video shows how to sharpen a knife for butchering and how to sharpen it for carving wood. I bought the knife in the video from a husband-and-wife team of
blacksmiths in China. Blacksmithing seems to be a job for couples in many parts of the world.
Links to the ipod formated videos are at the bottom of this page.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
Step 1:Look at the Edge
Get under a bright light such as the sun, and hold up the edge. You'll see reflections on flat spots and nicks.
On this blade the inch near the tip is pretty bad.
Step 2:Thumbnail test the edge
Touch it to your thumbnail and see if it slides around or if it catches.
If it slides that means it's dull, as in not sharp, at least in this area.
Safety note: Don't chop your fricking thumb off.
Step 3:Flatten the Stone
Buy yourself a sharpening stone for a dollar in Chinatown. If your city doesn't have a Chinatown, get one or move somewhere civilized.
This is a "water stone" which means you put water on it while using it to float the sharpening dust off it. Some prefer an "oil stone" which means you put oil on it. Some
stones are born oily. Once the oil is in there water doesn't work well anymore.
This particular stone has had some use so it's dished out in the middle. That makes it hard to hold the knife at the right angle. So we'll need to flatten it.
Actually it doesn't really matter for knives, but when you start sharpening plane blades you'll make a religion of flattening your stone.
Step 4:Flatten Away
Splash some water on the sidewalk and rub the stone on it til the stone is flat. Use plenty of pressure.
Listen to "The Great War for Civilization" by Robert Fisk while you work to understand what went wrong in the Middle East.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
Step 5:Thin the Edge
Rub the knife on the coarse side of the stone at a 5 degree angle as shown. It doesn't matter what stroke you use or what direction.
You're just thinning the area around the edge a bit to save you some labor later on.
In each of the following sharpening steps, you'll raise the angle just a bit.
That way you're always shaving the stone with fresh metal.
Commentators to this howto are rightly pointing out the merits of a 20 degree knife edge, (knife held at a 10 degree angle to the sharpening stone) or a 17.5 degree
wedge. I think my homemade plane blade sharpening fixture is set at 27.5 or something nerdy like that.
Use your own numbers, not mine, and by all means get carried away with your own refinements.
The numbers I picked aren't too important, just that you raise them with each step.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
Step 6:The Sharpening Finally Begins
Flip the stone over and stroke the blade edge forward at a 6 degree angle. First one side of the knife, then the other. You are cutting toward the stone.
Step 7:Gilding the Lily
You've already endangered your friends by putting on an edge on a knife they're expecting to be dull.
Now it's going to get even sharper. Get a piece of 600 grit emery paper and put it on a piece of glass.
Any other really flat thing will do, but glass is most popular. I've seen Klingit and Mayan woodcarvers use this method.
Stroke forward at a 7 degree angle, alternating sides. A couple of strokes is plenty, because you're taking off a miniscule amount of metal. If you're silly or special you
could get finer grits up to 1200 and repeat.
Hats off to the commentators for true facts about edge angles. Unless you're into artillery in a big way, most of us will overestimate small angles. Your 7 will be more like
12 in reality. The important thing is to look at the edge, test it, and raise the angle til you're shaving just a little abrasive off with each step. Thick blades will naturally
sharpen at the higher angles they were intended for. You'll never really thin a thick blade out that much.
Some things like plane irons and chisels benefit from a straight bevel. For that make a jig to set the angle. Plane irons seem to inspire the greatest nerdiness in people.
Step 8:Cut Your Leg Off
Not.
This step is a totally unnecessary way to show off. You can impress people this way, especially if you rip your leg open, blood gushes everywhere, and they have to take
you to the hospital.
Smear your leg with the abrasive paste you made by flattening your stone.
Then stroke the knife over this paste, sharp edge trailing.
This is called "Stropping". It takes the microscopic hairs off the edge to make it strong and extra sharp.
This is how you sharpen a razor, except sane people use a piece of leather called a "strop" rubbed with red garnet abrasive dust.
My Granddad used to beat his kids with his strop when they misbehaved. His son, my uncle "Bird Dog" tried to shave without proper instruction and cut a big gash in the
strop. In the ensuing punishment the new sharp corner cut him, he started bleeding all over, and my Grandmother Nana came flying out of the house with strong new
theories about corporal punishment. She was half my Granddad's size and twice as powerful. The kids were able to eat dinner sitting down for a while after that.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
Step 9:Don Montague Tests the Edge
His style of fingernail testing involves resting the edge on his nail to see if it slides off or catches.
Step 10:Improvised Sharpening Stones
There you are in your friend's kitchen trying to cut a tomato with a blunt knife.
You're mashing it and smearing the skin around and not feeling sexy at all.
You ransack the utensil drawer and find not an abrasive.
You get the urge to criticize your pal for being the wrong kind of tool-using ape.
Halt.
Use an improvised stone instead. Here's a short list of what can work:
The underside of the toilet tank lid.
The rough unglazed ring on the bottom of a plate or other ceramic item.
an emery board used for manicures
A brick.
A flowerpot.
Any aluminum item. It's covered with a layer of aluminum oxide, a good abrasive. This method is only good for final sharpening.
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http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
Comments
50 comments Add Comment view all 182 comments
=SMART= says: Jun 22, 2009. 10:07 AM REPLY
Thanks for the info ! Entertaining as ever !
=SMART= says: Jun 22, 2009. 10:35 AM REPLY
It seems the sharpening grit has snuck into my knife's opening mechanism....
ilpug says: Jul 5, 2011. 8:30 PM REPLY
blast it with Canned Air or an air compressor.
knifesharpener says: Oct 15, 2009. 3:19 PM REPLY
thank you for teaching me one day i got home from school took a showerand as i was in the shower some onee broke in and good thing my knifewas right
next to me or maybe i wouldnt be here
ilpug says: Jul 5, 2011. 8:30 PM REPLY
two things: (1) what did you do to the person who broke in? and (2) you shower with a knife?
djsc says: Nov 10, 2010. 12:16 PM REPLY
I think ineed to practice. tried this for the first time today on a 3" folding knife (stainless), It was completely blunt before, it's a bit better now, but by no means
truly sharp. Do I need to grind more agressively, for longer?
maurice1993 says: Jun 13, 2011. 12:31 PM REPLY
with my 2 years of knife-operator (I used to cut leather in a shoe factory) you'll possibly will achieve sharpening, but it'll take forever. just use a more
abrasive stone, ou sandpaper. I often had to made knives with raw stell, I sand papered them in the sander, first with high profile sandpapers, after with
low profile, and finally, the stone, first the more abrasive, than the low abrasive side of the stone.
and by less than 15 minutes I had a well sharpen-as-hell precision knife ready to use.
with your folding knife I recomend you to use just a little more pressure, and sharp first the the 'heavy' side of the stone, and when it's barelly cutting
things, you refine the work on the 'smoth' side of the stone.
sorry the poor english. I'm still learning ;-)
todbicks says: Sep 2, 2009. 6:04 AM REPLY
A comment to the author from a British citizen with blunt knives. Your Step 8 begins as follows: "Cut your leg off. Not" Why add the "Not" afterwards ? In the
UK we would never do that. Your joke consists in the fact that you make it seem you mean it which would constitute a kind of irony (although a weak form of
it)....and then you go ahead and spoil it with that "Not" thing? I'm gonna go away now and cut my wrists. NOT REALLY. I'M ONLY JOKING.
kikiorg says: Jun 9, 2011. 2:19 PM REPLY
I had remembered the "...NOT!" phrase from Wayne's World, circa early 90's, which made it very popular at the time (and likely lost on international folks,
as well as those under 25yo,) but when I geeked out on it a bit, I found this:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not!
Apparently it goes back to 1893!
_Scratch_ says: Jun 5, 2011. 5:36 PM REPLY
I approve of this message.
danlab says: Nov 22, 2009. 10:12 PM REPLY
You sound like someone that needs to watch Borat .
thestyrofoampeanut says: Feb 14, 2010. 9:10 PM REPLY
my name-a borat
give me your tears gypsy or i shall take them.......
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
valhallas_end says: Nov 13, 2009. 8:23 PM REPLY
Americans love a lawsuit. Fine print alleviates that danger. Ergo, not.
frogmeetcog says: Feb 16, 2011. 11:12 AM REPLY
Just a thought: with the many, many shoes that step on sidewalks every day, grinding little divots out of them with grit and pebbles... how flat is a given
sidewalk going to be?
tightsweater says: May 26, 2007. 9:40 PM REPLY
http://www.furitechnics.com.au/Ozitech/ozitech_main.html
stones and steels will be needed no more...
masterochicken says: Feb 7, 2011. 2:42 AM REPLY
seeing as that page 404d, your statement way be less than accurate.
masterochicken says: Feb 7, 2011. 2:40 AM REPLY
Do you suggest any specific angle for cutting hard rubber?
binky82 says: Jan 17, 2011. 8:10 AM REPLY
don't slide to cut, just see if it catches, just touch your nail and don't move it, sharp it should stop sliding and just catch 'on' the nail, not'in' the nail.
Lighthouse says: Jun 27, 2006. 7:06 AM REPLY
My house is over a 100 years old. Most of the electric system of the house was old fashioned "knob and tube." The knobs are ceramic insulators where the
wire wrapped around to change direction and the tubes are hollow ceramic rods that insulate the wood when wires pass through joists and studs. Those
tubes make great touch-up rods. I have a couple laying around wherever I have sharp edges in the house or shop. I usually mount 'em on the end of a pencil
to keep my fingers clear of the business end of things.
jack8559 says: Nov 12, 2010. 9:04 PM REPLY
The ceramic tubes in high pressure sodium light bulbs (industrial) work great too! Get one from a really big bulb (say, 1000 Watt) and set in a wood
handle with epoxy, but remember that if you drop it, it will break and be totally useless. Go to a place where they use them and ask for a burned out one
since the bulbs are about 45 dollars each new....
MisterHankie says: Aug 6, 2010. 7:54 PM REPLY
You can also sharpen a knife with the top of a car window rolled about two thirds of the way down.
cool2000 says: Mar 19, 2010. 7:15 AM REPLY
Does tile work?
bombmaker2 says: Jun 7, 2010. 3:10 PM REPLY
if it is unglazed, than yes it will work.
danlab says: Aug 20, 2009. 9:14 PM REPLY
So I am wondering where I could find emry cloth with a grit finer than 600. I checked both Lowes and Homedepot and they only carry up to 600. Would
Michaels carry this?
Vulcanator says: Jan 7, 2010. 2:44 PM REPLY
paint store (like Sherwin Williams) or a tool shop
moosetooth says: Jan 1, 2010. 12:29 PM REPLY
Try NAPA or anyplace that sells automotive body repair and painting supplies.
ehmbee says: Sep 20, 2009. 8:05 PM REPLY
Go to Micromark and browse their sanding papers-they are for the scale modeler primarily, but their grits go up to 12000 in the case of the plexiglass
polishing kits. You should be able to get a sampler assortment of their papers that will pick up where 600 leaves off. The other nice thing is, IMHO, the
are the perfect size for sharpening. Best of luck.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
danlab says: Nov 22, 2009. 10:14 PM REPLY
Thanks for the info, I found that auto part stores usually carry up to 2000 grit in the "finishing department" and that is way more than fine enough for
sharpening etc.
weaponscollector94 says: Jan 1, 2010. 1:04 AM REPLY
my dad used to beat me with a strop
gitm says: Oct 12, 2009. 8:35 AM REPLY
I use the pad of my finger. I run my finger over the edge perpendicular to the length of the blade and without pressure. I also polish the blade, which I've
found can make a fresh razor even sharper. There is a dramatic difference in the performance of gouges once they've been polished.
weaponscollector94 says: Jan 1, 2010. 1:02 AM REPLY
how do you polish the edge?
revcdub says: Dec 30, 2009. 9:01 PM REPLY
Old ceramic-casedICs are hard and abrasive enough to cut steel, and finely grained enough to leave a smooth edge. Hone dry. I'd rate them somewhere
betweenhard white and hardblack Arkansas.
rockhoppermedia says: Dec 30, 2009. 2:43 AM REPLY
Really good instructable, I lost my stone whilst camping and improvised by winding down the window on my car and using the rolled edge. Got a good
result from it.
wupme says: Dec 29, 2009. 4:39 PM REPLY
I'm actually about to get a wet grinder to make that work far more easy.
2 really big really slow rotating (30rpm) stones.
One is a mesh 2000 thats always wet with a water bath at its bottom..
The other one is actually a leather belt for the final touch.
Oh my knives and i will love it.And the scissors too yep.
Sorry just had to say that, i'm so looking forward for this buy since months ^^
mikstr2 says: Dec 29, 2009. 10:52 AM REPLY
i sharpen my knives with scissors. its actually pretty effective
cowscankill says: Aug 24, 2009. 5:48 AM REPLY
If I get a brick wet, willl it work the same as a wet stone? I have sharpened stuff with a brick before, just not wet...
TimAnderson says: Aug 24, 2009. 7:00 AM REPLY
some bricks make great sharpening stones. Wet is good, and it's good to rub it on another brick or pavement to flatten it. Often they have harder chips of
ceramic embedded in them, if you don't flatten it first these can nick your blade.
cowscankill says: Aug 25, 2009. 7:02 PM REPLY
Here is a dagger I just made http://www.instructables.com/id/Making-a-Dagger-from-Found-Materials/
The sword will use some of the same techniques, but I will sharpen the sword better.
cowscankill says: Aug 25, 2009. 1:39 PM REPLY
Wow really? Thanks! I plan to make a sword and post it, so sharpening it with a brick is very helpful news :D
TheBackyardInventer says: Jul 31, 2009. 1:47 AM REPLY
I sharpened my swiss army knife till its like really sharp and it doesnt slide accross my nail or catch on my nail it doesnt really slide but it makes some nail
powder
jrsh92 says: Aug 19, 2008. 3:21 PM REPLY
I use a pretty average angle for my Opinel no. 8 knife, somewhere a touch over 17 degrees. I've seen a few people with these knives using a far shallower
angle, using the entire bevel of the blade to come to an edge, the only angle coming from the thickness of the blade-- about 5 degrees! With the kind of work
we do with them, these knives need resharpening very regularly no matter what angle is used, as we do things like scale fish, which destroys the edge no
matter what angle it's at. Having an edge that would normally only last 2 or 3 days is irrelevant if you're just going to do something like that and resharpen
after a day at maximum. Certainly I like a 20 degree angle because it's a good compromise, but people should consider that if you're going to be sharpening
it pretty often as part of your routine, using a shallower angle will allow a sharper edge quicker when sharpening, and in that case you can live with the fact
that it doesn't last as long as a steeper angle. Overall I'd suggest that people experiment, especially if you have an inexpensive knife like an Opinel, to find
what works for them doing what they do with the knife.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Knife-Sharpening-Tricks/
AustralLord says: Jun 3, 2009. 3:06 PM REPLY
if your knife dulls like that, get a better one. If they fail you again, look for steel (not stainless!!!) knives, they're the real deal and almost indestructable
(but of course it takes a bit longer to sharpen).
baneat says: Aug 24, 2008. 3:08 PM REPLY
I don't know why but whenever I buy one I lose it pretty quickly :(
xsamusaranx says: Dec 31, 2008. 9:13 PM REPLY
Thanks, never tried it this way I bought one of those three stone kits but I'll see if this works better. I test mine by cutting my arm hairs, I'd hate to destroy my
fingernails.
AustralLord says: Jun 3, 2009. 3:03 PM REPLY
it doesn't do any damage to your nails, if it sticks, it's sharp, if it slides, it's dull or faulty.
AustralLord says: Jul 10, 2008. 5:41 PM REPLY
I do it prependiculr to my thumbnail, is that ok?
jkehrtzll says: Mar 18, 2009. 2:09 PM REPLY
stupid....dont do that, take a piece a paper, hold it vertically and see if it cuts or rips the paper.......if it rips its dull. my buddy used his thumb nail and it
went rite thru
AustralLord says: Mar 18, 2009. 7:06 PM REPLY
your friend must be malnutritioned
jkehrtzll says: Jun 1, 2009. 7:38 PM REPLY
okay....you just suck at sharpening knives. if it does NOT go through, then it isnt sharp enough lol
AustralLord says: Jun 3, 2009. 3:01 PM REPLY
Really, if you slice into your freaking nail you must be mental. I've got it now, the nail method requires you to put the edge perpendicular to the
thumnail and then slide it off the nail- not along the edge (like -------), but parallel to it (|||||). If it doesn't stick to the nail, try sharpening it more
because there's most likely a fault. Also the paper way is another good method, just to see how easily and cleanly it slices through, but I do
always do at least both.
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