You Like Sharp? --these guys are NUTS for sharp
June 12, 2008
This is an esoteric subject. How to even find the right image to illustrate it?
(OK, I'll find something basic that will work---a pic of an edge---easy.)
I've always appreciated sharpness in a tool. Well, since my uncle showed me the basics. Or at least provoked me about the basics. It was mysterious. I was maybe 12 years old. A couple years later I started bowhunting and reading Fred Bear about sharpening broadheads---it actually wasn't such easy info to find. Everything just said "Keep them razor sharp." How? I finally found where Fred used a file and left a slightly forward-point jagged edge on his heads.
I bet it was another 10 years before I finally learned about The Burr. --About how to sharpen something you work both sides until you raise an even "wire" burr on one side, then raise it again on the other, then you work against the edge and knock it off somehow---by light touches or even a leather strop. You can do this with a file or a stone.
Different uses want different final finishes for an edge---from rough to smooth.
I've since acquired a bit of a reputation as the person who keeps his friend's knives sharp. I don't go fancy but they do get sharp.
Every now and then someone says they prefer some jig or rig to doing it by hand, because it gets their knife so much sharper. I sputter and try to be polite and give them a chance. They show me...their dull knife. Which, if I have a little stone about me, I tidy up for them in short order. Really, hand sharpening on a stone is no big deal---just wet or oil your stone and work the edge in a circular motion til you raise a burr on both sides. Don't press hard---you don't want to BEND your edge over to make your burr.
But everyone can keep learning at this game. I recently started using the fine side of my stone finally!
Then I discovered the various knife-freaks on the Internet and learned even more and am finally using a buffing wheel and compound. A leather strop can be loaded with compound also---in fact, it's the compound that does the final polishing, not the leather.
Maybe it was a local friend who finally pushed me over the edge with his provocations. He indicated that he likes tools, blades and sharpness---he works with fine tools for a living. So I showed him some of my fave knives. (I do like to show them occasionally. Ahem.) He said, But why are they so dull? OUCH! What? They're not dull! He showed me a few imperfections and asked, You don't use a buffing wheel and compound yet? I said, Well, let's have a party at your house next and you can show me YOUR tools! ...I'd like to see any sharper! But still...his remark about the buffing wheel and compound resonated with what I'd been reading online. (He'd like that: resonated. He's a piano tuner and rebuilder.)
Well, I went and got a firm felt buffing wheel and some red steel compound and gave it a try. Wow! Sure, enough when I studied my edges they were a bit rough and had scratches and bevels that wandered. They were darn sharp, but I gave the wheel a try. Yes, WOW! The scratches all came out quickly and the edge tidied up handsomely and my edges went from kind of razor sharp to...smooth shaving. Barber sharp.
...Then I went and dug out dandelions the next day with one of the blades, my EDC ("every day carry," for a little hip blade slang). Now it's dull again. I don't really know what a barber's edge is good for other than whisker shaving, but it's fun.
They say that butchers like a bit of roughness in their edges---helps cut meat.
I note that none of my further elaborations on this sharpening stuff has cost much or taken much time. $5-10 will do ya. Maybe $30 in total for stone, wheel, compound...dressing rake. And maybe 10 minutes for a knife. For me.
But I'm not the craziest one out there about edges...
I do believe there are folks out there who think they're doing practical work on blades who take THREE HOURS to do an edge.
I recently ran into this eBay Shop where a Japanese guy sells rather affordable hand-forged Japanese-style kitchen knives and...hammers...and extinct-quarry waterstones. I have another post elsewhere here about him. He writes with a nifty Jinglish style. His stones sell from $40 to $4000. Here's a link to him: stores.ebay.com/Japanese-tools-whetstone-for-sword_waterstone-whetstones-stone_W0QQcolZ4QQdirZ1QQfsubZ4857397QQftidZ2QQtZkm
It all made me wonder: Is this stuff crazy? I dug around a bit further and maybe it is crazy but there are people out there who are serious about this stuff.
I like a good stone mud, but these guys, hooooo!
The Knifeforums.com site has a new "Keeping Sharp" section dedicated to this art and to these nuts. Of course they're not nuts. They're focused. And several of them are pros. They sharpen for hire. (Actually, Martha has said that's what I should do.)
Here are links to a couple choice posts/threads, to give you a flavor...
Here's a guy who likes a stone:
Japanese sword sharpening action, over the top:
Here's a thread about a guy who can't keep his knife sharp and his pals who are trying to be supportive...
Here's some more stone-love and insider-lore:
Here's a veterinarian who tells us what his daddy taught him about necropsy equipment sharpening:
A lovely how-to:
...which includes links to a couple other neat articles (it's endless...) including this description of how Japanese swords are done (a couple sample pics below):
$240 Japanese Waterstone the traditional Japanese carpenter guy on eBay
A Samurai sword nicely done...
OK, I suppose this is now the religious side of sharpening...