Keeping an edge …
Most of you know as well as I do that a blunt knife is a liability.
Not only will it not do its designed purpose, but more than likely will cause you injury as you struggle against a blunt edge to perform efficient cutting tasks.
I've seen some pretty nasty knife injuries and most of the bad accidentally inflicted injuries I've seen, have been caused by blunt, overstressed knives. (Oh, and idiots pointing the business end at their own body parts!)
Chefs always sharpen a blade before prepping food – You should do the same with your blades too.
Here're a few tips for getting a good edge, and keeping it maintained.
Store your blades in their sheath or scabbard – nothing dulls an edge more than having it bang against other steel.
Make sure that leather sheaths are completely dry and use a leather preservative to keep them as water resistant as possible.
Blade sharpening angle differs depending on the edges intended use.
Most kitchen knives can be honed to a razor's edge of 18 degrees either side but won't be up to the strength needed for general outdoor use.
Kitchen Blades are typically thin. Great for slicing meat or veg. Not too good for chopping bone or tree branches in survival situations.
Survival and tactical blades are much thicker and have a bit more of a robust edge of around 23 degrees. A bit more support to the edge when used for chopping and other hard use tasks.
There are a few commercial blade angle helpers for use on sharpening stones, but these clamp to the back of the blade.
Personally, I've not found these much use.
I've found that using a few quarters at the end of the stone gives me a good indication of blade angle to start, then it's practice, practice!
Getting a good edge isn't about being fast. Keep it slow and accurate, no hurrying required.
I have a few “India” oilstones in my workshop that I've had for as long as I can remember. They're reliable at keeping all my knives and tool edges sharp.
I use honing oil to lubricate and to carry away blade debris.
My oilstones have coarse and fine sides – pretty convenient to me. I don't have to regrind my blades that often either.
To get blade edges razor sharp, I have a couple of hard Arkansas stones that do the business.
Waterstones are similar to oilstones – just that they use water as a lubricant instead of oil They are much softer than hard oilstones and may wear out quicker. They do appear to be in a wider range of grits, though.
Diamond stones – There are many diamond sharpening tools available. Most use actual diamonds in the abrasive surface and are capable of getting a really superior edge on most blades.
Some are flat much like bench stones but many are pocket portable for ease of use and portability.
Whatever system you use, it pays to keep your sharpening stones clean and well maintained.
You've seen how old time barbers used to strop cutthroat razors with a leather belt.
To get a superior edge, I use something similar – a leather pad impregnated with very fine cutting paste. (The same stuff engine mechanics use to bring in valves) Although I've also used metal polish paste too.
My father used to use an old butchers steel to hone the edge of his knives to a razor finish.
Here's another way from Billy Joe Denny
When it's sharpened, your blade should be able to shave the hair off your arm or cut through paper without it ripping.
Practice makes perfect and the more often you sharpen, the easier it will be to keep a fine edge. Don't let your blades become blunt and ruined.
You'll need them to be ready all the time.
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